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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.

Continue reading »

Feb 112010
Virtual Resume & Letter

Image by Olivier Charavel via Flickr

While economies around the globe lumber painfully out of recession, and there are signs of improvement on the jobs front, finding and getting the right job for you in today’s market is still incredibly challenging. With spring around the corner now is the perfect time to break out the metaphorical duster and give your job-seekers tool kit a much needed spring clean. It may be just the edge you need to land your perfect job.

Polish that CV

When was the last time you took a good long look at your CV to make sure it’s both up-to-date and up-to-scratch? Fish it out now, and go through every little detail to make sure it’s accurate and current. Don’t forget that both the information and the way its presented needs to be tailored to the sort of jobs you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more than one type of job, you probably need more than one type of CV — so create templates for each based on your generic master copy to suit the jobs you want to apply for.

Contact your referees

If you’ve listed references on your applications or have mentioned that they’re “available on request” on your CV, take a few moments to actually make contact with your nominated referees and let them know that you’re looking for a job. That way any request for a reference won’t come “out-of-the-blue”, and they’ll be more prepared to deliver that glowing reference that will set you apart from other candidates. Are the references you have listed the best ones… are are their contact details up-to-date, or would you be better off replacing some of them entirely? Continue reading »

Feb 022010
3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept

Image by lumaxart via Flickr

There’s a general perception in business that a tough, no-nonsense, target driven approach is the key to effective leadership through tough economic times. But new research from the UK challenges that long-held assumption, and suggests instead that it’s leaders who concentrate on building effective relationships with their teams who really stand out when the going gets tough

According to UK workplace think-tank The Work Foundation, effective leaders put people and relationships front-and-centre as they strive to tackle the challenges of the recession. Based on over 250 in-depth qualitative interviews, the two-year study, "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership", proves that highly people-centred leaders, rather than their target-obsessed, autocratic counterparts that consistently deliver outstanding performance in organisations.

The findings could have profound implications for how organisations assess and measure the performance of their leaders; for the criteria used to select potential leaders, and the training and development techniques used to foster effective leadership; and on the way individuals approach their own personal development at work.

"The evidence from our research indicates there needs to be a paradigm shift for all leaders who remain fixated on numbers and targets," explained lead author Penny Tamkin. "Outstanding leaders focus on people, attitudes and engagement, co-creating vision and strategy. Instead of one-to-one meetings centred on tasks, they seek to understand people and their motives. Instead of developing others through training and advice, they do this through challenge and support. They manage performance holistically, attending to the mood and behaviour of their people as well as organisational objectives. And instead of seeing people as one of many priorities, they put the emphasis on people issues first."

Six high-profile UK organisations took part in the study, including EDF Energy, Guardian Media Group, Tesco and Unilever. One of the most striking elements to emerge from the research was the stark contrast between the behaviour of merely "good" and truly "outstanding" leaders. Until all the interviews were completed and analysed, researchers were unaware of whether the leaders participating in the study were deemed "outstanding" or "good" in terms of their achievements and how they were perceived by those reporting directly to them.

"Outstanding leaders are focussed on performance but they see people as the means of achieving great performance and themselves as enablers," added author Gemma Pearson. "They don’t seek out the limelight for themselves but challenge, stretch and champion others, giving them the space and support to excel."

The report reveals three key principles that were common to outstanding leaders in the study group:

  • They think and act systemically, seeing the whole picture rather than compartmentalising
  • They see people as the sole route to performance and are deeply people and relationship centred rather than just people oriented
  • They are self-confident without being arrogant; they are aware of their strengths and their position of influence, yet use these for the benefit of their organisation and its people.

"Our findings strongly suggest that an approach which connects leaders to people and people to purpose defines outstanding leadership. Leadership that focuses on mutuality and respect is not only good for people but good for organisations too," said Tamkin.

