The ex­perts’ guide to em­ploy­a­bil­ity

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS -

1 Cre­ate a port­fo­lio

Don’t fall into the trap of think­ing it’s too late to make a change, or that you can’t leave a sta­ble ca­reer. Ac­cord­ing to ca­reer ex­perts, we should all be think­ing in terms of ‘the port­fo­lio ca­reer’, a mix of part-time work, free­lance in­ter­ests and per­sonal busi­ness. Not only does it en­able you to fol­low your pas­sions, it also pre­vents you from los­ing your in­come stream all at once. And it al­lows you to think across dis­ci­plines, amass­ing a large net­work that makes you feel plugged in and con­nected. For work­ing mothers, it’s the flex­i­bil­ity that ap­peals. Run­ning a small cot­tage in­dus­try from home means they can still earn a liv­ing but also be at the school gate. ‘We should all be de­vel­op­ing a sec­ond ca­reer,’ says Pamela Fay, a busi­ness coach who works with peo­ple on ca­reer de­vel­op­ment, ‘whether that’s through evening work or week­end hob­bies.’ She urges peo­ple to think about what they love do­ing rather than what they are good at. ‘Fol­low­ing our pas­sions gives us greater ful­fil­ment,’ she says. She ad­vises her clients to keep a jour­nal. ‘Keep­ing a record of what you love do­ing and what in­spires you can bring great clar­ity.’

2 Net­work your way in

If you con­sider that 50 per cent of Ir­ish jobs are gained through the use of a per­sonal or pro­fes­sional net­work, rather than through stan­dard job ap­pli­ca­tions, you can­not fail to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of net­work­ing. Oc­cu­pa­tional psy­chol­o­gist So­phie Rowan at pin­ is the author of Bril­liant Ca­reer Coach: How To Find And Fol­low Your Dream Ca­reer ( Pear­son). ‘Peo­ple gen­er­ally balk when you men­tion the word net­work­ing,’ she says, ‘and al­though Ir­ish peo­ple are known to have the gift of the gab, they can be slow to make use of their most pow­er­ful ca­reer-change tool.’ Net­work­ing doesn’t have to be as cyn­i­cal or as strate­gic as you might think: mak­ing the ef­fort to keep in touch with fam­ily, friends and friends of friends, and spread­ing the word about what you would like to do can have just as much of an ef­fect as cold-call­ing a CEO. You never know when your name might come up in a con­ver­sa­tion.

Once you have built up a net­work, don’t be shy about con­tact­ing peo­ple in your tar­get in­dus­try and ask­ing them for cof­fee. Peo­ple love to talk about what they do and to im­part knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘It of­ten helps to say that you will only take up 20 min­utes of their time,’ says So­phie, ‘and ar­range to meet at their of­fice to make it ul­tra- con­ve­nient for them. If they can’t spare the time for a meet­ing, email or phone will do, too. When you do get to talk, be pos­i­tive — while this isn’t an in­ter­view, if you make a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion at this meet­ing you can be sure that you will be the first per­son that they think of the next time they’re hir­ing. And re­mem­ber, a good net­worker will al­ways leave a net­work­ing meet­ing with an­other con­tact so be bold when it comes to ask­ing your con­tact for the num­ber of some­one they may have men­tioned dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.’ As well as cre­at­ing your own tai­lor- made net­work, there are plenty of net­work­ing groups you can join such as Sim­ply Net­work­ing Salon, e-net­work­ing and LinkedIn.

3 Broaden your ex­pe­ri­ence

Rather than be­moan­ing the lack of staff in your of­fice, and the ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with it, see it as an op­por­tu­nity to learn new skills and to cre­ate a new niche for your­self within your com­pany. All too of­ten, it’s not a 360-de­gree turn we need to make in our ca­reers but some­thing a lit­tle more 180, and multi-task­ing al­lows you to think out­side a sin­gle defin­ing role.

4 Get your mojo back

The big­gest block to ca­reer change? Lack of con­fi­dence. This is par­tic­u­larly true of women re­turn­ing to work af­ter hav­ing chil­dren — and is in­fu­ri­at­ing for re­cruiters, who of­ten feel th­ese women have the most to of­fer. So how do you get your mojo back? By get­ting out there again. Meet up with old friends, call up old em­ploy­ers, sign up for hol­i­day cover, or say yes to a short-term pro­ject. ‘Women re­turn­ers of­ten don’t re­mem­ber or ap­pre­ci­ate their pro­fes­sional skill sets,’ says So­phie. ‘I ask them to look back on their ca­reers and ask, “When was I fir­ing on all cylin­ders? What have I en­joyed most in my work — what gets me buzzing? Who has in­spired me and whose work or ca­reer path would I like to em­u­late?” The an­swers can be re­veal­ing and re­ally serve to re­build a per­son’s sense of pro­fes­sional con­fi­dence.’

