Posts Tagged recession

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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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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Escape velocity

Push to Exit

Just waiting for the right moment...

A recent survey of over 4,000 UK employees conducted by GfK NOP found that one in four were planning to leave their organisation within the next year.

The survey suggests these intentions are linked to the actions taken by the employers dealing with the effects of the recession. Continuing measures such as redundancies, recruitment freezes, pay freezes and restrictions on training have led to reduced morale and diminished job satisfaction.

In the public sector almost 40% of employees reported that morale was worse than the previous year.

Throughout the recession a lot of attention has been paid to the obvious victims — those who have suffered redundancy and job loss — but what about the survivors, the ones who have kept their jobs but may have suffered in other ways?

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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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Raise the right barriers

As the employment market continues to be difficult with more graduates going for fewer jobs, employers are seeking ways to handle the increase in applicants.

I was struck by the contrast between the approaches of two retail graduate recruiters reported in the news recently. In one case, in order to reduce the number of applications they have to sift, the recruiter is said to have raised their minimum acceptable degree classification from a 2:2 to a 2:1. In the other case, they have introduced an on-line pre-screening test of situational judgement based on common work situations.

I don’t know of any research that links degree classification to one’s ability to perform as a retail manager, but there is quite a bit of research that links degree classification to socio-economic background. On the other hand, I can imagine that testing  one’s ability to think clearly about certain common work situations could correlate to job effectiveness.

I can completely understand the desire of graduate recruiters to reduce their workload when faced with a flood of applications, but I wonder if they think through all the possible unintended consequences of arbitrary grade requirement inflation. It may mean in the future that it won’t just be the professions that are disproportionately populated by the socially advantaged.

  • When visiting employers, how often do you question them about their awareness of the unintentional unfairness of their recruitment practices?

Related post: Poor students!

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Mine! All mine!

Having recently run a workshop on differences in cultural communication, my eye was caught by a fascinating study just published in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology. The authors were looking into the explanations people from different countries gave for their career changes. The reasons given were divided into internal factors (e.g. desire for a change, wanting to develop) and external factors (e.g. organisational restructuring, luck). So far, so standard attribution theory.

Change

But who or what is responsible for the change?

The interesting bit was when they looked at country differences. The career changers from the USA exclusively gave internal reasons for change, whereas those in China gave mostly external reasons. Career changers in Europe tended to offer a mixture.

Chudzikowski, K., et al. (2009) Career transitions and their causes: A country-comparative perspective. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82(4), 825-49.

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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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Constructing successful careers

How useful are your career constructs?

How useful are your career constructs?

A while ago I came across a fascinating article entitled ‘Graduates’ Construction Systems and Career Development’ by Valerie Fournier (Human Relations 50(4) 1997). The research used a technique from Personal Construct Psychology called the Repertory Grid to elicit the constructs (mental frameworks) through which graduates viewed themselves in the world of work. Fournier examined the graduates as they started their careers, after six months and then after four years.

She then compared the graduates whose careers had been successful with those who were less successful. She used objective measures of success (i.e. promotions) and subjective measures (i.e. reported career satisfaction).
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Learned helplessness and the recession

Helpless dog

Helpless dog (who has not been electrocuted - just in case you were worrying)

In 1967 Martin Seligman conducted some slightly disturbing experiments on dogs. The dogs were exposed to electric shocks that they could not escape because of restraints. Eventually they would give up trying to do anything about their suffering. This lack of response continued even when the restraints were removed and it was possible for them to avoid the pain. The dogs had come to believe that they could do nothing about the shocks, so they didn’t try.

Based on this, and further experiments on animals and humans, Seligman formulated the theory of learned helplessness. In essence, it says that when someone is exposed to an experience in which they feel they have no control or ability to change things, this can lead to an assumption of helplessness which persists even if it subsequently becomes possible to effect a transformation.

Throughout the recession there has been talk about how to help the ‘lost generation‘. However, if learned helplessness is real, then it will require more than just providing opportunities. The recession may have affected the perceptions and attitudes of a generation of job-seekers.
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