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Feb 012011
 
A social network diagram

Image via Wikipedia

    We’ve all read the headlines about the negative impact social media can have on your career, how HR departments are trawling employee profiles on sites like Facebook and MySpace, and how some people have been disciplined or even dismissed because of things they’ve posted to their personal social media accounts.

    What we see less of in the mainstream media (although you’ll see plenty of examples online) is the many ways that having a prominent online profile across a variety of social media sites can actually help your career.

    But if you sit down and think about it for a minute, the fact that online social media can help give your career a boost should come as no surprise. Yes, they can allow employers and prospective employers to find out lots about you… but if you’re looking for a new job, or want to progress in the one you already have, then letting people find you, and letting them see what makes you tick is a good thing! Networking on a professional and personal level has always played a key role in career progression — hence the age-old adage "it’s not what you know, but who you know". That’s just as true today as it was twenty, thirty, even fifty years ago. The difference now is that we all have access to a wide range of free and powerful tools that help us to build a broader, more distributed and infinitely more productive network than was ever possible before.

    Whether it’s connecting with people on LinkedIn, staying in touch via Facebook, or keeping abreast of your network and your industry via Twitter…. online social media tools give you the ability to find, learn from and engage with all sorts of people who can help you, directly or indirectly, with your career.

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May 182010
 
Get the Balance Right

Image by Marquette La via Flickr

    Are you struggling to balance the demands of a busy career with a hectic personal life? Does it feel like you’re constantly juggling your commitments in a desperate attempt to squeeze everything into an impossibly short day?

    If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Trying to find the perfect work-life balance is something that countless employees around the world wrestle with every day… but for many it simply isn’t working.

    The concept of work-life balance first entered the recruitment lexicon in the 1970s in an attempt to describe the issues faced by employees looking to divide their attention between their work commitments and their personal life. It’s since gained popularity among industry commentators, recruitment and careers experts, employees, and most recently with employers, who have started to view the panacea of work-life balance as a magic-bullet solution to employee dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and boosting productivity in the workplace.

    One of the main reasons that work-life-balance has become such a buzzword is that it resonates with so many people. Almost all of us know that overwhelming feeling of desperately trying to divide our finite attention between all of the things that matter to us. But although the work-life-balance concept has been around for nearly four decades, many of us are still struggling to manage our disparate commitments effectively; we fail in our quest for "balance", and ultimately everything suffers.

    According to business and lifestyle coach Ali Davies (www.alidavies.com) the main reason so many of us haven’t nailed the work-life balance conundrum is that the whole concept is fundamentally flawed.

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Apr 232010
 
Job Seekers

Image by John McNab via Flickr

Finding a job in today’s employment market is hard work. To increase your chances of success, it pays to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, and a well-thought out plan of how you’re going to go about getting it before you dive in.

1. Know what you want

If you want to find the right job, the first thing you need is a clear idea of the area you want to work in. This could be a broad career discipline… like marketing, accounts or computer programming; or maybe you want to work in a particular industry, like pharmaceuticals, food or manufacturing. If you don’t really know what you want to do, try making a list highlighting the things you like doing, or that you feel are particular strengths. Now look at your list, and consider what sort of career might dovetail with your list of preferences and strengths.

Once you have a high level idea of the area you’d like to work in, refine it a step further by researching various job titles in your area of interest to see which roles are a good fit with your skill set, your temperament and your personal development goals… you want something fulfilling that will stretch and challenge you, and that will allow you to grow and progress.

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Mar 022010
 

working two jobs... recession beater with a heavy price According to research by employment law consultancy firm Peninsula Ireland almost four in every ten Irish workers are having to take on extra work to balance their personal finances.

As the ranks of Ireland’s unemployed continue to swell, those people still in work are forced to work longer hours, or even take on a second job to meet the challenging economic realities of life in post-celtic-tiger Ireland. The survey of 837 workers on the island of Ireland took place in January and February of this year, with 39% of respondents admitting to holding down a second job, up 16% on a similar survey the firm conducted last year.

"In theory [a second job] is a good idea," said Mr Alan Price, managing director with Peninsula Ireland. "A second job means higher income, but it can pose problems for both the boss and the employee. HR laws need to be looked at to ensure that no one is breaking the law by working too many hours in one week," he said.

"Another problem you face is employee fatigue and this may well become a health and safety concern, so it’s something that both the employee and the employer need to address."

Spending more time at work means less time at home, and that brings other pressures to bear on families already struggling to cope.

