Tag Archives: career tips

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!

Adventure, Exploration and Gold – Why Supply Chain is the Career of the Future

Time to step out of your silo, get your body and brain ready for the future, and find your inner gold. Catch up with Career Boot Camp to get yourself on the track for the summit.

supply chain career
Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

The supply chain profession attracts some of the best minds and biggest thinkers around. Are they drawn to the chance to travel the globe, have diverse experiences and learn lessons from a myriad of people? Are they energised by the idea of finding a role that gives them a broader perspective and makes them a more well-rounded person?

Or maybe it’s the chance to enact real change, set bold personal goals and aim high?

It is, in fact, all of the above. Don’t just take our word for it – these are the thoughts and experiences of the fantastic trainers from Career Boot Camp 2019. Here are just a few of the insights from this podcast series:

Change Your Career Trajectory to Aim Higher

The strange thing our trainers all had in common this year was that they weren’t initially directly involved in supply chain, or didn’t set out for a career in it. But, far from falling into it, three made active choices to change their careers to supply chain.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain, started out with a degree in Environmental Management Planning and then gained a PhD, but wishes that she had found a supply chain earlier in her career. This view was echoed by Supply Chain Executive, Steve Day, who, after starting out in Engineering and Telecoms, found that his supply chain career was some to “feel energised about”.

And Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain, didn’t gain qualifications in supply chain, but has found that supply chain has opened doors for him around the world, giving opportunities he may never have had otherwise.

Cultivating the Common Habits

All five of our trainers picked up on some key habits from their careers and experience that they have cultivated to reach their own summits. Could you do anything differently in your career in the future?

  1. Be curious – don’t tell yourself you can’t do something. Replace limiting thoughts and see what’s possible.
  2. Don’t believe that you only need training in one area – broaden your perspective, and then bring this perspective into new roles to enhance your expertise.
  3. Be a more holistic thinker – get a rounded experience, have a passion and set ambitious personal goals that allow you to aim high.
  4. Take the chance when it’s presented – it might seem like random chance or something out of the blue, but you won’t know unless you try it.
  5. Keep current but also talk about broader topics than just your area – it will show a broader knowledge that could change the trajectory of your career.

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future

Dr. Karen Darke MBE believes that we should learn from the past, but not to let it define us. Your behaviour and emotions in the moment can actually shape your future, through the power of your mind.

The way you think and feel can impact your own reality. Study of the mind was also part of Professor Moran Cerf’s podcast as he discussed why the human brain might still surpass AI and machine learning. The brain is still one of the most power muscles we have and we should still be training it, just like our other muscles when we, for example, go out for a bike ride!

Whatever trajectory your career is on right now, know you have the power to change this. By applying yourself, training hard (your body and your mind) and setting your sights on what you want to happen, you can be the master of your own destiny now and in the future.

It’s not too late to catch up on all the Career Boot Camp podcasts and access all this great thought leadership. Sign up here now!

A New Skillset for Procurement Leaders

Procurement leaders of tomorrow will need to combine highly refined soft skills, a broad business understanding and digital literacy to elevate their function and put it at the centre of business change in the years to come.

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Procurement has never had a better opportunity to be the value adding function that it has always aspired to be.

The exponential technological advancements of the last decade have lowered entry barriers across markets. Procurement functions that successfully invest in and work with these new innovators will give their businesses a competitive advantage. Technology has also vastly improved the handling of large data sets.

Sitting at the intersection between the supply chain and the business, procurement is awash with data, and technology means it can spend less time on data acquisition and analytics and more time on deriving strategic insights from that data. Crucially, that helps the business to make more effective decisions, faster.

In recent years, we have also seen a spike in companies outsourcing key elements of their business. This has led to an increased number of strategic suppliers that need to be efficiently managed in order to ensure consistent high quality of product and service.

These two factors combined generate the perfect environment for procurement to move from its traditional role of “price negotiator” and “process policeman”, to strategic partner of choice, leading business transformation.

However, to do that, it will need a new skillset.

The ‘Right’ Skills

Efficio’s recent 2019 study, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, asked 500 senior procurement and operations leaders across the globe what their current top priorities were. The top answer, with 29 per cent of votes, was access to the right skills.

It received 60 per cent more votes than the next top priority, maximising efficiencies in the supply chain. Moreover, nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) put access to the right skills in their top three.

Organisations clearly recognise the need for a new skillset, but what are the right skills? In our view these can be categorised into three pillars: soft skills, broad business understanding and digital literacy.

