Accept Technological Unemployment or Create Good Jobs? A Choice for Organisations

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Accept Technological Unemployment or Create Good Jobs? A Choice for Organisations

The robots are coming. The new wave of technological innovation is expected to fundamentally change the future of jobs. The debate on the impact on jobs, however, is controversial and there are more pessimists than optimists. That’s because most commentators rightly dismiss Luddite attitudes as a futile attempt to delay the inevitable. Yet they fall foul of the dangerous temptation to believe that the future of work is, in fact, going to be determined by external forces, the forces of technology and the market, that make it impossible for actors in the future of work to make change. This technological determinism is rife in puffy journalism in the subject and in many reports.

Any prediction on the future of work, be they optimistic or pessimistic, is bound to be uncertain. Responsible leaders should still ask the question what does the responsible design and development of automation and artificial intelligence look like. What is the future of work that we want? Next, what are they prepared to do to make this happen?

The International Labour Organisation Director-General, Guy Ryder, spoke at a debate on the future of work hosted in Rome last month and said “let us not be paralysed to think that we are bystanders as the future of work unfolds". Too many incorrectly think that wrong to think that market forces and technology are the only drivers for transformative change. Policy makers and organisations have real choices to create new markets and better jobs.

Essentially human skills

Robots don't tend to take away jobs, but only certain sorts of tasks and activities that are easier to replicate. It follows that certain workers whose tasks cannot be done by robots will become more valuable. These workers will only remain valuable so long as they remain best placed to perform these tasks. In a long enough time horizon, machines can do everything that humans can. As that will take the best part of a half century or more according to most A.I. experts,  the priority now is to ensure the most successful transformation in the short term.

Deloitte UK research, which looked at hundreds of job profiles and mapped them against the 2013 Oxford Martin study, identified 25  skills which are "essentially human", including empathy, communication skills, listening skills, and personal relationship skills. Beyond these, the proliferation of perceptiveness, creativity, spontaneity, intuitive mastery, tacit knowledge and problem-solving will all increase the abundance of good work. This is part of a longer-term shift across the UK economy to more high value, knowledge intensive work, and growing demand for more highly skilled workers.
 

A Very Good Company  

Let's take the example of "A Very Good Company", a fictional organisation, to shine the spotlight on what could be when automation goes right. A Very Good Company's situation is that it can benefit greatly from automation, it already has got brilliant people and wants to support them to be their best. A Very Good Company has a ‘high road' market strategy requiring higher skilled and rewarded workers to deliver product and service quality and innovation . It is far from the ‘low road’ market strategies based on cost competition, more associated with jobs that are repetitive, offer limited training, seek efficiency through downsizing and use performance systems to drive greater worker effort.  

Automation Will Transform, Not Replace, Human Work 

L.P. Willcocks and M.C. Lacity, authors of “Lessons and the Future of Automation and Work” , distinguish between robotic process automation and cognitive automation, which informs the nature of work and the skills required.

A small number of people with enough motivation to learn computer science, artificial intelligence and analytics will build the next generation of smart machines that drive forward automation with both of these service characteristics, either for vendors or larger in-house organisations. 

In the next five years, we expect that more and more work groups will be composed of both humans and software robots, each performing tasks for which they are best suited.The robots will very quickly extract, consolidate, and rearrange data for humans to assess and act upon. Humans will deal with new business requirements (which humans may later teach to the software robots), troubleshoot and solve unstructured problems, positively envision services for customers, and build relationships with customers.
— L.P. Willcocks and M.C. Lacity

A.I. is an ongoing risky decision-making process that requires value judgments from humans. A Very Good Company will still need to decide how much to trust cognitive automation. Mistakes causing real suffering will happen with unstructured problems and exceptional cases require complex judgments, and notably ethical ones, under conditions of uncertainty. This is demonstrated by a few examples.

