Author Archives: Dorothy Dalton

handwritten thank you letters

Reasons to rethink handwritten thank you letters

I regularly observe career coaches and recruiters encouraging candidates to send handwritten thank you letters to their interviewers. I have even seen hiring managers say that receipt of a thank you note is part of their decision making process and they judge candidates negatively for failing to comply. In some cases they even cut candidates who don’t follow these unwritten rules

This practice is both biased and bonkers for a number of reasons. As our cultures change and becomes more diverse, courtesies which some demographics think are common, are not that typical. Some cultures have never even heard of them. In today’s #WFH digital age they are also not practical and are no longer “best practices.”

Read: How to make your interview process more inclusive

Unwritten rules

Thank-you notes are part of a set of unwritten rules that discriminate against people who don’t know what those are. It is part of “in group” thinking and “this is the way we do things here” mentality riddled with all kinds of bias. However, this is not the way people do things everywhere. If we want to hire diverse teams, rather than looking at cultural fit, then we have to look beyond social expectations around unwritten protocols of the dominant group.

This leads to exclusion and perpetuates discrimination.

Reasons to rethink hand written thank you letters

1. Cultural differences

At a time when organisations are trying to be more equitable and bias conscious we need to reflect on some of these expected social practices. How people express gratitude varies from one culture to another. Sending handwritten thank you letters or cards tends to be a white, privileged practice, and one that is rapidly becoming out dated. They are not typical in many cultures including India, Africa and Asia.

Research also shows that the formal expression of gratitude and saying “thank you” is more embedded in English speaking cultures than others. I was actually raised to send hand written thank you letters (white, middle class, English speaking background), but today feel no need to receive them.

In some cultures a verbal “thank you” is sufficient or a message via whichever channel you have been communicating with the interviewer.

2. Generational differences

Age differences will also play a part. An older interviewer may expect something written and more more formal such as an email (although that in itself is a stereotype). A younger person may be OK with a WhatsApp or text message. It is about reading the room and deciding what is appropriate for that person.

3. Environmental considerations

At a time when we are focusing on the environment, some may view sending a card or handwritten thank you letters or cards as wasteful of resources, exaggerated or inappropriate.

This is reflected in a overall decline of 13% in the greeting card business.

4. Timeliness

In a working from home environment a handwritten thank you letter could take weeks to arrive at a destination. A digital response is not only better for the environment but is faster

5. Storage

Handwritten thank you letters have to be filed somewhere. In a the age of the cloud your thoughtful note may be filed vertically. At least an ATS will store your digital offering with your other documents. This is my main problem with them and why I prefer email.

Shifting expectations

The expectation from hiring managers and recruiters for candidates to be thankful for the opportunity to interview with a company reflects a power dynamic. I always send candidates an email of thanks clarifying next steps, but I have never sent a handwritten note or card. I also have terrible hand writing. How many hiring managers or recruiters send handwritten thank you letters to all candidates? I will be happy to eat my words.

We also tend to see the expression of gratitude as a one way street. Very often candidates jump through huge numbers of hiring hoops and are then ghosted or treated poorly in some other way. In today’s environment we are seeing a shift of expectation from candidates for better treatment all round.

I am not suggesting you stop saying thank you to your interviewers or even sending written thank you letters if you wish. It’s a good opportunity to cement a relationship with a hiring manager. Gratitude should never be perceived to be inappropriate. But it’s time to stop referencing them in hiring decisions. They simply shouldn’t be a factor.

The more recruiters that receive unconscious bias awareness training the better but many are still resistant. We will never hire diverse teams if we continue to apply these unwritten, biased and outdated rules.

If you need awareness training around bias in your recruitment system get in touch NOW!


water cooler moments

The dangers of online water cooler moments

The phrase “water cooler moments” is used as a short-cut, catch-all phrase to represent the casual camaraderie we look for in our workplaces. These are characterised by serendipitous  feel-good banter, and more personal types of casual discussions around daily news,

Size matters

Usually a water cooler group would be limited to small number of colleagues with access to said water dispenser. Physical space also contributes to reducing the number. During lockdown many are trying to recreate the same atmosphere on social media. But those water cooler moments now have the potential to reach the same number of people as a small town, not just a bunch of assorted co-workers from down the hall or the next pod.

Think of those implications, especially when there is much misinformation and controversy in our world.

Misinformation can fall into a number of categories

1. Harmless mis-information

There  was a relatively harmless, but still incorrect piece of misinformation doing the rounds on LinkedIn last week. I saw it about 20 times. It is a genuine photo of the late Prince Philip in ceremonial dress and the Queen giggling. This was taken shortly before a ceremonial review of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, by Chris Young of The Associated Press in 2003.

The photograph is genuine, but the claim that Philip was “pranking” the queen by disguising himself as a palace guard is inaccurate. The reality was as the late Prince was preparing to escort the queen to the ceremony but the attendees were attacked by a swarm of bees.


Chris Young of The Associated Press 2003

Commentators who flagged up the inaccuracy were castigated for spoiling a “good story” and if that doesn’t reflect a need for escapism, nothing will.

2. Misleading misinformation from “Gooroos”

This happens in any recession. I see this in my sector of recruitment and career transition frequently, and I’m sure it applies to other areas too.

It tends to fall into 3 categories

✅ Ignorance: Individuals repeat information that is factually inaccurate because they don’t know any better. They genuinely don’t understand that what they are saying is confusing, misleading and even damaging.

Check out their credentials before buying into what they are sharing. Sometimes they have even researched a topic, but now it’s hard to distinguish fake news from reality from a Google search. Both fake and real news get ranked.

✅  Opinion: These are individuals quite often already in a sector but are looking for higher visibility. They make categoric, sometimes contentious statements which they present as fact, so it’s important to check whose fact it is.

Of course, people can have different approaches but their point of view should be clearly labelled as opinion not a fact.

