Why Being Organised Makes You More Employable

It’s the start of a new year and job seekers, job changers and career shifters are getting twitchy. Getting organised for the job search can be a nightmare for some. The irony is that being organised doing the job is often an employer requirement. What does being organised look like? What do employers expect? What does it mean for navigating your career?

The organised person

Employable people are self-aware and aware of how others like to operate. They can describe how they organise themselves and communicate it to people. To do so, they find techniques and approaches that work for them, play to their strengths and know who to rely on and when. Here are some common characteristics and behaviours of an organised person:

  • Self-motivated – taking the initiative to get organised.
  • Focused – able to stay on track and manage distractions (online and offline).
  • Resourceful – using limited resources creatively, saving yourself time, finding things easily and avoiding reinventing the wheel each time.
  • Reliable – dependable, open, easy to do business with.
  • Able to prioritise – delegating, sharing and asking for support when needed.
  • Able to juggle – managing several tasks at once.
  • Flexible and able to plan – so you can reorganise when things change.

Employer expectations

In your job role, employers expect you to:

  • Be productive in a way that delivers what colleagues, partners, and customers expect.
  • Have personal and professional standards such as punctuality and respect for others in meeting deadlines.
  • Know where and when you have got to be and make it happen – electronic diaries, productivity apps.
  • Let people know where to find or contact you on any given day – your accessibility, voicemails, email responders.
  • Communicate what you are doing and where people can find things – information sharing and access.
  • Be aware of your time stealers, know what works for you in addressing them and get the balance right.
  • Have the resilience to handle lots of tasks, prioritise them effectively and manage your workload.
  • Be a self-organising learner.

Navigating your career

Complying with employers’ recruitment processes is important, although they can at times be hugely time-consuming, irritating and cumbersome. Planning your job application and interviews requires necessary discipline and attention to detail. So, don’t rule yourself out before you get a chance to rule yourself in. That doesn’t mean acting like a robot. Even mavericks benefit from discipline. An organised and disciplined mindset also matters as you navigate your career:

  • Do periodic self-audits on your current capabilities, ambitions, and career direction.
  • Keep on top of your career profile and your personal brand.
  • Maintain and build your networks in line with your goals.

Being organised is a set of life skills. Learn how you and other people like to operate for good relationships and being productive. You only have 24 hours in a day, so be selective. We live in a short-attention, distracted world full of competing priorities. Employers expect you to be organised in the way you apply for jobs and in the way you fulfil your job role. Your lifelong learning challenge is getting things done at work and play in healthy, efficient and rewarding ways.

Currently, how do you measure up to what employers expect of an organised person? 

CV challenge

CV Challenge: How to Embrace the Robots

Employers are using the power of AI to hire employees with consequences for recruiters and job seekers alike. Job roles are already disappearing as the robots take over and business functions seek to modernize. Filtering CVs and undertaking initial job interviews are being automated where there are high applicant volumes. So, new ways of working mean new ways of learning to embrace the challenge. Here are some recent survey data and tips for dealing with the CV challenge.

We all make mistakes and I bet you’ve heard the phrase ‘well, I’m only human’ a few times! We all have our conscious and unconscious biases too. Automation removes some of these pitfalls in parts of the hiring process and cuts costs. At some point, your CV is likely to be at the mercy of an algorithm.

What are the robots looking for on your CV? Keywords are still important, however, the growth of Big Data allows greater sophistication in searches. We are all putting more information about ourselves online. Consequently, the robots can join up the dots and spot the patterns. For example, whether your LinkedIn profile and your CV are in sync.

…you might miss the perfect candidate who happens to have the right skills but a different job title and maybe a less traditional career path. AI uses data clustering techniques to create job clusters so you can identify these alternative skills and titles. Jerry Thurber, Innotrieve

CV challenge

According to a totaljobs survey, conducted across 400 UK jobseekers, 67% are unaware of automated recruitment.