The auditor has to decide which items to include or exclude, how to categorize them, what recommendations to give to the client, when to report questionable practices, to whom, and in what format. The medical practitioner has to decide which tests to commission, which findings to emphasize, and how to explain the possible courses of a disease process to patients and families who differ widely in background, knowledge, and curiosity. The teacher has to decide which topics are most important, what to emphasize (or minimize) in the current context (including time constraints, snow days, and epochal world events), which kinds of feedback are useful to specific students in specific contexts, and which kinds are better kept under wraps for now.
— Professor Gardner of the Good Project Harvard University

 

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London in association with IPsoft predict the new role of Chief Innovation Officer who lead change in the report “FuturaCorp: Artificial Intelligence & The Freedom To Be Human”. This person will use technical knowledge, business strategy, tacit knowledge of the organisation and marketplace and creative thinking to get the best from the probabilistic outcomes of cognitive automation. Alongside this role, a technology broker will be buying advice and negotiating support to divisions across a company to ensure people have the right technology that is compatible. 

Jobs such as process analyst and system engineers will help to codify areas for automation leveraging their knowledge and experience in one area and then applying these new skills to other areas.

A new generation of data analysts will help companies make sense of the abundance of data generated by new technologies. Advances in natural interfaces, wearable devices, and smart machines will present new opportunities for user interface and user experience designers too. They will optimise the collaboration and productivity between people and machines making it easier to glean insights. 

This arena will especially suit entrepreneurs who will spot opportunities for automation and innovative use of data to optimise key decision making  There will be a slow march to automating even the complex tasks of professionals.
 

The miuse of data

Facebook's emotional contagion study is one example of the misuse of data. They came under huge criticism when people realised that they were manipulating their feeds to engender certain emotions. That would have never passed academic ethical review boards. 
There will be a new and very important kind of expertise—the ability to ensure that AI is used in ways that are fair, accessible and that do not compromise privacy or promulgate privileged information. The growth of cyber security might well pave the way for future roles like personal data guardians, white-hat hackers, privacy officers and other security workers - both inside and outside of organisations. There will, of course, be the rise of regulation and work for compliance and lawyers in this area, and the consequent increase in bureaucracy that people in organisations will work on.

Making it happen

A Very Good Company still requires a way to build the skills and workplace culture needed to create good jobs that add value to customers. 

These are just the outlines of roles that can be predicted at this stage. A Very Good Company understands that its employees already know how to innovate given an opportunity to do so. It will have a clear definition of why it's changing and a detailed design for the future, including organisation design, and key role and skill changes. A Very Good Company then follows the steps:

  • it lays down a framework for new skills, people and opportunities emerging in the organisation through automation  without overly intimidating its employees;
  • it holds idea generation sessions with employees then prioritise the most promising projects;
  • it helps individuals understand their motivators, interests and personality enabling them to get clear about what they want;
  • it aligns individual career goals with team and company needs, mapping individual's optimal career trajectory within the organisation.
  • iIt runs small experiments that reduce the risk and anxiety of change whilst providing feedback for individuals and teams about the best way forward.
[W]hen it comes to our careers, learning to pivot is Plan A. Pivoting, within our roles and throughout our careers, is the new normal…. Pivoting is a mindset and a skill set, and you can get better at both.
— Jenny  Blake, the author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One.

Good work

Media attention frequently focuses on wide-scale job losses. Too often organisations do follow suit.  One group of academics have observed that these decisions are  "made by omission as much as by commission….. [t]here is scope for employer choice over key components of job quality in a resource-constrained environment where quasi-market forces, competing institutional pressures and technological opportunities shaped but did not determine managerial priorities. ”


It is no doubt harder for organisations to creatively align technology with work but when employers equip employees with the skills, knowledge and support to make vital career pivots within the company then they will feel more confident, ambitious and less anxious about their future. The Work Foundation has it right that  “good” businesses find ways to work smarter together and to make sure people are still happy and engaged. They recognise companies don’t have ideas, but people do and they seek to build the relationships, bonds and team working that delivers the commitment, trust and resilience to support creativity and deliver results.  It's time to champion these organisations and spread the opportunity for good work. 
 

Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping professionals and organisations find a better career fit and take practical action through the fourth industrial revolution. 

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How to advance your career through networking

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How to advance your career through networking

Introduction

Feel that your skills and talents have not yet been recognized?  You’re not alone.  The average length of tenure at organizations is falling from eight years a generation ago to 2.5 years today.  The world of work is changing as a new generation is looking to advance their career through growth opportunities. When you really want to reach your potential, be that as an entrepreneur-to-be learning the ropes at a start-up or an employee, then you need to work hard to find the perfect fit between you and your employer.

