Posts Tagged flexibility

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 a mess

I have just finished reading A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freeman. I have a feeling that this is a marmite book. Some people (like me) will love it and others will hate it. I can even predict who will hate it; the people whom the book refers to as the ‘neat police’ — the people who insist on clean desk policies and colour-coded filing systems.

This book pleads the case for the potential benefits of disorder. It also highlights the hidden costs of an over-emphasis on neatness, from the expense of maintaining rigid categorisation systems to the dangers to health of obsessive cleanliness. It provides much needed support for those of us who are ‘differently-organised’ as we attempt to fend off those who seem intent on decluttering our lives.

The topics range (in a predictably messy way) from office desks to transport systems, from business to science, from education to politics.

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Employability: concepts and components

Will work for food

Flexibility - a key component of employability?

I am preparing material for an employability module, and I’ve been getting myself into it by exploring different definitions and concepts of employability.

What is employability?

Coming at that question from a careers adviser’s perspective, I tend, by default, to think about employability in terms of the awareness and attributes of the individual job seeker. So into my head come the career management skills of the classic DOTS model (although, why it’s called DOTS and not SODT escapes me).

  • Self awareness
  • Option awareness
  • Decision learning
  • Transition learning

However, that’s not the only way of looking at employability. I thought it might be useful to share some of the perspectives on this subject that I have found most interesting. This is not meant to be an exhaustive literature review on the subject of employability, just an idiosyncratic collection of things that have caught my attention.

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Lucky shot

Lucky four-leafed clover

How lucky is that?

On my recent trip to New York  I visited a number of interesting places that made me think about how people deal with change. (I know! Even on holiday I’m generating material for blog posts! How sad!).

I also read a book that made me think about luck. This blog post is an attempt to put all that thinking into one place in preparation for a possible training session on navigating change.
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Interesting shorts – recession and resilience

Impact of a recession on beliefs


My! Those are interesting shorts!

How will the recession affect the world-view beliefs of those young people living through it?

A discussion paper from the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany, analyses certain beliefs held by United States citizens and tries to link these beliefs with an individual’s exposure to recessions. They found that people who experienced a recession during a key impressionable age range (18-25 years old) were more likely to believe that success in life was down to luck rather than hard work. They also found that this belief tended to persist throughout the person’s life.

This belief that success in life is beyond your control can lead someone to make less effort, which then makes the belief a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Giuliano, P. & Spilimbergo, A. (2009) Growing Up in a Recession: Beliefs and the Macroeconomy. Institute for the Study of Labour IZA Discussion Paper No. 4365.
  • Should we be working with the students currently at university in order to encourage a belief in the benefits of effort and hard work?
  • Do you think it would be useful to let students know about this research directly?
  • What do you attribute success to?

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Toolbox or artbox?

I am guilty.

I have committed this sin several times without thinking.

I am not the only one to have done it.

I have used the ‘T’ word.

I have used it on numerous occastions.

I have been known…

…when talking about the value of exploring theories and models…

…to use the phrase…

…’more tools in your toolbox’.

Art brushes

A brush with destiny

However, the more I think about it, the more I am annoyed by the limitations of the toolbox metaphor.

If you want to tighten a nut, you use a spanner. If you want to unscrew something, you use a screwdriver. Each tool has a specific, limited purpose. OK, if you need to bash in a nail and you don’t have a hammer, you could use a heavy spanner, but you wouldn’t be able to use the spanner to cut pieces of wood.

Giving career help to people is much more complicated. You don’t usually face a simple task for which one tool or approach is the best and only answer. Career problems are multifaceted and we often have to deal with a number of different issues simultaneously. This calls for something more sophisticated and creative than a mechanical ‘fix it’ approach and the toolbox metaphor that goes with it. Perhaps it’s time to swap the toolbox for the artbox.

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How can careers advice be positive in a recession?

lady luck

Is it all a game of chance?

In a world of employment gloom where graduate jobs are on the decline it seems to me the time is ripe to inject a bit of planned happenstance theory into our careers sessions.

Many successful people, when asked about their career, will talk about an element of luck.  But being in the right pace at the right time usually involves taking action to get there.  The person fortunate enough to be offered a job during work experience gets the opportunity not only because they had the initiative to get the experience in the first place but also because they made an impact once through the door.

Planned happenstance is a useful tool for advising in a difficult economic climate, when the R-word hold sway.  First, because it encourages open-mindedness in career planning, rather than searching for a rigid career goal.  Secondly, it promotes positive action regardless of whether this leads to an obvious outcome.

But how does this impact on our work?

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Positive compromise

I want to continue this short series of posts based around the theme of compromise by looking at a more modern developments.

In 2004 Charles Chen introduced the concept of positive compromise (Positive compromise: a new perspective for career psychology. Australian Journal of Career Development, 13(2) 2004). Compromise within career choice is generally considered a negative concept. Chen proposes that compromise will always be part of career choice in a complex and rapidly-changing world. Therefore, it makes sense to understand how to engage with compromise in constructive way.
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