Category Archives: Employment

Skills, attitudes, attributes, strengths, weaknesses, ones to watch out for . . .

New Year, New Fear

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New Year, New Fear

In the eight-week run up to Christmas, I attended no less than eight job interviews. That’s one per week! (For those of you whose brains are still reeling from the impacts of the festive season.)

“Well, that’s great!” Some of you may be thinking. And yes, in some respects, it is. It means that my CVs, covering letters and job applications are good enough. They are working as they should. Writing CVs, covering letters and applications is one of my strengths; of this I am sure.

“But hang on a minute, if you attended eight job interviews that means . . . ”

Exactly, I didn’t get any job offers! And herein lies the problem. It’s all well and good writing job applications so good you beat hundreds of others to the interview stage, (for one job I was informed there were over three hundred applicants), only then to be told,

“You don’t have enough experience.”

I made my experience clear on the job application though? And this wasn’t just one or two times I heard this. It was every time. Feedback following every single interview I’ve had so far (and it’s more than the eight preceding Christmas), has been,

“You interviewed very well, but we hired someone with more relevant experience,”

Well, I can’t do anything about the experience I currently lack – unless someone gives me a break so I can get it! So where do I go from here?

 

Sell-fie

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Sell-fie

I’m posting about the entire process one has to endure to find themselves in the world of employment. Whether it be forging a new career, starting on a new venture, or just a job to tide you over, we must all try to sell ourselves! I, like most, often find this a particularly tricky issue despite being able to do this for others so easily. Having had some experience with creative CV writing for others with success, I understand the basics of what is required to grab the attention of employers and make a job application really stand out. However, when it comes to me, I often struggle to think of a single USP on the spot, despite having several filed away in there somewhere . . .

This begs the question:

“How can I sell myself successfully?” 

For that is essentially what we have to do. We need to make it transparent to a potential employer why they should hire us and not someone else. What we have, that no one else does, has to be displayed like a Peacock to grab their attention. For those of you like myself; reserved, quiet, introverted, anxious, this does not come naturally! For most it is quite unnatural to think of ourselves as being better than others, in fact, quite often, it is the exact opposite. This means that sometimes the more modest of us lose out to our more flamboyant competitors.

I believe that clear and transparent communication is the key. Quite often, how we perceive what we are communicating to others is quite different from what they actually hear. It is natural to think that your interviewer knows more than you do, after all, if they are your superior, surely they must do to be hiring you? I have learned that this assumption is not always the case. Always explain fully how you demonstrate a key skill or USP through an example in detail and why it is relevant.

I’m discussing feedback for an unsuccessful interview (it happens to us all from time-to-time); the interview feedback was positive and the reason the candidate was not offered the position was because there was another candidate who had several years more experience (not much can be done about that). Constructive criticism given post-interview, was that they did not give specific enough examples when answering questions about how to demonstrate necessary skills and experience. They had rehearsed their responses and were sure they had linked relevant work experience and how those skills are transferable to the current role, with a supporting example! On paper, it all seemed flawless; but clearly this was not how the interviewers (there were three of them) perceived the responses.

This just goes to show the discrepancy between what the two parties were hearing. Also the importance of understanding exactly what it is the employers are looking for. Sometimes, it just is experience, and no matter how creative your responses are, all you can do is keep seeking more experience! Whether it’s voluntary, taking a step down or making a side-step. However, most often there are ‘buzz words‘ employers are looking for that they must hear to grab their attention.

“Where do I find these ‘buzz words?’ you may be asking. The answer is: Do your research! It may seem obvious but I have found that more often than not companies use their favourite buzz words and phrases within the first two paragraphs of their home and about section. Linking your ethos and values to this can really help to support an application and when being interviewed.

Another really important point is – keep it relevant. If you are lacking a bit in experience and don’t want to make this too obvious; when giving examples of your transferable skills, check that you have supported their relevance with a clear example that relates to the job role you are going for! The best way to do this is to read and highlight the job description/profile you have been provided with. Often employers will list the most essential skills first and quite often will indicate whether a skill is essential or desirable by marking it ‘E’ or ‘D’. Be prepared to have at least three examples rehearsed and choose whichever one is most appropriate during the interview.