Networking is the answer because it alone provides the most useful exchange of information about the work. It can provide fresh ideas for your job search, be that new organization or a subtle shift in role and industry. Every meaningful interaction can raise your profile amongst decision-makers, which might lead to your next job. It also widens your support network for whatever you face down the line.

Know where you’re heading

In order to get where you want to go, first, you have to figure out what your goal is. You have to be clear about the roles and industries of those you want to be talking to, and where you can find your niche. Ideally, you should have chosen job titles that you want and the job titles of those that can help you. Talking directly to the decision maker directly is what will assist you most effectively. It might seem scary to go straight to that person from the start but that's what matters.  You can also identify people who may be lower down than the decision maker and can provide you with useful information. Remember that whoever you speak to, your objective is not just to get a job or land a deal from the people you speak to as you can learn from these peoples' choices. What companies did they choose? Where did they go, and why did they do it?

But my network isn't that great

People often say they don’t think that their network is great. That’s not a problem. Everyone has more people in their network than they realize. Everyone. It's a matter of understanding who's on that network, and then selectively reaching out and understanding how you can help them. Most importantly, it's about asking strangers for directions like we talked about before.

The fact of the matter is, most people simply don't know how. The world of networking has evolved beyond the standard elevator pitch and there are networking avenues. There are all sorts of avenues for discovering new connections, particularly using social media. LinkedIn is a great place to start, but don’t limit yourself, you likely have a world of connections you can find and leverage using Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram.  Any professional or alumni associations you can get involved with will undoubtedly be a great resource as well.

Reframe your attitude to networking

A lot of people still think that networking for a job is sleazy and kind of desperate. The example I hear most often is something like ‘I go to networking events, but all I meet are people desperate to give me their business cards and find out if I'm somebody important.’

 Now, for most people, maybe. A cynic would see this as how to "warm up" your target employer before ever setting foot in an interview.  But there's a way to do it genuinely and tactfully. Like most things in life, there's always more than one motivator and we should embrace this. At all times, humanize the interaction — to make it about people and relationships again.

The simplest way to do this is to don’t pay attention so much attention to your self interest. Focus on providing value to this person that you're speaking to and creating a win-win-win situation for everybody. This happens most easily when you are at the same time confident and humble. That is when you're not putting yourself down; you're simply raising all those up around you. See the brilliance in those you talk to and how you can help them even more.  It's a matter of focus.

When I talk to most people about networking their response is that others don't have time to help total strangers, nor do they care to. Actually, that's not correct. Most people love helping out, and they'll help you too if you're a top performer. Why? It's for the same reason that we help people that asking for directions in the street. Humans like helping other humans. Always doing in networking is asking for directions in the context of a career. Now, of course, it's a bigger ask so will explore how to ensure that you come across as credible and likable so that person is more likely to help you.  Most people won't send the email because they're stuck on there. But what’s the worst that can happen? They ignore you? It's not the end of the world. Far from it you have gained the confidence of contacting others.

Do your homework

When you really value your time and the person's time, you're speaking to, then you won't ask questions you can find out with simple research on the Internet. Things like the average salary,  the list of responsibilities and daily activities can be found by looking at existing jobs in that area.  You have to go beyond this by finding out what you really need to know in order to make a decision about where you heading in your career.

 You're trying to figure out why this job is more interesting than others.  When you're doing it which of your abilities will be most useful that you can't leave from a job description. Often this will focus around the hardest parts of the Rock that you can ask about,  but bear in mind your strengths and weaknesses will make this you need to you. 

You want to get to know more about the different teams and the work culture to understand who will influence your success and satisfaction. It's often not clear exactly how long the hours are and you can pick into the balance between work and non-work ideal?

What you're also looking for is to understand the industry trends, gain insights about how to add value in the role you’re looking to enter and seek advice for your next steps, be that recommendations on ways to learn, resources to upscale with all people to talk to.

Start by supplementing your existing knowledge around that person,be it the role and the industry.  You’ll get better insights when you can show that you’re sincerely and interested in who they are and what they do. Follow them on social networks and engage with them so that you get noticed be it on their blog or on Twitter. In this way you're not just researching these people, but also actively building a relationship with them. Of course, all of this takes time and effort as networking is an investment and you'll have to make a judgement call about how important this contact is and how much time do you want to give to this process.  When this could be your dream job, then it's worth putting in those extra hours.

