All posts by Niki Chesworth

5 Awkward Conversations You’ll Have at the Office Party

Awkward conversations at the office holiday party are inevitable. But at least now you have some tips on how to deal with them!

awkward conversations

Need some advice for the inevitable awkward conversations at the office party? Here are some top tips for you!

Scenario 1: You’re stuck making small-talk with the boss and can’t think of anything to say. Awkward!

You’ve spent the entire party trying to avoid anyone in a management position and then you find yourself at the bar or buffet with the boss. And there’s nobody else there to share the conversational burden.

“So, are you enjoying the party?” enquires to boss. “Yes, thanks” is your answer. Then the conversation goes dead.

You have to fill the vacuum. After all, you don’t want him/her to think you have absolutely nothing to say. This is your chance to make a great impression…(or not!).

Don’ts:

  • Stand there grinning – come on, you can do better than that!
  • Walk off – that’s more embarrassing than an awkward silence.
  • Tell a joke – humour is subjective.
  • Make demands – now is not the time to say “as we are finally having a chat, I wanted to ask about a promotion”.
  • Try too hard to impress – avoid self-promotion. You may appear arrogant rather than self-confident if you start boasting about your sales or whatever. Now is not the time or place.

Do’s:

  • Prepare – think of something neutral you could say in advance. For example, I really prefer this venue to last year and then talk about best/worst party venues. But don’t rehearse the conversation (it won’t feel natural). If you are at the buffet you could even talk about the food. In desperation, ask about holiday plans.
  • Ask questions – when you are nervous there is a temptation to talk too quickly and too much. Remember a conversation is a two-way exchange so try to get the boss to do more of the talking by asking questions. And remember to actively listen.
  • Watch your body language – this can say more than words. Make eye contact, smile and try to look engaged and interested even if your instinct is to run and hide in the toilet.

Scenario 2: A colleague is flirting with you and is becoming increasingly suggestive and getting inappropriately close but you really are not interested.

Handle this carefully. If you publicly humiliate someone they will probably feel embarrassed and could accuse you of reading the situation wrongly. And if you have overthought it, you will look like an idiot for suggesting they were coming on to you.

Don’ts:

  • Be dismissive – telling someone that you are just not interested, even if you are being polite rather than rude, is a rejection. Most people don’t handle rejection well.
  • Go along with it – if you are not interested, don’t take advantage.
  • Make a big deal of it – drawing attention to the situation is going to make it worse.

Do’s:

  • Change the subject – if you can, and then find an excuse to move away and stay away even if you have to say you need the toilet. You don’t want to be left alone with them again.
  • Reject them without rejecting them – talk about your partner to make it clear you are not available. However, don’t lie (for example, say you are married when you are not) or try to deflect their attention by telling them someone else fancies them. That could lead to even more trouble.

Scenario 3: Your colleagues are pressuring you to join in with their drunken banter. You really don’t want to get involved because in past years this type of behaviour has cost people their careers.

Peer pressure is very powerful particularly when it is in the public setting of an office party. Everyone is doing shots, playing ‘truth or dare’ or ‘snog, marry, avoid’ (or other variations such as snog, marry, kill).

If you don’t join in, you might find you are not invited to the pub in future. But if you do, you could damage your career.

Don’ts:

  • Criticise – it is not your place to tell others what to do or how to behave (unless it is your place – in which case, you’ll have to come up with a more acceptable activity. Anyone for karaoke?)
  • Go along with it – if you are not comfortable with the way the conversation is going or are being asked to do something that could compromise your career, just don’t join in – even if you are called a chicken/wimp/loser etc.

Do’s:

  • Say no – do not do anything you are not comfortable with just to fit in. You can be identified as a trouble maker/sexist bully/aggressive drunk etc., just by associating with people who behave in this way.
  • Deflect attention – even if it means offering to buy everyone a drink to avoid the situation.

Scenario 4: The office gossip or political Machiavelli is grilling you for information. You don’t want to reveal too much, but you don’t want to get on their wrong side either.

The last thing you need is a reputation as the office gossip. For one, it may ruin any level of trust you have built up with colleagues. For another, you may end up hurting someone.

Don’t

  • Blurt out everyone’s secrets – they will find out it was you.

Do’s:

  • Be non-committal – don’t agree that someone is ‘awful’ but don’t disagree either. Say as little as possible.
  • Feign ignorance – pretend you don’t know what they are talking about. They will soon get bored and find another victim.

Scenario 5: You are desperately trying to talk to people, but they all make excuses and walk away leaving you standing awkwardly by yourself.

This can be a problem if you work from home part-time, usually leave early when everyone goes to the pub on a Friday, are not in the same age group as your colleagues, or suffer from social anxiety.

If you are not part of the “in” crowd, a work party can be a living hell particularly if you are left standing all on your own and everyone you smile at or say ‘hi’ to looks away.

Don’t:

  • Give up – leaving won’t solve anything. You will still feel left out next time.
  • Force the conversation – you cannot just slide into a group and interrupt. It’s rude and you are leaving yourself open to a brutal rejection.

Do:

  • Hang around in places where it’s easier to make conversation – the bar/the buffet/outside with the smokers. I know people who fake-vape just so they have an excuse to hang with the smokers who tend to be happy for company particularly if it’s freezing cold.
  • Prepare – try to find out who is going to the party, when they are arriving, etc. See if you can tag along with them – just be honest and say “I don’t really know anyone, can I walk there with you… it’s a bit awkward going on your own”.
  • Take support – if there is a +1 policy find the most fun friend you can and at least you can enjoy the free drink (assuming there is some)
  • Be helpful – offer to give people a lift. They will be more than happy to include you for a free ride home.

5 Holiday Party No-No’s

Looking forward to the holiday party season? No? You’re not alone. But even if you don’t enjoy them, there are some things you just can’t do.

holiday party no-no's
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Only 1 in 4 of us actually look forward to our workplace holiday party. It’s not just the cost or the dread of being stuck with the office bore –  there’s also the risk of doing something so embarrassing it’s career suicide.

So, what are the five things you should never, ever do?

