Tag Archives: career tips

20 Ways To Get Job-Ready for 2020

This is the most popular month to make a career change, which means there’s even more competition – if you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be prepared.

Job-seeking is not a numbers game – all you need is one great job offer.

So, get yourself ready to be open to the right opportunities. Follow my list of 20 ways to get job-ready.

1. Don’t set goals – you will be setting yourself up to fail or to make a bad choice

If you set yourself a target of finding a new job by March, say, or earning a particular salary, you will be putting pressure on yourself to accept a job offer even if it is not the best career move for you. 

2. Think about why you’re leaving – just to be sure

Moving jobs takes time and is risky – you have little job security for the first 2 years. 

So work out why you are dissatisfied with your current role.

Need more flexibility? Ask to work a day a week at home.

Want to learn a new skill? Then put in a request. 

You’ve nothing to lose if you are planning to leave anyway. 

3. Make it a positive choice – desperation is not a good look 

Not only will you be in danger of accepting any job rather than the right one, hiring managers want to recruit someone who is positive and passionate about the job, not someone who is disgruntled and oozes negativity.

4. Focus on what you’ll gain – it will energise you

Change your mindset by focusing on what you want to gain, not what you want to leave behind. 

Make a list of all the positives you want from your new role.

For example, if you are stuck in a rut with no prospect of promotion, then training and development and opportunities to progress should be a priority in your job search. If you hate your commute, the location will be key. 

This list will help narrow your search – and help motivate you to make a change.

5. Be patient – it might take time 

Remember, it will probably take until Easter (at the earliest) before you start a new role, so don’t rush into the wrong decision.

6. Remain loyal – it will pay off 

Yes, it’s hard to give your best when all you can think about is leaving – however, don’t relax just yet because you will want a good reference and you might be working in your current role for some time. 

Never badmouth your employer. It could get back to the boss (awkward) or make future employers wary of hiring someone who is obviously so discontented.

7. Identify your strengths – and weaknesses 

You need to be clear about what you can offer future employers. 

To discover what your ‘brand’ is, ask trusted friends and colleagues to list the 5 or 10 things they think you do well – perhaps you have good technical skills or are good at being collaborative?

Then ask if there are any aspects of your personality or performance that they think need work – maybe you are not so good at organisation?

8. Search online for keywords that will sell you 

Next, match what you have to offer with the jobs you are interested in. A quick scan of job boards to see what recruiters are looking for will identify the keywords you need to include in your job applications – from ‘collaborative’ to ‘commercial’. 

Make a list. Then rephrase your skills so they fit these descriptions – for example, ‘ambitious’ could be ‘target-driven’. 

9. While you are looking, is there anything you are missing? 

If nearly every job spec is asking for a particular skill, then perhaps it’s time to get a qualification. 

For example, if the spec says ‘must be proficient in data analytics, including Excel’ and you use Excel but don’t have a certificate, go online and do a quick course. If there are any glaring gaps in your skills, perhaps you need to invest in a professional qualification. 

Also, check out the Procurious Training & Learning section.

10. Update your CV – only a generic one at this stage

Pay attention to the style: No more than two sides of A4.

Start with a personal statement. List jobs with the most recent first and avoid giving your entire life history. Focus on what you can do rather than what you have done. 

Include some examples of where you have met/exceeded expectations using the STAR (situation, task, activity, result) approach. This will clearly demonstrate you are up to the job without appearing arrogant. 

Don’t be tempted to invent hobbies and interests to make yourself appear more interesting or to lie (dates, job titles etc. are easy to check). 

And don’t forget to double-check grammar and spelling.

11. Remember to tailor your application/CV to each role 

When you get to the stage of applying, carefully read the job specification and include all of the keywords listed – using the exact same wording. 

Look through your list of skills and keywords that sell your brand and include those that are required or you think will add value to the job. Remember, at this stage, you need to show that you are an obvious fit for the job.

12. Have a professional photo taken

While many recruiters hate photos on CVs, they do like to see them online – either on your own website (if you have one) or your online profiles. 

A really good photo (remember to smile or at least look approachable) is, therefore, a must. At the very least, avoid holiday or party selfies.

