Archive for category Employability

Fail

Fail Road by fireflythegreat

Hmmm… I’ve been down this road before.

The title of this article has a dual significance. First, it’s an acknowledgement of my failure to keep this blog up to date. My new role means that I have less time and less headspace for the reflection needed to write this stuff.

A lot of my learning at the moment is around how to be a good manager (or possibly how to be less of a bad one).

Currently, my learning is following it’s usual pattern. I’m learning through doing, reading and trying to teach others. At some point the trying to teach others bit will probably extend to writing more about my learning, but at the moment it is mainly limited to the various bits leadership development training I’m delivering.

One of those bits of leadership development training was the CMI Level 5 module I taught recently on managing ideas and innovation and in my usual domain-hopping way I have started to think about how the theories and models applied here could be useful in career development work with clients and in the development of careers professionals.

It’s not just businesses and entrepreneurs who have to be innovative. In the current economic climate, individuals have to be increasingly innovative with their own career development and job hunting. Similarly, as career professionals, we have to develop more innovative approaches to address the demands of our individual and institutional clients.

And this is where the second significance of the title comes in. Wherever there is a need to innovate, there is an accompanying need to be able to deal with the possibility of failure. In career terms, this is often linked with the idea of resilience. But there is more to dealing with failure than just the ability to bounce back and stay optimistic.

Failure is an integral and unavoidable part of any truly innovative process (unless you are incredibly lucky!). Preparing for innovation requires you to anticipate failure, accommodate failure, plan to recover from failure and learn from failure.

In a recent coaching session with a client, we were discussing options for embarking on a freelance career. The issue of possible failure came up and I struggled to find a way to help her think about failure constructively. Then I remembered a concept I had introduced in the CMI module: 4F – Fail Fast, Fail Forward. She immediately got it and responded enthusiastically. This isn’t so surprising (despite the name) because it actually reflects a growth or incremental mindset and an approach rather than avoidance motivation.

Fail fast – be ready for things to go wrong, know what early indicators of potential failure to look out for and be ready to act quickly.

Fail forward – don’t spend time on recriminations and wishful thinking, focus on solutions and focus on learning lessons so that your next attempts have a greater chance of success.

 

Monmouthshire County Council's Fail Fast, Fail Forward initiative

Fail fast. Fail forward

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Five employability mindsets

the five platonic solids by Johnson Cameraface

Which shape represents which mindset?

As I have just started teaching on the Chartered Management Institute Level 5 Diploma at the University of London, I thought it would be sensible to continue my recent activity of applying management theories and models to the world of careers coaching.

Most of the early conversations about employability and career management tended to focus on asking the question ‘How do you help students to develop skills or competencies that will make them effective in the job market?’. There tend to emerge two types of answer to this question: you give them training or you give them experience.

This mirrors the argument that has been running in the area of leadership development for a long time. There are those who argue that training without experience is too abstract (and therefore worthless) and there are those who argue that experience without training is random (and therefore worthless).

A slightly different perspective that seems to be emerging lately is that training, experience and combinations of training and experience tend to be more effective when participants have greater levels of self-awareness or when the training or experience itself promotes greater self-awareness.

One aspect of self-awareness that interests me is awareness of one’s own default mindset. Partly because of my interest in MBTI, I am conscious of the various ways in which different people approach the same problems. That’s why I was excited to come across a management model called the Five Managerial Mindsets.

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What’s your strategy?

Chess by wintersixfour

My strategy is to distract you with my fingernails while I move this horsey thing...

At the end of last year I taught a Chartered Management Institute Level 3 Leadership and Management course. It was great fun as it allowed me to play with various leadership and management theories and apply them to practical situations.

During the course, we touched on strategic planning and I came across an interesting model/theory about different approaches to strategy used by organisations. It occurred to me that this could be applicable to individuals thinking about their own career development strategy.

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What we should be teaching in interview training

Every now and again during interview coaching, I will stop and ask the client, “What do you think I’m looking for with that question?”. Having read an article by some organisational psychologists at the University of Zurich (Kleinmann et al., 2011), I’m going to ask that question a lot more.

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What is our output?

Audio by Sergiu Bacioiu

So, do your dials go up to 11?

I’ve been having some very interesting conversations lately on LinkedIn groups.

In one discussion, a Canadian career service manager described how his team had been increasingly using the term ‘career literacy’ to describe what they were trying to develop in their students. He asked what we thought of the term.

Part of me really likes the idea of literacy as a set of skills that enables you to interact with information. According to the UNESCO definition, literacy involves “a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society“. That fits rather well with the aims of a careers service.

My reservation with the term is that, in a university setting, literacy could be interpreted as rather a basic level of learning. By the time students have reached university, they should have gone beyond literacy and be operating in the realm of analysis and critical thinking. Would it have face value with the academic community?

So, what other terms could we use and what would they imply? Can we come up with something which appeals to those who are looking at immediate solutions as well as giving a strong message about developing an ability to deal with issues over the entire course of your career?

This kicked the random word generator in my brain into overdrive and I tried to come up with a range of phrases to describe what we are trying to nurture in our clients.
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Success: what is it and how do you achieve it?

Success

If only I'd realised that success could come so cheaply!

Are you successful in your career?

How do you know?

Traditionally, there are two ways of measuring career success:

  • objective success — externally measurable things such as salary level, number of promotions, etc.
  • subjective success — internal, psychological factors, such as level of career satisfaction, happiness, etc.

These two types of success can sometimes be related, i.e. the more objective success you achieve, the more subjective success you experience. However, they can also be unrelated. So, other people might perceive you as being successful, but you don’t feel it, or you might be really happy in your work even though other people might think you haven’t had much of a career.

Is there a way of predicting what factors lead to objective or subjective career success? Well, lots of researchers have tried to answer that question. Vast numbers of researchers have tried to examine the link between a range of attributes and the likelihood of a good career outcome. That’s far too much reading for me! I’d like someone else to do it for me…

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Know your type

Four angel bunnies

The angel bunnies resented being put into boxes - but they hid it well

In last week’s post about employability I presented four approaches to employability (Careerist, Ritualist, Rebel and Retreatist).

This got me all enthusiastic about typologies that put people into boxes which describe their approach to career management and decision making. I’ve found a few, but I’m hoping that you can come up with some more for me.

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Employability – attitudes & orientations

Which way are you facing - and why are you standing on one leg?

In the last post I discussed the definitions of employability that had been created by a variety of groups (employers, policy makers and academics). Did you spot the glaring omission?

On the whole, students and graduates don’t tend to go in for definitions of employability; they are too busy trying to live it.

However, Martin Tomlinson from the University of Cardiff conducted interviews with a number of undergraduate students to explore their perspectives.

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Employability viewpoints

Gesu Novo facade

Your viewpoint is everything

In my last posting about the E word I focused on various models of employability (the fun bit in my geeky world!). In this post I wanted to look at some of the various definitions of employability and what those definitions say about the people who construct them.

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Dwindle, dwindle little STAR

Star in a web

Catch a falling STAR

The STAR model is ubiquitous. Almost every application form and interview presentation contains the acronym: Situation, Task,  Actions, Result. Some graduate recruiters even instruct candidates to follow this model in their application form answers.

It’s tried and tested…and I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong. I would rather that a candidate uses STAR than nothing. Any structure is better than no structure. But I’m not sure that STAR is the best possible structure.

Partly, I will admit, I am just being awkward and iconoclastic (I impressed myself with that word!). I have a default tendency to question and challenge anything that is well established and widely accepted without criticism.

However, I do have a couple of reasons, one pragmatic and one theoretical, why I think STAR isn’t the best possible model to be recommending.
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