Category Archives: Career Stories

Red Shoes, the Good Wife and a Pink Purse

????????????????????????????????????????My mum was born in an era when women always dressed up when leaving the house and that wasn’t for a night on the tiles but for everyday occasions like a trip to the local grocery store. I always remember her looking elegant and she had a penchant for clothes and accessories.

A few years ago when my mum was in her early 80’s she asked me if I could pick her up a piece of costume jewellery, she wanted a necklace. I asked what colour she’d like and I suggested perhaps something in beige, because it would be quite versatile and go with everything, like a pair of beige shoes. My mum gave me a horrified look and said she’d never wore beige shoes in her life, it was such a boring and uninspiring colour and that she always wore red shoes because they were more fun and different. My mum was always full of surprises and on reflection her uniqueness always stood out but in a very subtle way, I admit red shoes might not sound that subtle, they do I think give an insight into the fun element my mum has always brought to life and allowed her personality to shine through.

I’m a fan of the TV series The Good Wife and at the end of the 1st series I watched the interview with Daniel Lawson the costume designer where he spoke about the importance of each actor’s wardrobe in helping them develop their character and their story, He strived to have the wardrobe underscore what each actor was doing to help tell the story. It was important that the wardrobe didn’t upstage or detract in any way.

Then as the characters and their stories developed, he began to make subtle changes: for Alisha Florrick as she settled back into work and became more comfortable with her work environment and the situation she’d been saddled with, he began by having her wear more jewellery, allowing a glimpse into her personality. For Diane Lockhart who does pay attention to her style he had her wearing vintage pins which portray her as the businesswoman she is, chic and elegant. For Kalinda Sharma it was all about the job and she wore very minimal jewellery and wearing the same necklace was her thing. He did the same for the male characters in developing their style to support the development of their character and story.

This is the same for professionals in their work today, they want to look the part and they want to be taken seriously for their work but they also want to allow their personality to shine through and whether that’s a subtle development similar to Alisha once they become comfortable in their role and environment, or more obvious as with Diane to portray their fashion sense and being comfortable with their position of power, or like Kalinda keeping it minimal and making it about being good at  the job.  The people I know do this in a way that allows their personality shine through.

Interestingly I was working with a client recently preparing for the interview stages of a significant progressive career change and when she was selecting the clothes she would wear for the various stages of the process she met with a personal dresser who said she has never failed in dressing a client for success at interviews. The interviews were representative of the very different work environments across the world where my client’s work would take her to, from a multi cultural and community relations perspective. She needed and wanted to be respectful of this, while retaining her own style.

For me its my signature perfume, colourful lipsticks and my wacky pink Ted Baker purse, that has started many a conversation and brings a smile to people’s faces, and I think we all need something that allows our uniqueness, personality and fun side to shine through.

The reviews I write are by way of reflecting on cultural experiences to include performing and visual arts that touched my heart and my mind and making sense of them in the context of learning and development in both community and work-place.

Evolving Careers Players can help you make an impact in your work through your uniqueness, allowing your personality to shine through. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

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Work and Happiness

imagesWhen Jack was five one day he asked me ‘what’s the meaning of life and the purpose of meaning’ I was flabbergasted and hadn’t a clue how I was going to answer this and so I said ‘what do you think it is’ Jack responded ‘happiness’ He’s a genius I thought (which of course he is) and I asked what made him think that. ‘ I saw it on the Simpsons’ he replied. Proving the old adage that wisdom can sometimes be found in the unlikeliest of places.

Today Economists and national leaders are increasingly talking about measuring a country’s status with metrics other than GDP to include the squishy-seeming concept of ‘happiness’ with David Cameron unveiling plans to measure the country’s national well-being.

But what does happiness mean in the world of work, well of course there’s not one definition but there is a general consensus that the little things count and can make a difference. Happiness is linked to motivation and in work people are often happy when they’re trying to achieve goals that are difficult but not out of reach.  Achieving happiness requires the same approach as training for a marathon, it’s’ not instant it’s a gradual build up of training which needs to be done consistently. Marathon runners will set targets to allow them to reach their ultimate goal of running the marathon, happiness is like that.

