Create the Next Chapter of Your Career and Life Story

imagesThere have been a few turning points in my life that have caused me to stop and think about what’s important to me and to consider what I want from my work and my life outside of work. Sadly one of those occasions was when my brother died aged just 41. He had lived very much in the present and enjoyed the simple things in life. I remember his wife telling me how in the summer once their four girls were in bed, they’d sit in their garden and watch the sun set.

As well as bringing up four daughters they also gave their time generously to supporting the families who had been impacted by the Chernobyl disaster and every summer they would have children from Chernobyl stay with them. It was important for them to give back or indeed give forward. Thinking about my brother caused me to realise that I needed to live in the present and make everyday worthwhile. I took a step back to evaluate my most important values and consider what needed to change in my work and my life to honour these.

I’d worked in Investment Banking for several years and while I enjoyed the work and worked with great people, it also afforded me a great lifestyle. However the hours were long and I wasn’t spending as much time with my family as I would have liked. I made the decision to leave banking and set up in business myself.

This took time as first I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next and then I needed to retrain. It was quite a juggling act initially: working to bring in much needed income while studying and subsequently gaining practical experience to launch my new business and career. Although tough it was extremely enjoyable and from the outset I was carving a lifestyle in line with my needs and values. Now I both plan for tomorrow and live for today. At times it can be extremely challenging but its also extremely rewarding.

When I begin working with a client who’s considering a career change, quite often it’s because of a particular turning point in their life and they’ve come to realise that life is too short for them not to be living it fully.

In light of the reality that life is short, what are the important elements you need to include in your life to ensure you’re fulfilled and motivated in both your work and your life outside of work? To get started in your thinking take time to reflect on the following questions:

▪ What do you want to accomplish? Contribute? Complete? Create or build?
▪  What legacy or reputation do you want to leave behind?

Perhaps now is the time to create the next chapter of your life story.

Evolving Careers Players can you help you manage and develop your career and life chapters.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

If you have a question or problem – you also have the answer

imagesI believe for every question or problem we have we also have the answer within us, and to demonstrate this I’ll tell you a story about Jack.

Some years ago when Jack was just seven, his primary school decided they were going to form a school council with two representatives from each class. This was announced in the morning at school assembly and the students were told that anyone who wanted to be considered would have an opportunity after lunch to speak in front of their class to be considered for nomination.

Jack relayed this to me at the end of the day when he told me he was among the candidates nominated from his class. I asked what he’d done and what he’d said that resulted in his success at this initial stage, and he said, at lunch time he’d found himself a quiet corner in the playground and thought through what he might say, but when he stood in front of his class and saw everyone staring at him, he froze and couldn’t remember what he was going to say. I asked what he did then, and he said “well I just started talking and I don’t remember what I said but at the end everyone clapped and I was nominated”.

He was on a high and went about developing his campaign strategy. Then one day when he came home from school he seemed quite subdued and when I asked what was wrong, he said “Today Owen (one of his opponents) brought cookies to school and gave one to anyone who promised to vote for him”. He asked his dad and I what he should do but we just looked at each other and wondered if we should perhaps go out and buy chocolate for Jack to give to his friends. We didn’t do this, nor did we have the answer to give Jack and so he went about working on his campaign.

At the time Jack was into both The Simpsons and The Rugrats and he made up stickers, leaflets, posters and banners, saying ‘Vote for Jack’  using these cartoon characters, he had the whole family involved in his campaign. Jack took himself away from the immediate problem of how to compete against Owen and his cookies by busying himself with his campaign.

Then the morning of the election came and when I dropped Jack at school, I asked what he was going to say in his election speech and he said he didn’t know but he was concerned that his classmates would vote for Owen because they would get another cookie. I waited with baited breath all day, hoping he wouldn’t be too disappointed if he wasn’t successful. When I picked him up in the evening, I asked tentatively what happened. And Jack said “oh yeah I was elected” in a no big deal sort of way. ‘But what did you say I asked.

Jack answered: ‘“Well I stood up and everyone was staring at me, and I said Owen has promised you cookies if you vote for him, these cookies will last a couple of minutes,  I can promise to help make your dreams come true, these will last forever” My god Jack I asked where did that come from? I don’t know he said it just came to me.