1. Not Turning Up

It may be tempting to give the office party a miss. Yes, you may have to chip in for drinks, pay for a babysitter and spend your hard-earned cash on a taxi home. It’s a lot of money for an event you really don’t want to attend.

However, not going singles you out as an employee who is either: not committed to their company, antisocial, a miserable scrooge or someone who thinks they are above attending a ‘boring’ work event. None of these are things you want to be known for.

So go. You don’t have to drink excessively or stay too late, but you should attend.

TIP: Say you really want to come but you have to be at a meeting at 8am/the babysitter has to go at 10pm/you need to be at your spouse’s work event too (or a similar excuse). And for the few hours you are there make sure you look like you are having a good time.

2. Getting Drunk

Even if you work in a culture that doesn’t seem to have heard of #MeToo or where everyone is encouraged to do shots and dance on the tables, be aware of your behavior. If you want to get smashed, do it on your own time.

A work event, should be viewed as just that. Work. So, behave accordingly. If you make a joke that is in poor taste or engage in banter that can be seen as offensive, these can all be disciplinary matters leading to dismissal.

With smart phones and social media, you may not even be aware that your rude comment about the boss is being posted online or your sexually suggestive dancing with an embarrassed and unwilling colleague is trending. It’s hard to dispute evidence like that.

TIP: If you fear you will drink excessively or don’t want to drink alcohol, say you have left the car at the station and don’t want to drink-and-drive. Or set yourself a strict two drink limit. Your holiday party may only last a few hours – don’t let it ruin the rest of your working life.

Did you know? When it comes to the most embarrassing moments at work nearly 1 in 6 admit to getting “too” drunk at the work holiday party. Don’t let that be you.

3. Revealing too much – TMIs and PDAs

You’ve had a few drinks and are feeling a bit nervous – and that means you end up babbling. But in a bid to make your conversation more interesting you share too much information (TMI) on the gruesome details of your recent illness. Or a mile by mile account of your training schedule for your next triathlon.

Or your long-list of online dating disasters including all the intimate details, or every little thing your little ones have ever done with the photos to prove it.

Remember you need to have boundaries and know when to stop. Just because you are at a party, it doesn’t mean you should overshare. Nobody is interested, and if they are, it’s probably because you’re saying something you shouldn’t.

Anything you say can and probably will be used against you. Just because you have a hazy memory of the party, does not mean everyone else will. So revealing that you once snogged someone on a work trip might come back to haunt you.

The same applies to kissing your partner in front of your colleagues (keep your hands to yourself…until you get home). There is a time and place for everything and the work party is not one of them.

And if you are tempted to have a public display of affection (PDA) with a colleague, bear in mind that this can cause friction within your work team. And, as worst, it can even leave you open to claims of sexual harassment.

TIP: Drinking less can help you to realise when you need to shut up or your behaviour is getting out of line. If you are taking your other half along, ask them to interrupt you if you reveal too much and/or everyone appears bored.

4. Talking about Politics or Any Other Divisive Topic

There is nothing worse than someone asking you who you are voting for, if you are pro or against Brexit, or your opinion on any other political topic. So do not introduce this into any conversation.

If you are talking to someone more senior and they want to talk politics, it can be very awkward and you may feel you have to agree with them to avoid them thinking badly of you. Whatever you do, don’t get into an argument.

TIP: Change the subject, offer to buy a round, go to the toilet, or say you have to ring and check on the babysitter. Anything to avoid touching on politics unless you are absolutely sure you all agree on the subject.

5. Engaging in Office Politics

The other type of politics you need to avoid are office politics.

You may see the office holiday party as the perfect opportunity to get chatting to the boss about a promotion while he is in a good mood. Or see it as a chance to network with the right people.

The only problem is that they will see right through you. And you may be the 20th person to try the same thing at the same party.

So, introduce yourself (if they don’t know who you are) and if you want to get the conversation going stick to subjects that interest them.

TIP: It’s relatively easy to find out what people do in their spare time (just look on social media). So, if you want to start a conversation with someone senior talk about their hobby or other interest or find common ground.

Perhaps you went to the same uni, have volunteered with the same organisation or are both vegan and are avoiding the buffet. Make it about them, not about you. The aim is to leave a positive lasting impression.

Whatever you do, do not bad mouth anyone. Who knows who could overhear?!

5 Ways to Stand out From The Crowd

New Year, New You. New Job? Don’t wait until 2020 to start your search or you might struggle to stand out from the crowd.

stand out from the crowd
From Pixabay on Pexels

More than half of us are planning to change jobs in 2020. So, don’t wait until January to start your job search – there will be far too much competition. Instead follow these steps to get ahead on a new you for the New Year.

Looking for a new job takes time. In fact, an average of 40 days from submitting a CV to being offered a new role.

Factor in searching for a suitable job before you even send off your application and then the wait while you work out your notice (generally at least one month) and it could be a nearly Easter by the time you move jobs.

So why not start preparing for your search now?

The Market – The Crowd

It could pay off. More than half of the 16,000 UK employees surveyed by Totaljobs and Universum say they are planning on moving jobs in the new year, so January will see a huge surge in the number of candidates on the market.

To put it into context, that could be half your workplace actively scouring job sites and that means an awful lot of competition for the best roles.

“If you also factor in Christmas bank holidays then the optimum time to start applying for jobs is mid-November,” says Nick Kirk, UK MD of recruiters Michael Page who warns: “Securing a new job can be a lengthy process, with applicants and employers needing to be sure the right person is being offered the right role.”

Where Competition is Highest

The professionals who are least satisfied in their current position and most likely to want to move jobs work in logistics, media and e-commerce so anyone working in these sectors is likely to see tough competition from colleagues who are also looking for a new role.

In contrast, auditing and accounting and legal and law professionals are the least likely to leave their jobs, because those usually have higher salaries and a lot of opportunities to up-skill. For example, an accountant could become a CPA just by passing an exam and completing the licensing process.

However, much depends on your employer. If you have any concerns about the future of your organisation you will not be alone – so start your job search sooner rather than later.

Preparation is Key to Success

Although around half of us are expecting to look for a new role, only one in ten expect to be successful.