Conclusion

Most importantly – don’t get discouraged! Building worthwhile relationships, in life as well as in networking, takes time and effort. With this attitude your efforts will be targeted and streamlined to achieve maximum effect and the success you deserve. The most important part of networking isn’t meeting people—it’s following up, being helpful and staying in touch over the long term.

You can leave behind the people holding you back. All it takes is for you to go outside your comfort zone and push yourself for new opportunities. Break through the norm and make meaningful relationships.  Lastly, always consider it as an investment. It is a costly exercise and you must be prepared to invest in it both financially and mentally.

Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.

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How I managed to find the right balance between work and life, meaning and happiness

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How I managed to find the right balance between work and life, meaning and happiness

No one else can tell you how to live your life or navigate the choices. I have learnt the hard way, by causing myself chronic pain and burn out, that work-life balance is a unique and ever-changing perception on the appropriate compromise.  In an always-on work culture,  we are responsible for deciding when to stop work, spilling over into life and when to fully embrace its challenges; knowing when to integrate the two and when to compartmentalize them. The balance continues when I recognize this is a constant practice about how to weigh out all of the competing demands on my time and learning from my mistakes in the past.

Reaching my limits of chronic pain and burn out

When I started my career change business, I worked 12 hours plus, six or seven days a week because I enjoyed what I did, was helping other people with something I cared about deeply and needed to be successful in the eyes of others. With all these motivators and when everything was going well, I got a huge energy boost and juggled multiple deadlines just fine. After a successful day at work, I felt great and was ready to do it the next day. There was no compromise as I built something I really cared about that helped other people.

The problems came when things got tough and the challenges mounted on the business. On top of this, a niggling neck pain developed into a chronic problem driving me to distraction. Slowly I got more tired, made more mistakes, and lost confidence in my decision making. It took me longer and longer to get things done.  I was having far more lows than highs as negative automatic thoughtsstarting taking over. As soon as the next project ended, I took a week off that turned into a month-long recovery.

The trade-offs we make between work and life

I had the arrogance to think that I would be in that small percentage of people whocan deal with a lack of sleep and excessive stress levels.

Balanceis not about working less hard or making compromises but about maintaining my energy. I’ve now realised that when I’m energized I’m able to work really hard. I also know the importance of recovery and respite when under stress. At a deeper level,  I've committed to the fact that my health is more important than my work, and to build the routines to make that a daily reality.

Yet it’s not an either-or - it’s a balance to be struck constantly. We underestimate the importance of taking time out so that we can keep pushing for what we've already decided we want. We're always trying to weigh up what really matters which often creates major dilemmas. Do the following sound familiar ? I’m continuing to live all of these trade-offs:

  • Money versus your life(especially for long-hour, stressful jobs)
  • "Work should be hard and challenging" versus "work should be fun"
  • Work-life compartmentalisation versus work-life integration
  • Helping those in most need versus helping my bank balance
  • Pure challenge versus lifestyle career

Happy and Meaningful Experiences

Like most people, sometimes I spend more time in experiences where I feel happy ((as in immediate pleasure, not long-term satisfaction) , and at another time in experiences where I feel that I’m doing something meaningful - that is, worthwhile, fulfilling and purpose-driven.

At the most basic level, the meaning of work is to support the richness of our life outside of work. But for the money, we probably wouldn’t be there.  When work isn’t making us happy,  making enough money is a trade off we can live with.

 However, meaning at work has been rarely just about the money we earn, but perhaps more about achieving something important, helping other people and being part of something bigger than ourselves. I’ve experienced all these lofty aspirationsat one time or another, and it’s great; without that sense of purpose, I lose my way, and become demotivated. Many studies have shown that when people are contributing to a higher purpose, they are likely to have a healthier outlook on life and be more resilient to stress.

A pendulum swinging

The important question I ask now is what is the right balance between happy and meaningful experiences. For example most research indicates that parents are more unhappy most of the time than people without children. However these same parents reflecting ontheir life would comment that having children has been the most important and meaningful activity they've engaged in. You can think of this as a pendulum, which swings back and forth between experiences. Some are more happy than meaningful, somemore meaningful than happy. This will happen throughout your life. The middle reflects an equal balance of happy andmeaningful experiences.

