Communicating: What is the Number One Secret Behind The Best?

The singer and musician, Stevie Wonder, was born blind. The brilliant percussionist, Evelyn Glennie has been deaf since childhood. Actress and singer, Marilyn Monroe, overcame a stutter. Their sensory impairments did not prevent them from becoming hugely successful in their lives. They did so much more than make themselves understood. They brought joy to millions of people through expressing their talents and playing to their strengths. And they all knew the number one secret of communicating. This post looks at the lessons for jobseekers.

Communicating intentions

Let’s start with mindset. What is your intention when you communicate verbally? Here are 5 common intentions in the context of job and career:

  • Share, inform and convey – your personality, talents, strengths, potential, your know-why, know-what and know-how
  • Describe and explain – your relevant experiences and skills, complex issues
  • Assert and advocate – your values, beliefs, desires, and ambitions
  • Test and stimulate thinking – your ideas for improvement and solving problems
  • Discover – what employers want, information, ideas, and different perspectives

All these intentions are not enough if the way in which you express yourself verbally does not have the desired impact on other people. What is that impact? To connect emotionally one-to-one or with a group so they feel understood and cared about. Communicating becomes engaging when what you say resonates with the other person. Human connection in a shared space is your primary goal and the number one secret of all great communicators.

And the byproducts are numerous – you build rapport; become likable and believable; you create a positive impression and, over time, a lasting impression. In doing so, you sell yourself and develop relationships at work.

Mindsets and skills

Magician, Brian Miller, talks about the two critical mindsets and skills to adopt and practice more than others if you want to make a genuine connection with people.

  • To listen to understand – for understanding, empathy, compassion and building trust
  • To ask questions – for different perspectives, uncovering assumptions, new knowledge, and showing interest

Watch his excellent TEDx Talk below in which he answers the question ‘What does magic feel like to someone who is blind?’

I’ve never been able to get an audience interested without being interested myself. I find that if someone is talking about their passion—whether it’s horizontal oil drilling, Spanish nurse porn, or stamp collecting—I get sucked in. Penn Jillette, Magician

3 ways to develop your listening mindset

  1. Hold back – Get in the habit of testing your assumptions, ask more questions, make fewer statements.
  2. Check your mood and biases – Consciously enter into conversations with an open mind about the other person or the issue in hand.
  3. Hone your ability – Focus hard and remain in the present moment, practice mindfulness and meditation.

Listening is about giving people genuine attention and that makes them feel good. They will like you more and we all love to be liked. We want to work with people who make us feel good. Listen with your eyes (what you observe), your mouth (what you ask), your head (what you understand), your heart (your intuition), as well as your ears (what you hear).

Listening in your job search

The attitude you choose to bring with you influences the response of the other person. Take a listening attitude to your job search and you will

  • better understand job and business needs
  • gain more of the right knowledge and information, and
  • build rapport with the people who can decide your future.

Continually check out your assumptions about people, companies, and job roles. Listen to the advice of others – then listen to your head and heart to make your own decisions.

Asking questions

Most people I meet just love to talk about themselves. Start talking about yourself in response and you run the risk of competing or showing you are not listening. The shutters come down.

A questioning approach is both a mindset and a skill. It means you are no longer the centre of attention and can feel like turning off the personal spotlight, letting go of control and holding back. That can be uncomfortable.

Asking questions can demonstrate your interest, passion and intelligence for the job. Questions also provide a great marketing opportunity, so you need to think about:

  1. Why you are asking the question
  2. What type of question to ask to shape the answer you seek, and
  3. Know the consequences of each

3 common situations to ask great questions

Communicating the right questions at the right times in the right ways helps build relationships for your job and career search when

  • Networking – if you feel intimidated or tongue-tied, take the pressure off yourself by asking simple questions like“what do you like best about your job?” and “what are your top tips for engaging with your employer?” Ask open questions to get a conversation going and then show your listening skills.
  • At a job interview – Ask probing questions to dig beneath the surface of an issue – like“Exactly what does that mean for my career?” You have a golden opportunity to make an impact when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for us?”
  • At an assessment centre – Group activities are a common feature. Ask a relevant question at the right time to stand out from other people who dominate or appear to contribute more than you. Hypothetical questions are great for shaping a discussion, testing an idea or an alternative situation –“What would happen if….?”

