In the next part of a series exclusively for yorkshirepost.co.uk, Careers Coach Louise Lapish of Gatewood Consulting answers your questions and deals with the problems of life after redundancy, changing career and the art of effective job seeking
Are you playing a game that you don’t know the rules for? Is the job search a roller coaster of emotion and experience, flipping from high to low on a daily or perhaps hourly basis? Clients often talk about the loneliness of the job search and how they felt that they were on the fairground ride alone until they realised that what they were experiencing is completely normal.
Hang on it’s going to be a bumpy ride
The job search to many people is simply a string of rejections, being too experienced, not being in the right sector, the fit not being 100%, someone else being a closer match and so on. With the rise of the talent shows on the television we are becoming all too used to a buzzer being pressed and someone saying, “It’s a no from me”. The job search can often feel very similar, hopes are raised when the phone rings and then shattered as a few days later there is silence. Rule 1! Never allow someone else to control your job search, be proactive not reactive.
Reset the internal voice
Rule 2. Reset your internal voice, you may get frustrated with the process and some of the characters you will meet along the way, however keep the voice in your head firmly on your side. It’s not “If I get a job.....” it is a matter of “When I get the job.....” a simple rephrasing makes a big difference. The job search roller coaster track is set to give you a bumpy ride, ensure that you refrain from allowing this to impact on your thinking. The recruitment process is not personal, the reasons for rejection are often smokescreens. Ensure that you do not allow these thoughts to damage your job search strategy.
Stay focussed on your Career Goal
Staying focussed may sound obvious, however if your strategy is only around the traditional advertised market you may get distracted by i) Jobs you think you can do – this tends to fail as recruiters are looking for the perfect candidate against an extensive client check list. ii) Jobs that are at a lower level – would you employ you to punch beneath your weight, or would you see this as a risk? iii) Jobs that allow you to do something completely different- have you considered how to sell yourself effectively to a different market? All of these distractions detract from your career goals and increase the likelihood of rejection. If you are taking a role simply for income replacement – stay on top of this and ensure you stay out of the security rut.
Positivity breeds positivity
At a senior level the roller coaster ride may last months as opposed to weeks, the higher up the ladder you climb the harder it is to find the ideal role, the process is more convoluted due to the levels of responsibility and experience required. Clients have often said they have found themselves being questioned by well meaning family and friends about why it is taking them so long to find a job. A Gatewood Client told me recently that his Wife’s Sister kept comparing her own job search successes against his apparent failures, the number of interviews she had in comparison to his. This was incredibly detrimental to his relationship with the sister and impacted on the level of support he felt. If someone has not managed at a Senior level they are unlikely to understand why it takes the length of time it does. At a senior level the job search is continuous, even when you are in your next position the blinkers must stay firmly off. Remember these people are likely to think that they are helping, find positive people who you can bounce ideas around with and keep you striving for the When not if you secure that position.
Smell the roses
Overcoming the hurdle of Clients feeling guilty is a major challenge. Job Seekers quite often feel guilty if they don’t feel they are spending all of their time job searching. The clients I work with have a clear plan, once they have completed their activities they are free to enjoy themselves – I often remind them that this gift of free time will be limited once they are back in their new role. Walk the dog, cut the grass, take a few days away, all of these are encourages when you are in control of your job search and you are working towards a clear goal. There is no need to feel guilty when you are being proactive!
Rule 1: Never allow someone else to control your job search, be proactive not reactive.
Rule 2: Reset your internal voice, stay positive
Rule 3: Keep focussed, be clear about your goals
Rule 4: Surround yourself with positive people
Rule 5. Enjoy yourself
• Louise Lapish offers a free one to one consultation for individuals facing the redundancy challenge, considering a career change or require a free CV review at www.gatewoodconsulting.co.uk
As we thought Spring had sprung, as signs of life were breaking through the ground we were plunged back into the deep freeze. As thoughts turn to a white Easter, has the big freeze set in on your job search? Were you expecting to be in a new role by now? Has the phone stopped ringing?
