Improvisation Career Change and Hiking in the Alps

FearDuring an improvisation workshop one of the exercises was for the group to work in pairs and to tell a story by each saying one word at a time. They did this by moving around the room and they began to step into the story and played out the actions and emotions as the story unfolded. The instruction was to go with it even if it took them to a scary place and to then go beyond that and experience where it took them from there. Every single pairing ended up dying and then coming back to life in a different capacity, and that was where their stories became even more interesting and great fun as they began to explore unknown quantities in respect of the pathways ahead of them as they unfolded in the moment.

I find so many parallels in corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios and real-time work-based scenarios from career development and management through to career change and transition. The techniques, methods, and structure of performing arts, which are at the core of our work are significant in the always evolving world of career learning and development.

I have conversations all the time with people who have reached a scary place in their career and they are struggling to go beyond that and this reminds me of a Mark Twain quote “courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”. Metaphorically speaking the courage needed to go beyond that barrier of fear to the other side of your career life can be compared to the fear felt before dying and crossing over to the other side or spiritual world.

Richard’s story is one of many in terms of clients who have come to this place in their career. Richard was a language teacher, his first language was English and he was fluent in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. His whole career had been within private schools teaching young adults, and while he had enjoyed his work, he felt he needed a change and wanted adventure and excitement in his life. Unlike some clients who reach this stage but don’t know what to do next that will give them what it is they’re seeking, Richard did know, but nonetheless it was still a scary prospect because to take this step beyond, would take him away from the security and stability he had in his current role and into the unknown.

Richard wanted to move into the travel industry with a specific focus on educational travel languages and cultural programmes within Europe. This would allow him to use his language skills and to nurture his knowledge and love of medieval and 20th century European history. He was experienced in designing school trips and had established strong collaborative working relationships with partners in a number of countries. He had also spent many holidays skiing and hiking in the Alps and so all in all he was in a pretty good place in knowing the possibilities that could be out there.

But it kept coming back to giving up a full time job and everything that went with that, it would also mean leaving his home in the UK for part of the year at least, as well as the social world he’d established for himself, and he had a pretty good life in London embracing his cultural interests and had a good circle of friends and so he fought this urge to move beyond where he was, which was actually pretty good but at the same time lacking that sense of excitement and adventure that he yearned for.

It was actually three years after I first met Richard and when he shared his career dream with me that it finally came to fruition. He admitted to having being scared to take the step he so wanted to, and of course he needed to consider the reality of the situation, particularly around the financial implications, relocating and what he would do with his home in the UK and moving away from his friends.

During these three years however he did work towards his career goal and spent his holidays exploring the countries of his choice before narrowing it down to specific regions and all the time talking to people and building relationships and friendships. Once he began to open up to people about what he aspired to do, he began to have some interesting conversations and more and more ideas opened up to him around how he could make this work and the opportunities that were out there.

For peace of mind he wanted to secure enough work for his first year and the good groundwork he put in place throughout his three year research enabled this to happen. He got his first assignment in a ski resort in the French Alps, working with Japanese business people to ensure they experienced the cultural highlights of the area. He has further work which will take him into the summer and autumn organising hiking exhibitions throughout the Alps.

Richard has now resigned from his teaching position, he’s rented his home for one year, his friends have all promised to visit him and he’s already established a good circle of friends in France. He’s stepped beyond that place of fear and is ready to embrace what lies ahead.

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you take the necessary steps to a difficult career transition. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs


How to Communicate with Power and Impact

imagesLeadership and change are driven by people who act and speak in a different way. Great influencers have always known the elemental role of communicating is motivating, persuading and gaining cooperation. But are great communicators born with those inherent skills or is it necessary to practice and develop techniques? The age-old nature versus nurture argument around trusting nature and acting by instinct as opposed to precision techniques and clear understanding to liberate hidden possibilities to learn the hard task of being true to the instinct of the moment.