Therein lies my belief that whether we’re 7 or 97 if we have a question, or a problem that we think we don’t have the answer or the ability to cope with, we actually do and quite often the solution comes to us when we take ourselves away from the immediate problem and busy ourselves with something perhaps related to the issue as Jack did by working on his campaign, or we may just need to distance ourselves from the issue. I find I have my most inspirational thoughts when I go for a walk or visit an art gallery or museum, or take in a film or a theatre performance.

At the time Jack was successful in being elected to represent his class at the school council he loved Jackie Chan films and earned himself the nickname among his classmates as ‘Jackie Chan the first school council man’.

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.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

How to Answer Bizarre Interview Questions – Such as: How would you count the hairs on a cat!

imagesA client was asked this question when he was interviewing for a project management role at an investment bank in the City and was given a pen and paper, and calculator! to work it out. He was thankful of this because it gave him time to gather his thoughts and while he didn’t calculate he did scribble down a few thoughts.

His answer was: “He’d weigh one hair, then shave the cat and weigh all the hair he shaved off, he’d then divide the overall hair weight by the individual hair weight to get the number of hairs on the cat. He got the job!

What the interviewers were looking for was a candidate who could demonstrate their ability to think on the spot, showing creativity and intuitiveness as well as logical and practical thinking, including how they would go about solving difficult and even unusual challenges that might arise, and also to have conviction in their answer and the confidence to communicate this. The interviewer is more interested in how you get to an answer, as opposed to what the answer might be.

Such challenging questions are becoming ever more commonplace in interviews it seems, as employers seek to get past the polish and hire the best candidate. With so many self-help websites, candidates can be quite polished on standard interview questions, making it difficult for people to stand out if they ask the routine questions, so doing things differently will help them get to the best candidate.

Evolving Careers Players can help you “Get past the polish to hire the best candidate”. We support our clients in their selection process by devising role-play for real-play workplace scenarios, including a few quirky situations!, allowing you to get to know each candidate beyond ‘canned’ answers. They’re having to react in the moment allowing you to find the right person that both fits your company culture and can refresh your business with new ideas.

We deliver corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios, career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre,www.evolvingcareersplayers.com Get in touch to discuss your requirements: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

Check out one of the role-play scenarios we set up for a client who wanted a candidate to demonstrate how she would manage a team member who is resistant to being managed by a younger manager. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz3_3b06Kuk

What completely engages you in your work?

imagesWhat is it you find yourself doing when you’re completely engrossed and the time just passes by and you have to remind yourself to stop to eat and before you know it the morning has turned into evening and you can still continue with what you’re doing into the night. For me, lately it’s writing and I say lately as I suppose part of me wonders if this is just a passing phase and if my thought process will dry up soon.

Why do I want to write? Because as Colin Firth said in his role as George V1 in the ‘Kings Speech’ ‘I have a voice’ and I’m discovering writing to be a great expression of that, and being the reflective soul I am, writing is a more natural medium for me to get my thinking out there, as opposed to impromptu speaking– as Mark Twain once said ‘it takes me three weeks to prepare for an impromptu speech’

My professional/personal development is important to me, as I expect it is for many people and for some of you it will be an important perk of the job, i.e. you’re fortunate that support to continue to progress and develop your career is part of your reward package. However what do you do if the training budget has been frozen, or like me you need to fund your own learning and development or you want to develop skills for something you aspire to do in the future and can’t get buy in from your HR department to approve this because they can’t see how it will support you in your current role and actually you don’t really want them to know about it anyway.

The good news is there are ways to gain skills that will serve you in progressing your career path in the direction of your choice and this can be done in a manner that fits into your life/work and is cost effective.

For example once I knew I wanted my next career to be about supporting individuals in their career learning and development (In a previous life I worked in Investment Banking) I undertook studies in Career Coaching and Career Management at Birbeck University. This was a significant investment but knowing the work I aspired to do, I knew to be able to support others I needed a good theoretical foundation that I could then personalise to my client needs. This has led me to where I am and I’m thoroughly enjoying my client work and learn so much through my clients.