If you can, support your previous successes with facts and figures where appropriate. If you improved the efficiency of the company’s CRM system by 80% then jolly well say so! Take pride in your success and of course, do keep these honest and be prepared to show evidence – don’t manipulate them as this may come back to bite you when the employer checks with your references and this won’t bode well with either party – you want to keep your referees thinking highly of you, just in case you don’t get this one.

A few ideas from my own personal experience and that of clients. I do not allege to be an expert by any means and if anyone else has anything useful they would like to share – please do so. It would be very much appreciated in the fast-paced and competitive job market of today!

small steps

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small steps

Well I suppose I am getting more regular with this once again. Not posting as often as I would like, but making progress, and that is what matters. I owe this to my radical turn around of ideas, mindset and general outlook on life. I am undergoing a challenging decision making progress but feeling very positive for my prospects in the future. I am open minded but feel I understand myself more now; having gone through this process. I can accept my limitations without judgement; and choose to move in a new direction. A successful and fulfilling outcome lies ahead.

I have learned, among other things, that it is all too easy to be deterred by setbacks and feel disappointed if we feel like we’re not getting somewhere as fast as we would like; and we forget to look back and realise just how far we have come. How many steps we have made since we started. If we are always concerned with how far we have left to go, we tend to beat ourselves up and forget to congratulate ourselves for just how far we have come. Whether we have made one step or several, a step in any direction is better than stagnation.  Even if sometimes this requires us taking a step back, if we stop to reflect for a moment we will realise this is still a step away from where we were and that is progress.

As a teacher and support worker I have learned the hard way, for myself and my students, that learning and progress are not linear. They both require diversions and mistakes to be made, for this is how we learn. As I scientist I firmly believe that trial and error is how we have made our way through evolution so successfully over all these years. After all, Albert Einstein did define insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” and I believe there is much truth and wisdom behind these words. We must learn to try new things throughout our life and to allow ourselves to embark on this journey and accept that we will not be perfect, mistakes will be made and there will always be more to learn.

 

The Present of the Moment

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The Present of the Moment

Wow. Was it really that long ago since I thought about you? Since I took the time and used the energy to commit myself to getting to know you? Yes, I believe it was. How time will pass us by, no matter what we do and how we do it. It doesn’t matter how we live our lives, time will always remain the same. Consistent. Reliable. Cruel. Real.

How many of us can honestly say that we take the time to just be. To live and breathe and emerge ourselves in the present moment. To let go of time itself and just observe ourselves, our surroundings, the world, for what it is. To let go of conscious thoughts of the past and present, what was, what might have been, what might be, and just focus on what is. Here. In the here and now.

I know I haven’t. I find it far too easy to become wrapped up in what I haven’t done, what I needed to do, the should haves, the could haves, the would haves and the if only’s. Oh the bain of the if only’s. If only I had studied psychology instead of biochemistry, if only I hadn’t moved back to Kent, if only I had stuck it out, said this, did that, didn’t do that! What a waste of time and energy. But what if I could release myself from the grip of ruminating in the past, the anxiety of the unknown in the future, dwelling on things beyond my control?

I am referring to the practice of mindfulness. The guidance required to learn to let-go of reflecting and ruminating and to just live in the now. To stop doing and start being, now, in this moment. This is a powerful tool when it comes to coping with debilitating conditions such as depression and anxiety. With the help of apps like headspace you can take back control and learn to live life how you want to, even if only for a few minutes, to gain perspective of the reality of what is really going on. To prevent catastrophising and see things as they really are. This is the power time has over us. Mindfulness takes the power of time and returned it to you. So you are able to function in the present. Believe yourself better.

Bit of a Break

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Wow, it has been a while since I have posted on here, how time just flies! I have just had my 28th Birthday which has made me realise that another year has nearly passed and I have been reflecting. How my life has changed and move forward once again in such a relatively short space of time. My time of employment in the world of marketing drew to a close at the end of March this year. I am still available for freelance assignments but I have decided to focus in a new direction – teaching.

Yes, a completely different direction yet again! I hear you exclaim, what brought me to make such a drastic decision. Well, contrary to popular belief teaching is not the ‘easy’ option of avoiding the 9am-5pm role in an office. The long holidays are appealing but I am learning fast that they are not always there to be enjoyed for leisure! Teacher’s are expected to commit a lot of extra time to training and self-improvement. As it stands, I have just completed Level 1 which included a 5 week placement in which I have planned, taught and, on occasions, despaired! However, the rewards are immense. There’s nothing quite like watching the little light bulb flick on behind young, curious eyes as all the cogs tick and suddenly, everything falls in to place. Having experienced all manner of 9-5 roles I feel confident that teaching is the right choice for me.