✅ Deliberate: this is designed deliberately for some sort of gain financial or self-promotion, and taps into people’s lack of understanding of specialist topics. I saw twice last week two different people suggesting that a Career Summary on a resumé is now outdated. 

Who says this? And Why?

Taking a guess, both parties offer low-budget CV review and writing services. Clearly if they can cut out one of the most difficult and time-consuming pieces of the project by calling it “old fashioned,” they can increase their margins. 

3. Harmful controversy

This covers all the elements of incivility, click bait posts on sensitive issues, targeted harassment, fake news, trolling, bullying and other inappropriate behaviour.

They can be profoundly damaging to the target and the general community. If any post fuels the spread of fake news, it can have an even wider negative impact. All of these incidents should be reported.


At the root is intention. We have to ask why we are posting and examine our motivation. Some of it is about the infamous dopamine hit cited by Simon Sinek as we get recognition and attention.

It brings into question the question of “fake vulnerability” that Brené Brown talks about. This image from Sports Psychologist Pippa Grange resonated around shallow and deep wins. The common element is that it is generally self not other centred.

The question is whether to call it out. Frequently, most people don’t have the time or energy to engage. We roll our eyes way back in our heads and move on. If we see something that doesn’t  warrant reporting, it can be important that people step up to flag up at least some of it before it becomes the next “truth”. This should of course be done in a constructive way without reverting to ad hominem comments. A good example of this is Amy Miller, a US based Tech Recruiter, who campaigns effectively to debunk misleading myths around ATS.

We need more than ever conscious thought before we post any content to foster those online water cooler moments. They could potentially be more damaging than beneficial.

If you need support strengthening your talent pipeline – get in touch NOW





LinkedIn's new feature - Homemaker.

LinkedIn’s new feature – Homemaker. Let’s get creative!

LinkedIn’s new feature with “Homemaker”, “Stay-at-home Mom,” ” Stay-at-home Dad,” or “Stay-at-home Parent,” are now approved as recognized job descriptions on LinkedIn to avoid employment gaps on your profile. This is supposedly to support anyone who was a COVID casualty and made redundant during the pandemic. The option is especially designed to allow women who are badly hit and were laid off in their millions, to cover their career gaps.

You can add these titles when updating your profile and it will no longer be necessary to select a company after you have checked self-employed. There are a couple of good reasons for doing this.

  • The algorithms and our wider cultures penalise people with employment gaps. This is a topic for debate.
  • The algorithm also gives priority to employment entries where the employer carries a logo.

Time to move on

There is something faintly archaic about these terms and we need to consider getting rid of the phrase totally.  It’s time to replace them with something real and not reminiscent of 50s suburbia, using language that reflects the value the role creates and adds. I’ve never been a fan of these gender loaded terms based on outdated stereotypes which under value work not done in a workplace, and those feelings have been heightened during the pandemic.

LinkedIn’s new feature  home maker – some additional options

My aim is to provide LinkedIn some serious options to cover non-continuous external workplace experience! We should even stop calling them employment gaps! All of these approaches are dated and have no place in our current lexicons! We need to change our mindsets that a continuous linear career is “better” with an employer, than careers managed in another way. This is going to be part of the future of work as the whole workplace model is changing and accelerated by the pandemic. We are going to see a rise in freelancing and gig working and anyone choosing those paths or forced to by the economy should not be penalized by a social media algorithm.

These are my suggestions:

✅ Home Operations Manager
✅ x role (in line with goals) Family Dalton
✅ Educational and Facilities Manager
✅ Chief Domestic Officer
✅ Crisis Manager
✅ Young/(older) Life Nurturer

Input from other career specialists

My fellow career colleagues added the following on Twitter and LinkedIn This is what they came up with:

Sarah Johnston – Tie into future goals – maybe Domestic Project Manager if Project Management is your goal

Laura Shields – Full time parent or Domestic Engineer or Head of Domestic Dispute Resolution

Donna Svei, Executive Resume Writer Svei – Full-Time Parent  – she also recommends being strategic about identifying and articulating responsibilities that tie into future career goals

Sweta Regmi, Career Consultant – Home Operations Manager – Escalation Manager

Lisa Rangel Work at Home Parent or Full-Time Family Caretaker

Matt Jones – Chief Everything Officer

Kevin D. Turner advocates for leaving options open and avoiding gender specific titles to choose that may help them to achieve a pivot in the future, if that is what they are looking to do. he also adds ” Why not instead set up a LinkedIn Page, formerly known as a Business Page, like The Dalton Foundation, Turner Family Trust, or Family & Co. and then associate your chosen Title?”

Richard Cross  came up with Head of disruptive innovation!

Chris Wilson had a whole range of suggestions!  Project Manager and Coordinator, Logistics and Operations manager, HR Manager, Special Projects, Employee Engagement and Health and Wellness, Business Administrations or Business Development Manager

Divya Gaikwad favours Chief Family Administrator while Lisa Bessen adds Chief Education Officer  

There are still some that prefer the traditional approach. Sonal Bahl comes out strongly against these proposals  “As much as I don’t like SAHM and SAHD, I don’t like fancy titles like Chief Household Officer or Domestic Operations Head. Reminds me of Marketing Ninja and Chief Happiness Officer (sic). I like ‘full time parent’ or ‘full time care giver’. Clear and understood.”

For all the brilliant suggestions check out all the suggestions on my LinkedIn feed 

What about skills?

The skills required for “domestic operations” or “household project management” are no different to those required in the workplace. It’s just that we don’t assign the same value to them because we associate them with traditional female areas of activity.

Research shows that men opting for greater flexibility in the workplace are also being penalised.  We see a whole generation of men who want a different  approach to their careers and couples who want to share the load and widen their horizons. As workplace cultures become more inclusive and “human” to foster “belonging,”  perhaps we are finally seeing a shift.


These are just a few suggestions I have added to a profile – you can add your own. There are lots of gaps in my offering because the scope of the role is so wide. For generations the skills required to carry out the responsibilities have not been correctly valued or articulated. When we apply workplace vocabulary the reality of what is involved is more impactful.