And so to continue my own learning and development and move my career in the direction I want to, I’ve identified that I want to develop my research and development skills along with my writing skills and for the moment I’m not going to invest in any specific training to do this but instead I’m adapting a hands on approach of just getting stuck in and building a little of this into my day/week .

The purpose of this is to become a specialist in my area by staying up to date with what’s going on in my industry and discovering new ways of doing things and as a result be able to support my clients in a manner that draws on expertise, is fresh, interesting, creative, innovative and fun.

Other areas I want to develop are my technical ability, and my marketing skills – in the past I have to admit to being a little phobic about technology. So, to facilitate this development need, I built my first websites and I’m learning all about social media and I have to say I’m really enjoying it and of course it’s a double whammy because along the way I’m developing my business and my business skills – so a win/win really.

If I can do it so can you, just think about what you’re doing when you’re completely engaged and build more of this into your day and think about the skills you want to develop and you’ll find ways to take a hands on approach to make this happen.

And what if as an aspiring writer my thought process does dry up and I develop writer’s block as they say, well that’s when the romantic side of me kicks in and I think I’ll take myself off to a beautiful location, perhaps a French or Italian home that  has a vineyard for a backyard… My creative juices are sure to flow once more – or it might just seem that way a vintage or two later!

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.evolvingcareerslayers.com Get in touch to discuss your needs: carmel@evolvingcareersplayers.com

From the World of Publishing to Companion Animal Practioner, Making Personalised Dinnerware for Discerning Pets and Dog Walking

imagesI’m sharing Janet’s story by way of demonstrating that if you can conceive an idea you can achieve it. It will take planning, preparation, the necessary training and development, a good business plan and strategy, but as Janet discovered you just need to take the first step and the rest of your journey will unfold along the way.

Janet worked in the publishing industry, it was a natural fit because of her love of literature and she was happy there for many years. However as time went on Janet’s interests in other areas grew and developed. As well as being very creative Janet has always had a strong passion for animals and with her partner has two beautiful cocker spaniels and a cat called Taj.

It’s always good to make time for your interests and hobbies outside of work and for most people this is enough, while for others this can lead to building a business in line with their passions. This is what happened for Janet.

She first enrolled on a ceramics course making art ceramics and her obvious talent was recognised early which resulted in her work being displayed in galleries in the UK and Germany. Although a major achievement it didn’t bring in a lot of money. By way of‘ a filler’ as Janet figured out what to do with the art ceramics she began making dog bowls.

The reason she focussed on this specifically was because her own two dogs being cocker spaniels had long floppy ears which got in the way when they were eating and so she designed a bowl that helped to overcome this problem. The bowls proved to be so popular that Janet decided to let the arty stuff fall by the wayside and focus on building the bowls (for both dogs and cats) as a business. She developed a website to market her wares and this took off overnight and the orders came flooding in and her business was featured in Vogue magazine 2010. Because she was doing this alongside her day job, she had a waiting list and her clients were quite happy with this, after all they were getting a unique gift for their much loved pet.

Phase one of Janet’s new career and business was underway and although it wasn’t exactly planned it had in essence evolved from nurturing her creative ability. Then through her love of animals she came across TTouch, which is a therapy used in training, handling and rehabilitation of companion animals. She undertook the training needed to develop her skills and ability to set herself up in practice as a TTouch Therapist. Having gone through the process she has now established herself and has developed a new website to market her services. Along with word of mouth it’s amazing how quickly the word is spreading and her business is developing and she is working as a Companion Animal Practioner.

As phase two was developing Janet had the realisation that she was now in a position to move away from her publishing career and become self-employed, she needed to develop her business plan and strategy to ensure the timing was right and she had everything in place she needed to make a smooth transition. Obviously for anyone leaving a secure job where they know they have a salary at the end of each month, they need to take financial considerations into account and be comfortable with their projected income, because Janet established her business alongside her current work, she was in a good position to understand the potential demand and income from her products and services, and so it was from an informed standpoint she planned her transition.

