Employability is one of those words that sounds like a think tank have spent a month inventing it; it sounds like it is for someone else, someone who is in the loop and has got the ‘Employability’ text book and has been studying and working on it for years right? Well let’s just put all of that to one side, forget the word for a few minutes and look at what it really means to you in simple terms that you can relate to your life, your career and your future shall we?
I quite like the Manchester Met University definition which is “Employability is the development of skills, abilities and personal attributes that enhance students’ capability to secure rewarding and satisfying outcomes in their economic, social and community lives”
Knight and Yorke came up with a neat definition too; "A set of achievements, understandings and personal attributes that make individuals more likely to gain employment and to be successful in their chosen occupations".
And the CBI say it is “A set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace – to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy.”
So let’s strip our definition back to who you are, what you know, what you can do and what you have done and how they relate to the job or career you might best achieve using all that stuff. I say job or career because I know that despite the market place insisting that we should all want careers some of you are in the 'work to live' camp and see your working life as a series of short(ish) periods with an employer rather than the ‘career’ partnership with one or two employers that everyone says you should want.
Let’s now break those key elements down into the constituent parts and try to understand what each of them means to you and how you can do a little work to understand them better and use them to get what you want.
Who You Are:
This bit is very much about your personal brand about the things that make you uniquely you and which dictate how the world experiences you. It’s 'what people say about you when you are not in the room'. This bit is not about who you should be like or putting on any kind of an act. It’s about being the best version of you that you can be; both authentic (real) and appropriate (suitable) so that the interviewer get’s to see the real you. Let’s face it if the real you turns up and is interested in the job and shows all of the great qualities that you have as a human being then you are off to a flying start!
As a recruiter I know that other recruiters are looking for some essential personality attributes that will make them interested in a candidate; self-awareness, confidence, clear moral and ethical standards, friendly and open etc... let them see what a great person you are by making sure that you remember this bit and don’t get distracted into just talking about the stuff you need to know and be able to do because sometimes who you are can make a massive difference to the recruiters decision making process.
I have often weighed up this choice:
Candidate One – great person, positive and energised needs skills and knowledge development and academic qualifications not top of the class
Candidate Two – didn’t feel I got the know them or their motivation, seems to know the job and is clearly bright and able
And you should know that I consistently recruited Candidate One and was proven right to do so!
Ask yourself what is my brand; what words do I want to have associated with my personality and behaviours by everyone I meet? Then be those words, walk the talk and allow the world to see how fantastic you are. It can and will open doors for you.
What You Know:
Of course there are roles where your knowledge will be key in opening doors to job and career opportunities; there is no escaping the fact that some jobs need you to have a background or specific knowledge base. But you can again do yourself a favour here by research, familiarisation and interest in the sector, industry and a very real desire to learn. Also think about parallel or similar knowledge that you have that can be translated easily into specific knowledge.
What You Can Do:
Might be some things that you have done, can do and can show you have done that are very specific to any job, I’m not talking about those today as I assume that you will be applying for jobs where your level of experience matches the role requirements, that you are being realistic; but there are also lots of other things that you can do that they need to know that you can do, as when they add up they might tip the balance. Communication, customer service, sales, IT, projects, organisation etc all add up to a critical mass of abilities...
What You Have Done:
This might be anything from the standard list of jobs and job titles and responsibilities that you will find listed in the blog on here about CV’s, standard stuff. But it can also be about you thinking laterally about ‘what you have done’ and coming up with some awesome examples that may not be directed job related but can do the same job of convincing and persuading someone that you have got what it takes.
The word competency is a constant in recruitment and employment and the On-line Business Dictionary have a neat definition. They say it is 'a cluster of related abilities, commitments, knowledge and skills that enable a person to act effectively in a job or situation.'
So let’s dwell on that for a moment. You've no doubt done lots of things in your life that qualify for one or more of those categories even if you don’t think you have. Do you need an example to get you thinking in the right way? Ok, well at a UK University I was presenting an ‘Employability’ workshop and asked the question of the group, 'what competencies do you have that an employer would be interested in?' I asked one the students sitting at the back of the lecture theatre for his input which he brushed off by saying he had none, I asked further and found out that he was the captain of the University 2nd XV Rugby Union Team.