This is not to undermine traditional titles, but to suggest that they do not convey the full scope of what is involved, which is why they have been assigned a lower status over a long period. This where adding key words in line with your next step goals is important and you can slip those in around the job content.

LinkedIn's new feature - Homemaker.

It’s time to flick the mindset switch and place the correct value on long under appreciated roles.

If you need support handling a post COVID career transition -get in touch NOW!



voice bias

Blind interviews and voice bias

How much attention do you pay to voice when you think of a leader or when you hear a speaker?  I cut my teeth on old school telephone interviewing so can confirm that voice  definitely plays a role in the assessment of someone. Voices are an integral part of our identity and we can all exhibit voice bias whether we realise it or not.

We may not treat all voices equally. I have had to check myself for leaving Clubhouse rooms, (the audio app), realising it was because of my reaction to hearing someone speak. And it was rarely about the content.

Ongoing analysis

We forget that people analyse our voices at all times, sometimes subliminally. This can be during presentations, in interviews, on video calls or even through computer algorithms. Voice is a big piece of who we are, how we think of ourselves and are perceived by others.

Research has shown that it can take less than half a minute to linguistically profile a speaker, and make snap decisions around their  socio-economic class, ethnic origin, and even their educational  backgrounds. This is changing to some extend as people are more geographically and socially mobile. We are also more likely to favour speakers who have accents similar to our own and show voice bias against accents where we have preconceived negative ideas.

Blind interviews

Voice is going to be even more important when blind interviews become part of the future hiring process landscape, in upcoming diversity recruitment initiatives.  Some sectors have used blind auditions  when they realised that biases played a part in their selection process. For musicians, blind auditions increased the number of women playing in major orchestras. The Voice show, demonstrated how it was important to focus on the voice only and not be distracted by age, appearance, race, physical ability etc. etc. But it is a singing competition after all and the focus is the voice.

An interview is a competence assessment and voice plays a role which can be positive and negative.

Voice assessment

This can be around:


Many geographies have an accent hierarchy as we assign certain characteristics such as intelligence,  pleasantness and prestige to  different types of accent. Most cultures attribute an accent of preference to the accent which has the highest level of social prestige.  Rosina Lippi-Green, PhD, the American linguistics expert calls this “the standard language ideology.”  In the U.K. it used to be called BBC English, but is changing now as trends shift.

People have votes on accents. The New Zealand accent has been voted the sexiest in the world, followed by South African and Irish. In the UK the Brummie accent is the least popular and in the U.S. Pittsburgh accent has been voted the ugliest. Olivia Verhulst confirms the same is true in Spain and France.

We recognise biases in many other areas, gender, race, age, physical ability but accent and voice bias can slip through the net.


How we structure our sentences.

📌Vocabulary choice

The words we choose.


Lower pitched voices are considered more leadership like.  Both men and women prefer male leaders with lower-pitched voices, and associate lower-pitch with traits such as integrity, strength, and competence. Men and women equally prefer female leaders with lower-pitched voices, and correlate them with traits such as competence and trustworthiness.


This covers vocal fry in particular. The press have called it the “verbal tic of doom” with a range of negative connotations. These biases disproportionately affect women. Studies show that while vocal fry hinders both men and women’s job prospects, it’s even worse for women.

We tend to perceive people with vocal fry as vain or superficial. Research suggests that vocal fry is a way for women to attempt to speak in a lower tone, essentially to hit the same register as men.


Or the high rising terminal or “Valleyspeak” because it is though to have originated in California, is also associated with unprofessionalism and a lack of competence because all sentences end like a question.

A  study from Berkeley discovered that if experts use upspeak we do not see it as a sign of incompetence or lack of confidence in the way that we would judge a non-expert. In this case context matters. Those who defend upspeak indicate that any perception around lack of confidence is an outdated social construct to de-legitimise women. When we encourage women to work on their speech patterns we are attempting to impose male norms on their speech patterns.

Voice bias in the workplace

Regardless of whether we move to blind interviews  – it could be years away,  we still need to do the following to manage our biases around voice and accent:

  • Recognise the existence of voice bias and include it in unconscious bias training. The question of vocal fry and upspeak became contentious because these are mainly speech patterns exhibited by women. Women face a “double bind” when it comes to their voices.  When women speak the pitch of their voices tends be higher, flexible and experimental, which is not the style of speech we associate with stereotypical leadership qualities. We can penalise women in interviews or professional situations.
  • Create diverse teams and workplaces. Recruit individuals with different accents to teams and have those people on hiring panels.

More training needed

Blind interviews are a way of overcoming other biases based on seeing someone physically, whether online or in person. However, they will not work unless we  learn to manage voice bias that may lurk in our systems very often undetected. We need a greater understanding and awareness of both accent and voice bias in the workplace. We can only achieve this by including it specifically in our training programmes.

If you want to strengthen your talent pipeline with a diverse candidates – get in touch now.  

How to make your interview process more inclusive

How to make your interview process more inclusive

The hiring process for most organisations is flawed throughout and riddled with unconscious bias. Despite good intentions, there is no doubt that unconscious bias is the barrier to diversity. It’s important you understand how to make your interview process more inclusive as part of your hiring best practices.

Inclusive hiring

Inclusive hiring is an equitable and consistent process, which is as bias free as possible. This will allow the selection of the best candidate, who has been chosen for the right reasons related to skills, qualification, and experience, not the frequently unconscious whim of the recruiter or hiring manager.

The importance of inclusion

Research tells us that Millennials are looking for organisations which are diverse and inclusive. In a survey carried out by Monster, 87% say it’s a factor in their hiring decision. They are also willing to leave a business that turns out not to be walking the talk. The FT published a report on the most inclusive companies in Europe based on feedback from employees, which is important.  However, even though there is a commitment to a general Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging policy at a senior level, very often we see pockets of resistance at a local or departmental level.

