HE And Employers: How To Build A Community Ethos

Higher education and employers are constantly seeking ways to engage more closely in an era of student fees and with employability high on the agenda. Leeds Trinity University is no exception. This thriving institution is 50 years old this year having started out as a Catholic teaching training college. It has built on its heritage by putting its community ethos at the centre of its relationship with local employers. I caught up with Jess Sewter, Head of Partnerships and Placements, to find out more for the latest Learning to Leap podcast.


Click here for the podcast

Jess’s background is in teaching, marketing and development within further and higher education. Her global outlook was shaped by several years travelling the world. Here’s a flavour of what we discussed:

  • The changes in the HE and employer landscape Jess has seen in her 9 years at the
  • Professional work placements for both first and second-year students (the only UK university to offer this).
  • Introducing Higher Apprenticeship Degrees at the university.
  • The highly successful Leeds Trinity Business Network community that celebrated it’s 5th anniversary last week.
  • The co-location of businesses and students on campus in the Trinity Enterprise Centre.
  • Why being a good citizen is at the centre of their employability strategy.
  • What Jess loves most about her job and Leeds Trinity University.

My job is a great way to feel connected to the city I’m in. Jess Sewter

I know you will find this podcast beneficial if you work in HE or you are an employer wondering how you can engage with your local university. Please feel free to connect with Jess on LinkedIn, directly via email – – or give her a call on 0113 283 7182.

Until next time!

emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence: How To Deal With Tough Love

Employers are questioning young people’s resilience for today’s workplace. How fair is it? One school of thought is that they have the equivalent of a boxer’s glass jaw, have grown up mollycoddled and can’t hack it. The alternative view is that young people have had a rotten deal in a post-recession world and they want something different from the late 20th Century model of being managed. Employers and young people are both unhappy with the status quo. This mismatch of expectations plays out in myriad ways, for example, in how tough love is being used by managers and is perceived by young employees. Building emotional intelligence capability in young people can help.

Feedback on personal performance is part and parcel of most jobs. The benefits depend on how well it is given, how well you receive it, and the extent you take actions and they have a positive impact. Managers struggle with performance conversations and it’s a common development area. Employees also need to be able to receive feedback well. Done badly and badly handled is a toxic mix.

Honest and Caring

On the job learning happens when things go wrong or you fall short because of inexperience or lack of confidence. A good manager helps you develop and grow when you don’t know what you don’t know. Part of that involves feedback on your performance – what you do well and need to do better or differently. They are honest about what they expect from you and the realities of the job. It’s tough to hear, especially if you’re not used to it. Yet, tough love means being straight, not being mean. It’s having your best interests at heart. The aim is motivational, to test you out and to prompt a positive reaction. ‘Let’s learn from this and go again. I know you can do it and I’m here to help.’

7 ways to respond to genuine tough love

Managing yourself well is part of emotional intelligence. Here are ways to respond to genuine tough love from your manager:

  • Listen to understand first. You cannot hear if you are preparing to defend your position at the same time.
  • Be open-minded. What is demonstrably true? Does the specific evidence given about your performance stack up?
  • Look at it from the other person’s perspective. What would you say if you were in their shoes?
  • Pause before replying. Managing strong emotions is hardest in the first few seconds, the danger zone for uncontrolled and unhelpful reactions that you later regret.
  • Recognise your feelings. Are you angry, upset, surprised, flushed, composed or indifferent? What is your body language telling you? Use that self-awareness to inform how you respond.
  • Acknowledge the feedback. Summarising it back allows you to hear it in your own voice. It gives you space to think rationally.  ‘Can I check my understanding? So what you’re saying is…’
  • Take it on the chin. ‘I accept what you say and I’m grateful for your honesty with me. I want to learn and improve and I’d like to talk about how I can do that with your support.’

