Your Job Title Is Not A Reflection Of Who You Are

If you are broke because you put food on the table to feed your family, you are not broke to me. Only a strong person would swallow his pride and take any job he can to provide for his family

Muhammad Ali

Right now, this very minute, there are people all over the world who are not working in their ideal roles. It happens. We don’t always get the job which we have studied or trained for. Even when we do, we can find our progression opportunities very limited despite years of experience.

It’s tough, it’s demoralising and really knocks your confidence. We all have an idea what our ideal career looks like, and put our hopes, dreams, blood, sweat, time and tears into making it happen. But the doors just won’t open for us, and we end up working in McDonald’s instead of Microsoft. Of course, you will be told that you need to increase your knowledge and skills, which will in turn help you to get the job you want. While I completely agree with this, it’s also true that some doors will not open, no matter how well you prepare and how hard you knock.

Job titles really become a problem when you have to introduce yourself to new people. After the initial introductions, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will be asked “what do you do?” If you’re in a job which you love and are passionate about, this is the perfect opportunity to share that with someone new. If, however, your job is something which you have settled on to pay the bills, it can be terrifying.

If you’re not in your ideal job, social situations terrify you because you will have to tell people what you do, and they will judge. It’s sad but true. People judge one another based on where they work and what they have. This, in turn, causes you to lose confidence and lose perspective. Instead of worrying what others will think when you tell them that you work as a cleaner in a hotel, ask yourself;

  • Who are these people and am I likely to see them again?
  • Why am I attaching any importance to their opinions?
  • Do they really care to find out why I am a cleaner and not a lawyer?
  • Why do I need to justify my life decisions to somebody that i’ve just met?
  • Is my job helping me to meet my life’s priorities, regardless of the job title?

The only person you have to justify your job to, is yourself. It is your life after all. If you have had to take any role just to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head, is that really a bad thing? Be grateful that you have a job. Everybody has to start somewhere, and just because you find yourself flipping burgers at McDonald’s today, that doesn’t mean that this is where you have to stay. Turn up on time and work hard, so that you can progress to a supervisory or managerial role. Then, take that experience, and see if you can’t apply it to a new career. Or, start a course of study in your free time that you will give you the knowledge and skills to change careers. It’s largely up to you what you make of yourself.

I know people who were teachers and diplomats in their home countries, only to be forced to abandon everything and flee because of war. They lose friends, family, possessions and social standing, and have to start again in a foreign country as cleaners, porters, sales assistants or anything else they can find. Yet, they don’t beat themselves up and curse their luck. Instead, they approach their job with pride and passion. They understand that they are lucky to have a job at all, and with it they can support themselves and their families. They also understand that their job does not define them as people. We need more of this mentality.

To the university graduates preparing their assault on the job market, you won’t get your ideal job straight away. You will have to start at the bottom, learn your chosen industry inside-out, and work your way up to the job. It’s all part of the process. Nobody will give you a managerial role straight out of college or university. You have to earn it.

As with most things in life, your job is what you make of it. Be grateful that you have a job which pays the bills and allows you to keep a roof over your head right now. If it’s not what you want or where you want to be, stop whining and look at it as a stepping stone. It’s easier to land a new job while you already have a job, than it is to get a job while unemployed.  You are not tied to a particular job forever.

Apply yourself, no matter what the role involves, and seek out any opportunities for personal and professional development. Then, use this to move onwards and upwards, with glowing references. Most of all, though, try to focus on the positives that your current job offers;

  • What does it allow you to do with the wage which you earn?
  • What opportunities or benefits does it offer?
  • How can it be used as a stepping stone to bigger and better?

Your Way Is The Only Way

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

There is no perfect, or right, way to do anything in life. Yet, it’s this fear of failing to achieve perfection, or do things exactly right, which paralyses so many people. We hold off on taking steps towards our goals or doing what we really want to. We spend too much time researching what others do and how they do it, and end up going nowhere fast ourselves.

Life is all about learning. We learn new skills or acquire new knowledge. Then we apply what we have learned. When things go well, we learn what we need to do more of. When they don’t go according to plan, we learn from this too and adapt our approach. Simple really, when you think about it. Feed your brain lots of good quality information, apply that knowledge by putting it into action and let the results inform you of the best way to complete the task at hand.

Also worth bearing in mind is that we are all unique. We have all been shaped by different circumstances and, as such, all view the world slightly differently. It stands to reason, then, that when we undertake a task, we all do it slightly differently. This is also true of situations when the steps and actions required to complete the task are all the same. Some will change the order in which the steps are tackled, spending more time on some than others. Some will even look at the whole process and question whether there is a better, easier or more efficient way to carry out the task.

Take, for example, an essay writing task given to a class of 14 year old schoolchildren. As a class, you study the instructions and the process together. Every single student is as clear as they can be on what they have to do and how. Yet, when it comes to actually planning and writing the essay, they will all tackle it in their own way. This is completely natural. They work to their strengths in order to produce the best result which they are capable of.

As adults, we can learn an awful lot of good things from children, and this is among them. We need to spend less time looking at how somebody else completes a task which we are attempting, and more time just putting the work in.

In short, you just need to take action and learn from the experience. Stop researching the details or trying to plan for perfection. All that really matters is the work. Take the task at hand and tackle it in your own way. Work to your strengths and make it yours. If you conceive a more efficient solution, try it. If it fails, just go back to square 1 and start again. If it succeeds, however, people may start adopting your approach.

You will never paint like Picasso, write like Hemingway or sing like Whitney Houston because you are not them. You can study their processes and copy them, but you will never produce the exact same results. Focus instead on yourself, and what you can do. Then, do it to the best of your ability, consistently. That is the way to get things done. Your way.

 

The “Jobs For Life” Myth.

Today, the average CV will have a number of roles listed. In fact it is becoming increasingly rare for someone to remain in the same organisation for more than several years. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it is very good.

Previous generations were enticed into the workplace with the promise of a job for life. Or as long as they performed their duties well. Do very well, and you would get promoted. Or, if you’re content in your role, you would never have to worry about job security. The education system was geared towards this end goal of creating the workforce of tomorrow; employees who would work for the same company for 25 years or more. Back then, long service with the same employer was regarded as a badge of honour.

Things are very different today, but the education system is much the same. The teaching methods and styles may have changed for the better, but schools, colleges and universities are still largely preparing young people for changing job markets and not accounting for the change.

In the legal profession, the military, the police, medicine and education there are structured career paths, and those who work for it hard and smart enough will make their way to the top of the profession, or very near it. Elsewhere, it is a very different story.

People are experiencing more freedom and choice than ever before. The mindset has changed from that of an employee to an entrepreneur. This doesn’t mean that everyone is setting up their own businesses, but that people are taking ownership of their own careers, and taking responsibility for their own development. More time is being spent engaging in personal and professional development activities, and productivity is on the rise. More importantly, people are changing jobs more often in an effort to further their own careers.

What all of this means is that in order to attract and retain the most talented people, organisations must remain competitive. Salaries, benefits and bonuses must be enticing. While the costs may be high to the organisation, it costs an awful more in time and money to replace experienced colleagues. Which is good news for employees, who are being better rewarded for their efforts.

If you’re not happy where you are, leave for the right role. Sometimes a job offer from another firm is enough to convince your boss to offer a pay rise in order to stop you leaving. When you work hard and with integrity, developing a positive reputation, the power is in your hands.

What is worth remembering, is that is that the world of work is more fluid than ever before. You don’t need to have your career path all figured out by the time you leave education. Try internships in different firms to gain experience of, and insights into, your chosen industry. Spend 4 or 5 years trying several careers. Or pick one firm and stay there until something better tickles your fancy. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

 

 

The Most Liberating Word In Your Vocabulary…

..is nothing fancy, or a buzzword which appears all over social media. It’s a word which we all know, and is easy to remember. The word? No

When you say “yes” to others, make sure you are not saying “no” to yourself

Paulo Coelho

No is a negative word, so we try to limit it’s use, until somebody jumps out in front of us with a clipboard when we are out shopping. That’s when we can say it loud and proud with no guilt. The rest of the time, we use it sparingly so as not to let others down or miss out on something which we might regret later.

