Category Archives: mba

The declining art of conversation and Gen Y recruitment

Gen Y recruitment challenges

Much has been written about the need for changes that employers should make in order to attract and retain Millennials. We have seen a veritable outbreak of company Facebook pages, inter-active web sites, Twitter accounts, mentoring  programmes and the like. But as one client mentioned recently after a less than effective graduate recruitment job fair, an additional challenge is even more basic: to identify the best entry-level talent.

I’m not even talking about text-speak or spelling errors on CVs,  but basic social inter- action during the interview process which is generally the backbone of most hiring systems.

Good on paper only
The platforms that are typically used and relied upon for  Gen Y recruitment and entry-level screening are telephone interviews, video calls, job fair meetings and regular face to face interviews. Candidates are then frequently advanced to testing processes and more rigorous interviews. Today, undeveloped interpersonal skills means that many capable candidates don’t present well, causing increased difficulties for those in the hiring process  to make an accurate preliminary triage. Clients are reporting the growing cost ineffectiveness of job fairs, as a result of this down turn in social skills. Many candidates with pre-submitted CVs,  look great on paper but are under-performing in the face to face interview. So although we know that Millennials communicate and socialise differently to other generations, at some point they do have to engage with people outside their age group.

I am often asked in the University and Business School programmes I run, why I start basic interview preparation in the first session. The reason is the communication skills of many Millennials are so under developed, that they need extra time to get anywhere near an acceptable performance level for interviews.

Diminished interpersonal skills
Sherry Turkle in her excellent article the  Flight from Conversation eloquently portrays the downsides of the trend to block out communication and conversation on a whole generation who are “alone together”.  University Career Directors both at undergraduate, Masters and MBA  level report a global pandemic of students mentally checking out of their classes and using Smart Phones and lap tops to log onto Facebook and email accounts during lectures. Attention spans are reduced and the incidence of talking amongst themselves in class is high. The result is they are sabotaging their own learning processes, which impacts their career prospects.

When I asked an MBA workshop group to turn off their phones for my session, one participant reacted as if I was contravening his civil liberties. An awareness of professional and even basic social etiquette seems to be at a minimum.  A device driven generation, for increasing numbers their body language and even voice projection is weak. They may have great credentials but they can’t showcase them properly. At a recent Italian job fair a client cut a candidate because he responded to an incoming text in the middle of the interview.

But is the interview texter an unempathetic communicator or merely demonstrating multi- tasking skills?  The poor presenter might have excellent potential and skills that are simply not evident.  The problem is we just don’t know.

First impressions unreliable
First impressions are made in less than 15 seconds. In a situation where social skills are under developed and candidates are unable to make that key engagement with an interviewer as they should (poor eye contact, the ability to listen and tune into cues from the whole range of body language and voice tone), which is critical in an interview, how do recruiters sort out the wheat from the chaff?

Here are some solutions currently being considered:

  • Online testing: One response from a number of companies seems to be a growing shift to mass online testing prior to personal screening, using outsourced organisations such as SHL , or in-house assessment centres.  Follow-up procedures include further assessment tools before finally personal interviews to evaluate cultural fit and social skills.
  • Network recommendations:  seem to be becoming increasingly important and will favour candidates with strong personal networks possibly via well-connected family members or previous experience. In today’s economic climate this is not easy to come by and as we have seen with the flourishing unpaid intern sector both possibilities put less well placed candidates at a disadvantage. This is also a demographic which networks widely via Facebook,  but generally hasn’t started to develop a professional network.
  • Modifications to onboarding programmes : to incorporate communication skills training into in-house programmes sooner rather than later have been suggested. Whether this will provide the catch-up programme required remains to be seen.

Gen Y workers are some of the most independent-minded and tech-savvy workers employers have encountered. Changing recruitment models seems to be necessary not just to attract the best candidates, but to identify them too.

But the significant overall message to Millennial job seekers is to switch off  the lap top, iPad or Smart Phone  and practise the old-fashioned art of conversation. Many competent candidates are not making the cut  at interviews, simply because they don’t know how to communicate in a professional environment or even have a basic knowledge of acceptable social etiquette.