Procurement Leaders – Influencing & Leading

The study showed 78 per cent of procurement executives believe soft skills are either essential or very important for the procurement leader of tomorrow. By drilling deeper into the results, we can find some interesting insights about how these executives see procurement in the future.

The single most desired soft skill quoted was the ability to influence and lead. This is indicative of a procurement function that is setting the agenda and leading stakeholders to make more effective decisions. Interactions that procurement has with stakeholders will be just as important, if not more so, than those it has with suppliers.

By understanding the business requirements and having a deeper knowledge of supplier capabilities, procurement will not only drive cost savings but also influence the business to select solutions and partners that best align with a company’s strategy.

The second most sought after soft skill is the ability to challenge conventional thinking. As well as challenging the way the business thinks, it needs to re-evaluate and challenge the way it has operated itself for so many years, with the goal of defining what it can do differently in order to move from a function that most organisations try to bypass.

It needs to become more customer centric and challenge itself and the business to move from a savings focussed, to a value-adding function.

Involving Your Suppliers

Thirdly, respondents recognised a need for innovation, creativity and problem-solving skills in the future. This hints at an expectation that procurement activities will go beyond traditional one-size-fits-all RFX approaches to every problem.

It will instead work in a more project-based manner with an agile approach that more effectively meets business needs. An example of this could be involving suppliers in the solutioning, to help define those requirements in the first place.

Although soft skills are generally not part of the current procurement training curriculum, they can still be learnt and developed. But critically, these don’t need to be learnt solely from being in procurement roles.

By positioning procurement on the career path of high-flying and ambitious individuals, it can benefit from people who have honed these skills in other functions but can apply them in a procurement context.

A Broad Business Understanding

To be truly accepted at the top table, procurement needs to communicate in the language of its peers in the business. Specifically, that means avoiding defaulting to a narrow focus on savings and process and rather seeking to define itself by what is important to its business.

That is not to say savings related activity is not important, but it needs to be put into context of the wider objectives of the organisation.

For example, a strategic lever for a business might be to grow revenue in a sector by bringing an innovation to market. Procurement should recognise in this case that it can best provide support by approaching the supply market with an investor mindset, trawling the globe for new start-ups to invest in and collaborate with in product development.

Going to those start-ups with an onerous RFX to fill out will unlikely result in any strong partnerships because those start-ups don’t have the capacity or knowledge to put themselves through such an approach.

Digital Literacy

Finally, the future of procurement will need to have a strong technology element to become a more effective function. Whether procurement leaders go for an end-to-end solution or a best of breed approach by building an ecosystem of tools best suited to their organisation, understanding at a basic level how technology is built, and how it integrates with other tools, is essential in being able to make good long-term investment decisions.

Historically, procurement leaders have never needed to be digitally literate in this way, however this will need to change as businesses become ever more reliant on technology and need to make long-term decisions on what to purchase.

It is therefore incumbent on the procurement leaders of tomorrow to educate themselves on the digital terms they use, latest trends and not to just limit themselves to the procurement sphere in the search for that knowledge.

Looking at other functions and sectors to understand how new technologies are being applied can help develop digital procurement strategies and roadmaps that are a step ahead of the competition.

Hone these Skills to Thrive

To become a more effective function and to elevate itself in the business, procurement is going to need people with a different skillset from today. A strong focus on soft skills is essential, but so too is an understanding of business more broadly than procurement’s traditional priorities of savings and process.

Being able to successfully digitalise the function will require people who understand not only how to use technology, but who are also able to make long term investment decisions. Procurement functions that recruit, train for and retain these skills are likely to find themselves at the centre of business change in future.    

Download our research report, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, here.

From Mountains to Medals – Find Your Inner Gold

How can you accelerate your supply chain career? By finding your inner gold, of course, on Day 5 of Career Boot Camp 2019.

CBC 2019 - Day 5 - Gold

Dr Karen Darke MBE is our coach on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to her podcast now.

Ability is a state of mind, not a state of body. 

We all have incredible power within us to change our thoughts, our emotions, and our energy field. We can all learn to be our own alchemist, to transform unwanted emotions or experiences into gold, be creators of our reality, change our performance, our wellbeing, our world.

That’s the powerful message you will hear from today’s podcast guest Dr. Karen Darke MBE. Karen could be described as a modern-day alchemist: an adventurer, athlete, speaker and author all rolled into one. Karen’s purpose is all about inspiring and impacting, about turning challenge into opportunity – finding your ‘inner gold’.