The culture of an organisation is heavily influenced by behaviours. It is not tough love when your manager blames or patronises you, vents their own frustrations, looks after their own back, uses their status or position to belittle you and doesn’t support you with information, resources, training or coaching. It’s sink or swim without explanation or genuine care for you as a person. ‘Man up or else’. I’ve come across that kind of lack of emotional intelligence plenty of times in predominantly middle-aged male, hierarchical, highly-directive, results-are-all-that-matter organisational cultures. And we wonder why employee engagement is at an all-time low.

Responding to phoney tough love

Use your emotional intelligence if feedback is badly done and tough love masks a poor manager by:

  • Being assertive. Own your thoughts and feelings. ‘When you talk to me in that way, it makes me feel….’  If you disagree with the feedback, say so and back up your argument with specific evidence. Calmly say what you believe and want. Stay in tune with your personal values.
  • Asking questions. ‘How does your feedback help me to improve?’ ‘How will you help me develop?’ ‘What works for you?’, ‘How can I help you?’

Poor managers are one of the main reasons why people leave organisations. Your attitude and behaviours are within your control alone. Develop your emotional intelligence by managing yourself well through conscious practice. Then there’s a better chance of influencing your manager’s attitude and behaviours even if you can’t control them – that’s their responsibility.

If things don’t change, remember, it’s more about your manager than it is about you. Choose to make a change internally or externally, but give it a go first. Effective relationships at work are a win-win because you are more likely to stay and develop and the organisation has a more productive and engaged employee.

mentoring relationship

What Makes A Brilliant Mentoring Relationship?

I’ve had three informal mentors in my working life. They appeared at distinct life stages and professional transition points. In each case, they were pivotal to my development and career direction. What did they do to have a positive impact on me? How did they make me feel? What makes a brilliant mentoring relationship?

Check out this lovely poem by Portia Nelson that captures the essence of what mentoring is about. Watch this short video to see the benefits for students at a local university. They are pairing up with alumni mentors to help make the transition from degree to work.

The experiences of a mentoring relationship have been some of my best times. Brilliant mentoring depends on the quality of the relationship between the two people involved. My first real mentor was Stan, who was nearing retirement when we met. He took me under his wing in my early 20s working at a professional institution. He had a wealth of experience working with committees, running events and looking after the membership. He helped me develop an ability to write in a professional environment and gave me confidence in public speaking. We remained in contact by letter and postcards for over 30 years until his passing aged 90.

Another mentor was Gill, a more senior manager than me when I worked within the police service. I’d hit a ceiling with opportunities to progress and she could sense my frustration. Gill always had my best interests at heart. She spotted my emerging strengths in training and facilitating. She encouraged me to explore a role in consultancy in the private sector once I got a Masters degree. Despite initial reluctance, I’ll always be thankful to her for nudging me to take action. It changed the course of my career for the good.

My third mentor was Doug, a Principal Consultant at the company I moved to from the police. He helped me overcome my fears of taking over a high-value, complex leadership development programme. His wisdom still informs how I do things and how I handle myself today. He believed in me when I doubted myself.

Here are some of the things that I believe make brilliant mentors and mentees:

Brilliant Mentors…

  • Like and care for people
  • Are self-aware and manage their self well
  • Are committed and make time willingly
  • Are credible in the eyes of the mentee
  • Put their mentee first, believe in them
  • Are open and trustworthy, keep confidences
  • Listen with empathy, provide emotional support
  • Act as a critical friend and sounding board
  • Ask questions that stretch their mentee’s thinking
  • Don’t hide from the realities of situations and challenges
  • Share what is unwritten or unsaid, are organisationally savvy
  • Encourage their mentee to see new perspectives
  • Tell stories to light fires
  • Connect their mentee to people and resources
  • Support their mentee in planning and taking action

Brilliant Mentees…

  • Are motivated for change and development
  • Are respectful
  • Are open and trusting
  • Are curious and ask questions
  • Listen to understand
  • Take responsibility for their learning and actions
  • Are prepared to be vulnerable
  • Seek feedback, are open to ‘tough love’
  • Are courageous, willing to experiment and step out of their comfort zone
  • Discover through both think-do-think and do-think-do
  • Make their own decisions

What are your brilliant experiences of a mentoring relationship?