13. Get your online presence ready – LinkedIn in particular

Think of this as your shop window – a potential employer or recruitment consultant might come across your profile and at the very least will check it. 

Ask a few key contacts if they will provide you with a recommendation and add a bit of personality by posting a few blogs or sharing some newsworthy links. Also, boost your network by requesting others to join it – the more senior the better.

14. Use Procurious as a resource

Make sure your Procurious profile is more than just a bland description of your current job. 

Use phrases like ‘passionate about’, ‘driven’ and/or ‘highly experienced’ and really sell yourself – don’t forget a photo. 

Also, click on ‘Build your network’ and start to reach out to professionals in key positions – someone might even approach you to offer you a job. 

15. Don’t forget to clean up your social media 

An inappropriate image or even just liking a less-than-tasteful joke can rule you out of a job.

16. Get signed up to job boards 

Get the apps (you can search on your daily commute) and sign up for job alerts (so you don’t miss an opportunity).

17. Identify your ideal employers 

Make a list of the firms you would like to work for and start researching them – you will want to talk their language in your job applications and be prepared for interviews. 

Also, check out glassdoor.co.uk to see how existing employees rate them – to avoid making a bad move.

18. Engage in strategic networking 

Find ways to network with staff who work for your ideal employers to find out what it is like to work there. 

You can then ask them if they have a referral scheme (existing employees are often given a bonus for recommending a new employee) or to let you know if there are any opportunities. 

19. Encourage approaches – a bit like putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign

Many job movers don’t ever apply for a new role. Instead, they are approached. 

Go to LinkedIn and click on ‘Show recruiters you are open to job opportunities’. (Don’t worry – you can control who sees this, so the boss won’t necessarily find out.) 

Also, get on the books of recruitment consultants specialising in your area so they can put your name forward for any relevant jobs.

20. Practise your pitch – it will keep you positive

Some people find it awkward to self-promote while others just come across as arrogant.

So practise telling stories that showcase how you have met a challenge, achieved a target or developed a skill – you can use these on application letters, when networking and in interviews.

It’s also a very self-affirming – and will help you deal with the disappointment when employers don’t even bother to acknowledge your application or reject you. 

So keep these 20 tips in mind to boost your spirits while job-hunting – and increase your chances of success. Good luck!

And if you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here for free.

How To Get Moving On Your Career Path To The Top

Ambitious and driven? Plot your way to the top with the help of the Procurious webinar featuring advice from three senior leaders 

Are you looking for the next steps to get moving on your career path? Or are you thinking of quitting the day job in search of a new path to the summit?

Do you have questions?

Good news! Procurious has produced a webinar, ‘Don’t Quit the Day Job – Your Path to the Top’ with all the answers you need.

We have assembled a panel of experienced senior leaders from different industries and different parts of the world – Lara Naqushbandi (Google), Christina Morrow (Ricoh USA) and Imelda Walsh (The Source) – to offer career advice. 

And they have plenty of great insights to share with you.

Plan to succeed

Top of their list of recommendations is to have a plan.

Some people like a fully worked-out, detailed action plan. Others prefer a few tasks on a to-do list. 

Either way, you’ll benefit from having made a plan. It’s a good place to start to identify the things you need to do. 

And – as Imelda points out – you’re much more likely to succeed when that plan is written down.

But once you’ve made the plan don’t feel tied to it. Don’t feel you always need to stick to the programme.

Because sometimes doing that can stop you considering potential new roles that could be a great fit for you. 

Take Christina’s advice and ask yourself how you would define professional success. Use that as your guide to consider whether to stick to or deviate from your plan when a new opportunity arises.

Ask what’s important now

Although the financial side of work is an important consideration, the panel members stress the drawbacks of being blindsided by the money associated with a role. 

‘Look at the whole package, not just the pay cheque,’ Lara advises. 

In her experience getting the balance right between work and home life is something that everyone should consider before taking on a new role.

Having a passion for what you do is something all our panel members cited as important. Imelda reports that she’s been most successful when she has a role that focuses on her passion. 

Christina has always taken time out regularly to reflect on what she enjoys doing so that she’s clear on what she might want from any prospective new position.

Take risks

Be open to taking risks.