So how can you boost your chances? Nick Kirk has the following advice:

1. Be clear about your reasons for leaving

Are you sure you want to leave your job, or are you feeling pressured to start afresh in the new year? Establish the reasons why you want to leave your current job and, if you can, speak to your manager about your concerns. Once you’ve had these frank conversations and are certain that moving on is the right decision, you will be able to make smart decisions about your next role.

Often it is not the money that’s a problem – in fact, two thirds of British workers would stay in a job they enjoyed rather than move for more money.

For those intent on shifting jobs, the biggest drivers are career progression (30 per cent), professional training and development (32 per cent) and the feeling that their current roles and responsibilities are unlikely to grow (25 per cent). These can be relatively easy to address.

For example, your manager may not be aware that you want a promotion or more training and may find these requests easier to accommodate than a pay rise – after all, if you demand a substantial salary hike everyone will want one, whereas a career development plan is tailored to the individual and it can also benefit the organisation in terms of improved productivity.

2. Think about where you want to work next

Candidates and employers are now placing more value on workplace environment and ensuring the right team culture when hiring.  It’s crucial to be sure that you know what kind of role, company, and working environment you are looking for in your next position before you start your job hunt. If you find an environment and culture that matches well with your personal values, you are more likely to be happier at work.

One of the key requirements is flexibility – often employees are prepared to sacrifice salary for the option of working a condensed week (cramming 5 days into 4), the option to work at home one day a week or an early start/early finish.

3. Keep an open mind

Adopt a positive and flexible attitude to your job search. Listen to what opportunities are in the market and remain open-minded to different companies and locations.

In keeping your mind open, you may be presented with opportunities which may be worth changing location or industry for – a real new year overhaul!

Also by narrowing your requirements, you are limiting your choice which means you could be languishing in a job you hate for too long. Today we have less of a career ladder (organisational structures are flatter) so it may be hard to move for a promotion, but that does not mean you cannot find a more rewarding role with a sideways shift.

4. Update your LinkedIn profile and CV

Your LinkedIn profile and CV are your gateway to a future position. Most employers will cross reference the information before deciding on whether to progress your application, so ensure both are sharp and accurate to avoid your application being discarded at the first hurdle.

Also make sure that all your job applications are tailored to each role.

So start with a tailored personal statement to your prospective new employer, highlight your key skills, use a spell checker and whatever you do, don’t lie.

Employers are struggling to find the right candidates, so increasingly accept that they will have to find a good fit rather than the perfect fit so you don’t need to tick every box.

5. Prepare for your interview

This may be a busy time of year, but an interview is the time to make a great first impression on a potential employer. Do your homework on the company – look at its latest news, work or any award wins. Have an understanding of where you can fit into the organisation and its culture. Anticipate possible questions and rehearse your answers too, as this will help you to deliver seamlessly on the day.

Good luck!

The 11 Reasons Your Career Might Fail

Are you going to succeed or fail? It’s not about how good you are at the job – it’s all down to personality.

personality
Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

You probably think that you know yourself quite well. Perhaps you consider yourself to be intelligent, hard-working and, more importantly, ambitious. That means you are destined for the top, right?

Not necessarily. We all have three aspects to our character that are important in terms of career success:

  1. The bright side (the part of us that we show in interviews, for example)
  2. A dark side (which often comes out under pressure)
  3. Our inside (our core values).

While the first one might help us get a job, the last two can derail us. So how do you get a better understanding of 2 and 3?

Knowing Yourself is Key

“What is important is your reputation – how others see you and what you are known as – not who you think you are,” says Dr Robert Hogan of Hogan Assessments, which has conducted almost nine million personality profile assessments globally.

“However, the worst possible way to understand yourself is through introspection, because people lie to themselves.

“We know from our tests that there is not a high correlation between what people think of themselves and their reputations. That is why it is not uncommon for people to say ‘That is not how I see myself’ after undertaking a personality test.”

So, you need to ask other people how they see you. If you are not fortunate enough to have been personality tested by your employer as part of a recruitment process, try a 360 with colleagues and friends. Be prepared for some home truths and to really listen to this feedback.

Are you the Right Fit?

In addition to having the right personality for the job, you need to fit the organisation. In simple terms, if you want to make a difference, but your employer just wants to make profits – you will fail.

 “It does not matter how talented you are, if your values don’t match the culture of the organisation you will not be happy,” continues Dr Hogan. “It is not about being right or wrong, just a wrong fit.”

So before looking for a new job, thoroughly research the organisation – not what they say are their values, but how they live them. 

Know Your Derailers

The things that makes us good at our jobs, can also work against us, so it is also important to be aware of what personality traits could derail your career.

“Someone with high scores for paranoia, for example, will be really good at organisational politics,” continues Dr Hogan. “They are astute and will know who is out to get them. This can be a strength in certain circumstances but can become a problem if taken to the extreme”.

Most of us will exhibit a number of the 11 dark side personality traits identified by Hogan Assessments.  So do you recognise yourself in any of these?

Excitable

You have lots of energy and enthusiasm for new projects.

Derailers: You can become quickly disinterested when things don’t go according to plan and are in danger of expressing your frustrations with people and projects (often publicly).

Skeptical

You tend to be distrustful of others, believing they will stab you in the back if you let your guard down. This makes you attuned to the sometimes-ugly underbelly of organisational politics.

Derailers: Being trustful works both ways – you might not be able to gain anyone’s trust. You may also be too secretive.

Cautious

You live in constant fear of making a mistake. Always operating with the worst-case-scenario in mind will ensure you think everything through carefully, which can be an asset.

Derailers: You may be reluctant to try new approaches or to make-decisions. As a result, people might work around you so you could be side-lined.

Reserved

You believe that work is done best when people can focus in complete solitude. Which might be a great character trait if you need to focus or work on complex tasks such as computer programming.

Derailers: Locking yourself away (particularly when things get stressful) can leave you out of the loop. You may also be seen as unsympathetic or unhelpful.

Leisurely

You are probably liked and respective as you are polite and socially skilled.

Derailers: You might not be very productive – particularly when faced with challenges. As such you may tend to find ways to avoid and deflect responsibility.