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. Naguib Mahfouz, first Egyptian Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

In summary, communicating well is a journey from your intentions to the impact you want to have, using listening and questioning to connect with your audience.

career direction

Career Direction: How to Make A More Informed Leap

The lack of institutional careers advice and guidance today leaves young people floundering in rough seas without a compass. Parents approach me for coaching help because of the confusion of their offspring. Helping them decide on a firm career direction is often a well-intentioned parent’s starting point and that can feel like undue pressure for a teenager.

Yet, career paths are more fragmented, diffuse and unclear than in the previous generation. It means placing greater emphasis on exploring. Deciding on a career direction at 16, 18 or 21 is merely a temporary certainty until the next leap. How can young people build confidence by making more informed leaps in their career direction?

A recent CIPD policy report, Alternative Pathways into the Labour Market, points out that:

  • Needing a degree to get a job and needing one to get the job done are very different (hence over-qualified and over-skilled graduates in some occupations).
  • The authors can find no evidence to support the contention that university education reduces the training time needed when people have entered the job. Employers can help by creating higher-skill jobs, and development and progression pathways internally.
  • In an ACCA survey in 2016, 61% of 16-18-olds think employers prefer graduates and 65% saying their parents preferred them to go to university.
  • The existing quality of vocational education and training needs improving. The Government’s target is for 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and is introducing a Levy on employers of a certain size. The CIPD’s concern is about quantity at the expense of quality.

So you can go to university, get a degree to get you through a door, but it can be a minefield at entry-level to really maximise the gains. Or you can find a quality apprenticeship at the appropriate level. Or you can get a low-level job, start your own business, go freelance, volunteer, travel etc. All the options have implications for funding a sustainable living.

Testament of Youth

It’s important to hear the voice of young people in this. Here’s how it feels to one 21-year-old as they articulate frustration at a narrow mindset in the system and how they experience it:

Throughout the entirety of school you are not accredited for creativity, your own identity or any form of your own ideas. You are accredited for a mark on a paper or regurgitated pieces of information. They spend so much time drilling into you how you should go to university and get a good education. For what? The majority of people have no idea what they’re doing as not enough time has been spent focussing on people as individuals and too much time on what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing. It is not ‘unrealistic’ or ‘unachievable’ to have different goals to everyone else. Isn’t it better to dream for something than be stuck in a job that you hate for the rest of your life?

Career Direction Signposts

So where can young people and their parents turn? Here are three ideas:

  1. Research suggests that employer contact is the most useful source of career advice through visits to workplaces and work experience. Immerse yourself, test and explore.
  2. Commit yourself to taking responsibility and control for your future by showing your Young Professional credentials. Youth Employment UK gives you access to a range of resources to help develop you for the world of work. Gain a better understanding of what employers look for in an ideal candidate. Learn how to clearly demonstrate your professional development.
  3. The CIPD rightly points to interactive websites like Plotr providing a great basis for the delivery of exciting, up-to-date careers advice to young people. Coaching and mentoring support maximises the benefits. Empower yourself.

You will have several jobs, careers, and work identities in your life. The one you start with won’t be forever. You never stop developing and creating options for your career direction when you reframe education to lifelong learning. Work identity shifts, career direction is not a straight line.

Get clarity by investing in understanding yourself and others, build confidence by doing something that you enjoy or interests you, make a decision and act on it – and repeat when the time is right for you. That’s a path for a more informed leap whatever your stage in life.


What Does Being Professional Really Mean?

To celebrate the launch of the 2nd edition of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, Heather Townsend, explores what it really means to ‘Be Professional”.

What advice have you had at the start of your career? “Dress for success”, “Always volunteer”, “Be eager, but not pushy” – and plenty more? And I am sure you’ve had it drummed into you that you must always be professional.

What does that mean, exactly?

I don’t think most people really know, judging from the stilted behaviour I see at networking events. Some seem to be so afraid of appearing unprofessional, that they squash every last morsel of personality under a heavy rock and present a dull, corporate, stuffed shirt to everyone, talking about nothing apart from business.


I take their cards with little enthusiasm and make an excuse about needing to circulate. If they stick in my mind, it’s not for good reasons, and, unless they have a stunning reputation, I’m unlikely to send work their way.

