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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.
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. Stay in touch with 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 £55.
New Year, as we all know, is a great time for a new start. But what happens if we are feeling so overwhelmed with our own set of career problems that we can’t even reach the first hurdle, let alone know how to clear it?
Careers are complex things. No one ever said it was going to be easy but that doesn’t stop us beating ourselves around the head when we reach this realisation. But too often than not, we let ourselves become overwhelmed by keeping all our ideas and worries in our heads and not actively attempting to work through them. And this can make the problem look bigger than it really is. So stop thinking and start doing.
Not all these steps below will fit everyone’s situation – one of the many frustrations when it comes to careers issues is that there are so many variables that there really is no one-size-fits-all solution. So pick the ones that fit your situation and that work for you, whether you need a new career, a new job or just to overcome a tricky work situation. By working through just some of the suggestions below you will start to feel the benefits of moving forwards and, more importantly, you should start to believe that your career goals are achievable.
Rewrite your CV
Regardless of whether you are looking for a new job or not this is just good practice. It means we are ready to go if the need arises (and, let’s face it, we don’t always have a warning of when this will be) but it also helps to remind us of what we have to offer employers. Focus on your achievements – make sure you are highlighting all the ways that you have added value to your past and present employment situations.
Embrace social media
Recruitment practices are ever-changing and the introduction of social media into the realm of job search has made this change more rapid than ever. Don’t allow yourself to get left behind. Don’t leave it until you absolutely need to as then the climb will be much steeper. Start familiarising yourself with a new social media platform – be it LinkedIn, twitter, or one of the many others – or just up your activity and know where and how to look for opportunities.
Reach out to your contacts
The tough economic situation of late has meant that networks are more essential than ever before, so make sure you are making the most of yours. Re-establish contact with colleagues of past as you never know when you may need them in the future. If you are actively seeking new work opportunities then put aside some time to brainstorm those who may be in a position to help you and follow each of them up. Use LinkedIn to grown your network and identify others who can help you.
Speak with your line manager
The easiest place to grow you career may be within your current organisation. But line-managers aren’t mind readers so take control and put time aside to have an open and honest conversation about internal options for developing your career, whether it’s a sideways move, a promotion or a training course. Alternatively, if any of your current work problems stem from tricky relationships at work – either directly with your line manager or with someone else – failure to address it head on will not make the problem go away. So be brave and seem to resolve underlying issues through communication. It could make your working life much easier.
Research the job market
Whether you are thinking about a new career or just a new employer, put some time aside to see what’s out there. Scan some of the bigger generic job boards and take a look at the jobs that exist, the salaries they pay and the skills they require. A common problem I come across is that people just don’t know the breadth of what is available to them.
Remind yourself of the skills you have
Conduct your own skills audit. Take time to look at the skills you have developed both specific to your job and those which are more generally transferable. In each case, write down an example of a time you have used this skill. This will allow you to see more clearly how you can sell yourself to future employers (or your current one) as well as any alternative careers that you may be suited to. Take stock of what you have achieved and try and identify any obvious gaps that need filling.
Consider your work values
But it’s not just about skills. In order to be truly satisfied at work you need to make sure you are in a working situation that closely reflects the values of what is important to you – the things you need from a job in order to make you happy and keep you feeling fulfilled. Write down a ‘wish list’ of your priorities. Consider things like challenge, risk, routine, promotional opportunities, time freedom, creativity etc. This is about identifying you optimal working environment in order to ultimately move towards it.
Take advice from those who know you well
If you are having problems recognising the skills you have or identifying career areas you may be suited to, why not ask other people for their input? Sometimes we cannot see the woods for the trees, but others can so asking those close to you – friends, family members – for their input can bring up some hidden gems.
Or from those who don’t
This is where the career professionals come in. It can be an extremely useful exercise to talk your situation through with someone impartial – someone who can thread together the themes, help you identify your goals and work towards them realistically.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £55.
I’m changing tack this year. My annual New Year’s blog is not necessarily aimed at my clients but, rather, at their employers and line-managers
As I careers consultant I am fortunate to enjoy a very broad and varied client base. The people I work with come from a huge range of industries and filter through all levels of experience. Yet, despite this, the same work-based issues occur time and time again as the reason they come to see me. As much as I really do believe I can help them by offering ideas, a new perspective, a plan, a listening ear… my help can only go so far, as it is restricted by the reality of the working world and, often, the attitudes of their employers (or potential employers). If you are an employer, or if you have management or recruitment responsibilities, please have a think this New Year if any of these resolutions can apply to you.
Be kinder to your staff
It is not nice to see hard working, talented and often hugely experienced professionals breaking down in tears in front of me because someone at work is giving them a hard time. I never cease to be amazed by some of the stories I hear and whilst, of course, there are plenty of examples of great bosses out there, I am amazed by the amount of workers who list ‘not feeling appreciated’ as their main motivator for wanting a new job. Saying ‘thank you’ costs nothing and neither does acknowledging a job well done. These little gestures really do go a long way. Remember also, we all deserve a life outside of work, and that includes headspace from work-based stress and anxiety. Just because you may be able to cope with a 12 hour day doesn’t mean that your employees can (or should be able to), and it may be making them desperately unhappy. Work life balance really is essential in getting the best out of people. ‘Putting in the hours’ does not always equate to quality of work and increased productivity.