Bold

You are inspiring, courageous and confident – great character traits for those who like to get things done.

Derailers: You might not be a good team player as bold people tend to take the credit for wins, but blame everyone else for failures and they don’t always recognise the hard work of others.

Mischievous

You love thrill and excitement, thrive in high-octane situations, are willing to take risks and spring into action taking on large, ambitious projects.

Derailers: Not putting in the groundwork and not considering the hard work of others who help make things happen.

Colourful

You like being the centre of attention and enjoy the fame and attention of running big projects.

Derailers: Watch out for being poor at organisation, indecisive and erratic and chaotic. 

Imaginative

Highly creative, you love to engage in brainstorming sessions coming up with solutions – often ones that are highly innovative.

Derailers: Making simple problems immensely complex, becoming easy bored by daily tasks and easily distracted. You can be seen as unfocused and impractical.

Diligent

You are a perfectionist and the go-to person to get things done.

Derailers: Taking on more than you can manage which can slow down productivity. A tendency to micro-manage and you have a hard time delegating.

Dutiful

You rely heavily (too heavily) on other team-members hoping they will carry the project through.

Derailers: You lack initiative and resourcefulness and pass the buck – quite happy to not take any real responsibility or make any risky decisions.

The Good News is You Can Get Better

If you recognise yourself in any of these dark-side traits (perhaps you are excitable and easily bored), you now know what could derail your career.

The next step is to get professional coaching. “Just as professional tennis players get a pro to help improve their game, you can do the same,” says Dr Hogan.

Are You Working for a Narcissist?

Leadership styles are under the microscope – with Trump and Boris being analysed endlessly. However, the so-called “great man” style of leadership is not always an easy one to live (or work) with.

narcissist
Photo by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

Humans instinctively respond to confidence in a positive way. Experts who sound the most authoritative are generally listened to more and believed wholeheartedly.

As a result, it is the most self-assured in their pronouncements who tend to be held in the highest esteem – regardless of whether they are telling the truth or are being accurate or not.

The problem is that while this may help these individuals rise to the top, they might not be great for your organisation…or your career.

Narcissists are Highly Believable – So Try to Keep an Open Mind

So how do you spot a narcissist? Well, it is important to analyse what your existing/future boss is saying rather than being fooled by how they are saying it.

According to The Myers-Briggs Company (one of the world’s largest business psychology providers) experts who “sound” the most confident are also more likely to get things wrong. “Therefore, overzealous and over-confident leaders can mean potential dangers for both the political scene and the workplace,” it warns.

So if you are in a toxic workplace – or are thinking of moving jobs – avoid the over-confident leader particularly if they do not like being challenged (which they will see as a threat). They could be running the organisation into the ground.

Other tell-tale signs are a “lack of warmth” (although they might be charismatic, they may have followers rather than friends).

If you are Forced to Agree with Everything they Say, Walk Away

Narcissists have positive and inflated views of themselves and this can become a problem when they “maintain these views despite contrary evidence, and often at the expense of others”.

While you may be tempted to argue your points, present all the facts and enlist the support of others to make your case, this is not going to work with a narcissist, because they are always right.

If you are in an interview and feel your thoughts are dismissed, perhaps this is not a good boss to work for.

They will Blame You (Not Themselves) – So Avoid Them

“Leaders sometimes think there’s a problem with their team, when in fact it is the leader who is the real issue”, warns Myers-Briggs. There is evidence that individuals who are more narcissistic are not only more likely to become leaders, but they are also more likely to perform less effectively in this role than others.

So, while it might be frustrating to work for someone who always knows better, the narcissistic trait that can be most damaging is that you will find that everyone else – including you – is to blame when things go wrong. You could miss out on a promotion or worse, get fired, or be forced to leave with a bad reference, because the person you work for cannot admit to making any mistakes.

Lack of Diversity is a Red Flag – So Look Around

Additional research from The Myers-Briggs Company on narcissism and leadership has demonstrated that this kind of behaviour can lead to women being less likely to seek out leadership roles, even when they are as well or better qualified than men.

So, if the you are looking for a new job avoid the organisations that look stale/male/pale.

Will you be Heard? Group-Think is Another Killer

Narcissism is the rejection of others’ input. Along with overconfidence, this can lead to ‘group think’, where in the rush to make decisions, information that is inconvenient to the story constructed by the leader is ignored.

Myers-Briggs research also demonstrates that overconfident and dominant leaders can actively inhibit the exchange of information between members of a group, worsening the negative effects of this group think. 

So not only will your voice not be heard, you could be working for an organisation that is heading for failure.

Those Who Admit to Weaknesses Are the Strong

So what makes a good leader?

Well a boss who can admit to having a few weaknesses is going to be more self-aware. As a result, he or she will be better able to build teams that help address their shortcomings. What is needed in a successful organisation, is a good mix of different skills and personalities.

A good leader, will also create a culture and systems that inspire the people around them, so do not just look at the boss’s qualities, see who they surround themselves with and how varied and valued they are.

How to Deal with a Narcissist

The first thing is to not blindly follow them. Focus on facts that you can verify and not their opinions.

Work on building your network. The future is a “wirearchy” people whose power and influence is based on connectedness and the flow of information rather than a power base. This can help insulate and protect you.

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, says it is also important to build self-awareness. “By becoming more aware of their personality and biases, individuals can make more informed decisions, helping them to overcome the pressure to follow ‘group think’ and narcissistic leaders,” he says.

At the same time, avoid challenging a narcissist (remember they are always right) or angering them by undermining them (they rely on a power base, so avoid office gossip in case it gets back to them).

Treat them in the way they would expect: listen, agree, respect them, follow their instructions etc… and accept responsibility/blame for any failings (even if they are hers/his).

Then, try to make a quiet exit. If a narcissist gets wind that you are looking for another job, they will see this as a betrayal. So play your cards close to your chest and when you resign make sure your letter is full of flattery about how much you have learned from your boss and how inspirational he/she has been.