This may involve deviating from your plan or exploring options to try something new. 

Lara is a great believer in having an openness to risk. Going off the beaten path can often bring great benefits when thinking about the next step in a career. That’s an approach that has definitely worked for her.

But taking a step up can present new challenges and in Christina’s experience, there is always something from a previous role that you can use to build on for the next. 

So don’t stay too long in one job and get bored is her advice. Take a risk and try something out of your comfort zone. 

The soft skills we use every day in procurement and supply chain – like leadership, negotiation and collaboration – are just what are needed for the challenges of a new role.

Hone your network

Having a network is a great resource you can use for securing a new role.

Imelda sees many candidates who have used a mentor to help them develop and grow, achieving great success.

And mentors can help you think about how to adjust to a culture and brief that a new job can bring. 

Moving between different companies can mean adjusting to completely new working environments and procedures – and even sometimes changing continents. 

Lara has found she’s had to adapt her style to accommodate each company’s culture and management style.

Listen in

Why not listen in to our webinar to find out more from our panel about how you can create your path to the top by:
Planning your route
Asking what’s important 
Taking risks
Making the most of your network.

Register for our upcoming (free) webinar here and start 2020 out with a bang!

Don’t Overlook This One Critical Factor When Choosing Your Next Role

Many mention salary as a reason to look elsewhere. So, what possibly could go wrong when you chase the money?

When Tom* was headhunted for a procurement specialist role at a major energy supplier, his eyes lit up. It was literally his dream job – and at a salary $30,000 higher than he was being paid. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Tom resigned immediately and started planning the lavish holiday on which he’d now be able to take his family. 

Yet less than 6 months later Tom found himself in my office, miserable. 

Tyrannical boss

It turned out that what had seemed like a lucrative move was anything but.

The long hours and high stress of his new role – combined with a tyrannical and workaholic boss – had made the situation untenable. 

‘I’ve learnt the hard way,’ Tom told me, ‘that it’s not all about money.’ 

As general manager of The Source, I meet hundreds of talented procurement professionals every year.

Like Tom, many mention salary as one of the reasons they want to look elsewhere. 

But I often tell candidates that money shouldn’t be the only reason for choosing a job. And in many cases it shouldn’t be an influencing factor at all. 

Here’s why. 

Flexibility and well-being are key

Workplace satisfaction research conducted over the last decade tells us that, contrary to popular belief, salary isn’t one of the driving factors when it comes to happiness at work. 

In fact, salary comes close to last on the list. 

What makes us truly happy at work is, in fact, a combination of permanent workplace flexibility, a commitment to health and well-being and the feeling that we’re doing meaningful and interesting work. 

We also need to feel respected at work. 

We need and want our leaders to notice and listen to us.

And, to an extent, we want them to praise us for our efforts.

In Tom’s situation, he had ended up with none of these. 

He wasn’t getting any respect. In fact, his new manager often berated him in front of other colleagues. 

He also had little flexibility. 

Despite the fact that the organisation had a strong policy on workplace flexibility, Tom’s workaholic manager made him feel like he could never take advantage of it. 

Finally, the lack of flexibility, high expectations and poor management had a knock-on effect on Tom’s health and well-being.

He was stressed and tired all the time – and struggled to stay motivated. 

Again, the organisation had a policy on employee well-being. But that hardly mattered to Tom, whose entire experience was being dictated by a manager he hated. 

People leave their bosses, not their jobs

After talking to me about his situation, Tom quickly came to another realisation about his poor career move.

And this time it wasn’t about salary. 

When you look at the drivers of workplace satisfaction, almost all can be achieved – or derailed – by your leader. 

This is something that’s enshrined in fact: 75% of all people leave their bosses, not their jobs. 

So if you think about it like that, risking leaving a good boss for the unknown can make the salary gain pale in comparison. 

Sure, that extra money might get you a great holiday, help you pay off your debt or buy you the car you’ve always wanted, but what are you giving up in return? 

Your job is a 40-hour-a-week, 48-week-per-year reality, and your career – which a manager can also make or break – is a lifelong endeavour. 

After a few months of searching, we eventually placed Tom in a new role, with a leader I know will give him the career experience he wants and deserves. 