So, even if we are hazy about what being professional is –  we are all clear about what it isn’t, aren’t we?

Unprofessional is in the eye of the beholder

I am sure I don’t have to tell you that too much alcohol, photocopiers and body parts, personal comments, sexism, racism, and so on are not professional. You’re too intelligent for that. But, somewhere between these extremes, lies the magic of a real, amusing, likeable, interesting, competent, trustworthy and professional human being.

That’s a start. You won’t ever be able to make everyone like you. My professional standards are going to be different to yours, and different again to the next person’s. It’s a judgement call how far you can reveal personal information about yourself such as your family, hobbies, politics – it will vary according to who you are talking to.

It’s fairly usual to only realise you’ve been unprofessional when someone else tells you so. And you need to decide whether that’s a fair criticism or not.

Professional is not a label you give yourself. It’s a description that you hope others will apply to you. David Maister.

You’ll need psychic ability and common sense

Your firm will have a set of standards to which you should adhere, but these are unlikely to be set out as a checklist. Until you have absorbed the firm’s culture, you might not know you’ve transgressed until it’s too late, and you’re told that everyone knows not to . . . whatever. That’s where you might need a touch of mind-reading. Or watch more experienced colleagues carefully and follow what they do (unless you think they are unprofessional, of course!).

The common sense side of being professional includes:

  • Being inoffensive – but not bland.
  • Never sharing rumours or gossip.
  • Being adult about triumphs and disasters.
  • Never complaining about your firm in public.
  • No backstabbing or undermining colleagues (in your firm or not).
  • Being polite and pleasant even when you don’t like the person.
  • Taking work seriously, owning up to mistakes, and fixing them.

I didn’t need to tell you those, did I?

What’s the basic minimum for being professional?

Like I said, it’s horses for courses, and behaviour that’s fine one day with one set of people might not be fine tomorrow with another set. However, I think there are some baselines below which professional behaviour should never dip. This is my checklist of what being professional means:

  • Taking care of your appearance, dress, and hygiene.
  • Respecting the relationship with the client.
  • Putting the client at the centre of everything you do.
  • Treating your colleagues with respect.
  • Presenting a united front with your colleagues in public.
  • Getting no more than merry if alcohol is served.
  • Not getting into a compromising situation.
  • Not posting anything on social media that could be embarrassing to you, a client, or your firm.

So, once you have ironed out the wrinkles of being unprofessional, just try to be you. Take a genuine interest in the person you are talking to. Share appropriate information about your life. Tell jokes, and laugh. Discuss sport, opera, films, whatever you find you have in common. Build rapport and make people remember you, like you, and want to work with you.

Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do. So, if you consistently act in a professional manner, then you will become a professional.

Author Credit

professionalHeather Townsend is a best-selling author and executive coach who helps people make partner in the legal, accounting, and consultancy professions. She blogs on the How To Make Partner website, where you can read many more articles about developing your brand.

The new edition of the best-selling How To Make Partner And Still Have a Life is now out. It’s been called ‘an absolute must-read (and potential life saver) for anyone pursuing a professional career.’

Buy your copy now and get 20% discount with the code H2MPG20

young professional

Young Professional: How to Get A Guaranteed Job Interview

John loved using his hands and designing objects made of wood when he was at school. His favourite subject, Design and Technology, was also his worst result at GCSE. How come? He would make these beautiful ornaments, bowls, and small furniture. Then he would have to write about it. John’s love lay in doing, making and creating, not in describing. It turned him off school and he left at 16. How would someone like John with an emerging talent become employable? How could he follow an alternative path and present himself as a young professional?

young professionalJohn became an apprentice furniture maker. At the age of 21, he had five years of solid work experience and was earning enough to live independently away from home – ironically, in a shared house with university students. Next, he is embarking on a year abroad to North America, teaching snowboarding (another passion) and then seeing how he can use his design skills on his travels. He has plenty of dreams and ambitions like learning chainsaw art, building a log cabin and a narrowboat. A 21st-century explorer.

What has John’s story got to do with getting a guaranteed job interview? As we know, standing out to employers no longer relies solely on qualifications. Your personal journey is unique to you. Furthermore, you have a story to show and tell at any age whatever your circumstances. Most of all, it’s in the showing and telling that you can stand out as a young professional with substance. If he wanted, John could show an employer his furniture products (skills application); explain the difference he has made (customer satisfaction and sales); explore his personal commitment to developing himself (mindset); and present himself as a young professional (identity and reputation).