Karen started out as a geologist in the Bolivian Andes researching and searching for gold. But a life-changing accident that left her paralysed led her away from being a ‘rock-doctor’ to a quest to achieve Paralympic gold.

Finding Your Prime in 79

Karen is fascinated by the importance gold has had on her life.  Her gold medal in the sport of hand-cycling in Rio 2016 was the 79th medal for Britain, and 79 being the elemental number for Gold led to Karen creating ‘Quest 79: Find Your Inner Gold’.  

The project has seen Karen cycle 7 continents and 9 rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and discover their passion, purpose or ability: their ‘inner gold’.

Karen views life as an adventure, and embraces all its experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. She has faced some extreme lows on her own roller coaster, and knows how trauma and life events can lead to fear and pain.  

As a part of her journey, Karen has generated some highs on her roller coaster, exploring and extending the limits of possibility physically, mentally, and emotionally. She has skied across icecaps, kayaked at extreme latitudes of the planet, and hand-cycled the world’s biggest mountain ranges and longest rivers.

She has also extensively explored and studied what goes on inside, from the power of the mind and thoughts to enable performance, to the impact of high frequency emotions to transform and heal. Her career as an athlete and adventurer, combined with her unique studies of mind, wellbeing, and healing make Karen a specialist in transformation.

Finding Your Own Gold

Karen recommends starting with a few simple steps.

  • When difficult or unwanted things happen, hold back from reacting and instead ask “What can I learn from this? How can this make me stronger? How can I use this experience to help myself or others?” Know you are going to learn something useful.
  • Be the observer of your own thoughts, and practice stopping or changing the unhelpful ones. Transform limiting thoughts into curious, expansive thoughts: for example, change “I’ll never manage this” into “This is interesting as I’ve never done anything like this before…I wonder what will happen next.”
  • Develop your self-awareness and take a gardening approach, digging out the unhelpful weeds! (Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can plant flowers, or you can grow weeds).  This way helps you to stop getting caught up in ‘stories’ and being a victim of circumstances, to become the creator of your reality.

Karen has distilled valuable learning and lessons through her years of experience and study so that she can share them with others. Subscribe or contact Karen at www.karendarke.com/contact to receive information about forthcoming webinars, courses and learning experiences.

Exploring New Places in Your Supply Chain Career

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again!

supply chain career

Ron Castro, Vice President IBM Supply Chain is our coach on Day Four of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to his podcast now.

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again! 

Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain’s CV sounds more like a global expedition of discovery than a traditional professional career.  Australia, China, Brazil and the US – Ron’s career has taken him to roles in all four corners of the globe.  He even managed to fit in a stint in France along the way.

Work Across the Business

So how did Ron achieve his impressive globe-trotting career?  He attributes his success to an unquenchable thirst to explore and work in every aspect of the business.  “Rotating across the supply chain and your organisation can help to connect the dots,” advises Ron.  Becoming a subject matter expert in all aspects of the work, he believes,  makes it easier to develop a holistic approach.

Ron hasn’t limited his experience to just the world of work.  His involvement in learning and development to support supply chain professionals across the industry, plus a board position on a non-profit organisation, show his thirst for new ideas and different perspectives extends outside working hours.

Ron recommends that supply chain professionals “be involved across initiatives”.  He’s found that this approach helped him to see things from a different perspective – one of the skills that is essential at a time when the world is constantly changing and moving forward.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Ron is concerned that “people play it safe and have a fear of failure.”  His career success had been built on taking risks and using trusted early warning systems to course correct if his ideas start moving off track. 

In Ron’s view, far too many supply chain professionals aim to low and achieve unambitious targets.  “Better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon,” Ron stresses.

Your Exploration Road Map

So how can you chart your expedition to supply chain career success?  Ron has seven tips that you can try:

  1. Be bold – set yourself an ambitious target today
  2. Make time for the important things rather than letting urgent things dominate your day – being able to achieve important things will define your career
  3. Take care of your mind and your body – perhaps take up mountain biking like Ron
  4. Be balanced and be a holistic thinker – seek out opportunities to gain insight that can help you join the dots
  5. Build a strong network – connect with as many people as you can inside and outside your work
  6. Skills become obsolete – learning is lifelong not just for when you are at school
  7. Have passion and love what you do – if not find yourself something another role.

