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Momentum Careers Advice is an independent information, advice and guidance consultancy based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and offering services across the UK and beyond.
Being unhappy at work is never fun. There are 101 genuine reasons why leaving a company behind and looking for new opportunities is the right thing to do. But, similarly, it isn’t always the right thing to do.
Work dissatisfaction can hit us from a number of different angles; lack of challenge, toxic working environments, limited career progression opportunities to name but a few. And in the same way that the circumstances are always different in each individual case, so are the solutions to the problem. And yet, so often when we find ourselves in this situation, it is easy to be overpowered by a knee-jerk reaction which yells “LEAVE” at the top of its voice.
Whilst in most (but certainly not all) cases, the decision to leave a company is best implemented when that individual has another job to go to, there is thinking that needs to happen before this new job search even starts. Put simply, we are not always very good at exploring ways of improving our current work situation yet this is often where the best solutions for career improvements lie.
Position yourself better
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve worked with clients whose work unhappiness stems from one individual. Bullying and undermining the work of others is, sadly, rife and often, I will add, a reflection on the bully’s own work underperformance. If you are in this situation, try and position yourself away from this person. Form allies. Restrict (if you can) the contact you have with them. Subtle shifts can make a big difference. If this is a colleague rather than a superior, speak to your line manager who may well be aware of the situation and can address the situation in a way they feel fit. If your nemesis is the line manager, then speak to HR. You may not be the first person to voice these concerns.
Set yourself new challenges
Boredom at work can lead to a lack of professional confidence and even depression. Stagnation can be hard to climb out from, but do it by setting yourself new challenges. Think back to your happier times within the organisation. What made them better for you? How can you emulate that now? Sitting back and doing nothing is unlikely to improve your situation. Start being the master of your own destiny.
Remember – your boss isn’t telepathic
Line managers are often the first accused in these situation and, in many cases, rightly so. But they are not mind-readers so unless you voice your concerns, or clarify your ambitions to get involved in new things, they can’t really be blamed. Take the initiative to book a meeting to discuss how you are feeling. Sometimes there are solutions but nobody has joined the dots properly or verbalised their needs. You want training? Ask for it. You want to get involved in a new project that is coming up within the department? Speak up! Your boss is likely to be so bogged down with their own concerns that, without this, change is unlikely to happen.
Seek out opportunities
Networking isn’t just something that happens when you are looking to move companies. It should be an ongoing part of your career within an organisation. Career dissatisfaction can be challenged and overcome by, for example, a change of team or a completely new role within a new department. So network hard within your organisation and seek out the people who are well positioned to help you. It is always a good idea to find yourself a mentor – preferably someone who has ‘been there, done that’ and has useful links and authority within the company. This could be your route to positive change.
So, while leaving for pastures new may seem appealing, staying put but shifting the conditions of your work can often be easier and perhaps more beneficial in the future. Personal experiences within a company can often be a rollercoaster of good and not-so-good times. Learning effective coping strategies for when times are tough may just help you to ride out the storm and see it through to the other side.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £60. Mock interviews cost £50.
Let’s face it, even the most outwardly confident of candidates can be floored by the intensity of an interview situation. But couple this with a general dislike for small talk, and a preference for listening rather than speaking, and it is easy to see why many introverts would rather be anywhere else.
As the wife of an introvert and the mother of another, I may be biased but I know very well just how brilliant they can be, and how important it is not to write off introverts as inferior to their more conversational counterparts. However, society’s general need for everyone to be all-singing, all-dancing, all-talking means that the very essence of introversion is misunderstood by so many and even treated with suspicion. And this is where the problem lies. It is often nothing that the candidate is doing wrong themselves but a badly trained interviewer may fail to see their skills and be left questioning their ability to make the right impact. Thus, it is up to the candidate to do what they can to open up the mind-set of the decision maker. There are a number of ways of ensuring this happens.
Prepare for small talk
Because there is simply no escaping it. Have a think about how you will respond to general chit-chat. An unwillingness to engage never does anyone any favours and we know how important those first impressions are. It may be helpful to prepare a nice succinct and relevantly focused answer to the question ‘Tell me about yourself’ as this is (ironically) used by many interviewers as a gentle introduction point to the interview. However, it can be a real stalling point if it catches you off-guard.
Choose your words wisely
Introverts tend not to be attention seekers and may struggle, through words and actions, to create the same sense of enthusiasm that their extrovert counterparts so easily embrace. So if you can’t make the big enthusiastic gestures, make sure you are using positive language to describe the work that you do. Show your emotions through words – don’t be afraid to talk about loving a particular part of your job or being proud of your accomplishments. Be achievement focused throughout. Presenting successes with pure quantifiable facts may come easier and should be considered as a guaranteed way of making a good impression.