All day, every day, we are bombarded with requests from other people. Now, if your boss is asking you to do something and you are on company time, NO is not an option. Within reason, you do what is asked of you and you do it to the best of your ability. That is called integrity, which we need more of in business. Furthermore, integrity and a willingness to take on new tasks is what can help you progress in your career.

The rest of the time, however, you have a choice. NO is most definitely an option,. This is especially true if the request you receive will not direct your focus away from your goals, eating instead into the time in which you could be working on becoming the best version of yourself.

The problem is that we often feel guilty when saying no to someone. We don’t want to damage our relationship with that person, so we say yes. Again and again, we say yes. Until, before you know it, you have become a “Yes Man”. Nobody respects one of those. People, whether intentionally or not, take advantage of your helpful nature as they know that you will agree to help with whatever they ask. Time and again. So much so that, in fact, a Yes Man often has very little time in which to chase their own goals and live their own life. You are viewed simply as serving to help others live their lives.

The result is that your life goes unlived. Your goals and potential go unfulfilled and you end up frustrated, angry and even battling depression. Furthermore, your credibility gets undermined, your confidence takes a blow and your creativity and productivity suffer. All because you say Yes too quickly to others, without thinking of yourself first. You MUST put yourself first. Only when you have designed for yourself the life that you want, can you afford to help others to build theirs. After all, you need to be happy with your life and in a good place before you can help anybody else.

Sometimes you have to be selfish to be selfless

Edward Albert

Don’t be afraid to say no. What is the worst that can happen? A friend stops talking to you? I hate to break it to you, but when that happens you have received a blessing. That person was not a friend at all, they were using you and taking advantage of your generosity and kind nature.

The people who care about you will respect your decision to turn down their request, as long as you do it politely, tactfully and respectfully. You will then find yourself with the time to do the things that you want and that make you happy. This is a truly liberating feeling, that you control your life once more. You will have more time to work on your side-hustle, spend time with your kids or take up a new hobby which you had been thinking about for so long but never had a chance to start.

Time is so very precious, yet we give ours away so freely to others at times. This leaves us with very little opportunity to work on ourselves, and this hurts us whether we realise it or not. So, start saying no without feeling guilty. You will never get anywhere near your potential if you constantly let others dictate how your days are spent.

Take back control of your life, by becoming good friends with the word NO. Use that newfound freedom and time to gain knowledge, acquire a new skill or whatever else will take you closer to your goals. Then enjoy the resulting improvement in your relationships, career success or whatever else you have been working towards.

Dream big. Aim high. Fulfill your potential

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, but that it is too low and we reach it

Michelangelo

Demand more of yourself. Put the work in. Push yourself and challenge your limits to discover what you are truly capable of. We were not given the gift of life, making it this far, to now simply stumble along. We are here for a reason and have an untapped well of  potential within us. I say it’s time that we made the most of it.

Reflection, planning and goal setting are things that we should all be doing at regular intervals. Along with reviewing progress, reflecting on experiences and learning and adapting. Sprinkle that with a healthy dose of unglamorous, thankless hard work, and you have the recipe for achievement and success. There is, however, a catch.

The steps above, as with the act of learning itself, are a lifelong process. If you stop setting goals and pursuing them with hunger and determination, you will eventually stagnate. That is why New Year’s Resolutions do not work. Resolutions are made once a year and with no plan  of action. Therefore, when the initial excitement and novelty wears off, resolutions going out of the window for another year.

When you do set goals and take action, make sure that they are your own. Another thing that we see all too often is people watching and wanting to become like the latest social media influencer or celebrity. Be yourself. More importantly, be true to yourself. What I mean by this is that when you set a goal for yourself, it should be to achieve something that you want for yourself. It should be dictated by a desire which burns deep within you and won’t go away.

One of the main reasons people play it safe and don’t push themselves as far as they could, is self-doubt. They pay too much attention to that little negative voice, the one which tells them that they are not smart enough, experienced enough or skilled enough to succeed. If you have started to believe that you are not talented enough, and are letting a perceived lack of talent hold you back, you need to stop and get a grip of yourself. Talent is actually far less important than people assume. It’s hard work and perseverance which really matter.

Success isn’t the same as talent. The world is full of incredibly talented people who never succeed at anything.

Tim Grover

Do yourself a favour and ignore that negative voice. Actually, you can do yourself an even bigger favour, and stop letting negative people dissuade you from chasing big scary goals. When people belittle your ambitions, it’s a reflection of their limitations and not yours. Swap these naysayers for people who believe in you and support your goals.

Surround yourself with those who want you to succeed. people who don’t pursue their own dreams won’t encourage you to pursue yours

Tim Grover

You have nothing to lose by setting ambitious goals and pursuing them. Along the way you will grow and develop, achieving wonderful things and becoming the best version of yourself. That’s not such a bad thing is it?

 

What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?

Grant Cardone

Thinking of starting your own blog?

I regularly get asked for advice on how to start a blog, what to write about and how often to post on a blog. While I respond as quickly as possible and as best I can, it’s about time that I share what I have learned on my journey in the hope that it might help other aspiring bloggers.

Before you start, you need to have an idea of what you want to share via your blog. Will it be related to your personal or your professional interests? My personal interest and passion is in personal development and how our mindset and attitude determines whether we will fulfill our potential or fall short. I share advice based on what i’ve learned through research and experience, inspirational and motivational poetry and book reviews. You don’t need to have it all figured out at this stage, but you need to know what you want to talk about. This will help to ensure that your message is clear and runs throughout your blog posts.

Starting a blog is pretty easy. There are a number of platforms out there, with WordPress and Blogger among the most popular. Do your homework on what each platform offers and pick the most appropriate one for your needs.

Once you have chosen a platform, registered a name and set-up your blog it’s time to start writing. Don’t spend months waiting for the perfect topic to come to mind, or the perfect time as I did. Search for, read and follow other blogs with a similar theme to yours for ideas and inspiration. Use your other social media platforms to connect with similar-minded people and keep reading up on your area of interest. Then, start blogging.

As you post on your blog, you will learn and grow, which will help you to develop your blog. Respond to messages and feedback from readers. Engaging with your readership and inviting feedback is how many blogs increase in quality as well as popularity. You don’t need to have your writing style figured out, just keep blogging and that will come to you over time.

When I write, I just open the page and let it all out. Then I go back to proof-read and edit, but you need to determine the style and process which works for you. Depending on your theme and your proficiency with your blogging platform, your posts may have graphics, charts, links to other pages or other interactive elements. This is your own space which you can have fun with and fill as you like. Experiment with it and have fun.

Don’t get caught up in the statistics and numbers. When I started, I posted many items which didn’t receive a single “like”. It still happens sometimes. Don’t take it to heart, just keep blogging. It’s easy to get discouraged by a lack of interest but please understand that there are countless blogs online all vying for peoples’ attention. It just might be taking a little longer for yours to get noticed, that’s all. The only person you should be writing for is yourself. You need to be satisfied with the quality and content of what you post. Not everyone will appreciate it, but a blog should be an expression, and outlet, of what is burning inside you and struggling to get out. While it may entertain or inform the reader, it is also an indication of who the writer is as a person, what motivates, inspires and drives them.

As for the length of your posts and how often you should blog, the best advice I can give is to do what feels right for you. The more time you can spare and the more you feel you have to share, the more often you will be posting. Don’t get caught up in this, because as you post on your blog, you will get a feel for how much you can write and how often.

