Career Change Stories: From Account Management to HR (guest article)

When I decided to change careers, I had been working in the media industry in client-facing account management and business development roles for 15 years. Having made considerable progress up the career ladder I considered myself successful, but I was permanently exhausted and spent all my time, energy and focus on my job. I had no work / life balance and found very little enjoyment in my work which put a huge strain on my mental health and wellbeing.

During my time in management roles however, I had found something that came very naturally to me and that I loved: dealing with people and the challenges they face in the workplace. I spent more time than I should have done (given my actual job descriptions) on tasks such as recruitment, on-boarding, training, managing poor performance, personal development, dealing with long-term sickness and managing a redundancy programme. These challenges gave me such a buzz and I really enjoyed working with the business and individuals to find solutions. I was lucky to meet and work with some truly amazing HR professionals who were compassionate, pragmatic and inspired me no end.

I was drawn to their job roles and wanted to do it myself, but I didn’t have the self-confidence or courage to say it out loud. At the time I didn’t work in an environment that encouraged learning and development, and the idea of shifting careers, having already made significant progress in my current one, didn’t seem feasible, and studying for a qualification seemed out of reach.

Following a redundancy in early 2016 my wife and I spoke briefly about the possibility of me pursuing HR as it seemed like an ideal time, but I was consumed with securing another senior role to maintain my career trajectory and I dismissed it as quickly as we had discussed it. I achieved another management role in similar vein but after 18 months my mental health was suffering again and I realised I needed to make major changes. I took 3 months off while I slowly made the decision to follow my ambition to build a career in HR, and in early 2018 I was ready to start my job hunt.

I was confident I could secure a role related to HR (such as an Office Manager with HR responsibilities) fairly easily as I had a substantial list of transferable skills and a range of HR-related experience gained from working systematically on HR tasks for the last 7 years. However the rate of return on my applications through jobsites and LinkedIn was very low. It seemed I was too senior for entry level HR jobs, but my lack of experience in an “official” HR role made me unsuitable for more senior HR roles. I was stuck in the middle.

I didn’t have any more success with recruitment agencies who, while sympathetic to my situation, largely didn’t put me forward for HR roles as I had no HR administration experience. I became frustrated and wanted to do something that would be solid progress towards my future HR career. I began researching CIPD qualifications and settled on a blended learning course (workshops and self-study at home) with MOL for a Level 3 Diploma in Human Resources Practice.

Alongside applying for jobs and studying, I signed up for as many learning events as I could, most of which were free. This included webinars, CIPD talks and networking events. The biggest event was the CIPD L&D Show where I attended lots of free sessions on current HR topics. Talking to people at this event felt very natural to me, and when listening to experts in the field I was immediately engaged with the subject matter and felt alive listening to HR professionals debate and throw ideas back and forth. This was further confirmation that I was heading in the right direction with my career change and fuelled my motivation in my job search.

The most valuable advice I received was to establish a PLN (Personal Learning Network) in the HR field. I had hundreds of contacts on LinkedIn but only a small handful of them worked in HR. Multiple people highlighted Twitter as a powerful networking and learning tool, and they were kind enough to give me some pointers and introductions to their networks. The HR community were very welcoming and I started following HR and L&D people, and actively participated in every HR-related Twitter chat I could find. Soon enough I was making my own connections and building my PLN.

While I was successful networking on Twitter, real-life networking was a huge challenge for me. I went to a CIPD event with a short networking session beforehand but it seemed very cliquey and I felt overwhelmed and spoke to no-one. I then forced myself to attend a summer party networking evening, and the introductory exercises got me talking to a few people. I then circled the room looking for other people on their own to approach. This seemed to work and I made a handful of new connections. I felt a sense of accomplishment afterwards but I was a long way outside my comfort zone and not keen to repeat it!

Six months into my job hunt I secured my first HR interview which was more of an informal chat, and although it didn’t result in a job offer, it boosted my confidence that I was on the right track and that I would succeed in my chosen field.