Why not start your expedition today by setting yourself an ambitious career goal?  Follow Ron’s chart for success to see where next for your supply chain career journey.

Step Out of Your Silo to Propel Your Supply Chain Career

Are you ready to step out of your silo to share skills and expertise freely with other areas? 

CBC Day 3 escape your silo

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain is our coach on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to here her podcast now.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director of Sustainable Supply Chain at MIT, believes that a career in supply chain has the potential to be varied and exciting.  “I’ve been able to bring new insights and fresh thinking [to my role] and in some ways I wish I’d found supply chain earlier in my career,” she says. And she is clear that an open approach to ideas and people could be the key to an upward career trajectory.

Many people and Many Views

The variety that’s embedded in a career in supply chain comes, in part, from the departments of the organisation with which the function needs to interact. Alexis loves the way that this collaboration exposes her to many different points of view. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to interact with so many people,” she says. “Almost everyone has something to teach me.”

Alexis describes her sustainability and supply chain role at MIT as one of working with people from different disciplines who have a variety of conceptual experiences. She believes that working across organisations can really help us to think more broadly about issues and projects.

The opportunity to work in a team with many perspectives is something that Alexis sees as being a key part of a supply chain professional’s role. From engineers, technicians, analysts, and strategists, every discipline and perspective can be part of a supply chain team. Close collaboration and problem solving, she says, is just what’s required when you’re working to improve sustainability.

When she’s leading teams at MIT, Alexis’ role is to make sure these roles are aligned, and voices are heard equally. In her experience, “all voices are there for a reason and unique perspectives can push a project forward or enable the team to think of something really innovative.”

Get Out of Your Silo

“A silo view of the organisation and consequently the topics covered in learning and development is the wrong way to progress a supply chain career,” warns Alexis. She advocates against a heads-down, staying in your comfort zone approach. In her experience, where someone broadens out their perspective to think about how they can apply their expertise and knowledge, a range of opportunities to progress will appear.

Alexis urges people to think more broadly about what they do next. “In supply chain, expertise can really be moulded to different positions,” she reports. And the good news is that, in her experience, having an open mind can be a chance to advance your career.

Thinking about your supply chain career trajectory is something that Alexis would encourage all supply chain professionals to do. Supply chain looks at the organisation from many different perspectives: sustainability, logistics, procurement, last mile, and this means that are many roles where different expertise is required.

“There’s so much upward mobility in supply chain,” she says, “from Chief Supply Chain Officer all the way to the CEO.” Alexis is optimistic about the opportunities that are out there for supply chain professionals who love variety and are prepared to broaden their experience and their skills.

Making Variety Part of What you Do

So how can you seek escape the silo and understand the world and the variety of opportunities out there? Alexis has these tips that you can use to embed the search for different into your routine:

  1. Read a lot – try to fit lots of reading into your life;
  2. Read daily – set a slot aside each day when you make time to read;
  3. Read about different subjects – it doesn’t always have to be about supply chain;
  4. Listen to podcasts – they’re a great way to absorb new information particularly when you’re on the move.

Why not embrace variety into your life by becoming a reader and podcast listener? Follow Alexis’ tips to unlock the potential for success in your supply chain career that could take you right to the top.

Supply Chain Hack – Get to Know Your Brain

Could the human brain be augmented in the future to the benefit of supply chain? Find out on Day 2 of Career Boot Camp 2019!

Career Boot Camp 2019 - Day 2 Brain

Professor Moran Cerf is our guest on Day Two of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to his podcast now.

Do you sometimes wish you could upgrade your professional performance to the next level by simply inserting a micro-chip into your brain with the supply chain skills you need?

Professor Cerf started out in the depths of the cyber world as a hacker, spending 15 years cracking the secrets of computing’s black box.  His career took a different course when Francis Crick, of DNA discovery fame, gave him some career advice.  Moran recalls that his mentor encouraged him to move away from focussing on computers and  “apply his expertise to the most complex black box in the world,” the human brain.

We’ve all heard of the concept of ‘biohacking’, where people make small, incremental changes to their diets and/or lifestyles, resulting in changes to health and wellbeing.  At one end, this can be as simple as reducing your sugar or caffeine consumption.  At the other, perhaps more extreme, end it can involve the use of technology, gadgets or implants designed to ‘hack’ your biology to improve yourself.