The single best way to maintain your reputation is to do things you’re proud of. Seth Godin

YEUK Young Professional

There is now a new and innovative way that any young person can show an employer their commitment to being a young professional. Someone like John. Youth Employment UK is a social enterprise campaigning for a youth-friendly culture among UK employers and a platform for the voice of young people on employment issues affecting them. (Btw, declaration of interest – I’m a Non-Executive Director). This week, YEUK launched its free Young Professional membership scheme, open to all 16-24-year-olds in the UK, regardless of education, employment status or background.

Leading employers and organisations like McDonald’s and learndirect Apprenticeships have guaranteed job interviews to any Young Professional alumni applying for relevant opportunities who meet the essential criteria. That’s a direct positive impact on youth employment.

Changing the Rhetoric and Taking Ownership

This is groundbreaking. It shifts the rhetoric away from the negative effects of being labelled NEET (not in employment, education, or training), economically inactive and ‘at risk’ to the positive self-image and pride of calling oneself a young professional with potential.

Our young people are the very fabric of our society. In the not too distant future they will be the leaders of our businesses, economy and political system. Their potential has no limits but the labels we place on them do. The YEUK Young Professional Membership puts the tools into young people’s hands to begin to change the way they and the world see them. Laura-Jane Rawlings, CEO of Youth Employment UK.

And these are not just words. Becoming a YEUK Young Professional shows employers that young people are committed to taking control of their future. Becoming a member starts with passing an online training module. Furthermore, they engage with a programme of self-development in employability skills and behaviours regardless of social background, education attainment or experience. The programme addresses social mobility by creating a level playing field for all young people.

Recent research from the Chartered Management Institute and Ernst & Young, An Age of Uncertainty, found that most young people want more opportunities for work experience. A third from disadvantaged backgrounds lack confidence in their skills and knowledge to get into work locally. Becoming a YEUK Young Professional helps by building self-confidence and enhancing opportunities for work experience and jobs. The scheme already has 100% positive feedback from over 200 initial programme alumni who feel the initiative has boosted their career confidence.

Young People and Employers: How to Sign Up

young professionalIf you are a young person who wants to take ownership and responsibility for your career, becoming a YEUK Young Professional is a no-brainer. Sign up and see the benefits here.

young professionalIf you are an employer of any size, becoming a Community Member is a public commitment to being Youth Friendly. Are you going to guarantee YEUK Young Professionals interviews where their applications meet the essential criteria? Sign up and see the benefits here.


Procrastination: What is Your Hidden Truth?

Procrastination seems to imply you’re doing something wrong. Putting off doing something with potentially negative consequences. Research suggests procrastinating affects our happiness. What if you see it as a source of helpful information about yourself, rather than as a weakness? How can you find out and use that insight to stop procrastinating?

According to a study by the Procrastination Research Group, between 80%-95% of students engage in procrastination (compared with 15%-20% of the general population). In a Warwick Business School study, students score 5% lower on work they do at the last minute. In another study, using the Procrastination Assessment Scale for Students (PASS), 61% of students procrastinate because they have ‘too many other things to do’. Ironically, 60% watch movies or TV when they have too many other things to do. I can relate to that!

From Procrastination to Progress

We have this feeling of incompleteness and deferred satisfaction when we procrastinate. We want to scratch an itch when we hold back or to resist something we know we need to do, but something stops us. Fear and dread might suggest we don’t like doing it, are not very good at it, or are concerned about the consequences of failure. What truth are you hiding from yourself through procrastination?

Say you are procrastinating about doing a difficult assignment. Here’s a way of reframing it so you move from procrastination to making progress:

  • What do you want to do differently or better? Have a positive relationship with my tutor and keep up my average grade score. He never gives me recognition. The thought of doing the assignment makes me anxious. It’s a complex subject. 
  • What underpinning beliefs are revealed in your statement? That being valued by my tutor and achieving are important to me.  
  • What is it that you do or don’t do that maintains your procrastination? I avoid the issue with my tutor.
  • What are you protecting yourself from? Reducing my self-esteem and confidence.
  • Therefore, what is your real challenge? Standing up for myself.
  • If you knew you that your self-esteem and confidence were good, what could you do? Be proactive, not let the lack of recognition go with my tutor, and be more assertive about what support I need. 
  • When will you next have an opportunity to do this? Next Wednesday. I will talk to him about his impact on me, how it makes me feel and what I want from him.
  • What else could you do? Ask him to help me understand the topic better.
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you to doing this? 10!

