Tag Archives: career planning

It’s So Quiet in the Office – Where is Everyone?

It’s the time of year where the office gets really quiet. So how are you going to use this quiet time productively?

quiet office
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

We’ve all now started the long wind down towards Christmas. People are tired and losing focus and everyone is trying to spend as little time in the office as possible. But this is the perfect time to think about you want to achieve in 2020. I know my first priority is to get out the calendar and pencil in my proposed vacation days!   

Seriously though, what do you need to do to get where you want to be by the end of next year? It may be expanding or updating your current skills, actual re-training for a new role or adding to your formal education. 

Whatever it is, start planning it now.

Update Your CV   

Even if you are content in your current role, updating your CV is not a waste of time. Mergers and acquisitions often result in reduced office headcount, strategy changes may mean that your project is canned or your department is closed. No job is really secure.

Spending a couple of hours over the holidays on your CV will pay off later, even if you are only looking for an internal promotion.

What to take out:

1. Check for obsolete words and phrases. Remember Windows Vista and  Word Perfect and MS-DOS? Neither do new employers! Clear out any references to old technologies which date your skills.

2. Your high school results are irrelevant for anyone over 21. Many companies are claiming that they do not consider university education important either, but we are not there yet. Include your tertiary qualifications (provided you did successfully complete them). If you graduated in the 80’s it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to give dates. If you dropped out, don’t mention it.   

3. Any early work experience or entry-level jobs from more than 10 years ago are of no interest. Ageism is alive and well in recruitment, take steps to make your CV age-neutral as far as possible. If a role needs you to show 10 years’ experience, only do that. 

What to put in:

  • Design your CV for the role that you are seeking.  Highlight projects that directly relate to the skills in the job listing you’re targeting. Respond to what exactly is asked for. 
  • One concise page is better than two with padding. Recruiters and hiring managers have short attention spans. Too much information is a turn-off.
  • Update your list of skills. Add new bullet points for technical skills acquired since the last CV update, especially focus on those in short supply. Highlight your achievements in team-leading and collaboration, especially if you aspire to a management role. 
  • Add in any reference sites where published work can be found including informative articles and blogs. 

Your Online Media Presence  

Despite the downsides of having a personal presence online, it is still a benefit to have a professional profile there.  You can’t hide from social media so pick a favourite and use it wisely.

LinkedIn is the most useful tool for business professionals.  With more than 20 million companies listed on LinkedIn and 14 million open jobs, it’s no surprise to find out that 90 per cent of recruiters regularly use it.

There are plenty of places where you can express your personal opinions on politics, religion or details of your pets, etc.  LinkedIn is not one of them. When updating an online profile, make sure that the content aligns exactly with your CV.  Astute hiring managers will pick up any anomalies. 

Sad to say, but recruiters also scour Facebook and Twitter looking for “background”, so review your content there too, even if you are not actively job hunting. The safest place on-line is having your own website (where you have full control of the content). 

Getting an Interview  

If you are actively looking for a change, think about your cover letter.  This is your opportunity to showcase and what you can offer, in your own words.  It can also highlight what you want which saves wasted time on both sides. A good cover letter will get you the interview. 

Jim says “I got rid of any reference older than 10 years, but what got me lots of interviews was the T-form cover letter. I put a two-column table in my one-page Word doc cover letter where their main job requirements are placed in the left column and how I have met or exceeded them on the right side. This provides a fast screen for the HR or recruiter and in most cases, I ended up with a face to face interview after the initial phone screening.”

Fortunately, the need for procurement skills will not decline, but the requirements are definitely changing.  Employers are looking for those with new skills such as understanding how to manage big data in the cloud, how you can contribute to sustainability and the triple bottom line. Will you be ready?   

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!

A CPO ’s “To-Do” List for the First 100 Days

100 days of being a CPO….What’s on your to-do list, where do you start and how do you develop your action plan to transform the procurement team? 