 The key is looking for some expression of balance and proportionality without imagining that there is some perfect symmetry or balance between all the areas in your life. It’s unlikely that these areas will ever be in balance perfectly. But when life is really out of balance for too long, that’s when there can be a problem.

pendulum 1.jpg

Source: petagadget.com

Setting limits in advance

I’ve now learned from past experience what my limits are. It's all too easy to slip back into bad habits so what helps me is to write those limits down in advance. It always helps to have accountability from others about this too. This is the checklist I do in my career planning every year to make sure that I’m going in the right direction:

  • I spend enough time each week ________ on the things that are important to me and make me physically healthy, happy, and not too stressed outside of work
  • In terms of annual compensation, the absolute minimum I will accept to fit with my lifestyle and my goals of life outside of work is ______________
  • I’ll be entitled to ________ paid vacation days per year
  • I’ll usually be working _____ hours a week and the absolute maximum I will work in busy periods (of say a month) to maintain my family, social life and hobbies is ____
  • At stressful times that do impact my health and well being, they don’t happen more often than ________ every month and they don’t have a long-term impact.

Alarm bells now start ringing when I go way out of line with these things. And I’ve now got a much better perspective to focus on the essential and limit everything else.

You’re the only expert on you

All too often I thought that making change happen means I have to quit my job, live off my savings and make radical changes, but I've learned there is a different way. I can get a better balance by building in the right practices that help me make small acts of commitment every day. It is a fine balance to weigh up all of life’s competing opportunities and demands - to focus on the essential and limit everything else. As I said at the start of this piece, no one else can tell you how to live your life or navigate your choices. We all have to build our own routines to make life and work fit for our unique situation.

Cover Image source: inc.com

Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.

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Why you need to network to get your next job

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Why you need to network to get your next job

This post originally appeared in Skills you Need.

Job seekers the world over are familiar with the phrase: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This has never been truer than today when you are one of hundreds of online applicants. How do you gain the attention of hiring managers and decision makers when they don’t know you? Employing a smart networking strategy is the key to achieving breakthrough and landing your next job.

So what is networking? It is the exchange of useful information between people. This helps you to understand the challenges of hiring organisations and demonstrate your value better in the application process. It also offers new perspectives on your job search and a longer list of organisations to target.  In the process, you will be raising your profile amongst decision makers, who with a little luck, might refer you to someone in their network hiring.

Be strategic in your networking

 Two common mistakes people make in networking is either to talk to anybody in a scattergun approach or to confine themselves to their pre existing networks. Both of these are often time-consuming, ineffective and demoralising. The key to networking is to target organisations you are motivated to work for and those who are likely to be hiring.  With these two factors, you’re going to maximise your chances of making a fulfilling career move that happens sooner rather than later.  Bear in mind that the sooner that you want a job the better it is to focus on those that are likely to be hiring.

40 is a challenging, yet manageable number of people to start with. Here is how you can get to that number.

  • Write down the companies that you most want to work for off the top of your head.
  • Search the job aggregator website www.indeed.co.uk to check whether they are hiring in your position.  It tends to be more comprehensive than others. Add them to the list if they are. For large organisations it is enough to see that they are hiring for other roles to demonstrate that they are growing and it is more likely that therewill be a job in the near future forthe role that you seek .
  • Search directly for job openings to top up your list. Use the niche job boards in your industry first. Then use Indeed again, other aggregator sites, including Neuvoo and large job sites like Reed, total jobs, LinkedIn and Jobs Rapido.

Target the right people

So you have your short list of organisations. Now you need to find the right people to target through this step by step process. Speak to hiring managers directly or people with your desired job title by following these steps.

  • Use LinkedIn - it is a powerful way to network with people you don’t know. Start by entering the desired job title in the search filter called ‘keyword’ and ‘organization’. If you're not getting what you're looking for then you can refine your search by function and years of experience by upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, which is usually a good investment.
  • Mention a mutual connection - it will always get a much higher response rate. The quickest way to do this is to use Email Hunter, a plug- in for your web browser to find email addresses from Linkedin and other sites.
  • Then add www.Discover.ly to your email account. By placing in their email address you can take a look at their profile on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook. From there you can identify any mutual friends or talking points.
  • You can also use LinkedIn to ask a connection to introduce you to their connection, but the whole process is quite cumbersome, so I would recommend you just do that via regular email.
  • Finally, contact people by email. As it's time-consuming and difficult to get someone on the phone, email is the most effective way to get in contact with people. You'll also tend to get a higher response rate than by using LinkedIn messages.
  • The key rule for any email sent is to make them care, be that by congratulating or showing excitement about something relevant and recent remind them of the interactions that you’ve already had.  Then make it short and concise: normally 3 paragraphs and 6 to 8 lines are about right.