Employers don’t want procrastination, they want initiative and proactivity. Use your time at university to develop a better understanding of yourself to help manage your relationships and make progress.

Every time you choose to do the easy thing, instead of the right thing, you are shaping your identity. In essence you are becoming the type of person who does what’s easy, rather than what’s right. Meika Patton

Overcoming the Impact of Procrastination on You

Check out further interesting facts and figures, and ways to deal with procrastination, in this helpful infographic from MCAT-prep:


Learning to Code: Time To Shatter These 5 Myths

Coding is still much misunderstood. And that’s despite being at the heart of everything we do – from the laptop or smartphone you’re reading this article on, to the wifi powering it. The perception that coding is for maths geniuses who are happy to spend hours alone in dark rooms is one that couldn’t be further from the truth. Learning to code is an opportunity you may have ignored to date. If so, here we debunk five myths about coding that might just surprise you…

You need a degree in maths

While it’s always useful to know basic numeracy, it’s far more useful to be able to think logically, to write easily maintainable code, and to be able to communicate well with others. So don’t worry if you’re not a maths whizz, neither are most coders.

Coding is boring

Coding is a vital part of almost every industry on the planet, meaning there’s the potential to work on interesting and life changing projects. Want to help build the next Minecraft or fight cyber crime? Coding is only as boring as the projects you decide to work on, so think big.

Learning to code is only for techies

It’s no secret that many of today’s jobs are under threat from technology. One report estimates that 47% of roles will be automated by 2034. At the same time, company websites and CRM tools are often outsourced. It means agencies hold the upper hand when their clients aren’t tech-savvy. Learning to code and knowing the basics not only make you more employable, they also put you on an equal footing with the tech team.

Coding is not for women

codeIt’s true that tech is seen as a male profession traditionally. However, the belief that only socially awkward young men have the problem-solving skills you need for coding is fast disappearing. The COO of Facebook and the CEO of Yahoo are both women, while job boards exist that only promote roles offered by firms showing a commitment to female technologists. There’s also a growing recognition that reaching girls at an early age will help encourage women to get into tech. More needs to be done, but the opportunities are there for anyone wanting to get into the industry.

Coding is not very creative

At its core, coding is all about finding solutions to problems. What can be more creative than being part of a team trying to bring ideas to life? Coding demands that you’re curious about how things work, that you don’t accept no for an answer, and that you’ll keep trying until you find the right answer. If you want to be creative, learning to code could be for you.

Want to learn to code? Check out @CodeClanScot

Thanks for this post go to our friend Sandy McMillan, an instructor at CodeClan, Scotland’s first digital skills academy dedicating itself to coding and software development.

social media

How Social Media Can Help Your Career

To celebrate the launch of the 2nd edition of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, Heather Townsend, explores her best tips to using social media to boost your career.

Social media seems to have come from nowhere to dominate our world in just a few years. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t have at least one social media account. In our private lives, we have adopted it very swiftly, but it is taking a little longer for professional firms to realise how they can use it.

I see social media as a fantastic opportunity for relationship marketing and building your brand as a Go To Expert. However, it has dangers, and no one is immune to them, no matter how huge and powerful. Look at Microsoft’s AI bot turning into a racist idiot, Transport for London telling a customer to leave home earlier if he didn’t want to be late for work, or US Airways responding to a complaint with explicit pornography.  These are just a few of the famous ones. Many ordinary people have had 15 minutes of unwelcome fame due to social media mistakes.

However, I still say that it’s more useful than not, you just have to know what you are doing.

How can social media help your career?

You might not have thought about using social media in your professional life, but think again. I am a massive fan and advise my clients on ways to use it to build their reputations.

