Blog Archives

Cure the Sunday afternoon blues

“It generally started about 3pm on Sunday afternoon, irrespective of rain, hail or shine and the activity or people I was with at that time. I’d start thinking of the next day and my shoulders would instantly tense up, I’d start snapping at my kids and/or wife and increasingly become more taciturn and grumpy as the day progressed. This would happen every Sunday and started to have a real impact on my quality of life, family relationships, and started to limit the activities I would do Sunday afternoon and evenings.”

Sound familiar? It’s an unfortunately common situation for highly pressured executives. A candidate once shared this personal story with me, which fortunately became a wake-up call to consider a career change.

I recognise that it’s rare to find individuals who bound out of bed on Monday mornings – naturally most people would prefer to be at leisure than go to work. Of course our level of motivation varies with the demands of our role, our clients or customers, and our employer. However, despite the inevitable peaks and troughs that can affect your job enjoyment, intense and sustained angst about work is not normal. Left unchecked, it can lead to long-term damage to our health, including stress, pressure on relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and a reduced work/life balance.

On the surface this individual seemed to be in the ideal work situation: he was in a key leadership position within a successful global blue chip organisation, earning an impressive wage, on a fast-track path to further success and growth – but it was just not right for him.

I appreciate that it’s not a simple matter to change jobs. Financial considerations, geographical location, time available to job seek, or your personal situation can be constraints.  If this sounds like you, consider these alternative strategies:

  • Speak up. Have an honest discussion with your manager and/or HR about revisiting the aspects of your job that cause you angst. Do these need to be delegated or shared with others in the team? Is your workload achievable within the resources and parameters provided? Do you need further training and mentoring to help you perform your job?
  • A sideways step could be an option if you like your company, but the role or your direct manager is not a good fit. Is there any opportunity to move to another role or division within the company?
  • If your employer and/or company culture does not align, but you enjoy your role, network across your industry through LinkedIn, industry forums and seminars, even former colleagues who have left to join competitors. Make yourself known throughout the sector, whilst maintaining your professionalism and remaining discreet about your intentions. This could lead to a direct approach to you to consider a job should an appropriate role arise.
  • Consider investing in additional training and/or studies that will further your professional development and enhance your employability to other organisations. This is particularly relevant if you are looking to pursue a field outside your current area of expertise. It also serves to demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and continuous development.
  • Have a confidential discussion with a recruitment firm who specialise in your sector/job of choice. Whilst this should be implicit, emphasise the need for the recruiter to respect your confidentiality and ensure your resume is only sent out to prospective employers with your approval.

Whilst it might be a work in progress, you will find that the simple act of taking control of your work situation can improve your outlook and with this perspective, allow you to enjoy your whole weekend.

As for the candidate mentioned previously? After taking a leap of faith, he did change jobs and has continued to progress his career with another organisation better suited to his style. He has also joined that rare group of individuals who look forward to Mondays.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

FRAGILE: Handle with care

In the world @work it’s easy to forget that people can have all sorts of other stuff going on in their life that makes them more or less vulnerable. Whether it’s financial strain, stress from their past or current workplace, contending with being made redundant or failing to make initial headway with job applications, there are myriad reasons why people might not cope well with a job interview.

A couple of times recently I’ve interviewed candidates who had good resumes and phone screened well, but at interview it was clear that all was not well in their world. Despite the usual nerves, there were some concerning signs that included being anxious, insecure and defensive; they were clearly people who were in desperate need of work.

These are always tricky situations that call on our professionalism, emotional intelligence and compassion.

As recruiters or hiring managers we spend a lot of time interviewing and we are generally very comfortable with the conversations we have with candidates. Before gathering information about their background, skills and work experience, we aim to put people at ease with some small talk and outline what it is we want to discuss. Sometimes it can feel like speed dating. Even when done well, it can feel a little invasive.

I’m sure I am not alone when I admit that I have struggled with my own job applications at various times in my career. You know how it goes, the contact person was elusive, the interview didn’t run smoothly or I brought a negative work experience to the table that didn’t add value to the discussion. I too have been frustrated because I thought my age or some time out of the workforce was a barrier to making progress. All of those emotions are best left outside the door when we apply for jobs.

