Category Archives: Personal Development

The Essence of Creativity – It Needs to Flow Correctly

Can you give me an example of your creativity’ is often a question asked by interviewers the world over? Almost all job descriptions these days list it as a character trait. Quite a lot of people struggle to answer this question but it may be more a case of understanding the very essence of creativity more than anything else. To be creative is to be innovative, solution orientated, adding value, and taking initiative. But it is also about passion – it’s about doing something you love. I truly believe that the most successful people in the world are those who like and love what they do. That’s where creativity flows from. Everything becomes second nature. If all this does not happen, then you cannot be creative.

But all this may not be your own fault. For one reason or another maybe the job or work you do started well but later turned out to be something else entirely. Maybe the office culture wasn’t right. There can be numerous reasons.  Some people do take the initiative and make a boring job more interesting by challenging themselves in solving the problems right under their noses. For others being creative is about doing something they love and being in the optimum environment.

Do not be surprised then that if it takes you several jobs or indeed a decade or more to realize your creative potential. It is all about being in the right place at the right time in the right frame of mind.  Creativity is like a chemical reaction. Certain elements such as passion, the right environment, meeting the right minded people, doing something you love, pouncing on the opportunities must be present for the creative juices to flow. When that happens nothing in the world can stop you achieving your goals and ambitions.

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The Anatomy of a Job – Understanding each stage and taking it easy

A job represents different things to different people. A job provides sustenance, prosperity, growth, a realization of a worthy goal to name a few. I have always thought of a job as a vehicle that propels our life, and so it is made up of many key components. More importantly, you are the fuel that is used to drive this engine so it is absolutely important that the engine has the right quality of fuel and in sufficient quantity. The seven key components of a job are as follows:

Job Advertisement/Job Lead – The job advertisement is what generates your interest in a job. You read about the job description and decide whether you tick all the boxes in order for you to apply for the vacant position. That is why it is absolutely important you read the job description carefully and tailor your CV/application accordingly because you do not want it to end up in the discarded pile.

Interview – The make or break stage of the whole process. Some researchers have said that an interviewer will make his/her mind up whether to hire a candidate or not in the first 3 minutes of an interview. First impressions count, and if you can come across positive as soon as you step into the interviewer’s room the better. What is even more important is getting off to a good start when the interview questions come your way. In order to be really successful in interviews you have to know what you stand for and what you can bring to the table. The interviewer may start off with a common question such as ‘Tell me about yourself?’ Quite a lot of candidates struggle with this question. This is your opportunity to truly sell yourself. Think of this question like an elevator pitch for yourself. Have a few meaningful words and sentences committed to memory to really get your pitch flowing.

Contract/Offer of Employment – This is the moment you sign on the dotted line. It is an opportunity for you to review the fine details of the job. Does it fit your requirements? Are there any clauses? What are the terms and conditions? It is always a good idea to read through the contract several times before you sign it and send it back to the employer.

Induction – This is quite an exciting part of the whole job process. It can last anywhere between 1 and 2 weeks and depending on the nature of job can even be longer. The induction is designed to provide you with as much information about the specific job and company. It’s all about becoming acquainted with the house rules. You will be given information on health and safety issues, your holiday entitlement etc. Use this process to gain as much knowledge about the company’s policies and procedures as possible.

Performance Review – This is the nervous part of the entire project. However, it does not need to be that way. The important thing to remember is that the employer is basically looking to evaluate you in accordance with a set of pre-determined criteria relating to the job you were hired to do. The criteria for this depends on the type of job but in essence it revolves around core competencies and your attitude at work and the impact that has on company profitability.

Redundancy/Firing – This signals the end of the road for you but don’t take it in a bad way. The company has made the decision based on your performance review or has been forced by senior management to trim the staff count. Although this process can be very difficult to bear the important thing is to be proactive and figure out what you are going to do next. If you have a really good relationship with your manager, you can ask him/her if they can help you identify any job leads. Also use your network to your advantage because there is a hidden jobs market out there, it’s just a case of finding it.

In summary, starting a new job can be a really exciting experience. The first three months are considered to be toughest where you really have to showcase your abilities. It’s almost like a President’s first 100 days in charge. A solid start will lay a solid foundation for your future role in the company. By six months, you should be comfortable in your daily role. There will be challenges and there will be disappointments and setbacks along the way. The important thing is to remain focused and work hard. Your attitude will determine your altitude.