Cicely Berry (renowned for her work as voice coach and director of the RSC) has based her work on the conviction that while all is present in nature, our natural instincts have been crippled from birth by many external influences and society at large. She goes on to say that while there is no one right way to speak, there are a million wrong ways that constipate feeling, constrict activity, blunt expression, level out idiosyncrasy, generalise experience, and coarsen intimacy.

So the work is about setting the voice free because life in the voice springs from emotion and speaking is part of a whole: an expression of inner life and awakening deep experiences which are seldom evoked in everyday speech. The voice is the means by which, in everyday life you communicate, and through of course how you present yourself – while your posture, movement, dress and involuntary gesture – gives an impression of your personality, it is your voice and the words you use that convey your precise thoughts and feelings.

Poetry in voice is an exciting way to explore moods in tone and voice to tell an emotional story and build confidence to speak more persuasively. Poetry presents a wide range of learning opportunities to include:

Offering examples of mastery of language and stocking the mind with images and ideas expressed in unforgettable words and phrases.
Training and developing emotional intelligence.
Reminding us that language is holistic and that how something is said is part of what is being said: the literal meaning of words is only part of their whole meaning, which is also expressed through tone of voice, inflection, rhythm.

To get started:

Find passages in poems which you find striking or memorable.
Imagine situations in which those passages might be put to use, whether to console, encourage, taunt, flatter, or otherwise make an impact on the listener.
Write a short story, letter, or speech in which at least three passages can be quoted effectively to move another character or the listener/recipient.

Poetry goes further than connecting with your voice because its also about connecting your head to your heart. Its an unique and dynamic way of getting back to the vocal pathway of instinctive expression through simple, practical actions that can empower you with the ability to communicate with power and impact.

Evolving Careers Players delivers 121 career coaching and group learning and development. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios to help individuals and groups develop their communication skills.

Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Managing your Career in Turbulent Times

????????????????????????????????????????There’s an old story about two shoe salesmen whose company sends them to a remote village in Africa Upon arrival, one sends home a message saying, “No one here wears shoes; will return shortly.” The other salesman sends this message: “No one here wears shoes; send inventory!” The point of the story, of course, is that your perspective influences your behaviour.  If you consider it’s all doom and gloom, and there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, you act one way. But if you see the world as a series of opportunities, you act differently.

Some time ago I was asked to write an article for Communication Director Magazine about what Communications Specialists need to do to be in a position to manage and develop their career in these times of uncertainty. Here’s what I had to say:

If I were to consider what has come out of the great recession to date, I think it would be that individuals at all stages in their career from emerging leaders to executives to members of the board are reconsidering the next steps in their careers.  They are taking control of the planning of their own career management and development ensuring that with a long term career plan, they can refocus their development wisely to make the most effective impact on their career. The recession has forced us all to focus on what matters and to use limited resources wisely to make the greatest impact. The key is to have a mind-set that focuses on the opportunities evolving as a result of the current economic environment as opposed to dwelling on the problems, after all a positive approach could help you sell a lot of shoes!

It’s all too easy to let the urgent demands of the workplace and the ailing economy trample over your need to focus on your own growth and job satisfaction. Yet, especially during lean times, if you don’t manage yourself, no one else will. Taking a step back and acknowledging the environment has shifted and while you may not be doing the work you were expecting to be doing, ask:

‘What can I do in this context to make sure that I’m still growing toward my vision?

You need to come up with a career plan that’s two-fold, both short-term and long-term. A natural tendency for people is to over-estimate what can be achieved in one year and under-estimate what can be achieved in five years. One benefit of keeping a strong focus on your vision is that it makes it easier to find alternate routes when you encounter road-blocks. Map out alternate pathways in advance before there is a road-block.

In the short-term you can advance your learning agenda in this current climate by keeping the vision of where you want to be and take advantage of every opportunity to gain the knowledge and experience that will move you closer to that vision.

Areas where communications currently play a key role and where you the corporate communications professional can make a difference include:

Company Business Strategy

The economic downturn forced organisations to scale back, sometimes quite dramatically but growth will again reappear on the horizon and when it does it will bring a new challenge of how to develop a team in sync with a business that’s operating in a very different environment. A strong business strategy will need to be in place to allow this growth.