Sales: Breaking The Taboo, Myths And Truths

We need to talk about sales.

As a recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns has plenty of brilliant graduates walk through its doors every day, but many of them caveat every conversation with ‘so long as it’s not sales…’.

For many graduates, sales is seen as a last resort – something you fall into because you’ve run out of options,  telling your friends that it’s just short-term, or making up a strange job title to make it sound like you’re doing something else.

Why? What are the myths of sales, and what’s it really like?

Truth: Sales is a career with longevity

With the increasing fear of automation, many young people are concerned about getting into a career that could become obsolete. But we’ll always need humans to sell because innovation results in new products and services. The World Economic Forum of business leaders identified sales and data analysts as the two roles that will be needed across all sectors and fields by 2020.

The charisma and relationship building skills necessary to be successful in sales can’t be replicated by a robot. There will always be plenty of opportunities if you fall in love with sales.

Persistence, persuasion and resilience are all a huge part of succeeding. They’re skills that you can carry across to almost anything, whether you want to start you own business, move up the career ladder or switch industry altogether. You’ll certainly know how to sell yourself to a potential employer.

Myth: It’s all just cold calling

Once upon a time a lot of sales jobs were about sitting with a directory and ringing everyone from Adam Anderson to Zachariah Zaal. The internet has changed a lot of things, and now all sales teams are able to be highly targeted. You could also be dealing with warm leads and returning customers.

There’s such a huge array of different roles and different ways of working that any job will be a variety of calling, emailing and social selling. As a result, product knowledge and building relationships with people has become much more important. These are skills sought after by employers in almost any organisation.

Truth: You’ll build resilience

Resilience is one of the most important things you’ll learn as a salesperson. No matter how good your product is, you will be rejected from time to time and sales will fall through at the last minute.

However, so long as you see this as an opportunity to learn and not allow it to get to you, you’ll build up resilience that will benefit your career. Resilient people tend to be more ambitious, positive and unafraid of trying.

Myth: You end up peddling rubbish

People don’t like to be sold to. Graduates’ experience may well be people selling them PPI claims, bad mobile phone contracts and injury lawyers.

However, the chances are that you’ll be selling a great product to people who will actually want it due to the targeted nature of search. This is good for your success rate and will help you with rejection.

Truth: You can work in a field that interests you

One of the best things about sales is that almost every single industry requires sales people and so you get to work in an area that you’re passionate about. Getting to sell a product or service in an area you love makes the job much more pleasant and you get to learn and talk about your passion every day.

You can also choose to use the skills and experience you learnt in your degree to work in a relevant field, finding out more about the industry and potentially putting yourself in a position to transfer across into a different area. That’s more than 58.8% of graduates can say!

Thanks for this post to Matt Arnerich of Inspiring Interns – the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency finding graduate jobs in London and graduate jobs in Manchester. For more graduate careers advice, or if you’re looking for an internship, take a look!

public speaking

Public Speaking: How To Use Your Head And Heart

Public speaking from the heart sounds like it ought to be intuitive. However, skill and technique play a part when we do it in front of groups of people in professional situations. We need our head to temper the excesses of our heart to be effective. Experience is a wise tutor for the pitfalls and what works for each of us. Young people who lack experience but bring unfettered enthusiasm and hunger can soon learn to leap in communicating from the head and heart with a bit of guidance. This post is combination of their tips and mine for public speaking.

public speakingI’ve been working with a motivated, energised and committed group of youth ambassadors at Youth Employment UK aged 17-24 to develop their confidence and skill in speaking from the heart in public. Their laudable mission is to inspire other young people with their stories of overcoming barriers to employment and to enable the voices of young people to be heard by employers and politicians when making decisions that affect their lives. Despite their obvious passion, it can still be daunting to stand up in front of hundreds of school students, parents and teachers or run an employer day with their local MP.

