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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New Year’s Resolutions – think big and eat more chocolate

I wrote this last year but decided to reblog it this year. After all, it still makes a great deal of sense.

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With only three weeks remaining of the well-worn 2012, our attention starts to turn towards the sleek and shiny new 2013. Full of possibilities, excitement, opportunities and challenges, it looms large on our horizon. For many it will be the start of something new; for others it will bring something to an end. One thing we can be sure of – uncertainty.

December is traditionally the time for setting New Year’s Resolutions – those promises we make to ourselves and others about what we’re going to do differently in the new year.

Before rushing to add “join the gym; eat less chocolate; drink less wine” to the list of resolutions, I would recommend reading this lovely poem by Nadine Stair (aged 85). More about its background here.

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New Year’s Resolutions – think big and eat more chocolate

With only three weeks remaining of the well-worn 2012, our attention starts to turn towards the sleek and shiny new 2013. Full of possibilities, excitement, opportunities and challenges, it looms large on our horizon. For many it will be the start of something new; for others it will bring something to an end. One thing we can be sure of – uncertainty.

December is traditionally the time for setting New Year’s Resolutions – those promises we make to ourselves and others about what we’re going to do differently in the new year.

Before rushing to add “join the gym; eat less chocolate; drink less wine” to the list of resolutions, I would recommend reading this lovely poem by Nadine Stair (aged 85). More about its background here. Continue reading

Royal baby frenzy confirms the benefits of preparation

When Clarence House Press Office announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting a baby, the world’s media machine rushed into action, with some British newspapers publishing multi-page “Royal Baby Special” sections, covering the story from every possible angle.

baby-newspapers_2417684k[Photo courtesy of EPA/ Andy Rain, The Daily Telegraph]

The BBC Diplomatic and royal correspondent quickly published a piece looking at the changes to accession traditions; the Wikipedia entry for Kate Middleton was updated to reflect the announcement; and betting shop William Hill started offering odds on a wide range of factors including not just name and date, but also birth weight, hair colour, and many others.

The speed with which so much has been published is impressive – but it owes far more to good preparation than an ability to write quickly. Following the wedding of Catherine and William in April 2011, it was only a matter of time before a pregnancy was announced and a full range of stories could therefore be prepared in anticipation of the announcement. Continue reading

Foresight not needed

When I meet students, school-leavers and graduates, they often ask me what “real work” is like. They tell me that they’re thinking about a career in this or that, and that they can’t decide between various options. Frequently the options are wildly varying – “I’m not sure whether I want to be a vet or a pilot“; or “I’m wondering whether to open a coffee shop or become a marketing director“.

They spend a lot of time thinking about it all, and weighing up the pros and the cons – the entire process seems rather analytical. There are plenty of factors to consider, including job prospects, expected salary, qualifications, suitability to the role, route to get there etc. All those factors are hard to quantify though, and are so often based on the judgment of others.

Here’s the thing though… when I ask which of the options they enjoy the most, they almost always say they don’t know; they haven’t tried them. So they are considering a career in a particular field which they haven’t ever tried!

When this happens, my advice is usually to go and find out what it’s really like doing the job. Ask to spend some time in an office helping out or even just watching. Most people are willing to find time to help young people if they appear interested enough. Perhaps some employers don’t allow this “on the grounds of health and safety”, or for some commercial confidentiality reasons.

I recently met a young woman who had always wanted to be a teacher, and she figured it would be a good idea to get some work experience before embarking on the qualifications. So she spent a week at her local primary school working as a teaching assistant. At the end of the week, she decided it wasn’t for her. What a brilliant outcome! One week of experience convinced her that it wasn’t the right career choice.

No amount of analysis would have helped. It was the experience which convinced her.

As employers, maybe we should take more responsibility for making “taster” days more readily available to young people. We should be encouraging young people to go out and try things, rather than thinking about them. It’s not more foresight they need; it’s more hindsight, earlier.

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Feel free to comment on this post – I’d be interested to hear your views.
Inixiti – Improving graduate employability. Click here to visit the website.

It’s not fair. Let’s just accept that, and determine to make it fairer.

Young people looking for work are regularly faced with the problem of needing experience in order to get a job, but they can’t get a job without experience – the “chicken and egg” situation which we all recognise.

Employers regularly talk of graduates and school-leavers who are looking for work but don’t have any real-world experience.  Again, this is something we recognise.  It’s not unnatural for employers to expect some experience, after all, there are inevitably some young people who have managed to acquire experience “somehow”, albeit probably unrelated to their chosen field.

It’s absolutely not fair, and it can’t be right.  The problem is that we’re so used to the idea that “life isn’t fair”, that we justify this situation to ourselves and take no action to improve it.  The result is that we continue the stand-off, and nobody wins.

Here’s a radical thought…  Let’s accept that it’s not fair.  But at the same time, why not do something to make it fairer?

  • Employers who seek experience in young recruits should also be prepared to offer places where experience can be acquired
  • Employers should offer places on a “no experience needed” basis

This is a little like the idea of “for every tree we chop down, we plant at least one to replace it”Because we value experience, we help create it.

Employers should take a share of the responsibility for creating the experience.

  • It needn’t be costly
  • It needn’t be time-consuming
  • It needn’t be a major commitment

It will never be completely fair, but employers can (and should) make it fairer.