Thursday, December 28, 2006

My column (part 2)

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that Accountancy magazine had asked me to write a regular monthly column for them. And I asked to see if anyone had any ideas of what to call it.

Anyway, in the end they decided to call my column 'Yeung at heart'.

Which is cool. Okay, it's not the cleverest pun in the world, but at least the readers will never forget who their 'star' columnist is!

But the biggest thrill is simply being a monthly columnist. It's something that I've wanted to do for years. And I get to write about any aspect of management or leadership or careers or psychology at work that I want. Plus the magazine goes out to a huge readership - every single person who has ever graduated as an accountant. Which stands at around 150,000 readers, apparently. And that number goes up by several thousand every year. So it's good to know that I'm being widely read.

If you'd like to see how they laid out the column, you can read it on the Talentspace website by clicking here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Christmas: A psychological perspective

I've written on the topic of happiness before. And the current issue of The Economist actually leads on the topic.

So I thought I'd distil some of their words of wisdom - but add to them my own particular Christmas spin.

Capitalism is adept at turning luxuries into necessities - bringing to the masses what the elites have always enjoyed. But the flip side of this is that people come to take for granted things they could have coveted from afar. Frills they never thought they could have become essentials that they cannot do without. People are stuck on a treadmill: as they achieve a better standard of living, they become inured to its pleasures.

In other words, if you buy stuff, you get used to it quidkly. So even though a new little luxury might give you a burst of joy initially, you'll get used to it.

To add to the problem:

Many good things in life are 'positional'. You can enjoy them only if others don't. Sometimes, a quick car, fine suit or attractive house is not enough. One must have the fastest car, finest suit or priciest house.

In other words, we tend only to enjoy stuff because we feel it makes us better off than the people around us. Status tends to be more important to people than we let ourselves believe.

So what do the economists suggest you do?

The economic arbiters of taste recommend 'experiences' over commodities, pasttimes over knick-knacks, doing over having.

So if you really want to be happy this Christmas, focus on doing 'stuff' rather than buying 'stuff'. Spend it on travelling to see people you enjoy spending time with. Spend it on eating out, ice skating, going to the movies, playing Cluedo or kicking a football around in the garden, sharing a coffee and gossip or having drinks with friends and loved ones.

But whatever you do, have a great festive season!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Job hunting: Getting a job without the right qualifications

I had an email from a reader who asked:

Okay my dream job is building websites, I have no formal qualifications and only limited knowladge but I can build a mean website and get it ranked in a couple of weeks, most times on the second page of Google to start with and within a two week period and with a little more work onto the first page.

I have three websites like this already so I know it is not by chance.

How do I convince anyone to give me my dream job when all these sort of companies want an employee straight out of college with a degree?

Hmm. Interesting quandary.

Of course it's not uncommon to hear candidates getting knocked back because they don't have the right paper qualifications. Here's what I'd do:

  • Focus your covering letter and CV or resume on your successes. When an interviewer opens your letter, they should be hit immediately within the first paragraph with examples of the websites that you have created and what you managed to do with them. Write in the first person singular about what you have done (i.e 'I achieved...' and 'I built' rather than 'the website achieved...' or 'the website was built...').
  • If possible, apply by email rather than writing a physical letter. That way, you can include links to the websites you have built and links also to prove their Google ranking.
But the best advice I would give any job hunter who doesn't have a typical background is to network your way into a job rather than applying like everyone else. Basically, the idea is that you talk to the people you know to ask for contacts to other people who might then introduce you to other people. It's time consuming and you will in all likelihood have to speak to many, many dozens of people. Eventually, by following your chains of contacts, you will probably find your way into a job; even if you don't know anyone 'important', you may know people who know people who know people who might be 'important'. I've written a book on the topic but I'm in a rush and not explaining this well so here's a link that might help you out. Yes, networking is definitely going to be a better bet than simply applying for jobs.

Good luck!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Priorities, life goals, and career dissatisfaction

As a business psychologist, I often coach people not only on issues at work, but also more broadly in their lives too.

Quite often, my coachee might express dissatisfaction about a specific issue at work - perhaps bad relationships with a colleague, poor promotion prospects, or team conflict. But then it frequently turns out that they actually have some measure of dissatisfaction about their work/life balance too.

Of course many people are driven to succeed. They feel that they have to do well. But are they actually happy doing what they do?

The Tombstone Test is one way of helping people figure out what matters to them. But, to go into more detail, I often find it helpful to help coachees to work through the 'four Ss' of life and career fulfillment:

  • Success - the material trappings of doing well at work. So this might be measured in terms of greater responsibility and decision making power, material wealth, a big salary, a corner office, and so on. How much money, responsibility and power do you need? Does more make you actually happier?
  • Status - we all have some need for recognition and respect. And some people need status and recognition more than others - perhaps in the form of job titles or the number of people who look up to us at work. How much status do you need? Are you stuck on the treadmill of earning in order to impress other people when the only person you should be trying to impress is (obviously) yourself?
  • Satisfaction - the extent to which we actually enjoy our work. Do you honestly love and have a passion for what you do?
  • Significance - the extent to which we feel our work is impacting positively on colleagues, the local community, the environment and so on. Is your work creating a legacy for you and the people who matter to you?
It's a cliche that no one on their death bed ever said they wished they'd worked harder. And working through the extent to which you need the 'four Ss' in your work might help you figure out what direction your career should be going in.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The good, bad, and ugly of dealing with headhunters

Ever been headhunted? Want to be headhunted?