Mad Men poll from the Economist : Women and MBAs

Mad Men meets Stepford Wives in outdated Economist poll

Named Editor of the Year in 2012, Mr John Micklethwait is Editor-in Chief of the Economist. Given his background, as a leading figure in global intellectual and business media, one would assume that he is a pretty smart and savvy gentleman.

The Economist is normally associated with balanced,  neutral, informative reporting on the issues of women in the workplace and business. I am a regular reader. So,  I was astonished  this weekend by a departure from their usual high level,  objective content,  into the tabloid style enforcement of gender stereotypes.

Loss of balance
Why on earth would his publication send out such a thoughtless, sexist poll asking if women with young children should consider waiting before starting an MBA?  Here is the text which reads like something from Mad Men meets The Stepford Wives:

Juggling the twin demands of an MBA programme and young children is bound to be tough. But it is not impossible. According to one student, interviewed here, it means devoting days to classes, afternoons to her daughters, and evenings and Sundays to school work. Still, multi-tasking can be a mistake. Children demand your full attention and trying to concentrate on it and your assignment at the same time inevitably means you do both poorly. One answer is to hire a babysitter. But this can be costly….”

Out of date
Notwithstanding it came out the morning after the major office party night of the year, and a few brain cells might have been lost. Perhaps  Mr. Micklethwait was having a day off. Or maybe the The Economist is short of  readers and needs something a little contentious. Perhaps the 21st century notion of dual career families has completely passed them by. The expectations of women, especially Gen Yers in the area of  the roles their partners play in household and childcare responsibilities, are very different from their mothers’  generations.  Not only that there are actually  significant numbers of  men who want to be actively involved in their children’s upbringing.  My own questions would be:

  • Why don’t they pose the same questions to men?
  • Where are the fathers in the childcare process? Why are they coming home when the children are asleep?

Only one-third of MBA students are women. Surely the poll  and business schools should be trying to establish  how to attract high calibre women without imposing the ” Mummy penalty”, rather than going into the family planning advisory business which serves to re-enforce out dated thinking. As one MBA candidate in a career workshop in Paris told me last week, as a married man with children  he felt he was perceived as offering employers stability, echoing Curt Rice’s fatherhood bonus theory.

This is perpetuating any number of outmoded stereotypes:

  • That childcare is the exclusive role and responsibility of the mother.
  • MBAs are for men
  • Women who are both mothers and professionals will “inevitably” do both roles poorly.
  • Women who focus on the achievement of their own goals will feel guilty.

Here is the story of one woman, Lynn Barbour  who broke the curve.  I suggest that J.L.H.D of The Economist, Atlanta  interview her as well,   to show how it can all be achieved successfully. Lynn says “While formal strategies of employers and business schools need to be strengthened to increase the percentage of women in MBAs, I believe most of the change required starts with individuals” There must be a multitude of other women who have done the same and would not be OK with their partner coming home when the kids are in bed!

There are many reasons why women don’t make it to the top,  but I suspect fitting in a nappy/diaper change around an MBA assignment will not be one of them. Gender stereotypes reenforced by an influential, global press publication are far more likely to strengthen any barriers, than make dents in them.

Perhaps what we need is a female editor for the Economist.

What do you think?

Portfolio Careers: impact on workplace & jobseeker

A Portfolio Careers “a tapestry of a variety of eclectic employment experiences; employment in a series of short-contract or part-time positions

Not new but on the increase

The term Portfolio Career is being used in current business  vernacular with the same type of smug and superior “in the know -ness,”  as we might have seen when the atom was split or  the wheel invented. I always smile indulgently! The concept of a portfolio career is actually far from new. What is new is the number who have embarked on this career path.

“Moonlighting” has long been a euphemism associated with individuals aspiring to break into such professions as acting, music, arts, writing etc, or others running more than one job. As companies abandon the corporate  “cradle to grave” employment concepts,  and move towards the leaner and meaner machines of more recent times, we had already started to see the beginnings of this seismic shift some years ago. Business Week referenced the changing work place practise of  Perma Temps, as organisations began to seek flexible ( =  disposable) workforces, to allow rapid response to fast changing business conditions.

