Four Reasons To Meet In Person

When you are job hunting, without exception, it is better to meet in person, whether it is a speculative connection with a recruiter, or a networking meeting with someone from your past, it is always better to go for face to face.  Don’t let them fob you off with a telephone chat, Skype or emails (although, these are better than nothing!).  A personal chat, face to face will help to get you remembered.

Reasons:

1              Rapport building.  This is the most important reason for meeting face to face.  The key point is that you can see their body language and respond to it accordingly and crucially, they can see yours.  There are numerous studies showing that verbal communication is only a small percentage (as low as 7%) of total communication between people.  The rest is posture, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and a host of subliminal messages that you are not consciously aware of.  Almost none of this comes across in an email and only a little more in a telephone conversation.  Skype is better, but the only effective way to communicate fully with another human being, build rapport and gain trust is in a face to face meeting.

2              You’re off the record.  Over the phone or via email, the time they spare you is likely to be less and you may not hear the most important information they have.  In person, once you have built rapport, they are likely to let you know more, with more depth.

3              Make use of small-talk.  Most business conversations over the phone or via email are focused on solving a problem quickly and efficiently.  In reality, good relationships are built when people take the time to share and learn more about each other.  Listening to the other person and allowing them the time to tell you things about themselves are vital to building a relationship.  This happens more naturally face to face.  Find some common ground, a shared interest or just ask them questions about themselves (without turning it into the third degree!).  Remember what they tell you (make a note of them somewhere) and use them next time you talk.  This shows the other person that you are taking an interest and that you care about them.

4              Make an impression.  You are trying to find work, you want the person you are meeting to remember you at appropriate moments.  Therefore, you must make a good impression.  Be able to talk knowledgably about your field – do your research beforehand (on the person, their business, the sector and anything else relevant) – and have a handful of impressive stories (true ones) that illustrate your expertise in the area.  Be helpful – offer to send them a relevant article, or to put them in touch with someone if appropriate.

Personally, I love the new technologies and how they enable us to stay in touch with people freely and quickly; but I never lose sight of the fact that people do business with people.  If you want someone to employ you, they have to like and trust you first.  Nothing beats the effectiveness of a truly personal, face to face meeting.

(Image from Flickr: “Business Meeting in Coffee Shop” by gailjadehamilton)

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please make a comment below.

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If All the World’s a Stage, Are You Playing the Right Role?

I am involved in the local Amateur Dramatics society and as I desperately try to learn my lines, work out what facial expressions I should be using and where I should be standing (it’s Dress Rehearsal tonight!); it makes me consider how many different roles I have played at various times in my life: boyfriend, husband, father, uncle, brother, neighbour, friend, colleague, manager, coach, mentor, director, advisor …and I hope, more to come!

Many of us compartmentalise our lives, and put on a different face for different aspects of our lives.  I am reminded of my childhood, when a family row might be in mid-flow; then the doorbell would ring and everyone was instant smiles and acting “normally” again, all arguments hidden – the whole family conspiring to project an acceptable public face.  This was never discussed, it’s just how we behaved.

As a basic minimum, most of us have a work persona, a friends and family persona and a public persona.  Often, none of them are our real selves and it can cause us confusion when boundaries are crosses; for example, out for a drink with work colleagues and you run into some friends and different behaviour is expected of you by each group.  Those who fare best are those who are closest to being themselves at all times.

Interviews are very stressful situations.  It’s an environment where most people tend to clamp down on their personalities and behave in what they think is an entirely professional manner, crushing their real selves in an attempt to win the job.  Generally speaking, this is a mistake.  Be professional, yes; but be yourself too.  Showing the real you to the employer is crucial to them believing in you and offering you the job.

It is harder to maintain different personas with the advent of Social Media.  There is the LinkedIn me and the Facebook me.  The comments and information, etc. that goes on each is very different.  Nevertheless, all of it is still me and basically represents “my brand”: it is consistent with who I am and there is nothing there that I would mind a prospective employer seeing (or my mother, my wife, the children, etc. etc.).

As human beings, we have the ability to change and transform ourselves.  As we age, there will be changes in our appearance and our cognitive abilities; but we also have the ability to change the purpose and the direction of our lives, to improve ourselves, to increase our knowledge and understanding; to play a different role.  These changes can be brought on by external influences, e.g. redundancy, or they can come through deliberate examination of your life.