Here are our collective public speaking tips when the cause really matters to you:

Preparing for public speaking

Practise so you have internalised and timed your content. Don’t try and learn it word for word because it will come across like you’re reading from a script. Have a clear structure in your head and let your points come out naturally in the moment. Ensure you know where and when you have to be. Get to your venue in good time. Check the equipment is working and you know how to work it. Have a backup on a memory stick if you are using a presentation. Sometimes the technology fails. It can work in your favour with the audience (‘that could be me someday’). If you know your subject and it matters to you, trust yourself and just wing it

Managing yourself

Stick to your allotted time (especially if you are sharing a platform), stay focused and on track – it’s easy to get sidetracked and follow an impromptu line of thought that takes you down an irrelevant path for too long. Nerves are a double-edged sword – they can disable the best of us at the wrong time (affecting our flow, focus, fluency) and they can fuel our energy and excitement. It’s a healthy sign you care when a supublic speakingrge of adrenaline kicks in, whether it’s fight or flight. I know someone who does a chicken dance just before it’s showtime!

Breathing is your control valve – meditation exercises using your diaphragm are helpful. Maintain eye contact at head height, draw from the positive smiles in the room rather than the folded arms and frowns from the unimpressed. You can win the undecided over through your performance. Pretend the audience is naked! Remember, you know more than they do. It’s your hot topic, you know what you want to say and they don’t. There is a whole catalogue of advice out there about what to do with different parts of your body when public speaking!

Engaging your audience

The temptation is to over-focus on yourself rather than your audience. What do you know about them? How do you want your audience to feel? What do you want them to know? What is likely to engage them? Think visual (people notice what you show or do more than what you say), use memorable pictures rather than dull lists of bullet points, make it interactive (ask the audience, invite someone down, move around the room or among your audience), use props and humour (I sometimes use a compass and a crystal ball when talking about careers). Lead with a puzzle, question or a story. Introduce an element of surprise. Make it personal, show empathy.

Watch TED Talks for examples of brilliant public speaking. This excellent article highlights the engagement techniques of Pamela Meyer in the way she structures her opening. She immediately gets the audience’s attention, clearly identifies her subject so you want to listen more, and hooks you with why her topic is important to you.

Being yourself

Speaking from the head and heart effectively is a combination of content and performance – an emotional topic put across with calm resolve and good timing is as powerful as a rational topic put across with high energy and emotion. Play to your preferences and personality rather than trying to be somebody you’re not.

temporary jobs

Students: How To Leverage Your Temporary Jobs

There can be a stigma around signing up for temporary jobs. It leads to people holding out for the ‘perfect’ job, sometimes with little success. Many people miss out on gaining experience and are overlooking opportunities that could actually help them step onto the career ladder.

National recruiter, Pertemps, has seen the successes that undertaking temporary jobs can bring – especially for graduates and students during breaks in term time. Here is Pertemps’ list of how temporary jobs can help with your job searches further down the line:

Opens Up Connections

The people you meet during your time in temporary jobs can lead to more opportunities than the actual job itself. The right impression with other temps, clients or managers can lead to greater things whether it’s within the company or external opportunities.

Tip: Although you may only be there a short while, get into the mindset that you are there for a long time – it will help you concentrate on doing the best job possible.

Gain Valuable Experience

You will take away experiences that whatever role you’re undertaking. You’ll gain transferrable skills whether you are a cleaner, admin, receptionist or a driver. It will help you decide whether this is something you would like to consider or avoid in future roles.

Tip: Be open minded to new challenges, even if the jobs put forward aren’t in your field – you never know what you will gain.

You’ll Still Have Time For You

As a student you may not want the commitment of a stressful, permanent job during your time off – you may have enough of this in term time. Temping offers the flexibility to earn money with a company that needs an immediate resource, with the expectation that you can go back to your studies afterwards – unless you really fall in love with it!

Tip: Work hard – you may be a temp but you’re still relied upon to deliver for the company and are being paid to do so.