I view and review literally hundreds of CVs in any given week. Although predicted by all the trend spotters, the shift to individuals having an increasing  number of jobs and spending less time in each, is becoming very marked. I am  often asked to avoid “hoppers/movers/jumpers”, but that is now an outmoded concept, particularly as younger age demographics move between jobs more strategically, with periods of employment, also punctuated by stints in further education.

No alternatives

Portfolio  careers and the wearing of many hats was once associated with mid- career or older professionals, perhaps after redundancy seeking a better work / life balance,  or when there were no other options. It was considered a fall back position. We are now seeing younger  Gen Yers build up this type of career, not because they particularly seek an improved quality of life, but because they have to tap into different parts of their skill sets, simply to  get a job,  any job. This is also apparent when coaching career changers pursuing MBA courses,  when I have come across a range of skills from Project Management, entrepreneurial roles, to professional photography, all in the same student.  The real challenge is to create an interesting and credible career profile to showcase success stories, transferable skills and the lessons learned from such diverse backgrounds and interests.

Choice

However, there are people who simply prefer the variety, flexibility and freedom offered by tapping into a wide range of skills, so they choose a wider portfolio career, over a more traditional focused one.  At one time a portfolio career was considered to be higher risk than a corporate role. Today, I’m not sure that is the case. Portfolio careers suit disciplined, self motivated people with strong time management skills,  who have a variety of skills and interests, as well as the drive to go out and market and monetize them. Portfolio careers are also generally associated with adept networkers and can be a great route to gaining experience in a new field, whilst maintaining a part-time role in a traditional job in line with a professional background. Many do just that.

Challenges

The real issue will be for the demographic which doesn’t voluntarily choose this more entrepreneurial style of career strategy.  Flexibility for companies is key, of course, but if organisations aren’t careful, they can wind up searching for new talent in an alienated and demotivated workforce, which has struggled to gain skills in a wide range of unstructured and less professional environments. It also means a  quantum shift from lazy and uninsightful  “copy / paste” recruitment methodologies, sadly  relied upon by companies and some search consultants alike.

Read also: Career path replaced by Cluster Career

Career changers: 30 minute daily strategy

Can you afford not to?

For anyone embarking on a job search related to career change and developing what is now called a “personal brand” for the first time, I outline the steps and options involved using social networking. As I do so, I am always aware of two things. Faces turning ashen with panic and then groaning, as clients,  whether individually or in groups, mentally try to calculate how much time this process is going to take out of their already busy day. There is a reason it’s called net “working” (not net “vacationing”).  It is indeed a lot of work, it does take time and much of it is doing stuff people have never heard of before  (and wouldn’t choose to do if they had!) .

Authenticity
Today,  job search is personal, flexible and strategic. Sadly there is no template or blue print which can be reproduced, although guidelines can be given.  What works for one individual, will not work or sound authentic for another. The whole point of it is also to be unique and stand out, not to be a clone of your neighbour.  The learning process is  intuitive,  as we move away from the old style rigid approach. This does indeed makes life far harder for any job seeker today and it is time-consuming. However,  authenticity is key,   which is why we have to run, stroll or even crawl,  the hard yards for ourselves.

Strategic alliances
As recessionary thinking starts to hit us again after a very brief interlude of optimism,  the job market looks set to shrink.  Economic downturns touch even the brightest and the best. It’s imperative that developing a  personal brand  and raising visibility becomes a daily part of all job seekers’ routines –  before there is a crisis.  Social networking is a great way to supplement and enhance actual networking,  although ( and I stress)  not a substitute for it.

Simple basics
—Select a primary platform  – for most people this should be a professional network   (e.g. LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing)  to showcase career success stories and background. The largest English language one is LinkedIn for and anyone seeking a career in an international arena,  I would always advise a profile placed on this platform. — As a minimum I would suggest the following activity:

  • Send out 1 update daily to develop your reputation. If you have a blog so much the better,  otherwise any nugget of information that could be interesting taken from the press or other media related to your new function/sector. Twitter is a good source.
  • Post 1 comment in a LinkedIn group related to your target career.
  • Indentify and connect with 5- 10 new connections in your target sector – preferably ones you hope to meet in person.
  • Research companies in your target sector.