We can make a conscious decision to play a different part, especially if we are unhappy.

What roles do you play and how much do you enjoy them?

Posted in Career Advice, Career Change, Career Transition, Redundancy, Social Networking Jobseeking, Wellbeing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Fired or Going Under

If you have never been sacked you are pretty lucky. For some reason the British are a little shy of saying when they have been fired but it is a normal part of working life and happens to far more of us than we talk about at polite dinner parties.

This week’s blog is written by guest blogger Ali Hanscomb:

Some of the great people of our time have been sacked or removed from the companies that they created.

Steve Jobs being removed from Apple is one of the best stories around and he said at the time he could have left and moved away because it upset him so much. Instead he bought Pixar and created Toy Story. He also created a company called NeXT which although not particularly successful formed the basis of the operating system now used on all MACs. When he returned to Apple he managed to create some of the most successful products of all time.

At Microsoft the story goes that worrying about how successful they had been Bill Gates started employing people whose companies had failed so that Microsoft could learn the lessons.

I have been fired twice. Once was on a very memorable day, it was Princess Diana’s wedding when I had taken a waitressing job and returned a pizza which was still frozen, gave the person a free meal and was instantly sacked for acting above my pay grade. I think I was right.

The second sacking was much more shocking to me. I was in a senior position and had been given a rave appraisal and then went on holiday for two weeks and off sick with asthma for two weeks. I came back to have my normal meeting with my manager (the third director in that position in under a year) and was told to clear my desk. Unfortunately I had not been in the organisation for a year so could not do much about it.

Whilst the rationale for the sacking was that suddenly whilst I was away their previous good opinion had been undermined in actuality it was much more complex and involved a cash issue and power struggle. I was however devastated and it took me a long time to pick myself back up.

On reflection it was not the right role for me and was miles away so travelling took up a great deal of my time and energy. It meant that I fell back on my own resources and did a great deal of reflection. It also meant that I started my own business again and recognised that I didn’t really fit into a bureaucratic culture of for that matter like working for a manager.

Getting over these things takes time and effort, it means having mentors and coaches in place to support you along with good friends and the odd bottle of wine. It also means having a re think about career and role and considering how you are going to pay the bills in future. Fear can stop you from doing this, fear of bankruptcy, loss of face and reputation and of the central core of who you are but it is an urgent task not just to jump back into work but to take some time to think about making things better and getting a better job.

Many thanks to guest blogger Ali Hanscomb for writing this post.

If you are affected by this blog, please place a comment blow to tell us your experience.

Posted in Career Advice, Career Change, Career Transition, Job Seeking, Over 50s, Redundancy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 CV Top Tips to Appeal to the Selector’s Sub-Conscious

There are estimates that over a billion CVs are screened all over the world every year.  Recruiters and employers may take as little as 7 to 10 seconds to decide whether to reject you or to consider you a little more closely.  If they do look closer, it may mean only another 30 seconds or so of their attention; so getting into the “to be considered for interview” pile takes more than just blind luck.  Your CV must push all the right buttons, showing that you meet the job spec and have all the right experience, education, training and suitability for the position.  But that’s still not enough.  The decision making process that a selector goes through is not entirely logical.  They are human beings too (although it may not feel like it), and they are subject to the same survival-evolved decision-making process as the rest of us, and it is flawed.  The good news is that there are things you can do (if you know how) to appeal to the sub-conscious of the reader.  These are some tips that should help this process:

  1. Showcase your experience over your education and responsibilities – it’s experience that counts.  No doubt you are proud of your education, and if it’s relevant, it should be on your CV; but businesses generally aren’t so bothered.  Stress your experience and achievements as much as possible.
  2. Do not exaggerate – giving the best possible impression of yourself and showing yourself in the best light are important, but exaggeration will destroy your credibility.  You should showcase your real, concrete achievements early in the CV, but never tell lies.  They will lead to your downfall.
  3. Use “competency statements”.  Each CV you produce should be tailored for the particular job to match your skills and experience to the requirements of the position.  Competency statements link your experience to your skills and abilities.  For example: “Created and grew successful teams, demonstrating strong leadership and flexibility”
  4. Do not use a creative layout – they tend to give the impression that you are unprofessional.  There are exceptions, such as when applying for a position in a highly creative industry; but generally, a creative layout will cause an immediate rejection (probably one of the 7 seconds ones!).
  5. Don’t stint on information.  In the good old days, teasers in your CV would cause the recruiter to pick up the phone and talk to you to find out more.  Nowadays, if it’s not there, they probably won’t bother.  It’s too easy for them to move on to the next one as they are spoilt for choice.  So make their life easy and put in the relevant details.  Don’t get too carried away as a 6-page CV will probably not be read; but up to 3-pages is generally acceptable.
  6. Don’t try to stand out in the wrong way – for example; don’t use coloured paper or different colours in the text.  It may be tempting to try to get yourself noticed like this, but remember; the people reading your CV are flawed human beings the same as you and me and they will be affected.  Colours on a CV cause the sub-conscious to scream “unprofessional” and will most likely lead to its rejection.

Don’t give them reasons to reject you, make their life as easy as you can and show the best fit between their requirements and your skills and abilities.

If you have any thoughts on CVs, please share them in the comments.

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Top Seven CV Mistakes to Avoid

Whatever your reason for seeking a new job, whether you are facing redundancy or your current boss has annoyed you once too often, your CV will be the starting point for your job search.  Unfortunately, it is all too easy to make mistakes that will put potential employers off and maybe cause them not even to read your CV.  An ill-considered CV can actually do you more harm than good.

  1. My CV was good enough 10 / 15 / 20 years ago, it’s good enough now – the style of the CV you made when you first started work is unlikely to be suitable for your current needs.  Update it – your achievements and experience are what matter most now, and they should be visible prominently on the first page.
  2. Sausage, but no sizzle – a list of responsibilities can be tedious to read through.  What the potential employer wants to know is what you have done that is relevant for their role.  So, as above, list achievements prominently.  Be specific, talk about where you have made a difference, increased turnover, productivity, profits or reduced costs, etc.  This is no time for modesty and make sure it’s relevant for the role.
  3. Me, me, me, me, me – it’s easy to focus too strongly on your own requirements for a new position and to ignore the employers’.  Yes, you need a certain level of income, work that interests and stimulates you, autonomy, lots of holidays and so on; but employers are generally interested in their needs, not yours.  Your CV must show that you understand what these are and how you can meet them.
  4. My last boss was rubbish! – most people have had a poor boss at some point, but always turn such situations into a positive message: perhaps mention how you work well under pressure and / or can handle difficult co-workers comfortably.  Criticising past bosses or organisations reflects badly on you and potential new employers will question your loyalty.  Your CV should not give reasons for leaving your various roles and mentioning things like “lawsuit”, “sexual harassment” and “tribunal” will ensure your CV goes straight in the bin.
  5. Waffling on too much – your friends and relatives may (just) have the patience to trawl through every job you’ve had since school, but potential employers and recruiters will not.  The past ten years should be covered in detail, plus only relevant positions from before that.
  6. Look at this, look at this! – printing your CV on bright green or blue paper will certainly make it stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.  First impressions count: your CV needs to look professional and business like or it will not be taken seriously.  Do not be tempted to use second class stamps (or even worse, your current employer’s franking machine!), or cheap paper and envelopes.  Use quality paper for a quality applicant.
  7. Scattergun approach – just because a job’s been advertise does not mean you have to apply.  Be choosy.  Ask yourself if you are well suited to the role and how well you can demonstrate this.  A small number of quality applications, each tailored to the role, will be much more successful than generic applications to many jobs.

More on CVs to follow.  If you have any suggestions for serious CV mistakes to avoid, please share them in the comments below.

Posted in Career Advice, Career Change, Career Transition, CVs, Job Seeking, Over 50s, Redundancy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Managing the Stress of Redundancy

 Whether you have lost your job through redundancy or are being redeployed, any career change can be stressful.