I asked him to come up to the front and work with me for 5 minutes on his competencies to see if we could find any. Five minutes later we had a list of at least 10 management competencies and experience that would make him a very appealing candidate for any graduate recruiter; he was experienced (through his captaincy role) in recruitment (picking the team), budget management (membership fees, match fees, paying for transport, pitches, laundry) conflict resolution (telling lads they were not picked) and logistics (getting the team to games, organising coaches and routes) etc etc....makes you think right?
So I guess I am saying that you should value your brand and express it, understand all of your attributes, experiences and competencies and then celebrate them both when putting your CV together and at interview. You may just be the perfect candidate but they will never know unless you show them everything you have to offer and give them a chance to see how awesome you are.
Employability is not about a decision that employers make, it is about you and how you acquire, use, explain and demonstrate everything that you have to give to an employer.
They will be receptive trust me.
What is an Assessment Centre?
Assessment Centres are designed to assess your performance in a range of situations and are generally used by employers as the second or final filter in their selection process after preliminary interviews or screening has taken place. Likely to be designed around assessing you against the job competencies required. Can be long, varied and demanding!
How do I stand out?
How should I behave socially?
Paul Goring has organised, written, hosted and reviewed a host of graduate assessment centres and is a key player in the Consortio Assessment Centre Services that we offer to both industry and through our employability in education programme.
Things have changed in the world of work, you might have noticed! The relationship between employer and employee has fundamentally changed; nothing is forever and the increased influence of the threat of redundancy, the proliferation of zero hours contracts and benefits packages being stripped back to basics all mean that we all have to constantly be looking after our career, ourselves and our futures without the lovely kind maternal employer being there to help us to map out a career path for the next 10 years.
That means that we all have to adopt some attitudes and behaviours and develop more skills that we have not used in the past; and for some of us that might feel a bit odd.
What exactly does it mean to be your own career manager? How does it apply to the real world and the time you have available to do other things beyond working and playing?
In simple terms I would suggest that being your own career manager means:
1. never assuming anything about the future of your current role
2. always working on a Plan B
3. keeping your CV up to date and relevant (every 3-6 months)
4. keeping a constant eye on the job market in your field and location
5. maintaining a healthy network of ex-colleagues through Linked In
6. finding an agency that will be happy to work long term with you
7. never saying never to any opportunity
8. embracing the concept of competencies and focus on transferable ones
9. working on your lucid stories*
10. posting your CV confidentially on line on the most suitable job boards
11. not taking anything personally
12. owning your decisions
So what is the point of the items listed and what order should you place them in?
Some of the points in the list are more statements than call to action points. Point 1) is just about understanding the market, your place in the market and the likelihood of things changing. Businesses can merge, close down, move location, down-size, reorganise and refocus their operational output without much warning and things can happen very quickly after that. Being proactive and not reactive means you will probably be able to hit the ground running if things change; you will be ready and primed for action not staggered, shocked and unready.
Plan B is always useful. It probably includes most of the subsequent points in the list. It is short-hand I guess for keeping your options open and having thought processes in place to use when and if things change in your current role.
The rest of the list is about the how. The things that make sense for us all to do as an ongoing thing. You can call it Career MOT, Career Health-Check or just good sense! Having a set of tools to use when the time comes is crucial; the best attitude and forethought in the world falls flat if you have to start from scratch with the building blocks of your solution.
Have a CV ready to go, up to date, relevant and something you are proud of. Take a look at other blog content on here about how to do that but suffice to say that you should be revisiting this every 3-6 months and do a good job in reinventing your CV every time you review it. Make sure the Personal Statement speaks to the reader and is an authentic reflection of you and be proud of the content, own it and share it.
The rest of the list speaks for itself, *lucid stories do appear in another blog on here so have a look at that to explain the concept, that aside it is just simple common sense stuff that will put you in a the best position to respond to internal and external opportunities and to respond to changes in your work environment.
Being your own career manager is a habit, a daily / weekly / monthly habit that you get used to and which feels natural after a while. Like brushing your teeth it's something that will in the long term reap benefits.