  • Of those who are, 53% had taken part in an automated telephone interview.
  • Of these, 47% are comfortable with the experience (35% are uncomfortable, while 18% are neither).
  • 42% were invited to proceed to the next step, while 58% were not.

Here are 5 tips from journalist, Pádraig Belton, to help you take on the robots and meet the CV challenge:

  1. Opt for a conservative sans serif font, like Verdana, Arial, Calibri or Tahoma. Fonts with serifs, like Times New Roman, work slightly less well with optical character recognition (OCR)
  2. Do not format your CV with tables.
  3. Optimize your CV, ensuring it features keywords relating to the job.
  4. Have a look at the company you are applying for and match your top titles with theirs.
  5. If later on, you find yourself recording a video interview, pick a blank background, and spend a bit of time thinking about lighting. Two light sources in front, one behind works well.

The message is clear: if you’re a graduate looking to take the next step in your career, the robots are here to stay. Embrace the change by being savvy and consistent.


The Discipline Mindset: How to Make Things Happen

Clarifying and articulating your job or career objective enable you to shape personal strategies to achieve it. Yet, tactics without an objective and strategies risk becoming scattergun activities in the hope of finding what you want (for example, a reliance on using job boards). Also, strategy and tactics are meaningless if the drive and discipline are absent to make them happen. So, what will help you stay on track and deliver your aspirations in 2017?

At the outset, many of my coaching clients struggle with being clear about their objective – where they want to go or how they want to be. Exploring to identify their objective is the objective for some. What people say they want – like a new job or a career change – often masks a more heartfelt objective like a sense of purpose or mastery or autonomy. Just knowing your objective is not enough, you also have to make it happen and that requires discipline.

disciplineMany budding entrepreneurs fail when their drive focuses too much in the wrong areas. For example, over-focusing ‘in’ the business and under-focusing ‘on’ the business. They don’t pay enough attention to clarity, discipline, and accountability to make things happen smartly and effectively. Here’s a new resource, the Check-In Strategy Journal, that will help you to stay on track and deliver.

Also, many successful people have clear links between their strategies and their values and aspirations. Your personal values are the most powerful drivers of what you want to achieve. Identify, understand and use them as rocket fuel to drive your actions, maintain momentum and increase your chances of success.

An exercise in discipline

At the start of every year, I pick my three words for the coming year to give me energy and discipline. They feed a sense of purpose, are easy to remember and yet have depth. They are strategic to help me reach my overriding objective.

For 2016, my three words were Pivot, Learn, and Dare. Each had a particular meaning for me and no-one else. In practice, I started developing an online course, getting my head around online marketing, and broadening my coaching work into new areas. 2017? JDI, Iterate, and Joy!

What are your 3 words for the coming year to drive your energy and discipline?

Mindset matters

Initially, where do you tend to focus your mind? A past, present or future focus affects how you deliver on your goals.

  • Past-focused: enjoying the cathartic experience of reflecting on the year’s highs, lows, and personal learning journeys to derive insights.
  • Present-focused: switching off from reflecting and planning, simply being or immersing yourself in doing.
  • Future-focused: setting broad, motivational goals and personal intentions or detailed plans.

The balance between the three mindsets at any given time is personal to each of us, our preferences and cultural context. Check out your time perspective with this free online inventory.

Where does the balance lie for you? How would it help you succeed in 2017 if you alter the balance?

yeuk young professional

Jack Jennings is Hampshire’s First YEUK Young Professional

A good news story (and not just for Christmas). Twenty-year-old Jack Jennings, Operations Assistant at The Display Centre, is Hampshire’s first Youth Employment UK Young Professional. Following Jack’s passing of the YEUK Young Professional online test, Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP and Secretary at The Department for Education, met Jack to talk about his involvement with the scheme.

