Be realistic

You’ve found your dream job, the one you’ve always wanted – it is just perfect. Are you sure about that, or are you overlooking some important detail? How do you respond when a few potential problems emerge?

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Photo credit: TotalWomensCycling.com

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The trip of a lifetime

I’ve written about this before, but as I look back on 2015 and ahead to 2016 it feels appropriate to write about it again – if for no other reason than to remind myself.

As we celebrate the New Year, some of us will commit to doing things differently in the coming 12 months. Many will plan to exercise more, to eat more healthily, or to drink less alcohol. The more disciplined we are, the longer our commitment will last but it’s easy to become swept away by euphoria and to over-commit; or worse, to lose sight of what is really important.

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It’s hard to talk about this

First light didn’t bring the weather I had been hoping for – it was overcast and wet. I had prayed for glorious sunshine for the day of his funeral, but perhaps overcast and wet were better suited to the misery I felt.Cool-Dark-Clouds-HD-Wallpaper-2-For-Desktop-Background-1024x640

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You just never know

At the local fruit & vegetable market last week, a woman reached forward and gently squeezed an avocado to assess its ripeness. Moments earlier I had done the exact same thing and decided it was too soft. I didn’t see the expression on her face, but possibly sensing her disapproval the market stall owner said “what the hell is it with you ****ing people? Last week everyone said they were too hard, so we got softer ones; this week everyone says they’re too soft. You’re never bleedin ‘appy, are you? Customers, honestly…”  It was an unexpected barrage, and whilst not overtly aggressive, it appeared full of anger. Nothing further was said, and we all continued our shopping. Silently.

It’s easy to judge people. It’s easy to put people into pigeonholes. I could easily label the market seller as angry, unprofessional and probably in the wrong job. But what’s the point of judging if it’s based on guesswork? The easy route of making assumptions and not asking questions is guesswork. Sometimes you might be lucky and guess correctly. But the rest of the time you’ll be wrong.

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We are becoming incapable of thinking for ourselves

The Apple Watch will start shipping in the next few weeks and as is becoming customary, we’ll probably see people queuing around the block determined to be among the first owners. Apple won’t be the first to enter this market, but they will surely further raise the profile of wearables and encourage technology development in areas which we can’t yet imagine.

At the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference in February, Sir Tim Cook recently said “a lot of doctors believe sitting is the new cancer“, explaining that if you’ve been sitting for almost an hour the Apple Watch reminds you to get up.

Is this a brilliant use of technology or an indication of how lazy we’ve become? Is it just the latest step towards a world in which we don’t need to think for ourselves?

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[Photo credit: www.NationalGeographic.com]

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Elements of a great placement

I have often been asked what makes a great placement, and although I’ve not published this before, the list below is a combination of the best practice I have witnessed and recommendations I propose.WorkPlacementsDoneWell Continue reading

Don’t be deterred by contractual obligations

Employers – Are you thinking about starting a placement scheme? Great! Are you worrying about the long-term commitment? Don’t!

Organisations considering running a program of undergraduate placements sometimes worry that it will be a long-term commitment. Such fear can completely destroy any prospect of creating a placement scheme. It’s good to remember that these things don’t have to last forever.

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Got a round hole? Find a round peg.

As I wrote last year, mentors do an important job. Many organisations have excellent schemes for apprentices or graduate trainees and they deliver tremendous results. They have carefully planned development programmes, run by the best people. And they make adjustments when things change, as they surely do, over the years.

But some organisations don’t enjoy the same success despite their best intentions. It isn’t always immediately obvious why they under-deliver. The long timescales inherent in personal and professional development programmes don’t help. But one of the reasons is that the wrong people are involved.

Helping others isn’t for everyone. Some don’t enjoy it; they don’t see the value; or they don’t have the patience. Whatever the reason, some just aren’t cut out for it.

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What makes a stonemason happy?

Whether it’s a funny video clip of a man chasing a dog in a park, or an inspired Christmas ad campaign which leaves us in tears, we are all now comfortable with the concept of “liking” something, Tweeting about it or blogging about it. But it hasn’t always been like that, and until only recently, sharing our opinions of such things wasn’t at all easy.

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The stone in the picture sits in a wall adjacent to the war memorial at one end of our village. I really like it – I find it thought-provoking. Hundreds of children pass it every day on their way to and from school. I wonder how many have noticed it, or taken a few short seconds to read it. Even today, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I wonder how many will slow down to read it as they pass. Apart from the annual occasions when we congregate to remember those who died, it tends not to get much attention – we’re all too busy going somewhere. And that’s the problem – it can only be seen at one precise location; it needs to be visited. It doesn’t come to us. Continue reading

It’s not what you know…

I recently ran an employability session at a secondary school. One of the themes of the day was about what students can do to make themselves more attractive to prospective employers.

Many of the students saw themselves as a trainee Superman or Superwoman – eventually capable of everything, knowing everything. They saw their time now at school and their future time at college or university as being a time for learning everything they needed – forever. And that somehow if they didn’t learn it now, they’d never do so.

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