Take for example Joan whose workload was causing her to feel completely unhappy in her work, she couldn’t seem to stay on top of things and as a result she was working long hours, having little quality time with her husband and was constantly exhausted. Something had to shift but it didn’t happen overnight.

She began by taking a lunch break, not a full hour but enough time to get out of the office, walk around the block to a nearby park and enjoy her lunch al fresco.  This small shift energised her for the afternoon and once a week her husband joined her, which reminded them of when they were dating and would often meet like this. These little changes had a big impact on Joan’s happiness and the solace she enjoyed helped her workload seem less daunting and more manageable.

I have a lot more to say on the subject of happiness and in the words of Arnie ‘I’ll be back’.

Evolving Careers Players can help you develop and maintain a career which you find motivating. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Nuclear Research Consultant to Urbanisation Planner

imagesTed was working in the area of Nuclear Research having gained his degree in Mechanical Engineering he joined a Nuclear Energy and Engineering Consultancy in Europe. There were a lot of elements to his work and training that he enjoyed except that is, one fundamental element ‘Nuclear Energy’ it really went against his values. He had joined the organisation straight out of university and was grateful to secure the role and gain experience working in a leading Engineering Consultancy. When he took on the role he hadn’t given much thought to how he felt about environmental issues but as his work evolved he realised this was a serious consideration for him and his values.

Our work really does need to sit well with our values along with our skills, interests, attributes and motivated abilities.  Ted went through a self assessment process to understand what all of this meant to him in considering a career change. He was at the point where he knew a change in his career was necessary to allow him to feel more satisfaction in his work and to have a job that he was proud of. He wanted a career that was progressive, he was at the beginning of his career life journey and his professional and personal development were important to him. He also wanted to move his career from Europe to Australia, this was because he had fallen in love with an Australian girl and having spent time holidaying there, he loved the lifestyle and they both agreed this was where they wanted to settle and in time raise a family.

Although Ted didn’t know exactly what his next career move was going to be, he knew it made sense to utilise the skills and experience he’d gained throughout his training and work to date and as I said earlier there were a lot of elements to his work which he enjoyed. These included the project work he’d been involved in, the problem solving, the team working which supported the constant exchange of ideas and knowledge. He’d developed strong presentation and communication skills and was comfortable interacting at all levels. His leadership ability had been nurtured and by way of his career development he had been given great support in developing both his soft skills along with his technical abilities.

He began to explore options by way of researching what was going on in the world of engineering, with his focus on Australia and read any news stories he could get his hands on. The various engineering publications were a good source of information and he began to build a spreadsheet of organisations operating in Australia and then researched each one further to uncover what projects they were becoming involved in and who were hiring.

He talked to recruitment consultants in Australia and while they were interested in his CV, he needed to have a work visa before they could put him forward for a role. He had various choices in how he could do this, he could apply for an initial visa which would allow him to stay in Australia for one year and work for a set period during this time. He hoped that this would allow him to work with an organisation that were impressed with his work and as a result want to sponsor him in gaining a full time visa. Alternatively he could try to connect with an organisation that was willing to sponsor him from the outset. He was open to either option.

He also began to talk with people in the industry both in Europe by way of the people he knew and also through forum discussion groups allowing him to connect with people worldwide, he utilised LinkedIn to facilitate this. His research and conversations opened up his thinking to Urbanisation Planning and although this was a new area to him, his skills, experience and potential were quite a good fit and extremely transferable. The more he researched what this actually meant in terms of the work he’d be involved in and where his career could take him in this field the more appealing it became and so he shifted his focus to getting a role in this industry.

He decided because he was moving in to a new industry it was unlikely that an organisation would sponsor his work visa at the outset and he choose to travel on a one year visa that allowed him to work during his stay. People he’d connected with throughout his research were happy to make introductions when they could and he discovered it’s quite a small world in terms of who knows who and where. When he had the clarity he needed on his decision, he had a conversation with his boss, and although his boss was sad to lose him as part of his team he was very supportive and helpful in connecting him with people he knew in Australia.

