25 April 2012

"No Matter How Glorious Your Past, Do Not Let It Get In The Way Of Your Future"

A recent article i came across recently titled: "Wall Street Prepares For Sweeping Layoffs at Citibank, Goldman, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan" reminded me once more of the times we live in, a move away from the old saying, 'job for life'. Personally i do not believe there ever was a job for life, and even if that might have been the case in the past, that theory has certainly been diminished if not totally eliminated for ever. With bank bonuses being squeezed and according to many rightly so due to their complicit involvement in the global financial crisis, a large number of senior personnel including deal makers and corporate advisers from these illustrious and famous big companies find themselves on the brink of loosing their jobs.

Now i am not expecting you to show any pity, and to be honest not sure bankers or city high flyers want any pity, nonetheless, there is a lesson in this tale for all of us, in that as according to one of my favourite business authors, Charles Handy, author of Beyond Uncertainty, on the cover of his book, he wrote: "We must not let our past, however glorious, get in the way of our future", hence the title of this article. And so, as the world becomes even more interconnected, with greater competition for customers and business, the future is likely to see more leaner and meaner organisations, where small is the new big! Indeed, we see many examples of small medium size enterprises starting up and in no time reaching market capitalisation in the millions.

So, you and i need a stake in what we do, if you are working within an enterprise, then you certainly need to see yourself as an intrapreneur or at least think like one whereby your services maybe needed one day and suddenly without or very little notice it comes to an end.

I would certainly advise the 'sigmoid curve' analysis by Charles Handy, in that you need to begin planning your next move, career, business, training whatever it is you aspire to, so that as you approach or get to the top of the first sigmoid curve, you already have something lined up to support you. One thing i certainly come across a lot in my work with people looking for work and i have had the opportunity of working with a wide range of people from those earning less than £10,000 per annum to those earning well in excess of £100,000 per year is that very few people plan forward. The problem is as we all know no one can predict the future, my many years working within the financial markets industry taught me that, and so what happens when the redundancy letter arrives at your desk or worst you get a letter while away on holiday.

I heard sometime back that though many businesses in the UK plan 10 to 20 years ahead, if you take a country like Japan, businesses plan hundreds of years in advance, perhaps a bit extreme, but no wonder despite the slump in the 90s which it suffered after a long period of boom, it is still considered one of the biggest economies in the world.

So the question you must ask yourself is in what and where are you staking your bet for your future just in case the unthinkable happens.

Welcome your comments.

Femi Yusoof

15 April 2012

How To Determine Your Ideal Career or Vocation

Have you ever wondered why certain people got into certain professions, for instance, politics, journalism, medical, law, engineering, healthcare, recruitment and training and you could go on forever..Well it is a key question that i come face to face with almost on a weekly basis when working with young people and also seasoned and experienced professionals who are now perhaps considering transferring or changing careers.

If you were to ask any of the people you know or those working in the professions listed above, it may well go along the lines of, "well i wanted to go into politics as i wanted to serve my local community, i wanted to give something back to society or get involved in the politics and policy making which shapes local people's lives." A medical doctor may say, "i decided to become a medical doctor as i saw the care and bravery of the medical team that took great care of a family member of mine and so i was inspired to one day dawn the white overalls and become a doctor." A humanitarian may say something similar, "i was disturbed and felt guilt in the way people in my community were being treated, and so i felt i had to do something, to provide a voice for the oppressed."

Though, this is by no means a panacea, especially as there are other factors that assist with determining career choice, such as environment, education and family, however, following this theory and thinking can certainly enhance your chances of selecting a career or profession that you will enjoy and thus gain fulfillment. And so, it is whose 'pain' you feel the most, who do you feel most affinity with or what thing in fact, as the object of your pain does not have to be a human being. For example, if you have been in a situation where you have experienced pain or observed pain with people being made redundant in their jobs, becoming disconnected with their love ones and community, then maybe your ideal career lies with people who are going through something similar. Indeed, if your experience has been with people who have lost everything due to non existent financial education and bad lending financial practices or advise, then maybe your vocation lies within the financial profession, indeed i know of a very successful franchise turning over £multi millions of pounds each year, whose founders based on their massive collective experience within the industry, built the core tenet of the business on helping individuals and families become better financially educated.

Or what if the object of your pain is not people, well it could be animals, so maybe that is where your vocation lies. Though this may not apply to everybody it is certainly a good way for choosing a career now or indeed in the future. If you are a business owner you would have heard the expression, to succeed in business, follow your passion. Well similarly, this is what this article is about, following your pain could lead you to your potential goldmine. It is certainly much harder to teach or convince other people something you personally have not experienced, perhaps the reason why some politicians find it hard convincing certain members of our society today.

Just take for instance these people, Steve Jobs - computers; Bill Gates - software; Mother Theresa - street children / dispossessed children; Nelson Mandela - Oppressed people; Warren Buffet - private investors; JK Rowling - story telling; Mark Zuckerburg - software; Oprah Winfrey - vulnerable people; David Attenborough - animals, to name a few, in these things lay the object of their pains and passion, in them, laid the foundation for their fame and fortune.

No doubt, money is a key motivating factor, and especially in times of need people are less likely to be selective and keen to take on any job. Indeed a lot of people have been swayed to move to the big cities to make their fortunes, and have done very well. Nonetheless, if you find yourself at a crossroads, looking for a career change or starting out in the world of work, then this should help your decision making process, in that following what pains you the most will lead you into a career or vocation where as Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers inc, said, you could make a dent in the world.

Best of luck with your job hunting,

Femi Yusoof

12 April 2012

How To Overcome The Lack of Customer Service Whilst Looking For A Job

In an article written for a British tabloid newspaper, the title of the piece implied: 'The British do not do Good Customer Service!' Quite damning and overarching statement to make, it was an account of a journalist's experience within the hospitality industry. Well i do not know about your experience, but certainly from my experience and those i speak with, i would not begrudge that statement in that the level of good let alone excellent customer service is very sparse. So how do you overcome the sometimes arrogant and conceited tone of voice when working with service professionals supposedly there to help you find work.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of very good companies out there, with excellent and professional staff employed, assisting people with finding jobs and opportunities, and though that is reassuring, there is a minority, that often speaks louder, and if you ever needed proof, in the UK, there is an institute of customer service (www.instituteofcustomerservice.com) setup in 1997 to lead the performance and professionalism of the industry, with more than 300 organisations and almost 7000 individual members. Each year, organisations vie for its coveted customer service awards, no doubt a sign that companies are seeing customer service as having a tangible benefit for their businesses. If you want further information or a story on great customer service, have a read up on Zappos.com, recently acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion dollars, after just 10 years in existence.

It is really frustrating as a professional within the industry to hear of poor customer service from others as well as being a recipient on numerous occasions, and yet people have the audacity about some people unfortunately reacting when faced with poor customer service. It is certainly much more difficult to change a society or a part of it if what you give is negativity and bad feeling. And there lies the key! Customer service among the best definitions i have seen to date, states, 'it is a feeling that a product or service has met the customer's expectation.' So perhaps we as professionals should be asking ourselves the question, what feeling are we leaving with our customers when they leave us? Or who cares, which is the feeling i get sometimes, after all, it's all about making money. Reminiscent of another group of people - gangsters, only difference is in their form of weaponry. Like Mahatma Gandhi said: 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world.'

Dealing with the subject of customer service as a topic is worthy of much more debate, particularly in the UK where in my experience, it is very poor, to an extent some commentators have requested for an olympic size improvement in our delivery of quality customer service, especially as we are just months away from one of the biggest events ever to come to the shores of the United Kingdom for a generation - London 2012 Olympics.

And so, in encountering poor customer service whilst looking for work, i would like to borrow a phrase from the Nobel Laureate and Irish playwright and also co-founder of the London School of Economics, George Bernard Shaw, who observed that all progress was dependent on the unreasonable person. His point being the reasonable person looks to adapt himself to the world, while the unreasonable seeks to adapt the world to him/herself, and as such, for any change of consequence we must look unto the unreasonable person.

In short, this article is about taking control of your job search and your career, long gone are the days when you could simply turn up and expect to be hired for a job without going the extra mile. So despite some of the fantastic support systems out there, you cannot afford to leave your destiny in someone else's hands, this does not mean necessarily we should all look to be the next Bill Gates, what this article is about is if you are not happy about something, for example, poor customer service from a job agency, stay positive and look elsewhere, speak to more people, make more contacts as there are certainly a lot more good guys than bad. Indeed i feel the future of recruitment will continue to evolve into more self reliance (think of what is already happening with peer to peer money lending e.g. zopa) for finding work through use of technology platforms which have spawned the likes of Linkedin, Facebook and the increasing array of micro job sites such as guru.com and elance.com. Freelancers in the UK now stands at a record level of 1.2 million, with an equal record number of self employed people being registered, at just over 4million.

Keen to hear other people's opinion on this article and in particular your experience of customer service with agencies and other employment bodies.

Femi Yusoof

11 April 2012

What Every Employer Wants: Achievement Or Experience?

At a time when the job market is experiencing its most toughest period for a generation, speaking from a jobhunter's perspective, it is in these times that you need to ask yourself or you should be asking yourself 'what is most important to an employer?'. Well to kick off, worth considering that every employer or business has two main functions, and i was recently reminded of this fact by a successful internet entrepreneur friend of mine. A business in its simplistic state is primarily there to make money while reducing as much cost. And so what side of the coin are you on? Worth thinking about before your next interview perhaps.

However, the main point behind this article is that in a week when one of the largest and most valuable companies in the world, Facebook, current value of $100 billion dollars, achieved in less than 10 years! Has now just made a purchase of $1 billion dollars for a relatively unknown silicon valley startup, called Instagram, founded in October 2010, less than two years ago, by two Stanford University graduates, it does beg the question what is mostly wanted by employers: achievement or experience?. In short, i would say both, but that is a kind of sitting on the fence stance, and so if i had to make a choice between the two, i would say 'achievement' gets the nodge slightly ahead of experience.

Indeed, if i was recruiting a candidate for a job, which i have had to do in the past, i would want someone who has good experience but coupled with achievements, as opposed to someone who just simply had lots of years of experience. The 16th century french essayist, Michel de Montaigne said 'The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use you make of them'. Similarly, if i had the choice of two surgeons, one with 20 years experience and the other with 5 years experience coupled with the successful carrying out of 10 heart surgeries, i know which one i would go for.

Reading the story behind the dramatic rise of Instagram, the photo sharing app which allows users to upload and share their personal pictures online, and the instant fortune it has given to the founders as well as investors who got in early on, shows the significance and impact highlighting your achievements on your CV or in conversation with a prospective employer could have on your chances of finding work. Now, you may not be in line for a windfall of £250 million pounds as the founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, 27, is about to earn from his idea, but nonetheless, this mindset of focusing on achievements can certainly go a long way to helping you land your dream job.

Femi Yusoof

06 April 2012

How To Make Your Message More Compelling In An Interview

Although the title of this article proceeds with the assumption that the information about to be shared with you can only be utilised during an interview, it is more to highlight the relevance to the nature of this blog which is about essential tips for job hunters searching for work and job opportunities. This information can in fact be used in many areas of our lives especially when it comes to the employment market.

I have come to the conclusion that one of the most powerful forms of communication is the simplicity that comes with the narration of a story and the proposition behind that message to move someone to an outcome that is mutually beneficial. In my work with people looking for work, often i meet people who tell me they are looking for a job, however, so are 2.6 million people, if you live in the UK, though as i write there certainly appears to be some positive news on the job front, which is great news. The point being that, though you may be looking for work you must be prepared to explain what it is you can offer a prospective employer in terms of your skills and experience. And the best way to do this is in the form of a story, where the message is compelling, provoking and evokes a response that makes you interesting and therefore there is a desire to see you again for a perhaps a final interview or indeed to sign you up there and there!

In the bestselling book: Tell To Win, by Peter Guber, highly successful businessman whose career has spanned a multitude of industries in particular the film and entertainment industry where among other positions was chief at Columbia Pictures, co-chairman of Casablanca Records and Filmworks and also one time chairman and CEO of the mighty Sony Pictures. In his book, where he shares his experiences having worked with some of the most gifted and talented people ever to walk planet earth! He goes on to say that there is no business without story business, in that you need to move the listener, for example, why should i hire you? Is it just because you have been out of work for so long? What else can you add to that subject that will pull at their heart strings and would make them want to hire you? 'Tell To Win' is further endorsed by President Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America, and on the cover sleeve he alludes that telling a story is the best way for persuading, motivating and convincing people.

And so we must write our script, perfect it in our own minds and then walk boldly as we communicate our message to whoever we meet or intends to listen.

Femi Yusoof

04 April 2012

How To Overcome the Dreaded Catch 22: Lack Of Work Experience

In today's competitive jobmarket relevant work experience has become ever more important. And so what happens if you have not been working due to redundancy or indeed you have been out of work for a period of time? It is a situation anyone of us could literally find ourselves in as no one is immune from redundancy, even if you run your own business! So what can you do to safeguard yourself against the impending question, what have you been doing since your last job?

First, have you wondered why people who are currently working or employed in some capacity seem to get more opportunities coming their way as oppose to those people who supposedly have more time on their hands? It goes to the heart of this blog, in that every employer wants an active person, someone who is ideally doing the job right now, someone with current experience. It is like the advert i came across recently, it was for a job with a major global technology company, and the subtext was that they wanted someone who 'eats, drinks and sleeps software'.

For this reason, when you have been out of work for a while or just been made redundant, one of the ways around this is to stay active in your field, even if you are not being paid initially. And so, i would encourage you to look for volunteering roles where you could utilise your skills or indeed if you are applying for work within the retail or service industry there are numerous charity organisations you can work for, and at least, this way you stay active, confident and positive about your future.

'Work' in its truest sense of the word does not just mean work that is rendered when you are paid. One author whose work i greatly admire and has been an inspiration to me is Charles Handy, in his international bestseller, 'The Age of Unreason (1989)' he went on to break down work as being split into two distinct types. There is paid and free work, with wage and a fee type work being both forms of paid work. And then he went on to classify free work as the following: study work, homework and gift work.

So if you are not being paid right now i.e. you are unemployed, then the next best thing is to consider 'gift work', where you give your time for work and effort that pays little if anything now but can often reap massive dividends in the future. At least, it keeps you current, enabling you to talk about your skills and experience in the present tense as oppose to the past.

Femi Yusoof

02 April 2012

How To Avoid The Herd And Still Get A Job

If you live and reside in the UK you would have been aware of the almost total chaos we found ourselves in recently, especially if you drive. With the sudden announcement from a government minister suggesting that the public should take precautions because of the potential impending union strikes, we should store extra fuel in jerry cans!! This brought out an amazing dash for the petrol pumps as people scurried to the nearest stations to ensure their car(s) were stocked up and more so, with petrol being dangerously stored in 'jerry cans' or whatever form of storage people could get their hands on.

I have to say whoever coined the phrase 'herd mentality' had these events in mind as it was astonishing to see people doing something that they would otherwise not have done had it not been for the misinformed and ill-guided announcement from the government. However, despite the rush and chaos and traffic jams and potential road accidents caused by the dabacle most people including myself still nonetheless manage to get their petrol, however, haven stuck to their usual buying habits.

And so, as we saw the descent onto the forecourts of our petrol stations last week, so there is a rush and clamour for jobs through online job boards. Now, since the rise of social media and social networking i have always been a proponent and advocate for using the power of social media, especially when you consider the massive impact websites such as facebook, twitter and linkedin have had on people's lives and society at large.

But, i cannot help but think of the 'herd' mentality scenario when it comes to finding work these days, though finding work through online job boards is still one of the most effective ways for finding work and no doubt we will see an increasing impact within this area, i do feel people are sometimes missing out on an age old trick when it comes to finding employment. And that is simply networking or through 'personal connections', some people might say depending on what industry you work in the 'old boys' network'.

Looking at most of the statistics and figures on finding work despite the rise and rise of the online job boards, it is still in the shade in comparison to finding a job through friends, family and contacts. Having said this, one has to say the internet is inextricably linked in that process of finding work, for instance, you might exchange information and make contact with someone using one of the many social mediums online but quintessentially it is as a result of that link, that personal contact that helped you in sourcing or developing an opportunity you may not have otherwise known, this is often referred in many employability skills and training workshops as the 'hidden job market'.

Femi Yusoof

The Art Of Fighting Without Fighting!: How To Strategically Approach Your Job Search

One of my all time favourite heroes was Bruce Lee, not just for his sheer brilliance and the artistry he brought to the screens, but more so for his immense dedication to his art and also his simplified philosophy on life. An example of his simplicity on how he approached a battle was in his 1973 blockbuster film - Enter the dragon.

There was a particular scene from the film which for me captivated how we as jobseekers or jobhunters living in the 21st century need to strategically position ourselves when seeking work. In one of the scenes on his way to a fighting competition he was on a boat where he encountered an adversary who had challenged him to a fight. Although, Bruce Lee would almost have certainly won the battle, he instead did something rather extraordinary and said to the man who had asked him initially, 'what is your style?' To which, Bruce Lee replied, 'the art of fighting without fighting!' And so Bruce Lee proceeded to offer his adversary a fight by leaving the boat in a dingy suggesting they needed more room to fight. So as the man got into the dingy which was attached to the boat expecting Bruce Lee to then follow him, Bruce Lee instead took the rope and loosening the rope the dingy became further and further detached from the safety of the larger boat. It brought laughter from other crew members on the boat and a cheeky smirk from Bruce Lee.

So what has this got to do with finding work you say to yourself? Well it has a lot you maybe surprised. As in my experience of working with the long term unemployed as well as those in fear of redundancy or losing their jobs, the one area among others that can sometimes reduce your chances of success and i am particularly aware of this as i see this from time to time in candidates is their approach to finding work. Understandably people tend to show more 'desperation' in their faces when they feel they have hit a brick wall with their job search. Now i am not saying you should not show enthusiasm and massive interest in the job but there is a fine line and you need to be careful of not crossing this line and coming across as desperate when looking for work.

Every employer, certainly most are looking for an expert to help them in their businesses, with varying needs ofcourse, and so we need to wear the hat of an expert. The question i would ask you, is when or how many times have you passed a beggar on the street and dropped some money into their hat? Now if you are like me you would feel for them and want to help in some way, reason why i am all for charities and volunteering in the local community, but we all live busy lives running at 100 miles per hour, very few of us would stop to drop some change into the beggar's hat, not because we don't care but in part because it is not attractive and we all seem to be in such a rush these days.

So in conclusion, when approaching employers or indeed agencies for work, look to ask for work without asking for a job per se! Basically, focus on a need, current requirements that match with your line of expertise. This approach is more professional and less likely to receive resistance as most people typically when looking for work mention the 'J' word, by changing your approach as described above you automatically set yourself apart from the crowd and can be especially powerful and effective if you are making contacts with your own 'personal contacts' or general networking.

Femi Yusoof