Most of all, enjoy the process. If you are planning on blogging to earn fame and fortune, you are setting yourself up to fail as your priorities and intentions are wrong and you are putting extra pressure on yourself. You should be blogging because you enjoy it, because it means something to you, because you want to inspire or motivate others. Fame and fortune may very well come your way, but it should be as a happy coincidence while you do something you enjoy and not the reason why you started blogging in the first place.

If you are thinking of starting a blog, I wish you the best of luck. It’s a wonderful experience which can teach you so much, and I personally would not change it for the world.

Happy Blogging!!!

The Job Hunt is a Numbers Game

A month from today, people will be making an eager start on their New Year’s resolutions. Virtually everyone you meet will be telling you about their “new year, new me” transformations and what that entails. Basically, this will fall into 2 categories; improved health and fitness or new jobs and careers. Perhaps a mixture of both. It’s the hunt for a new job which I would like to discuss with you today.

Landing a new job or changing careers is not easy. Sorry if I’m bursting anyone’s bubble here. It is, of course, possible to be headhunted by a recruiter and this will feel as though a dream job is just falling into your lap. It is, however, the exception to the rule. Generally, waiting for the job to come to you or making minimal effort is the quickest way to ensure that your wish for a new job remains just a wish.

Landing a new role, whether it be your first or twenty first requires hard work, time and being proactive. Depending on the industry you want to get into or progress in, it could be of help to read trade journals in which specialist vacancies will be advertised, or visit trade fairs and conferences where you have an opportunity for networking. Most vacancies will be found, however by visiting the “Careers” pages of the organisations which you are interested in working for, or checking online job boards such as Monster. It also helps to register and submit your cv to any other relevant job boards your search may bring up, and to engage the help of agencies which specialise in recruiting for the industry in which you want to work.

It goes without saying, though, that simply applying for a job which matches your skills and experience won’t necessarily land you an interview. There could be hundreds of other candidates with similar experience also applying for the role. A growing number of recruiters and HR departments are using algorithms to filter out the lesser-qualified candidates, following which a selection panel will then decide on who they would like to invite for interview. This takes time after which, maybe, you will get an invite. Maybe not. Once you have submitted the application, the rest is out of your hands.

So, was does this mean? Firstly, if you apply for a job which on paper you are perfectly suited for, don’t just stop after that and wait for the closing date to come so you can find out if you’ve been shortlisted for interview. Keep searching and applying. That first application may earn you an interview, but even that’s not a guarantee that you’ll land the role. Another candidate could interview better.  If you don’t get shortlisted for interview, on the other hand, your confidence will be boosted by the fact that you still have a number of other applications pending. More importantly, if you don’t get an interview for a job which you feel to be perfect for you, don’t be disheartened. Just pick yourself up, scan over your cv and see if there is anything which could be improved upon.

As the title warns, the job hunt is a numbers game. An article I once read stated that you should expect a positive response rate of 10% when applying for jobs. So, if you apply for 10 roles, you should expect at least 1 interview invitation, while hoping for many more. In search of a career change, I have applied for over 60 roles in the last month. While I wait for the closing dates to come and find out for which roles (if any) I will be offered interviews, I am continuing to apply for relevant and suitable roles. So far, my tally is 1 rejection and 1 interview, and if the article’s claim is to be believed, I should expect 5 more interviews. Naturally I want every remaining application to earn me an interview but that may just be wishful thinking.

Takeaways;

  • The more roles you apply for, the more chance you stand of being shortlisted for interview. You also get more experience in completing the application forms and answering questions relevant to your suitability for the role.
  • The more interviews you have, the more chance you have of landing a new role. You might be brilliant enough to succeed in your first interview, but if not, learn from the experience so that next time you can be better prepared for the types of questions that will be asked.

Good luck with your search. Hope t brings you the results you want!!

A Psalm of Life (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Another day, and I have another poem which I would like to share with you. Also known as What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist, this poem brims with optimism. This is the perfect tonic for daily life, which can at times feel heavy and as though it is weighing us down.
The poem below, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is a reminder that life is full of possibilities and opportunities for those who work hard and are patient. Essentially, the poet tells us that we can make progress from day to day, and achieve our goals, if we make the full use of our time. That said, our time has to be used wisely, by working hard, but we should also never lose faith in the power and potential of life.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading this poem as much as I did after I was introduced to it for the first time. Most of all though, I hope that you heed the poet’s message, that we should all aim to make the most out of this life.
Instead of just watching life pass us by we should take action, as life is full of possibilities. So, if you have a talent within you aching to be released, stop wasting time and just express yourself. Draw, paint, sing, read, write….whatever it is that makes your heart sing, start doing it today. Likewise your dreams, ambitions, goals and plans. We all have something which we want to do or achieve, and now is the time to start working towards making them a reality. Slowly, one step at a time and one day at a time.
Have faith, work hard and make the most of life’s inherent potential.

Dear students..

For students with a place at one of the countless universities in the UK, this week is arguably the most exciting. It’s Fresher’s Week, and after the formality of the enrolment process to get through, the fun starts. Not only do you get to meet your tutors and classmates but you then get bombarded with free stuff before making new friends at one of the many social events and parties.

Having studied at undergraduate and postgraduate level at university, as well as working in one for several years, I have experienced and observed the student journey from both sides. Today, I would like to share some of my observations, experiences and advice in the hope that it might provide some value to those embarking on, or continuing, this exciting chapter in their lives.

University, for many, is a first real taste of independence. You have the freedom to express yourself and be whatever you want to be. Moreover, you have the freedom and responsibility to manage your time and workload. Turning up to lectures, seminars and workshops on time is your responsibility. Completing any reading or assignments is again your responsibility. Universities have plenty of support and guidance available to help students with any challenges which they may face, but each student’s journey is ultimately their own responsibility. It really is up to you what you make of it.

University is not for everyone, and a lot of people will opt instead for a job or an apprenticeship. Degree courses are not free, either, with a year of undergraduate study in the UK costing a little over £9000. With that in mind, I would recommend that you strive to find balance in your student life. Enjoy the social and recreational aspects of university life, but please do not neglect your studies or overlook any opportunities which may present themselves for personal development.

While at university, you have the perfect opportunity to hustle for a headstart on your peers. There is no guarantee of a job after graduation, and the job market is very competitive, so it stands to reason that you should look for and take advantage of any opportunities to develop your knowledge, skills, abilities and network. This will place you in a stronger position than many other job applicants later.

Aside from the standard libraries and online resources which all universities have in common, the resources and opportunities available to you will vary depending on your faculty and course of study. As an example, I will share what was available to myself while studying for a Master’s in Human Resource Management at Middlesex University in London.

  • Membership of professional organisations. As a student, I was supplied with memberships to the CIPD (Chartered Institute fo Personnel and Development) and the CMI (Chartered Management Institute). The membership fees were paid by the university, and I gained access to countless online resources and support.
  • Journals. As with other subject areas, mine gave me access to the latest professional journals which offered the opportunity to stay up to date with the latest research and developments within the industry.
  • Visiting lecturers and networking. Throughout the course, there were a number of lectures and workshops led by experienced professionals within the field of Human Resources. Alongside this, there were countless opportunities to network with people working in the industry as well as fellow students.

The above is just a glimpse of what was made available to myself and my fellow students on this course. There were ample opportunities to gain knowledge and, even though the course was largely based in theory and research, there were plenty of opportunities to develop skills and abilities. As with other courses of study, all the ingredients for success were provided. This then raises the question as to why, if every student has the same access to the same help and support, why are some more successful than others? The answer comes down to how much work they are prepared to put into their studies, how many opportunities they take advantage of and how hard they hustle.

While it may, at first glance, appear counter-intuitive to advise hustling while studying it actually makes perfect sense. The biggest challenges that you will face in this are in managing your time and being organised, but if you can master both, you will be able to work on your personal development while giving your all to your studies. As well as a small income from any work which you do on the side, you will gain valuable experience, and experience is essential.

