Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Who is the best person to tell you what job you should do (and it’s not me!)?


We all want someone to tell us what job we should do, to make the decision on our behalf so we can simply focus on enjoying our career.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  I know that’s what I wanted when I was pursuing a career change. The decision-making process was hard work and I just wanted someone to tell me what to do.  When I was advised that the best decision would be the one I made for myself, I realised I needed to take responsibility and do some serious thinking!

What did I discover?  I found that I was frequently being given advice on what I should or should not do and I didn’t know which advice to follow.  I soon realised I would be far more committed to a decision I had made personally, rather than a decision someone had made for me or advised me to make, and what I really needed to do was develop a thorough understanding of my skills, passions and aspirations to enable me to make that decision.

Still not convinced?  Let me give you another example….

Do you remember the career advice you received at school?

I have a very distinct memory sitting in the school careers room completing a personality questionnaire and subsequently being advised, amongst other things, that I should be a probation officer.  It was as simple as that…the answer to my future career was found by completing a 10-minute test.  Was this the right answer?  Well, I did not become a probation officer!

There can be limitations in being pigeon holed into a specific career before you are ready to make that decision.  It can lead to career paths being pursed but not enjoyed and an individual’s confidence being knocked. Many people need time to build their self- awareness and once they really understand what they want from their career, they will then be in the best place to move forward.  Many of my clients say they regret following early career advice for this reason.  They wish they had spent more time thinking about and discussing their personality and aspirations before taking the next step. 

Have I just talked myself out of a job?!  

No, because the best thing about all of this is that, although it may be up to you to make the decision, you do not have to go through the process alone. I become part of the process when individuals become stuck and need some help and guidance in moving forward.  I help individuals build self-awareness to enable them to discover and explore different career possibilities and find the best career choice for them.  I also help individuals to eliminate issues of procrastination, fear and anxiety to enable them to believe that they can achieve a fulfilling career. Career advisers can also help with the decision-making process.

It is all about you and how your career is going to fit in with your life.  You may need a bit of guidance and assistance in getting there but….

…the best career decisions are those that you make and discover yourself.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Four focus points to help you make a good impression when starting a new job

I was recently asked if I had written a blog on starting a new job and making a good impression and was surprised to discover that, over seven years of writing about careers, I had not yet covered this topic.  This month I am therefore going to write about four focus points to help you make a good impression when starting a new job.

Making a good impression

When starting a new job, you want to make a good impression.  You want to be liked and do your job well.  The question is, how do you do this when there are so many different aspects to starting a new job that you have yet to discover. What will the office culture be like?  What will my boss/colleagues be like?  How will I fit in?  What will my daily routine be like?

Starting a new job is an exciting time but can also feel daunting as there is so much to think about and take in.  Planning for every eventuality is an impossible task.  However, what you can do to help you prepare is to think about your approach to the job and I have identified four focus points to help you:

1.     Preparation: Ensure you are prepared for your first day.  What do you need to bring?  What are you going to wear?  Have you researched the company/organisation?

2.     You: Be open to new ways of doing things and be careful to avoid comparing your new job to your last one.  It is important to be confident but not arrogant!

3.     People: Introduce yourself and spend time listening and getting to know people so you can understand more about the office culture and the way people work.  Work out who you can go to for help (the things you don’t want to bother your boss with).  Ask questions, but not too many!

4.     Work Routine: Throughout your first week, spend time working out the most productive way to structure your day.  Be organised and write notes to help you organise the range of information you are given and remember the names of people you have met.

Managing your new job and making a good impression will be a lot easier by being prepared, organised and open to new opportunities!   Most importantly, it will help you to enjoy the new experience!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

How to stop stress preventing you from pursuing changes in your career (in two easy steps!)

‘The best way to make decisions is to go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.’  

I recently listened to the Ted talk, How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal, and it reminded me of the decision-making process I went through to make a career change.  After a lot of research, I had reached a point when I had an idea of what I wanted to do but my fear that a career change would be too stressful initially prevented me from pursing my idea.

Like many of us, I was viewing stress as a negative thing.  The thing that causes us to lose sleep, eat too much or eat too little.  It can make us feel anxious and it can make us grumpy.  We all respond to stress in different ways and, when our response is negative, we develop fears and avoid making decisions.

In her TED talk, McGonigal talks about how we should change our thinking and view our response to stress in a positive way to enable us to move forward with decisions.  In particular, she explains how we can become resilient to stress through human connection and reaching out to others.  In building this resilience, we can then trust ourselves to handle life’s challenges and we won’t be alone whilst doing it.     

If you are at a crossroad in your career and finding it hard to decide which direction to go in, my suggestion to you is do a reality check through a very simple two-step process:

1.     Become aware of what is concerning you and making you feel stressed. I remember when I was thinking about a career change, I was concerned about telling people – what would their reaction be?  I was also concerned about venturing into the unknown.

2.     Acknowledge and accept your concerns and create a simple statement such as ‘I acknowledge that the change will be stressful to me but I know my need is greater and it is worth going through the stress.  The benefit is that I will have a job I want’.

When you believe you can deal with stress and view it in a positive way, making decisions in your career will become so much easier.


Monday, 15 May 2017

How to make the first step towards finding the job that suits you

Surround yourself with passionate people who inspire possibility.
(How to find work you love, Scott Dunsmore (TED talk))

Sometimes we can become surrounded by negative people who, unknown to them, prevent us from exploring possibilities, reaching our potential and finding the job that suits us. 
When I started telling people I wanted to move from being employed to self-employed, I was met with a mixture of advice, a lot of which focused on the potential negative side of self-employment.  Have I thought about the risk?  How will I get business? Won’t I be lonely? It would have been very easy for me to give in and continue with my current employment.  However, I quickly learnt that if I wanted to try new things and push myself to the limit, I had to surround myself with people who filled me with inspiration, encouragement and support, rather than those who filled me with fear.