Candidates can have indirect contact with organisations as consumers or via social media or advertising, but the hiring process is frequently the first direct contact. It’s important that this experience is as inclusive as possible. It’s vital that you integrate diversity and inclusion values into every aspect of the hiring process, but especially the interview section.


7 protected categories

At one time I assumed that anyone involved in the hiring process was aware of the seven protected categories. That was an error of judgement on my part. You would be surprised how many are not aware that it is illegal to discriminate candidates on the following grounds in most geographies. Anyone who discriminate against individuals in these categories risks legal action.

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race
  • Physical ability
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Veteran status
  • Genetic status

How to make your interview process more inclusive

  1. Write inclusive job profiles and adverts

It’s important to correctly format your basic documentation because they are the tools which will anchor the entire hiring procedure. If your recruitment foundation is not accurate, it will throw out all the subsequent steps. There are many software programmes on the market that can help recruiters design inclusive documentation. Even MS Word has an inclusion piece in the editing function.

Vocabulary choice is key to making the advert accessible and to prevent self-deselection. Research shows that women are put off my certain word usage, especially if they feel they don’t meet the qualifications. It’s important to keep skills and competences real.

A Hewlett Packard internal report found that men apply for a job or promotion when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. In-house recruiters report encountering significant difficulties at this stage when hiring managers want to inflate profiles and recruit “Mini-Mes”

  1. Give unconscious bias training to all involved

All organisations should offer unconscious bias training to everyone involved in the hiring system. Even the hiring manager. In fact, especially the hiring manager. I have been in touch with large numbers of in-house recruiters who say that very often the point of greatest resistance to an inclusive hiring decision, is the hiring manager.

Don’t forget this is a topic that needs ongoing refreshing. It’s not something that can be dealt with in a one-off lunch and learn session, because behavioural change is a continuous not a single event.

There are about 150 cognitive biases in all and many of them crop up in the interview. Typical biases found in the hiring system are affinity bias, confirmation bias, halo and horns bias, similarity bias, contrast bias, beauty bias, conformity bias, affect heuristics bias, unemployment bias, expectation, and confidence bias.

In the era of the online interview, we are also seeing “background bias” where candidates are judged on their surroundings. I hear of candidates who rent hotel rooms to get a more professional looking environment if they can’t set up a virtual background.

None of us can never be completely bias free, but you can learn to manage them and set up systems to support you.



  1. Have a diverse interview panel

Your interview panel should involve a range of personalities, backgrounds, ages, and experience. Avoid a mono-cultural group, as this will end up in “group think”.

Remember the Benjamin Franklin quote “When we all think alike – no one is thinking.”

  1. Design a structured interview

Interviewers should pose the same questions to all candidates and only those directly relevant to the role. Check you ask open-ended and future-focused behavioural questions to produce the best results.

A standard questioning route would be to ask questions based on previous experience such as “Tell us about a time you….”

Instead reframe that around and make it about something that could happen.  “How would you ..?.”

One of the reasons for doing this is that research shows that women tend to under-value their own competence and performance (Imposter Syndrome) but feel comfortable sharing how they would deal with a projected future scenario. What deters women is not their ability, but their perceptions of their skills and experience.

You can also set practical skills-based screening tests or exercises.

  1. Build in bias interrupters

A good best practice to conduct an inclusive interview is to have bias interrupters. Allocate roles for people involved in the hiring process to spot and interrupt bias. You can train a team and equip them with skills specifically to identify and communicate bias.

Develop a consistent benchmarking scale to measure candidate answers (or skills-based assessments) to generate data to develop selection guidelines. Include all candidates, especially those who you consider to be “outliers” or even “non-starters”

If you decide that “cultural fit” for the team or organisation is a selection criterion, measure it in precise terms to avoid a homogenous hire. This will be important around personality types, gender, race, age etc. Cultural fit is shorthand for “like us”.

Pay particular attention to personality assessment. The interview process tends to favour extraverts (confidence and charisma bias) and in our cultures we tend to place higher value on extraversion than introversion. The best way to do that is via personality testing of the whole team to gain an understanding of where you need balance.

Many interviewers also give weight to non-competence-based elements such as a sense of humour, the receipt of thank you letters, sports played or personal interests. This can be excluding in terms of gender, age or culture and tapping into confirmation bias or similarity bias. If the hiring manager shares the same interests, personality, sense of humour or comes from a culture where thank you letters are expected then there is a risk they will be persuaded to show preference for those candidates.

  1. Avoid tokenism

Make sure to balance your short list in terms of gender, age, personality types, ethnic background etc. There is strong evidence to suggest that the single candidate from a particular demographic will not get hired.

This was identified by research carried out by University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business on female and black applicants. Their findings indicated that panellists favour the dominant group in preference to “outside” candidates from other demographics.

Get feedback

If your organisation truly intends to gain an understanding of candidate experience with the intention of improving it, send out a post-interview pulse for feedback. Results will indicate how candidates felt about their experience of your interview process and if they felt it was inclusive.

An inclusive hiring process will give all candidates the opportunity to be their best authentic selves and just as importantly your organisation will have a chance to show what a great place it is to work.

Need help transforming your hiring process to be more inclusive – get in touch now! 



make the most of furloughs

6 ways to make the most of furloughs

We are now for some people in a second or even third period of layoffs. Many complain they didn’t maximise their time in the first series and want to do better this time around. So how can you make the most of furloughs in the next round to manage your career in times of uncertainty?  

A furloughs is a temporary leave of absence or layoff, historically associated with the military or missionaries. I had only ever heard the word routinely used by Americans, but now it is part of  every day vocabulary in most geographies during lock down. Furloughs usually result in reduced income which is supplemented by governmental aid until the employee is needed again in the organisation. 