When you graduate, and start looking for your first role, experience is a brick wall which you will continually come up against. This is a challenge because alongside strong educational backgrounds, an increasing number of employers also want at least 2 years’ experience. It is here that your extra work while studying will pay off. This is because you will be able to describe to an interview panel how, while studying, you also launched a side business (for example, reselling items on Ebay). With many other students working part-time to fund their studies, this is potentially nothing new. That is, until you are able to highlight the time management and marketing skills which you learned, stressing too the ability to prioritise tasks, organise your workload effectively and meet tight deadlines.

If you don’t feel that the entrepreneurial route is right for you, there are other ways in which you can help yourself. Take advantage of the professional networks which you are exposed to as a student. Offer your services for free in exchange for experience in your field of interest and study. This could take the form of an internship over the summer months, or volunteering. Whatever it is, if you are prepared to give up some of your time, you will gain experience and knowledge of your potential future career path. Furthermore ,you will discover bigger and better opportunities for networking which could be a great help at a later date.

Whether you choose to attempt a side business, an internship or perhaps a part-time job relevant to your studies, your time and effort will pay off massively when you graduate as you will likely have a strong network from which to draw advice and support, a good knowledge of the industry and plenty of relevant experience.

Good luck with your studies, and please don’t waste the opportunity which you have been given.

Stop waiting, and start creating

“Purpose is that feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Purpose is what creates true happiness. JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before she finally wrote and published Harry Potter. Even Beyonce had to make hundreds of songs to get to Halo.The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail. Ideas don’t come out fully formed, they only become clearer as you work on them. You just have to get started.”

Mark Zuckerberg

 

I love the above quote, as it contains so much wisdom in a short call to action. Zuckerberg wants us to just start doing whatever it is that we are contemplating. This could mean writing a novel, making music or starting a business.

Most important of all, though, the above quote describes the process which we must undergo if we want to create something meaningful and achieve success. It is commonly accepted, but often presented in a different order, that there some unmistakable ingredients in the recipe for success;

  • Purpose. This is your WHY. Having a clearly defined purpose will keep you inspired and motivated, even when things do not go according to plan. It also ensures that your work, or message, is consistent. Reflect on who you are and what you value in life in order to discover your own purpose.
  • Embrace failure. Failure feels like a kick in the teeth. It makes us question what we are doing and why. It hurts. We tend to take it personally and feel that we are not good enough. We get tempted to give up before we embarrass ourselves any further. Failure, however, doesn’t have to be fatal to your progression. It’s all in the mind and how you view it. Failure can actually be a very valuable learning experience. Painful as it may be, when you reflect back on the actions taken and decisions made when something goes wrong, you will likely find some valuable indicators as to how you can improve. Whether it be through addressing your decision making process, seeking information or learning a new skill, take that lesson and act on it to move forward stronger and better equipped for success.
  •  Ideas and their development. Overnight successes do not exist. They are a myth, used to sell books, magazines and expensive training programmes. The truth is that before a writer, artist or entrepreneur tastes success, there will have been plenty of drafts, plans, sketches or ideas which fell short and probably didn’t see the light of day. The end product or service, which propels its creator to stardom, is usually the result of learning, adapting and improving after much trial and error. So, be realistic about your expectations.
  • Get started. Once you have the purpose, plan, strategy and ideas you have to take action. There is no right moment or perfect time. You just start. Then, you learn, adapt, develop and grow. This is the process, and it doesn’t start until you take that first step.

To this I would just add reflection, which is priceless in personal development. If you are serious about learning, growing and leading a successful and fulfilled life then regular reflection is essential. After all, you won’t know where you are going or how you will get there without self-awareness.

We all have ideas, passions and a purpose. Without action, they are merely desires or dreams which will lead to disappointment and unhappiness if left unfulfilled. So, as the father of Facebook advises, take action. Learn, adapt and grow but most of all enjoy the journey. Who knows where it may lead?!

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and take control

Yesterday, we looked at the dangers of blaming others for our misfortunes or lack of progress towards our goals. It is quite worrying that we are so quick to seek a scapegoat when we fall short of our goals or are dealt a bad hand in life, but reluctant to look at ourselves and how we might be responsible.

The truth is that, aside from your family and closest friends, nobody really cares whether you thrive or merely survive. This is because everyone is fighting their own battles and chasing their own goals. So, stop making excuses for your circumstances. Stop pointing the finger of blame at anybody else, unless you can be absolutely certain that there was nothing that you could’ve done to prevent the current situation in which you find yourself.

Your progress, development and ultimate success or failure depend on you, and you alone. Nobody will give you your true value, until you work for it and earn it. Take an employer, for example. Employers want value for their investment (your salary, training costs and bonuses) and will attempt to squeeze as much work out of you as possible. If you let them, they will have you working as many as 60 or 70 hours, including evenings and weekends. It’s up to you to protect your health and personal life. Most companies do offer benefits such as gym memberships at reduced rates, cycle to work schemes and the opportunity to work remotely, from home, but you have to go and get it if you want it. You will not be chased to take advantage of what is on offer. If you sit back and wait for an employer to come to you with offers of better pay and other perks, you will be waiting a very long time. Bear in mind that it is ultimately your responsibility when your health and relationships start to fail, not your employer’s, as you neglected both.

One of the big goals shared by an increasing number of people, is to achieve financial freedom. The popular misconception, though, is that in order to achieve this sacrifices must be made. So people sacrifice their health and happiness in the hope that all of the extra work will allow them to achieve financial freedom and independence. It goes well for a while, until they wake up one morning to realise that they have a healthy bank balance and nice things, but little else. The tendency is to blame their employer for this, but the reality is that this is merely the result of the choices which they made.

As with any other goal, if you want to achieve financial freedom you have to work for it. This does not mean giving up on your personal life in order to give everything for an employer. It means working on yourself, otherwise known as working smart.

Work is not limited to the 8 or 9 hours you give to your employer daily in return for your salary. I find it odd that so many people work all day long for somebody else, but do nothing to help themselves in the evenings and at weekends. It is as if they expect opportunities to simply fall from the sky into their lap. Unfortunately this is not the case.

How deeply do you want to become successful? If you really want it, you need to put the work in, as this is the only way to get peoples’ attention and raise awareness of what value you have to offer. It stands to reason that you can’t do this while at work, and on your employer’s time. So you need to be prepared to give up the box sets or nights out with friends.

Success is not an overnight process, and may take months of hustling in silence during those times when you’d rather be resting or enjoying some downtime, but this is the price that you have to pay if you really want it. After you have finished your day’s work for your employer, you have a duty to work on your personal development. Fail to do this, and you only have yourself to blame when you stagnate and stop making progress.

 

Is it really impossible? Do you know for certain?!

“Impossible is just a big word thrown about by small men who find it easier to live in the world they have been given than to explore the power they have to change it”

Muhammad Ali

Impossible. It can’t be done. Be realistic…. We hear this an awful lot, and are often discouraged. Far too easily, in my opinion. I would like today to ask you, next time someone tells you that something is impossible, to see it as a challenge rather than a fact. Don’t just take their word for it, but put their theory to the test and see if it really can’t be done. When someone declares your proposal to be unachievable, it is a reflection of their own limitations and not yours. They can’t accomplish it themselves, so assume that nobody else could either. Overlooked in this instance are not only only your knowledge, skills, ability and experience but also your determination to succeed.

Act, and see where it leads you. You may succeed and prove your doubters wrong. Alternatively, you may fail in your initial attempt, but in the process discover what knowledge skills or abilities you lack. By working on these areas and trying again, you may succeed or learn further valuable lessons. Life is a journey of discovery, learning, growth and development and the only way that all of this becomes possible is through action. Challenge what is commonly believed to be impossible, and see which doors open for you and where that leads.