I was delighted to visit The Display Centre on Friday and meet Jack Jennings, one of my constituents, to personally congratulate him on his achievement. It was also very useful to meet with company director, Chris Jones, a great supporter of YEUK, to discuss with him how I might help to develop this very worthy scheme.

yeuk young professionalChris encouraged Jack to get involved in the scheme following a pledge to Youth Employment UK. YEUK is the leading social enterprise dedicated to tackling youth unemployment in the UK. It aims to help young people develop themselves by giving them the means to take control of their own development, as well as providing a platform for their voice on youth employment issues locally and nationally.

The Display Centre’s pledges

On behalf of The Display Centre, a shopfitting and retail supply company, Chris pledged to support young professionals by:

  1. Guaranteeing any YEUK Young Professional who applies for a job an automatic telephone interview.
  2. Encouraging employees under the age of 21 to become YEUK Young Professionals.
  3. Offering any YEUK Young Professional 30 minutes of career mentoring for CV reviews, interview tips or another career subject.

YEUK is a great organisation. There are so many young people, like myself, that don’t have an edge over the competition when finding a job. YEUK helps you put something on your CV that employers will find interesting, as well as teaching you the basic skills that you need in a workplace. Jack Jennings

Young people between 16 and 24 can sign up online for free and begin the young professional programme. They gain access to more resources on the Young Professional hub when they score 80%+ on the online test. These resources include TED talks and exercises that focus on employability skills.

Will your company invest in young people to boost their employability by joining Youth Employment UK? Will you support the YEUK Young Professional scheme? Why not make it a pledge for the New Year!

teaching application

Christmas Checklist: How to Perfect Your Teaching Application

Are you studying to be a teacher? The Christmas holidays are upon us and they are certainly a welcome break from the first term whichever year of study you may be in. It’s a spell to relax, regroup and enjoy some thoroughly deserved ‘me’ time. However, the holidays also give you a moment to plan, prep and organise your next steps. Perfect your teaching application over this period providing by allowing yourself some uninterrupted sessions to focus on a stand out piece of work.

Here are a few pointers to consider when tackling your teaching application:

Manage yourself

Christmas can be a chaotic and manic period, whether you’re rushing to buy last minute presents or have cleared your whole diary to complete your application. Managing yourself is key. Online psychometric testing requires time, as you practice and familiarize yourself with the process you might face in the months to come. You can reduce your anxiety, and increase knowledge and understanding of what to expectteaching application, by completing a few practice runs.

Furthermore, some recruiters close their teaching application window early if they are overwhelmed with applicants. Using the holiday period for quality time on your application instead of a late rush the night before the deadline. Rushing your application can result in mistakes and does not allow for any reasonable adjustments to be made. Use the ‘little and often’ method to complete your application to help you manage yourself effectively.

Do your research

It is entirely your responsibility to ensure that your teaching application stands out amongst the rest. Many schools that you apply for may not want to see your CV. Instead, they want to see a well-researched, specific and tailored application. Researching and visiting a school of interest is important as you may not be right for them. More importantly, they may not be right for you.

Exploring the school website, checking the Ofsted report and understanding the achievement tables ensure a rounded understanding of the school. Reading the application pack is crucial. Make sure your application displays enough evidence of your competencies to match the school’s essential and desirable requirements. This can differentiate you from a competing candidate.

Additionally, be selective when applying for positions. You don’t want to apply for a job that you won’t enjoy, just because it is available. Do your homework. How far is it to commute? Will you be able to afford the travel costs? Is the position exactly right for you?

Let your experience shine

References are essential for teaching applications. At this point, you will have completed work placements at one or two schools that offer their own variety of experiences, challenges, and successes. Draw upon them and prepare your referees for potential requests.

teaching applicationThis part of the application is your chance to shine where you can really emphasise why you think you will be right for the school. How will you contribute to their workforce? What will you add? What can you offer to the school that they cannot receive from the next candidate? Drawing upon real experiences, real problems, and real school-based solutions help construct a strong application. Influence the reader of your application by stressing your proven skills and training experience within your placement(s). It also prepares you for potential interview questions.