“Working longer hours may not necessarily be good for your health, and people can get easily overwhelmed when they take on a second job,” commented Mr Price. "Before considering a second job look at all the risks and weigh up the benefits. It may well be that you will be in a worse-off situation, especially after taking into account travel, taxes, any other expenses,

“Think about the lack of quality time at home and any implications on your health; there really is a lot to take into account.”

If money is the primary motivator for the second Job, workers may be better served looking at opportunities to increase their earning potential in their primary role, advised Mr Price.

“There may be better ways to improve marketability, training and education,” he said. "Look to see if there are extra skills required for jobs that pay more money, such as supervisory roles. Have you expressed an interest to your employer that you would like to be considered for these better-paid roles?”

Anyone considering taking on an additional job would do well to heed the advice and consider the long term consequences rather than just the short term gain of a boosted income. Long hours, frayed nerves and exhaustion can have serious legal and safety implications, could adversely impact your performance in your primary job and potentially exact a heavy personal toll on you and your family. If you’re considering another job to plug a shortfall in your finances make sure you explore all of the options available to you, and are aware of the potential pitfalls before you make the decision.

Feb 242010
 
Keep your career on track

Image by graciepoo via Flickr

With the economy still making things tough for job-seekers, and businesses still shedding staff at every turn, now is the time when workers everywhere should be working hard to progress their career goals and prove their worth to their employer. You may feel like sitting tight, keeping your head beneath the parapets and waiting out the economic siege, but its during times of adversity that real talent is tested and true commitment shines through. Standing out for the right reasons during the hard times will not only make your employer want to hold on to you when the chips are down, but will also put you right up on top of the heap in terms of progressing your career when things turn around again

  • Embrace change: many workplaces have changed radically in recent times… and the best workers are those who can adapt readily to those changes. A lot of businesses are having to do more with fewer resources. If you’re open to new ways of working, learning new skills and taking on more responsibility, you’ll be well positioned to progress your career when things improve.
  • Explore new opportunities: just because times are tough it doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there… changes in your organisations structure, client base or work processes can give you the chance to change roles, retrain to learn a new skill, volunteer to lead a project, implement a new cost-saving idea… or whatever. Keep a look out for any opportunity that will have a positve impact on your career.

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Dec 272009
 
New year - which direction?

Image by randihausken via Flickr

It’s the start of a brand new year. What better time to take stock of your career, examine your options and set a few goals to keep you on track, or perhaps even change direction. Here are some of our suggestions for some work-related resolutions you could set yourself for 2010.

  • Learn, baby learn: whether it’s brushing up on existing skills or developing new ones, it’s never been more important to keep your skills current than it is today. The broader your skill-set the more valuable you are as an employee, and that can deliver all sorts of benefits.
  • Embrace technology: technology is reshaping the modern workplace, familiarise yourself with the latest technology and how it’s helping your industry to grow and evolve. Understanding technology and its role in your organisation will help you to do your job more effectively.
  • Update the CV: things can change rapidly in todays workplace, and it never hurts to be prepared. While we’d certainly advocate tailoring your CV for specific job applications, having a generic, up-to-date template to work from will save you time, and help you hit the ground running if you do find yourself job-hunting.
  • Learn a language: learning a new language can be invaluable if your business puts you in contact with people overseas on a regular basis, but can also be an empowering and life-enriching experience on a personal level… it’s a win-win.
  • Get organised: resolve to tidy those files, clear out old e-mails, review your contact list. Re-evaluating your records and clearing out the dead wood is a great way to refocus your priorities and get a bit of perspective as you head into the new year.
  • Build your network: establish a personal goal to meet and network with more people on a regular basis. Set yourself a network expansion target of, say, 5 new people each month, and try to stick to it. Expanding your professional network can have all kinds of knock-on benefits. It’s normal to be a little apprehensive at first, but once you get over the initial trepidation meeting new people is fun and productive.
  • Read more: pick five key best-selling business books that are relevant to you professionally, and make a point of reading them during the course of the year.
  • Make more me time: setting a goal to create more time aside for yourself and your family may seem counterintuitive in a list of resolutions for your career, but feeling more fulfilled outside work will actually have a tremendously positive impact on your career.
  • Save more: planning to put more money aside for the future is always a good idea. At the moment that’s a tough proposition for many workers, but we’re getting used to tightening our belts. When the inevitable turnaround comes, and prospects improve, chances are that we won’t miss a little extra cash diverted into our savings every month.
  • Look after number one: perhaps its a bit of a cliché, but the concept of a healthy body and a healthy mind is crucial to career success. You can only operate at your peak, at work or at play, if you take care of yourself. Could you eat more healthily, or do more regular exercise? The fitter and healthier you are, the better you’ll perform at work.
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Dec 212009
 
More Bad News ...