Being your own career manager is also a state of mind. It's about accepting that nobody else is really responsible for your career, that no-one can be expected to care more than you do about it and that as the world of work changes, it is the sensible and prudent approach to work life - not letting things happen to you but instead being ready to respond to anything that comes in a positive and proactive way.
Paul Goring 2015
There are people that can and people that can't apparently....and I get that in some ways; natural extroverts who can perform under the spot-light at the drop of a hat and offer entertaining informing and effective presentations do exists but they are a lot thinner on the ground than you might think...
It is possible to make yourself into a very able presenter, to manage the nerves, understand the mechanics of being effective and interesting and actually come to quite enjoy them rather than dreading them and avoiding them like the plague..
I suggest that you ask yourself a few basic questions every time you are asked to present:
You also need to understand what kind of presentation you are delivering:
You will conclude that probably it is a mixture of a few of the key aspects above. Your Personal Brand Influence is simply how you can impact the presentation being successful by offering your unique delivery to the words and images and that is about the music of your voice, your animation (hands and body) your eye contact, your movement around the space, your smile and your presence....all of these are key to being noticed, entertaining, persuading and effective.
Worried that you might not have then star quality to wow and audience? Well there are some key ingredients that always impress and engage; professionalism and humour in the right mix, you can get an audience on side with both in the right measure depending on who they are and what they want from the presentation. Your call but judge it right and you will have them interested! Also jeopardy, meaning what happens if....they don't buy, agree or engage with your product / concept. Tell them a story, everyone loves a good story, make it interesting but give it a sting, the what happened when...sting that underpins your argument...also practice the living daylights out of your words and actions, make them natural but use your script, picture prompts and actions to underline your point, be lucid and confident and they will naturally want to listen.
Confidence is about knowing what you aim to say, how you will say it and having purpose. Introvert or extrovert aside, practice does make perfect but a sense of purpose really is the key. Authenticity and personal investment all reap huge rewards and as the old adage says 'people buy from people' it is true and you have the power to control that in your audience.
Most of all have fun with it; enjoy the fact that you can have a real and lasting impact on the audience in terms of their reaction to, thoughts about and actions after your presentation. We offer one to one presentation / performance coaching that really can make a huge difference, based on the above principles and the support of expert and informed observation, feedback and skills development. It does not need to be something you dread in fact it can be something you relish and thrive at...
copyright Paul Goring 2014
Ten ways to make sure that you and your staff members get the most from every 1 to 1 / appraisal that you conduct in your business:
1. Quality Document
Take your time to make sure you either complete the Company Appraisal / One to One document well. Sounds obvious but it can be tempting to 'wing it' or just have a bunch of performance stats to rely on... Whether hand written or typed make it look great, spell things correctly, use good grammar - show in the content that you have taken time to think about the staff member in detail; make it not just about performance numbers, mistakes and a motivational chat - they will feel special if you have taken time to make the document unique and detailed for them. If you don't use a standard document then:
A. Think about introducing one; they work!
B. Make sure your notes are detailed, accurate and in your hand when you start...again show the staff member that this is as important to you as it is to them..
2. Right Time / Right Place
Yes you are busy and have a schedule to be aware of but try and make the meeting happen at a time and in place when the staff member will be at their most at ease and responsive. Are they a morning person? Are they best on a Monday or a Friday? Would they benefit from a coffee down the street or a formal meeting room in the office? And back to the theme of making them feel special and combining that with being professional and efficient; get there on time every time - it sets standards and shows the staff member that they matter.
There is a need to strike a balance between being time effective, organised and professional and simply rushing because you have lots to do; messages need to be heard and absorbed - saying what you want to say is important but it is so much more important that you are heard and understood. Saying things that are important slowly and deliberately means they will be heard, repeating them in the summary means they will be remembered. Making the staff member feel special and important is crucial and taking the time and using the time you have to its maximum will help.
It is essential that the staff member agrees with the performance targets set. There must be a contract between you; saying that something will happen is not a guarantee that it will - contracting between you that it will happen, how and when is a much better bet. Getting them to repeat and confirm what has been agreed and you being able to interpret how they say it and whether they mean it is crucial. So what we have agreed is....do you understand what we have agreed....so I can note that you have committed to...make them say yes and challenge them if it does not sound convincing!