Over the next few months I had a few interviews, mostly as a result of my networking efforts, but none of them resulted in job offers. Well-meaning contacts and recruiters offered the same advice over and over, and I became really disheartened as I was doing all the right things but not getting anywhere. It was at moments like this I had to remind myself of the passion I felt when attending talks at the L&D event, or took part in discussions in my Diploma workshops.

In September I took a job in the media industry that was nothing to do with HR but I needed to return to work. This would be the first time I had worked in nearly a year and I gradually re-adjusted to early mornings and commuting into London. Shortly after this I met a senior member of staff who had built a career in the public sector and I was fascinated to hear about her career path.

I learnt that the recruitment process in the public sector is often based on skills and competencies rather than previous related experience. I applied for a role at the House of Commons and spent many hours on the application form, determined to showcase how I displayed the core competencies. I was invited for a skills assessment and after successfully passing I was invited for an interview. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job and I was upset and frustrated as I had put so much effort in to the application, but then I realised that this was the furthest I had got in an application process for an HR role.

Squeezing in job hunting and CIPD Diploma studies around full time work was very challenging and my job search had to be much more focussed. Following my experience with The House of Commons recruitment process I decided to concentrate all of my job search time and energy on applying for civil service and government roles. In January 2019 I applied for a role in the Learning & Organisation Development team at The House of Commons and after a skills test and interview I was offered the job! I had made a connection with the line manager in the interview and everything about the role seemed to fit. I was so relieved and grateful to finally be offered an opportunity in an HR role.

In the year I spent job hunting I applied for over 120 HR jobs and had just 6 interviews. Those figures are hard to stomach when I see them in black & white. It was frequently an uphill battle and I often questioned if changing career in my late thirties was the right thing to do, but every time I spoke to an HR professional or participated in a webinar or Twitter chat I felt energised and motivated to carry on. So many people gave me their time, shared their knowledge and cheered me on. It made a huge difference to feel part of a community and to have people who believed in me. I have gained new skills, had lots of new experiences and I have now completed my CIPD Level 3 Diploma.

I am on week 4 of my new job now and I have no doubts that I made the right decision to change career. The skills that were always seen as “nice to have” or “soft skills” in management roles, are now front and centre in my job description and some days I still can’t believe I finally secured an HR role!

I recently signed up to be a CIPD Steps Ahead mentor which is a volunteering programme that offers support to young people who are job-hunting for the first time, or people who are returning to work after a break. I hope that I can use my experience of unemployment and extended job searching in a positive way to help others in similar situations.

For anyone thinking of changing career, or who is returning to work, my advice would be:

– spend equal time on your CV and LinkedIn profile; they are both crucial tools in your job search.

– sometimes you will hear completely opposing advice but you have to go with your gut.

build a network in any way that you can; through friends, family, ex-colleagues, LinkedIn, Twitter and networking events. Make sure you then engage with your network on a regular basis.

– take every learning opportunity that you can; there is so much free content available.

– always ask for feedback from interviews, even if you have to track down and message one of the interviewers on LinkedIn to get it, as I had to once!

keep believing that your job is out there.

 

Ruth ReynoldsThis guest article has been written by Ruth Reynolds, a Learning & Organisation Development professional who has recently changed careers. Ruth champions mental health and wellbeing, and also has an interest in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. You can find her on Twitter  and LinkedIn 

 

Receiving constructive feedback with class

It’s that time of year again where a lot of us are thinking about our – shudder – end of year performance review. I have mixed feelings about them but I agree with the principle of them; it’s always good to look back and assess what you did well and what you could have done better, and how this feeds into the steps you’re going to take to improve from here on. I reckon 12 months is quite a long time to assess your performance. What might have started off as a naff beginning could end on a great high but as a whole, you receive an average marking or rating.

But in this article I want to explore how we can receive feedback with grace. As part of your review, you might be using the 360 approach – asking for feedback from your peers, management chain and stakeholders. This is a great opportunity to receive feedback from those you’ve actually worked with, who have seen you perform and felt the effects of your efforts. If you did a fab job, excellent! Keep it up!