Being an ‘enlarged’ version of yourself both on paper and during the interview process is a very useful tool. Consequently, you strengthen your application by using your experience and gaining confidence from your encounters inside and outside of the classroom.

Get the balance right

In summary, your priority is to find a balance between working on your application and recharging your batteries over the Christmas period. Understanding what is expected from an application and managing those expectations stage by stage helps with the planning process. However, preparation is key. Researching the school, the job role, and the application process itself needs to be done up front for a successful submission.

Good knowledge of the recruitment timetable is essential to grab the opportunity that suits you best. Not only do you have to ensure your application, how to apply and when are also critical. School vacancies, registration schemes, pool applicants, agencies and speculative applicants will all have their own timetable of expected applications. Finally, researching which process suits you best and how they manage their applicants will allow you to plan and prepare to meet a solid deadline.

Thanks to Holly Barry from Distinctly PR for this week’s post!


Flexible Friend and Adaptable Ally: How to Seize the Day

Being flexible and adaptable are mindset qualities that employers want worldwide. They are critical in dealing with chance and change whether you are looking for work, in a job or navigating your career direction. The best-laid plans go wrong, unexpected events occur, unforeseen dilemmas arise, and you often have to work with ambiguity and uncertainty. How can you develop being flexible and adaptable for your job and career?

What is being flexible?

Flexibility is about:

  • Being open-minded and prepared to compromise about what work you do, when, where and how you do it, and who with.
  • Your willingness to contribute and serve even when you didn’t expect to.flexible
  • Changing your plans in a flash if the boss needs you to, so get used to prioritising and re-prioritising.
  • Your colleagues being able to rely on you stepping in to help in a crisis.
  • A ‘give and take’ attitude in work relationships, sometimes outside of your role and responsibilities to meet a deadline or critical business need.
  • A way of increasing your breadth of experience, exposing you to a wider range of activities and responsibilities.
  • Accepting that it’s okay to zig-zag in your career and to try out new things.

What is being adaptable?

Adaptability is about how you adapt to change, uncertainty, new challenges, unexpected obstacles, changing circumstances, new information, and different settings. For example,

  • flexibleReturning home after graduating means adapting to home life again and not treating your parent’s home like a student house.
  • When you start a new job, everything is new and unfamiliar. The quicker you adapt to the way things are done, the quicker you settle in as part of the team and start being productive.
  • Losing your job means adapting to difficult circumstances, where your priorities will change.

No one wants to employ someone who says ‘I can’t or won’t do that’, ‘It’s not my job’, ‘it’s not in my job description’. Nor someone who is too rigid, digs their heels in and puts themselves before others.

Workplace dilemmas

  • Your boss asks you to drop what you are doing and to stay late to complete an urgent job. Do you change direction when necessary? Or do you stick with your own assumptions?
  • A new process is introduced at work. The process you use currently works fine for you. Do you set and re-negotiate priorities when dealing with change? Or do you like to do things the same way time after time?
  • You have a presentation tomorrow and you can’t get hold of a critical piece of information in time. Do you decide and act without having the full picture? Or do you prefer things nailed down and sure?

9 ways to develop flexibility and adaptability

  1. Spot opportunities to compromise and be accommodating. Ask yourself ‘what can I live with?’, ‘what am I prepared to give and give up?’, ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why should I?’
  2. Be curious. Ask questions to ensure you consider all the options. Test out your understanding of what you’re unexpectedly being asked to do without it coming across as a challenge.
  3. Practice patience with good humour in response to changes. Pause, give yourself enough breathing and thinking space.
  4. Seek out diverse views. Explore ideas different from your own to help you think and act differently. Volunteer or work abroad.
  5. Adapt an existing routine. Put a different behaviour inside an existing routine. For example, you could put your top five most important tasks for the week as a screensaver on your mobile. You’ll prompt yourself every time you look at your phone. Here’s the test: if one of your top 5 tasks suddenly changes, will you adapt or will you be thrown by it?
  6. Change a deadline. –Got a deadline to meet next week? Set yourself an earlier deadline to test out your flexibility and adaptability.
  7. Set small goals.  Write down a few things each week that you will be more flexible with. Then track your progress throughout the week. Evaluate your results. Where did you succeed? Where did you fail? Why did you fail? What can you do better next time?
  8. Reward yourself. Give yourself incentives to stick to the goals you’ve set. When you’ve done ‘X’ amount of whatever you’ve chosen, you get to do something you really enjoy doing that you normally wouldn’t have time for.
  9. See the bigger picture. Learn to adapt to the goals of your organisation and make sense of new directions. Recognize that your growing flexibility is a sure-fire way to increase your breadth of experience and progress.