But even the most brilliant strategy is worth nothing if it isn’t executed well.  Communications is unilaterally deemed critical to the success of strategic initiatives.  Historically communicators placed their role in an advisory capacity and not beyond, however to support the powerful convergence of strategy, communications should act as an integral and active component of strategy development and execution. There is no strategy without communications.
The strategy needs to be communicated across the organisation. Strategy communications need to be accompanied by metrics to help front-line employees take ownership over their roles in the execution. The message should be two-fold: this is what we are trying to achieve and this is how we will measure if we are achieving it.

To drive your own growth in this current climate you need to seek perpetual education and development and this is not necessarily by going to college but by putting yourself forward for new and perhaps demanding assignments.

▪ Demonstrate that you are willing and able to support business strategy from implementation through to execution
▪  Establish the role of communications as a resource to strategists
▪ Find ways of gaining exposure to new people and ideas by being a participant in the strategic task force
▪ Develop a strong collaborative working relationship with strategic planners and leaders
Understanding the intersection of strategy, leadership and communications by capturing all three of these viewpoints and different perspectives will provide a richer, more complete and holistic approach to your role of corporate communications specialist.

Sustainability and Social Responsibility
How as a corporate communications professional are you taking advantage of the stronger focus on Sustainability and Social Responsibility?
Companies are being more proactive towards the social pressure of protecting the environment, placing an emphasis on good employee relations and human rights as well as the business interest in assuming a leadership role in society and the economy. It is linked to the long-term sustainability for businesses.

▪ The key role of corporate communications is to establish ways of tying sustainability to a brand’s core business to ensure it resonates with customers.  This needs to be authentic by connecting the vision and execution in a credible and meaningful way, for example car brands must focus on making more fuel-efficient, cleaner cars – not saving the rainforest. Honesty and transparency go a long way with consumers. Disclosing what you’re doing well, and what you could be doing better, will instil trust and trust breeds loyalty.

▪ Communications play an important part in supporting your organisation in having a competitive edge when price and quality are equal. Work collaboratively with the team to ensure all sustainability efforts are in place, functioning and measurable before being announced. This will allow you to communicate a message that is credible, has clarity and is engaging – all of which are key to sustainable brand success.

▪ Social media offers great opportunities in supporting communication around CSR and Sustainability and there is clearly potential in digital communication to advance the sustainability dialogue for stakeholder engagement. But before getting on the social media bandwagon and focusing on the technology and the tools/platforms offered (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc.) consider the best practices of social media, which are primarily about conversations and relationship building. Revolving around trust, social media also requires openness, transparency, accountability and two-way engagement with an ability to listen and this is even more important in the field of communications as all of these elements are fundamental principles of CSR and Sustainability strategies.

CSR/Sustainability programs, when appropriately communicated, demonstrate the actualisation of values that are becoming more prominent in society. The emphasis here needs to be on appropriate communication. People tend to know when they are being “played” or when actions simply do not match the messages from to top. It is important then that the messaging around CSR/Sustainability focus on realistic activities and objectives, while celebrating actual successes and activities. An effective, and effectively communicated CSR/Sustainability program can demonstrate improved quality of process and organisational management, and can improve the quality of use of corporate resources.

But you also need to stay focussed on working toward your long-term career goals. Most professionals should be looking three years ahead and thinking about the ways in which they can make their actual day-to-day responsibilities more congruent with their deepest interests. This includes thinking about what kind of culture you want to have around you and how you can do more of the more meaningful aspects of your work. You should try to imagine as deeply as possible your vision for your work reality. Then you should work backwards from that to determine what you need to learn or experience over the next one or two years to be seen as a highly desirable candidate to step into that role.