If you receive ‘negative’ feedback (i.e. feedback that isn’t good which can also be referred to as constructive feedback) it might feel like a bit of a blow. Please don’t be disheartened – I wouldn’t say I enjoy getting this feedback, but as someone who’s proactive with his development, I find it really useful as a starting point for my developmental activities for the coming year.

However disgruntled you get, just remember to take this feedback with grace and a bit of maturity. How you react will be noted by your peers and managers; react defensively or argumentatively, you’ll be seen as someone who thinks they don’t ever need to improve and are a bit precious. By all means speak up if you genuinely disagree with feedback if you have solid evidence but just try not to make it a ‘who gets the last word’ sort of thing. That’s playground stuff right there.

Most people, like me, struggle to give constructive feedback; it feels incredibly uncomfortable, but less uncomfortable than the feeling of being insincere or two-faced by giving a glowing feedback when it’s a blatant lie. So another no-no is bad-mouthing that person to your friends at work (or worse – on social media!). This lacks any sort of decency, maturity or respect. They begin to avoid the feedback-giver, call them names and all the sort of stuff you’d expect from a 5 year old. Not cool.

So, that’s how you shouldn’t take feedback – but what should you do when you receive feedback you don’t like? I list the next steps below:

  • (genuinely) thank them for it. Remember that most people find giving negative feedback extremely difficult so it may have taken them a lot of courage to say this, especially if you work closely with them on a day to day basis. Ease the tension and awkwardness by thanking them for it and how you’re going to take it forward
  • take time to process it. Your immediate response will be upset, devastation, hurt and all that horrible stuff. Acting on this now will bring these feelings to the forefront. Instead, sit on it and let it digest for at least 24 hours
  • examine the feedback: why have they said this? What behaviours did you demonstrate for them to think like this? What skills were you lacking?
  • ask yourself, in all honesty, if you recognised the feedback in yourself before but turned a blind eye to it. If you suspected a project went badly, or you didn’t act in a way that you should have and hoped that nobody noticed, then this feedback might be shining a light on it and you need to accept it
  • which means you need to act on it. If you know why they’ve said this because you either recognise it in yourself or you traced back the sequence of events that led to their thinking of you in that way, ask yourself what you need to do better to not repeat that. Explore ways to improve a skill, as an example, and discuss the feedback with your manager. This might be difficult as you’re showing them that you’re not performing as well as they thought you were, but whether they see this themselves in you or not, they should help you explore opportunities to develop these skills and behaviours
  • add your next steps to your CPD. This will keep you on track to improving, especially if you make a habit of keeping your CPD in check (I wrote how you can do this here). But it will also mean you can determine if there are any extracurricular activities you can do outside of work that will you develop
  • continue working with them. Not only will this show them that you took the feedback with grace and the way in which it was intended, but you’ll also have a chance to demonstrate your improvement in front of them, which leads to the final point
  • ask them for feedback again next year/time. This will show you have the maturity to not let something like constructive peer feedback get in the way of two professionals. Having asked them before, they’ve also given you a benchmark to which they should be able to see a measurable, at least, comparative improvement.

As avid doers we need this sort of feedback from our peers so we can continue to develop. What might be painful now might be the very turning point that helps you strengthen your skills and go on to be generally awesome. Just keep it classy.

 

Returning to work following illness (guest article)

When you have been off work for a while due to illness, it can be difficult and overwhelming to think about going back. Regardless of whether you have a chronic physical health issue or a mental health issue, if it’s going to continue to have an impact on you when you return to work, then it’s important to think carefully about the type of support that you might need in place. This post explores three things to consider when returning to work following illness.

Be kind to yourself

First and foremost, you need to give yourself a break. You’ve been through a life-adjusting illness and things might never be the same again, or you might have been bruised by the sudden realisation that you are not immortal. It is important to take some time to adjust to your new ‘normal’, and to congratulate yourself for taking the courageous step of going back to work.

It is likely that the routine and structure of work will help in managing your health, but it’s important to make sure that you give yourself the best chance of this happening. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure that you are not going back to work too soon. Spend some time looking after yourself – relaxation, using a journal, spending time in nature and walking are all good options – as well as making sure that you’ve got the basics covered of sleep, eating at regular times, and staying hydrated. When you get back into the swing of work, your body will thank you for it.