5. Reading the situation
This kind of meeting is not just about your 'script' and making sure you have said everything - it is about the staff member hearing you and responding and then between you agreeing what happens next. It is easy to follow a form and impose your needs and wants but looking for and responding to body language and clues in their verbal responses will allow you to make sure the important things get said, the performance improvements are accepted and agreed and things change. Be prepared to go away from your plan if you need to, collect information and if necessary return to the meeting later when you have thought it through.
Don't expect the staff member to get excited and passionate about the meeting content if you aren't. Use your hands, eyes, voice and body language to inspire, emphasise, underline and where needed to enforce your opinions. A flat monotonous tone is less likely to be remembered than an upbeat, energised and passionate one. Match passionate words to passionate actions to be authentic, believed and remembered.
If the culture of the business is informal and it clearly works day to day that is awesome but sometimes using more formal language emphasises a point and tells the staff member 'I mean business, this is serious stuff.' Mixed in with a friendly and informal overall style this kind of 'serious moment' will be remembered and taken seriously because you have taken the trouble to make sure it is and in a way that is very clearly manager to staff member and not 'matey'. Choosing words that reflect this is also important - clear business like language, being clear, specific and professional again means no room for misunderstandings...
8. Listening Skills
Achieving a balance between talking and listening is crucial. Asking open questions that provoke opinion and information is key. 'How do you think you have performed?' 'Do you agree?' and then listening, really listening rather than accepting the first vaguely positive answer and concluding that everything is ok. People often offer clues and don't say what they mean unless you ask them more questions. Also listen for the way they answer not just what they say. Is there enthusiasm, clarity and positivity in their answer? If not ask another question; get to the bottom of it - don't let problems bubble under when they can be talked through, it will only come back to haunt you when they under-perform, fail or leave. Look for the 'help me' clues, excuses, 'I suppose' and I am saying yes but mean probably not type answers - really listen and be brave enough to go away from your script to get to the issue.
9. Arguing the Company Corner
Siding with the staff member about back logs, pressure, staffing issues or other managers is completely fruitless and dangerous; you are just fuelling future excuses. Whilst of course showing that you do understand that outside factors can influence their performance actually validating their excuses means that those reasons will mean under performance in future because you said they would! Put them in perspective and offer ways to overcome them. Use management vocabulary, talk from a company perspective rather than that of a staff member and draw on your experience make it clear you are not their ally in explaining failure but instead that you are the companies representative who will help them overcome influencing factors - this is really important!
10 . Partnership
The ability to create the manager / staff member partnership is key. It is necessarily unequal, you get to have the final say and it is to taken seriously but it can also be an 'us' thing; 'How are we going to overcome this?' - using your experience and offering support can make a huge difference to the staff member; the impossible can feel possible and a team thing develops that can get them through but you can never over play this or you share their personal responsibility to perform.
1 to 1 meetings can be the most useful tool in any managers skill set and done well they really can have a bottom line impact. Never be tempted to blame their efficacy on anything other than yourself because when prepared, considered, executed well and with respect and sensitivity then they will work!
Consortio offer cost effective help to businesses without experience in 1 to 1 or Appraisal processes to develop something to suit them and their people and we also offer your managers training based on the above advice and our extensive experience in getting the most from this precious time...contact us for more information! consortio~live.com www.consortio-uk.com
I have been involved in recruitment for over 10 years and the thing that I still find difficult to understand is candidates use of clichéd words or phrases when they are trying to write a CV that will help them to stand out from the crowd?!!
There are many words / phrases that get shoe-horned into CV's because they worked for someone a generation ago, because that's what everyone writes or because, and lets be totally honest about this, people don't spend the time to think about a better, more unique, more personal way of saying it.
You can imagine the recruiters worst nightmare; 200 CV's to sift through to select candidates for interview, trying to find the real person in each one, trying to read into the wording to find out who they are and what they can offer and everyone, one after the other, uses the following words and phrases...it becomes like a never ending CV ground hog day.....