Connect with other platforms  – extend your reach via Twitter and Facebook which are becoming fast growing global job boards as the Like, Share and Tweet functions become a quick way to circulate job information. Employers are also strengthening their Employer brand on these platforms and offer increasing opportunities to inform and connect with job seekers. Trend spotters are suggesting that these 2 platforms will change the job search  landscape in 2012.   Although their figures are US-based, Europe is  usually only a few steps behind. Get ahead of the game. Even a British spy agency is seeking code-crackers via Twitter and Facebook.

  • Post content via Twitter.
  • Share content from others ( RT).
  • Comment on or “Like ” a blog or LinkedIn update.
  • Post an update or a note on Facebook.
  • Locate followers and friends that might be helpful to you.
  • Pay it forward  – share any new updates with your peers or other job seekers in your network.
  • Partially automate when you are busy. Bufferapp hits Twitter and Facebook. I would advise not to over do it  – engagement is key.
  • Filter out the white noise of LinkedIn updates using LinkedIn signal 

—One of the advantages of Social Networking is that it’s self scheduling  – so any of this can be fitted  around other activities and in a piece meal fashion. It’s a question of carving out 10 minutes of time, 3 times a day which may make a difference. Yes, initially it might take longer, but as skills are honed and knowledge acquired,  it can be whittled down to become  rapid fire productivity. Eventually you will think in terms of the time this is saving you.

 The real question is perhaps not if can you afford the time,  but can you afford the risk of not allocating those key minutes, in the current economic climate? If you don’t take time to plan now,  you may find you have  more leisure than you planned for  to live with the consequences.

Funky or Functional? The USP dilemma

Creating an effective USP ( Unique Selling Proposition ) is key for any job seeker or career  changer. It a major, invaluable tool in the job search tool box and will serve as a basis for:

  • One sentence bio either written or oral
  • Your online professional profile tagline (100 characters on LinkedIn)
  • Any introduction (occasion appropriate!)
  • Telephone message
  • Twitter profile (160 characters)
  • Job fair pitch  ( MBA, entry-level)

Tough

Dreaming  this up is an agonising process for most of us. We struggle to find a balance between finding something that is authentic, words that don’t sound fake, crass and pushy, using keywords for online effectiveness, but at the same time something that can be delivered verbally,  while conveying a benefit, in an occasion appropriate way. What might sound great in a networking meeting could clear a bar in seconds.  On top of this, we want to sound unique. It’s really tough. How do we differentiate ourselves from  the thousands of  highly qualified  professionals, entry-level or MBA candidates who might be on the job market?

The following questions need to be addressed: Be FABulous

  • Who are you?
  • What  makes you special?
  • Where and how do you add value?

To achieve this, there is no way of getting around the basic career management and strategy tool of identifying transferable skills and gaining self insight.  I use the CARS method  ( Challenges, Actions, Results,  Skills)  also known as STAR.  I am always astounded by the number of individuals who actually try to create a career strategy without going through this process. But like a string of pearls, your skills and qualities will be threaded through your experiences and serve to make you unique. Tie these into you passion, vision, values and goals for an overall picture of what is YOUR critical make-up. Add key metrics to highlight your success stories. Sadly, there are no short cuts and those that try to do just that, eventually become unstuck.  This means if individuals don’t know who they are and what they’re good at, how can they expect anyone else to know?

Funky or functional?

Some have a gift for personal insight and seem to produce the right words which reflect their personalities: ”  dedicated business development ninja” , “Pharma Research funketeer ,  successfully combines science ( PhD), business ( MBA) and innovation “,  “IT Solutions consultant,  marries the achievable with the sublime.

Keywords

Others are more cautious about being bold with creative vocabulary. They also have a point,  as keywords in this part of  their online profiles generally carry a higher SEO.  Many frequently use a job title or student status, whether because they understand this, or they are simply less creative  – who knows. This is fine of course, but  clearly not unique. It is therefore a good idea to add one or 2 keywords to your jazzy content,  perhaps academic qualifications  ( PhD, MBA) ,  any certifications  (CPA, CIPD, LLM )  or sector titles  (business development, pharma research,  IT solutions).

Need help creating a USP? Check out the individual coaching programmes.