How can it help? Not only is it a fantastic way to save time, but:

  • It’s free – apart from your own time, a smartphone, and an internet connection.
  • Within moments, your words can be in front of millions of people across the world.
  • It gives you direct access to the movers and shakers in your profession.
  • It keeps your name in front of prospective clients and employers.
  • It’s a great way to network, and to gain connections before networking events.

How to use the Big Three for work

There are many social media networks. It’s not a good idea to use them all in the same way.  Some people do, and it can be irritating. After all, a site mainly devoted to chat with your cousins is going to find links to tax thresholds very dull; while a site for business is not going to appreciate pictures of your cats.

Here are the main three social media sites, plus some tips for how to use them professionally.

social mediaFacebook

The big one. Facebook is huge (1.65 billion active monthly users in 2016). It is primarily a social site, although it does have company pages. It works very well for generating and developing relationships, but I find the success of the company pages is very variable. Reports suggest that Facebook works best for B2C companies, especially where the product or service lends itself well to pictures (dress designers, florists, etc) and less well to B2B and professional services. That doesn’t mean you should ignore it professionally – it still provides a huge platform for getting to know people. There are also several useful Facebook groups where you can connect with other people who share your professional interests.

social mediaTwitter

There are 313 million active monthly Twitter users in 2016, sending 6000 tweets every second. Twitter moves fast. Your tweets will appear on and drop off the bottom of someone’s stream within moments. It’s best to tweet a mixture of work-related posts and general conversation because the trick to Twitter is to build engaged followers – people who look out for your posts, and who retweet and reply to them. Get this going by retweeting and replying to the people you follow.

Twitter is also the best way to stay on top of what’s happening in your sector by following relevant individuals and firms, and using hashtags to follow discussions. It is also the only place where you can get direct access to the most influential people in your profession. I can’t promise they’ll reply, but you don’t need to get past a gatekeeper to tweet them.

social mediaLinkedIn

This is the serious one. Don’t post memes on here, they won’t win you any friends. LinkedIn has 433 million users (2016) and positions itself as the social network for businesses and professionals. Don’t think of LinkedIn as your online CV. It is so much more than this. In fact, it’s still the best personal branding tool you have at your disposal. Believe me, whenever you meet someone new, go for a job interview, or even just comment on one of their social media posts, they will check you out on LinkedIn. This is why it pays to have a fully completed profile, a professional headshot, and some recommendations and endorsements.

There are many, many more sites, including Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, WhatsApp, and so on. But these three are the ones I recommend you use.

How to avoid getting into trouble with social media

I doubt if there is anyone who hasn’t had an unpleasant moment on social media. It’s extremely easy to create a misunderstanding, and far too tempting to dash off a flame in response. Resist! I have never known a social media spat ending up with people admitting they were wrong, but I have seen plenty get very nasty. My rules for staying in the shallows and avoiding the deep waters are:

  • Use emoticons – without facial expressions, it is hard to tell what’s tongue-in-cheek and what’s serious.
  • Think twice – if you wouldn’t say this to a person’s face, don’t say it online.
  • Remember nothing is private – not even private groups. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss, or your mother, to read.
  • Deleting a post doesn’t mean it no longer exists. Thousands of people may have taken a copy.
  • Don’t descend into passive aggressive posting about “a client who . . .” People will work out who you mean, or (worse) get the wrong person.
  • Take part in discussions, but even when you disagree, acknowledge the good points to keep things happy. And never lose your temper with tit-for-tat squabbling.
  • Keep at it – stock up on interesting articles, and people who are worth retweeting, so that you always have something to say.
  • Consider automating some posts (I favour BufferApp for this). But don’t just let your feed be automated posts. Successful social media needs the human touch.
  • Don’t send automatic messages to thank people for following you. These are impersonal and slightly insulting. It only takes a moment to type “Thank you for following!” and a few moments more to start building a relationship with that person.
  • Engage! Reply to people, talk about things other than work, retweet them and thank them in turn. Why should anyone help your self-promotion if you can’t be bothered to be a real person online?
  • Don’t over do it. While you need to be active on social media, don’t flood people’s timelines with posts and tweets. Seek out the best quality articles to link rather than sharing everything you come across.
  • Don’t linger – it’s very easy to waste an hour browsing social sites. Then the time-saving benefits are completely lost. I try to limit my usage to otherwise ‘dead time’: during my first coffee before I’ve completely woken up, waiting for a train, hanging outside my daughter’s ballet class.