Work out what you need – and ask for it!

As part of my day job, I run groups for people who are struggling with chronic pain. Many of them are in work, and they plan to give information about their condition to their employers after the group has ended. I think this is a great idea, and I encourage it, but I also ask them to think really carefully about what they want their employer to do with that information.

It is useful for your employer to know that you have depression, or chronic pain, or a problem that causes fatigue, but it’s more useful for them to know the specific impact that has on you as an individual, so that you can work together to figure out what you need to be able to stay in work.

For example, “I have chronic back pain” is not hugely helpful to an employer – they might have a few different employees with back pain, who all manage it differently. Something that is much more useful might be: “I have chronic back pain, which means I’m in pain all the time and it is never going to go away.  For me, it means that after about half an hour of sitting I have to get up and walk around for a few minutes before I can focus again. I’d appreciate a standing desk and a workstation assessment.  Also, it might take me longer to complete tasks because my concentration can suffer in the afternoon. Can you give me an extra couple of hours when you’re asking me to finish x task, because I know I might struggle a bit within the current time constraint.”

That gives an understanding of the condition as well as how it impacts the person specifically, and what they would like their employer to do about it. HR and Occupational Health departments often want to help, but without knowing exactly what to help you with, they might struggle to implement things that are useful to you. Before you speak to them, sit down and write out how your condition has an impact on you, what you’ve been doing to manage it, and how you imagine it will translate into a workplace environment. Focus on what you’re doing well already, and what you might struggle with. This will really help you in the long-term as you can revise this plan according to how it actually plays out when you return to work.

Practice makes perfect

If you have been struggling with pain or fatigue, or even just struggling to get out of bed, it might have been a while since you sat in an office chair. Often the idea of a full week at work is so overwhelming to people that they panic, and ignore the fact that their sick leave is coming to an end. When they come back to work, it becomes overwhelming because they have been away from it for so long, so they end up leaving, convinced that “I just can’t work any more.” This is often not the case.

One of the best ways you can work yourself up to going back into employment is by replicating the activities that you are likely to do when you return to work. Start slowly, and work up to being able to do them with less difficulty.

For example, suppose you need to be able to sit for an hour continuously in a chair whilst you talk to clients, but you’ve spent the last few months unable to sit for longer than five minutes due to leg pain. Start by sitting for six minutes a day, and build it up by a minute at a time over a couple of months until you can sit for an hour. If it gets hard, drop it back down a bit and start to build it up again.

Another example could be if you know that being around loads of people in the office is going to set your anxiety off, go and sit in a coffee shop with your laptop and type (and breathe deeply) until you feel less anxious. Working with a specialist physiotherapist or clinical psychologist can be really helpful to problem-solve these difficulties with you.

Ultimately, we need to recognise that people are not machines – we break down in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways, and workplaces need to be compassionate towards that and give us the chance to continue our role in a way that takes account of our new difficulties. If we can be compassionate towards ourselves, work hard to manage our health and wellbeing, and be specific and clear in asking for help, those are good first steps.

SarahBlackshawThis guest article has been written by Dr Sarah Blackshaw, a clinical psychologist working in Manchester, UK, in the field of chronic pain. She is interested in the intersection of physical and mental health, and how best to help people to live with chronic physical conditions such as persistent pain or fatigue. She blogs over at www.clinpsychsarah.com/blog, and you can find her on Twitter at @academiablues

Improving your communication in a job interview (guest article)

We spend a lot of time working. Which is why having a career that we enjoy is so important to our personal happiness. But developing our career depends on our ability to perform well during a job interview.

When you’re attending a job interview, there are so many important things to consider. Being on time, dressing for the occasion and preparing comprehensive organisational research are all necessary prerequisites to success.

Then there’s communication. Communicating effectively during an interview gives you credibility and gravitas.

Any person who is a subject matter expert in a particular field always sounds so believable because they articulate themselves so well when discussing their area of expertise.