For many, coping with furlough is difficult, particularly parents who find themselves juggling  home schooling and other domestic and family needs. There are others however, especially those without children, who are active and healthy, where they basically find themselves on another period of extended leave. It’s important to make the most of this period because the chance to be so “time rich” many not present itself for a while.

6 ways to make the most of furloughs

1. Prepare strategically

  • Check out your statutory rights

Find out what benefits and state support you are entitled to and make sure you have completed all the necessary paperwork. We are beginning to hear stories of businesses abusing this financial aid.  This abuse of the system includes forcing employees to continue working on a part-time or ad hoc basis for the company, despite declaring them as furloughed. Other cases include those where employees  who were not even told that their employer was claiming reimbursement of their wages and were let go.

  •  Budget carefully

Being on furlough doesn’t give you employment protection and you can still be made redundant. It’s therefore important to monitor your expenses carefully and adjust your budget. Most people say that by physically not going to work they have reduced their expenses considerably. So take a “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” approach now by being strategic. Many young people with no kids have quite frequently (where they can) gone back to the parental home.

2. Work on Your Personal Brand

Most career coaches would suggest you work on your personal brand personal and make sure you have your basic career tools up to date. It can be a good moment to do some inner reflection work, especially if you have worked in a sector which has been hard hit. Make sure your CV and LinkedIn profile are up to date as a bare minimum. Your resume should be ready to send out at a moment’s notice.

This is a perfect opportunity to adapt the Ikigai method and ask yourself these 4 key questions:

  • Knowing what you love (your passion) — Feeling passionate about your life and work.
  • Pursuing what you are good at (your vocation) — Fully utilizing your talents.
  • Engaging in what will pay you  (your profession) — Knowing what others are willing to pay you to do.
  • Understanding what the world (market) needs (your mission) — Understanding what others need.

3. Research other opportunities

If you work in a heavily impacted sector such as entertainment, hospitality, events or travel, start to systematically research other sectors. You may find that there will be opportunities in fields you hadn’t even considered before. Now you have time to pull together all the data you need to make an informed decision.

4. Extend your skill set

For this group there is actually no excuse for not acquiring new skills which has never been more affordable or easier, as many qualifications shift to online offerings. Search on platforms such as LinkedIn to see the type of opportunities available. Make sure you check out the credentials of the provider carefully, as we have seen an uptick of many so called “experts” as a result of this crisis. Their expertise is pretty dodgy.

If you find qualifications or continuous learning possibilities that may support a career pivot investigate seriously. This is your moment  – carpe diem! Continuous learning can no longer be a hobby.

And clearly do something for the sheer joy of it. I have heard reports of people taking cookery D.I.Y. and photography courses.

 5. Network, network and network

In the current climate you have the time to increase your network. Do it. Make sure your networking moves are in line with your career goals where you can. But you can also just reach out to new people to expand your horizons for the sheer pleasure of it. Online networking is a great boon in these times to make useful contacts. Arrange virtual coffees or do what I have started doing  which is “netwalking. ” This is social and socially distanced, outside and healthy.

6. Tap into your existing skills

Let’s not forget that we are defined exclusively by our jobs. We all have different skills that can be used to either generate revenue or save money. They can also be adapted to current market needs.

Mario wrote, illustrated and self-published a children’s book which generated interest in his network and he is now writing a second.  Gemma and Barry remodelled their house with free online tuition from You-Tube. Matthieu a laid-off builder, set up a Virtual Assistant’s business specifically for the construction industry. His inside knowledge is putting him ahead of the game in relation to existing generalist vendors.

Many have skills can be shifted online to offer remote working services. Just take care that any revenue generation doesn’t impact your statutory rights.

The final factor is to take into account, you will be asked how you spent lock down or coped with the pandemic in any upcoming interviews. Make sure you are prepared.

If you need ongoing career support get in touch NOW 

Ikigai and career coaching

Intertwining Ikigai and career coaching

I have always incorporated the concept of Ikigai and career coaching, although when I started doing this many years ago, I didn’t understand at the time that this was what I was actually doing. My approach has always been holistic and to avoid to siloed thinking. Our professional and personal goals not separate and unrelated and long experience has taught me that if someone is unhappy in one area of their lives, it bleeds into another to cause imbalance. At the heart of Ikigai is that everything is connected.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept which is synonymous with “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” suggests the source of value in your life or the things, that makes your life worthwhile. The English translation would be  “the thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”

Hector Garcia, the co-author with  Francesc Miralles of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life says. “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing,”

This balance is found at the point where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.

The book identifies 10 rules for finding your own Ikigai

1. Stay active and don’t retire
2. Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
3. Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
4. Surround yourself with good friends
5. Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
6. Smile and acknowledge people around you
7. Reconnect with nature
8. Give thanks to anything that brightens our day and makes us feel alive.
9. Live in the moment
10. Follow your ikigai

Why are Ikigai and career coaching intertwined?

In any career reflection we all need to ask ourselves 4 main questions. When you have answered those questions and your responses are aligned, you will feel most fulfilled. They are:

  • Knowing what you love (your passion) — Feeling passionate about your life and work.
  • Pursuing what you are good at (your vocation) — Fully utilizing your talents.
  • Engaging in what will pay you  (your profession) — Knowing what others are willing to pay you to do.
  • Understanding what the world (market) needs (your mission) — Understanding what others need.



Question1  – what do I love doing?

One of the most regularly doled out of all career tips is to follow your passion. If it was a movie or a song it would get an award. Of course you should all be advised to do something you love and which satisfies you. Otherwise you will be condemned to a life of frustration and misery. But there are some caveats.

Passion isn’t static for most people. It’s misleading to suggest it might be and to follow it blindly. I had this perfect reminder in a tweet from Mouneer Rabie quoting Professor Scott Galloway

Your passion can change over the years. So something that you might be passionate about in your 20s, can be the source of unremitting boredom in later life.

You can also develop new passions. It’s not inconceivable that you might find two or even more passions in a working life which is extending all the time.

Passion on its own is not enough!