1. Successful (successfully)
2. I can work well individually or in a team
3. I work well under pressure
4. I consistently hit my targets
5. Passion (passionate)
7. I am looking to develop my career
8. Fast learner
9. Hard worker
10. etc etc
There are ways to find a new a more individual way to describe you, what you have done and how well you have done it.
· Try not repeating the same word or phrase at all in the CV, that automatically brings variety
· Try using a Thesaurus and find a few new words that can make your CV m ore interesting, varied and memorable
· Actually read your CV out loud before you send it anyone; does it sound boring and repetitive and run of the mill to you? If it does then change it.....
How much better would the above sound with a little thought...how much more of a pleasant experience would it be for the recruiter if candidates weren't just reeling off lines that careers advisor's, parents or friends had told them would 'work.' If everyone thinks they will then we are back to the beginning because they won't.
Branding you through your CV is becoming as sophisticated as product branding - people don't just buy washing powder these days because it gets clothes clean and smells nice..you get the idea...
You are unique - allow your CV to show that uniqueness in your choice of language and phraseology....make your CV one that I (we) will remember rather than one that anyone could have written....
I'm not sure if it's reassuring or concerning to tell candidates that most interviews are adversely impacted by the skills, talent and preparation of the interviewer...but it's true and so I will...
Recruitment Skills are still not universally recognised by companies, training departments and individuals as a core management competency. I know this because I offer training courses for both new and experienced managers and convincing the decision maker that the investment is worthwhile is always a tough ask. Thankfully when they do accept that it is crucial and they invite me in to help they see results and ask me back.
However two questions remain what are the reasons for the resistance and what are the potential related consequences of an under-skilled and under-informed management team being involved in recruitment?
1. What are the reasons for resistance against Recruitment Skills training?
I think there are a host of reasons but the ones I have managed to identify and sometimes neutralise are;
a) I didn't have any training and I did alright
b) I trust my gut instinct on these things
c) You become a skilled recruiter by recruiting
d) You don't know our business so how can you know what we want?
e) It is a cost that we do not need - more important things to spend our training budget on
f) All of our managers have been here a long time and have the skills needed
g) We are not recruiting at the moment
h) We have a set of questions we always ask and they seem to work ok
2. What are the consequences of the above?
I'm not sure that many managers actually think about consequences in recruitment beyond getting someone to replace someone - but there are many knock on effects:
a) A poor recruitment process is a negative brand experience - that can and will damage business
b) Competency based interviews work - gut instinct is a fallacy and likely to be wrong - gut's are not brains
c) New managers need support before they start recruiting - it is a daunting experience
d) Length of service does not have any relationship with ability to recruit in fact without training / refresher courses quite the opposite
e) Recruitment is always a key management topic even when you are fully staffed - fail to grasp this and you are exposed
f) Turnover and tenure are key indicators of recruitment success and even then people staying for too long can be a negative
g) Recruitment ability is an investment in the business not just the staff
h) Each role needs bespoke questions and a unique process
I will continue to fight the good fight and argue the case for Recruitment Skills Training - because every business is only as good as the people it brings in and keeps - recruiting managers decide that and without the tools, knowledge and awareness they are a liability.
Don't even start me on discrimination.....
Sounds like something a wise man once said doesn't it? A wise man may well have said it but so did I and I continue to say it to any career coaching client who I work with; experienced professional, graduate or school-leaver and I want to explain why these few words are so key to you getting what you want from your career.
Let's be clear I am not advocating saying anything in your CV or interview performance that is untrue, far from it, what I am encouraging is that we all learn to amplify our message to employers by being comfortable in saying positive, upbeat and impressive things about ourselves.
There is a particularly English / British tradition that modesty is a laudable quality, that to be loud and obvious is somehow crass and a little distasteful. I agree that clumsy and obvious self-promotion can be counter-productive and at worst annoying but that is not what I am advocating here; I am saying to everyone that is frustrated by being overlooked, a close second to the successful candidate or by the lack of progression in their career that you need to forget false or real modesty and begin to think about everything you say and write being part of an accumulated PR strategy that will help you to tell the world how brilliant you are!