But for all of you thinking of your next move this year, let this be a cautionary tale. 

How much does salary really mean? And how much emphasis should you place on that against working for someone who holds the key to your workplace happiness? 

I’d love to hear your experiences – please share them in the comments section below. 

Interested in some more career advice? Whether you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here.

Tony Megally is the General Manager of The Source, Australia’s leading procurement recruitment and executive search firm. If you’re looking to hire in the procurement space, or alternatively, you’d like to have a confidential chat about your next role, please contact Tony on +613 9650 6665 or via email on [email protected]

*Name changed to protect privacy

How To Stop The Computer Saying ‘No’! Clever Hacks For Getting Hired

AI is increasingly involved in recruitment. But how do you get on the right side of a computer that is reading your CV, running an aptitude test or assessing you in an online interview?

It’s impossible to argue with a computer, which is why the famous Little Britain TV comedy skit – ‘The computer says “No”!’ – is so memorable. However, there are ways to get around recruitment algorithms and perform better in an AI video interview.

You have just a few seconds (between 5 and 7) to impress someone with your CV. Hiring managers will quickly scan your résumé to decide whether or not to reject your application.

It’s easy to spot ones that will be instantly dismissed: too short or too long (2 pages max), too unusual (the rejection rate for those with photos is around 88%), badly presented and littered with spelling mistakes . . . with barely a glance, these will all be filed away (or binned).

It doesn’t give you much time to make a good impression.

However, if you think that someone in HR is hard to please, try impressing a computer algorithm.

A human being might, at least, see your potential if you write a convincing personal statement and a powerful cover letter showing that you have the ability and determination to succeed in a role for which you don’t quite have the right qualifications or experience.

When the process is automated, whether or not you get past the first few stages of the hiring process is all down to data. If you fail to score highly, you’ll never get hired – however brilliant you are. So what are the clever hacks?

Algorithm Aces

Always include everything asked for in the job spec in your CV . . . and use exactly the same words.

So if the candidate requirements say ‘Must be proficient in Excel’, say ‘proficient in Excel’ rather than ‘Have experience of using spreadsheets’.

Yes, you might not quite have the required level of expertise, but you can then explain that. The main thing is to pass the first hurdle. You could, for example, say ‘Proficient in Excel: with a relevant qualification’ – then go online to sites such as reed.co.uk or udemy.com and sign up for an online course. For £10 or so and 4–16 hours of online study you could have a qualification.

The other advantage is that you can then add this to your LinkedIn profile and other job applications.

At the very least make sure you include all the ‘musts’ and as many of the ‘desirables’ as possible.

Tips:
  • Tailor your CV to each job. You won’t know in advance which applications are screened by algorithms and which by a human being . . . so play safe.
  • Don’t lie – but be creative. If the job spec requires ‘At least 5 years in a leadership role’ you could add in leading a team (even if that was only 2 of you) or leading a project, to stretch your years of experience to 5.
  • Remember your aim is to get to the interview stage – most firms are struggling to find candidates that tick all the boxes, so don’t be afraid of applying for jobs where you don’t quite have all the qualifications and experience that is required. As long as you pass the initial screening, you can then elaborate on your answers in person . . . and hopefully impress the interviewer so much that you land the job.

Aptitude Hacks

Increasingly often employers are posting online assessment tests to pre-screen applicants.

If possible, set up a dummy account, so that you can go through the process and familiarize yourself with it before doing it for real. Also see if there are any similar aptitude tests online.

Tips:
  • If the test is timed or a stretch, you might want to do a test run several times. However, if you find the test a real struggle perhaps this isn’t the job for you.
  • If the employer leaves the assessment until the day of the interview, prepare – you might be asked to prove your proficiency in a particular program, so go online and do a quick refresher course to get up to speed.

Assessment Musts

Some employers also undertake personality profiling to make sure you have the right characteristics for the role.

The key with this is to be totally honest. Relax and complete the assessment truthfully – using the first thing that comes to mind as your answer, rather than overthinking each question.

If you lie in a personality test, it can be easily spotted. Often assessments take this into account – as they know that people tend to answer with what they think they should say, rather than what they honestly feel in the first 10 or 20 answers. After that they tend to relax and tell the truth.