When my former employer’s turnover started to plummet, it was obvious that they had to do something and that they would be making redundancies.  But when I was summoned into that office and the axe actually fell on my neck, it still came as a big shock.  All sorts of emotions ran through me over the next few days: denial, anger, bargaining; and when these made no difference, depression.  It took a while for me to gradually accept the situation and then start to get on with my life.  This is effectively a grieving process – when you are made redundant, a big part of your life has disappeared – it takes time to come to terms with it.  Whatever your circumstances, any career change will be challenging and will test your strength.  There are several strategies that will help you to cope with the stress as you start your job search:

  1. Gain some perspective:  An important chunk of your life is now missing and this can make you feel out of control.  It is not, however, the end of the world.  There are things you can do – ask yourself what activities you can add to your life to restore some balance, and what unnecessary things you can remove or postpone.
  2. Keep positive:  It is very easy when facing job loss for your thoughts to turn inwards and become irrational.  Strong emotions of denial, anger and depression are to be expected in this period of grief and loss.  Finding safe people and places where you can express these emotions will help to relieve your stress.  Finding someone you trust, whether a family member, friend, a support group or a professional will help you with keeping perspective and keeping positive.
  3. Look after yourself:  It is very important to keep your body healthy during times of stress.  Bad eating habits can easily set in, so give it a little thought and try to set yourself a healthy diet with an exercise routine.  It doesn’t have to be too strenuous, just keep yourself active.  Maybe exercise with a partner or in a group.  A good diet and regular exercise will give you more energy and help you to focus on your job hunt.
  4. Consider your finances: Often the biggest worry during a period without work.  The whole family is affected by the situation, so discuss it with them all.  What are the most important financial needs?  How can you collectively meet them?  What changes are needed to the household budget?  Getting the whole family to understand the situation and how they can help will reduce your stress.
  5. Be proactive:  Have a plan which you have broken down into manageable chunks and get on with it.  Get your CV written and start to get in touch with your networking contacts.  People will want to help you – reach out to them and ask.
  6. Consider a career change:  What do you really want to do, what do you like about your previous job and what do you want to avoid?  Further advice in this career change post.
  7. Remember, you are not alone.  There are many others going through the same emotions and upsets.  Surround yourself with supportive people who understand you and your situation.  Use this time to rethink and to take control.

It may not feel like it at the moment, but redundancy can (and often does) result in positive life changes.  You will often hear people who have been through it saying “It didn’t feel like it at the time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Have you recently been through redundancy?  How did you handle the stress?  Share your suggestions in the comments.

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5 Ways To Keep Motivated In Your Job Search

Searching for your next job can be a lonely and tedious task.  This Thursday’s post makes some suggestions on ways to keep yourself positive and motivated through the process:

  1. When you are searching for a new job, give some thought as to why.  Do you want better money, better prospects, a shorter commute, or even to get away from your present boss?  If you are currently out of work, the answer may seem obvious; but it is still very important to keep yourself motivated, so reminding yourself why every now and then will help.  Write down your motivations and refer back to the list often. Finding a new job generally takes a lot of time and effort, so thinking about why you started can be useful to help you stick with it.
  2. Visualise the outcome.  Imagine you have achieved your goal – you are in your new job: what does it feel like, how happy do you feel and what effect does it have on you and those around you?  Look at it from various viewpoints and commit yourself to being there.  Put all the negative scenarios out of your mind and focus on how you will feel when you succeed.
  3. Start now.  There are always reasons to put things off – stop making excuses and get on with it.  Make a plan and stick to it: Update your CV, post it on job sites, contact recruiters and work your network.  Set yourself goals and take action to achieve them.  Share the goals with someone you trust and review your progress with them regularly – that way you have someone other than yourself you can be held accountable to.  Don’t delay, start now!
  4. Be kind to yourself.  When you achieve a goal, reward yourself.  For example, if it was me and my goal was to tailor my CV and apply to two relevant jobs today, I might reward myself by buying a book I’ve had in mind for a while (or possibly a bar of chocolate, if I’m feeling poor!).  Rewards are very personal and should be tailored to your own values so that you are motivated by them.  Positive reinforcement like this will help to keep you going.
  5. Break tasks down into bite-sized chunks.  Big tasks can seem insurmountable, so chop them up into smaller tasks.  For example, re-writing your whole CV at the start of your job search is a big job, so approach it section by section.  Tackling the task in small parts will help to get you started.

How do you motivate yourself with tasks you do not particularly enjoy?  Please let me know in the comments below.

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