If you want to find the job that suits you, be cautious of those who try to put you off making a big decision due to their own fears. Choose to spend time with passionate people who will encourage and support you.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

3 steps to turn your fear of rejection into career success

I recently watched a very amusing and informative TED talk by Jia Jiang titled ‘What I learned form 100 days of rejection’.  As we all know, fear of rejection is extremely common and can surface anytime, anywhere and to anyone.  It prevents us from trying new things, stops us from achieving our goals and pushes us away from what we really want in our life and career.

In his talk, Jia Jiang talks about how a fear of rejection can arise from misunderstandings. When being rejected, we often run away wrongly assuming we are the reason for the rejection.  We don’t ask questions, we don’t engage in conversation and we don’t find out the true reason.  We close the door to discovering other possibilities and we achieve nothing.

I can remember applying for a training contract as a trainee solicitor and being faced with a pile of rejection letters.  Each letter took away a small chunk of my confidence and it felt like a personal attack on my personality and ability.  I could have given up but I now know that these jobs were simply not right for me.  There was in fact one firm I really wanted to work for and so I persevered with the application process and was successful.  The rejections had taught me that the competition was tough and so I needed to work extra hard to achieve.

How can we all turn rejection into opportunities and success?

Jiang’s solution to overcoming our fear of rejection is simple and can be summarised in three steps:

1.     Embrace your fear (Don’t run)

2.     Ask the right questions (Don’t assume)

3.     Turn your findings into opportunities (Don’t stop)

It involves a desensitisation from the pain that rejection brings (step 1) and asking for what you want (step 2).   It is through asking the right questions that we can discover the true reason behind the rejection and uncover further opportunities (step 3).

‘When you get rejected in life, when you are facing the next obstacle or next failure, consider the possibilities.  Don’t run.  If you just embrace them they might become your gifts as well.’ (Jia Jiang)
To find out more, watch his talk and listen to how Jiang proved the success of embracing rejection by setting himself a challenge to seek out rejection for 100 days.  It is only 15 minutes long and will certainly engage you in how to overcome the fear of rejection in an encouraging and inspiring way.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Are you tired of being available 24/7?

Is it time to turn off your work emails, log out of Facebook and allow yourself some peace and quiet?

A recent article titled, The busier you are, the more you need quiet time, prompted me to think about the impact of instant communication on our everyday lives and how it is becoming increasingly difficult to find quiet time to think, relax and rejuvenate. 

Instant communication dominates our lives, allowing us to be in continuous communication with others.  We are bombarded with communication through mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, email, WhatsApp and text messaging.  Tablets and mobile phones have become an important part of our day as we cling on to them in anticipation, waiting for them to buzz, beep or ring.

According to research carried out last year, the average person swipes, taps and pinches their display about 2,617 times a day and spends about 2.42 hours a day touching the smartphone display.  Furthermore, 87% will check their phone at least once between midnight and 5am.

The acceptance of instant communication being available 24/7 has weakened the boundaries of time defining when it is acceptable and not acceptable to contact someone and this has resulted in the incompatible overlap of work and play.  If your boss emails you at 10pm, does he or she expect a response that evening?  Is it right to answer a work email whilst giving the kids tea?  Should we be checking Facebook whilst at a friend’s house?  Is it right to be responding to personal messages whilst at work?  The boundaries are becoming blurred making it harder to understand when it is acceptable to switch off without undermining our friendships or work ethic.

This bombardment of instant communication makes us feel overloaded, tired and stressed.  We are starting to see people becoming disillusioned with the continuous flow of Facebook communication or increasingly stressed by the constant access to work email.  The return of the iconic Nokia 3310 has even caused excitement as we reminisce about the days of being unable to check emails and Facebook on our phones (although, I have recently read that these may have 4G!). 

Is it now time to switch off?

Have a think about how you can temporarily switch off from the instant communication in your life and restore the boundaries of your work-life balance.  Can you turn off your work emails at appropriate times of the day?  Can you limit yourself to checking Facebook once a day?  Can you allocate a day, or part of a day, each week for quiet relaxation?  Perhaps you can go for a long gadget-free walk, read a book or listen to some music. Just think how refreshed, fulfilled and happier you will feel when you allow yourself some peace and quiet each week.    

Ensure you take time out of our busy world to give yourself time to think and relax.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Four ways to feel happier at work

We have all felt unhappy at work at some stage in our career and can recognise the impact this can have on our life.  Work misery can dominate home life, friendships and health making your work-life balance all about work and little about play.

If you feel unhappy at work, you have a choice.  You can keep doing what you are doing, making work misery the norm and something you ‘just have to put up with’, inevitably leading to high stress levels and further misery.   Alternatively, you can focus on making positive changes at work, giving yourself the chance to be happier. 

To help you make some changes at work, I have set out four focus areas:

1.      Support - Are you getting the right support at work?  Ask for help when necessary from colleagues and managers.

2.      Expectation - ensure you are clear about what is expected of you.

3.      Working hours – are you working long hours?  Think about your work pattern and spend time focusing on your productivity.  Are you taking too long on some pieces of work?  Do you set aside specific time for admin tasks?  Do you sit at your desk stuck on a piece of work instead of asking for help?  If necessary, speak to your manager about your workload.

4.     Challenge – Are you challenged enough? If not, perhaps talk to your manager about obtaining more work.  Can you be given a different project to work on?

Through making small changes, bigger changes will start to fall into place making you feel happy at work once again. 

Remember - if you keep doing what you are doing you will keep getting the same result.