Own (and sell) your introversion
Addressing upfront the fact that you are a ‘deep thinker’ or a ‘good listener’, for example, not only shows you are self-aware and under no pretences but also gives you a great introduction from which you can start marketing the positives that this approach can bring to an organisation. “Being relatively introverted, I find this works in my favour in management situations as I’m prepared to sit back and listen to the views of the team around me….” Use observations from colleagues to back up your arguments “The feedback I’ve received at work is that I’m very supportive and naturally find it easy to assume a mentoring role…..” This will help to convince even the most cynical interviewer of your effectiveness.
Play to your strengths
And there are many. Introverts are usually fastidious planners and will arrive at an interview well prepared with all the information they need to succeed. Take time to listen to questions and use silence to gather your thoughts. (We’ve all been in situations where the extrovert candidate has been so afraid of silence that they have cantered off on a tangent and missed the point entirely. This will never be you). Use your strong powers of reflection and thoughtfulness to pinpoint examples that are most relevant to the questions, and present them in a calm and logical way.
I should end this by saying that not all introverts dislike interviews and, certainly, I am not implying that all introverts struggle with interview performance. Rather that there may be extra hurdles to overcome which need some thinking around. Taking the time to do this will ensure you are able to give it your best.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £60. Mock interviews cost £50.
We all know that the ‘job for life’ culture no longer exists; that most people will make several career changes throughout their working life. So why is it that most people are so intimidated by the idea of making these changes? Here are 7 reasons why a career change may be the right thing for you to do:
- You fell into your current career. Your current career developed through a number of (perhaps random) twists and turns and wasn’t necessarily something you applied conscious decision-making too. You now feel you want to do something more suited to you.
- You want make better use of your skills. Your current career doesn’t make the most of what you can offer. You know you can do better and go further in a different field.
- You need new challenges at work. Perhaps you’ve reached a dead-end. Perhaps you need a steeper learning curve in order to feel fulfilled.
- Your old career doesn’t suit your changing circumstances. You’ve had a baby. You’ve moved to a different part of the country and, thus, a new local labour market. You’ve won the lottery and now want to do something for the love rather than the money. There could be 101 different reasons….
- You don’t suit the changing circumstances of your career. The future of your industry looks bleak. Your company has restructured and it doesn’t suit you. Personnel changes have affected how you feel about your job etc…
- You need a bigger earning potential. Enough said.
- You’ve always ‘had a dream’ and now’s the time to live it. You’ve spent the last 25 years harbouring a dream to be a wildlife photographer/inventor/ astronaut. It’s now or never.
So ask yourself that all important question: “what do I really want to be doing in 5 year’s time?” And be realistic about what you may need to do in order to get there.
When it comes to the job hunt after your studies, many students feel the clamour to snap up the lucrative graduate schemes and internships at the biggest companies in the UK.
But while big business continues to play an important role in the graduate jobs market, with Top 100 companies employing almost 20,000 graduates in 2015 alone, SMEs are increasingly becoming a more attractive option to graduates.
Not sure what an SME is? Small-Medium Enterprises constitute over 99% of private sector companies in the UK and the US, and are categorised by a low turnover rates and employee numbers.
Importantly, studies suggest staff are considerably more content at SMEs. Research by TUC found that SME employees are not only most fulfilled at work, but most engaged by their employers, most satisfied with their freedom to decide their working hours, and subjected to lower levels of stress and bullying too.
So the stats seem in their favour, but what else do SMEs offer? For starters…
- Responsibilities Straight Away
As a result of team size at most SMEs, you’re likely to be given increased responsibility pretty quickly. You’ll find that you’re given the opportunity to put forward your own ideas and concepts early on, as well as being given a more top-level role on certain projects and tasks.
From the start, you’re likely to have a fairly close relationship with people higher up the food chain, so you’ll find that you have the opportunity to influence decisions, and have more control over your day-to-day work right from the offset.
- Quickly Influential
Unlike working on the larger grad schemes, you’ll tend to see evidence of the how your work has benefited the company from day one. You can map the success of jobs and project that you’ve directly been involved in and it’s a huge confidence boost to be able to say to future employers, friends and family that ‘Today I did _____’ instead of ‘Today I was part of the team that _____’
- Problem Solver
While at top companies you have the benefit of a set system of training, this often comes with establishing a very set way of doing things. At an SME, however, you’ll be challenged to think for yourself and come up with innovative solutions to problems. You won’t be type-cast into a certain way of doing things and you’ll have a hugely beneficial transferable skill.
- Quick Progression
When larger companies hire a graduate you’re likely to be faced with a clearly defined career path to progress within a number of years. While this offers security for many people, at an SME, you could find yourself rising up the ranks immediately. Because of the tighter hierarchal structure, and the clarity of exactly how your work has benefited the company, you can wield a lot more influence on the people that make the decisions.
- Commercial Knowledge
At an SME, the flat hierarchal structure means you’ll get all kinds of access to the way that the business runs, from bottom up. This kind of commercial understanding is invaluable for your CV, and particularly if you’re interested in starting your own business at a later date.
