Christmas comes round really rather regularly at the same time every year, but somehow, for many of us it takes us by surprise. Carols start being played in the shops, these days, around the second week in November, which tends to jar a little. “It’s too early”, we moan to the checkout person. “I know”, they groan back at us. But is it? Ok, hearing “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” every time you go into a shop for the six weeks in the run up to the big day can get a little wearing, but is it a good reminder that we should really get a move on?

There are some people that seem to deal effortlessly with Christmas. And they can’t help smugly mentioning that that they finished wrapping all their presents weeks ago when so far you’ve only bought a pair of novelty socks. So what’s going on?

The truth is many of these people are just more organised and more disciplined than the rest of us and if you look closely there’s a good chance they are like that at work too. Are you?

Here are some tips for dealing with this crazy time and your work in general.

Set the deadline early
Is your deadline for Christmas the 25th? How about making it the 17th, for example? Plan to get everything bought and wrapped and ordered by that day, then you’ll be less stressed and have some contingency.

Think about your work deadlines. How often do you honestly set the deadline a week earlier? P.S. It doesn’t count if you then say “but it’s ok, I’ve really still got a week!”

Make lists
Use an app to note down everything you need to do as you think of it. ‘’ is a good one. Then make a list of all the presents you have bought as you buy them, adding in present ideas as you think of them. A spreadsheet is a good idea for this so you can filter and sort it. It’ll help you keep track and you won’t forget about all those presents you bought the second week in November in a panic as the carols started playing.

At work, try making a list of your tasks and tick them off. Use a planning application if you know how. Note what you need to do and what you’ve done.

Trust your judgement and get on with it
When you see a present that would be perfect for Uncle Bill – JUST BUY IT! Don’t think “I’ll get it next week because it’s too early now/I’m not sure/ it’s too crowded”. It’s only going to get worse; it will remain like a splinter in your brain until you decide you are going to buy it and then there won’t be any more left!

At work, stop procrastinating about the tasks ahead; believe you have the capability to achieve them now and stop making excuses. Just do it.

Set enough time aside and ask for help
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to sort and wrap presents, for example. Set aside a day or a couple of evenings to do it and get your partner to do it with you. If they are going to enjoy the day too they should be part of the preparation.

At work, overestimate how long everything will take because it will always take longer than you think. And ask for help when you need it.

If you’re the partner who does absolutely nothing at Christmas, consider how you behave at work: would you ignore colleagues or staff if they were working towards something you were invested in? Probably not. So pull your finger out and offer your services to your partner who, in all likelihood, at this moment, feels like they are about to completely lose it!

(Oh and start writing the cards, like now!)

Reference: Abintegro

19 Nov 2015

time management

Source: How just writing a 30-60-90 day plan can get you the job (without even handing it in)

Source: How just writing a 30-60-90 day plan can get you the job (without even handing it in)

Source: How just writing a 30-60-90 day plan can get you the job (without even handing it in)

There’s a bit of a buzz around 30-60-90 day plans at the moment. Written plans that detail as far as possible what you would aim to achieve in the first three months of a new job and how you would do it, they are often hailed as the magic pill for interview success.

A lot of sites advocate taking the plan to the final stages of interview and presenting it to the interviewer, which can be impressive, and if it’s been specifically requested then of course you must comply. However, the problem is that unless you do it very well it can backfire, leaving you looking a weaker candidate than if you hadn’t handed one in at all.

Nevertheless, the process you go through to produce a 30-60-90 day plan can be incredibly useful in the interviewing process without actually handing anything in.

At almost any interview you’ll face questions such as
“What do you think a day in the life of this role would be like?”
“What tasks/responsibilities might the role have?”
“What objectives/goals might you set yourself in the first 30/60/90 days?”
“What would be the three things you’d like to find out?”
“What would you need in order to make the best possible start?”

All these questions can be answered when a little thought has gone into a three-month plan.

Although every role is different and every manager will have different expectations you can use the plan as a guideline for thinking through how you’d hit the ground running in any job. Here are some examples:

First 30 days – this is when expectations of you are at their lowest; it’s your opportunity to get to know the people, culture, systems and build rapport; find out how the company really works and what’s really expected of you; it’s your time to ask the dumb questions. So think about what you can do to find out as much as you possibly can in the first 30 days.

30-60 days – What observations have you made? What do you need to discover more about? What’s going to be important to your success in the role. You may be expected to give your first impressions and maybe offer some ideas or make some small changes or additions that will benefit the team.

60-90 days – This is often the end of a probation period and the balance shifts from learning to starting to execute in the role. You will have clarified your objectives, you’ll be taking some real responsibility, making real progress. There will be some simple things you’ve managed to suggest or implement to benefit the company. You’ll be embedded in the role. What will you aim to do differently in this third month?

By sitting down with the job description, your research of the role, industry and company, the contact details of anybody that might be able to help and really thinking about what you might achieve in the first 30, 60 and 90 days you go beyond what most candidates consider and, additionally, you generate insightful questions that show an interviewer that you really care about the job.

Whether you’re experienced or not the work you put in to your plan will be reflected in your interview performance; it will demonstrate effort and knowledge and more than anything it will show that you really, really want the job – vital to any hiring manager.

So if you really want it, put in the effort and plan.