During an interview, what we say about ourselves and how we say it matters. Examples presented in response to competency and behavioural-based interview questions need to be effectively communicated. Relevant examples, presented with the right level of detail, allow us to articulate compelling narratives, which help assure our interviewers we’re the right fit for the role we’re applying for.

Anticipating which questions may arise in an interview should be a crucial part of your preparation. Start by looking at your CV. If you have used a personal profile to summarise your skills, experiences and behaviours, make sure you can substantiate these claims. If, for instance, you have referred to your leadership skills, it’s important that you have a specific example of an occasion that you demonstrated this skill. In addition to being ready to describe your leadership style, you should also be asking yourself ‘When have my leadership skills been an asset to my organisation?’ Any response should consider why these leadership skills were so important during that specific situation and how they benefitted your organisation.

Using the STAR framework helps with this process, allowing you to showcase your skills and present them in cohesive and compelling narratives. You can find out more about this approach here.

You could also look at the job description and the key competencies being sought. Think of past examples when you have used these competencies.  List experiences from work, academia or volunteering that you think may be of interest to an organisation (in particular those situations that have a positive outcome).

Communicating relevant examples is important, but choice words and phrases can also elevate these responses to a more powerful and impactful level.

Often, when we communicate with others outside work, we tend to use a relaxed and informal communication style. Job interviews, however, are formal business meetings. That requires more formal business language.  You may have all the necessary skills and experience but if you’re not citing them in a way that interviewers are receptive too, it may cost you getting the job you want.

Consider this example: In the event we spent the weekend helping a friend fix a problem with their car, we would usually describe such an event in exactly those terms i.e. ‘I spent the weekend helping my friend fix their car.’ But in an interview, our communication style would be enhanced if we related this experience in terms of ‘collaborating’ with our friend. We need to describe our behaviours and actions at this time in terms of ‘critical thinking’, ’analysis’ and ‘problem solving’, which brought about ‘successful resolution’ to the ‘adversity’ that we faced.

Did you call a friend to persuade them to come out on a Friday night? Or were you ‘utilising effective negotiation skills in order to influence their opinion’? Did we teach someone how to do something new, or did we ‘empower others through effective communication and mentoring’.

This approach matters because interviewers want to hear you talking about the competencies they have included within the job description for the role you’re interviewing for. Which, in turn, is how you successfully position yourself as the right person for the job. So, when you describe adapting, communicating, collaborating, coaching, mentoring, improving, influencing, managing and negotiating, what you’re also doing is aligning yourselves with the competencies that appear on the job description.

You can also apply this approach to yourself. Think about your behaviours and characteristics; what type of words could you be using to describe yourself? Which would interviewers connect with and relate to? Are you amiable, approachable, adaptable, decisive and communicative?

All of this helps you to communicate during a job interview with confidence and credibility, which in turn helps convey gravitas and suitability.  And who doesn’t like that?

RichardClementsThis guest article has been written by Richard Clements, an HR professional and owner of interview coaching company Clear Cut Selection. Richard’s foundations for coaching have been built on his international experience of managing internal recruitment functions and his CIPD membership. Richard blogs on his own site Clear Cut Selection and you can also follow him on Twitter here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Career management book update: 02

Since my first, and most recent book update a couple of weeks ago, the beginning stages of my book have picked up considerable momentum (…than expected at least). As a follower of a number of writers, I always hear them talk about how a story has organically taken an unexpected turn, and while I don’t see myself as being awesome as they are, I now understand what they mean.

I left off my last update having completed the mind map with my Post-it notes, categorised them into chapters and I’ve taken the next steps of writing a summary for each of these chapters. This became a much bigger task than I expected but in a pleasantly surprising way – I have noted a lot more information than I first thought under each chapter, so much so that each chapter has a number of sub headings. This has added a considerable amount of clay to the pipe-cleaner.

But from these concepts grew two more tangents. At first I considered these to be completely separate entities – perhaps book two and three? But when rolling with those concepts, and beginning the research phase of the book by reading leading books on similar topics, I’ve come to realise the three seemingly separate elements are ultimately and fundamentally interdependent. So why was I keeping them apart?