Carpe Diem

flexibleYou thrive if you show how you cope with ambiguity and adapt to change willingly and with agility. Developing a flexible attitude helps you learn to leap more comfortably when change inevitably impacts on your world. Being flexible and adaptable open up options and possibilities, increasing the chance of being in the right place at the right time for you and your ambitions.

Will you seize the day?

youth voice

Youth Voice: What Do Young People Want From Employers?

Vera Brittain wrote an extraordinary memoir, Testament of Youth, capturing her generation’s experience from 1900-1925 including the First World War. The power of that book’s title comes to mind this week when attending a conference on youth employment. What is the youth voice about jobs, careers, and the barriers to entering the world of work in 2016?

Often, these events are filled with seasoned speakers who are practitioners, opinion-formers, policy-makers and decision-makers from organisations involved in the specific topic. And, yes, this was no different in that respect. Yet, refreshingly, the day was also heavily influenced by the testament of today’s youth. It came in the form of both podium speeches and roundtable facilitation and feedback.

Testament of Employers

  • In 2010, a million young people were unemployed. Today, the ONS figure that the UK Government uses is still stubbornly high at 835,000. Youth Employment UK flagged up that’s an underestimate. Research by Impetus and The Learning & Work Institute identifies 1.3 million young people spend six months or more NEET (not in Education, Employment or Training), and 700,000 are out of work or education for over a year.
  • Centrepoint, a homeless charity, reports that homelessness among the young is rising. Sixty percent of the 1000 young people they serve are with them because of family breakdowns. Most are not ready for apprenticeships and traineeships because of their life circumstances. These include sofa surfers, care leavers, and refugees.
  • The Department of Work and Pensions, with recent awareness-raising campaigns on apprenticeships and talent, says that young people struggle with a perception of their own value.
  • InteYouth Voicerserve Learning and Employment, a large apprenticeship provider who provide solution pathways for young people facing obstacles, finds the traditional CV is no longer engaging their client group. It is trying to bridge the work experience gap in new ways. For example, placing young people on the autism spectrum in the records section of the NHS. Also, Digital Credentialism (badges) – non-academic accreditation that evidences what young people can do and have done, articulating it to themselves and employers in a different way. Youth Employment UK is also working along these lines, introducing a free employability scheme open to all 16-24-year-olds and a way of reframing NEETs as aspiring Young Professionals.
  • Thirty percent of the young people Greater Manchester Talent Match place with employers are NEET and not on benefits (and so outside official figures). Eighty percent have mental health difficulties (which decreases through sustained employment). Thirty percent are ex-offenders. It does not believe everyone is appropriate for apprenticeships. It highlights the barriers young people put up themselves, such as lack of self-esteem.

Youth-friendly good practices

  • McDonald’s input focused on recognising talent. Seventy percent of its 110,000 UK employees are in their twenties and under. The company receives 2000 applications a day, of which 1900 are unsuccessful. There is a 4-stage process to get a part-time job. They want it to be a professional process so applicants feel professional and are judged by their potential. McDonald’s is professionalising its apprenticeships (80,000 apprentices to date) and introducing one at degree level. They are trialling ‘minimum hours’ contracts instead of a zero hours approach.