Question 2:  What am I good at?

The next step involves strategy, which brings us to question 2. Do you have the skills or can you acquire them? What are you good at?

It’s important to constantly assess our skills, strengths and development needs because these are changing or we need to update them. The days of anyone having a fixed retirement date when they kick back and head for the golf course or world travel are probably a thing of the past for all but a few. It’s projected that most people will now be working until they are 70, health permitting.

It’s important that we all recognise our strengths and skills and what we need to work on. If in doubt  – ask for feedback.

Question 3:  What can I do to earn money to pay my bills

At the age of 14, I was passionate about tennis, but there was no way I could make a living at it. Or had the skills. That is something that very often people misunderstand. I know one woman who was an excellent home cook and passionate about food. But she was unable to turn that passion into something that paid her bills. Some things like my tennis, are best kept as hobbies.

In times of crisis many have had to take jobs they are not passionate about to put good on their table and keep a roof over their heads. They should not be judged for that, but eventually they will probably find themselves out of alignment with their core values and other drivers.

This will be the same for someone who earns a high salary but feels unfulfilled. This suggests one or more of their other needs are not being met.

Question 4. What does the world or market need?

This is going to be one of the greatest challenges of the next normal.  As our workplaces reshape we are going to need to keep abreast of new trends to sell our skills in a new employment market place. We need to know more than ever what our workplaces need. This will mean staying in touch and in tune with workplace innovation and making sure we have the right skills to find our place in it.   The pace of change is also so great in our workplaces, that we have no idea what jobs will exist in 10 years that we may become passionate about.

One of the under valued soft skills that contributes to career success is a sense of curiosity. Not only that, it is an age neutral attribute. It can work in every age demographic, from entry-level to seniors, which is always an added bonus. A sense of curiosity can be understood as:

“A state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something.”

Continuous and intuitive learning will be very much part of our career management strategies over the next decades.

Core advice

Core advice around this is to maintain a path of ongoing self-assessment and life-long learning. Be curious and open to possibilities and be sure to do your inner work regularly to find your Ikigai. Assess and prioritize your goals. In our careers we will be passionate about many things at various times. At different stages of our lives we have a range of commitments and constraints which may cause  us to be thrown our of alignment. There is nothing wrong with having to  accept that in the short term and adjust later. The most important element is that you are aware of what is going on.

As life goes on compromises are made as we factor other people’s needs into our planning. The question is do you feel compromised? If you do, then it’s time for a re-evaulation.

This is also why generic career advice doled out with no any real thought to context can miss the mark. We need a holistic and more inclusive approach to career management and recognise that there are a range of cultural, personality and gender differences where a one size fits all style simply won’t work. As working practices change to adapt to the global pandemic finding balance will become even more significant as the line between working from home and living at work becomes blurred.

The most important thing is to make your career management strategy ongoing and not wait until there is an emergency. To quote  Benjamin Franklin “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”

If you need career support for your next steps get on touch NOW!  Don’t wait until you have a crisis.  

back to basics job search tips

10 back to basics job search tips. Job seekers help yourselves!

I have been conducting a European wide search, a region in the throes of an economic depression.  In the middle of a global pandemic unemployment levels are at an all time high, so I anticipated being overwhelmed by significant numbers of on-target job seekers, with difficult selection decisions to make. I was wrong. Despite there being millions of career coaches on the market, plus a mass of free information, elearnings, webinars and podcasts, it seems there is a need for back to basics job search tips

To my astonishment I have found that even the very basics are not being implemented.  As with any activity it’s sometimes necessary to re-visit the fundamental tenets simply to get the basics right. Perhaps they were never there to start with, or perhaps for some they have slipped by the wayside.


10 back to basics job search tips

Here are 10 of the most basic tips that seem so obvious that you would think that all job seekers would be doing them. I can assure you they are not!

1.  Be visible

A complete online professional profile is mandatory on one of the main  international networks: LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing – or any of the more local ones. This is especially relevant if you are unemployed.

2. Don’t apply for a job if you are not reasonably on target

This can be contentious, but if you are missing critical skills, you are wasting everyone’s time and setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. If you meet 60% of the requirements that’s fine. Ladies take note.

3. Check who has viewed your profile

If it’s a head hunter or recruiter – contact them if you are looking for a job.

4. Be easily contactable

Make yourself easily reachable with as a minimum an email address on your professional profile. If you are afraid of spammers – open up a separate account for job search. If you want to post a phone number so much the better.

5. Check your mails

If you are looking for a job or are unemployed, you should be checking your emails and InMails multiple times a day even at weekends and holidays. This applies also to your professional profile mail box.

6. Respond promptly

To contact requests. Check your phone regularly for messages and missed calls. I came across a LinkedIn profile that said “looking for new challenge” which is job search speak for unemployed. The individual responded to me after three weeks for reasons which are not clear   – but it wasn’t because they had been sick. It was too late.

7. Don’t bench

This is a phrase that has been taken from the dating world which means putting someone on the backburner while you explore other options. It involves giving someone just enough attention to make sure they stay interested in you. Meanwhile, they are dating around and seeing what else is out there.

I engaged with a candidate who sent short messages from time to time, but had no availability to speak. Maybe she had been “benching” me, that is lining up other better options which may have fallen through.  When she finally contacted me the search was finished. When I send a message saying “if I haven’t heard from you by x date I will assume you are not interested”, I do mean it.

8. Have a current CV

Your CV should be instantly available to send immediately to any prospective recruiter. If you have to take time to write a CV and you are unemployed or on furlough you are way behind the curve.

9. Be available for an online interview

Or a telephone call. I mean we are in quarantine for most regions and working remotely so it should be much easier than usual. There is no need to sneak off to find an empty conference room with lame excuses to your manager and colleagues.  If it’s a problem – flag it up.  If you don’t want to be interrupted to engage in a job search process now, you may find that you have even more time to yourself than you would like, or can afford, in the future.