Why having a wider skills set is better!

I was at home in my bed at the weekend nursing a twisted knee which was mind – numbingly painful. As I lay there moaning and groaning in pain. A random thought arose in my mind. That thought was that a person needs absolutely no experience to set up their own business but when they wanted to say apply for a business development position or other, they probably wouldn’t get the job because they had no specific experience. How odd I thought to myself. People who run their own businesses are just as capable as the people who do the regular 9 to 5 jobs of their counterparts. To run your own business, one needs to be pretty decisive and not shy away from doing the dirty work. In many respects you need to be a jack of all trades, and in many cases that is where the lessons one has learnt in life come in handy. You have a pretty big in-tray of work daily as you juggle marketing, sales management, administration, order processing etc. You don’t have specific targets as such but one big moving target all the time which is the product and/or service you are selling.

The global recession has resulted in many business failures because finance has dried up leaving a lot of entrepreneurs to pick up the pieces. So my question is shouldn’t these people be top of the interview pile when they to apply for vacant positions because they have so much to offer?  Does one really need to have specific experience in a specific field to be good at the job, or is experience gained over a certain length of time in a general field more worthwhile? I believe that in a depressed economy, it may be more economical to employ someone who has a wide range of skills rather than one skill. I think time has come when it should be perfectly possible and indeed permissible to have one person performing two functions. People who have a wide ranging skills set are more likely to have the appetite and capacity for learning new skills and taking on additional responsibility.

How to develop interest in something

Imagine a scenario where you have successfully obtained a job after a grueling interview and selection process. You have had two interviews. One with the HR Manager and the other with the Director and have also completed a practical exercise. You answered all the questions with great accuracy and intelligence and aced the practical exercise. The job you have been recruited to do requires knowledge of several industry sectors that you aren’t really familiar with but the employer has decided to put you on their payroll on merit.  It is your first day on the job and your first task is to find out about an industry you know nothing about and have zero interest in.

So what do you do, where do you start? The first thing to do is not to panic. Interest can be developed. You just need to ignite a little spark in you. It is said that it takes around 10,000 hours (416 days) to become an expert in something, and there may even be set backs along the way in your quest to achieve this. Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb failed 10,000 times before he got it right so don’t let your head drop if you fail a few times. So what does the master plan of developing interest in a subject involve? Interest is basically a by-product of experience. Generally, the more experiences we have in life, the more exposure we get to certain things and this in turn helps fuel the appetite for developing our interest in something. Exposure therefore is a pre-cursor to developing interest. What must follow is a pursuit to actively and purposefully develop the interest. Here are a few tips to do just that:

  • Gather information about the subject
  • Immerse yourself in the subject matter
  • Learn some basic knowledge about the subject by devoting 15 minute each day
  • Gradually ramp up the time you spend learning about the subject
  • Enroll on a course if possible – structured learning aids the process of developing interest in a subject because the information is presented in a way that is easily digested by the reader
  • Talk to other people – have discussions about the subject
  • Renew your interest and knowledge in the subject by staying in touch with the literature – sign up to blogs, subscribe to newsletters and RSS feeds, bookmark favorite websites.

In summary, the above points represent simple tips that can be adopted to help us generate interest in a subject and in the long run develop a better understanding of it. All that is needed is a little adjustment on your part and a can-do attitude. If you can do that then you are already half way there.

Getting Ahead in Your Career – Tips from Bordan Tkachuk

Getting Ahead

Bordan Tkachuk is CEO of Sir Alan Sugar’s Viglen IT company. He is also a trusted business advisor for Lord Alan Sugar, is also known from his appearances on the BBC-produced British version of The Apprentice, interviewing for Lord Sugar. He is known for his sharp attention to detail as many candidates interviewed by him on the TV show have discovered. Just ask Lee McQueen.