Be careful though. Not all so-called 'headhunters' are created equally.

It's true that a call from a headhunter can seem like a gift from heaven when it comes to opening up job opportunities. And the marketplace is full of headhunters, recruitment consultants, executive search firms, agencies and other advisers who claim they can help. But this is also a pretty much unregulated industry and, in the absence of regulation, there are as many shoddy and disreputable practitioners as there are trustworthy ones.

Roger Eglin, a long-standing journalist at the Sunday Times (the biggest selling Sunday newspaper here in the UK) wrote a review of my book, The Rules of Job Hunting in yesterday's paper. Interestingly, if you decide to buy the book, you'll find that the journalist's article is 90% directly lifted from my book!

It's my second time in the Sunday Times in the space of about 2 months - so I'm very, very pleased about that!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Improve your life

I pick up self-help and management books all the time. And I've been skimming my way through one - it wasn't very good. I don't want to embarrass the author by naming the book! Because in just over 200 pages, I think I learned approximately, er, nothing.

Except for this one gem:

Once a week, ask for a suggestion from somebody and do what he or she says, even if you find it difficult. See what happens.

I like that. I might try it.

If you try it, let me know how you get on.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Job hunting: Dealing with a prison record

As I just mentioned, I only set up my Squidoo page on job hunting a few days ago, but the emails are already coming in from other members of that website.

An American reader posted an interesting question:

What I would request of you is to prepare a presentation for men and women coming out of prison, given that they have no education nor marketable skills. It's a tough assignment to be sure. But its what 600,000 people a year face when they come out of prison.

Wow, that's a toughie. And I have to admit that I've never coached anyone who has had a prison record.

However, I think that there are some guidelines that someone who has served out their sentence could follow to maximise their chances of finding a job:
  1. Realise that it's going to take a while to get the right kind of job. Sometimes you may need to get any job to begin with and work your way back into the system before you can start to pursue the kind of jobs you really want.
  2. Communicate your humility and integrity with your body language as well as words. Interviewers may be worried about your honesty and integrity - they're probably going to question your motives. And research shows that only a small proportion of your impact is determined by your words; your tone of voice, body language, and eye contact often are much more influential. So try to communicate your humility not only in what you say but also how you say it. Use very open body language. Keep your hands open and move them only slowly - try to avoid balling them up into fists as this could be read subconsciously as a sign of aggression.
  3. Convey your regret for the mistakes you've made. Interviewers are much more likely to consider you if you can convince them that you have reflected upon the reasons and choices you made that led to you ending up in prison.
  4. Boost your credibility in the eyes of interviewers by getting testimonials written about you. It will likely take a number of months to find a good job. So in those months don't waste your time by sitting by the telephone waiting for it to ring or just watching TV. Offer your services for free to local residents - even if it's just doing some gardening or picking up groceries for an elderly neighbour. Once you have done some good deeds, ask them to write you a testimonial. Even better, ask if you can use their name and telephone number to provide a post-prison character reference for you.
Good luck!

Wow - Squidoo 'lens of the day'

I only set up my Squidoo page on job hunting a few days ago. But I got a half-dozen messages straight away.

Turns out I was nominated for 'lens of the day'!

Seems job hunting is an incredibly popular topic. So I think I'll blog more frequently about job hunting and interviews here too...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Job hunting and Squidoo

There are so many different web opportunities out there!

I discovered a website called Squidoo and thought I'd set up a page there - you can find it at www.squidoo/getyourdreamjob/ and it has a slightly different focus from my blog. This blog covers all manner of work-related topics from setting up your own business to climbing the greasy pole. But on my Squidoo page, I'm going to collect together all in one place stuff mainly about jobs and job hunting. At the moment there's only half a dozen articles on there. But I shall add to it over time to make it an indispensable resource for job hunters of all persuasions.

Watch this space!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Job interviews: 'What do you dislike about your job?'

Thought I'd blog about job interviews today. It's been ages since I've done so, despite the fact my biggest selling book of the moment is on interviews!

Going for a job, an interviewer might well ask you: 'What do you dislike about your current job?'

You might be tempted to say: 'Nothing'. But an interviewer might find it hard to swallow if you claim you enjoy every single aspect of your work. Everyone has minor dislikes or frustrations about their work and, to be a compelling candidate, you need to be ready to talk about some of them.

Your tactic in answering this question might be to talk about factors outside of your control such as inefficient computer systems or company policies that you simply have to put up with.

Or you could try responding by talking about some necessary evil in your work
, such as the need to complete lots of paperwork or having to work on your own for long periods of time. Just be certain that paperwork or working on your own (or whatever else you chose to tell the interviewers you dislike) isn't going to be a key part of the job before talking about how much you dislike it!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Is anyone out there? (A rejoinder)

A couple of weeks ago, I asked: Is anyone out there?

Well, the answer seems to be yes. So the winner of the competition is Boso.

Step forward Boso - drop me an email with your name and address (my email's to the bottom right of the blog if you scroll down) and I'll send you a couple of books when I get the chance - probably next week. Although I can't guarantee that it'll be prettily wrapped up with string like the little picture here!