Tag Archives: #careercoaching

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

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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

Work and Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear Research Consultant to Urbanisation Planner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Published with client permission. Name has been changed.

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

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

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