5 Do a course

If you’ve been put on a three-day week as a re­sult of the re­ces­sion and have al­ways wanted to learn Span­ish or take up pho­tog­ra­phy — do it. Do­ing some­thing new helps us make changes and get out of ruts. It also dis­solves fear: the big­gest block to ca­reer change. You have no idea how your new skills might make you at­trac­tive to a new em­ployer, or how meet­ing new peo­ple might broaden your con­tact base. If you want to up­skill but are short on funds, check out spring­board­, which of­fers a range of free cour­ses at a post­grad level on ev­ery­thing from cross-en­ter­prise skills to IT man­age­ment.

6 Vol­un­teer

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey car­ried out by the vol­un­teer­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion Time­Bank, some 73 per cent of em­ploy­ers would re­cruit a can­di­date with vol­un­teer­ing ex­pe­ri­ence over one with­out, 94 per cent of em­ploy­ers be­lieve that vol­un­teer­ing can add to skills and 94 per cent of em­ploy­ees who vol­un­teered to learn new skills had ben­e­fited ei­ther by get­ting their first job, im­prov­ing their salary or be­ing pro­moted. So if you have been made re­dun­dant or are out of work, sign up for a com­mu­nity pro­ject such as so­cial en­ or, which sup­port peo­ple who are pro­vid­ing so­lu­tions to Ire­land’s so­cial prob­lems. Not only are th­ese projects pos­i­tive and in­vig­o­rat­ing en­vi­ron­ments to work in — help­ing you fend off re­ces­sion blues — they are also good places to meet peo­ple and learn new skills.

7 Dress smart

New re­search shows that peo­ple as­sess your com­pe­tence and trust­wor­thi­ness in a quar­ter of a sec­ond based solely on how you look. So, buy the best-qual­ity clothes you can af­ford, get a new hair­cut and pol­ish your shoes when meet­ing prospec­tive em­ploy­ers or clients. Messy hair, too much make-up and re­veal­ing or dirty clothes are a no-no. When you look good, you feel good, and it shows.

8 Get a coach

Lost your con­fi­dence? Feel­ing stuck? Un­sure which ca­reer path is the right one for you? Hire a ca­reer coach. Ca­reer-man­age­ment ex­perts will work through your blocks, give you ob­jec­tive feed­back on your skills, strate­gise with you help you stay on track with goals, ex­plore op­tions and han­dle all the ele­ments of a job search. If you can’t af­ford a coach, meet reg­u­larly with other peo­ple in your po­si­tion in­stead. Talk­ing about what you want from your ca­reer will not only help you clar­ify your vi­sion, it might bring in new leads. Some­times it’s only by see­ing the ob­sta­cles oth­ers cre­ate for them-selves that we gain in­sight into our own po­si­tion.

9 Change your at­ti­tude

Think­ing neg­a­tively will not get you a job. We might be in re­ces­sion but there are still plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­pe­tent can­di­dates, par­tic­u­larly those with can do spirit. ‘Ob­vi­ously, em­ploy­ers want peo­ple with spe­cific skills who share an affin­ity with their work cul­ture,’ says Irene Soro­han, of re­cruit­ment com­pany O’Mal­ley Soro­han, ‘but a sense of pos­i­tive en­gage­ment is im­por­tant. Em­ploy­ers want to see can­di­dates that are re­ally ex­cited to be join­ing their or­gan­i­sa­tion and that sort of at­ti­tude stands out a mile. There are some fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties out there. Em­ploy­ers in small en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­pa­nies and large multi­na­tional com­pa­nies can’t find the staff they need and it’s a big hin­drance to growth.’

10 Learn how to man­age your boss

Do you need a new ca­reer or do you just need to learn how to man­age your boss? We don’t work for or­gan­i­sa­tions — we work for peo­ple, and how we man­age our re­la­tion­ships is vi­tal to our work well­be­ing. Su­san M Heath­field is a hu­man-re­sources ex­pert and pro­fes­sional trainer. Here are some of her tips for get­ting on with your boss: 1. Build trust. Get projects in on time. Do what you said you were go­ing to do. And tell him/ her when you make an er­ror. 2. Un­der­stand your boss’s pri­or­i­ties and do what you can to help. You are not the cen­tre of the uni­verse. 3. Re­mem­ber your boss is prob­a­bly not go­ing to change, and work with what you’ve got in­stead. Look for your boss’s best parts and fo­cus on those. Read their moods and dis­likes. Know­ing when to ap­proach them about new ideas or work prob­lems is key. 4. Ask for feed­back and tell your boss what you need in or­der to be a good em­ployee. 5. Be hon­est. If you don’t agree with some­thing say so. Don’t be afraid of dis­cord, it’s part of life. Speak calmly and firmly and your boss will re­spect you — it is more im­por­tant than be­ing liked.

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