Has this given you food for thought? I expect you already use social media in your private lives, but it’s really worth exploring ways to use it professionally too. It’s a very effective and cheap way to build your brand.

Author Credit

social mediaHeather Townsend is a best-selling author and executive coach who helps people make partner in the legal, accounting, and consultancy professions. She blogs on the How To Make Partner website, where you can read many more articles about developing your brand.

The new edition of the best-selling How To Make Partner And Still Have a Life is out in September 2016.  It’s been called ‘an absolute must-read (and potential life saver) for anyone pursuing a professional career.’

Buy your copy now and get 20% discount with the code H2MPG20


Clone Wars: How to Stand Out as a Graduate

It’s a common paradox in today’s graduate recruitment market. Employers want to hire graduates who fit into their culture and, at the same time, to stand out. Yet, the job and career advice industry spoon feeds formulaic advice to young careerists about how to write a CV and LinkedIn profile, tells them to play safe, and apply for ‘dream jobs’. Then graduates discover recruiters didn’t find them to be unique enough! So says Mark Babbitt, my latest Learning to Leap podcast guest. He calls this phenomenon the Clone Wars.

cloneMark is a leadership and career mentor in the United States, a prolific blogger on many well-known sites (check out The Savvy Intern, one of my fave’s), in Inc magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers (he has just returned from a gig with 500 students at Hong Kong University), co-author of worldwide hit, A World Gone Social, and mentor to many college students, young careerists and military veterans. He is CEO of YouTern, a leading voice on experiential education, and is President of Switch & Shift, the second most socially shared leadership site on the Internet.

Listen to the podcast here

People are treating their corporate careers like a freelance career…and it’s not working for them. Mark Babbitt

A taste of our conversation

  • Mark’s journey from an engineer with the US Air Force via Silicon Valley before he switched and shifted to being a serial entrepreneur.
  • The perfect storm that is leading to graduates leaving their corporate jobs on average every 2.3 years.
  • Why he hates the ‘follow your passion’ mantra with a passion.
  • How some employers hype their brand to potential recruits and then don’t live up to the hype once recruited.
  • Why college students are playing it too safe and not standing out in the Clone Wars.
  • The absence of great role models in public life today and the disconnect between the behaviour of politicians and what employers are seeking from young careerists.
  • The dark side of social media when it creates false confidence and bad behaviour.
  • The most important soft skill and mindset for young people that would improve their confidence.
  • A tantalising glimpse of Mark’s next book.

You won’t want to miss this rich and insightful conversation with one of the career space’s most influential and straight-talking thought leaders. You can contact him on Twitter @MarkSBabbitt.

Until next time!

language learning

Virtual Language Learning: How To Boost Your Job Chances

It was my first time learning Spanish since high school and this time I was determined to do it right. I wasn’t going to class, or bringing a tutor to my house – I was doing it all virtually. I met with my teacher over Skype which would be the beginning of my long journey in language learning via Skype and my even longer journey in running a Skype language training service.

Why Language Learning via Skype Works

language learningTraumatised from all of those boring hours in high school trying to learn Spanish, I wondered if I was bad at languages as a whole or if it was just the language learning method that I was using. I was amazed at my progress after my first few sessions on Skype. Instead of sharing a classroom with 20 other people, all at different levels, now it was just me and my teacher. Rather than learning Spanish only during 9th period, I could learn whenever I wanted. Instead of having to go to school during the week, I could learn from anywhere in the world – whether that be my apartment or my hotel room when I was traveling for work. I had access to my personal tutor from Mexico whenever I wanted. She not only helped me learn Spanish but made it an enjoyable experience too.

Why Language Learning 1-on-1 Works Best

Fast forward a few years, and I’m the CEO of a company that teaches Spanish, in addition to 11 other languages, all via Skype. Why did I leave my cushy job as a tax accountant? Because I am obsessed with learning and convinced that this is the most effective and efficient way to learn something.

There are many different places where one can learn something – a book, an audio tape, a video, a class, or a tutor to name a few. Learning with a live person 1-on-1 is the quickest and most effective way for learning a foreign language. All of your questions are answered on the spot. The best way to learn a language is by speaking it as much as possible and immersing yourself in it.