Teaching offers a dynamic, creative, problem-solving, interactive and challenging role! You never sit still, get a moments peace or are left struggling to find things to do or say. As someone who bores easily, hates sitting still for too long and likes variety and flexibility it ticks all the boxes. Not only that, but teaching secondary science allows me to apply all the skills I have gained over the years in to one role. It combines my creative, logical and scientific abilities and I can’t wait to get started!

While I enjoyed marketing, I realised about 3 months in to my 6 month internship that it just wasn’t meeting all my expectations. I soon became bored with the mundaneness of the 9am-5pm environment, despite working with some fantastic and interesting people. I became restless having to stare at the same screen day in, day out. It became obvious that this field was not as lucrative and as dynamic as I had hoped and the enthusiasm I had started with soon wore off. There are aspects that I really enjoyed – I loved being responsible for the companies social media and working on the competition and blog projects, liasising with freelance journalists and writers, writing copy for an entire brochure, showing off my proof reading skills and combining my problem solving skills with my creative ability. However, I often found the lack of logic and consistency frustrating and the ‘that’ll do’ quicksilver attitude frustrating. I’m very pedantic and like everything to be completed properly and precisely and there just wasn’t the time to get all narky about it.

I did learn a lot of useful skills during my internship other than marketing. My excel skills are now fully up-to-date and have come in very handy in my teacher training. My knowledge and understanding of how business and company strategies run across the board has exceeded my own expectations and I have an in-depth understanding of how to manage a business project from start to finish, far improved from what I started with. My attention to detail allowed me to pick up and apply processes from all different departments and I feel confident that this will really help me to succeed in all areas of my life. So overall, a very worthwhile learning experience.

Interview Expectations: Attitude and Enthusiasm

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I have now been employed as a marketing assistant for two whole weeks and I’d just like to share a bit about my journey getting there. The role is based at a large, UK wide company who have been established for over 20 years and run direct response marketing campaigns.

I’ve been searching for a permanent role  in marketing since the beginning of last year, after developing an interest during one of the modules I was studying as part of my Creative Writing degree. I’ve been invited to many interviews and even secured a role with a start-up digital agency for a couple of months at the end of March last year. I thoroughly enjoyed it my time there and hoped it would develop in to something more, but as with a lot of start-ups these days, the role didn’t last for very long due to funding issues.

This left me in a bit of a predicament as I’d just moved to Portsmouth and needed a job, any job, immediately to earn enough to pay the bills, so that’s what I did back in June 2011. It’s taken from then until now to secure my most current role.

I didn’t have any issues getting interviews, and the feedback back I got interview after interview was the same, “interviewed well, but not enough experience,” it became a broken record to my ears. OK, so I didn’t have traditional industry experience, but I had demonstrated a genuine interest and commitment to the field, surely? It’s not like I was going for megabucks, in fact, I felt I had rather modest expectations considering my qualifications. I mean, how am I supposed to get the experience if I’m not given the chance to prove myself in the first place?

Then I got it, my ‘big’ break! And in doing so I discovered the truth. My new manager is a very upfront and honest personality, no sugar coating and very frank about absolutely everything – just the way I like it. One of our first conversations was about why she had decided to give me this opportunity. It wasn’t because of my qualifications, knowledge,or experience; in fact, she admitted to me that all of the previous interviewees had more to offer on paper than me. The reason that she decided to give me the opportunity is because, having come from a paperless background, she started from the bottom and worked her way up and feels that attitude and commitment are more important than qualifications and experience. And she felt during my interview that I really wanted the role, showed the right amount of enthusiasm and would give 100%.

To be honest, this was a bit of a blow to me at first because I felt so transparent. She had sussed my situation almost immediately and had just admitted that on paper I was probably the weakest candidate if measured by qualifications and experience alone, a harsh reality to digest when you’ve got two very good degrees under your belt and spent a lot of your personal time attempting to build your knowledge base around a subject. But I accepted this reality and appreciated her honesty.