Most times a skilled interviewer will put people at ease, overcome their interview anxiety and uncover the value they can bring to an employer. On those occasions when we can’t help a candidate further, we’re guided by respect for the person and our primary objective – to find the right person for the job.

Let’s be mindful that when hiring we are in a position to help or harm and everyone – every one – deserves respect. Take a few minutes to listen to Sting and Stevie Wonder perform Fragile in this video, which prompted me to pause and reflect.

How have you handled a fragile situation in a business context? What did you learn from the experience?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Your recruiter is a tool

Well, I don’t mean tool in the pejorative! A well forged, fit for purpose tool is a valued accessory. Would you attempt a home renovation with just a hammer? In the job search process, savvy candidates realise recruiters are part of the solution – a tool in their kit rather than their sole strategy to market. Having placed many executives in senior roles over the years, people often ask me what more they could do to improve their prospects for selection. Here are five strategies to consider:

  1. Leverage your networks

It’s easy to underestimate the breadth of your own individual networks, but candidates who take the time to analyse their contacts (which may include previous colleagues and managers, university contacts, neighbours, social networks, etc.) find them a valuable source of information. Whether it’s a new opening or general market information, your chances of obtaining a position improve when you’re already recognised in your industry. For a prospective employer, it’s also less risky to hire someone who is known to be a strong performer.

  1. Select your recruitment partners carefully

While it might be tempting to send your resume to every search firm, be selective about the organisations with whom you’re entrusting confidentiality, particularly if you’re currently employed. Think about the exclusivity of your application rather than applying with every recruiter. Consultants strive to represent unique candidates who have not been overexposed and will proactively market them to our clients. Make sure that’s you.

  1. Take the lead on your job search and partner with your recruiter to bridge any gaps in your networks

Ideally a recruiter should complement, not replace, your job search activity. Manage your applications carefully and partner with recruiters who can present you to companies where you don’t have existing contacts or an established network.

  1. Cull what’s not working

Evaluate your job search progress on a regular basis and refine or ditch any strategies that aren’t working. This includes analysing the performance of your recruitment partner. If they said that they were going to market you to a particular company, ask for a progress report. If you think that they’re not delivering, then re-evaluate whether they are best suited to help you.

  1. Customise your resume

One mistake I often observe is that candidates will customise their covering letter, but fail to adjust their resume accordingly. Review your resume and consider tailoring it to suit each opportunity. The changes could be as simple as emphasising your most relevant experience by reordering your achievements.

If your perception of recruiters in general has been negative to date, try adjusting your engagement strategy by following my advice. I’m confident you’ll get results and be successful.

What advice do you have for executive candidates?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Transitioning from Executive to the Boardroom – 6 key factors to consider

In my regular meetings with business leaders from the financial services sector, we nearly always discuss their ongoing challenges for the recruitment and retention of key staff. In this context it can seem inappropriate to discuss their own career plans in the same conversation, especially if it means leaving their current employer.

So, when I invited those same executives to discuss adding ‘Board Director’ to their career accomplishments at a Slade Executive Boardroom Lunch, I wasn’t surprised that spaces at the table filled quickly.

Led by experienced Director and Boardroom consultant, Nicholas Barnett, we discussed Australian boardrooms now and moving into the future.

While Boards are still heavily populated with older white males who have been approached directly through their own network, we are definitely seeing changes to this long established practice. More progressive Boards are recognising the value of greater diversity amongst Directors, challenging gender, generational and sociocultural norms. Nor are successful companies promoting diversity simply to achieve compliance or a feel good factor. Numerous studies have shown that best results are achieved where there is greater diversity in the Board of Directors and Executive team. The Australian Institute of Company Directors publishes regular research and reports on board diversity.

Board recruitment processes are changing too. Nicholas, through his company InSync, is regularly being engaged by Board Chairs to undertake Board reviews to identify strengths and capability gaps. From these reviews new Directors are being appointed. Yes, the traditional networks are still prevalent, however, we’re encouraged to see that the trend towards a structured and independent recruitment process for Board positions, facilitated by engaging external consultants such as an Executive Search firm, is becoming standard practice.