A challenge that comes with learning with a live tutor is obviously the price – that’s why learning via Skype is a great choice! Instead of paying someone a competitive price according to the country you live, you are paying someone a competitive price to the world you live in. What may be little to you can be a ton to someone else – everyone wins.

Be Sure to Overcome These Challenges First

Language learning via Skype requires strong discipline. Don’t feel like attending a session? Rather than calling up your tutor apologizing for the cancellation and feeling awkward, you could do it all via the click of a button. The same holds true for scheduling lessons – sometimes, too much freedom can be a challenge. It’s just like working from home. If nobody is going to be watching over you, you need to make sure you have the discipline to stick to your regimen. Another challenge could be the internet connection. Not everyone has access to high-speed internet. Be sure to put yourself in an area where the connection is the strongest.

Stand Out in your Career

Learning a new language not only empowers you mentally, it also gives you an edge in your career. In the U.S. there are more than an estimated 50 million Spanish speakers – let alone the remaining 400m+ Spanish speakers in the rest of the world. And that’s not even the most commonly spoken language (it’s Chinese). Learning a new language will help your resume stand out. It will help you earn close to $10,000 more than someone who speaks just one language. The world is becoming more and more connected. The more prepared you are for the transition, the better off you’ll be.

Take the First Step

Now it’s time to revisit that foreign language that you always wanted to improve but never got around to doing. Language learning takes not only discipline but also consistency. If you haven’t given Skype learning a try yet, or you’ve had a bad experience, give it a go! Get a 30-minute trial lesson at Skill Silo and use coupon code LEARN2LEAP10 for 10% off your first purchase. Then you’ll be one step closer to speaking like a true native.

Thanks for this guest post to our friend Josh Aharonoff, Co-founder and CEO of Skill Silo.

Job role

Job Role Unclear? How To Remove The Fog

Many of my coaching clients struggle with their time. What that really means is they struggle to manage themselves and other people. We can all get stuck in repeating patterns of unhelpful personal behaviours without self-awareness. Annoyingly, other people also derail our carefully laid plans for the day. Wouldn’t you prefer to focus on the right things for you, be slicker and have more impact as a result? One common obstacle is being unclear about your real job role and responsibilities. This post looks at the causes, a lens to look through and some ways to help you clear the fog.

Job Role Foggers

You often get a job description and role specification in the application pack when you apply for a job and when you start your new job role. Your new boss will probably outline what the job entails and what to expect. Then the reality kicks in. Here are some common job role problems:

  • Overload – the role is too broad and deep (not the same as workload).
  • Underload  – not broad, deep or stretching enough.
  • Ambiguous – it’s not clear what you are responsible and accountable for.
  • Conflicting – duplication or in contradiction with other people’s roles.
  • Expanding – ‘mission creep’ where your role becomes a different one.

Job Role Reality

Here’s a lens to look through to understand why so many roles seem foggy. A job role is usually based on a mix of prescription, perception, and personality. The reality lies somewhere in the middle!job role

  • Must do – what the employer prescribes via job description, role specification, policies, procedures, values.
  • Can do – what other people like your boss and colleagues perceive the role is about, and what they think you should be doing (often because that’s how they would do it or how a previous manager did it).
  • Will do – what you bring as a personality, how you like and want to do the job role.

How to clear the fog

Try putting these fog lights on to see more clearly:

  1. Selfie – you can do it, you should do it, but you don’t want to. What’s holding you back? Is this the right role for you? Check out your attitude to the role.
  2. Clarify – you want to do it, should be doing it, but can’t do it. Have an honest conversation with your boss about what’s really happening, the personal and business impact it has on you and others, what you would like to happen and what support they can provide. Share assumptions and negotiate where possible. Then tell people so they get it.
  3. Empower – you can do it, want to do it, but it’s not in your job description. Check out if you’re stepping on someone else’s toes and get agreement. Otherwise, just do it!
  4. Develop – you want to do it, should be doing it, but you can’t because you lack the skills or confidence. Collaborate with others who complement your strengths and who can fill the gap. Seek coaching (check out your coachability here). Get a mentor (check out being a brilliant mentee here). Share issues with peers. Join an online learning community. Observe the way others do a similar role. Shadow them. Do something!

What fogs your role? Want coaching? Get in touch!