Are you busy doing nothing?
The phenomenon of appearing busy has never been greater, social media bombards us with messages from our friends and colleagues about how great things are. Feeling like we are always doing something has never been so important, or made us feel so important When did you last take the time to evaluate how productive your job search efforts were?
Breaking the busy cycle
As always at this time of year Gatewood Consulting has an influx of career customers – January saw the recruiter promise of, more jobs, life in the job market, new budgets and the thaw of negativity. By mid February many of the job seekers have made no progress. One new client stated, “Up until now I have spent six or seven hours per day trawling the internet.” He felt like he was being busy. There as a sense of satisfaction for doing something, in fact anything was better than having no tasks to complete. He never paused to evaluate what his results were.
Do you have a Job Search Plan?
The vast majority of my clients have secured and experienced major career successes, many have held influential roles. A large number of them will admit that they have been “career focussed” for much of their working lives. Some of these very same people have approached their job search without a plan or strategy in place. What were they trying to achieve? How could they get there?
Default Job Searching
Are you clueless in terms of putting a job search plan together? Very few of us have ever been taught how to manage our career and the roller coaster ride of the job search, those who are “in the know” have often invested in themselves. One of my clients has a daughter embarking on the world of work for the first time. Even today young people are not being armed with the information they need to put a great CV together and tackle a competitive market. Securing a new position, no matter what your age, is about having a careful plan and taking action.
Step away from the P.C
If you are whiling away hours in front of a PC, trawling through job boards- chances are you are not producing results. If you are sending round robin emails to people you have worked with asking “ do you know of any jobs going?” Ask yourself why you are not getting responses. Are you finding yourself checking emails constantly? In reality it is likely that you are only adding to your frustrations
Give your activities the Green house effect
Stop wasting time on unproductive job search activities, you are simply allowing your motivation to suffer a severe case of frost bite. Without a large blast of positivity or at least a glimmer of hope, frustration will drive you to wonder, “What is the point?) You will either allow yourself to become distracted away from the job search or allow yourself to settle back in to the career rut, if you are still employed.
Formulate a plan- then Act!
1.Evaluate where you are getting the best results from
2.Decide if these activities need further evaluation or have they fallen fallow?
3.Dig over old ground – Is your CV really cutting the mustard?
4.Keep tending your garden- always be ready to attend interviews, know your key selling points and be able to talk about them.
5.Stay positive about the results you are getting!
6.Take time out to enjoy the world around you. Once you are back in that coveted challenging role, you want to be sure you have not left a long list of things you wish you had done.
I’m Just a...fill in your own blank...this week I’ve had people say I’m just an Operations Director, Accountant, Teacher and my personal favourite, “lucky to be in the right place at the right time”. In my last column I highlighted how few of us “choose” our careers, how hardly any of us feel we have every known what we want to do. Hiding behind the job title takes it that one step further, do we ever appreciate the value we bring to the organisation we work for?
• What makes you different?
When you are going into the job market there is a lot of competition, there are potentially hundreds of applicants who are fighting for that position. An employer will usually look for reasons not to give you the job, rather than think of reasons why they should give you the job. What do I mean? It is easier to find a reason to say, “NO” than “Yes”. You may not have one of the essential criteria, you may be missing a qualification, a specific industry expertise the list goes on. When you are reading through hundreds of CVs- it is always easier to look for what is not there- at best you make it on to the maybe pile. Are you showing how you are different- what is the extra they get from you?
• Sell yourself on paper
When you are creating your CV, you need to look past the technicalities of the day job, the day to day duties and responsibilities will not demonstrate the impact you have made on the organisation you are leaving. Gatewood Consulting offer a free CV review if you are needing guidance on making yourself stand out. My top five CV tips are:
1.Be clear about the results you have achieved
2.Demonstrate what makes you different to other candidates
3.Less is more – gain their interest but don’t reveal everything!
4.Ensure you are using the right key words and terminology but not jargon
5.Be honest – you need to backup everything that you write!
Remove the emotion from the situation – underselling yourself in a competitive market will not do you any favours. A potential recruiter may not read between the lines, they may not assume that you must have done X as you are a Y. A job title is simply that – test my theory- ask someone who is close to you what you actually do....... This week a client asked his nearest and dearest to get the answer, “Something to do with chemicals”. He is an operational specialist who have ensure companies avoid injury, litigation and has saved countless lives. Even those close to us don’t necessarily understand what makes us special in our working world.
• Sell yourself in person
So you have secured the interview- this is your chance to shine. Are you fully prepared? Do you know your CV inside out? One of the most common errors is a candidate not demonstrating in person what is written on paper. To think you cannot be prepared for an interview is a fallacy. Thinking there are going to be surprise questions is merely an excuse, if the interview does not go your way- there are a finite number of questions you can be asked. Please do submit any questions you have on the interview process and I will answer them in the next column.
THE unemployment figures appear to be delighting in festive cheer as they slide downwards quarter after quarter. It has been some considerable time since we had good news and clear indicators that we are on the road to recovery. It does raise the question if Father Christmas was going to put your dream job in your stocking what would that be? If the world doesn’t end, how are you going to make 2013 work for you career?
Careering out of control
Did you ever make a conscious decision about which career path you wanted to go on? The English dictionary definition is a chosen pursuit or occupation. Do you consider that you made a choice or was it more a series of incidents that set you on the path. How many of us left school or university, took the first position we were offered then worked our way through the hierarchy. The other alternative was to try few different roles until we found one that felt like a good fit. I spoke to someone recently who said the only enjoyment he used to get at work was trying not to do any work – he was left unchallenged, bored and frustrated. This doesn’t just happen at the early stages, how many people have wondered if this is it for their career?
A few lucky people have a true vocation; they have always known what they wanted to do. This can be very difficult for their friends and siblings as they are left flummoxed in their own choices. The most common route is to fall in to a sector and there we stay. I know how lucky I am to love my job, the old cliché rings true. Find a job you love and you gain five extra days per week. It has always astounded me how people are “stuck” in their career rut, spending day after day counting down to the weekend. Their Monday morning updates making it clear they are wishing away the hours until the next weekend. Sometimes redundancy can be the wakeup call needed.
Redundancy or Wakeup call?
Redundancy can come as a bolt out of the blue for some, for others it can almost be a relief. When fate deals you the cards of change – you can either hold them close to your chest or choose to play. Mindset is crucial in terms of creating opportunity. Is your glass half full or half empty? Or should we simply be grateful that there is something in the glass?
Many have my clients have had difficult times before they are made redundant, or it has been handled badly by the organisation. Resetting the positive can be the most difficult part. Anyone can secure a new position if they want to- with the right help and guidance this becomes even easier. So what should Christmas, the end of the Mayan calendar and the end of 2012 give us?
Take the career bull by the horns
Now it is time to take the opportunity, try something new or different – don’t let this resolution fall away like all the others. Discover what opportunities are out there for you and then put an action plan in place to go after it. If you have never taken the time to decide what it is you really want to do then make 2013 your year. What does your ideal job look like, which of your skills would you most like to maximise, which parts do you want to leave behind? Life is all about making choices- is it time you chose a career that gives you back those days between weekends?
THE UK is officially out of recession and the unemployment figures are decreasing, there is a general buzz and the recruiters and job boards are coming out of hibernation. The job market is officially looking up, confidence is increasing and everything in the garden is rosy, or at least we are well on the road. What does this mean to employers and employees? What is going to happen now?
The shackles are officially off
During the recession there has been a sense of people digging in, keeping their heads down and working hard. A number of training and coaching clients have talked to me about the inherent fear of “losing their job”. This has loomed of some like a spectre. One client explained the morning motivational meeting has consisted of “you should all think yourselves lucky to have a job- many out there would be grateful.” Now the mist is clearing have these employers stored up trouble for the future? Have these employees been treading water and waiting for things to get better? If this is the case then there are many employers who may find themselves in the middle of a mass exodus.
The Passive become Active
The passive job seeker (around 75% of workers) will soon become the active, they will make the transition from simply keeping an eye out for opportunities to being a job seeker. The rise of the passive job seeker usually peaks in January, we are seeing it even earlier this year. A recruiter contact of mine said “Candidates are more positive than they have been for a while, registrations are going up as are the number of CVs of people in positions has definitely increased.” This is good news for the job market as things are starting to return for normal.
The Employee returns to power
Now employees are having the confidence to become candidates and become job seekers- what will happen within organisations? Companies who have ruled with fear, will not only face an exodus but face high attrition rates when taking on new employees. It’s time for everyone to start repairing motivation levels and investing in their teams. Relationships have become fractious and those who have been waiting for the turnaround will be packing up their desks ready to leave. We will also see compromise agreements increase, so much so our new guest blog from Pharos Legal covers what to do if you find yourself in this scenario.
Contractors come out of hibernation
During the recession there is a natural reluctance for contractors to work in the high risk contract market. Now companies are coming out of hibernation so are the contractors. Many organisations are still looking at low risk recruitment, this is where the contractor comes in to their own. A network contact of mine needs a Project Manager to start in a role straight away- I put it out to a number of my clients and ex clients- all I spoke to were just stating new contracts, about to start new contracts or had secured a contract extension. The green shoots are definitely showing. This could also mean that the contractors who have been hidden in full time roles will rejoin the contractor mix. If employers are not cautious they could find their knowledge and skills gap increase.
Career Change and Transition
The other indicator that things are becoming increasingly positive in the job market is, the increase in career changers. During a candidate rich market my clients are often those looking for their dream job, it is not about any job but “the job”. They invest to uncover what they truly should be doing and where they would get the most satisfaction. The fear of leaving a career has significantly lessened, they are able to take risks. Clients taking the plunge and establishing micro businesses and consultancies is also on the increase. So employers batten down the hatches you are in for a bumpy ride if you haven’t paid your team due care and attention. Candidates- the choice is now yours take control.
A CV is a sales tool, it is designed to present your strengths to a potential employer and demonstrate the benefits an organisation will receive by having you on board. Are people as quick to judge your CV as they are to judge you in person? The reality is yes – you do only have a few seconds to make a first impression either in writing or face to face. So does making your CV stand out mean you are more likely to secure an interview?
Standing out from the crowd – good or bad idea?
I followed a recent discussion about CVs and people perceptions when they receive them. One of the major talking points was the use of comic sans as a chosen font. The majority of people in the discussion said an overwhelming no to this font- ok if you are 5 years old and writing a poem, not so good if you are CEO of a major organisation. Then came the back lash on “judging a book by its cover” are people right to make an assumption straight away? The honest is answer is if your CV stands out to a potential employer for the wrong reason then they are unlikely to get past the first paragraph and read more. Times New Roman also received negativity being deemed old fashioned and dull. Arial or Calibri are both acceptable fonts- ensure that the font size is around 11 to enable your audience to read it clearly.
People have made their CV stand out in even bigger ways –I once received a CV on a piece of Perspex- it as a beautiful piece of work. It stood out to me, but what also stood out was that the candidate’s heart lay elsewhere – she wanted to be a graphic designer but was looking for an alternative role until she landed her dream career. If I had been looking for someone in graphic design she would have got an interview. Other candidates have used garish paper to ensure their CV is spotted.
Curriculum, Ciraculam, Cer......
Most people are fairly familiar with what a CV is and what job it is supposed to do. Many people still feel the need to title the document, many misspelling Curriculum Vitae. Another chance to scupper the all important first impressions a potential employer forms. It’s about you so ensure that your name stands out, although adding a picture is a no no in the UK job market. Check the spelling throughout the CV – it is easy to miss a word – get someone else to proof read it. Remember this is not a life story but a tool to open the door to interview opportunities. I met with a recruiter recently who said, “I don’t change incorrect spellings on a CV – I wouldn’t want to hood wink my client”. Certainly food for thought.
Content, Content, Content
One of my Gatewood Consulting clients recently came to me with a CV that was underselling him. It started talking about his success as head boy (he was in his 50’s), then each position he had held was nothing more than a job spec. He listed responsibilities rather than achievements. As a nation we are not renowned for selling ourselves but in this market we have to. When we worked together to re-write it he was amazed by the difference. It pitched him at the right senior level and he said “I don’t recognise myself”. There was not a hint of over exaggeration on the document, we simply highlighted his achievements and presented them in a much clearer way. How are you supposed to know how to create a Senior Level CV when you may never have even seen one? The reason it is simple for someone like me to write the CV is objectivity. I see each person as a product rather than being personally involved. This ensures a CV can be more positive and powerful and easier for both recruiters and potential employers to understand you.
Top CV Tips
1.Check your spelling and grammar
2.List achievements as opposed to responsibilities
3.Use a mainstream font and layout
4.Look at your achievements objectively
Gatewood Consulting provides a free one to one career evaluation or CV evaluation for individuals looking to return to work or change career path.
THE summer months always provide a bedrock of excuses and distractions when it comes to reasons why people should not be job seeking, holidays, childcare, gardening and the stagnant market. Year in year out the crucial summer weeks are wasted by job seekers who have been running a reactive job search campaign. Last Monday three Gatewood Consulting clients were interviewing for senior positions, in the middle of the quietest month in recruitment. What were they doing differently?
A Gatewood Consulting client stated recently, “I’m surprised I ever managed to get a job, I didn’t realise how little I knew about job searching.” Job searching has changed significantly over the years and many at senior levels have experienced linear progression throughout their chosen career. Headhunting was common place in the days when candidate was Champion, companies would source people from within their industry and interviews were a mere formality. Headhunting is still occurring but with less frequency, some of my clients have never had to job search, so why should they be surprised that they no longer understand the rules of the game?
The first thing that people do to sabotage their own job search is starting it when they have been made redundant or signed their compromise agreement. Too often an individual can feel trapped in a role, they are being held hostage by their employer as people don’t want to move jobs in a recession. An employee will work harder and longer to prove that they should be kept on the pay roll. They don’t feel they are in a position to push for pay rises, flexibility or training; others are guilty of putting their blinkers on and missing the writing on the wall. If you are feeling trapped and are not thinking proactively about your next move you are relinquishing control of or career to those around you. Would you consider doing this with any other aspect of your life? Life is full of choices and you have the right to make them for yourself.
Secondly, those that are dipping their toe in to the job search pool do so unprepared. CVs fail on numerous levels, lack of preparation, assumption that it has worked before and so will work this time too, failure to understand what the CV needs to achieve in this market. If you are looking for a senior level salary then your marketing tools need to ensure that you demonstrate why you are worthy of the investment. Gatewood Clients are consistently amazed at the difference in their CV when we work together- quite often this is because they have never seen a Senior Level CV, only the ones of their subordinates. An average CV will not cut the mustard in such a competitive market; you must invest the time to ensure you are opening the door to as many opportunities as possible.
Thirdly, the opportunity is not going to come knocking, you have to go out and create it. Many individuals who have come to me have defaulted into a reactive job search. They only make progress when they see something advertised or get a rare call from a recruiter, spending hours in front of a lap top on job boards and Linkedin is unproductive. It does make people feel like they are doing something; realistically they are drifting through the job search. This is where the distractions take over, the list of jobs around the house becomes priority, the children need looking after. Without our usual routine we can lose focus, our priorities change, confidence diminishes and the period between roles become longer and longer.