Our people strategy starts with attracting individuals with talent. It’s about the person in front of you. Having a qualification doesn’t make you a great person. We look for people who are energetic, passionate and great with customer service. Everything else we can train them to do.  Cheryl Chung, Head of Communications at McDonald’s UK.

  • Rathbone Training focused on youth voice. Its work builds in resilience and empowers young people to face and deal with obstacles to getting a job and career. The barriers young people face include poor or lack of career advice, homelessness and housing, and difficult conversations with their parents who lack understanding of what they are going through.
  • Learndirect, another large apprenticeship provider, spoke about creating opportunities. Its messages include: apprenticeships are not better routes, they are equal; the opportunity to switch careers at any time is important; the requirement for Maths and English qualifications can create artificial barriers to recruitment; apprenticeships are a huge benefit to an employer’s business. For example, at Lloyds Bank apprentices get promoted faster, their engagement scores and grades at annual reviews are higher, and retention is better at that level.
  • Santander reflected on developing people in early careers. It has introduced WorkWise for 14-18-year-olds, sessions about the world of work, social media, job search methodologies, getting the interview and managing disappointments. In 2016, WorkWise has reached 2500 young people in schools. Santander is in the top 100 Employers of Choice for school leavers. Rathbone Training suggested that banks are in a position to really help those young people who struggle to open bank accounts.
  • IFDS, a financial services company, focused on fair employment. Twenty-seven percent of their 5500 employees are young people and 725 are apprentices. All entry-level roles are apprenticeships with salaries rising from £12.5k to £16k over 18 months. Their top three youth-friendly tips are: open your mind up to what a young person can do – they can and will amaze you; recruit as much on attitude and enthusiasm as qualifications; engage with young people in the community and advise on what you’re looking for.

The consensus emerged from the conference that young people who are furthest from the labour market are far from ready. Fixing systemic barriers is the priority. Many people were struck by the importance of a youth voice, avoiding assumptions about young people, and doing more to make their workplaces youth-friendly. ‘What is my role as a good citizen?’ was a golden thread during the day.

Testament of Youth

Here’s the youth voice from the conference:

  • We want relevant, interesting work experience and to bounce into different taster opportunities.Youth Voice
  • We need to find the balance between our social, education and work situations to make informed choices in our lives.
  • Everyone stereotypes us, painting us with a heavy brush. School careers advisers treat us as just a number and leave it to someone else to bridge the gap for us.
  • Trust us by involving us in the big decisions.
  • 3 tips for young apprentices: it’s OK to make mistakes; ask questions; put in the work if you want to progress.
  • 3 tips for employers: offer typical opportunities you offer to experienced employees to young people; allow young people to challenge existing methods and processes; give young people a chance to control their career and not be afraid to ask questions about it.

Responding to one youth voice

Robbie is a young person from a rural part of Scotland. He spoke at the conference about the lack of opportunities to be a mechanic, what he most wanted to be. He gave four options for his way forward to the 100 people at the conference. The aim was to get people to share in his frustration and to offer solutions.

I’m not going to let the fact it’s difficult stop me. Robbie, unemployed young person.

The audience responded brilliantly, offering clarity and new ideas. By the end of the day, a crowdfunding page was set up with donations rolling in to help Robbie fund driving lessons and overcome the challenge of a daily three-hour round trip from home to college to train as a mechanic. Real problem, real action, real hope.

Will this generation of young people irrevocably change with the blight of unemployment and underemployment? It doesn’t have to be this way if each of us genuinely listens, takes on board the youth voice and does something bigger than ourselves to help.

What will you pledge to do today?


How to Boost your Job and Career Search with Drive

Drive is a set of sought-after employability attributes that will help you seek, gain or retain a job throughout your career. I’m sure you know someone who lacks drive, struggles to motivate themselves and others, doesn’t get things done settles for less than is possible and does not fulfill their potential. Equally, you will know somebody else who is strongly motivated to achieve and wants to makes things happen, is results-oriented, and a self-starter who shows initiative. Which person would you hire?