10. Pay it forward

If you are not interested personally share with your network. Do someone else a favour.

If you know any job seekers looking for a new opportunity or unemployed, share this post with them. It might help!

Note: this post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated. Nothing much has changed. 

If you need help with your job search – get in touch!

interview question clichés

Let’s get rid of interview question clichés

Is it time to dump those interview question clichés which constantly crop up and add little value? I would say so! And for once I am not a lone voice!

I was recently involved in an interview process and the hiring manager asked the candidate:

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

Poker face

The candidate had a good poker face. Apart from a slight widening of the eyes, he disguised his authentic reaction very well before answering, with the usual culturally accepted “blurb.” What I suspect he really wanted to say was:

“𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘮 𝘐? 𝘈 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘶𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘳? 2020 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘢 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘰𝘧𝘧. 𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 8 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘩𝘴. 𝘔𝘺 𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘭𝘺𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘩𝘪𝘨𝘩 𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘬 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘊𝘖𝘝𝘐𝘋. 𝘔𝘺 𝘸𝘪𝘧𝘦’𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯. 𝘐 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘣𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘣𝘰𝘹 𝘪𝘧 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘫𝘰𝘣”

Certainly there is a meme about how 2020 year planners have gone to hell in a hand cart. So it made me think what other questions could (and even should) we let go? There are many standard interview questions that add very little value in today’s climate and should probably be consigned to the interview question trash can. Mark Anthony Dyson, Career Strategist says  these cliché questions “serve as empty calories to an interview, as they do a resume: How do these questions tell the interviewer anything relevant to the candidate’s ability to do the job?”

Interviews are ineffective

But we should also consider the very function of the interview as a reliable element of the hiring process. Currently it is the final hurdle of the hiring process which has been unchanged for decades, or even longer. Multiple unstructured interviews to select the right candidate are the corporate norm. However, research is increasingly exposing flaws in this process, and studies suggest there is no correlation between interview presentation and future performance in a role.

There is also evidence to suggest that our own perceptions of our abilities (intuition) to identify talent is equally poor.  Lazlo Bock former VP of operations at Google says the whole process is:

   “a complete random mess… We found a zero relationship.”

Research from Leadership IQ found that and astounding 46% of all new hires fail within 18 months and only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. So why do we keep going down this path and  continue to ask inane questions  and expecting and even rewarding inauthentic responses?

On the basis that interviews are going to be around for a while I decided to ask my network which interview question clichés would they get rid of.

Which interview question clichés would you dump?

Sara Lesina a Global Marketing Leader in the healthcare sector mentioned the conflict that job seekers face when confronted with questions like the “where do you see yourself” “It’s also a double-edged question: hiring managers want to see whether you’re ambitious enough, but likely hope you are not too much given the role they are interviewing you for… not a question that wins you many points”

Sweta Regmi, Career Consultant has another approach “Answer “You & I might not wake up tomorrow” 😄, could we focus on today?  Or “I will be on your seat doing exactly what you are doing right now to me ” and smile- I have done this, it worked!!

There was no shortage of suggestions!

Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa, jumped right in. “I love the idea of getting rid of the “where do you see yourself” question! It’s not all that helpful. I would also recommend getting rid of any/all “stress interview questions” where the interviewer attempts to make the candidate uncomfortable on purpose.”

Donna Schilder, Career Coach, echoes Hannah’s thoughts. “Why put the candidate on the spot. Make them feel comfortable so the can show you their best.”

What’s the worst mistake you ever made?” is the one Michael Perry, PixlBoss, suggests binning now.  Shelley Piedmont, Career Coach, and former Recruiter, tosses in “What is your biggest weakness?” No one answers this question honestly.”

And more

Trick questions can also cause confusion says Jillian Knapp, Learning and Development Specialist.  “I had a friend who was asked what her favourite word was. I have no idea how I’d answer that question. Unfortunately she chose a word (craic) that was popular and benign in her country (Ireland) but meant something totally different in North America. She didn’t get the job.”

For the uninitiated, “craic” in Ireland (pronounced crack) means fun or a good time. In the U.S. it has other, less salubrious, connotations.

Monica Marcelis Fochtman, Career Coach, would exile “What would your co-workers say about you?”

Susan P Joyce , Publisher and Editor of Jobhunt. org adds “…who gives an honest answer to “What is your greatest failure?” Seriously? Maybe that measures how prepared/interested the candidate is?”

Sonal Bahl Career Strategist, had a whole list of suggestions involving tennis balls, pencils animals and fruit! “If you were an animal/fruit/insert any other random noun, which one would you be (I’m guffawing like a hyena now.) Or how many tennis balls can fit in an airplane (kill me now)”

Authenticity and other approaches

Then came the question of authenticity. The reality is as Kevin D Turner, LinkedIn Expert mentions “The only way we can expect candidates to be “authentic” is to ask “authentic” interview questions…. So what does an Interviewer really learn about a candidate using these trite questions? They are good at internet search, following guidance, and practicing answers? Ask real questions to discover and listen to really learn”.

Authenticity is definitely the preferred approach of Bernadette Nagy Career Coach, “I would definitely suggest authenticity and transparency for both sides on the table. “

Laura Smith-Proulx, Career Coach, doesn’t favour making candidates uncomfortable and says that even the most confident candidate can get nervous in an interview. “So why not put them at ease? She throws this question in to the mix. “What would you like your future boss to say about your work?”  

Donna Svei, Resumé Writer favours another approach where candidates should be encouraged to ask some different types of questions themselves saying “… if you can stimulate a productive conversation, you can save an unskilled or unprepared interviewer from asking outdated questions.”

Lisa Rangel, Resumé Writer, adds “I also think as much as it would be wishful thinking to rid of many of these tired questions, preparing candidates to answer uniquely and with a sense of humor advances the candidate in many cases—if it’s a job they want!

End of the unstructured interview?