Tips:
  • Being honest is important – if you are the wrong fit for the job, it will not work out and you could find yourself out of work and with little or no severance (remember, you have virtually no rights in the first 2 years of employment).
  • If the assessment is in a group situation or you are asked to perform a mock sales pitch/presentation etc. at the interview, be the best version of yourself rather than trying to be someone else.

Video Tricks

Unconscious bias is a problem in recruitment and is the reason for a lack of diversity within organizations.

Interviewers tend to have preconceptions about individuals and often look for similarities – leading to them hiring a ‘mini me’. This can leave organizations open to discrimination claims.

This – along with the need to reduce costs – has led to the introduction of AI as an interviewing tool.

However, it is very disconcerting to find yourself talking to a computer screen rather than a real human being.

Tips:
  • Practise, practise, practise. You will often be given a set time limit to answer each question. Umming and ahhing or lengthy pauses will impact on your score.
  • Video yourself answering questions – some AI programs look at your body language, which can give away tell-tale signs of lying (such as looking away or to one side).
  • Treat a video interview as a real interview – get a good night’s sleep, dress to impress, don’t drink too much coffee and try to relax.
  • Stick a photo of someone you like and want to impress (even a celebrity) next to your screen camera. Visualize yourself talking to this real person and your conversation will be more natural – your eyes will also be looking towards the camera, rather than down, and this can make you appear more professional and confident.

So be prepared for AI when you’re applying for your next position. Remember these few tips and behavioural tweaks to handle selection and assessment algorithms and give yourself the best chance of having a happy ending to your job-search story.

Think you could use a little career motivation for the new year and new decade? Join our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job!

Our Advice? Don’t Quit Your Day Job!

It’s one of the most popular times of year to think about changing your day job. But before you take the plunge it’s best to take some good advice on board.

Don't Quit Your Day Job

It’s the start of a New Year, so you might be looking to make some changes in your life. You might want to get in shape or join thousands of people giving up a habit, something like smoking or sugar or coffee (gasp!).

Or maybe you’re one of the many, many people who decide that a new year means a new career. According to recruiters and advisors galore, January is one of the most popular times of year to look for a new day job. And it’s also one of the best times to be looking for a new job too.

Why is this the case? Well there are a number of theories. One is that this is the time that many organisations and departments receive their budgets, so know how much, if any, recruitment they might want or need to do. Another is that employers come back in the New Year looking for a new start, so are more active in looking for new employees.

Get Some Career Advice

It’s also the start of a new decade, which may give rise to more thoughts on changing your day job. Have you been in your current role too long? Have you developed the role, or been developed in the role, as much as possible? Or is it simply time for a new challenge?

Before you take the plunge and quit your job in a flurry of paperwork, or worse, a fit of pique, it’s a good idea to get some advice from people who have already had hugely successful careers. After all, what better way is there to focus your decision making than learning from the guidance, achievements and even mistakes of those who have ‘been there, done that’.

Join our Webinar

Procurious has just the solution, and plenty of answers, for you as we kick-start the new decade with a new webinar, ‘Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Your Path to the Top’.

We’ve put together an all-female panel to tell us what it takes to have a successful career. Joining Helen Mackenzie, Principal Advisor at Procurious, we have:

  • Lara Naqushbandi, Finance Director, UK and Ireland, Google UK
  • Christina Morrow, Director, Global Procurement, Ricoh USA
  • Imelda Walsh, who is the manager, at Procurious’ sister company, The Source

Sign up now for our webinar on Thursday the 23rd of January at 14:30pm and you’ll hear from this expert panel on a range of topics including:

  • What the one thing is that they have got wrong in their career that webinar attendees can learn from;
  • Why it’s important to have a plan set out before embarking on something new in their working life;
  • How women in leadership roles can pave the way for aspiring future leaders; and
  • How to use your past and current roles to provide a platform to step up to a more senior or C-suite role.

FAQs

Is the webinar available to anyone?

Absolutely! All Procurious members can register for the webinar and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here.

How do I listen to the ‘Don’t Quit Your Day Job’ webinar?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be able to listen to the on-demand. 

Help – I can’t make it to the live-stream of the webinar!