Image via Wikipedia

You can view Communicating bad news at work – Part 1 here.

(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing At Work newsletter)

Chances are you’ve read or heard more bad news on the jobs front over the last week. There’s no getting around it, things are tough out there for employers and employees alike, and are likely to remain so for the short term.

Sooner or later in your working life your going to encounter bad news, and, if you’re progressing in your career, and are responsible for a team of people, the job of communicating that bad news to others is going to fall on your shoulders. This week we continue with our tips to help make passing on bad news at work a little less painful for everyone involved.

  • Speed and consistency are paramount: when you’re communicating bad news you can’t rely on the trickle-down approach to spread the word — have a plan for getting a consistent, coherent message to all relevant people in the organisation as soon as possible once the news breaks. The last thing you want is delays feeding rumour and speculation.
  • A little compassion goes a long way: you’re probably sorry to be the bearer of bad news, and genuinely regret the circumstances that make it necessary. But the pressure of passing on the bad news can easily mask that. Don’t let it. Showing that you empathise with people, and telling them that you’re sorry about a situation isn’t an admission of guilt or liability. It simply shows that you care.

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Nov 302009
 
Christmas Party (1998) album cover

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While some companies may choose to skip the traditional office Christmas party this year, many more will go ahead with the seasonal merriment, seeing it as a way to boost employee morale at the end of what has, for many, been an incredibly harrowing year.

Of course, for some workers the prospect of a looming Christmas party could be the most harrowing thing of all, but love it or loathe it, this is potentially a very trick event for anyone who’s career minded.

To avoid waking up the next morning, looking back and cringing at your exploits in front of your co-workers and boss the night before, we’ve compiled this handy office Christmas party survival guide just in time for the start of the silly season:

  • Watch what you drink: this sounds obvious, but is the single most important thing you need to remembers. Yes you want to let your hair down and have a bit of fun, but you don’t want to be the one falling over on the dance floor mid-way through the night. Enjoy a few social drinks with work colleagues… but pace yourself, and keep a clear head.
  • Don’t be the first to arrive, or the last to leave: you don’t want to be sitting alone at the bar when everyone else starts to arrive, and being the last to leave can suggest that you don’t know when to call it a night.
  • Leave office politics at work: this isn’t somewhere to score points or snipe at your work colleagues. This is a social engagement, and in the spirit of the season you should aim to keep things social; so, no spreading malicious gossip or venting work-based frustrations.
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Nov 222009
 
Lost: Celtic Tiger

Image by jaqian via Flickr

In a few short years the employment market has been turned on its head. From a position that was biased in favour of candidates during the halcyon days when the Celtic Tiger roared, job seekers today find themselves facing an employment market that’s very much skewed towards the employer.

With a broader selection of  candidates employers can afford to be choosy, and more demanding. It’s not unusual today for employers to include a long list of requirements in their job descriptions, things like a certain amount of experience in a particular industry sector, knowledge of an obscure programming language and fluency in a particular language. With so many people applying for every job advertised at the moment there’s a fairly good chance they’ll tick all of their boxes.

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Nov 022009
 
job hunting

Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Looking for work in a suppressed economy can be more than just an uphill struggle… it can be a soul-destroying experience. Unless you approach it with the right attitude, the inevitable knock-backs will chip away at your self-confidence and erode your self belief to dangerously low levels.  It’s a vicious circle… if you don’t believe in yourself, what are the chances of an employer believing that you’re the right person for the job?

Staying strong and maintaining your focus in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds can be difficult. It’s important to remember that not getting a particular job, or even an interview, isn’t the end of the world… nor is it necessarily a negative reflection of your skills, ability or experience relative to the role. There are literally thousands of things that influence an employers decision on who and who not to hire. In an incredibly over-populated labour market employers are inundated with tidal wave of applications for practically every vacancy they advertise. Not getting a job offer at the end of the process is the de-facto standard when it comes to job-hunting, and in a recession it’s ten times worse.

If you’re looking for work, and are starting to lose your enthusiasm, here are a few things you can try to help keep your spirits up when the inevitable knock-backs come.

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