Career Changers

Career changers can reference a previous career with a target role, function or sector   ” Dedicated business  development ninja (Exec MBA)  aspiring to leadership role, ” , “IT Solutions delivery expert,  marries achievable & sublime,  passionate about  sustainable energy”,   “Pharma Research funketeer (PhD), business minded ( MBA)  innovative and creative, transitioning to marketing “.  

Own, Anchor, Deliver 

Generally, arriving at this short sentence takes a lot of thought and juggling with vocabulary. Research on LinkedIn and check out other headlines. No one else can do it for you but getting feedback is always helpful. Do others perceive you in the same way as you perceive yourself?  Don’t be afraid to change and play around with your results until you get something you are totally comfortable with, provided of course that you are not constantly changing your key message, tweaking is fine. It’s an organic process and nothing is set in stone. That is the beauty and a superb advantage of online content, it supports intuitive learning.

To go through this process requires insight and then ownership of your success stories. You then have to anchor them in writing to help you  deliver an impactful message.

But don’t forget, it’s not enough to identify, create and articulate your key message – you have to promote it too.

I “link” therefore I exist! Modern connectivity

Drowning in the Google pool and sinking into oblivion

 Modern connectivity There was a time probably no more than 5 years ago, when I could do my job very effectively by going into my contact data base and simply picking up the phone. Those days are gone. In 2008, as world markets crashed taking many global businesses with them, millions lost their jobs and disappeared into the ether of unemployment. If, and when they resurfaced they were difficult to reach. The foundations of the way most of us did business crumbled beneath us, as we tried to find new ways to stay connected.

At the same time we saw a dramatic upturn in the use of social media, which heralded a new era for business generally and became especially valuable in the executive search and hiring process. Early adopters got a head start. Now it is less ” I think therefore I exist” but more ” I link therefore I exist”. We are in an age of super connectivity.

Google ranking
Many column inches have been written about online connections. The quality vs quantity discussion rages unabated and I’m not even going to get into that one. My simple point is that unless you are a high-ranking executive in publically registered company, or some sort of super star, with acres of media coverage to your name, and land a first page Google ranking (for positive reasons!), an online professional profile or other virtual presence, which benefits you professionally, is a must. For the average, mere job seeking mortal, the failure to have an online professional identity, while possibly not total career hari kari, will be tantamount to jumping into the Google pool with lead weights on your ankles. You will simply sink into oblivion.

What  to do?

  • Get going! Create an online professional presence:  this enables you to be found  not just by search specialists and hiring managers but anyone who wishes to locate you or your professional expertise. This will vary from one country to another. The strongest global English-speaking platform is LinkedIn. Other platforms such as Viadeo or Xing also carry traction in different geographic areas.  The 3 demographics most reluctant to do this in my experience are entry-level, women and Boomers. This one simple process shows you care and are switched on!
  • Complete the profile fully and strategically: using  strong key search words. Generally I find the people who get most frustrated (and whinge the loudest) with a tendency to blame other external factors,  are the ones who have the weakest profiles and fewest connections.
  • Connect and engage strategically: build up your professional network, establish relationships,  generate credibility in your industry or sector. Set up an online trail of links to you! You can’t tap into your network unless you have one. Reluctant categories in my experience are: entry-level and women
  • Manage your reputation: leverage social media to cement the professional you. Use key words in your other online profiles and even a link to your online CV or LinkedIn profile.   Entry level, women and Boomers are the equally reluctant to do this. Social media is no longer just social, but has a professional component too. That’s why it’s called Personal Branding. Change your privacy settings if this really bothers you.
  • Don’t neglect other personal  networks: there is tendency with social media pundits to drink their own Kool Aid and believe their own hype, that these platforms are the “one- stop- shop” solution. No matter what, you have to get out from behind the computer and network personally! An online professional presence is only one tool in a much bigger job search tool kit. Category most reluctant to do this – women and entry-level.

As we teeter yet again on the brink of a possible financial services meltdown, with Greece clinging to the edge of the Acropolis by its fingernails, those without professional online “links” will almost certainly be caught at a disadvantage. There is even in my anecdotal experience, an emerging pattern of which demographics are constantly at risk.

Regrettably we have to do more than “think” to exist today. We have to “link“.