Bolster Your CV

Use the time you have off to bolster your CV. You may apply for jobs after studying where your temp roles have given you invaluable skills. You don’t need to put all of your previous work experience if it’s not all relevant. Even if you’re only working somewhere for 3 months, what you can learn in this time is surprising and can show your work ethic to prospective employers.

Tip: Pick and choose what experience you include on your CV if you’ve lots of temping. Don’t feel obliged to put all your roles on your CV. You may want to draw on other experiences when interviewed.

Reconnect After Each Term Time

As you start to be placed, you’ll become familiar with the culture and way of working, as well as the job role.  You may get opportunities offered to you directly. It saves the company time instead of spending time looking for other people to fill vacancies who know nothing about the business.

Tip: Always leave on good terms, you may need references and even if you’ve not had the best experience, you can still leave the door open. Don’t burn bridges.

Next time you think about what you don’t get from temp work, think about all things you could gain and where this could lead – you may just find your dream company. If you are thinking of going for temp work, then get in touch with Pertemps who have plenty of roles for varying skill sets so you’re sure to find a great opportunity.

Thanks to Nathan Griffiths for this guest post!

work placements

Work Placements: How To Research An Employer

I’m running some workshops at a university this week to prepare students for their work placements. One of the things students can do before their first day is research their employer in more depth. You arrive with a better understanding of what is important to that organisation. Students can use the information to build relationships more quickly and identify with the employer where they can add value.

Questions to explore

work placementsFind the answers to these common questions to give yourself an advantage when starting work placements or internships:

  1. What is the story of this organisation?
  2. What are its stated values?
  3. What is the name of the person who owns or runs the organisation?
  4. What services or products does it provide?
  5. Who are its main users or customers?
  6. What are the benefits for users or customers?
  7. What significant successes has the employer had?
  8. Who are its main competitors?
  9. What are the main challenges in this industry or sector?
  10. What do other people (customers, competitors, employees) say about them?

Where to look

  • Company website: latest news, press releases, products and services, awards, testimonials, ‘about us’, our values.
  • Employer’s social media accounts: follow, comment on posts, say hello.
  • LinkedIn: profiles of the company/people who work there (what keywords do they use?) and discussion groups (what are the hot topics?)
  • Employee reviews: gives you clues as to the real culture.
  • Industry or sector news: relevant websites (including professional institutions), online newsletters, magazines and newspapers, social media.
  • Use PESTLE: what is happening and coming up that affects your employer?
  1. Politics (policies, white papers)work placements
  2. Economics (funding, cutbacks, profit)
  3. Social (demographics, diversity)
  4. Technology (new tools, impact on ways of working)
  5. Legal (laws, regulations)
  6. Environment (green energy, recycling, community) or Education (training, learning, qualifications)

Employers want to see budding professionals on their work placements or internships. Be proactive and show your genuine interest in the organisation. Put in the upfront effort to do your research – you will learn stuff and shape perceptions of you.


Why The Obsession With Knowing Your Purpose?

Are you in your final year of study at university or recently graduated? Do you ‘know your purpose’? That’s a question posed to students these days. When I look back to when I was 21, I hadn’t a clue. Realisation and insight only came to me much later in life. Asking yourself the question when young can feel loaded with expectations from other people. Is it helpful or does it create unnecessary pressure?

Harvard Professor, Clayton M Christensen, says that the most useful learning anyone can do is to determine their life’s purpose. Then all subsequent goals are a means of living your life’s purpose. Your decisions where you put your precious time, energy and talent will then shape your life’s strategy.

What do you think about that? Is this your fundamental starting point or something to put on the back burner? What you want from a job or career will change over the course of your life. Having a clear, unchanging purpose in life may feed the need for certainty in an uncertain world. You could see it as a rudder to help navigate the uncharted waters of your career; or as an anchor that stops you losing your way in rough seas; or simply a reflection of what you love being and doing.

Knowing Your Purpose

The mantra of knowing your purpose suggests that everyone has one or needs one. And why only one? It can be motivational, create urgency, maintain momentum and fuel action. The will to succeed depends on how heartfelt and compelling your purpose is. But how realistic is that when your life experience is limited? In my experience, knowing your purpose at 21 is the exception rather than the rule.