As organisations prepare for growth a number of key areas that employers will focus on are:
▪ Ensuring an adequate pipeline of future leaders
▪ Retaining high-potential employees and those with critical skills
▪ Understanding the key roles and workforce segments that drive business success
▪ Linking employee performance to business goals
▪ Attracting the right workforce for the right roles

So, as well as  surviving  the current economic climate you also need to take responsibility of your own talent management and find ways of  developing yourself in order to secure that competitive edge that is vital to your long-term success. How can you position yourself within your organisation to ensure you have an opportunity to leverage your skills, talents and motivated abilities?
There are a number of ways in which you can you take control of your career to ensure you are motivated, stretched, inspired and your talents are nurtured through meaningful development opportunities and these include:

▪ Increasing your self awareness – Having clarity about who you are and what you want, empowers you to consciously and actively make those wants a reality
▪ Have focussed one to one coaching – An effective coach will support and challenge you to enable you to achieve what’s important to you
▪ Role model authentic leadership behaviours – Identify people you admire and respect and model their behaviours
▪ Make mentoring work – engage with senior people for career advice
▪ Take responsibility through benchmarking – Benchmarking allows you to compare yourself with others, identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve
▪ Embrace learning through experience – be open to learning and change, talent needs to be nurtured and developed through the right experiences and this will support meaningful work
▪ Use assignments and secondments creatively – bring your personal insights  and creative abilities to each assignment, this is your opportunity to shine
▪ Demand inspirational leadership – support your manager in being innovative with leadership programmes
▪ Aim to build breadth and personal depth – develop personal mastery through learning, intellectual agility and authenticity

Organisations are finding it tougher to retain their star performers, help them to tailor your job in line with your interests,  take on new responsibilities that enables you to express those interests. Maybe as a communications professional you have an interest in quantitative analysis, ask to take on duties working with market-research analysis or perhaps you want to develop your people management skills, put yourself forward for planning and managing new-hire orientation.
This creates new opportunities for utilising resources within the organisation as the key forces in driving organisational success. You have the opportunity and responsibility to support your organisation in recognising the impact of making sure the most important people stay motivated, happy and productive and that they stay with the company. Now is the time to take responsibility for your own talent management.

Evolving Careers Players can support you and your organisation in managing and developing careers during times of change. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Is it ever too Late for your Next Career?

imagesWell no I don’t think so and recently I began work with John who is 64 and wanted to consider his next career move.

John’s career began in the forces where he was an engineer before moving into production management in the computer industry. From there he moved into design and manufacturing in the telecoms industry, then on to operations director in the pharmaceutical industry before moving into consultancy work in the tobacco industry. His work took him all over the world and along the way he undertook various pieces of research and development and also worked closely with HR departments delivering training and development.

Then he decided to retire and move to the South of France, but a few months and many gastronomic delights later John was beginning to become a little bored and wondered if he had retired just a little too early, not one to sit on his laurels he undertook a building development project which led to another and before he knew it he was sourcing French properties for folks back in the UK and project managing the development work.

So as you can appreciate John is a man of many talents and when we began our work together he wanted to figure out what he wanted to do that would fit into semi-retirement – keep him mentally stimulated but also give him the scope to do nothing if he choose to. Nothing other than developing his appreciation for fine wines, fine food and fine art that is, oh and learning to speak French and playing boules.

This was no ordinary job search campaign and we soon agreed his best plan of campaign was to connect with people he’d met throughout his career, just by way of catching up for a coffee or beer and having a chat about things in general. Well no sooner did he do this when an opportunity arose for him to deliver some very specialist consultancy training work, whereby he was training the Consultancy Firm’s consultants for this specific field based work.

He’s now established himself as the person they come to when they bring new consultants on board and he’s also been asked to be a Non Executive Director supporting the development of talent with a commitment of one day a month over ten months of the year. Un coup de chance? (a stroke of good luck?) – Maybe a little luck but I’ve come to learn the better we are the luckier we become! And John is top of the game in terms of being good.

So, it’s never too late to begin your next career and a lot of employers will value the wealth of skills and experience you will bring to the organisation.

Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you transition into 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. Get in touch to discuss your needs :

Moving from Full Time Employment to Consultancy Work

freelancersA number of clients who have found themselves being made redundant from their roles because of the current economic crises consider setting themselves up as consultants in their area of expertise. Sometimes they’re at a point in their lives where they’re not quite ready to retire but they are ready to begin to wind their work down in some manner and make more time for interests or hobbies that are important to them.