Moran is fascinated about the way the brain solves problems, imagines the future and even composes music.  He thinks we may never fully understand the processes inside our heads but he’s excited about the ways that machine learning can mimic the brain and potentially augment it.   

Consider how this could be used to improve the day-to-day lives of billions of people. Could the future hold a time when we have a microchip inserted to augment our brain to become a Human 2.0?  Could this be applied to help our brains do the analytical things we need to do in supply chain?

Playing to your Cerebral Strengths

One piece of Moran’s research, in partnership with Red Bull, sought to identify why some people perform better than others.  How do some people manage to carry on while others give up?  The research team “wanted to see whether we could tap into the part of the brain that regulates performance.”

And it turned out that it was possible to identify the conditions when performance started to dip.  By monitoring the reaction in the brain in the seconds before a person gave up, the research team could send trigger to give a performance boost.  The brain would then react to increase performance and improve motivation to carry on with a task.  Moran’s team’s findings were clear – “There is always the potential to do more and do it better.”

Moran advises Boot Camp participants to think of  the brain as a muscle whose performance you can improve. “The key,” he tells us, “is to play to your brain’s strengths and carry out tasks at times and condition.” 

Five Steps to Improve Your Self-Control Muscle

How can we get into the neuro-science gym and practice the professor’s spin class for our brain? He has five steps we can take to improve our brain performance:

  1. Identify the key activities you do in your role and keep a diary to capture data about the times of the day when you carry out these activities
  2. Review your performance each day – did you do these activities well, were there any factors that influenced your performance?
  3. Identify the times of the day and conditions when your performance in each activity has been the best.
  4. Align your schedule so that you do these activities at the time of day that works best for your brain

Why not kick-start your training today by running through these steps, starting your very own diary and seeing if you get even more than you thought possible from your brain?

And what better way to start than by listening to the Professor himself on our Career Boot Camp 2019 podcast series!

Your Supply Chain Career: A Path to Adventure

If it’s adventure you’re looking for, look no further than supply chain for your career choices. Find out why on Day 1 of Career Boot Camp.

Career Boot Camp 2019 - Day 1

Stephen Day is our coach on Day One of Career Boot Camp 2019. Sign up here to listen to his podcast now. 

Are you sitting at your desk dreaming of a supply chain role that can take you far-away places and foreign lands? Do you wish that your job included the opportunity to try new things and work in different roles?

Stephen Day’s career journey certainly hasn’t seen him stuck in a rut with his wheels spinning. He’s worked in a range of industries and a variety of roles across the globe and attributes his career success to thirst for knowledge and the absence of a fear for the unknown.

Stephen has made many changes in his career. After starting in engineering, Stephen pivoted to telecoms and, after a decade, made another switch to educational publishing. He found the skills and knowledge he’d gained in each industry could be easily transferred to new sectors and new roles.

Break the Habit of Fear

“People can get into bad habits that are not helpful,” Stephen advises. “They can get so wedded to the salary that they end up really miserable – our careers are relatively short – we need to do the work where we feel energised and can make a difference.” 

Fear, Stephen warns, can keep people stuck in the wrong roles.

But the good news is that a career in supply chain has never looked better. There are plenty of great supply chain roles for professionals that want to make the change and who have the skills and capabilities to take on a new role.

The opportunity to work with a variety of new leaders will provide chances to learn and grow. Stephen is grateful that that he’s been able to work with great leaders and thinks that this is an important part of any supply chain professional’s career journey. “Are the people you are working with inspiring you?” he asks.  If not, perhaps it’s time to make a change.

Luck is Not a Random Event

Stephen favorite piece of advice comes from the Greek philosopher Seneca: “Luck is what happens where preparation meets opportunity.”

He’s always seeking out new ways to be prepared. Over the years, Stephen’s efforts to keep current and up to date have enabled him to have broader conversations at all levels of the organisations in which he has worked. Building his credibility meant that when he sought to implement transformation and change, senior leadership were ready to listen to his ideas.

Three Steps to Build Bravery for your Career Adventure

To make sure that your acts of career bravery and an appetite for adventure aren’t foolhardy, Stephen has these three tips for you to try:

  1. Find ways that you can keep up to date with issues in your industry;
  2. Volunteer for difficult projects when they arise – organisations like people who are prepared to do the hard stuff;
  3. Develop your network so that people think of you when opportunities arise.

Why not take the first step to build your network on Procurious by reaching out to other supply chain professionals today? You can start with Stephen Day as your first step to grow the connections in your supply chain network!