Reference: abintegro;

12 Nov 2015

The four things you need to do after an interview

To quote baseball speak: it’s never over till it’s over. After all those hours of preparation and the stress of the job interview itself, the temptation is to leave events at the meeting room door and enjoy some well-earned relaxation time.

There’s still plenty to be done, however, especially if it helps to improve your chances of getting the job or indeed future positions. Here are some useful important steps to follow:

1. Debrief yourself
While things are still fresh, now’s the perfect time to deconstruct events and to analyse what worked well and what didn’t. Use the return journey home (or perhaps back to work) to debrief, make a note of the more challenging questions you were asked and evaluate your interview strengths and weaknesses. While perhaps the last thing you feel like doing, it’s extremely useful for honing your technique.

2. Say thank you
Now safely back in front of your home computer, a quick thank you note or email, ideally within 24 hours of the interview, is always recommended. As well as being a standard courtesy, it will help the interviewer to remember you. Even if this doesn’t translate into a concrete job offer, it could lead to a referral or recommendation further down the line.

3. Follow up
Waiting to hear back on their decision is perhaps the most agonising part of the application process. A well-considered follow-up email can help to keep you in the loop and, if nothing else, will keep you in you at the forefront of the hiring manager’s thoughts. Try sending something to pique his or her interest: an article on a topic discussed at interview, or evidence of work you’ve done on the subject.

4. Don’t stop searching
Don’t count your chickens: one promising interview does not a formal job offer make. It’s sensible to keep as many irons in the fire as possible, so make sure to keep your job search ticking over on all fronts.

While this may seem like a long to-do list, it’s important to strike while the iron’s hot and keep any positive momentum from your interview going. You can be sure that your competitors are doing the very same thing.

Reference: CIO; Forbes; Boston

Creating a coaching climate

The dream environment of many an organisation is one where managers and employees are able to communicate consistently and openly around their personal, professional and organisational performance and development. And there’s good reason for that aspiration: research shows it can make a significant difference to an organisation’s development and long-term performance.

This might seem like something of a utopian scenario, but with an effective, well-structured coaching programme in place, that level of communication can become embedded within the very fabric of your organisation. Establishing the right coaching climate for that programme to flourish, however, is far from straightforward and requires time, effort and involvement at all levels of the organisation. Here are three steps to help you along the way:

1. Seek top-level commitment
The first step towards a consistent coaching climate is to identify one or more senior leaders to be the flag-bearers for your approach. As well as being someone others point to as an example of a great coach and inspiration to their team, these individuals should be acting in a way that gives the right message about coaching across the organisation; they should be people who will spread the word and commit to tackling any barriers or opposition that could arise along the way.

2. Spread the skill
With the right role models in place, there need to be measures in place to allow enthusiasm and understanding of coaching to filter through the organisation. This means making training opportunities readily available across all levels while actively encouraging employees to engage with your approach. Don’t assume this will happen automatically: managers need skilling up in order to deliver effective coaching conversations to their teams who will in turn require training in order to receive their full benefit.

3. Stop and take stock
Once integrated, it’s important to revisit your coaching climate at regular intervals. Like any new policy or strategy, it requires regular attention to see what’s going well and where things could be working better. Think of it as a garden, one that requires regular watering and upkeep in order for the plants within it to grow and flourish.

When it comes to introducing a coaching climate to your organisation there really is no quick fix. Interest and engagement in coaching need to be cultured throughout the organisation along with an understanding of how to deliver and receive it. Rest assured: with the right building blocks in place, there’s every chance of success.

10 Jun 2015
mentors, management,
Reference: Abintegro

How to explain unemployment on your CV, resume and LinkedIn

As we know, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. That’s all well and good, but try telling it to your future boss. While most hiring managers understand that unemployment is part and parcel of working life, as a job seeker, the anxiety of deciding how to reveal your job loss to a prospective employer can make an already challenging situation even more stressful.

Fortunately, there are always things you can do to soften the impact of any employment gap on your application or job-seeking material.

Being upfront about your current job status is usually the more sensible strategy and will avoid any potentially awkward recriminations. Removing the ‘Current Role’ or equivalent heading from your CV/ resume is an obvious first step, while also making sure to switch your last role from ‘current’ to ‘previous’ on your LinkedIn profile.

That said, there’s no requirement to label yourself as ‘currently’ unemployed, nor is there a need to detail the exact length of your employment gap in months (years are fine for long periods of hiatus). The same applies to covering letters: clearly state that you are looking for work, without necessarily feeling obligated to go into details about the hows and whys of your unemployment.

Having opened up about your employment status, it’s up to you to paint as positive a picture of your situation as possible.

Employers will naturally be wary of skill atrophy, especially if you’ve been a long time out of the workforce, so look to include details of temporary or consulting work at the top of your CV. Volunteering is also important and LinkedIn now provides users with a separate section dedicated to detailing this kind of work experience on their profile page.

In both cases, make sure to highlight any significant achievements or skills you have learnt, and how these have contributed to your professional development. These, along with further study or training, are all things you can showcase in more detail in your covering letter.

Being out of work can happen to the best of us and is certainly nothing to feel ashamed about. Yet it’s still up to you to present the experience in the best possible light and to show it hasn’t dulled your abilities or enthusiasm for your work.

11 Jun 2015
Reference: Forbes; Business Insider: Fast Company; The Guardian

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