- Tip-Top CV
When it’s time to move on to a new company, the company name might not have the same clout as some of the bigger companies, but the experience you’ll gain will be seriously impressive. Hands on experience making important decisions, dealing with customers and examples of how you’ve directly benefited the business often look far better than things like training and qualifications. After all, your new company may be able to provide these themselves.
- Lower Competition
While there are more roles available at SMEs, the competition is often lower, and the application process is often less exhaustive. They often have just one round of interviews and you’ll likely be dealing directly with your line manager or even the CEO. As a result, it’s much easier to get your personality across and build a meaningful connection.
- Varied Days
Due to the smaller team, and less clearly defined roles at most SMEs, the chances are your days will be full of variety. You could end up taking on ad-hoc duties outside of the traditional confines of your role too.
Furthermore, due to the responsibility you’ll yield straight away, you’ll be working in a much more reactive way. A day’s never boring at an SME!
- Starting Now!
Most grad schemes involve a long application process, meaning they only start once a year. On the other hand, SMEs tend to hire for graduate jobs all year round. Therefore if you’ve decided to take some time out before starting your job hunt, or you feel like you’ve missed all the big grad scheme applications.
- Relaxed Office
A lot of SMEs will offer a more relaxed environment to work in. The chances are you’ll quickly feel part of the team, meeting and talking to top level management straight away. Smaller companies know that their employees are their top asset and you’ll be treated with much greater respect, even as a junior member of the team.
About the Author
Matt Arnerich is the Content Writer over at leading graduate recruitment agency Inspiring Interns. Matt writes about everything to do with graduate employability and how to get ahead in the competitive grad market. For the latest graduate opportunities, check out their graduate jobs London page or, if you’re looking to hire a graduate, take a look at their innovative Video CVs.
Recently, through the client work I have been doing, I have seen some excellent, and very fruitful, examples of effective networking. Working with people who readily embrace networking, and seeing the results that this pulls, has been wonderful to witness and adds to my bank of useful client anecdotes that I can draw on to help others. However, it will never be that easy. Some clients are, for whatever reason, just point blank reluctant to accept networking as an essential part of their jobs search. If that is you, please read on:
Networking is not begging, it is good business sense.
This is the number one cause of reluctance that I hear. Networking, it seems, is just not very ‘British’. And yet it really is, if you want success. It remains the number one way, by a long distance, of securing new work opportunities so unless you want to cut your nose off to spite your face please give it a go. The trick here is to disassociate networking from the negative connotations associated with begging or asking favours. Try and see it instead for what I truly believe it is – plain good business sense and a sign of an astute individual. The fact is that recruitment is a high-risk business. This is why so many companies actively encourage their staff to bring in their networks as potential employees – it takes a huge element of that risk away.
Networks can come from anywhere, so don’t rule anyone out.
Another thing I often hear: “but I don’t know anyone who would be able to help me.” How do you really know this? The very nature of networking is that it goes beyond just that first point of contact. Networking is not about asking one individual to help you. It is about tapping into their networks, and their networks beyond that, and their networks…. Leads can come from the most unlikely of places so don’t limit the possibilities by making initial assumptions. Spend time creating lists of everyone who *may* be able to help and contact them. Wrack your brain, think back to people you have met over the years in both a professional and personal context. Each one of these people is a possible lead.
Networking doesn’t start and end with creating a LinkedIn profile.
Don’t get me wrong. LinkedIn is a great starting point, particularly as we regularly hear that recruiters for certain positions will reject candidates outright purely on the basis that they don’t have a profile. But LinkedIn isn’t intended to be a passive tool. Don’t sit back and wait for connections to find you, go out and find them. And when you’ve found them, have a look through their connections to see if there is anyone of interest who you think could help you take your next steps. Do you have a list of target organisations? If so, use LinkedIn to search their staff and find individuals who you may have people or circumstance in common with. Alternatively, join some of LinkedIn’s professional Groups and meet people that way. The world is your oyster with LinkedIn, but only if you use it proactively. LinkedIn aside, find out about networking events going on in your industry and put yourself out there.
Networking is not just for experienced professionals.
It is a myth that networking is only for established professionals on the up. Quite simply, you are never too young or too old to start. Undergraduates – it’s a crowded market for you out there and you need to be thinking about doing everything you can to stand out from your competitors. Get yourself on LinkedIn, put a link to your profile on your CV and reach out to employers that way. Be aware of what your university careers service is offering and attend any employer networking events, or see what your university alumni network can do for you (this is an often-underutilised tool which can reap brilliant rewards). Alternatively, if you’re in the latter stages of your career but have never needed to network aggressively before, then this isn’t to say that this shouldn’t change. Whilst networking has existed since the dark ages, the ways of doing it have been revolutionised by the internet, and you need to keep up or risk finding it extremely difficult to make headway in a competitive job market.
So ask yourself “Am I making 100% use of the networks I have to find a new job?” If not, what can – and should – you be doing differently? The great thing about networking is that, as long as you approach it with a realistic mind set and understand that nothing comes with guarantees, you really don’t have anything to lose from giving it a shot.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £60.