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream, and you have registered, you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be sure to send you a link that will still work after the webinar is finished. That way you can listen at your leisure!

Don’t Miss Out!

This webinar promises to provide real insight into success, how you need to prepare for the next stage in your career and what it’s going to take to push your career all the way to the top.

Make sure you don’t miss out – sign up today!

10 Phrases You Should Never Say at Work – Best of the Blog 2019

What are the phrases you should avoid in the workplace? We reveal the top ten most irritating and annoying phrases that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues…

never say these phrases
Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

This article was originally published in June.

Some are just totally meaningless pieces of jargon – thrown into the conversation to disguise the fact that you have don’t know what you talking about. Others are downright rude or deliberately confusing. While some of the things we say at work just make us look stupid.

So, what are the phrases to avoid? Well the top 10 most irritating and annoying phrases to say at work (things that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues) are:

1. With all due respect

When someone says this, what do they actually mean?

Often, it is the exact opposite… this is just a passive/aggressive way of saying, “I know better than you”.  Respect you? Well, they obviously don’t.

So, it is probably no surprise that these four words really wind us up and have been voted the most aggravating in the workplace by around half of those surveyed by CV-Library. If you are ever tempted to use this phrase (even ironically), don’t.

2. Reach out

The problem with this phrase, is that it can have so many meanings. When you thank someone for “reaching out” to you, are you implying they are offering to help you or that they are asking for help? Telling someone else to do this (as in ‘go and reach out to accounts’) is patronising particularly if what you really want them to do is make contact in a highly professional manner.

While “I’ll get my people to reach out to you” is incredibly confusing. What does mean? That they will be in touch next week? Or is this just a polite way of saying “don’t call us and we won’t call you”?

3. At the end of the day and 4. It is what it is

So, the boss is stumped…and cannot think of a solution. So, they say “it is what it is” as a way of saying let’s just accept a bad situation. Worse, “at the end of the day” implies that what will be, will be. Put the two phrases together – At the end of the day, it is what it is – and you might as well throw your hands in the air and give up. Please: just say it like it is.

5. Think outside the box

What is wrong with telling someone to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions? Context. Generally, you are told to “think outside the box” when everyone else is stumped for ideas. So, you are being asked to do the impossible. Also, most organisations don’t actually welcome unconventional and original thinking.

6. Let’s regroup

This is another phrase that has too many meanings. Is this a polite way of telling a group that they are all useless and new people need to be brought into the meeting? Or that you need fresh ideas? Or just more time to think of new ideas? Confused? You will be.

7. Can I borrow you for a second? and 8. Have you got two minutes?

Another irritating habit is using a euphemism to impose on your time when you are already extremely busy. Let’s face facts: the interruption is never for two minutes let alone a second. The person who uses this phrase, knows you would refuse to give up your afternoon to help them. But when they pretend that all they need is just a small amount of your time, it is really hard to say “’no” without appearing difficult. Irritating, isn’t it? When you are tempted to use either of these phrases, think about that.

9. At this moment in time

This is a great way to obfuscate when you do not have a clue/haven’t completed the project/forgot to follow a lead/don’t want to commit to a yes or no.  etc. So, “Is the client going to make that purchase?”. Answer: “At this moment in time, they are considering it”. The truth? Anyone’s guess.

10. Get the ball rolling

This is a bit last century when sporting metaphors dominated the world of business gobbledegook. Remember: “pass the ball”, “left field”, and “knocking it out of the park”?  Not only is this dated, once again it is not good communication… tell it like it is.

Surprisingly, motoring metaphors such as “in the fast lane”, “shift up a gear”, “put the brakes on”…or that highly annoying “let’s park this to one side”, don’t feature in the top ten.

So next time you are tempted to slip into jargon remember it is highly irritating. Also, being direct gets better results. “People may take what you are saying the wrong way,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library. “If you’re hinting a circling back to the task later or asking for more hands on deck, this can come across as rude. Are they not good enough for this task?”

….AND THE 10 THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY IF YOU WANT A PROMOTION

While jargon is annoying, in an interview for a step-up the career ladder, it is being too informal that is the problem.