You’re hired!  After the jubilation of accepting a job wears off and you’re successfully on-boarded to your new company, you learn you have 100 days to develop a plan.  This plan that will begin a journey of procurement transformation that surpasses the expectations you shared during the new hire process.  The opportunity is ‘greenfield’: building out a procurement function where one didn’t previously exist or where the function never took hold for one reason or another.

You’ve been appointed CPO. You have 100 days to develop a plan.  What’s first? 

There are various approaches to transformation and the key is to find the right one for your project.  The approach I will share is based on my personal experiences building out the procurement function (source-to-settle) at a Fortune 50 company, at a hyper-growth entrepreneurial company, and (most recently) at an established, well-diversified healthcare company.

First course of business – assess the current state if you didn’t do so during the interview process.  Have a conversation with anyone willing to engage starting with your new team, executive leadership, and cross-functional stakeholders.  You need to understand your inherited brand firsthand – including the perspectives and opinions of your inherited procurement function.  These discussions are important on several fronts because they:

  • Baseline the present-day function and capture a snapshot of where you started your journey. This will be key as you look in the rearview mirror to see how far you’ve come;
  • Identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across the categories of people, process, and technology;
  • Provide key insights on brand perceptions and the history behind them;
  • Help identify advocates, influencers, and distractors; and
  • Finally, provide insights to what ‘should’ be next and offer a semblance of preferred timing

I recommend partnering with a change management guru and a project manager to articulate the business requirements that will form your vision, set a definition of success, and develop a communication strategy and cadence.  Do not underestimate impact of change and the new behaviors that are required to effect better business outcomes.

At my current company, we took a slightly different approach to transformation based on our unique combination of vision, culture, and employee demographics.  Early on we reached out to Marketing to create a ‘drip campaign’ comprised of video vignettes, campus signage, and direct outreach. The whole effort centered on our mascot – Moolah, a big fury, purple creature that was accompanied by a tag line – ‘Spend It Like It’s Yours’ (loosely based on the acronym ‘SILIY’ – pronounced silly).

The objective was to have fun with the initiative, which is one of our values.  The result was celebrity status for Moolah and greater acceptance of the initiative.  Frankly, it was fun to see employees taking selfies of Moolah at all-hands-on-deck meetings.

Included below is a checklist based on my experiences to help develop your plan.  Again, model or pivot based on what you observe in front of you and the expectations of procurement.  There is no absolutely right answer.

Discovery

    1. The Initiative
      1. ‘Why’ is the initiative being undertaken and why now
      2. ‘Who’ – who is the advocate and what role to they play and their plans to stay active
      3. ‘What’ is the motivation, business reasons for the initiative
      4. ‘When’ – expected timing – launch for the initiative and drivers
      5. ‘Where’ what is the geographical, business reach for the initiative, i.e., domestic only, certain BUs only, etc.
      6. ‘WIFT/M’ – beneficiaries?
    2. Your company
      1. Culture
      2. Vision, Mission and Values
      3. Story – market, penetration, success, competitors, …
    3. Existing function and talent
      1. Who plays the role today within the business
      2. Partner with HR to run a title & role search across the company
      3. Ask the pre-existing talent to provide their CVs and interview them
    4. Needs of the organization from the perspective of the business
      1. Functions value
      2. Brand (good, indifferent and what needs to change)
      3. Successes and failures
    5. Identify partners and executive support to advocate for the initiative
    6. Subset – players
      1. Active vocal participants (supporters)
      2. Points of dissension (naysayers)
      3. Bandwagoneers – those on the sidelines waiting for results and uncommitted in the interim

Baseline

  1. Performance to date
  2. People
    1. Skills and gaps
    2. Investments to date
    3. HIPOs (High Potential Employees)
    4. Investments and jettisons
  3.  Process/Policy
    1. Does one exist?
    2. Are there accountabilities?
    3. Spend authority
    4. Document signing authority
  4.  Technology
    1. What do you have?
    2. To what extent is it implemented?
      1. Vanilla
      2. Customizations
      3. Partials
    3. What is next and why?
  5. Quantify behaviors
    1. Buying behaviors of customer
    2. Willingness for change
      1. BUs
      2. Function
      3. Other Shared Services Centers
      4. Legal
      5. Execs