Confident or Arrogant? The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

Confident? Arrogant? What traits impress employers the most? And which ones could cost you a job? It would be good to know before you apply for that new role…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It probably comes as no surprise that when hiring, firms are looking for people who are confident. In fact, this personality trait is a top priority for six in ten employers (61 per cent) – only slightly behind being reliable (62 per cent) and just above being honest (58 per cent).

So, when looking for a new job or a new promotion, a confident character is the one you need to project.

After all, being see seen as self-confident and self-assured inspires others to believe in your ability to do the job. And nobody is going to get hired if they admit they are “not sure” they can do something or “will give it a try”. What are needed are positive answers like “Yes” and “Of course”.

However, don’t go overboard in boasting about your abilities and or bragging about your achievements. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance when making that first impression. Cross this line and it can be career suicide.

In fact, employers believe arrogance (which scores 65 per cent) is worse than dishonesty (at 62 per cent) and is the No. 1 turn-off when hiring new recruits, according to a new survey from independent job board, CV-Library and CV-writing firm, TopCV.

Personality is now the Deciding Factor

“Historically, assessing job seekers was contingent on two factors – experience and skills – but our survey reveals that more intangible qualities, such as personality, are determining which candidates rise to the top,” says Amanda Augustine, careers expert at TopCV. 

“Today’s hiring managers are tasked with assessing whether a candidate will fit in with the company culture, and this determination is primarily based on how the candidate behaves during an interview.”

So, it is not just your CV that can make you appear arrogant. You also have to be careful with your body language – as well as the language you use too.

Facts Beat Fiction Every Time

Getting this balance right means starting with the basics: skills and experience are still vital to secure an interview and, as such, score slightly ahead of personality.

So, focus on these and be factual and truthful (remember dishonesty comes a close second to arrogance in the list of top “hates”). Quantify each statement so that each “claim” can be verified. Rather than stating that you are a “confident and competent team manager”, demonstrate this using facts and stats.

For example, “I directly manage a team of six”, “Over the last three years, the cost control programme that I manage has resulted in £Xk of savings” or “I have helped to mentor five junior members of the team who have all been promoted.”

It is a case of “show” rather than “tell” on both your CV and during the interview.

If you have ever heard the expression “Confidence speaks for itself”, then you will know what I mean. Leave an impression that you are confident and competent without actually using these words.

Cheats and Liars are NOT Welcome

Do not be tempted to lie: it is relatively easy to check things like your job title or years you have worked for an organisation. Not only could this cost you a job, it might not be necessary anyway.

 “In the current market, where skills shortages are making it harder for companies to find the right hires, employers are increasingly opting to recruit on potential over experience.

“So, if you’re looking for a new job right now, you’re in a good position; as long as you impress with the right personality traits,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library comments.

Interestingly, when asked to choose between experience, education and potential, employers believe potential (62 per cent) is more important than experience (35 per cent); while only 2 per cent say education is most important. 

So why jeopardise your future claiming to have 1st class Hons degree when you only have 2:1? Employers (on the whole) really don’t care. However, if they check and find you have lied then you have failed to meet No 3 and No 4 in the top traits list – honest and honourable.

How to Avoid Crossing the Line

During an interview, when you are racked with nerves and desperate to make a good impression, it can be difficult to get the tone right. Your enthusiasm might come across as having too high an opinion of yourself…not a good look.

Remember, confident people have high self-worth, while arrogant people overcompensate for having low self-esteem.

To avoid falling into the latter category, spend some time boosting your self-confidence.

Start by identifying your strengths and weaknesses

The better understanding you have of your abilities, the higher your self-worth. If you are not sure what your strengths are, ask for feedback from colleagues and friends.

Focus on these strengths when identifying new opportunities – if you are a team player, then look for roles where this is important. However, if you like to be told what to do, roles looking for a “self-starter” might not be for you.

Be honest with yourself to be honest with others

Arrogant people are not good at acknowledging they have weaknesses and are not great at hearing criticism either (so if this sounds like you, then be aware that you could come across as having an over-inflate ego). Remember, nobody is perfect and it is important to acknowledge that this includes you!

Also, if you are asked one of those tricky interview questions such as “If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?”, you need to have enough self-awareness to recognise your weaknesses. Saying “Nothing” is the fast-track route to rejection.

Mind your language (verbal and otherwise)

Being self-centred is another character trait employers dislike so avoid talking about yourself all of the time – think of some questions to ask the interviewer and take an interest in what they are saying. Tone down your use of ‘I’ and do not constantly interrupt (it shows you think that what you have to say is more important than what the interviewer is trying to tell you).

Also watch your body language. Leaning too far back, smirking rather than smiling or being too relaxed might make you appear arrogant. But avoid going too far the other way – folding your arms across your body, failing to make eye contact, uncomfortable silences and lowering your head do not convey confidence…and that is your goal.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Fillers and Facelifts: How Far Do Men Go to Look Young at Work?

With more over-65s staying in the workplace, how can young people stay competitive in the recruitment game?

Photo by Wendy Scofield on Unsplash

Let’s dispel some myths. Its men – not women – who are most likely to experience age discrimination at work.

And you don’t actually have to be that old to be a victim.

Nearly four in ten say that age has been a factor preventing them from advancing in their career since turning 40. This drops to just a quarter of women.

From then on, (whatever your gender) things only get worse. You are most likely to experience age discrimination aged 51 according to the Hiscox 2019 Ageism in the Workplace Study.

So, some of us are resorting to desperate measures to stay young particularly anti-aging procedures from dermatologists. ever heard the expression, “If you want to get ahead, get Botox”?

Well, in the USA which naturally (or maybe not so naturally) leads the way, the number of injectable filler procedures on men has risen by 99 per cent since 2000 with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons saying cosmetic procedures are up 29 per cent over the same period.

So, what will you do when you’re 65?

If ageism is a problem in your 40s and 50s, imagine how damaging it could be to your carer when you hit your 60s.

Whatever you think of your job today, can you really imagine doing it when you are heading for 70 – or even older?

The state retirement age will rise to 67 from 2028 and then to 68 and possibly 70. So most of us will have to keep working for many years to come.

But if it is hard to get ahead in your 40s and 50s, who is going to employ you when you are in your seventh decade?

Older Jobseekers will be Everywhere

By 2050, one in four people in the UK will be over 65 (it’s currently around one in five) according to recent forecasts from the Office for National Statistics.

That’s an extra 8.2 million older people – a population the size of London – and many of them will be wanting to work.

The next decade or so will see people who were born too late to benefit from generous ‘gold plated’ final salary pensions reaching retirement. Without a decent retirement income they may have no option but to keep in work. Also many want to keep working – feeling they are too young to spend the next few decades playing golf and pottering around in the garden.

More than half of those age 65 plus say they are ‘not ready to retire’ according to insurer Aviva.

That means there will be plenty of them looking for a job – and if you are one of them, how can you compete?

Plan Ahead and Play to your Strengths

What do more mature employees have to offer compared to younger ones? Well, topping the list are invaluable skills, experience and knowledge that they can share with colleagues.

You might believe keeping these to yourself, will protect you – but most employers don’t value these attributes (yet). So, build up a reputation for mentoring and developing younger colleagues.

Continually Up-skill to Remain Relevant

Also address the misconceptions about older workers – they have out-of-date skills, struggle with the latest technology and find it difficult to learn something new.

Some of these myths are based on truths. Four in ten Baby Boomers (born between ‘46 and ‘64) in the UK feel they ‘don’t have the skills needed to win a new job’ according to a Docebo survey with around half feeling younger employers had better tech skills.

Mature workers might be reluctant to demand extra training – not surprisingly. It effectively tells your employer your skills are not up to scratch. So stick to online learning tutorials (preferably ones which lead to recognised qualifications that you can put on your CV). Search coursera.org, udemy.com, futurelearn.com and look at courses offered by professional organisations.

De-Age Your CV – It’s Easy

Well, the good news is that you don’t have to pay for fillers, veneered teeth or spend every waking hour in the gym in a bid to defy age.

One of the biggest challenges once you hit 40 is finding a new job. As increasing numbers of applications are now made online, it is a computer algorithm (rather than a real person) who decides whether you are up for the job. And it’s much easier to fool a computer than an eagle-eyed HR professional who can spot the crow’s feet around your eyes, the sagging jowls and the incongruously youthful business suit.

Also, with candidate shortages, you are increasingly likely to be approached for a new job, rather than applying. So make yourself as appear as employable as possible in the virtual world. You can then work on your real-world appearance when it comes to the interview.

So get rid of:

  • Listing what you did in your first job and early 20s (unless you are in your early 20s!). A longer career history is a tell-tale sign that you’ve been around for quite a long time.
  • Dates – unless they are more recent. So no need to write the dates you were at school or university.
  • Your age – amazingly (even though this is not required for most jobs) some CVs still feature a date of birth. Employers are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of age, so they are not allowed to even ask! Don’t tell them.
  • O Levels and any other qualification that no longer exists – today, it’s GCSE equivalents that count.

Then add in:

  • Every single quality required on the job advert – if a computer algorithm is searching your CV or application letter, you want it to recognise you have all the skills required. If you don’t quite have the skills listed, try to find a way of including them. For example, “Leadership experience or experience managing a team” could relate to managing a project (with your colleagues) even if your job title is not team manager.
  • Proficiency in the latest software and technology – even if it is not a requirement. It will portray you as “tech savvy” rather than a dinosaur.

But don’t:

  • Tell an outright lie – you can fool technology some of the time, but organisations do check qualifications, references etc. So make sure your social media profile, particularly LinkedIn, matches your CV.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Don’t Move! Improve: How the Property Market Should Inspire your Career Choices

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

When you’re considering your career choices, take inspiration from the property market. There are more similarities than you think.

As a nation we are pretty obsessed with house prices – what our property would fetch if we put it up for sale, what the neighbour’s/our boss’s/our ex’s home is worth, how much our ‘bricks and mortar’ has gone up/down in value. Even if we have no plans to sell up, “property porn” is highly addictive.

Well, you might not realise it, but the jobs market is very similar the housing market.

Who hasn’t got bored at work, and scrolled through job boards to see if there is a better paid role elsewhere? Who hasn’t looked at their pay and perks and wondered if they earn more or less than their colleagues and friends?

This is not the only similarity between the jobs and property markets.

Take supply and demand: When there is uncertainty, the supply of candidates drops. This is keeping “values” up with average pay up 3.9 per cent over the last year.

It’s a similar picture in the housing market. Fewer properties for sale is preventing a property price crash as there is less supply. So prices still managed a 0.9 per cent rise in the year to June (although in London they dipped 2.7 per cent).

Both are a Buyer’s Market

Just as homebuyers can negotiate hard – so can candidates. In 2018, employees who stuck with the same firm saw their average pay rise by just 0.6 per cent after inflation. Those changing employers saw their pay rise by seven times as much, up by 4.5 per cent.

However, this can be a risky strategy.

Yes, you tend to earn more by switching jobs but it’s not the only way to increase your earnings.

If you stay put and “improve” your job prospects, you won’t have all that uncertainty – not knowing if a new job is really for you, worrying that you won’t pass the probationary period and (even worse) waiting until your first day to discover that the job description could be something written by an estate agent (i.e. it bears very little resemblance to reality).

How to Improve Your Job

There has been a fivefold increase since 2013 in the number of homeowners choosing to improve rather than move. So, why not take a leaf out of their book and do the same with your career choices.

· Start with a Valuation

Just as with a house move, many of us wonder if we would be better off with a job move. But how do you know for sure? Well, check out salary benchmarking websites.

Check out Michael Page’s Salary Comparison tool, which compares pay for a number of procurement roles by sector to see if you are underpaid or not. Also check Glassdoor and scour a few job websites to check advertised salaries.

· The Best Improvements to Make

Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people who are one-step-up the career ladder to see what attributes they have that add to their value.

Just as bi-fold doors and open-plan living are desirable in the property market, there are some skills that really stand out among successful people (whether that it is soft-skills such as leadership or hard-skills like proficiency in the latest tech).

Check out job adverts too – are there any skills that seem to be in high demand, that you don’t have?

· Can you get away with a bit of DIY?

If your tech skills are lacking or you need a bit of CPD to bring you up-to-date with latest developments in your sector, online learning is an easy solution. You can learn in your own time, invest in the courses that work best for you and then have something to prove your worth to your employer.

When negotiating a pay rise, showing that you have invested your own time, money and effort in your own success – which could also help boost productivity – is a great bargaining chip.

· Or do you need Professional Help?

Sometimes a bit of DIY is not going to add value. In some cases it can even be a waste of time and money. So, this is where you may need to get professional help, perhaps studying a postgraduate or professional qualification with a recognised provider.

For this you are going to need finance. You can get postgraduate student loans (a bit like a home improvement loans, only for your career). These are similar to student finance for a first degree and you can borrow up to £10,906. Go here for more information.

Or you could simply ask your employer. Many professionals are reluctant to put in a training request (partly because they worry that they will appear as though they need training).

However, this is about career development – doing a better or bigger job – so sell the benefits. It is less of a big ask right now.

According to recruiters Robert Half the biggest talent management concern for senior executives is “employee retention and training” which will be a priority for 31 per cent over the next 12 months. Attracting talent comes in second at 29 per cent – showing that firms see greater benefit in up-skilling their staff than hiring new ones.

· Get Someone Else to Market You

Despite those online property platforms offering to sell your property for less, most homeowners still favour traditional high-street estate agents. Paying someone else to sell your property is not only easier, they are professionals so should (in theory) be able to get you a higher price.

Do the same for your career. If you can find someone else to champion your career, you might not have to ask for that promotion or pay rise – you could be identified as a “potential highflyer” and approached instead.

Seek out mentors, who can help guide your career but who also have currency within your organisation. Perhaps a manager in a different department or even the person who first hired you (and has an interest in you doing well).

Also, reach out via LinkedIn – post thought-provoking and intelligent ideas, link to senior professionals and build your brand through endorsements and connections.

· Get a New Valuation

Finally, prepare your career for the market – declutter your social media, spruce up your online presence and update your particulars (your CV). Now ask for a chat with your line manager (tell him or her what it is about) and go in with a clear asking price (use your research to determine your value). Then see what offers are made.

If your improvements do not yield results, it’s not the end for your career choices. At least you are ready to put yourself on the market!

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Would you Change Your Accent to Appear More Professional?

Credit – Markus Spiske/Pexels

When you landed your first professional job, did you change the way you spoke? 

Perhaps you thought you’d sound more professional if you talked with a slightly more sophisticated accent or littered the conversation with a few long words – or maybe, you just wanted to fit in and speak like everyone else.  

Or did colleagues continually ask “What did you say?”, which made you realise that you needed to tone down your dialect to be better understood. 

You might have hoped that no one had noticed. However, when you went home, your family probably did – and perhaps they were not shy about pointing out that you were talking differently.  

One in ten people with a regional accent even say they were accused of speaking “posh” when they went back home to visit. 

The Class Divide – How You Speak Can Count Against You 

The issue is that every time you open your mouth, you could be ruining your career chances.  

In fact, even if you don’t have an accent you believe this to be true with more than half of people saying that having a regional dialect would rule them out of the top boardroom jobs.  

London accents that are considered the worst. So you probably won’t be hearing many people who sound like Dany Dyer heading for the executive offices. 

So it’s probably no surprise that nearly a quarter of professionals say that in order to be successful in their career, they’d have to alter the way they speak at work according to a survey by the Equality Group

The Brass Ceiling – Why We Hide Where We Come From 

It’s not just how you speak that matters. It is shameful that in this century, professionals still feel they cannot be honest about their socio-economic background (or how much brass they have). 

One in ten has even gone as far as hiding their hometown for fear of judgement – saying they have not been forthcoming about where they grew up because they worry that they will be unable to access particular professional/social networks if others knew their background. 

Along with gender, age, race and religion, your background this is yet another example of how we are discriminated against at work. 

However, you might not have a leg to stand on if you complain – because the Equalities Act of 2010 does not cover socio-economic class.  

It’s a big issue according to the Equality Group, a consultancy that helps businesses attract, develop and retain diverse talent. 

Three quarters of us believe that professionals with higher socio-economic status have increased access to better careers and job opportunities regardless of their experience of qualifications. Yet six in ten of the UK workforce identifies as coming from a working-class background. 

So, until things change, professionals are purposefully hiding their hometowns and regional accents for fear they will miss out on a better job.  

Better Off Do Better – Just Look at Boris 

The Social Mobility Commission backs up these findings, revealing that those from better-off backgrounds are 80 per cent more likely to end up in professional jobs than their working-class counterparts.  

This partly down to confidence. Professionals from lower socio-economic classes are less likely to ask for a pay rise and promotion due to a fear about ‘not fitting in’.  So, could your own self-perception of class be influencing your employment status? 

This even influences our choice of careers according to a report from Debut. It found that more than a third of graduates say they were put off joining a business whose workforce was perceived to be made up of mainly middle and upper-class employees. Two in three also said they had to change who they were, including how they look, to get a job. Debut calls this “professional exclusion”. 

Unconscious Bias – You are Guilty Too  

If you think it is grossly unfair to discriminate against someone just because of their accent or where they come from, then take a good look at yourself. 

Unconscious bias is something we are all guilty of. It is natural human behavior. We may rule someone out of a promotion or even our team because we perceive them to be too old (which we often equate with being unable to adapt and learn new skills). Or we may assume that a young female employee is not as bright as a middle-aged man. This list goes on…. age, gender, race, religion or even size, can all influence how we view others.  

However, it can also work the other way – we are often drawn to people or treat them more favourably if they look like us, sound like us and have a similar background. If you went to a particular university (or did not go at all) you might unconsciously favour someone who followed the same educational path. This can lead to us working with people who are not up to the job – and it could damage our own careers. 

So which category do you fit into – and how can you tackle your own unconscious bias? 