What are you trying to convey? If you are a more mature candidate, perhaps you believe (wrongly) that saying words like “epic fail” makes you down with the kids. It doesn’t.

Or if you genuinely litter your conversations with “totes” perhaps you don’t realise that this is NOT the way to get a better job (even if it is a very informal setting). It is just not professional.

So don’t be tempted. These are the buzzwords employers are fed up with hearing:

  1. Literally 
  2. Like
  3. Just sayin’ 
  4. Banter
  5. Totes
  6. Amazeballs
  7. My bad
  8. Yolo 
  9. Me thinks
  10. Sorry not sorry

“Be mindful that if you’re after a promotion, your employer won’t appreciate you saying a buzzword like ‘my bad’ to excuse yourself for making a mistake,” advises Lee Biggins who warns that using colloquialisms makes you appear less intelligent, can confuse colleagues if they don’t know exactly what you mean and frustrates those you work with because there is a “lack of substance” behind what you’re saying.

Half of us Lie to Get a Job – Can You Get Away with It – Best of the Blog 2019

Dying to move on? Then try lying. Don’t worry, you won’t be alone if you lie to get a job

tell a lie
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

This article was originally published in April.

More than half of us confess to not telling the whole truth on our CVs and one in ten people have even managed to land a new role as a result. However, there are certain do’s and don’ts to take into consideration.

Embellishing experience

This is the most common untruth according to research from The University of Law, with nearly one in three confessing to lying about past experience on their CV – and that’s because it is easy to get away with a few exaggerations, provided what you are saying is based on facts.

Careful wording is key. So, “experience of leading a team” is fine even if you have only done this once or twice. “Experienced team leader”, however, is probably a step too far.

Avoid any claims that are easy to check. You can be vague on dates (for example, 2015 to 2016 – is a way to get around a very short time in a job that lasted just a few months from November to January), but listing your title as “Operations Director” when your LinkedIn profile/the company website clearly states “Manager” is asking to get caught out.

Giving your skills a boost

This is another aspect of our CVs where we are more likely to lie. Skills are easier to exaggerate than qualifications (which are easy to check) and as such you are more likely to get away with a few embellishments.

With many CVs now scanned electronically make sure you include the exact words listed in the job spec to ensure you get through to the interview stage. Most of us can give examples of when we have been “target driven” or have shown “great attention to detail” so think of how you have shown these skills (just in case you are asked to prove your claims).

Hyping your hobbies

This is often the most difficult part of a CV to write. If you own up about spending your free time in the pub playing pool and drinking pints, it doesn’t do you any favours. No wonder one in five say they would be most comfortable lying about their interests (but don’t forget to do your research – interviewers often ask about hobbies to break the ice).

Keeping quiet about things you want to hide

This is not exactly lying. Around one in ten of us feel pressure to lie about our age. Why bother? The Equalities Act makes age discrimination illegal. As such you are not required to put your date of birth on your CV and should not even be asked about your age. The same applies to marital status, religion, gender and sexuality. In fact, if you feel uncomfortable lying follow the “if in doubt, leave it out” approach.

If all else fails…own your failings

If you don’t quite meet the job spec, don’t worry. Talent shortages mean that many employers are now looking for someone with potential rather than holding out of a candidate that can tick all the boxes. The world of work is changing so quickly, that the job you are doing today will inevitably change over the next five to ten years.

As such adaptability and reliance along with soft skills such as relationship building, communication and organisation skills are more important than experience for many hirers. So, don’t forget to add these to your CV.

But when it comes to tech…don’t blag it

You may be able to demonstrate your soft skills by giving a few examples, but one area you are likely to get caught is with tech. Some employers may even give you a skills test or ask you to give examples of how you have used a particular piece of software.

James, 35, a Project Manager from London, and one of those surveyed by the University of Law, shares this cautionary tale: “Earlier on in my career I applied for a job that was out of my reach in terms of experience, but the money was good, and the company was one I’d always wanted to work for, I thought, why not try my luck? To help me secure the role, I exaggerated on my previous roles and claimed to be able to use a software I hadn’t even heard of (how hard could it be to learn on the job, right?).