Initiative governance structure

  1. Agree roles/oversight for initiative, for example:
    1. Steering Committee
    2. Advocates within the business
  2. Other key constituents
    1. HR
    2. Legal
    3. Information Security
    4. Finance
  3. Develop RACI

Change Management strategy, approach, methodology

  1. Campaign
    1. Partner with Marketing on drip campaign (pre-planned, gradually released communications)
      1. Tagline
      2. Mascot
      3. Video vignette
  2. Change management leader
    1. Messaging
    2. Signage
    3. Cadence
  3.  Access
    1. Execs
    2. BUs
    3. Leadership
    4. Management
    5. IC’s

Business case to effectuate a different outcome

  1. Executive summary – overview of the initiative
  2. Detailed description of the initiative
  3. Why – what is it in for them/me – market analysis
  4. Organizational design
  5. Funding requirements
  6. ROI/IRR
  7. Anticipated outcomes
  8. Necessary executive support
  • Gain support for initiative
  • Execute
  • Reflect
  • Celebrate your successes

Appreciate that procurement transformation is a journey with a starting point that is unlikely to ever end.  You iterate, detour, and adapt to meet the needs of the organization.  Investment is required in the three buckets of people, process, and technology – and most importantly, the leadership team – to stay relevant.

You will encounter setbacks, and your ability to recover will test the team.  How they (and you) respond will determine the overall success of the initiative.  Most importantly – have fun if you are fortunate enough to have that as a key value at your company.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

Real Relationships Really Matter

It doesn’t matter what technology your organisation adopts, or what digital transformation you endure; procurement relationships will always be essential for success. 

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement. Chris Cliffe discussed why relationships really matter.

The world around us is changing. You can’t turn anywhere these days without hearing the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’. Everyone’s writing about technology and the race to automate and use augmented intelligence in business.  IBM’s ‘Watson’ is soon expected to be in regular use within procurement teams across the globe. But, the reality is that the vast majority of organisations, be they Private, Public or Not-for-Profit Sectors, are only at the start of this adventure.

Of course, it is crucial that our organisations do focus on adopting technology. The role of the CIO, for example, is at least equally important to that of the CPO. Yet the technology focus cannot be at the expense of the human focus.

Relationships really matter.

In fact, in the next decade or so, relationships will increasingly be the differentiator as ‘process’ and ‘transactions’ become automated and ‘value adding’ activities become the sole human focus.

Buyer Supplier Relationships

It might seem an obvious place to start but buyer supplier relationships are so often overlooked.  I think we can, in the main, agree that a ‘tender’ process in itself delivers zero value. Value for Money can only be obtained from good performance of the resulting contract. If we put ‘procurement’ theory to one side for a moment and look at ITIL Service Management, it clearly states that “good people can make a bad contract work, equally, bad people can make a great contract fail”.

Having the right relationships, between the right people, on both sides of a contract is how you get best value. Investing time and effort into building, nurturing and maintaining good relationships between buyer and supplier teams will facilitate far more value from contracts. It doesn’t pay to   let and forget!

Let’s assume a big problem happened last week.

Scenario 1: You call your account manager to complain, having not spoken to them in months, because ‘someone’ messed up.

Scenario 2: You call your account manager that you spoke to recently. You know they’ve just returned from their first family holiday in five years. They’ve had an awful couple of years for various personal reasons and, in fact, they’d even booked a restaurant you recommended. Whilst they were away, a junior member of their team was covering and they may have dropped the ball.

In both scenarios, the same issue has arisen and it needs fixing.  But I suspect the majority of us will approach those two calls differently and outcomes from these calls may also be different. Think about whether you could start both calls with the phrase, “How can I help you fix this problem?”

Stakeholders

Stakeholders: An increasingly over used, catch-all term to dehumanise people who we go to work with day in, day out. Investing time and effort into establishing relationships with the key individuals within our businesses will pay you back in spades. Ask questions. Be interested. Get under the skin of the challenges your colleagues face. Don’t be constrained by the perception of silo’s.