  • Perception bias: This is where you believe on thing about a group of people based on stereotypes and as a result you make assumptions that may not be true. 
  • Challenge yourself to get to know someone first. 
  • Affinity bias: You like people because they are like you. In recruitment this can lead to “mini me” hiring. Diversity is good for business so this can stifle innovation and creativity.  
  • Challenge yourself to reach out and work with people who are different to yourself. You might learn something new, change your point of view and become more open minded. 
  • Confirmation bias: None of us likes to be proved wrong. So, we try to confirm our assumptions about groups of people (or even ideas) rather than making objective judgments.  
  • Challenge yourself by stepping back and judging someone on their behaviour, merits, achievements – not just how they look or sound. Look for ways to prove that you are wrong in your assumptions. 
  • The halo effect:  A white, well spoken, well dressed, good looking man walks into the office and you automatically assume that this person is honest, capable, intelligent etc… without knowing a thing about them. That’s the halo effect. 
  • Challenge yourself to delay making judgements. Anyone can buy a nice suit, it does not mean they are good at their job.  

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

Could A Selfie Save Your Sanity?

A greater understanding of what makes you tick could be the route to a more fulfilling career – and if you are stuck in a rut and can’t move roles, then forget EQ and IQ, learn to boost your PI (physical intelligence). The future is all about understanding and nurturing your self.

By AlessandroBiascioli/ Shutterstock

As a nation we have become paralysed by political uncertainty.

These turbulent times are leaving us trapped. While half of us say we would like to change careers, only one in six are brave enough to make the move, according to recruiters Michael Page.

So, don’t just sit there waiting for things to get better.

Now is the perfect time for a bit of self-reflection.

We spend so much of our lives at work, getting to and from work and then thinking about work, it is important that whatever you do works for your personality type.

Many of us crave jobs which are more fulfilling, more aligned to our values and ones that build or self-worth rather than knocking it.

But how do you really know what makes you tick, if you don’t take a good look at what motivates you?

The answer is a psychometric selfie.

Find out why you do what you do

Michael Page has partnered with FindMyWhy (findmywhy.com) to help you find out more about yourself.

Complete the online questionnaire (be prepared for around 30 minutes of self-reflection) and a tailored psychometric report will reveal some telling insights.  It is important to be honest. That way you will gain most from the advice.

The selfie does more than just match your skills set to new roles.

It highlights your weaknesses to – and this could really transform the way you see yourself.

The good the bad and the potentially ugly

Most of us know what we are good at, but these strengths can also work against us.

Take a team-player as an example.

If you are someone who likes working in collaboration with others, the mutual supported of colleagues and coordinating your efforts with others to get things done, you probably think you have the perfect personality to succeed in your career.

However, what happens when you are faced with conflict or colleagues who work against each other? How do you feel when others are highly critical of you or the team? And how do you feel when you are required to engage with less collegiate colleagues?

Finding yourself in the wrong working environment could leave you less motivated and disengaged.  In fact, your team-player skills set could work against you.

The Me at Work report is a great way to learn more about the potential pitfalls that could trip you up professionally and perhaps the most telling part of the report is the “So what might stop me” section. It is important to avoid self-sabotage.

Build resilience through physical intelligence

While the FindMyWhy may help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and the things to look for in a new role, you may still find that work can cause stress, drain energy and challenge your ability to remain positive (even if you love what you do).

That is why – in addition to being more self aware – you should look at how to be more physically intelligent. This is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of chemicals (hormones and neurotransmitters) racing through our bloodstreams (through how we breathe, move, think and communicate) in order to reduce work stress, boost energy and kickstart positivity. 

A new wellbeing book by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton called Physical Intelligence available in ebook and paperback looks at the strategies we can all adopt to do this.

These are Dale and Peyton’s top 11 physical intelligence tricks to help you become happier at work.

Reduce Work Stress

  1. Ground Yourself:  Being grounded increases emotional/mental stability, confidence and inner strength. To ‘ground’ yourself, feel your feet on the ground/bottom in the chair and the weight of your body distributed through your skeleton down into the ground – rooted rather than ‘uptight.’
  2. Just Breathe:  Managing your breath pattern is THE key to stabilising the nervous system and managing our physical response to stress. Pace your breathing (e.g., 3 counts in, 5 counts out), with longer out breaths, expelling carbon dioxide that settles in our lungs and increases cortisol (stress hormone).
  3. Focus on Fitness:  Regular exercise is important, elevating our heart rate at least 3 times a day. Otherwise, the parasympathetic nervous system will be too sluggish for us to rebalance when we encounter stress, and if we encounter multiple stressors, we’ll likely feel overloaded.
  4. Talk It Out:  Stress builds through a lack of control, rumination and difficulty deciding on actions. Verbalising stressors removes their charge. Getting advice helps us process and learn from what is happening. Reaching out to a trusted network of supporters boosts oxytocin (belonging hormone), released through non-aggressive, honest, human contact.

Boost Energy

  1. Take a Cold Shower: Turning the water to cold for the last thirty seconds or splashing ice-cold water on our face enhances brain function, improving energy gain.
  2. REST:  To avoid burnout, balance pushing yourself hard with periods for rest and recovery.  Block time in your schedule each week for ‘REST’ (retreat, eat [healthy], sleep and treat) and guard those windows.
  3. Get Some Sleep: Sleep has a bigger impact on our mental, emotional and physical performance than any waking activity. When we sleep, we consolidate memories and experiences, detox the brain of waste products and regenerate brain cells. This makes a profound difference to our daily performance, enabling us to think clearly and deeply, focus well and handle multiple challenges with ease. Aim for that magic minimum of seven hours through naps, proxy sleeps and going to bed even a few minutes earlier each night.

Kickstart Positivity

  1. Smile:  Smiling at yourself in the mirror boosts serotonin (happiness).
  2. Jump:  Literally jump for joy – it promotes optimism.
  3. Bounce Positive:  Apply a learning mindset to setbacks/mistakes.  If you’re dwelling on something, talk to someone you trust about it, then commit to letting it go.
  4. Strengthen Interpersonal Relationships:  Balance your own agenda with those of others, communicate well and flex your behavioural style, creating the chemistry of trust – balancing oxytocin (social bonding/trust), dopamine (goal-orientation/seeking and gaining reward), and testosterone (independent competitive action), while managing cortisol (stress).

The more we use physical intelligence techniques, the better armed we will be to achieve business success. Why not give it a try?