The truth, is that those whose achievements we admire and who we look to for inspiration weren’t dissuaded from their efforts when others believed they were aiming for the impossible. They took action and tested that theory. They faced challenges and setbacks from which they learned and adapted, and kept going until success was theirs. At the time, these were people who were regarded as dreamers and doomed to fail. Some were ridiculed, others were simply ignored but we now look to them as visionaries and trailblazers.

Like the greats before us, we need to test the boundaries of what is possible and see what exactly it is that we are capable of. We may very well fall short of achieving what we set out to, but even if this happens all is not lost.  If you do not achieve the impossible, you will learn the limits of your capabilities and plenty more besides. Who knows what else you might stumble upon instead? After all, viagra  and penicillin are just 2 discoveries stumbled upon by accident while looking for solutions for very different problems.

“Action, or work, is the connecting link between desire, plan and fulfilment”

Napoleon Hill

What is it that you want to BECOME?!

This is arguably one of the most important questions which you need to ask yourself, but it often gets overlooked. When we think about our personal development, we think about what we want to achieve, the value we might bring to the world in the form of a business, product or service and how we might be able to lead a more luxurious lifestyle.  The time has now come, though, to put your “wants” and desires to one side. The fame, cars, houses, holidays and clothes are not where your focus should be. Of course, they would make for some great posts on social media and attract a lot of attention but they are also just things or experiences. Material goods should not be prioritised over providing value and becoming somebody of substance. When you reflect on your current circumstances and set goals for yourself, reflect also on the kind of person you want to become.

Ask yourself what knowledge you would like to acquire. What skills or abilities do you want to improve? Reputation and personal brand are becoming increasingly important in business, so how would you like to be regarded personally and professionally? What kind of relationships and interactions do you want to have? When you leave a room, how would you like to be remembered?

Our thoughts, beliefs and perceptions of the world around us determine our actions and behaviour. These all impact the decisions we make and the quality of life which we lead. Which ultimately dictate the kind of person we become and what we achieve in life.

I’ld love to hear your thoughts on this, but for now will leave you with a few of my favourite quotes on this topic from Jim Rohn;

“Change starts from within”

“If you want to have more, you have to become more”

“Success is something you attract by the person you become”

“Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better, then go about becoming better”

Never lose your inquisitive nature

“I think that’s the single best piece of advice; Think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself”

Elon Musk

In the last post we looked at the importance of integrity, and working to the best of your ability consistently over time. Giving your all, regardless of how you feel about your current role or situation, over time can open doors. There is, however, one special ingredient which is still missing but has the power to make a real difference.

That ingredient is questioning. You should never lose your inquisitive nature. As children, we question everything, but then, after years of formal education we find ourselves conditioned to question less and follow instructions more. We question less and less, until we become automatons simply going through the motions of day-to day life. If you are serious about your personal and professional development, though, you need to be rediscover your passion for asking questions and reflecting.

Questioning and reflection go hand in hand. When you question a particular process at work and identify an element which can be improved, for example, your next step is to reflect on your own strengths, skills and abilities and how they might be used to improve the process. Through questioning, you discover innovative ways to solve problems or improve processes but it doesn’t just end in the workplace. Questioning is important in our personal lives too.

By reflecting on and questioning the decisions which you make, you learn more about yourself. You become more self-aware. You also become more independent and less likely to follow the lead of others. You won’t do something just to please family and friends, because you know who you are, what you want and what makes you happy. In this way, you will be less inclined to settle but will rather challenge and push yourself to become and have more. Because you asked questions which helped you to better understand what it is that you want from life.

Questioning is the first step in the learning process. We ask the questions, we think of solutions and then identify our strengths and the gaps in our skills and knowledge before taking action. Through questioning we learn, develop, improve and grow.

Massive success, regardless of what it might look like to you, will not come overnight. It is rather the accumulation of consistently asking questions and seeking improvement while putting in the hard work and effort over time, and this is done one day at a time by focusing on what is in front of you right now.

“My success just evolved from working hard at the business in hand each day”

Johnny Carson

Work hard consistently and with integrity

“There is something you can do better than anyone else”

Rumi

Find out what you are good at. Do it. Do more of it. Do it to the very best of your ability. Consistently. It could be your programming skills or ability to craft a good story. Seek out opportunities to showcase your talent daily. This will help you to stand out from the crowd and could be the key to your lasting success.

That is the idea anyway. We all want to find the one thing which we are better at than most, and become successful by doing just that. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, making a career or a business our of what you love is a wonderful thing. However, life often doesn’t work that way, and until you are in a position to follow your passion, you may find yourself in a career or job which is unrelated and may not inspire you. This could be a blessing in disguise.

Everyone has at some point, been in a job which they did not like and was unrelated to the course they wanted their life to take. From there, they split into two camps; those who found themselves stuck in those jobs  and unable to move on, and those who were able to go on to something better fitting and more appropriate for their goals and aspirations.

Why can some move on and thrive while others find themselves stuck in a rut? The reasons are many, and vary from one person to the next, but having long studied the lives and careers of successful businessmen and women, there was a common theme. Integrity. Those who were able to improve their circumstances and achieve some level of success, tended to be those with the strongest work ethic. Even if they were not enthused or challenged by their job, and craved more, these were the people who gave their all in everything they did at work. This consistent hard work , and the integrity to maintain their efforts even when they felt unmotivated was the key. In giving their all to their current employer, these people gained new skills and knowledge  while also gaining recognition for the quality of their work. This created the opportunities which they took advantage of, and set them off on their journey towards success and accomplishment.

“The quality of your work, in the long run, is the deciding factor on how much your services are valued by the world”

Orison Swett Marden

So, even if you are not happy in your current job or course of study and view it merely as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, don’t take it lightly. Look for opportunities to learn and develop, and showcase you talents. Do this consistently over time, and you will be surprised at how many doors will open for you. Who knows, in shifting your focus away from the job itself you might fall in love with the process and find contentment as well as success.

“I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success”

Thomas A Edison

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Keep Up The Good Work

“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming”

Richard Branson

 

Having written yesterday about not giving up, I stumbled across the above quote from Richard Branson and had to share it.

As in all areas of life, it is inevitable that you will, at some time or other, miss out on the job you want or a business development opportunity. When this happens it is important to remember that there will potentially be plenty more opportunities coming your way. You must be driven and willing enough continue to work for them though, despite your disappointment.

The truth is that there are countless people applying for the same jobs as you, or chasing the same business opportunities as you. Some of these may be better qualified, more experienced or put forward a stronger case on the day. That does not mean that you should become disheartened and give up. It is easy to feel helpless and that the odds are stacked against you, and just accept that it will not happen for you. This is a lie, and the easy way out.

Every missed opportunity requires reflection, because when you reflect honestly on what happened, you learn. You learn how to better answer questions in future meetings and interviews as well as better control of your nerves and body language. When you reflect, learn and apply that new knowledge, you bounce back stronger and better able to give a more confident performance in your next interview or business pitch.

After the disappointment of one bad outcome sinks in, it is easy to believe that you won’t get another opportunity. The fact of the matter is very different. If you fight to remain positive, you will notice plenty more opportunities arising, and if you have reflected and learned form the last experience, you will be in a strong position to meet these head on.

The opportunity which you miss out on may not even be the right one for you. With plenty coming along all the time if you look for them, it could be the next one which offers you all that you want and more.

Happy hunting!!

Tabula Rasa..

..or a clean slate, as it is otherwise known.

We have an awful tendency to dwell our our successes and failures, both of which are damaging. Of course our wins should be celebrated, but as with everything else, there should be moderation. Celebrate too long and you begin to lose perspective, as well as any advantage you may have over your competitors. It is easy to begin to overestimate your skills and abilities when you focus too long and hard on your successes. Your ego, however, needs to be kept in check. It is important to understand that life is a continuous process of learning and development. Whatever comes to pass, whether good or bad, has within it a lesson. Identifying this lesson and learning from it is the surest way to continue your personal development and avoid stagnating.  In short, if yesterday was successful, don’t sit back and relax but rather take advantage of it by learning from, and acting on, it in order to continue your progression.