Consider flexible working
A significant proportion of my client base are work returners, who have taken a career break for family, health or personal reasons. For these people, some element of flexible working is often a necessity. But it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, stop there. Due to new regulations brought in in 2014, the right to request flexible working now extends to all staff (full or part time) who meet the qualifying period of 26 weeks continuous service with that employer, not just those with caring responsibilities. The fact is, flexible working, as an issue, isn’t going to go away any time soon. And embracing it will most likely have a very positive impact on staff morale. Consider offering part-time or even job share opportunities. There is a huge amount of professional talent out there being wasted because the part time job market has such a huge supply/demand discrepancy. And, yes, I am aware it isn’t possible in every job but don’t fall into that bracket of companies who won’t consider it just because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’. Consider also a more flexible approach to where people work. Advances in technology now makes effective home-based working a real possibility and helps to foster a working culture based on trust and mutual respect.
Recruit for potential
Career change is certainly more socially acceptable now than it was a generation ago but, in my humble opinion, is still considerably more challenging than it should be. The fact is that a huge amount of people fall into careers rather than select them due to careful consideration. Or they select them at an age when they are too young to really understand the reality of the working world and how best they may fit within it so initial career decisions just don’t always work out. I am lucky enough to work with a large number of career changers who, without fail, have put time, effort and great thought into identifying a work area that will really suit their needs only to struggle at the final hurdle – actually securing a work opportunity in this new field. Employers, of course, need to protect themselves. But so often recruitment decisions are based upon short term needs rather than longer term advantages. Just because someone has done a similar job before, it doesn’t make them the best recruit and the person most likely to bring value to an organisation. Career changers can bring new perspectives, renewed enthusiasm and a breath of fresh air. Give them a chance. Explore the value they have brought to their previous employers – irrespective of industry – and let this be a good indicator of the value they will bring to your organisation.
Over and out. Oh, and Happy New Year. I hope 2016 is good to you all.
So the festive break is upon us again, and a welcome escape from work for many. But whilst I will always be a fierce proponent for the benefits of time off work, this period of the year can produce an opportunity that many overlook.
We see from survey after survey that many of us are unhappy at work, many of us wish to consider career change, many of us want a better work life balance…. but the fact that work dominates so much of our time – so much of our thinking hours – means that it is necessarily difficult to find the headspace to do anything about it.
So whilst it is important to relax and enjoy the freedoms that Christmas brings, this can be a great time to set yourself some very soft targets to help with your career planning.
Use this time to put some thought into your current career and your future aims. Try and identify what needs to change and why. Is there anything you can do to make your situation better? Or is a new job/career the only real solution?
Get your networks in place
This is still the number one way of finding employment opportunities so make the most of the contacts you have. Be upfront and honest about what you are looking for. Use tools like LinkedIn to grow your networks or to spot useful contacts within key organisations
Dust off your CV
January brings with it a deluge of new job seekers but also of new opportunities. Make sure you are first in line to make the most of these as soon as the New Year begins. Update your CV with your latest skills and experience. Consider restyling it in line with the latest trends and expectations that recruiters have.
January will be over before you know it and February never quite holds the same optimism or impetus for change. So now, amongst all the relaxation, don’t forget to spare a little time also for preparation, and the New Year could be the start of very positive changes. Happy Christmas everyone : )
In most cases, it appears the easy part of career change is knowing that you want one. What is much harder to identify is the career, or type of career, to transition into. And this is where many mistakes are made. Too often I find that clients are jumping the gun and visualising the ‘end result’ – the career in question – without putting sufficient thought into considering the reasons why it may (or may not) be the right solution for them. It is worth emphasising that this part of the process is essential and should not be rushed. Like most success stories, a successful career change requires time in the initial planning phase. A common remark I hear from potential career changers when trying to identify new career paths is “I don’t know where to start.” If this is you, it may be worth asking yourself the following questions to start the ball of inspiration rolling:
What needs to change?
OK, so you know you are not happy, but have you thought long and hard about why this is? What is it about your current career situation that needs to be different in order to give you work satisfaction? Is it an issue or work-life balance, need more professional respect, a more creative work environment, something more intellectually challenging…? It is so natural for us to focus, in the first instance, on the skills we can offer and how we can fit in with the needs of an employers. But this is about what you need too. A more important part of this jigsaw is to think long and hard about your own set of career values – the things you need from a job to allow you to stay happy for the longer term.
When have you been happiest at work to date and why was this?
Flip the first question on its head and spend time recounting the happiest period of work in your career so far. Think about what made it so enjoyable and what elements of the job you wish to replicate in your new career. You need to come at this from all angles – don’t just think about the role and the skills you were using (although this is, of course, important), but consider elements such as your working environment, the company culture, your relationships with people around you, your interest in the industry and the job satisfaction that you got from it. Don’t be surprised, when reflecting on the positives, if you realise that you actually enjoy your role much more than you thought you did. If this is the case it may actually be a more subtle change of role, or a change to the right employer, that you really need. Career change doesn’t have to be a dramatic leap from one role to something diametrically opposed.
If you could go back to being 16 again, what career would you aim for?
And it is fine to think totally outside the box here. This question is not necessarily looking for the definitive answer (it can be unrealistic, after all, for many career changers to commit to the extra training that is needed for this role) but it can give us important clues as to the type of work we may be suited to. Quite simply, at a mid-point or even part way into our career journey we are much more self-aware than we were when we make the initial decisions. And, even more importantly than that, we have a much better and more realistic understanding of the world of work, how it functions and how we can best sit within it. So this question is all about applying this knowledge to stimulate ideas.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Herts, but offers services throughout the UK and beyond via Skype. Our careers consultation service costs just £55.