Sam was in his second year of a business management degree. He got a temporary summer job working at a Gin Festival in his university city. It involved event preparation, marketing and bar work. Sam is self-motivated, ambitious and with a drive to succeed. He took the initiative and created new combinations of gin cocktails that he pitched to his boss. He liked them so much that he introduced the drinks to his menu and invited Sam to join the team on its summer tour of other cities.

Employers want self-starters like Sam. Drive is the essential ingredient to task delivery and job progression. Be explicit in what helps foster your drive, so your prospective employer or manager and colleagues know what makes you tick and how you give your best.

Attributes of drive

Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives. Daniel Pink

  • Drive is the feeling of compulsion to succeed and excel at a certain task or in a particular field. It’s your rocket fuel, an energy that propels you from within, the energy required to put the hard work, sweat, and tears into accomplishing something worthwhile. You find a way to do things and push yourself to achieve. You are persistent, persuasive and don’t give up.
  • Ambition is about the hopes and desires to which you aspire. It’s creating your dreams or to be the best you can be right where you are.  Ambition is the mother of intention and the child of intention is action.
  • Initiative is trying new things, speaking up or doing the right thing unprompted, volunteering ideas and better ways to do things, and bringing a fresh approach.
  • Self-starting is where you find things that need doing and problems to solve, where you don’t need to be told what to do every minute or constantly nagged. It’s a ‘can-do’ attitude. You can only motivate yourself, like Sam did – no one can decide that for us. It comes from within and is different for each person. Other people can only create the conditions or environment to encourage us, like Sam’s boss did.
  • Assertiveness is pursuing your goals while respecting the rights and responsibilities of others. It’s being firm and fair with a positive attitude. Driven people are assertive and take responsibility. And most importantly, they know when to say yes and when to say no. Check out this quiz.

12 tips to give your drive momentum

  1. Remind yourself of your sense of purpose and the benefits you will gain.
  2. Create space in your life to develop – show something you are good at or talk about a topic you know well.
  3. Master or improve something that matters to you and that the world needs – take a course, practice, experiment.
  4. Set your expectations for success, aspire to high standards – it will shape your reality.
  5. Do something for others without expecting anything back.
  6. Mentor someone or find a mentor.
  7. Connect with diverse people for mutual learning and sharing.
  8. Seek encouragement from people you trust and respect.
  9. Find inspiration – watch TED Talks and the School of Life, read widely, go to events.
  10. Set goals with milestones to feed your momentum, align with your values, accept responsibility for the actions and hold yourself to account.
  11. Build what you want to do differently into your daily routine so it becomes a habit – learn how to scratch an itch like Mozart.
  12. Don’t pick a job, pick a manager who trusts you so you can show your initiative.

You can’t have drive without energy. To have energy requires rest and recovery, as well as inner motivation and external stimulation. Get the balance right and the sky is not the limit.

Echo Chambers

Echo Chambers and Your Career: How to Get Good Vibrations

The failure of the pollsters in accurately predicting the results is a feature of both the US Election and the Brexit Referendum. What people say or don’t say to those who ask can distort survey findings. Who people listen to, engage with, and where, can distort their sight of the wider picture. As the world becomes more fragmented into tribes, the Internet and social media are creating echo chambers – where we exist in a bubble of similar opinions and beliefs to our own. The consequences can be greater group think and dogmatism, less listening and understanding of other perspectives.

“We live in a moment where people do not know how to hear or understand one another. And our obsession with quantitative data means that we think we understand when we hear numbers in polls, which we use to judge people whose views are different than our own. This is not productive.” Danah Boyd

However, echo chambers have opportunities as well as pitfalls. This post looks at how to maximise them for your career and how to overcome the downsides.

Seizing opportunities in Echo Chambers

Do you recognise the echo chambers you inhabit online and offline? You create your own echo chambers consciously or unconsciously every time you Follow someone on Twitter or Instagram, Like or accept a Friend on Facebook, accept or seek Connections and contribute to online groups on LinkedIn, and sign-up to blogs and newsletters. Today’s increasingly sophisticated algorithms automatically push your preferences and related ones into your timelines. Inevitably, you start to become like the five people you spend the most time with. It’s hard to escape.