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

Is having a Plan B a compromise?

No not at all
One interesting debate is always centred around having a Plan B. There are those that think that this is a fallback position that softens resolve and dilutes ambition. It’s a compromise. There are those who believe that having a plan B is absolutely necessary. Or even as James Yorke says ” The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.” I fall into the latter camp. In fact I would take it one step further and say that failing to have a Plan B can be problematic.

Times change

I tell anyone who I coach and both my daughter and son, to always have a Plan B, plus Plans C and D if necessary. It is obviously great to have passions and everyone should strive towards achieving those dreams, but I would still advise them to review those passions regularly. Why? Because times, circumstances and people change. They might change. Their skills might change.

I know of many instances where individuals have focused on one goal exclusively. When something happened along the way, they were not prepared with a thorough understanding of their transferrable skills and what options could be available with their talents. The blows to their self-esteem and life plan were significant. These might be the actress who failed to get a break, who eventually trained to become a drama therapist. Or the injured athlete who became a sales executive. The doctor who found dealing with death was too much for her and became a teacher. The Sales Director who was laid off and eventually became a landscape designer. The lawyer who had a heart attack and became a Consultant.

I am frequently approached by the parents of young adults who have not obtained the “right ” grades in school or university or even older experienced individuals who are totally unprepared for changes that come their way. Never was this more obvious when so many people were let go during the recession.

Why do I advocate for Plan B ?

  •  Technology is changing at a rapid pace. We have no idea what careers and jobs will be available in the next ten or twenty years. Those opportunities don’t exist yet and we don’t know what they are. If someone had told me 10 years ago I would be running workshops on social media and job search, I would have looked at them blankly and asked what’s social media? Or perhaps something we always dreamed of doing, will no longer be found in the workplace as a career or even a function over time. Perhaps it will be downgraded, outsourced or made totally redundant by technology.
  •  The structure of workplace is changing at a more rapid pace than ever before. We all need to be multi-skilled
  •  We all have transferrable skills. Plan B doesn’t have to be a fallback position, it can be simply be about being open to other opportunities, understanding what we’re good at and how those talents can ben adapted. A great example of this is British particle scientist Professor Dr. Brian Cox, who grew up wanting to be an astronomer. At 15 he became diverted into rock music, going on to underperform in his A levels ( AP or IB equivalent) in his final year in high school. I have no idea how Mr. Cox Senior reacted to this development, but for many parents I have come across, this would be a nightmare scenario and send them into a tail spin. Dr. Cox pursued a varied career in rock music ( with a number 1 chart topper,) and didn’t go to university to study physics until the age of 23. He is now a leading BBC science presenter, successfully combining that role with an outstanding academic career. Pretty good Plan B!

Need help formulating a Plan B or any Plan at all -check out the individual career transition programmes. 

  •  Occupational roles are no longer as rigidly defined as they used to be and once again we all need to be multi-skilled.
  •  Organisational loyalty is very tenuous. As we saw many high calibre, excellent employees lost their jobs overnight for reasons beyond their control. We have learned that there are no guarantees in life and we have to take responsibility for managing our own careers and personal development. With first hand exposure I saw that those that struggled most to cope were the ones who in pure Darwinist terms, had difficulties adapting to change. They had no Plan B and struggled to come up with one.
  • Passion doesn’t always pay the bills. Plan Bs can.
  • Passion isn’t always aligned with skill set. I am passionate about tennis but my ability to earn a living out of it was always zero!

The challenge is for career changers who would like to explore a number of options to manage a consistent message.  MBA students often ask me about this. This is about being clear about your core skills, raising your visibility to drive traffic to you and limiting your range of options to possibly three to avoid appearing confused and diluted.

So is having a Plan B a compromise , or simply keeping an open mind to an ever-changing world? Does it necessarily mean compromising on your dream or about embracing multiple goals and multiple facets of our skill sets and personalities?  There maybe  times when pragmatism rather than passion is required. It’s obviously perfect when both are aligned.

What do you think?

Career changers need to walk the talk!

Career Changers?