And so Ted set off on his adventure to Australia to establish himself in a new career and a different lifestyle. He has secured an interim role working within Urbanisation Planning and I have every confidence this will lead a full time position sponsored by the organisation.

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you establish your next career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Is it possible to make a career change into doing something completely different?

????????????????????????????????????????Well as you might expect in my opinion that would be yes, but be under no illusion it will take persistence, determination and a positive attitude – the three essential ingredients I continuously bang on about.

Not so long ago I was working with Karen a Polish client who moved here some years ago and was working in a leading retail organisation. Karen wanted to make a transition to work for a Human Rights organisation.

And so she went about her journey. We worked her CV to draw out previous experience, skills and attributes that were a better fit for the work she aspired to become involved in, to include the voluntary work she was doing with Amnesty International She tried in vain to connect with recruitment consultants and applied without success for various roles.

It was time to move the job search on and focus on building her network, but as a non UK National Karen’s contacts were limited, and so this was no easy feat and of course her job search campaign had to fit in with her work and other commitments.

She began to explore LinkedIn as a way to develop her network and connected with people in the industry, joined forum discussions and attended industry events. She compiled questions that she could ask that would enable her to understand how other people got into the industry, what their work involved on a day to day basis and what people perceived would happen in the future. I have to say of all my clients, she’s the one who has had most success with LinkedIn, in terms of building her network and I think this is because she has a lovely approach when connecting with people both in her written and verbal communication.

The weeks slipped into months and although she was progressing in terms of building her network and knowledge, nothing concrete was taking place. That is until she had her ‘Eureka’ moment. As part of her organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility they worked with a number of charities, one of which was a Human Rights organisation and through the organisation’s intranet she discovered an opportunity which involved a two day a week secondment for twenty six weeks. I never cease to be amazed how often what we’re looking for is on our door step!
And so she prepared her application which first had to be approved by her manager, who didn’t relish the prospect of losing her but at the same time wanted to support her. This then had to be presented to the board of directors and of course it was approved.

We discussed what she wanted to get out of the secondment over and above the hands on experience and she developed a plan to help her achieve her objectives. Karen is now getting stuck in and enjoying the process and I have every confidence this opportunity will support her in achieving her career goals.

So yes with persistence, determination and a positive attitude, it is possible to make a change change into doing something completely different.

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you establish your next career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

What happens when we discover the grass wasn’t greener afterall?

????????????????????????????????????????When people come to me saying they’re unhappy in their work and want to find something that has more meaning to them and is inspiring in a way that gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them sustained throughout the day/week …, I always say that as we go through the process and we consider, evaluate and reality check a number of options, they may discover that the job they’re in is not so bad after all or perhaps the new career they choose will take  a little time and planning and in  the short-term they may have to stay put, but they will need to effect some changes to improve their current circumstances. Now that’s not what people want to hear but it is better to know before jumping ship that the grass is not always greener.

The Greener Grass syndrome is probably something we all know or have experienced and sometimes when a client comes to me it’s because they made a leap into something new, and they’ve come to realise that actually their original career was a better choice for them, but they’re finding it a challenge to get back in.

One such client began his career in Human Rights law which he really enjoyed and was involved in some high profile cases which drew attention to him and his talent and as a result he was head-hunted into the arena of Commercial law and supported in his re-training. A completely different world which he may have enjoyed for a time but soon grew tired of and as a result considered law might not actually be for him.

And so he took a sabbatical, during which time he set up a juice bar which took off over night  and became a huge success, but then the recession hit and his business was affected and he had to let go his staff and he was running a one man show and working all the hours under the sun. This took a toll on his health and he became seriously ill and had to sell his business.During the long road to recovery he had plenty of time for reflection and he came to realise that law was his passion, not commercial law but human rights law, and so set about getting back into doing this.