We see interviews as the ultimate defining challenge against which we measure all candidates and cut those that underperform. This means that competent candidates are unsuccessful based on a process which is not data driven,  and frequently involving irrelevant and unhelpful questions. This is prompting many organisations to shift to automated and structured interviews, using more reliable and measurable methodologies.

That will definitely help reduce the problem of interview question clichés and not before time. I have a feeling that some will still cling on to the old ways no matter what.

Many thanks to all who participated in such an engaging discussion. For the full thread – check here 

Remote networking 2

Remote networking tips to thrive and survive COVID19

One of the biggest challenges of the “now normal” is navigating the divide between doing things in person and figuring out a way to do them remotely with the same degree of success. It’s important now to find remote networking workarounds to compensate for the current restrictions, especially around relationship building. This is true whether as an employee, a jobs seeker or a business owner.

The alternative is to stagnate and get left behind. It’s important to COVID proof your career and  personal brand in an “officeless” workplace.

A cautious view is that this pandemic situation could go on for another year, with differing levels of restrictions across many geographies. There is no doubt I am experiencing this pandemic from a position of privilege. I have Wi-Fi and outside space. I am healthy and my business is not bankrupt. So far. I am grateful. As an extravert I am missing human contact. I was threatening to hug my postman back in May, so he now leaves my deliveries inside the door and signs them for me.

But this is how it’s going to be in the foreseeable future. Work and the workplace have changed – but have we?

Relationships are at the heart of career success. What can we do to build and cement relationships in the time of COVID when so many of us are isolated?

Remote networking tips

1. Embrace the reality

Many of us have been resistant thinking this will pass. It will but probably slowly.  A good start will be to hoist on board some of the remote networking tips to be fully effective and to make sure your relationships don’t suffer.

This involves:

📌 Learning the tech

Learning the complexities of some of the online platforms is a must whether Skype for Business, WebEx, Teams, Zoom or other. My Mum told me that Zoom meetings with her Church have been described as like a séance:

“Is anyone there?
“Can you hear me?”
“Raise your hand if you can see me”

Don’t be that person.

📌 Update all profiles

Make sure all your profiles have your name and a recent photo – something semi-professional is always a good idea. You could put your LinkedIn URL or website next to your name.

📌 Dress code

There is a big storm in the social media tea cup about dress code. Definitely, women should not be told to wear makeup and look sexy in online meetings unless men are. If I’m going to an online meeting, I prefer to dress reasonably professionally, otherwise someone might call the emergency services thinking I had COVID. But for me, it also makes a clear personal psychological demarcation between work and life. That is my choice.

If it’s a professional meeting I would recommend at least looking business casual. Others suggest that an online leadership presence is vital

Whatever you decide – clothes are a must.

If I’m paying for an event, I expect the hosts to be professional looking. I know. I’m weird like that.

📌 A quiet space is a nice option

Many of us had to adapt existing space and learn to work with partners or a home school in our kitchens. Not everyone has the possibility to create a home office with floor to ceiling bookshelves. We are all much more tolerant of interruptions from pets, kids, partners and delivery people. If at all possible try and have some dedicated quiet space if you can, however small. It’s not a big deal if you can’t, but it is a nice to have so you can relax.

Eight months in, as a minimum, at least know how to create a virtual background. We have all found the touch up your appearance button on Zoom right?

remote networking tips

2. Reach out

From the start of COVID I made a point of reaching out to three new people every day. Now I meet people either in larger events, at smaller online focus meetings or individually.

📌 Large events

Many of the big conferences are switching online. In the beginning they were not great as companies coped with a rapid transition, but I can see the levels of sophistication are increasing. It’s still a super way to connect with new people, especially if you integrate a few of these remote networking tips. In a large event:

  • Connect with the organisers beforehand on LinkedIn. If you can, find out who else will be attending.
  • One of the things I enjoy as much about a large event as the main speakers or panellists, is the breakout rooms. This is where you can network with smaller groups. Ask delegates if you can connect with them afterwards, so it doesn’t look creepy. Send a personalized note mentioning the event, your interaction, and their contribution.
  • Many participants attend events to listen in only – maybe they can’t speak or are multi-tasking, so jot down the names of the participants, or take a screen shot or photo so you can follow up if you choose to.
  • Put your LinkedIn URL in the chat and invite people to connect with you.
  • Engage actively in the chat, not just with the speakers, but with other participants. Acknowledge someone if they have made a good point.

📌 Smaller groups

  •  Many people wait for someone else to take the initiative to connect or instigate an online meeting. We are all so busy. So why don’t you be the pro-active one? What is the worst thing that can happen? They can say no. Small group discussions can be helpful to gain a better understanding of a new topic as well as forging new relationships.
  •  Keep the session short and focused with an agenda, so everyone knows they are not going into an online vortex with no end in sight. I was invited to a three hour Zoom meeting the other day and almost had a panic attack

📌 One on one networking 1-1.

I now try to set up some 1-1 in person meetings which is hard as COVID restrictions become tougher and cafés and restaurants are closed in many areas. I now invite anyone who lives nearby and who wants to meet on-line to go for a “net-walk” instead. This is under correct socially distanced conditions, keeping 2 metres apart and wearing a mask. I am fortunate, that I have lots of green open space within easy access. This means I can exercise and meet new connections or catch up with old ones. The only downside is the weather!

Here’s a photo from last week’s “net-walking” excursion.


Remote networking tips

Otherwise it’s the Zoom coffee or cocktails both of which are better than not meeting anyone at all.

For corporate employees working remotely, Slack and Teams offer random matching. This allows remote workers to replace chance water cooler encounters with short one-to-one meetings with people they may not know. Ask your organisation to sign up for that add on.

New times, new methods

New circumstances call for new thinking. Rethinking the way, we build and cement relations under new and challenging circumstances is going to be an important part of the way we cope and may be the only way we survive this crisis.

This too will pass, so it’s key to prepare the way for a return to the workplace.

Do you need to COVID proof your career? Get in touch NOW