If you’re considering adding a board role to your executive responsibilities or transitioning your career to the Boardroom, here are the key factors to consider:

 

  • Board positions are highly competitive. According to Nicholas, the number of people interested in joining a Board has increased significantly, whilst the number of roles has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. Therefore, you must be able to articulate what you can bring to the Boardroom and how you can make a positive contribution.

 

 

  • As in any role you’ve had in your career, you will be more engaged within an industry or company that you are passionate about. Your network or an Executive Search consultant can help you to identify suitable organisations that align with your interests, as well as your knowledge and experience.

 

 

  • Do your due diligence. You want to be part of an effective Board, and Boardroom culture is often set by the Chairperson. Insist on meeting other directors, as well as the Chair, to evaluate whether others are engaged.

 

 

  • A Board position involves a significant time commitment – can you fit it in with your other responsibilities?

 

 

  • If it’s your first time looking for a Board role, consider Not-For-Profits or unpaid roles, keeping in mind that many NFPs have high profile Board members who have a number of Directorships. Over time, opportunities to be considered for Corporate Board positions may present through this wider network.

 

 

  • Don’t leave it until you are at the end of your executive career. Consider your first Board appointment in parallel with your current role to see if it’s really for you. While establishing a track record as a Director, you’ll build a network of fellow Directors, which can lead to a growing portfolio of Directorships as you wind down your executive career.

 

What are your key considerations for a boardroom position?

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

How to triage CV applications in the War for Talent

In his own way, the great Napoleonic surgeon Dominique Larrey has influenced the progress of your career! Over 200 years ago he halted the practice of treating ranked officers ahead of foot soldiers, and instead introduced the modern rule of triage of casualties; that is treating the wounded according to their level of injury and urgency for medical care. We’re saluting a long departed hero of another time and in a very different field, but whose legacy also affects us all. Read on and join the dots.

“Dominique Larrey knew that those with critical injuries would stand a good chance of survival if they were operated on within the first hour of their trauma occurring. Those with minor injuries were made to wait, while the more seriously injured were attended to. Those deemed to be mortally wounded were put aside, often with alcohol to comfort them until they passed away, whilst resources were concentrated on those who could survive.

This process of systematic evaluation became known as ‘triage’, a French word meaning ‘to sort’.

No one dared to question Larrey’s triage system for fear of being deemed aristocratic  – a status that would almost certainly attract the attention of the dreaded Committee of Public Safety, the ruling council in Paris.”

Recruiters have to be adroit ‘sorters’ of CVs and we’ve taken a few tips from Larrey. It sounds harsh that sometimes the hours you’ve put into preparing a CV can be scanned and assessed in all of 10 seconds by a recruiter. But that is the task and fortunately we’ve moved well beyond previous prejudices that were blinkered by creed, culture and colour, the Queen’s English and postcodes.

So what is that we’re looking for in terms of (i) ‘Not for this job’, (ii) ‘Maybe for this job’ and (iii) ‘Yes, I want to meet’?

Every role is different, but here are some of the 10 fast-as-lightening assessments that have to be made in ‘the War for Talent’.

Triage Language: Won’t Survive.  Slade Group: Not for this job

  1. Too many moves
    Once you’ve grown through your 20s, we’re looking for ‘stickability’. If you’re ‘out looking’ every one to two years in your 30s and 40s, then sadly your career is heading for the morgue.
  2. Failed English
    If you can’t spell, then use spellcheck, and if you can’t draw together a reasonable sentence, then getting ahead is going to be hard.
  3. Completely irrelevant experience or skill set
    Don’t waste our time.

Triage Language: Serious Injuries.  Slade Group: Needs more time to assess

  1. Some relevant experience
    Interesting related experience; might not have worked in the same sector or similar role but has related experience that could add real value.
  2. A succinct career statement
    Makes it enticing to invest more time to understand what this candidate could bring to an organisation.
  3. Relevant qualifications
    A technical role often requires relevant qualifications; think accounting, engineering, the law, medicine and IT. Not always the case, but often the case.
  4. Concise and easy to read
    This simple tip puts yours ahead of CVs that have to be read twice, that are filled with paragraphs and lengthy narrative.