This is where he began to encounter obstacles, having being away from this area of law for over three years, his CV wasn’t getting past 1st base with recruitment consultants or job boards and so we began our work together. It’s important to have the bases of recruitment consultants and job boards covered but in this current competitive environment you can only be proactive about connecting with consultants and applying for jobs but  then you’re reactive because you’re waiting for an opportunity to come through. So you need to be proactive with moving your job search on to speculative approaches and networking.

My client and I both knew that once he got in front of an employer he’d get the job, he made a great first impression and he was passionate about his work and he would get the opportunity to explain the reason he left this particular area and why he wanted to return. But we were still facing a brick wall, he could not get past 1st base of being invited along for an interview. And, so we had to consider what else could be done.

I’m a firm believer of ‘when the student is ready the teacher will come’ or an opportunity will arise and out of no way will come a way. This is exactly what happened, by way of research my client was carrying out as a part of his job search strategy he came across an opportunity that would support him in getting back into human rights law, but it was in South Africa, and while he knew the particular piece of work would look great on his CV and allow him to connect and network with individuals and organisations that could facilitate his move back into what he wanted to do, it would involve moving to South Africa for six months. He was loving his life in London, but he knew he had to do what he had to do and so he applied and was successful in securing the role.  I’ve just heard that he’s now accepted a three year assignment and will be working closely with the United Nations, which was part of his longer term plan that has come about much more quickly than he had dreamed.

And so, before making that move to what you might consider are greener pastures, perhaps first take time to consider if there are any changes you can effect to make your current situation better. I always think if your career is a 70% fit in terms of your values, interests, and motivators, you’ll be able to get some of what might be missing in your life outside of work. For example you might not like being desk-bound or office or city  based and so you figure out how to design your work so that it doesn’t demand you’re always at your desk or in the office and at weekends you get out in the country. In most cases this is achievable as we move towards a more mobile way of working.

Now all that said I do actually think that we all have more than one career in our lifetime and with longevity there’s space for a whole new career between retirement and death, but that’s for another post. *Published with client permission.

Evolving Careers Players can help you establish your next career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Your CV Should Tell your Story

this-is-your-life-red-bookClients will often ask me if they should put interests/hobbies on their CV and without hesitation I respond ABSOLUTELY. I believe it’s so important when people are being interviewed that the interviewer/s take time to understand who they are as individuals, what’s unique and different about them over and above their skills, and experience in allowing an understanding of how they will perform in the role and be an ambassador for the organisation.

After all  we spend so much of our time in our job that there is a need to have a holistic view of what makes people tick, what motivates and inspires them and keeps them energised in their work and their life outside of work. Good organisations will want to understand and support this and quite frankly if I was being interviewed by an organisation that showed little interest in me other that my capability to perform on the job, I would make a very quick exit, simply because I need to know that the organisation values my happiness and well-being and in order to do that, they need to have this insight and understanding.

This allows me an understanding to how they value their employees which is important because the core of my work is supporting individuals and teams in being fulfilled in their careers, managing and developing their careers, which in turn impacts the organisation’s vision and business strategy.

Remember an interview is a two-way process, as much as you need to sell yourself to the organisation they need to sell themselves to you too. Good interviewers will give people the chance to tell their story, which in turn allows them to see an individual’s real potential. I’ll share a story about Mary to demonstrate what I mean.

When Mary and I began working together she was ready to move on from her current organisation, which no longer inspired her, it was in a sector that was quite progressive in a commercial sense but wasn’t in line with Mary’s values. Her internal fire for this type of organisation had burnt out and she felt she was putting on the mask of Chief Financial Officer every day whether with her team or at board meetings.

To facilitate her impending career move she began to connect with head hunters, all of whom were eager to represent her, by either putting her forward for a role they were already recruiting for, or to put her forward as a strong candidate to organisations they had a relationship with who might not have been actively recruiting for a specific position but were undergoing some changes that would benefit from having Mary on board, and of course being in a position to put forward a candidate of Mary’s calibre would strengthen the head hunters’ credibility and relationship with the organisation.