Finally the biggest mistake and the thing certain to sabotage your job search is believing that you have been doing everything right. If you are not getting interviews, something is wrong. If you are not getting the job offers then your strategy is not working. If you are not having business conversations you are closing doors rather than opening them. Put a plan together ensuring that you are prepared with a high quality CV, your interview questions are polished with answers that sell your achievements and demonstrate your potential to employers. Have confidence that by being proactive you are carving out a future that you are in control of and even when you secure that next position you must continue thinking about what happens next. If the summer months have been quiet and reactive now is the time to get active and make September a new start.
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, at first it can send you reeling into shock and everything you thought you could rely on has changed. Once the initial shock subsides we may start to look back and think that the warning sides were there. As humans we are often quite happy to go through life with blinkers on. The writing may be on the wall yet we choose to ignore it. This approach is also a defence mechanism, we don’t want to think about the bad things that may happen. I am certainly not suggesting that we focus on the negative, or the what ifs?, it is more about taking control back and planning what changes you may want to make.
How can you start to identify the warning signs? What do you need to do to put an action plan in place and make things happen? When I first meet a Gatewood client I often get the same responses, 1) There are no jobs out there. 2) Why did it happen to me? 3) I want to do something different. These are all common responses when a major life change happens and being made redundant is one of those big changes! We hold great credence in our job titles and our careers, they are a large part of our make-up and our identity. Think about how many times you have introduced yourself by your job title, What do you do? I’m an accountant, a Lawyer, a Teacher. Is that what you do or what you are called. I am a Coach (job title) I help people set and achieve career and business related goals helping them achieve success quicker.(what I do). What do you actually do? Think about each aspect of your role in real terms.
There is no such thing as a job for life
There is no such thing as a job for life, now we have that out of the way we can start to plan how to deal with the changes. If we are expecting to make changes it ensures that we stay in control through every step of our career. Look at your career to date, have you done a number of roles in different organisations, a number of roles in the same organisation or one single job? If you have held multiple roles you can just how evident the reality of no job is for life. Does this make handling this redundancy easier, perhaps not, it will prepare you for the eventuality of it happening in the future. More and more people are facing redundancy numerous times during their career, it gets much easier as you are always planning for the next transition.
A client asked me recently, “If I am always thinking about the next job, am I being disloyal in my current role?” This is a common reaction, a job seeker works so hard to find a job, once they have one they put their heart and soul in to it. Blinkers back on and work horse mentality. I am not suggesting that you are disloyal to your current employer, by being a valued employee you will create more opportunities. The next position does not have to be outside of your current organisation. In reality there will probably be a timeline for any contract position and some permanent positions. I have seen individuals who should have recognised 12 months earlier that their role was coming to a natural conclusion. Having this type of awareness and being open about it can make life much easier for both parties involved, so do a good job and your current employer will recommend you highly and more than likely assist you in the transition.
Be confident that there are jobs out there and you will find something to move on to. In many cases this can be a really positive move, I have worked with hundreds of clients and most have moved on to something better be it financially, work life balance or the complete change they had always dreamed of. Keeping a positive view of things can be difficult when you are in your job search bubble, believe in yourself and know what you do has market worth.
Why did it happen to me?
“Why did it happen to me?” This is a fairly common response to any major life change, it is difficult to look for the positives when that curve ball hits. People who have been made redundant, wonder if things could have been different, they have often worked hard to ensure they were the best performers, only for the whole department to be cut. The emotional journey can be quite turbulent, people find it difficult not to take things personally. Once these feelings have subsided then the time to be proactive and positive kicks in.
The summer months are the time to get yourself ready to go to market –revise your CV ensuring it is pitching you at the right level and your strengths and skills are easily visible. Do seek a second opinion to ensure that you are not underselling yourself. Book a one to one career consultation to identify how our services can ensure that you have all the tools to take control of your career. Gatewood Consulting offer a free one to one consultation for anyone job seeking or facing redundancy.
If you would like to ask her a question for answer in a future column, please post a comment under this article, or email firstname.lastname@example.org