Do your homework

Value their time and don’t ask questions you can find out through simple research on the Internet. Things like the average salary, the list of responsibilities and daily activities can be found by looking at existing jobs in that area.  You have to go beyond this. What is it that only this person can tell you about the organisation?

You'll come up with part of this information during your research around that person, and their role in the industry.   You’ll also get better insights when you can show that you’re sincerely interested in who they are and what they do. Follow them on social channels and participate in their conversations, be that with comments on their blogs or reply and retweet on Twitter. Add more value and stand out so that you get noticed where possible. In this way you're not just researching these people, but you're actively engaged in their world as much as you can be. 

Create an agenda

Write down in advance the key things that you want to talk about.  It's all too easy to get sidetracked - you end up leaving and knowing nothing more about what's important.  That's why an agenda will keep you on track.

Here is a potential structure that can work courtesy of the 2 Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton.

  1. Small Talk: How are you? Something about the weather / football?!
  2. Lay out the agenda
  3. Then follow TIARA (in the order that seems most natural as the conversation unfolds
  • Trends impacting the organisation
  • Insights on the organisation
  • Advice to prepare to prepare a career in this field
  • Resources to learn more
  • Assignments and current projects that this person is working on

4.     Next steps: always ask whether there are other people they would recommend speaking to. If a referral is offered, commit and schedule follow-up. Always thank them again for their time.

5.     Send a thank you email as follow-up within the same day. This not only gives you the opportunity to thank them for their time, it also allows you to ask for some more suggestions and continue the relationship from the meeting

6.     When a job comes up in their organisation, then let this person know. Ask them whether you can include mention of their name in the application process in order to stand out. Mentioning in your reasons for applying that you have discussed your organisation with this person subtly emphasises the effort you have made.

Killer questions for useful insights and advice

  • How did your expectations before you started work compare with the reality of the job?
  • What they would change if they had a magic wand?!
  • What are some things most people do not realise about this career?
  • Is your job typical of others in this field?
  • Ask them to describe the investments they made along the way in terms of education, training, equipment, certificates, licensures, office space, systems etc.
  • Ask each person, “What do you believe was the best investment you made in your career?”
  • What are the factors in feeding success and its traps? What are the factors that inhibit and facilitate success at each step?

Of course, all of this takes effort and you'll have to make a judgement call about how important this contact is and how much time do you want to give to this process. Remember, doing it correctly can land you your dream job.

Network in person where possible

When there is the opportunity to do so, attend events and get to meet people personally.

  • Do your research and list the specific people that you aim to meet at the event
  • Make sure you can recognise that person at the event and take picture from the Internet along on your phone if it would help to refresh your memory
  • Have a couple of comments written down to trigger conversations
  • Prepare three introductions about yourself - one to last a couple of seconds  for a brief introduction, the next a few sentences when someone expresses more interest and the last that can be longer when you get into an extended conversation with someone
  • Have a few talking points that you have gleaned from your research about this person all topics related to them
  • Take notes after your meeting so that you can work on the next steps

Conclusion

Most importantly – don’t get discouraged! Building worthwhile relationships, in life as well as in networking, takes time and effort. With this attitude your efforts will be targeted and streamlined to achieve maximum effect and the success you deserve. The most important part of networking isn’t meeting people—it’s following up, being helpful and staying in touch over the long term. When you approach networking with enthusiasm, respect for the other’s time and exude credibility, you’ll a better chance of a new contact and friend. Networking is good manners Wherever possible, ask if there's anything you can do for that person and focus on what you can offer to others. You never know when that help might be useful.

Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.

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Why You Should Stop Thinking About Work-Life Paradigm As Just Doing Less

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Why You Should Stop Thinking About Work-Life Paradigm As Just Doing Less

This post originally appeared in Thrive.

The ability to find balance is unhelpful when framed as diametrically opposed choices like “work to live” or “live to work”. Balance between work and non-work activities is not just about doing less of one and more of the other. That's because what matters is your unique and ever-changing perception on the compromise that is taking place between work and non-work activities.