The same rule applies to those times when things are not progressing well or according to plan. It’s too easy to become disheartened and demotivated by focusing on the negative aspects and what went wrong. Left unchecked, negativity and pessimism start to take hold. This can then turn a bad day into a bad week, month or year. Perspective is again important. Amid all the doom and gloom, take a moment to remind yourself just how much control you have over your own life. You control your decisions and actions. Therefore, to a certain extent, you also have a level of control of what happens. So, if you had a bad day, don’t dwell on it but rather use it as a learning experience. Remind yourself that you have the power to turn your fortunes around. Try and identify where it went wrong for you; was it a lack of knowledge or experience? Or was it perhaps a decision which didn’t produce the expected results? Reflect on any  lessons to be learned, so that you can move on wiser as well as determined to get back on track. Learn for the experience and bounce back before negativity sets in and a bad day becomes a losing streak.

Regardless of whether yesterday was good or bad, start each day afresh. Wake each morning with the determination to improve yourself and take steps in the direction of your goals.

 

The Pain and Pleasure of the job hunting process: Application Forms

Once you have decided which approach to apply to your job search (Recruitment Agencies and LinkedIn/ job boards, direct applications or a blended approach), you will face the next hurdle: the application form.

Until the internet took over, a job application was made by requesting an application pack from the organisation, filling in the forms and then sending or faxing them to the return address. Or simply sending in a cv. This process later evolved into online applications.

The first generation of online application forms involved downloading a form (in Microsoft Word format), completing it and either uploading it to the relevant online page or emailing it to a specified address. While it was a much smoother process than the manual one it replaced, it wasn’t without its problems. I personally lost count of the amount of times my computer crashed or internet connection dropped out at the wrong time, causing the completed form to be lost or become corrupted and unreadable. Thankfully technology moved ahead, with computers and internet connections improving greatly thus making the process easier. As for the information which the form requires, it hasn’t changed much. Neither has the order changed much. You will be asked for;

  • Personal information
  • Education
  • Current and previous employment
  • Personal statement
  • Disclaimers to be signed.

Of these, the personal statement is the most interesting and the most challenging. The only guidance given is to ensure that you address the role’s requirements, as highlighted in the person specification. So, you have to write about yourself and how you meet the role’s requirements in a way which is engaging and interesting enough to earn you an interview. Easier said than done, and my problem was that I tended to write a few paragraphs which looked good but didn’t really address the person specification. This would then be copied and pasted into most of my applications, and I would wonder why I didn’t get shortlisted for interviews. Go figure!

While this is still a very popular, and widely used approach, the process is again evolving. Increasingly, organisations are launching their own recruitment portals online, where you can search for current vacancies and apply for them. The job vacancies section is divided into two areas; one for internal applicants who already work for the organisation but are looking for a new role, and the other for external applicants.

Rather than asking you to fill out a form, these portals ask for the same information as above, usually in the same order too, which you complete on several pages which you can return to later and update if necessary. Filling in these sections is easy, and can even be copied and pasted from saved application forms. It’s not cheating, as your personal information, educational background and career history is unlikely to have changed.

The one section which does present a challenge is the new and improved personal statement. This is now broken down into a number of questions (usually 10-15) in which you address the key requirements of the role. Frustrating as it may be that you don’t get to cut and paste one statement across all applications any longer, this approach is far more effective.

In asking you to reflect on individual questions, recruiters will gain a clearer idea of whether you should be shortlisted for interview. Should you be interviewed, you will find yourself with a better understanding of the role and able to communicate how you would be a good fit. This is well worth the extra time required to answer those questions in the first place.

The best part of the new online application process is that after you fit out your first application, all the information copies across to further applications, with the exception of the personal statement.

As with all things over time, the application form has developed and is now being slowly replaced by an online application process. Embrace it! It does require more time and effort to complete, but its worth it. Put in the time and effort which the form requires and you’ll be in a good position to be shortlisted for interview. If you do get shortlisted, the questions you addressed during the application will stand you in good stead.

Than you for reading. I hope you have found in here something useful and of value to you in your job search. In the next post, I will be taking you through the interview itself and the kind of questions that you might encounter

Less Searching, More Experiencing

Advice on personal development and leading a more fulfilled life is often confusing and full of contradictions . Of these, one of the biggest inconsistencies revolves around taking action. If you were to look back through some of the posts on this very blog, you would be forgiven for spotting potentially opposing advice.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this subject. The practical side will preach the importance of taking action, learning from your experiences and adapting along the way. The theoretical side, however, will stress the importance of reflection, setting goals and making plans. Surely, one of them must be right, but which one?!

The reality is that both of the above are right. Together, they both highlight the key stages in the personal development process. Not all of the stages are relevant for everyone, and there is no set order in which they should be followed, though. I put reflection at the top of this list because that is my starting point, which works best for me.

  • Reflection. This is the ideal starting point, as you identify your strengths and weaknesses, your interests, what drives you and what you hope to achieve both personally and professionally.
  • Goal Setting. With a good understanding of your situation and circumstances, the next logical step will be set goals, both short and long-term. Goals are a great way to keep you motivated as you have something to strive for which is broken down into small steps. Furthermore, goals are an indicator of what progress is being made, and whether you are staying on track.
  • Planning. The planning stage is more a matter of personal preference than a necessity. Some prefer to take action once their goals have been set, but others prefer to plan and strategise. In this instance, some find it helpful to set out how they will use their resources in order to reach their goals, and what knowledge or skills they may need to acquire.
  • Action. Arguably, the most important stage of all. After all, without taking action in the direction of your goals, you won’t achieve very much, if anything. It is by taking action that we gain the experiences from which we learn and grow.
  • Review. As you take action in the direction of your goals, it’s important to regularly review your progress. This will help you identify gaps in your knowledge and areas to be addressed, as well as highlight what has been working well. The review process also gives you the opportunity to amend and update your goals as you meet them.

As with everything else in life, both sides are right but balance is essential. In this case, you need to find a healthy balance between reflection, planning and taking action. If you spend too much time thinking, planning, searching or strategising, you won’t have enough time left to actually take action and so will get nowhere. On the other hand, if you just jump straight in and get to work without a plan, it becomes incredibly difficult to judge what it is that you are actually achieving.

Through reflection and planning, you gain an understanding of who you are, what you have to offer and what you would like to achieve from life. When this is coupled with action, you then get to experience life in all its glory. The lessons gained from your experiences help you to understand what happiness and life itself mean for you.

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.

You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life

 

Fulfill Your Potential

Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses power of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

William James

 

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was a philosopher and psychologist, widely regarded as one of the founders of modern psychology in America. The above views were published in January 1907, and 110 years later his words still ring true.

I am sharing the above quote today, as it describes perfectly the driving force behind my blog. This is why I started sharing my thoughts and experiences on personal development, in the hope that it might help or inspire others to start or continue on their own journey. Plus, I love writing which certainly helps.

We all have the potential within us to achieve success, maybe even greatness. Potential, alone, is not enough though. For all too many people, this potential remains unrealised either through fear or complacency. Some fear failure, others fear the disapproval of others, while on the other hand, there are people who reach a point in life where they become comfortable with what they have achieved or complacent. There are also the lazy and entitled among us, who believe that good things will come to them without their having to make any effort. Truth is, potential alone is not enough. You have to want to better yourself. Really want it so bad that you challenge yourself to make small improvements daily, which will in time help you to grow and develop to the point where you become and achieve what you could only dream about before.

If you really challenge yourself to be the best you can, it’s possible to achieve the unthinkable. Be under no illusion, the journey itself is a minefield and requires a lot of planning, hard work and difficulty. What you could achieve, however, if you persevere is priceless. This is why I write; to share my experiences, knowledge and ideas in the hope that it might motivate, inspire or help others.