Triage Language: Minor Injuries.  Slade Group: Almost perfect, get them in for interview

  1. Achievements
    A CV with real cache will highlight respected career achievements to excite a recruiter and your next employer.
  2. Career Trajectory
    Several internal promotions at a number of long stay roles, and/or successive, successful career steps will shape a blue chip CV.
  3. Blue chip qualifications, employers and documented achievements
    Hard to beat the trifecta.

If you haven’t been getting to interview, perhaps review the roles you’re applying for and check in with your own CV to make sure it’s not working against you.

That’s our world @work on this our 100th Blog. What’s your point of view?

Please keep up the feedback, comments and input.

Featured image: Wounded arriving at triage station, National Museum of Health and MedicineCreative Commons licence

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

One question that can ‘read anyone’s mind’…

Needing to know now is critical to the flow of business. Here is one question learned early in my ‘headhunting’ career that cuts through time and 100 questions.

When conducting an Executive Search or Selection assignment, my job is to determine whether a candidate is genuinely interested in the opportunity I’ve presented. Everyone’s flattered when a Headhunter casts their lure; it’s tempting to nibble at the bait.

As a Headhunter, though, it’s vital that I swiftly work out whether there is serious interest or whether a candidate is just fishing… for just enough information to angle for a better offer from their current employer.

To elicit the real answer is no easy task. Not getting an answer can set the hiring process back substantially, leading to a missed opportunity for both the employer and the candidate.

When we have to wait in trepidation on an answer, it more than likely turns out to be a “no”. Instinctively we know that the person has already made up their mind, but does not want to offend us with the truth. Or they could be stalling for time as they are pursuing their first preference… you know how it goes. Sometimes candidates come back to the table with a half “yes” and lots of messy provisos, which equate to a “no” in any case.

When an important decision needs to be made, I guarantee this one question will uncover a person’s intention, even if they do not intend to show their hand:

“Please visualise us getting to the end of this hiring process. Providing all the pieces come together – do not give me an answer now,  just what do you guess you will say to me?”

Stop talking and listen, because here comes the answer.

They will say something like, “Well I guess I will say yes, but I just need to think about it (overnight/run it past my family/see what my partner says/etc.).” That’s ok, this is going to be a “yes”.

If they hesitate, then duck and weave with something like, “Look I really don’t know, I can’t even guess, my mind is not clear, have really got to think about it more…” unfortunately it will be a “no”. Move on to whatever your Plan B is, because eventually people come back and confirm that “no”.

So next time you’re asked to guess an answer don’t worry, we are just trying to read your mind.

What methods do you use to uncover people’s thoughts in your world @work, I’d like to know?

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized

Peering over that hill: Tips for mature workers

While ‘job for life’ opportunities do still exist, the reality is that most of us will change roles frequently throughout our working life. For people who are seeking a new role either by choice or necessity and who are in the twilight of their careers, the prospect of looking for a job can be stressful and challenging.

Without a doubt, the mature worker brings a host of capabilities and with a gap of nearly 50 years between the oldest and youngest workers in some organisations, these individuals are in a unique position to add value and mentor both directly and indirectly, bringing knowledge that only time and experience can provide.

If you’re facing the potential of a late change in your career, here are some tips to remind you exactly how much you bring to the (work) table:

  1. Employers are looking for results, not years. Talk about your achievements, identifying the benefits of having you as part of the company. No matter how small, draw attention to the great things you’ve done.
  2. Maturity isn’t something to apologise for! Celebrate the experience, resilience and stability that have come with time that younger workers aren’t able to demonstrate.
  3. Your experience may be intimidating to hiring managers with less tenure or experience, but with a little discretion and guidance, you can add value to help them fast track their own careers.
  4. Significant work on long-term projects or development over a series of shorter-term assignments provides further evidence of commitment to achieving outcomes. Sell yourself on ROI, highlighting your successful accomplishments by backing them up with cost-benefit facts.
  5. The likelihood of you needing time off for all of the usual life events is greatly reduced; you’re more reliable, dependable and you won’t let people down.
  6. It stands to reason that you have a great work ethic – more and more that isn’t a given and it makes you highly desirable to employers.
  7. You didn’t start texting until you had already learned how to spell. This is a huge advantage for professional correspondence. It’s likely that you will know the difference between there, their and they’re.

Be proud, keep reminding yourself that you’re experienced, maturity adds value and that makes you fabulous.

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Uncategorized