I landed an interview but didn’t expect them to go into a detailed discussion about the software, asking me how I’ve used it to help run my projects and report effectively. I tried to guess my way through it, but they definitely knew I had no idea what they were talking about. Safe to say they didn’t call me in for the second round.”

So better to be safe than sorry…and if you are going to lie, don’t lie about being able to do things you can’t.

“It’s Not About Me” and Other Myths About Becoming an Influencer

Want to be an influencer in your space? And still think it’s not about you? Then think again – because it really is.

being an influencer
Photo from Tookapic on Pexels

“It’s not about me”.

That’s one of the sentences I hear most when working with people who want to become an influencer in their space.

It usually comes hand in hand with, “I know I need to stand out more. I know that the best way to a seat at the table is to focus on contributing as an authority. I know that I need to step out from behind my role and own my space as a thought leader.”

Then I usually hold my breath and wait for the next line.

“I just…don’t want it to be all about me”

Unfortunately, influence, like leadership, comes with one golden rule. It’s always about you. Now, I’m not talking about narcissism or arrogance, or stealing the spotlight or conversation away from other people who deserve the recognition. I simply mean it comes with responsibility. The willingness to stand behind your words and ideas, to take full ownership of the vision as well as the possible consequences.

Basically to step in the arena without the safety of the crowd.

However, just as important as that is another golden rule. For any idea, company or movement to be its most compelling, it needs a human face. Think about where Tesla or SpaceX might be now if Elon Musk, who is basically an introverted engineer, didn’t take the stage at any point to talk about his vision? Or the impact of the recent climate change protests without the courage of Greta Thunberg?

Here’s a simple framework for stepping out into the arena and building influence as a procurement professional without gambling with your integrity:

Accept That It Is About You

Here’s the rub. If you want to be a thought leader in your space, it is going to be about you. You are going to need to stand up and own a unique point of view and take responsibility and drive a conversation.

And that, at its very essence, is going to be about you – your ideas, your DNA, your unique standpoint.

Try this for a useful reframe: “What is the highest contribution I can make here?” By asking that question it becomes less about your identity – and more about your experiences, everything you’ve learned and what you can see that others might miss. It also gives you permission to speak from a place of high integrity – focusing on contributing something useful – rather than simply seeking attention.

So, what’s the highest contribution that you could make right now inside your organisation? To your stakeholders, or to potential talent that might be looking to join your team? It’s by answering those questions that we begin to build trust as an authority.

Remember It’s About Us Too

Now that you’ve thought of the highest contribution you can make as an expert. How can you then pull in members of your team – or other talented people in your organisation or network? Shining a light on their ideas and combining your voices and make an even bigger impact?

Your voice alone might be compelling enough – but combine that with other experts, other perspectives from other fields. Not only will the volume of your voices be louder, but the combined network (and collective influence) you bring to the table will be exponentially larger than going it alone. Not to mention the amount you will learn on the journey.

So, who can you collaborate with either internally or outside your organisation in order to drive a more powerful conversation? What credible perspectives would you need to get the right people’s attention? Who already has a network you need to tap into?

In this day and age the people we look to most as an influencer are the ones who can pull together the best information and sources – and then convert that knowledge into clarity.

Let It Be All About Them

When you start thinking about contributing to a conversation in your industry, first think about the questions your target market are currently asking. What pain is your organisation currently experiencing? What opportunities are out there that aren’t being capitalised on?

Take these and compile a list of the top five questions important to your target audience about the space in which you operate.

Now here is the most important part of this approach – avoid using jargon. Often the moment we feel people’s eyes glaze over when we present new ideas. It has nothing to do with the content and 100 per cent to do with the language we’re using.

Every target market has what we would call ‘charismatic language’ – which is basically the words and phrases they use in relation to this topic. Figure these out and you’re well on your way to cut through.

Influencer: Contribution Not Attention

So – the bottom line. It is about you. However it’s also about us – and about them.

The most compelling influencer isn’t in the business of seeking attention. Instead their focus is on contributing to the highest level, driving forward important conversations and collecting a variety of points of view to shed new light on the space they own. Focus on that – and whether it’s about you or not will no longer feel important.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the weekly podcast Inside Influence – an exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or via Juliemasters.com.

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?!