Blogs, programmes, books, podcasts and videos can only help so much, though. After all, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t teach it how to drink. Potential, talent and knowledge will count for nothing if you don’t act upon it.

Will you fulfil your potential? I have no idea, only you can answer that. Depends on how much you want it and how hard you are prepared to work for it. So…will you?!

The weight of expectation

“Live no longer to the expectation of those deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Parents, family, friends, social groups, teachers, managers… These are just a few of the many people to whom we give the power to influence our daily lives. We turn to them for advice, guidance, help or support whenever we need it. Many of them, such as parents, managers and social groups have certain expectations for how we should act and lead our lives. This is not necessarily a bad thing when they only want the best for us, and support our goals and dreams. The problem arises when they try to dissuade us from a plan of action because it does not fit in with their expectations. It may that they want to protect us from the risk of failure. It could be that they are jealous of our potential success. Or perhaps a determination that we should not stand out from the group. Whatever the reasoning behind it, some people will inevitably try to dissuade us from following our own paths because they would rather we stay on the one which they approve of. This is not a healthy way to lead your life. If you are simply living your life in accordance with the expectations of others, is it even your life that you are living? What about your own plans, hopes, goals, dreams and aspirations? How about what makes you happy, drives you and gives you a sense of purpose?

One example of expectation gone wrong is social media and the distortion it creates. In this day and age, young people are becoming increasingly addicted to social media. It is a wonderful creation and has the power for good, but it does have its darker side. This is the side that encourages people to take drastic measures for fear of losing out. All too often, people spend huge amounts of money on credit cards in order to buy things which they may not particularly like, want or need. Why? In order to fit in. They see the pictures on Instagram, for example, and do not want to miss out. But it goes deeper than that, with people adopting almost completely new personas in order to remain part of a social group or maintain the popularity of their social media accounts. The problem is that social media is rarely a reflection of real life. Furthermore, trends and tastes change very quickly so you will be forever adapting and changing yourself in order to fit in.

The only goals and expectations which really matter are those which you set for yourself. It is worth asking yourself, when someone tries to impose their expectations on you, why they may be doing this. In whose best interest is it for you to follow their lead? Naturally, other people have something to teach us, and it is a very good idea to get a second opinion wherever possible. Talk to those closest to you. Seek advice. Share your experiences with them. But follow your own path. Be confident. Listen to the warnings and lessons of others but do not be so quick to abandon your own goals in order to live up to their expectations.

This is your life, and it’s short, so you should live it as you want. Provided that you are not hurting, offending or taking advantage of anyone else, you should absolutely live up to your own expectations and the standards which you set for yourself. The people who truly care about you will respect you, understand and adjust their expectations in order to support you.

Rather than blindly living up to the expectations imposed on us by others, have the courage to listen to what your gut is telling you. You never know, it may actually be them who are wrong, not you.

Book Review: Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Robert B. Cialdini, Ph. D. (Quill/William Morrow, New York, NY, Revised Edition 1993). 320 pages.

I love to read, as I feel that it is an essential ingredient for personal and professional development. So, I read a lot and today I would like to share with you my first book review. Having seen Influence appear on a number of business and personal development related reading lists, I decided to give it a go. It was a real eye-opener, which I would recommend to everyone.

Cialdini, a Professor at Arizona State University, shares his research on the art and science of persuasion. Backed by scholarly research, he shares his own real-world experiences and other lessons learned from people described as “compliance professionals”. These are, essentially, people whose job it is to convince others do or buy something. This group is not limited to marketers and salesmen, but also includes parents, waiters, political and business leaders amongst others.

Throughout the book, Cialdini shares his six principles of influence. These principles still ring true today, regularly appearing in books and journal articles on the subject by many others. They are;

  • Reciprocity: If I do something for you then you are obliged to return the favour.
  • Scarcity: The harder it is to get my hands on it, the more I want it
  • Likeability: If you find me likeable, then you are more likely to do what I ask of you.
  • Authority: If you look and act like somebody in a position of authority, then I will obey you, often unquestioningly.
  • Social proof: We look to other people for guidance.
  • Commitment/consistency: If I say something I am more likely to act in a way that shows consistency with that commitment.

The author explains that each of these principles of persuasion can be employed effective against us, because they often appear to be reasonable. Modern life is complicated, and rather than apply critical thinking to every moment of every day, we allow these principles (and their countless variations) to guide our decision-making processes in order to make our lives a little easier.

One of the many anecdotes which I found to be most interesting was his revelation regarding the marketing of toys in the lead up to Christmas. Leaders in the toy industry, naturally, want an increase in sales to last throughout the year rather than just a short surge over the Christmas period. The author shares how he discovered that toy makers will market a certain toy very well, but once interest has been generated they will deliberately ship a limited amount of the toy to stores prior to Christmas. Parents who have promised their children this toy for Christmas will then struggle to find it in time. So, instead, they buy something else to make up for it, only to discover that the desired toy becomes available in January. Wanting to keep their promises to their children, parents then buy the toys which their children had originally wanted. The toy companies thus succeed in selling a large number of alternative toys in December, followed by strong sales of the popular toy in the following months. Like many other techniques used by compliance professionals, this is a hybrid, using both the consistency and scarcity principles to manipulate people and their buying decisions.

In each chapter, Cialdini also offers ways in which we could counteract these forms of influence. There is often a reluctance to simply say no, even when we are not completely convinced, because the aforementioned principles usually work, and can potentially be good for us. So we tend to follow them automatically. Therefore, the author stresses the importance of  being alert, so that we can identify instances in which the above principles are being manipulated by unethical sales or marketing professionals. After all the sooner we become aware of the principles being employed against us, the better able we will be to avoid being manipulated or misled.

This book, and the lessons it can teach us, can benefit everyone. Being aware of how we are influenced can help us to make better decisions in our personal and professional lives. This in turn can lead to stronger relationships, better buying decisions and success in business. Or it might just make us less susceptible to the manipulation of others, which is not a bad thing.

You hate your job…now what?!

Everyone has, at one time or another, reached this stage in their careers. They no longer enjoy their work and begin to think about leaving for pastures new. Some even consider starting their own businesses and being their own boss instead. While I would normally urge taking action and learning from your experiences, this is one area in which I would urge extra caution and a little more time spent in planning and preparing your next move.

Tempting as it may be to quit your job, it’s a big gamble. It could work out brilliantly. Then again, it might not. If it’s not thought out properly, the results could be disastrous. We all need money, for food, bills, rent, mortgage and living expenses and in order to keep earning this money, we have to work. It may not be the job you want or enjoy, but it supports your lifestyle. That is not to say that you should just carry on as you are. Too many people stay in unsuitable jobs for fear of failing to better themselves if they leave. When your job stops motivating you, and you begin to seriously contemplate quitting, this is a warning sign that it’s time to take action.

The most important thing to do is to figure out why you want to leave. What is it that this job no longer offers, which another one might do?  Do you really have to leave in order to get what you need or want? Next comes an attitude adjustment. Until you find another job or launch a business, your current job is where your head should be at. If you have become unhappy and distracted, switch your focus. Rather than thinking about what you are currently lacking, spend a week finding 3 things a day which you like about your job and for which you are grateful. Practicing gratitude is a very powerful and effective way to adjust your attitude when you become disillusioned.

Now that you have asked yourself some serious questions and adjusted your attitude, you need to plan your next step. Whatever your intention, you need to speak to your manager. This is the person who will provide a reference if you leave, after all. You never know, they may even be able to offer you a pay rise or a move to a different area within the company instead. You won’t know until you ask.