It is not about dwelling on any of the descriptions that have been used to keep people in their place...it's not 'showing off', it's not 'being big headed' and is certainly not 'boastful' it is simply being your own biggest fan and being able to lucidly and convincingly tell the world about the great things you have done, can do and want to do.
People generally speaking love to meet authentic, confident, lucid and interesting people. Whether that is in the pub, on holiday, in work or in an interview. People remember people who are able to demonstrate their self-confidence and their skills with strong examples and body language, voice, eyes, smile and posture that all back up the content. It is liberating not to be always worried about what people think of how you are saying something when you come to terms with the fact that it is what you are saying that they will focus on.
If you fail to flag up something that is important and relevant because you don't want to show off then who wins? If the CV next to yours on the desk or the person after you in the interview is able to show what they can do and do it in a proud and confident and persuasive way then who wins?
Modesty is the enemy of opportunity - all candidates need for the sake of their own futures to be able to suspend their modesty and get the message across in no uncertain terms......
The title of this blog article is the best advice I can give any career seeking school leaver or graduate at the moment. Why? Because it works!
I know that the kind of jobs that you may be aspiring to and may have geared your education towards may not be thick on the ground at the moment and that getting a chance to be interviewed can often feel like constantly hitting the same brick wall but that does not mean that settling for second best and going off the radar of all employers is the way to deal with it. There are loads of cracking job and career opportunities out there but the candidates that get them are the ones who are prepared to do the leg work, build the relationships and get noticed...
Go to everything...
Look on-line, in printed media and through social media for every opportunity to get out into the world with a smile on your face, your best interview gear on and your CV in your pocket. The numbers game of on-line applications, posting your CV on one of the big sites or connecting with an agency is of course worth it because they might find you what you want. But I strongly encourage anyone, of any age, to get out there and find opportunity for themselves.
I am not of the Norman Tebbit school of 80's thought when he encouraged people to get on their bike and find work, patronising as it was, instead I am very much of the school of thought that you live, in person, being brilliant and smart and excited and interested is going to have a far greater chance of being spotted.
Why? Well despite many 'big' employers computerising their recruitment filters to the point of programming key words and qualifications into their selection programmes on-line; there are still vast numbers of employers, decision makers, recruiters and event organisers that understand about personal brand, making an impact, the personal touch and impressing someone with actions and words and not just qualifications and experience.
In my experience SME's particularly take great heed of their 'gut feel' for an individual candidate. Because every single one of their staff matters to them, as there are fewer, then meeting people is a way they still find their stars of tomorrow.
So prepared with a CV that does all of things I have spoken about at length in the past as 'the flier for the brand of you' (see previous blogs) and with a brave attitude to talking to anyone because as I have said in the past 'you never know who the person will be that gives you a break' you should get yourself along to everything that might lead somewhere; careers events, networking events, industry events, university and college events and national employment events at the big venues like the NEC.
Prepare your 'pitch', know what your USP's are and be ready to really sell yourself when you get the ear of someone who wants to listen and is interested in what you have to offer. As a recruiter of 20+ years standing from my point of view you being there already puts you in credit with me and then if you have a positive attitude, something to say and some energy and interest then you are really beginning to get my interest...
Speak to everyone...
Be that person who is interested in what every employer does, find out more, understand when you hear an opportunity that you like that you need to act and project the professional image that you want to promote going forwards; set yourself dress, speech and manners standards and let those things as well as your skills, knowledge and competencies be your message to employers...you will be saying 'I mean business!'
Networking is a very inexact science and actually the more you try and apply scientific methods to it a) the more mercenary you appear and b) the more you remove the random factor... but talking to people and asking questions and being open and honest about what you aspire to does work..
My two best job / career conversations? One was with a lovely Australian lady in a bar in Paris at Christmas time and the other was with a chap by the coffee machine during lunch at a careers event...you never know, who or when but you need to be there to benefit and to be on duty for your brand at all times to get the most from any good fortune.
I think it was Gary Player (the very good South African golfer for you Tiger Woods generation people) who said 'the more I practice the luckier I get' that's kind of my point in a nutshell!
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