We must always remember why we do what we do. The purpose of Procurement is not to further the cause of procurement. Of course, a very happy side effect of an effective, modern, highly engaged and enabling procurement team is that the reputation of the profession will increase to everyone’s benefit, but that cannot be the motivation. The role of Procurement is simple. It exists to facilitate and enable the organisation(s) it supports in achieving its vision, mission and goals.

In human terms, we are there to help our colleagues enjoy work through enabling their success and in achieving their objectives. This is a differentiator between good and bad procurement in my mind. Establishing relationships with stakeholders based on a genuine interest in understanding their challenges and seeking to support them overcome obstacles proactively, will lead to game-changing relationships rather than relationships based on reactively promoting procurement process, policy and procedures.

Career Development and Credibility

Relationships really matter for professional development, career development and credibility. Take a look at the Deloitte CPO Survey 2017, or any recent recruitment agency survey. There will always be analysis pointing out how the procurement profession is dogged by a lack of soft skills and how there’s a real talent shortage with regards to interpersonal capabilities. I believe we all need to take  responsibility for learning and development; it is up to individuals to own the preparation for longer term career aspirations.

Relationships really matter with those in your network. The aim isn’t to collect as many LinkedIn connections as you can, but it is to connect to as many people as you can. Connect in this sense means to talk, ask, listen, learn, impart knowledge and most importantly follow up on conversations. Being market aware and having your finger on the pulse is an incredibly important part of being a credible professional in terms of managing contracts and suppliers and with developing productive relationships with colleagues.

Investing time and effort into building, nurturing and maintaining productive relationships really matters.

It’s Not About The Money, It’s About the Meaning

Fancy titles, and a big pay cheque isn’t where the action is. You’re going to have to offer something with more meaning if you want to get Millennial superstars on your team.

Kenny Cheung, Chief of Procurement at The World Bank Group, talks about his early career, the importance of setting boundaries, and the skills procurement professionals will require in the future.

Kenny also draws on his experience working for some of the biggest names in Finance, across two continents, about why Millennials care more for the deeper meaning in their job, rather than the big salary or fancy title.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?

  • Retail Project Engineer at ExxonMobil;
  • Strategic Sourcing Consultant at ExxonMobil; and
  • Senior Category Manager at National Australia Bank.

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

The importance of setting boundaries personally and professionally. Boundaries are important for getting your priorities right, help manage expectations of others whilst ensuring you don’t get yourselves (and your teams) burned out.

In my pursuit of achievements, I realised I could accomplish more “quality” goals than “quantity” goals, if boundaries were set earlier in my career.

3. How can CPOs attract and retain Millennials?

CPOs ought to understand how to build broader purpose into their team’s mission, as well as the design of individual roles within their teams.

Millennials look for more than a famous brand, an impressive title or a good salary. They look for meaning in their roles, far deeper and holistic than previous generations. 

4. What key skills are critical for procurement in the next 5 years?

Emotional Intelligence, Energy Management, Influencing, Networking, and Innovation.

5. How valuable have mentors been in your career?

Extremely. They provide me with some invaluable golden rules of career management as well as work-life integration fundamentals.

Build your personal workout plan, and get fit to meet procurement leaders’ needs! Take a step toward your next promotion by registering for Career Boot Camp today.

Beware the Scary Old-World CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.

I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.

My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.

If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.

There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.

Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?

You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.

They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.

This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.

Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.

The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.

My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.

Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.

Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy. But they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver, and how you need to develop in the future.

They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.

The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop leadership skills.

The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.

Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.

Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.

We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

Debate Over Renewed Focus on Career Guidance

Inadequate career guidance and advice from schools is exacerbating the UK’s skills gap, says a report published in the last week.

A new report published at the end of last week by the Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-Committee, has stated that the skills gap in the UK is being worsened by poor career guidance given to pupils by their schools.

It was argued that poor career guidance was stopping young people making informed career decisions, which in turn was harming the country’s economy.

The report, the first published by the Sub-Committee, also argued that there needed to be greater oversight over the wealth of organisations, service providers, and websites set up to offer careers advice.