Unsurprisingly, people tend not to want a daily stream of posts popping up that will rile them. Consequently, they gravitate to like-minded people, preferences, tastes, and views. Yet, that can be helpful from a career perspective in three main ways:

  • Researching potential employers, their culture, and values for job and career fit.
  • Increasing your visibility and influencing through networking, contributing your views and thought leadership in common areas of interest.
  • Building your professional image, reputation, and identity within a chosen area.

Overcoming the pitfalls

Here are some downsides of limiting yourself in echo chambers and how to overcome them.

  • Lack of diversity. Broaden your network to include people in different roles, fields, sectors, and cultures because studies say being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.

(Being) in a closed network, the more you repeatedly hear the same ideas, which reaffirm what you already believe… in an open network, the more you’re exposed to new ideas. (The latter) are significantly more successful in their careers. Michael Simmons

  • You narrow your range of job and career options if you always swim in the same pool. Test your transferrable skills, consider combining disciplines and explore outside of your usual boundaries.
  • Narrow-minded because of confirmation bias and lack of rigour to verify what is true. You may not be aware of what you pay attention to, more accepting of false information within your echo chamber, and default to refuting what lies outside. If you want to be on firmer ground and develop healthy scepticism, do your research and ask the difficult questions.
  • Your ability to change through learning and unlearning will diminish. We have to get along with people at work who can be very different from us. To build and maintain those relationships, show curiosity, listen to understand their position, empathise with their circumstances, and engage in genuine dialogue. That means sharing, testing out and maybe challenging each other’s assumptions in skilful and emotionally intelligent ways.

As the elections show, you can’t bring your healthy critical thinking into play without first understanding the what and why of someone else’s view, especially if it’s the polar opposite of your own.

What will you do inside and outside your current echo chambers to get good vibrations for your job and career? 

company size

Company Size: How To Decide What’s Right for You

Would you prefer a small but perfectly formed start-up, or maybe medium-sized is just right? Do you think “the bigger, the better”? Many people are keen to explore the kind of work culture and company size that best suits them – and it can change at different times in your life. The pros and cons of working vary, whether it’s having a more fluid role in a smaller company, having more career progression in a large company or being the master of your own destiny in a start-up company. So, what helps to decide?

Does company size matter?

Those clever people at have created an interactive quiz, Does Size Matter?, which looks at which company size might suit you. Here are some of the differences between them and links to advice from leading experts.

Working for a large company

Company SizeYou’ll likely get access to benefits like private healthcare, generous pension schemes, and a few other perks, too. Your role might be as a specialist, allowing you to focus on your expertise, with the added bonus of a diverse team to collaborate with. If you want a change, a big organisation can give you relocation opportunities and you can try new roles without leaving the company. Here’s the advice leading experts offer on the benefits, drawbacks and myths surrounding working for a large company.

Working for an SME

Company SizeAt an SME, your promotion prospects are greater and your successes are likely to be more visible by the decision-makers. You’ll have more flexibility in your role, allowing you to get involved in many different tasks. An SME is a great place to gain hands-on experience and be creative if you like to learn on the job – and it’s more often about purpose than about the money. Check out the wonderful RISE internship scheme with SMEs in Sheffield. Here’s the advice leading experts offer on the benefits, drawbacks and myths surrounding working for an SME.

Working for a start-up

Company SizeHighlights of working with a very small team include learning on the job, taking initiative, and having a big impact on a company and product. Cutting-edge ideas and experimentation are all part of the start-up experience. Although not all start-ups are successful, improving the company’s viability can also be a fun challenge. Here’s the advice leading experts offer on the benefits, drawbacks and myths surrounding working for a start-up.

Take the quiz to help you discover which company size might suit you. It gives you a starting point to explore and check out the reality.