Knowing your purpose comes from within and it can also emerge through experience. It might be there internally and external factors light the dry tinder. Ken Robinson,in his book The Element, tells the story of Matt.

From a young age when he made up stories using little dinosaur figures, Matt knew he was going to do this for the rest of his life. Everybody else wanted him to follow a predictable series of stages – go to school, go to college, get qualifications and get a job.

But Matt knew his life’s purpose was to draw cartoons forever and he never gave up hope that he would succeed, though he never considered it a viable career option. He didn’t think he’d ever get paid for it, didn’t think he drew well enough, but he knew it made him happy.

When he left school, Matt moved to a big city and did several mundane jobs like washing dishes, being a waiter and a driver. But he was optimistic and eventually his comic strip got placed in a weekly newspaper.

This led to an opportunity to pitch to a film company for a half hour animation in a TV show. When he was standing outside the presentation waiting to go in, he had no idea what he was going to propose. But being flexible and adaptable he came up with something that changed his and other people’s lives.

What Groening proposed was the Simpsons and the rest is history.

A Sense of Purpose

During emerging adulthood, having a sense of purpose seems to me more meaningful and attainable than having to know your purpose. For example, your instincts might be to help people in need, to make a lot of money, or to create or build something. It’s not fully formed or necessarily specific. That instinct can be shaped by a combination of nature and nurture. Understanding and recognising your personal values and beliefs are a good starting point for shaping your sense of purpose.

Being Purposeful

Another perspective is to be purposeful and intentional. It’s living more in the present than the future or the past. Throwing yourself into a job or career direction and seeing where it takes you. For example, working on a 6-months project with a clear goal and end point. It may speak to your sense of purpose and begin to stimulate a deeper life purpose. Because being purposeful is action-oriented, it helps you move on from a passive, circular internal dialogue about what your purpose might be.

Many people don’t end up doing something they thought they would with their working lives. Two-thirds of today’s graduates don’t use their degrees in their jobs. We are going to be changing careers more often. If you know your purpose now, great, go for it. If you don’t, that’s OK! Be purposeful and get a sense of your purpose – explore the world, find out about yourself along the way and seize opportunities.


Motivation: Driving In The Sunshine And The Rain

What drives you to taken action, achieve something or move in a specific direction? Where does that drive come from? How can you tap into your motivation more often to take you where you want to go and to be who you want to be? You are in the driving seat of your job and career come rain or shine. So it pays to recognise what motivates you and the conditions where you flourish best.

The link to job and career

Knowing what motivates you is important to being employable because:

  • You are more likely to be motivated in an environment which matches your personal values.
  • You are more likely to be motivated by what you prefer doing, feel energised by or are good at.
  • It gives employers clues to your attitude, character and how to get the best from you.
  • Employers want to know your ‘why’ because motivation is one of the ingredients essential to performance. 

You are likely to face questions at a job interview such as:

  • What gets you out of bed in the morning?Motivation
  • What motivates or demotivates you?
  • When are you at your best?
  • What do you struggle with? What gets you down?Motivation
  • How do you create the conditions to motivate others?
  • How will you motivate this team?
  • What has worked for you/with others in the past?
  • Give an example of when you recovered from a setback?

Motivation is internal

Motivation is about the energy and commitment you bring to doing something. It’s internal and you do it because you want to. There is always an assessment tool out there to help you if you struggle to identify what motivates you. Here are some questions to help you start pinpointing what gets you going:

  • When am I at my best? How do I behave when I am at my best? What mindset do I have?
  • What is my natural disposition? Am I more optimistic or pessimistic? How does it help me?
  • When have my personal values helped drive me to successfully achieve something?
  • When have I gone beyond what is expected of me? What would I do for free?
  • What have I done off my own back to improve myself?
  • What demotivates me? How do I feel? How do I behave? How do I cope?