Many times in my life, starting new jobs or businesses, I've worked 70 hour weeks and I wouldn’t want to change it. With the excitement of a new project, a sense of real achievement and learning, I was hugely energized and multi-tasked effectively. After a successful day at work, it was easy to get out of bed the next day and do the same. There was no compromise in work and life at all.

Things then got worse and problems mounted I started to worry more, make bad decisions and lose confidence. The positive feedback loop of achievement giving more energy dried up. I remember taking 10 minutes out when I was overwhelmed, closing the bathroom door behind me and thinking I just can't cope.

 

Unhealthy work culture is the norm

I’m not the only one who has reached these lows. For the average Anglo-American desk worker the 40 hour work week is no more. The average non-hourly American worker spends 49 hours per week at the office with 1 in 4 spending more than 60 hours per week at work. Research at Bersin by Deloitte shows that stress, lack of sleep, and the constant need to maintain focus is making work harder than ever. It’s also toxic to your general health and obesity.

Yet all of the statistics out there and the growing awareness does not abate the epidemic of burnout and stress in the workplace. A Gallup poll of nearly 240,000 full-time workers found that 10.8% of U.S. full-time workers have received a depression diagnosis. That’s shocking.  I'm determined never to put myself at risk of this again.  

Thinking back to when I was in the middle of this, all of the statistics about other people struggling would not have made much difference. I had the arrogance to think that I would be in the small percentage that can deal with a lack of sleep and excessive stress levels. I realize now that work-life balance is about my ability to take control and define what career and happiness means to me.

I’ve now identified that when I’m energized I am able to work really hard. I have recognized the importance of recovery and respite when under stress. Fundamentally, my health and happiness is way more important than the work I do, I've made huge changes in my behavior. I no longer prioritize short term needs at the cost of my long-term health. I'm no longer on the clock 24/7. I'm learning to listen to my family and friends. This clarification of my values has made making healthy choices much easier and has enabled me to set the right goals to live well.

Yet it’s not an either or - it’s a balance to be struck constantly. We underestimate the importance of taking time out so that we can keep pushing for what we've already decided we want. We're always trying to weigh up what really matters, which can create a major dilemma. Does this sound familiar? I’m continuing to live all of these trade-offs:

  • Helping those in most need versus helping my bank balance
  • Pure challenge versus lifestyle + pleasure
  • Having more money versus more family time
  • Work-life compartmentalization versus work-life integration

Meaning, growth and happiness

Sometimes, I feel a happiness that is immediately pleasurable. Other times, I am doing something meaningful - something that helps other people, that gives me a sense of belonging or lets me express myself and get creative. At other times, I commit to gaining the experience, knowledge, skills and networks now in order to advance my career and have the future impact I desire. This ensures I’m satisfied with my career goals and the rate I’m progressing towards them.

Balance is easy on the sweet spot in the middle of the diagram when all of these factors coincide. It requires much more attention, effort and discipline when they are not aligned. The important question to ask myself now is what is the right balance between happy, meaningful and career growth experiences at this part in my life?

SWEETSPOT.png

Sometimes you'll have more happy experiences and other times you have more meaningful or growth focused experiences. The key is looking for some expression of balance without thinking there is some perfect balance between all these areas all the time. It’s not likely that these areas will be in balance too often. Just think how we tend to work hard from Monday to Friday and then take the weekends off. The important factor is that when life is really out of balance for too long, that’s when there can be a problem.

A daily practice to find your balance

The ability to hold up a mirror to yourself and have a conversation about your work-life is critical. It’s hard, and when we’re in the midst of problems, then it’s unlikely we have the time or perspective to do this. That’s why establishing a regular practice before trouble hits is the only effective solution.

I now set my daily priorities every morning (ideally in front of the mirror at home to make it real) considering what will ensure:

  • I do my best work
  • I’m physically healthy, happy, and not too stressed
  • The demands of my work don’t interfere with my lifestyle and family life
  • I have a life outside of work - I spend enough time on the things that I like and are important to me outside of work

This reinforces the reason why I have many habits of exercise and mindfulness.  What has been crucial is the subtle but powerful mindset shift from doing something because I should, to doing something because I choose, moving towards the values  I care about most.

Just like going to a group exercise class is easier than pushing yourself, the same applies to goals outside of fitness. That’s why many people get great results through accountability groups. This is where a group of people, who want to make progress towards a goal, come together and hold each other accountable to do this.

