The Printers Apprentice – A Zig Zag Career.

images (36)So is you career linear – a very straight line or like mine and many others a zig zag affair? I have been at work now for more years I care to remember and in that time I have had 16 different jobs. Adding fuel to the average time of 2 – 3 years people spend in a role. Most of my jobs were loosely connected with transferable skills applied from one industry to another and to an opportunity that I was either flattered to asked to interview, or needed the money for one reason or another. So how does a career work, is it planned or does it just happen to people……..that is the question.

This navel gazing came about as a result of an interesting article by Peter Honey and on LinkedIn recently; on the sometimes zig-zag approach a lot of us take to our careers or working life.

So where did I start off? With my headmasters parting words “and don’t come back”ringing in my ears I left school at the tender age of 16. Having to leave school for being a little bit of a rascal and a tearaway was a badge of honour at the time – though it didn’t last long. Dole money in the 1970’s was £7.70p, enough to give my mother £5 and to fill up the petrol tank of my motor bike for a week or so. Then things changed. After a few months of unemployment I managed to secure a 4 year apprenticeship as a lithographic printer in a Kent based print works, Whitstable Litho.

With the indentures signed by my father and the company to ensure I was not to be seen with loose women (some chance) or drunk in the street, I felt 7 feet tall and finally had a purpose. All this for £18.50 per 40 hour week. How innocent I was for the fun and exposure to an adult working life to come.

The apprentice lithographer title was one I would feel justifiable proud of until returning from the London School of Printing, Clarkenwell one evening. During the train journey and sitting opposite a chap who was a little 3 sheets to the wind (drunk to the uninitiated) asked me what I did for a living. I proudly announced and loud enough for the carriage to hear that I am a apprentice lithographer. The chap thought for a few seconds, eyes wandering desperately trying to make sense of the answer. Eventually through his sozzled haze he slurred with some difficulty – “and I am a photographer to”! I left it there and stared through the condensation of the train window deflating slowly like a old party balloon.

I didn’t plan to become a printer, work in the paper industry research & development, customer technical sales/services, manage international technical development teams, develop training/L&D for sales and management, quality systems, environmental science, run large coaching programmes for sales performance & design Welfare to Work health & wellbeing programmes etc etc. Or even have the faintest idea I would end up as a psychologist & coach with a couple of degrees, helping countless people manage a number of different work & personal issues. So how do careers work and how do people navigate their way through any number of sometimes loosely connected jobs to end up where they are today?

Few people emerging from university or school have any idea what they want to do, if they do perhaps they have had great career advice, coaching & guidance. Perhaps its all about personality as some psychometric developers will tell you. I very much doubt it.

The career or working life that fits the bill at your life stage and is unplanned is some ways quite reassuring. We are all told to plan and try to control every aspect of our lives to win the prize of a glittering career, money or other desired goals. The problem is that our ability to control really stops at the end of our fingertips. We can only control ourselves and in my case that can be a bit slippery. So over to you to have a cogitate about your career or work and how it zig zagged across the years. Or perhaps you are a linear careerist that are travelling from A to B to C to D with no hindrance. In any case I will leave you with this quote from Peter Drucker that will hopefully start your conversation.

“Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.” – Peter F. Drucker

Is LinkedIn your new CV/resume?

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Following on from the recent blog on face-to-face networking and how important getting you out and about is for your career, the question now is, has LinkedIn become the new CV/resume? Of course well crafted & up to date CV/resume is primarily a historical document of your experiences, skills, abilities & competencies etc and is still necessary for most jobs you may be applying for. However, utilising LinkedIn can add a more dynamic dimension to your job searching strategy. You can continually update your profile, make great connections and interact with groups and individuals that can help to connect you to those less visible career opportunities.

How does LinkedIn work?

So how does LinkedIn work for those that are less comfortable with the technology. Well getting a LinkedIn account is very straight forward. With a little guidance and support for those not familiar with the Internet, you can start creating your LinkedIn profile. Using LinkedIn will help you with your personal marketing & support your employment brand better than a CV/resume can do alone. It’s less about a list of what we have done in the past, but more focused on letting people know what you can do and you we can help them. Indeed working side by side a CV & LinkedIn is a powerful tool for your chances of getting the job or career transition you want.  So being on LinkedIn means you can use it as part of your job search strategy, seeking out new job posts, doing your research, identifying people for fact-finding interviews and so on. 

Recruiters

Needless to say recruiters are all over LinkedIn looking for likely candidates for jobs. It is an opportunity for the recruiter to look at your key skills and experiences etc and how you develop and sell yourself within the limited space of the background summary. In the summary – you get 2000 characters and you should try to use them all. Use this space perhaps like a covering letter to engage with the reader and provide examples and details that will make them want to find out more about you. Creating that killer narrative is a great way to engage virtually with your contacts so that they remember you and your career story. LinkedIn is a huge database and by using relevant key words they can quickly find the people they need.

Can it go horribly wrong?

So what can go wrong with your Linked In profile? If recruiters and potential employers look you up what will they find? It could be a partly completed profile or nothing at all. If you are not found at all, what message are you giving to the recruiter? Perhaps that you are a cyber scaredy-cat and, as a result, providing a negative impressions of yourself?  Too many fail to get the best out of LinkedIn sadly, their profile is incomplete, they don’t have a photo and there is nothing compelling about the information they want to share. Registering for LinkedIn and not doing much with it is like joining to an expensive gym and expecting somehow to get fit – believe me you have to do the work. You only get out what you put in.

Benefits

Indeed the great benefit of LinkedIn is that you don’t have to be constrained by your CV/resume but can select highlights from each role that you want to share. You can impress others with ideas or research reviews or join in on group discussions to help you get known and recognised. The reader will at least skim read through your profile – and will be drawn to the recommendations of your work. Do you have any and what do they say? The people who recommend you can be powerful advocates of you and your strengths and as the recommendations are linked back to a person, there is a much higher level of trust. Providing recommendations is also important, it gets you noticed on other users pages and also demonstrates your judgement & skills.

So to utilise Linked In effectively for your job search or career change here are a few pointers you may want to consider –

  • Try to write in the first person, not the third. Include interesting insights into your character, not just what you have done, emphasise key words and accomplishments.  
  • Use an up to date professional picture, no wacky images. Beware if you are searchable with LinkedIn you are likely to searchable via Facebook & Twitter etc. So bear in mind your on-line profiles and not too extreme so that it puts recruiters off. 
  • Include key words throughout your profile. For example, copy-writing or social media. 
  • Take account of any company confidentiality policy, and do not include any confidential details. If currently in work don’t tick the looking for job opportunities box, you will still be found, try not to make it too obvious you are looking for a new role. 
  • Aim for up to 8 work related recommendations at the beginning but try to get as many as you can. it’s far more effective to have other people write a recommendation than you talk about how great you are. 
  • Improve your visibility by asking providing questions & providing important answers – join relevant groups. Be mindful of language on-line as with email it can be misconstrued and misinterpreted
  • Join groups related to your background and desired work related goals so you can identify relevant jobs. 
  • Include a link to your Linked In profile on your CV and email signature to encourage people to find out more about you. 

So is LinkedIn your new CV/Resume?

Well no. You will need both a great CV/resume and utilise social media platforms such as LinkedIn to your advantage. Clearly recruiters will use all platforms at their disposal to fill vacancies in the quickest and convenient way possible; and LinkedIn allows them to see you and your skills better and perhaps more up to date. LinkedIn therefore is part of your job searching strategy and to not use it you may not be utilising every tool available to you. LinkedIn can put you in-front of those people that help you change career or get that job that you are striving for. So if you can’t be found on-line will recruiters take your application forward – is that a risk you want to take?