Motivating is external

You find things motivating when that energy and commitment is released by the conditions or environment you’re in. That’s external and it influences your behaviour. Here are some examples of motivating conditions that help people to be at their best. Which ones help you the most?

  • Enough income (to pay the bills, pursue outside work interests etc)
  • Stability and security
  • Belonging, acceptance, being part of a group, team spirit
  • Recognition from others, reputation, prestige, appreciation
  • Belief in your potential, investment in your growth, personal support
  • Development and advancement opportunities
  • Having responsibility, authority, power
  • Able to participate, voice your views, be heard
  • A culture of learning, discovery, creativity, possibility, empowerment, trust


Like Maslow before him, career analyst Dan Pink has shown from research that when people are paid enough (in their eyes), then the work itself becomes their focus of attention. They are more likely to do things willingly and off their own back (or to get out of bed in the morning) when they have autonomy, mastery and purpose.

You know what I’m going to say… if you found this post motivating, what action will you take in your job or career to be at your best more of the time?


Personality: How To Bottle Your Essence For Employers

What is personality and how can you bottle your essence for employers so they know what they are getting? One of the mantras of personal development is ‘know thyself’. Employers are keen to know who they are employing and what they bring. Most people spend their whole lives wrestling with who they are. It’s not a simple task, especially when you are an emerging adult and life has so far only thrown a few of its challenges at you. Personality has become a key differentiator between job candidates of similar experience and qualifications.

We’re all unique – just like everyone else! John Allen Paulos, Mathematician

One of the problems in talking about personality is the dichotomous nature of so many explanations. For example, nature v nurture, traits v types, character v personality. There are endless inventories, questionnaires and assessment tools designed to increase your self-awareness and give you a language to articulate who you are. The majority draw from current and past behaviours and preferences. The more difficult questions are about your potential and who you might be or become.

All of these well-intentioned approaches are only ever a guide. We are far richer, more complex and mysterious than a questionnaire. Looking inwardly is one obvious way to explore your personality. Looking outwardly to see how others see you is also helpful to reflect back those blind spots we all have.

Personality and your many selves

Why does it feel like we have several different selves? Here’s a way of looking at it:


We come into this world with a unique nature (core self). Our inborn tendencies develop as we experience the world and our characters and brains, as neuroscience is enlightening us, get shaped by the environment (contextual self). We’re all unique so we develop at different times and speeds. According to research different mental abilities peak at different ages from 18 to 70 plus. We play up to or ignore aspects of our core self depending on our self-awareness or the choices we make (developed self). Although our core may prefer to see the world in a particular way, we learn how to view things from other perspectives. 

Part of being employable means making the most of your various selves – understanding your personality, being adaptable and flexible to different situations, and continuously developing the behaviours, mindsets, skills and knowledge needed for the workplace.

5 ways to show off your personality

People sometimes say that someone “has a bit of personality” or a spark about them. They recognise their core attributes because they are clear and distinct. An unsaid comparison with being ordinary or even dull is perhaps implied. If you want to give off your sparks to employers:

  1. Show, more than tell – people can’t always see you are organised and analytical or may not believe you are spontaneous and empathetic just because you say so. What can you do to show them in the way you apply for the job and engage with employers?
  2. Join the dots up – knowing and saying you are a creative person isn’t enough. So what? Explain how that will meet the job requirements and help the employer.
  3. Use other people’s words to describe you, especially if you are naturally modest. How do other’s see you at your best?
  4. Psychometric profiles use words or phrases you can pinch if you struggle to articulate your personality. A health warning! No questionnaire will ever be the ‘truth’. It can only ever be a starting point for exploring yourself. Understanding yourself is an eternal audit.
  5. Just be yourself with skill – obvious I know, but incredibly powerful when you feel anxious or your head is too full of dos and don’ts. Nobody wants to employ a robot.

Showing an employer you at your best will always be a challenge during the process of getting a job, keeping a job and making a career move. Capture your essence and mix with a dose of confidence for the sweet smell of success.