Quite often these clients will count their previous employer as a source of consultancy work.  This is actually quite common when organisations are forced to downsize, because along with losing a lot of its good people it also loses the knowledge and expertise they contributed. Bringing people back on board who have organisation and industry knowledge and expertise makes perfect sense. The consultant benefits by earning a good daily rate and the organisation can pay this because they no longer have the responsibility and overheads for such things as pension and health plans or professional development.

James and Olivia are two clients who have successfully established themselves as consultants in this manner. Both James and Olivia were senior executives in their respective industries, James in the Transport Industry and Olivia in a leading Non Governmental Organisation. I was employed by their organisations as an outplacement consultant to see them through their career transition. As with all my clients I began their programmes by asking them to take a step back to  examine their skills, knowledge, experience and to consider how these were transferable into supporting them into a new career that ‘s in line with their interests, values and longer term life and career vision.

James enjoyed his work and his industry but he was at a stage in his life when his family had grown and had flown the nest. He had seen them through university and they were no longer dependent on him, he was also fortunate to no longer have a mortgage on his home and so all in all was in a good place from a financial perspective. He did however have a ‘bucket list’ of things he wanted to achieve in his life which included travelling to wonderfully exotic and interesting destinations with his wife. He also wanted to give something back to society and in some way make a difference. He wanted to continue working but just not in the same vein as before. It was important for him to remain intellectually stimulated through his work, he also wanted to retain the social aspect it provided and he needed it to fund his ‘bucket list’.

We explored and considered ways James could design his career to allow him to live his life to achieve these things. He had an extensive network with contacts throughout the UK and Europe to include Russia– one of the destinations he aspired to travel to.  Being a sociable person he began connecting with people and discovered various projects in the pipeline throughout Europe, he was known and respected in his industry and once people knew he was available for work they were more than happy to meet with him and very soon offers began to come through for consultancy work to include work with his old organisation and a piece of work in Russia.

To facilitate his travel aspirations and the ability to give back at a social level, James decided he wanted to take on assignments that would demand a commitment of several months at a time, once each piece of work was complete he would take one to three months off, during this time he would travel to a destination on his ‘bucket list’. He also identified a Social Enterprise in South Africa, where he and his wife spent time and he contributed his business acumen in helping them develop their vision and strategy.

Olivia’s being made redundant coincided with her husband and her relocating to the English coast. She wanted and needed to continue working but she also wanted to take time to settle in to her new home and community. She knew her work would take her away from home but she wanted this to me no more than three days a week, allowing her time to set up home and get to know people in her community. She also had a love of basket weaving and she wanted to make time for this along with time for cycling another love which she shared with her husband.
Similarly to James, Olivia set about networking and letting people know she was available for work. She was also highly regarded in her area of expertise and very soon she was having interesting conversations which led to work, some of which was located closer to the coastal area she had moved to, than she could have hoped for.

What is even more interesting about Olivia’s story is that once she started to connect socially with people in her community she discovered by way of conversation a non-profit basketry organisation in need of resurrection and this is exactly what she’s setting out to achieve with another woman who resides in the area.

As with all consultancy work, there are peaks and troughs in both James and Olivia’s work and because both of them have identified that they no longer wish or need to work on a full time basis, at times when they have a workload that demands more of their time than they are willing or able to give, they’re in a position to establish collaborative working relationships with fellow consultants in their respective fields and outsource this work. Many consultants will do this and it also allows them to be in a position to earn a commission for the work they pass along should they choose to.

*Published with clients permission, names have been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can support you in moving from full time employment to consultancy work. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development, and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Because of Longevity there’s Space for a Whole New Career between Retirement and Death

imagesWhen I first began delivering outplacement programmes, I delivered a programme which was sponsored by the government to help people back into work. It was a year long programme focussed on training and developing people in the area of Supply Change Management.  I was engaged to support people in the job search element of the programme. The participants were quite diverse in terms of age, experience and backgrounds.