 

As such she has now taken it upon herself to train me as her intern and I can’t thank her enough for this opportunity. OK, so it’s not a permanent role, I’m getting minimum wage and have taken on a lot of the jobs nobody else wants to do (reports, photocopying, printing and the like) but it doesn’t matter. For the first time I am doing something because I WANT to do it, not because I NEED to (well there is that as well, unfortunately we can’t escape the fact that these days money does make the World go round just a tiny bit). I finally have a job that I want to become permanent and stay long-term, where the days fly by,  that motivates me to get out of bed in the morning and best of all, where I feel appreciated and rewarded. That’s something that qualifications and experience will never be able to buy.

‘Can-do’ Attitude

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It’s everywhere! This 5 letter phrase that is used in abundance by all sorts of employers when describing essential qualities and attributes in a potential candidate. So, what does it actually mean? According to the online dictionary this simply means being confident and resourceful in the face of challenges. Seems pretty obvious to me really, I mean, why would anyone want to employ someone who is timid and doesn’t have a clue? Anyway . . .

I thought I’d start by sharing something a bit personal about me that kind of relates to this . . . over 8 years ago I attempted and failed 5 driving tests, I also failed my theory test the 1st time! Yes, I know, she who can get 2 degrees blah blah, heard it all before, very funny. Well it was when the hazard perception element was 1st introduced and no one really knew what it was all about and I did it wrong! Nevermind, I passed with flying colours the 2nd time. Anyway, point is, I have always used the phrase “I can’t pass my test.” This, in itself, just sets me up with the right attitude for failure before I’ve even started! It is such a negative stance to take, implying that I am incapable, that it is an impossible feat I will never achieve, and I have now come to realise, 8 years later, this is simply not the case!

So, following 20 weeks of group therapy (I’ll write a post on that later – yes I am a rather complicated individual I know, even I can’t keep up!) and certain job interviews that I have been invited to, I have decided to give it another a go. However, this time I have decided to approach the matter of the test with a different stance, instead of using the phrase “I can’t pass my test,” I am now saying “I HAVEN’T passed my test,” just changing this one word changes this whole phrase from having a profoundly negative effect, to a positive one. Haven’t implies that I will, in the future, at some point, which is exactly what I intend to do.

So far I have had 2 driving lessons, and during my driving lesson today I had a bit of an experience . . . that is, I nearly drove in to a bush! It was an honest mistake, and rather hilarious. The last time I drove all those years ago it was in a car without power assisted steering . . . Today, I was creeping out of a car park on to a busy road at snails pace, turning left, so I was looking to make sure that nothing was speeding round the corner as I pulled out, and I forgot there was a low pavement and bush on the other side. As I pulled out I turned the wheel just a tad too much. The instructor just put the brakes on and grabbed the wheel exclaiming,

“Whoa, there’s a bush there . . . you’re doing the right thing by looking in that direction . . . but you just turned the wheel a tad too much and I don’t really want you driving my car in to a bush.”

“Ooops, sorry,” I replied, and we both burst out laughing. . . Oh dear! He continued to reassure me that I did the right thing by making sure that there was no oncoming traffic, and it was simply a matter of learning the feel of the car and polishing my skills again.

Now, before, all those years ago, I would have taken this to mean that I’m useless and shouldn’t be allowed to drive anyway, but this time, I just brushed it off and have been having quite a laugh about it with the instructor and my friends. Of course it was more important that I was making sure that there was no oncoming traffic, I did do the right thing! If I’d been on my own, OK, I’d ‘ve felt a bit silly and embarassed, perhaps scratched the car a bit . . . but nothing that would have been life threatening! Whereas if I’d been concentrating on the bush and not the traffic  . . . well. I’m astounded by my change in attitude over the years, a positive change I feel is for the better, and I will continue to see it that way.

So, in the context of the “can-do” attitude, I can pass exams, I can get an honours degree, I can get a masters degree, I can swim, I can dive off the 10M board, I can ride a horse, I can write a novel, I can jump a horse, I can remember my 12 X tables, I can make a cup of tea, I can get up in the morning, I can remember where I left my keys, I can cook dinner, I can reach the top shelf (OK, it may involve climbing but I can still do it unaided – there’s a can-do within a can-do -ha!) I can open jars, I can undo a tin of baked beans, I can tolerate my mother for more than 5 hours at a time (Love you really Mum), I can read, I can write, I can learn French and I can drive in to a bush . . . how’s that for a can-do attitude?