50% of my coaching clients are career changers aspiring to move out of their existing sectors, some perhaps that have been hard hit by the recession (automotive, logistics, manufacturing, financial services) and into hot  predicted growth areas for 2010 such as  Clean Tech, IT, renewable energy, healthcare, personal development education and re-cycling. Many job seekers complain bitterly of the struggle they go through, as recruiters and companies alike take little or no account of what they believe to be their highly valuable transferrable skills. This can be true. Employers frequently want new hires to be immediately effective and  “copy and paste”  executive search and recruiting techniques are often applied to meet this demand.

This is the line management and HR  mantra. Many other career changers would love to change function, simply just for a change or to meet some longer term professional goals: purchasing into sales,  finance into SCM or HR into marketing. Others decide to invest in an MBA,  a common route for a career changer. However, whichever sector or function you decide you want to move into, it’s not enough to fire off a standard CV and hope that the person reading it will have a deeply mystical experience and miraculously be able to see your future potential.

You will need to convince them that not only do you have what it takes to make the move, but provide substantial evidence that you are also highly committed. I am a dedicated recycler, but does this mean I could pursue a career in that sector? I seriously doubt it.  How do career changers do that?

  • Establish your vision, passion and goals and develop a clear career plan:  identify the sector,  location, function,  the type of company, the role you envisage and the market it serves.
  • Examine the fit: This is when a SWOT analysis is useful: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. What skills do you need to acquire?
  • Consider your salary package. Sometimes when switching sectors or function,  it might be necessary to revise your salary expectations.
  • How low will you go? Some companies might expect you to completely re-train and work your way up from the bottom. I had the pleasure of meeting Krish Krishnan  CEO of Green Ventures  at the end of last year,  who  told me that his company has an in-house academy in Mumbai where all new recruits follow an intensive two year training programme.  There,   traditional thinking learned outside the sector is stripped away and replaced by a new “green” approach.   Being prepared to go through this  process requires self insight and an understanding of what you are prepared to do to get into your newly chosen profession or function. I switched to sales from a  Corporate HR role in my early thirties.  This involved moving from a management position to a junior  “feet on the street” sales function.  This did little for my feet, but proved invaluable to everything I’ve done subsequently.

Need help with your career transition check out the personal coaching programmes now!

  • Research the chosen area thoroughly and study developing trends. Become familiar with the major players and their activities.
  • Subscribe to relevant web sites, journals, news feeds , blogs
  • Learn the language of your potential new career. Become familiar with the buzz words, jargon and acronyms.
  • Network  in person –  attend conferences, workshops, whatever is available, Join professional bodies and perhaps look for social groups active in the sector – this is very easy for example  in the  Green Sector , where there are a myriad  of opportunities to contribute or volunteer.
  • Network online. Join relevant LinkedIn  or other online network groups, start building up your contact base. Ask and answer questions. Post discussions. Comment on blog posts. Demonstrate an active interest. Start a blog , join Twitter, look for other organisations on Facebook. Show you mean business.
  •  Draft a new CV  incorporating sector keywords where possible. Leverage your functional expertise. Identify your transferrable skills. Some recruiters advise the use of a wholly  functional CV –  I would strongly caution you against doing that , limiting that to the mission statement only. There is no faster way to hit the reject pile than  recruiters scratching their heads and having no clue where and when you worked and what you did when you were there!
  • Tweak your elevator sound bites incorporate your new goals  and vision into easily an digestible pitch
  • Can  you volunteer for a  relevant, related  and useful project in your current job that could give credence to your commitment ?
  • Can you re-train by attending online or night classes? For some sectors or activities it might involve going back to full-time education.
  • Find a mentor – who can help and sponsor you?
  • Identify the HR or hiring  contacts  – your current company might offer opportunities to transfer into a new function otherwise consider moving. You might be able to find contact names via LinkedIn,  on the company their website,  or simply call and ask!

What else can you do ? I posted a question on LinkedIn to see what other  people  already working in the Alternative Energy sector or who were also aspiring  to join  it could share. Their responses were all of the above!  The message across the board  is to educate yourself  ( to acquire  as much knowledge as you can from outside your target  sector or function)  implement what you have learned and above all…..  network,  network, network! So – Good luck! For additional information regarding specific job trends and projections in forthcoming years, see Bureau of Labor Statistics.