Once she began to talk to people about her plans she actually secured another piece of work to add to her portfolio. As both her and her partner were working full time they engaged the services of a dog walker to exercise their dogs during the week. This is another successful business and once the woman who did the dog walking learnt that Janet was moving on from her permanent job, she asked if she’d like to join her business and do some dog walking when time permitted. This was a win/win situation for both women, Janet has regular paid work on top of her earning potential from her products and services, along with getting paid for her daily exercise! And the other woman can focus on developing her business in the knowledge her client’s dogs are in good hands.

The moral of this story is: even if you don’t know where your journey is taking you, take the first step. I like to use the analogy of driving in a fog: you need to travel from Cornwall to Scotland, but you can only see a few yards ahead as you begin your journey but somehow that’s enough as you know the fog will clear and you move towards your destination at a pace that’s safe and manageable. You may eventually come to a crossroads and when you do, the time you’ve taken thinking and reflecting during your journey will help you figure out which road to take.

Some people will say to me if you don’t know where you’re going how you will know when you get there, others will say not knowing where they’re going may take them along more interesting paths. Just remember we’re all different and there’s no right or wrong path to your destination.

•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

The Old Sheepdog Story and Thinking on the Spot

imagesAn old sheepdog starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.The old sheepdog thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep s… now!”

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old sheepdog exclaims loudly: “Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder, if there are any more around here?” Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees. Phew!,” says the panther, “That was close! That old sheepdog nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes. The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther. The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

Now, the old sheepdog sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?,” but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old sheepdog says… “Where’s that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!”

Moral of this story – Don’t mess with the old dogs! or brilliance only come with age and experience! …. or does it?

Nah of course not, there are techniques that can help you to relax when under pressure and to think on the spot. These include:

Breathing – this may sound obvious, but deepening and lengthening your breath stimulates a relaxation response which creates a feeling of calm.

Listen and Pause – whether that’s to your own instinct of needing to know what to do or say next as the old sheepdog did, or whether its critical to the success of your answer in situations when perhaps you’re being interviewed, or you’re facilitating a Q and A or you’re delivering bad news e.g. a company restructure which is going to have a significant impact on the lives and careers of the individuals present.

Really listening allows you to be completely present in the moment and is critical to the success of your action or answer. Then pause before you respond – as long as you don’t have a look of panic on your face, you’ll look thoughtful, careful and respectful. Pause even if you know the action to be taken or the answer to be communicated, especially if you feel under attack. Carrying out an action or blurting out a response without thinking it through will make you appear insecure and anxious. A thoughtful pause reminds you to slow down and collect yourself and your thoughts.

Organise – When having to think on the spot or having to respond to an impromptu question, the idea is to structure your response for clarity, brevity and impact. By learning a few impromptu response structures, your actions and answers will always be organised and confident. Here are three structures for you to try out:

Impromptu Response Structures:

PREP: Position, reason, example, position, in this model first state the position of the topic, and then you state your reason for taking that position. Next you provide an example or story that supports your reason. Finally, you summarise by restating your position.

PEP: Point, example, point, in this one you start by making a point or stating a key idea or objective. Then you give an example or story that proves your point. Then you wrap up by restating the main idea, or your main point. When you’re short on time, this is the way to go.

Divide and Conquer: This requires you to think quickly of a way to divide up your response, choosing between past, present and future problem solving solutions: Past: solutions that have worked before, Present: being completely in the moment to be able to react in time with a solution that will work in the here and now – as the old sheepdog did! Future: gathering intelligence to anticipate what the future holds supporting you in being forearmed with informed solutions.

Then practice these techniques, because as we all know practice makes perfect. You can do this by applying these techniques to everyday situations both in work and your life outside of work – maybe you want your child to eat more vegetables – begin by telling them this (stating your position) your reason is of course because you want them to grow up to be big and strong, then you tell them the story of the big green giant who ….. (you know where I’m going with this) and then you restate your position.

Practising the techniques when the situation or questions are easy, and you’re not under pressure, means you can learn the structures quickly. Then when you are put on the spot, you can easily relax, listen, organise and respond. Whether you’re attending a meeting, interviewing for a job, presenting a proposal, selling an idea, handling a question and answer session, or dealing with a panther! being able to respond clearly and concisely at a moment’s notice is a critical professional skill.

Evolving Careers Players can help you develop your skills to enable you to be prepared for all of these situations. 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

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

Your ticket to successful career performances

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