Not in any particular order, but there are a few things which you will need to do once you have decided that your future lies elsewhere. Firstly, find a new job first. This is not always possible, especially if you only take jobs with short-term contracts but if it is, this is the way to go. The truth is that it is easier to find a job when you are already working. There is a negative stigma attached to unemployment which can start alarm bells ringing for recruiters and hiring managers, putting you at a disadvantage. Once you have the ball rolling on this, audit your online presence. Google your name and see what comes up. Audit your social media accounts and remove anything potentially embarrassing. An increasing amount of recruiters are screening applicants in this way, as they can’t afford to have their reputation tarnished by an abusive social media outburst.

While applying for other jobs, look closely at the skills listed in the job adverts and think about how you could refresh these while in your current role. What staff development/ training opportunities can you take advantage of? This is a perfect opportunity to learn as much as you can before you leave which will help you in the future. Whatever you do, don’t become distracted and take your foot off the gas.

Lastly, if you are to leave don’t burn your bridges. Your current employer may become a client in the future, or a stakeholder, so it’s important to maintain some kind of relationship and goodwill. Work out your notice period as agreed with your manager, and in this time maintain your work ethic and integrity. That is not to say that you can’t, discreetly, seek out networking and business development opportunities before you leave.

If you have reached the end of the line and want to leave your current job, here are a few tips;

  • Reflect on the reasons behind your wish to leave. Do you want more money? Are you lacking a challenge? Is the commute too far?
  • Speak to your manager first. Be open and honest about your situation and how you feel. They may be able to facilitate a raise, one day a week of working from home or perhaps a secondment to another department/ division. Even if none of these appeal to you, your manager will be writing your reference so it’s important to maintain a good working relationship with them.
  • Update your details on your CV, LinkedIn profile and any other recruitment tools which you might be using in your job search.
  • Audit your social media accounts and online presence, as these will undoubtedly be visited by prospective employers or clients. Identify any red flags and edit your accounts accordingly.
  • Before you resign, take advantage of any staff development/ training opportunities which might make you more attractive to another employer. Think in terms of skills which you can refresh or gain a basic grasp of. Take advantage, too, of any networking opportunities. Any relationship which you forge now could, potentially, be carried forward into your next role.
  • Make sure you have enough money saved to support you for at least 6 months. This will ease the financial pressures of starting a new job or branching out on your own.
  • Lastly, having accepted a new role elsewhere or launched a business, continue to work to the best of your ability until the day you leave. This is, after all, a measure of your integrity. That is not to say that you can’t use any downtime to carry out some research for your next role, or use social media to promote your new business.

 

Carpe Diem

Seize the day. The time is now. There is no time like the present…

These are phrases which we hear all too often, but despite being overused they remain relevant. We all start out with big dreams, goals and ambitions which we chase relentlessly, until we reach a point where we become comfortable and content. So we stop. From there, we fall into a routine and stop striving for constant growth and development because we are happy as we are. Our lives become a cycle of work, play and home life, which is not a bad thing as long as you are not only happy, but also confident that you won’t be filled with regret later. For many people, though, daily life continues merrily until they wake up one morning feeling as though something is missing. This is followed by reflection on time misspent and opportunities missed.

The good news is that it is never too late to put that reflection to good use. Rather than dwell on what may have been missed out on so far, identify what it is that you really want and go after it. Regardless of your age or current circumstances, anybody can set themselves goals for personal development and chase them with vigour and determination. If you want something bad enough and are prepared to put the work in, you will find a way to make it happen. Anybody, absolutely anybody, can make minor adjustments to their daily lives which will help them to take steps towards their goals. These steps may be very small, but each one gets you closer to what it is that you’re aiming for. Darren Hardy calls this “The Compound Effect” and it really does work.

Ideally, you will be carving out a few minutes each day for a little reflection, and acting upon it. I find that this works best for me at night, just before bed, when I look back on my day and ask myself;

  • What have I got to be grateful for (usually 3 things) ?
  • What have I learned today?
  • Did I take any steps in the direction of my goals? Could I have done more? Tried harder? What do I need to work harder on?
  • Did I make a difference to anybody other than myself? Did I pay it forward? Did I help anybody or provide a service? If not, why?
  • What steps can I take tomorrow to get me closer to my goals? Where are the gaps in my skills or knowledge which need to be addressed?

With this done, I get a more restful sleep with a clear mind, and wake up energised and ready to continue my journey towards my goals.

It is by no accident that I post this call to action today, a Friday in August. August is traditionally a month of downtime, when people take holidays to unwind and recharge their batteries. Furthermore, Fridays tend to be quieter days as people switch their focus to the weekend. So on this quiet Friday in the quiet month of August, I would like to ask you this; What if you were to take a different view? What if I told you that there was a golden opportunity to be had if you didn’t follow the lead of others?

A large number of people right now have turned their attention to rest and relaxation while on holiday, or their plans for the weekend. If, however, you chose instead to take action in the direction of your goals, you could gain a huge advantage. Success is not just a matter of hard work and determination, but also having the ability to sense an opportunity and seizing it.

So, while others are working on their suntan or planning their weekend shenanigans, use this to your advantage. The more headway you make now towards your goals, the harder others will have to work to catch you or reach your level when they return from their break.

The secrets for a successful life

If you’ve been reading some of my previous posts, you will know that I don’t believe there to be any real secrets when it comes to success. Of course, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of motivational speakers and gurus who claim to have all the answers if you sign up for their programmes, but I respectfully disagree. That is not to take away anything away from or discredit their work, though. The work which they do, and businesses which they run, help countless people take control of their lives and futures. The problem is that success itself is very personal and therefore difficult to boil down to a general set of rules and guidelines.

The definition of success, and what it means to live a fulfilled life, varies from one person to the next. This is because each of us has different dreams, goals and priorities. One person’s idea of success might involve having multiple houses, expensive cars and financial independence. For another person, success may be centered around spiritual development. For this reason, if you are to seek help on your journey, you should seriously consider working individually with a coach or mentor on a personalised programme to help you reach your goals.

Before you seek the help or professional services of others, though, here are a few things which could help you. In and of themselves, they may not bring you success and fulfillment, but they can certainly help to lay the foundations upon which you can build later.

  • Practice self-reflection. This will help you to better understand your dreams, purpose, strengths and weaknesses. You will gain a clearer idea of the direction which you would like your life to take, the goals to be accomplished along the way and how to meet the potential obstacles and challenges which you will undoubtedly face.
  • Practice gratitude. When you learn to identify and focus on what you have to be appreciative of, magical things happen. Expressing gratitude, whether publicly or in a private journal, improves your mood. Your mindset becomes positive and optimistic which in turn attracts positivity, but it also gives you the confidence and mental strength to keep going even when times become tricky.
  • Embrace life-long learning. Life is a journey of discovery so it makes sense to remain inquisitive. In order to keep moving forward, keep reflecting and learning. Reflection will identify areas for improvement, which you can address through learning. As you learn, your mind develops and grows through new experiences or knowledge gained. This means that you will be become better able to meet challenges in the future because of your new knowledge or experiences. Furthermore, it will also open up your mind to new possibilities.
  • Take care of your wellbeing. We have long been told that a healthy mind needs a healthy body in which to exist, which stands to reason, so we need to look after our physical health. This doesn’t mean that we should live in the gym, but there is a lot we can do to help ourselves, from getting enough sleep to trying to ensure that we eat foods which will provide us with the right nutrients. And of course, it helps to become more active. Just as important, though, is our mental health, which can be greatly helped if we surround ourselves with people who inspire us and challenge us to grow.
  • Pay it forward (wherever possible). We all have our own strengths and talents, and it would be a shame if we kept these hidden from the world simply through self-doubt. In sharing your gift, you can not only help and inspire others to follow their own dreams and passions, but you might also get some constructive feedback which could help you in your own development.

Experimenting with the above suggestions can help to lay the foundations upon which you can build a successful life by helping you to adopt a growth mindset.  This list, however, is far from exhaustive, and I would love to hear from you if you have anything further to add.