You’re the only expert on you

The highest levels of performance in the workplace, sports or any other arena don't happen without trade offs. Working until 10 p.m. on a Friday night can make the difference between succeeding and failing, but is one less evening spent on what else is important in your life. For most people, the idea of work/life balance is an elusive ideal, because it’s one of the most difficult goals to achieve.

Balance requires tough decision making combined with care about who you are and what you should be doing with your life. Your life matters. Your career decisions matter. The difficulty is no one else can tell you how to live your life or navigate the choices. Only when you have made decisions on what’s important, can you build practices strategies and tactics to make it work for you.

Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.

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How To Get Ahead In Your Career With A Move To Complementary Roles And Industries

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How To Get Ahead In Your Career With A Move To Complementary Roles And Industries

This post originally appeared in Influencive

The world of work has changed. Job security, a stable path in the same industry and same role no longer exists. The average job duration for younger workers of 2.5 years doesn't even take into account the in-job shifts in responsibilities and role.

In this context, many of us are starting to realise that doing the same as everyone else won't work to advance your career. I sometimes tease my corporate lawyer friends that they put themselves in an environment with the most ambitious, competitive individuals in the least creative industry. It's the worst combination to stall career development. Why? Because they can't add unique value.  When you feel like you’re not growing in your current role and there aren’t project and opportunities on the horizon then it’s time to move on before getting overtaken by the rest.

There are more sectors, industries, niches and boutique companies than ever to explore your best match. That’s not to mention the range of employers from start-ups to sustainability to corporate – the variety is incredible.

The 21st century has more opportunities than ever to develop your career with a move to complementary roles and industries to increase your salary. It’s done when you leverage your career capital, your most valuable experience, skills, and knowledge to make a natural change in role and/or industry. It’s more important than ever to design your career move to create opportunities that are at the same time exciting for you, attractive to potential employers and feasible with the time and money you have to make it happen. Opportunities around your unique value don't happen, you create them.

Find similar roles for smart career development

You will only outperform others when you excel in this particular area. Forget about your job title, look for career capital. This is an involved process that requires an objective appraisal and an understanding of the marketplace from the right experts. A good starting point is these resources where you might strike gold or at least expand your understanding of the possibilities.

mySkills myFuture can help find the moves that others have made leveraging what you have in common. Also, try O-NET skills search and widen your career options based on your top skills.

Then you can use an advanced LinkedIn search to find out who hires candidates with your skills. Use the keywords field to search for the specific skills you're hoping to use in your next role. You can also enter the name of your degree here, as the search function doesn't have a field for this purpose.

Develop your career in a related industry

There will be some complementary industries where others from your industry have already shown the value they can offer.

First, think about the clients and supply chain of your organisation and the industry more widely. You will find overlaps of knowledge, experience, and networks to help your shift.

Think about what your sector does well and what makes you stand out to other industries. With reduced government funding and the need for income generation in the nonprofit sector, many clients have made successful moves with their strategic planning, entrepreneurial concepts,  technology or business development skills. The entertainment industry background of another client was very attractive to a number of technology companies, which are focusing more on content.

Use a career design framework to explore

Throughout your exploration, focus your mind on these key areas to identify where your strengths can solve the problems of others. Find:

  • Industry trends that can work in your favor
  • Insights and advice from experts or people that have transitioned successfully
  • Resources that can serve you to find the information and build the skills you need
  • Projects where you would be able to add value

Create a system and know what you’re looking for

Then create a list of your roles/functions and industries, and block them on a two by two matrix like this. Then reflect on the value you can offer and the opportunities worth exploring further.

career_clients_framework.png

With a solid process to follow, you’ll save time, yet it will still be a lot of work. However, compared to staying miserable in your current job or making a big leap that you'll regret in two years’ time, it is completely worth it. Remember, opportunities don't just happen -  you create them by taking practical steps towards career development.

 

Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.

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A Third of Lawyer Job Seekers Are Looking to Leave the Profession

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A Third of Lawyer Job Seekers Are Looking to Leave the Profession

The findings underline the retention crisis facing law firms struggling to hold onto talented junior lawyers. Over 30% of lawyers looking to change career are targeting in-house or non-legal roles in banking, finance, insurance, construction, energy and IT, where there is a higher in-house demand and where legal decision-making is fundamental to the value of the business.

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