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

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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

Creating a Fulfilling Career

jumping-out-of-bedCan we really create a career that’s fulfilling, motivating, inspiring that makes us want to jump out of bed in the morning and keeps us sustained throughout the day, week, and month? Well actually yes, and I can say that because that’s exactly what I’ve done for myself and I know quite a few people who have also done it.

Coming from a background in Investment banking, which I actually really enjoyed while I was doing it, which was as much to do with being in a good environment and working with great people as well as the job itself. It did become mundane towards the end as I was doing it for so long and so the time came to move on, but move on to what – that was the million dollar question.

It did take time to discover what that was but eventually I arrived to where I am now, by way of a number of excellent courses, not least my Postgraduate studies in Career Coaching and Career Management with Birbeck University and I know it sounds very cliché but if there was one life changing moment, undertaking this course would be it in terms of where I am now in my career and lifestyle.

My learning and development has always been important to me and now I was in a position where I was working with individuals and organisations on their learning and development programmes. The 121 work came easy but I felt inhibited delivering group work – I suddenly became quite wooden! To overcome this I undertook a foundation year in Drama along with several shorter acting and directing courses and actually a little drawing and painting too!

It was then I had my eureka moment, the techniques, structures and methods of theatre are significant in the world of career learning and development. The unique skills set performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This is ‘learning by doing’ enabling the practice of new skills sets and behaviours in a safe, supportive, challenging and creative environment.

I was now in a position to combine my knowledge and experience of career learning and development with drama-based techniques. This enables the individuals and teams I work with to be more active, spontaneous and flexible, freeing their minds to use their imagination in being inventive and original. The intrinsic nature of this work helps foster creativity, team spirit and emotional intelligence.

This was a double whammy for me, because along with a love of learning and development I am also passionate about performing and visual arts and now I’ve created a career that embodies what’s most important to me. I work with interesting people helping them manage and develop their careers and I work with a team of performing and visual artists in delivering the work – A win/win!

If you’re at a stage in your life where you’re no longer finding your career fulfilling, consider the following:

What are your most important core value? e.g. for me its the importance of learning and development and this is through many mediums – reading, courses, cultural experiences …

What are your best attributes? – e.g. kindness, curiosity, sense of humour …

What are your most unusual characteristics? – e.g. I consider myself to be adventurous – loving new experiences, brave – I’ve taken risks, humble – more behind the scenes kind of person – loving research and development, directing …

What are your best mental abilities? e.g. empathy, the ability to see both the bigger and smaller picture, the ability to think laterally and understand new ideas …

What are your best social skills? e.g. friendly, easy company, interested in people – welcoming, …

What are your best business skills? e.g. relationship building, flexibility and adaptability, communication skills …

And what are your most important interests? e.g. for me its performing and visual arts, travel, discovering new things …

Answering these questions will hopefully help you create a better life/work balance, by ensuring you embrace what’s important to you both in your work and your life outside of work, and if like me, you may want to consider a new career which embodies the things that are important to you, these questions will hopefully provide a good stepping off point to begin exploring your journey to a new and more fulfilling career.

Evolving Careers Players can help you manage and develop a career that’s more fulfilling to you, and if its time to move onto something new, we can help you discover what that is and support you in taking the steps to make it happen. 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

Hiring the Best Person for the Job

imagesIn a Harvard Business Review article Kevin Ryan founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe suggests  going beyond the referees supplied by a candidate and utilising your network to find mutual contacts who can provide candid feedback  and asking the following questions:

▪ Would you hire this person again? If so, why and in what capacity? Of if not, why not?
▪ How would you describe the candidate’s ability to innovate, manage, lead, deal with ambiguity, get things done, and influence others?
▪ What were some of the best things this person accomplished? What could he or she have done better?
▪ In what type of culture, environment and role can you see this person excelling? In what type of role is he or she unlikely to be successful?
▪ Would you describe the candidate as a leader, a strategist, an executor, a collaborator, a thinker, or something else? Can you give me some examples to support your description?
▪ Do people enjoy working with this candidate, and would former co-workers want to work with him or her again?
▪ In what areas does the candidate need to improve?

Perhaps Kevin’s thinking and approach is quite radical, however its congruent with his philosophy that businesses succeed not because of a unique idea and vision but because of the people and its execution that matters, and execution relies on human talent which demands building and maintaining a high calibre team and in order to do this a candidates true potential needs to be understood. The approach described above supports the right decision being made for important hires and of course all hires are important.

Evolving Careers Players can help you in your selection process. Through Corporate Drama role-play we enable real-play work based scenarios. 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

What Business Schools can learn from the Medical Profession and the Importance of Work Based Learning

imagesToday’s post was inspired by an article I read in Harvard Business Review in which the author spoke about the advantage medical schools have over business schools because of most medical schools being affiliated with hospitals, allowing students exposure to real-world and real-time situations, in contrast to inserting business students into real-world managerial situations which is more challenging. Now as the author points out while it can be disconcerting for patients to put their lives in the hands of individuals who are still learning their profession, the medical profession supervises its trainees, giving them enough autonomy to learn while minimising the chance they harm their patients.

The author goes on to talk about how Harvard Business School has long used case studies as a method to project students into the role of managers solving problems and while acknowledging case studies as a very effective tool, also recognises the limitation for business students who can only imagine how they’d tackle a problem, whereas medical students are facing real-life health concerns. The author goes on to talk about a curriculum change Harvard is undertaking to close this knowing-doing gap.

This article resonated with me because of a meeting I had recently with a previous colleague who is now working with a leading university on Work Based Learning. The university has pioneered an Institute for Work Based Learning which partners directly with individual learners and organisations to create bespoke programmes from certificate through to doctorate level. Additionally they have partnered with two leading Business Schools by way of collaboration on the delivery of training. This initiative is further supported by the Work Based Learning Research Centre they’ve established allowing real-time understanding of the relationship between work practice and learning within organisations together with development needs in line with UK policy and international demands.

This is an area of further interest for me because many organisations have cut back on their training and development budget as a result of the current economic situation. Many have come to recognise the adverse impact this has had on their corporate growth strategy, particularly as many of these organisations have gone through downsizing and restructuring exercises, and as a result have lost valuable employees, causing intense pressure to the ‘survivors’ to not only steer through everyday challenges and increased workloads but also improve their skills and learning to allow them to perform in line with the needs and demands of their roles and organisational development.

Organisations always say employees are their most valuable asset but slashing training budgets doesn’t convey that message and is incongruent with that philosophy  Surely Work Based Learning is the solution to enable individuals and teams in bridging that knowing-doing gap that would support their organisation in achieving their business strategy.
Check Out http://www.mdx.ac.uk/wbl for further information on their learning programmes.

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

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