The report concluded that schools needed to be held to greater account when it came to careers services, and that this should make up part of annual inspections.

“Big Stick” Approach Wrong

However, the report came in for criticism from head teachers’ leaders, who argued the “big stick” approach of downgrading schools for poor performance wouldn’t solve fundamental issues with the careers advice system.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that there were severe problems in the existing system that urgently needed fixed, while school budgets were frozen and under severe pressure.

It was argued by other leaders that the threat of downgrading and inspection was not an effective way of driving improvements in career guidance.

Effective Career Guidance

However, there was agreement that steps needed to be taken in order to better equip students and school leavers with the right advice for their careers.

As the business world continues to change and evolve, students need the best possible advice about experiences, qualifications, and training needed for chosen careers, or how to get involved with new and emerging industries.

And this is not necessarily about just encouraging school leavers to go on to higher education and university, a criticism which has been levelled at many schools, but also making them aware of apprenticeships and other work opportunities.

This could be done through giving pupils better access to employers while still in school, work experience opportunities, and career talks from former pupils and local business leaders.

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills at the Institute of Directors, said: “The IoD welcomes the committee’s focus on careers guidance, which by all accounts remains an Achilles heel in the UK education system.

“Alarmingly, just 43 per cent of students currently receive any formal careers guidance before choosing their A-level subjects and yet the subjects they choose can severely restrict their employment options later in life.

“This is partly because only 83 per cent of secondary schools employ a qualified, full-time careers adviser, with many relying instead on other support staff to fill career guidance roles. The only way to solve this problem is to improve guidance, not punish schools for being poorly equipped.” 

The secret to long-term career planning

In this second part of a two-part article, Hamish Petrie – former VP of People and Communications for resources giant Alcoa – reveals the secrets behind nurturing a long-term career.

Hamish currently writes for the Business Times in Melbourne. Read more about his story here.

Time is a critical factor in any career planning process. Most futurists agree that a large proportion of jobs even ten years out have not been invented yet.

To try to conceive the sort of job that you might have in the latter half of a 30+ year career is impossible. Your personal situation and your career anchor will usually change often through your career. For example, major life changes can greatly alter your priorities. Some consultants recommend breaking your career into five year terms, however, my experience would suggest that this is too long.  Too many things can change your situation in even two years, so a three-year plan seems more appropriate in our rapidly changing world.

In making this sort of plan, most people identify that they want to do their boss’s job, as they know that they can do it better than the current boss. Whilst this may be true, it can be restrictive as people can lock onto this and lock off on other possibilities. This “lock on: lock off” thinking can prevent a person from thinking about lateral jobs that may ultimately prepare them for bigger future roles.

I always suggest that a medium term career plan should exclude their immediate boss’s role, as this stimulates broader thinking. Getting some breath of experience during the first half of your career is always wise and it doesn’t matter in the long term if a particular job is not your ideal one at the time, as long as you keep learning about yourself.

Companies and jobs are always evolving and changing so it is important to learn how to adapt to change and to help drive change in a positive direction for you and your company. There is an old adage that “ tomorrow’s power comes to those that solve today’s problems”. Demonstrating that you can creatively solve problems and stimulate others to help can be a great adjunct to your career.

The bottom line is that it is impossible to develop a realistic long-term career plan, but you can prepare yourself for possible future jobs. You can develop a short to medium plan and this can be very helpful as long as your include all of the opportunities for broadening your experience. When considering how to develop your career, it is much more important to focus on the company rather than the job. If you can join a company that is right for you, then they will help you grow, become active in a dialogue about your future and help you be happy, and rewarded in whatever job comes along.

Action Planning Questions: 

  1. Have you investigated your own career anchor or taken one of the self-assessment tests available on the Internet?
  2. Have you developed a three-year plan, excluding your current boss’s job?
  3. When considering candidates for a job, do you give try to identify their career anchors to determine the best long-term fit for your needs?
  4. When considering a job, do you focus much more on the company rather than the specific job?

Read part one: Hamish Petrie asks: ‘Can you plan your career?’

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