The full report "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership" is available for download from

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Jan 282010
E-mail in notes

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While it may seem that e-mail’s pre-eminence as a digital communications medium is waning as other, more "sexy" Internet applications grab the limelight, the truth is that e-mail is still the stalwart of business communication, and it’s likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

E-mail’s near instant delivery, the ability to send messages to groups of recipients simultaneously, and the ability to seamlessly attach business documents, files and photos has resulted in a highly flexible, incredibly valuable business tool. There are now, arguably, more effective ways to do all of those things — but when you consider the way that e-mail combines them into a single application that is practically ubiquitous throughout the business world, and you begin to see that it will be some time before real time collaboration and social media usurpers topple the king of business communication from its throne.

While e-mail is, undeniably, a great asset to business, keeping your corporate inbox under control can be a challenge, and dealing with incoming e-mail inefficiently can be an enormous time waster.

A survey of global members by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) revealed that people generally believe that they receive too much e-mail, send too much e-mail and that the time they spend dealing with unimportant e-mail every day has a detrimental affect on their productivity.

Over 80% of respondents admitted that they constantly monitor their incoming e-mail throughout the working day, 40% indicated they spent at least two hours in a typical working day responding to e-mail , and over a third said they spend 3 hours or more doing so.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly monitoring, sorting and replying to a never-ending stream of e-mail, and unless you take control of your electronic inbox, before long you’ll realist that it’s actually controlling you.

Take control of your inbox

  • Make a positive start: try and avoid checking your e-mail as soon as you arrive at your desk in the morning. Pick something more productive to work on first — achieve something tangible before firing up your e-mail client. Making a productive start to the day will help you to maintain your focus throughout the day.
  • A time and a place: constant monitoring: of e-mail is a major distraction. Instead of listening for the "ding-dong" tone of a new message landing in your inbox, try checking it three or four times a day at prescribed times. Set aside designated periods for dealing with e-mail, and stick to them. Not only will you be less distracted, you’ll find that when you do deal with your incoming mail you do so in a more focussed and productive manner.
  • Use your tools: most e-mail software comes with a series built in filters that can automatically block unwanted mail and sort the mail you do want into specific folders for you. Most of your regular e-mail can be auto-magically sorted in this way, leaving your inbox less cluttered (if you’re not sure about using filters ask your IT department or a tech-savvy colleague for help).
  • Only answer if necessary: before hitting reply, consider whether a response is really necessary. Will your message contribute something positive, or simply clog up someone else’s inbox, probably prompting another unnecessary reply in return?
  • Reply to the right people: if you absolutely must reply to an e-mail, steer clear of the "Reply to All" option, which will copy your response to every recipient of the original e-mail . Unless that’s absolutely necessary, simply send your reply to the sender, and spare everyone elses inbox an unnecessary message.
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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.

Continue reading »

Dec 092009
Bad News Bad Drawing

Image by Orin Zebest via Flickr

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

Bad news is rife in the world of business and employment today. It’s a fact of life as companies struggle to get to grips with the subdued economy. If you’re managing or supervising staff, there’s a fair chance you’ll find yourself delivering bad news to your team at one point or another, and how you choose to communicate that news can make a huge difference.

"No one ever wants to receive bad news, and no one wants to communicate it either," says business communications specialist Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. "Delivering bad news is a huge communication challenge. It requires great care, especially if the news is upsetting rather than merely inconvenient."

Breaking bad news can be a nerve racking and difficult experience for even the most seasoned business communicator, but if you find yourself passing on bad tidings at work consider following some of these tips to help ease the pain:

Continue reading »

Nov 302009

Image via Wikipedia

Sir Anthony O’Reilly, Dermot Desmond, John Magnier, JP McManus, Dennis O’Brien, Sean Quinn, Michael O’Leary… they are very different people from an eclectic mix of backgrounds and businesses – but they all have one thing in common: they are among the very best known and most successful of Ireland’s entrepreneurs.

But being an entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily mean aspiring to the dizzy heights of the super rich. According to the Collins English Dictionary an entrepreneur is “the owner or manager of a business enterprise who, by risk and initiative, attempts to make profits”. That definition encapsulates pretty much every start-up venture in the country. So what about you? Is there an entrepreneur inside you waiting to be unleashed?

Continue reading »

Nov 302009
Christmas Party (1998) album cover

Image via Wikipedia

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.
  • Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »