The Home Workers Strategy (whilst still having a life)

A messy desk at homeA lot of people tell me that moving toward home working is easy, just decide one day that its going to happen and there you go…………..right? Without a plan and thinking thoroughly about your run and jump into home working you might want to think again. Interested well read on.

Many organisations for lots of different reasons close offices and decide that the workforce can work from a home base. Generally there is a shrug of the collective shoulders, you pick up your laptop, a phone and off you go. No planning, no discussions at home of what it may mean to the family or how you will manage the available space.

Mum’s and Dad’s going back to work after a baby might not want to be away from their precious one, so this options will help them get back to the work they love. Again jumping in with both feet might work but when you plan the home working thing with work and family in mind its potentially a win win situation.

Here is a quick check list of things I use to help business and individuals move positively toward home working bliss.

  • Get the right technology and support for technology sorted out quickly. Being on your own to sort out broken computers, sufficient broadband, mobile phone signal etc can be challenging. Make sure you have a back up system for both files and hardware , so the stress of things going pop is reduced.
  • Talk to the family. Ensure that families and especially children understand what is happening. Let them have their input into the transitional process.
  • Decide on where you will situate your office space. This goes back to families once more, as excess clutter and paper work can cause quite a lot of stress and conflict. A corner of a living room is fine but what disturbance will you get and what hours will you be able to work most productively without being bothered?
  • If you are lucky you can convert a bedroom or garage. Again spend time planning and setting this out so you feel you are at work and away from home.
  • Commute to work. Yes I know you are working at home but a trip to the newsagents or bakers in the morning helps you get your head in the right space for work.
  • Decide upon how to maintain your social connections. Meet colleagues at the many hotels with lobbies that have coffee shops and catch up with friends when you can.
  • Do not get dragged into working too long – presenteeism is a serious problem for home based working.
  • Keep technology away from the bedroom and yes I mean phones, TV’s and computers. You need your sleep to be effective at work and yes that means home based workers too.
  • Start a homeworkers coffee morning or lunch club. Great for small business owners to mix, get ideas & network.
  • Most of all enjoy the home working experience. Enjoy the flexibility and the chance for a better lifestyle for you and your family. Plus with planning get a great deal of work done whilst sitting at home.

So all is not lost for home based working just needs a bit of careful planning and bit of negotiation and most of all commitment to make it work. Good luck and most of all have fun with the change to more flexible working.

Call or email me for details of my strategies for successful home working and my upcoming book “How to Work at Home & Stay Sane”

The Natural Selection of Business & Careers

download (3)Now I am sure we all know the Darwinian model of natural selection & the five theories contained within. If you need a short reminder have a quick look at this very informative web site run by Christ’s College in Cambridge http://darwin200.christs.cam.ac.uk/pages/ (accessed 3/11/2014). So the question is how can these theories be applied to shedding an alternative light upon how businesses evolve and how your career “fits” the environment, the shifting sands of time, skills and your ability to “mutate” into a new job or career path.

Coupled Darwin’s theory and the term “survival of the fittest” developed by Herbert Spencer to help explain his understanding of natural selection, we arrive at everyday terms to describe how life and for that matter business & careers can (in theory) develop. Needless to say these theories have been hijacked to fit may different ideologies and moral standpoints to sometimes disastrous effect. Such as Social Darwinism that is thought to be responsible for laissez-faire attitudes to war, economics & racism.

The Business of Natural Selection

By this time I am sure your imagination is starting to make the connections between natural selection, survival of the fittest and how businesses & careers are born, develop and sometimes die. Businesses have to compete for resources, evolve through small but distinct stages and that some variants or mutations may help them adapt better to their environment. Apple is a good example of a variation that produce many products that are internally similar to other technology companies (Mp3 players, PC’s, laptops, etc) they just do things differently with distinct styling and pretty boxes. Thus have mutated into a distinct species within the landscape. Its a high wire act and difficult to maintain, as if the mutation looses its distinct adaptation to the environment then they become generalists.

The generalists are other technology companies struggling for resources (profit). These generalists are all fighting for the same slice of the market so have to be nimble, agile and smart to fit products to business opportunities that arise. Products are not generally high value items such as Apple products but more standard offerings that will be less expensive but high volume to make the margins. Similar to species of birds, mammals & rodents – all fighting for the same meagre resources to survive in changing environments. Its hard for both generalists & specialists to survive as there has one eye on changing climates and barriers to their success. Competition is tough for businesses as with species of animals & plants are after the same resources unless they can evolve to adapt before others or sadly die out. I am sure as you are reading this you can apply similar stories to businesses & market sectors that you know? Of course there is nothing more compelling than a good theory – just reality gets in the way!

How does your Career “Fit”

The term “fit & fitness” can of course mean many things but in terms of your career we can use the theory to overlay your skills, abilities, knowledge of your job and how your career trajectory fits into the changing landscape of work. I wager you job or work is not the same as it was a few years ago and that you and your work is evolving steadily. Your job may have been made redundant in the past and had to make significant adaptations of your skills and abilities through re-training or re-branding yourself into a distinctly new career species? There are many ways that your evolution and you may have been naturally selected to give your career and working life an advantage.

The big question is now – does your skill set and career fit with where you need to be? Do you perhaps take a risk and mutate into a new career path or do you find new and novel adaptations to re-invent yourself to help maintain your competitive edge? To that aim I have put together a list of actions to help consider your evaluation career options and interested to hear what else your would add?

  • Identify what works well for you that gives you a competitive edge. May be a skill, an ability, an easy way of doing things others find hard, or even just a different way of thinking. Is it truly an advantage? Does it give really you an edge? Can you repeat it and give you that competitive edge?
  • Now that you have found it – cultivate it deliberately. Refine it, add to it & focus on it. Move on from those things you don’t do so well, build that competitive advantage and not trying to catch up with what others find easier than you do.
  • Now you have found and developed one great career adaptation, find another and keep repeating the process. Create as many natural advantages as you can. See what works and go with it, regardless of whether it’s what you expected or not.
  • Always spend time doing what you do best. Don’t forget your positive attributes, skills and knowledge, ignore them are your peril. By identifying development areas you are aiming to support your strengths enabling you to evolve positively.

Hopefully the short list will help with the adaptations as no species has ever thrived by working on its weaknesses and forgetting about its natural strengths. Don’t try to go against the way that natural selection works with careers and business – go with it and prosper. Creating your competitive edge, overcoming barriers, exploiting your natural attributes and planning for your future will no doubt help you (or your business) see environmental changes as a challenge so you can adapt and manage change effectively. So don’t be a Panda eeking out an existence on bamboo alone – be more…………………………….you fill in the gap!

My “Genius”and 3D Career Coaching

images (34)A client told me last week that I am a “genius” following a one off Career Health Check session. Mind you I had told them I was a genius before hand, so not sure that counts. Still got to take the complements where you can these days – even if they are self generated.

Career coaching is an area of my work I get very animated about, so stand back and mind the flaying arms of excitement. Want to see what it’s like check out Magnus Pike on You Tube. Now I get a deep sense of satisfaction working with my clients looking to change or transition careers. They may have been out of the workplace for a while for parenting duties and want to get back to work, or perhaps have been out of work and just need a job. Toward young people looking for their first job. These are just a few of the reasons people seek my help as a career coach. However I am sure you can appreciate there are radically different motivations for people, as a result the career coach will need flexibility and a number of differing strategies for meet the need of the client.

Whether we like it or not work is a healthy place to be, probably not something that crosses your mind waiting for a bus on a Northern European Monday morn in January. Bring happy, fulfilled and satiated in your work & career provides you with challenges, income, confidence, self esteem and a chance to strive toward your personal & professional goals. Hence the reason this part of my work is so helpful to my clients and is a hugely fulfilling part of what I do. Though career coaching for some is seen as an indulgence or a necessity depending upon your circumstances. Perhaps getting that itchy feeing in your feet suggesting you need to move on to pastures new or things are coming to an end in a job and redundancy may be a real possibility. All result in a need for change.

Now having had a number of years helping a very diverse group of people to change career or perhaps get back to work, I am always struck by traditional methods of career advice and guidance and the more creative 3D methods. Firstly, traditional methods tend to focus upon the employment process, i.e. CV, application forms (online/paper) job searching methods, interview skills, some passive training and perhaps fitting a round peg into a round hole as soon as possible. Great if you are just looking to get back to work as quickly as you can and into a similar role as before. This method used extensively in the Welfare to Work sector and by some career advice organisations that are, not to put a finer point on it, akin to a sausage factory. Very much a linear one dimensional affair, or to the cynics a box ticking exercise to getting paid for the outcome i.e. the client getting a job for least input.

So what I do mean by 3D strategies for career coaching? Needless to say this is very dependant upon need, goals and aspiration etc. However bear with me for a bit and I am hope to give those looking for a new start food for thought.

The 3D model provides is a fluid method of career coaching & management with staged activities for re-engaging with the workplace or new careers. So I work with clients at three levels.

  1. Primary level – The clients defined goals and hard outcomes. What they want to achieve, by when, how, and resources needed.Some support may be needed to help clarify the primary level to ensure the clarity. Goals may well change but are still the primary level and will need to generate thier own 3D model.
  2. Secondary level – What does the client need to reach the hard outcome – a needs analysis. This may mean the components parts of the job searching strategies, self employment, career change. A CV, L&D needs, geographical area and to examine a social media platform for the client amongst many others.
  3. Tertiary level – More the psychological analysis. Confidence & self esteem, improved interpersonal skills, along with self efficacy to name a few. The activities in a psychosocial capacity may be necessary to help the client develop toward those primary & secondary career goals.

By helping clients move through identifying their goals and the resources they need to achieve them with a renewed sense of purpose is a powerful method of supporting change. Looking at an example, say an individual has had a bad experience with being made redundant and has been out of work for a while. Confidence, self efficacy and self esteem may have taken a bit of a knock and may feel employment skills are out of date. So sending out an old school CV and applying for jobs that do not yield interviews can reduce confidence etc even further. In this instance utilising a 3D model the individual can identify their goals, focus upon improving confidence etc whilst working on their career narrative to help with the mapping out of a CV and a compelling case for why an employer would be daft not to employ them.

A very simple example granted but putting these components and layers together helps the client see the wood from the trees. So enough arm flaying from me for the time being and if you need any more information on one of my 3D model just drop me a line and will be happy to share the knowledge from one genius to another.

Is LinkedIn your new CV/resume?

imagesL
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? 

 

At Home at Work (and how to stay sane!)

images (27)Having worked from a home-base whilst employed and now working at home working for myself, I do thoroughly understand what it takes to stay sane working at home. Having said that I am sure my friends and family may doubt my sanity, let alone the home working part. Less said about that the better.

Now according to the Office of National Statistics report (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/index.html accessed 5/06/2014) here in the UK 58% of self employed people rely on working from a home base on a day-to-day basis  By June 2012 there were an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK who regarded themselves as self employed, compared to 3.8 million just before the start of the recession in 2008.

The detailed figures are –

  • 15% = 630,000 people work from home
  • 5% = 210,000 worked on the same grounds as their home (office in the garden)
  • 38% = 1,600,000 of self employed used their home as a base.

Delving a little deeper into the figures, self employed people work longer hours than employed people. Indeed a third of people stated they are working more than 45 hours per week, compared to just over a fifth of employed people. Needless to say there are some extremes in the hours worked, both of which show it is not easy to find a happy medium when self employed whist working at home.  At one end of the spectrum, 10.8% said they wanted to do more hours. At the other end of the scale, 22% are working more than 45 hours per week. So longer hours and a reliance of working in the place that they call home. Probably not a great combination if there is a family involved that may need the attention of the home worker involved.

So with the growth of home based working for a number of different jobs (farmers, plumbers & builders occupy largest proportion), how can we manage our working week successfully and stay sane? Here are a few tips to help you focus upon getting the job done whilst balancing your home-work life.

  • Try an independent co-working or hot-desking – Co-working will give you the opportunity to meet new people, work and talk about issues rather than mull over a problem or isolate yourself. Hot-desking is generally a desk or two kept clear in your organisation so you can attend the office during the week.
  • Socialise – try not to isolate yourself during your working week. Meeting people or even popping to the shops to clear your mind and help you to refocus on your work and help you keep connected to the face-to-face world.
  • Maintain your wellbeing – do some exercise and eat well. Avoid going to bed with your smart phone – you will not sleep well with technology in the room. Nothing more miserable than not sleeping well.
  • Find a workspace at home – sometimes harder said than done. Some lucky souls have a bespoke office at the end of the garden, plumbed in and powered up. Most of us make use of a spare bedroom or even a corner of a living room. Help your family manage the space so you can feel as though you are at work.
  • Commute to “work” – this may mean walking the dog, going for a run or buying a paper. Helps move you from home mindset to work mindset and vice versa. May help manage the separation between your home and work life as well.
  • Trial working from home before committing – not sure working from home is for you – trial it first. Give yourself a chance to experience it before committing. You will need a number of skills including, great time management, support from your organisation, dedication and commitment from your family to make it work.
  • Risk Assess your work space – make sure you are safe in your home office & comply with Health & Safety (H&S) policies and procedures.
  • Get some training in H&S – your line manager can help you out here
  • Get appropriate insurance – working at home may effect your home insurance (refer to previous point).
  • Eyesight Tests – if you use a computer or use display screen equipment get an eye test to make sure you can concentrate properly.

These are just a few of things you will need to consider for a sane life at work at home. Its not easy, but with most things in life its all about planning, planning and more planning. Start as you mean to carry on with a structure you can work with that manages your home life and work life. Learn to balance the needs from work, your wellbeing & your family commitments. Need more support on how to make this transition then just drop me a line for an informal chat about working at home and staying sane!

References

Office of National Statistics – Self-employed Workers in the UK, February 2013

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/index.html

Having Your Career & Eating it – Portfolio Careers

images (23)Now you may or may not have heard of a portfolio career before. Perhaps an odd title that I am sure a lot of working people may not of heard of or existed.  Big question is do they exist and who are they for? Well the answer to the question is yes they do exist, and really describe a mix and match approach to careers, work and or job type.  Portfolio careers are primarily explained as a deliberate approach and choice by an individual to divide their working week up into different parts with sometimes distinctly different jobs/work. Portfolio careers have gained more prominence with the changing employment landscape, insecurity of careers/jobs and the recent economic difficulties. Thus helping individual manage their careers effectively to meet with their changing lives.

I guess the traditional way to look at paid employment is a 9-5 or shift working existence going along to an office or a factory to do tasks outlined in the job description. However, the portfolio career tends to see work differently, operating flexibly by perhaps doing consultancy or part-time work in conjunction with running a small business, tailoring/seamstress, journalists, artists or what ever the opportunity presents. I am sure this may resonate with a lot of parents looking for the flexibility of childcare but having the opportunity to rejoin their careers on their terms.

Needless to say, these opportunities are not for everyone. Firstly, portfolio careers are seen by many as a “middle aged, middle class luxury” and to some extent that may have some truth. Though not always the case, as more and more 20 and 30 something’s see the benefits of a flexible working environment that suits their lifestyles. However, for some younger people they may want to establish a career track record before investigating an opportunity for a portfolio career, so can be initially tricky to support. Not impossible by any means, just may need some creative thinking and a great deal of hard work. For the younger worker this career path can be rewarding, highly flexible and certainly worth considering.

Portfolio careers then offer a great deal in return as discussed. Though in reality perhaps ideally suited to those with an established career track record. May be financially secure and are happy to look at self-employment and the variability in income that can sometimes present.  So who will benefit from this career option, those that like variety and change. Those that are looking for perhaps more meaningful work i.e. balance a better paid role to go alongside a less well paid role such as working in the third sector and charities. Perhaps looking for more autonomy, independence, enjoy a challenge and flexibility. Portfolio careers can present exciting opportunities but may need to be tempered with the unpredictability of the gaining the next project or customer enquiry. Opportunities such as these need to worked on and are generally hard work and sometimes dispiriting to start. As the hard work may yield very little in the short-term, so some support may be necessary to maintain motivation and commitment. All that aside, this Liquorice Allsorts career path can ultimately suit a wide variety of people/parents looking for variety, flexibility and enjoyment into their working life.

So if portfolio careers interest you – then here are a few tips to start your planning

  • Try to be flexible and plan your transition into a portfolio career with paid part-time work of full-time work to fund the planning.
  • Focus upon the steps necessary and plan well
  • Weigh up pros & cons properly
  • Think in terms of careers paths & patterns. Focus upon about what you understand as a proper career at your stage of life – what do you want from your working life now?
  • Think hard about self-employment & freelancing and what it means in reality (as discussed).
  • Be prepared for a lot of hard work to establish yourself, your friends and family may feel your are playing at working rather than a career plan. Help them to help you.
  • Think about temporary work or short-term contact working to help establish yourself and create revenue streams
  • Look into part-time jobs to plug the gaps
  • Job sharing opportunities
  • Take time to distinguish from your fantasy job or career from the reality of the situation you are in. Be sure what you will be doing, when how and with who.
  • Lastly, be positive, take the challenge and enjoy the rewards that a portfolio career can offer

Clearly, portfolio careers can be rewarding and fulfilling. They can help young and more mature people construct a career path with regular income to perhaps supplement a pension or preferred lifestyle. However, the transition can be fraught with pitfalls and set-backs, though if planned and executed correctly can he a liberating, fulfilling and sustainable for those people looking for a challenge. Want to know more call or contact me for more details of career transitions and how to take the anxiety out of portfolio careers.