  1. Be courageous and take advantage of emerging consumer markets
  2. Carry out a self-appraisal of yourself. Ask yourself. Do you enjoy what you do? Do you get fulfillment from it? Are you financially rewarded for your efforts? Addressing questions like these will help set the direction of what you truly want from your career
  3. At the interview, always make a good impression and sell yourself well to the company. To really make this work look at the company website, find out who the competitors are, what the products are, the market size, or ring the company and ask them to send you information.
  4. Make sure your CV is readable.  Be honest about your skills and don’t try to bluff your way through
  5. The key to being successful in your career is to be persistent
  6. A degree will give you a good foundation but sticking with something and continuously developing your skills is central in shaping your competencies
  7. Working your way up through an organisation will give you a lot of confidence
  8. Having passion and believing in yourself is the fuel that will drive your forward.
  9. Always view mistakes as learning opportunities not failure

Integrity is a highly valued quality by employers.  If you can demonstrate that in your interview and on the job you will be on the right track. Don’t try to be something you are not. You won’t come across in the right way to others. The importance of being genuine and being yourself is essential.

Unemployment and Social Media – Jobseekers must Connect, Absorb and Create

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Let’s face it; social media is spreading like wild fire across the populations of the world. In fact, Facebook recently claimed that is now has 1.11 billion members.  Whichever way you choose to look at that figure, that’s a pretty substantial number of people.

This may then be the right time for jobseekers to view social media in a different light given its ability to reach out to a staggering number of people. For businesses too, maybe it is time to move away from print media for placing job advertisements. The mass appeal of social media is that it keeps users informed on-demand 24/7 – its real time.  The ability of social media to keep people connected is the key here.  For jobseekers this is such a powerful tool. Joe McKendrick, a regular contributor to the blog Smart Planet commented on one of his posts on 21st of July 2010 on the subject of social media and unemployment. Here are three ways social media can help jobseekers:

An innovative recruitment and employment tool: Thanks to social media, people have been able to market themselves better more than ever before through their own blogs, LinkedIn accounts, Facebook, Twitter. Businesses can get a more rounded view of the potential job seekers real life capabilities that are often over looked in traditional psychometric tests. Direct communication through social media outlets also has the potential to reduce a business’s recruitment advertising budget. This is a win win situation on both sides.

An entrepreneurial tool: Social media has presented people with opportunities to reach out to customers across the country and worldwide. A whole new ‘Do It Yourself Economy’ has emerged where people can set up businesses at the click of a button. One trend that has really taken off is that innovative businesses now have their own Facebook page to promote their business. We are now in an era in which entrepreneurs can connect instantly to the masses.

 Outreach tool for distressed communities/regions: This can be a real kick start for communities and local economies that have declined in the recession and returning them to good health. With the aid of cheap, low cost internet access these communities can access the same information and take advantage of the same opportunities through social media platforms as individuals in thriving areas. This can be a precursor in helping to eliminate the divide that exists in societies around the world.

The power of social media to help job seekers still hasn’t been realised. However, this may be in part due to a lack of understanding of job seekers to make the most of it. There still seems to be a loyal group of job seekers out there who rely on traditional print media.  Individuals must embrace social media and make it work to their advantage. The true value of social media for job seekers is to connect with people, to absorb and make sense of the information out there and to create and maximise the opportunities that arise.

Multitasking Turbo Charged – A simple and effective technique for effective time management

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It just amazes me the number of people that cannot keep track of time. Everybody from the CEO to the janitor is guilty of this. We are exposed to punctuality and time management at a very early age when we go to school, and are then reminded of its importance when we go to college/university as we juggle those deadlines for multiple projects and essays. At work, the situation gets even more pressing as we are subjected to the achievement of tough targets and deadlines as we strive to make that elusive profit.

The lack of effective time management is why most projects never get off the ground, and targets never met. Put simply, quite a lot of people out there in the world of work have a really poor grasp of time management. However, it need not be that way. If you think about it in real terms, managing one’s time effectively is all about organization and discipline. The best thing anybody can do for themselves is to break things down into small manageable parts. In order to make multitasking really work for you, you need to understand how to use it sensibly. Some research even points to multitasking actually holding you back. Don’t believe me, then just Google it. It is stated that multitasking makes it more difficult to focus on issues and you are less likely to come up with more creative and innovative ideas if your mind is on more than one task. However, I disagree with the research but do believe that multitasking can be refined. To make it work better, use checklists and to-do lists to help plan your day. I suggest tackling no more than three major tasks on any particular day and then number them in order of importance by tackling the most urgent first. So say if you have 15 tasks to be completed in a week, tackle tasks 3 at a time. That way you will keep track of time, meet your targets and keep your mind properly focused.