However as with many head hunters and recruitment consultants they were considering Mary for organisations similar to the one she wanted to move on from rather than taking the time to understand who she was as an individual to take into account her interests and potential across other industries and sectors. Unfortunately this is a sign of the times and in a competitive market this is how head hunters and recruitment consultants are forced to operate, simply because they have a stronger chance of securing a role for a candidate who is a better fit for the job specification in terms of their current experience.

Among Mary’s passions were a love for English Heritage and a love of animals. She supported charities in both her areas of interests, through donations and she was also a trustee and board member of her chosen charities, she did this in a voluntary capacity. She had also taken a two month sabbatical during which time she lived in a small community in remote Africa and worked alongside the local people offering her financial expertise to support them in developing a sustainable business strategy for the community which allowed them to be self-sufficient in promoting their social enterprise. At the end of the two months the community held a carnival in celebration of Mary’s support and she was even crowned queen of their village!

Along with all of this Mary also has her pilot’s licence and at weekends you’ll find her navigating the skies of Britain along with her husband a fellow enthusiast. Now Mary is quite unassuming and so you’d never really know these things about her and it would be unusual for it to come up in an interview situation, unless of course she has it on her CV and the interviewer is interested in finding out who she really is. Then of course the interviewer would see Mary’s true potential and would understand why she should be considered as a serious candidate for a role in an organisation or sector different to where she’s come from.

And so yes, do include your interests, hobbies on your CV and make your decision about joining an organisation based on how interested they are in understanding who you are as a person both in your work and your life outside of work. I also think by doing this you will demonstrate your attributes and I believe this is an important consideration for employers alongside the skills and experience represented on your CV.

Mary’s story does have a happy ending, she interviewed but was pipped at the post for a role in a charity that provided care for donkeys in developing countries, this may bring a smile to your face but the role of these donkeys is integral to the community and their owners needed to take better care of them to allow them to work at their best and to be taken care of when they could no longer work. Although Mary was disappointed not to secure the role, the experience gave her the belief that she could transition into a sector that has more meaning for her in line with her values and as since secured a role and is working for an organisation within the National Heritage.

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you establish your next career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Working Remotely – Lawyers in Cyber Space

imagesThe type of changes to our way of working brought about by the most recent economic downturn have I think been quite interesting and has caused the entrepreneurs among us to get creative in our thinking of how to make the best of a bad situation and in a lot of cases the doom and gloom of late has brought about quite enterprising and more fulfilling ways to work. Life’s most difficult situations can also be the most transformative as I expect many of us have come to learn.

Take for example the world of law and how severely it has been impacted by what has been going on in the economy of late. Bearing in mind the historically traditional approach to work in this profession, there have been a number of successful spin-offs where lawyers having found themselves out of work are making the most of combining their considerable experience, while also utilising technology to join forces with other equally talented lawyers across the various disciplines of law to offer a solution that provides the same professional service the client would expect from a leading law firm that’s extremely more affordable – Virtual Law, who’d have thought Cyber Space law would work in the law profession, which is steeped in tradition. But work it does for Anna and Janet: two clients who have established their work in this way.

Anna is a senior Commercial Lawyer, who has joined forces with a newly formed virtual law company. Janet is a family lawyer who choose this way of working to facilitate being a mum and wanting to be at home bringing up her daughter with the ability of being able to attend those all so important school events, in the knowledge that a sudden transaction won’t take over her life.

Both women provide quality work in the same way they would have done within the organisations they worked in. Surely this has to be a win/win situation all round, the client is happy and each lawyer has created a way of working that in the short term provides them with a great way of working that fits into their lifestyle in the way they want it.

They may choose to continue with this arrangement and they may find that it completely works for them, or they may choose to return to a more corporate environment, and if so it’s a great way of demonstrating their ability to develop business, which of course is a key factor on that road to partnership and beyond.

Published with client permission. Names have been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you manage and develop your career. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. http://www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com