I remember a conversation I had with one of the participants called Joe, because it’s one I have time and time again. Joe was in his early 60’s and although he was going through the motions of the programme, he had the belief because of his age that at the end of it organisations wouldn’t be interested in employing him and would choose younger candidates over him.

My thinking was different: Joe’s CV demonstrated his loyalty to the organisations he had previously worked with and had actually worked for his most recent employer for over 30 years before his position had been made redundant. Although he’d been with the same organisation his career had been quite progressive and he’d advanced in terms of the roles and responsibilities he’d undertaken. Along with his CV demonstrating his loyalty and ability, it also demonstrated his ‘stay ability’.

To my way of thinking these factors made Joe an attractive candidate to employers, yes perhaps he only had four or five years before retirement but this is actually quite substantial taking into account how much people move around in their careers today, someone younger may perhaps see an opportunity of joining an organisation as a stepping stone to the next stage of their career and will use this experience to facilitate this.

Today’s job market is very different to that of when Joe began his career, when a job was for life. I actually think this is quite positive because it allows a flow which supports people at different life career stages and when people like Joe want to join an organisation with a commitment to staying with them for four or five years, the organisation will recognise this as being a genuine commitment.

Joe told me our conversation helped him rethink his situation and he approached his job search with a more positive approach, he now recognised just how much he had to offer a potential employer and felt more confident in communicating this.

And of course should Joe choose to do something different, because of longevity there’s space for a whole new career between retirement and death and with the diverse range of skills and experience he’s developed throughout his career I suspect there might be a number of interesting options available to him.

Published with client’s permission. Name has been changed.

Evolving Careers Players can help you and your people transition into new roles. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre,   corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:

Top Seven Tips for Career Development

imagesCareer development is about enriching your working life to reflect your changing professional and personal needs. As your career develops it is important to retain a sense of purpose that motivates and challenges you, allowing self-fulfilment and opportunities to develop and grow. The following tips are intended to help you manage your career development plan.

1. You are accountable for your own success, as such it is your responsibility to be aware of your attributes and skills that can give you a competitive edge. Commit to excelling in what comes naturally to you to develop personal mastery. For example if you are a good negotiator, look for ways to fine tune your technique by practising in every day situations both in and out of work.

2. Imagine as deeply as possible your vision for your future work reality. Then work backwards from that to determine what you need to learn or experience over the next one or two years to be seen as a highly desirable candidate to step into your next role. Thinking of the bigger picture and understanding the challenges your industry is facing will support you in identifying the right intelligence and know-how needed to accelerate your career advancement.

3. Embrace learning through experience – be open to learning and change, your talent needs to be nurtured and developed through the right experiences and this will support meaningful work. Use assignments and secondments creatively, bring your personal insights and creative abilities to each assignment. Aim to build breadth and personal depth. This is your opportunity to shine and build your personal brand.

4. Make mentoring work – build a personal advisory board who can guide your career goals. Identify your circle of influence and take time to invest in these relationships. Take responsibility through benchmarking – Benchmarking allows you to compare yourself with others, identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve.

5. Demand inspirational leadership and support your manager in being innovative with leadership programmes. Identify key thought leaders in your industry – people you admire and respect for their authentic leadership, then role model their behaviours.

6. Find ways of gaining exposure to new people and ideas by being a participant in the strategic task force. Think of your networking as a professional development bootcamp. Learn to value your time and how to connect with the right people. Nurture the relationships that matter most. Give time and attention to keep the most meaningful relationships relationships active at all times.

7. Invest in your personal life to create balance and strengthen your career. Spend time with the people important to you and do the things you love to do outside of your work. This helps to clear your mind and broaden your observations through a different lens and appreciate new ideas that can help shape your thinking and contribute to your personal growth.

Organisations are finding it tougher to retain their star performers, help them to tailor your job in line with your own career development needs. Take control of your career development by ensuring you have a short term, medium term and longer term career plan. Having this plan in place will help you to focus your development wisely to have the most effective impact on your career.

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

Your ticket to successful career performances

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