Cue my book growing 150% bigger! Which is good for two reasons: one, readers won’t feel they’re only getting part of the picture, subsequently still having questions unanswered; and two, I won’t need to rely on ghost pages to pad out the book (this is a particular bugbear of a writer-friend of mine so I wouldn’t want to upset her!).

So while I’ve progressed considerably with my initial idea, I now need to do a similar Post-it mind map for the two other ideas, and make sure they cohesively work altogether, before summarising the remaining chapters.

Ask (guest article)

“Get what I want ’cause I ask for it,
Not because I’m really that deserving of it” 

If you are a fan of Marina & the Diamonds, you have probably heard this wildly popular track. Outside of being a fun track to dance to, it does offer some very valuable life lessons. My favourite lesson though is the one captured in the above sentences. It is one I thankfully learnt very early in my career, have reaped immense benefits from and am constantly encouraging everyone else to do.

My first ever job began by shadowing an HR Business Partner (HRBP). For two weeks, all new college hires (including me) were assigned to an HRBP each. Our responsibilities comprised of following the HRBP, observing their daily activities and helping them where possible. At the end of the two weeks, we were allocated to our respective teams. I was assigned to be a part of a newly formed team that was responsible for all company-wide HR projects and programmes. I had just emerged from an enjoyable experience of shadowing an HRBP and no intention of doing anything other than be an HRBP myself. Therefore, with my usual self-assured college confidence, I walked into the hiring managers’ cabin and let him know exactly what I wanted to do.

As I put forward my request to be an HRBP, rather than be allocated to my team, I saw a number of emotions run past his face beginning with shock, surprise and then transitioning into amusement at the impertinence of it all. For a few fleeting seconds, I felt like I had made my first career mistake. Fortunately, for me he had sufficient influence and a good heart. He started by saying that he had never before seen someone within the first few weeks of their career turn down a team. He asked me to wait, and within a few weeks, I was an HRBP.

I sometimes wonder how different my life would have turned out had I never asked.

Post the success of that request, I can quote numerous instances where I shed aside inhibitions and asked for things not normally asked for. I have, as a result, received invitations to conferences, access to training, budgets for projects, sponsored flights and more.

As one of my previous managers said, “Always ask for what you want, even if you think it is impossible to receive. What is the worst that can happen? They’ll say no.”

I very quickly learnt that the inhibitions we create in our heads are always larger than those that really exist. Asking for what you want is a competitive advantage in today’s world. Not enough people are asking. That alone increases the likelihood of requests being granted.

There are two important parts to this competitive advantage which are firstly asking and then explaining the rationale behind the request. You thought it was as easy as just asking, didn’t you? As important as it is to ask, the other half of making a successful request is to understand why you want what you want and translating it into a language that others understand. Of course, there are a few other factors such as the right time for a request and so on. However, those are good to consider but not an absolute necessity.

I love challenges and hence here is one for you: think back over the past year and mentally note the opportunities that you potentially missed as a result of not asking. Think over the next few weeks and identify opportunities that you would like but have been hesitant to ask for before. Start small. Very soon, you will realize that it is actually a very simple thing to do. If you have been asking for a while, consider snowballing it into a larger request.

Asking is liberating and an extremely fulfilling exercise. It is the best way to avoid the multiple ‘what if’ questions that haunt us throughout life. It is not a career-limiting move. If anything, it pushes your career forward faster than ever before. It is also one lesson that translates seamlessly from your work life into your personal life.

So tell me – what are you going to ask for next?

Ankita Poddar Bio

This has been a guest article written by Ankita Poddar, an HR professional based out of India. Identified as one of the emerging young HR leaders in India in 2016, Ankita’s experience as an HR Business Partner gives her the opportunity to work closely with business leaders, innovate and execute on the behalf of customers especially in areas of people analytics, employee engagement, rewards and recognition and performance management. Ankita blogs about all things HR at The HR Business Partner Story site. You can follow her on Twitter.

Would you like to write an article for The Avid Doer? Check out this link for more info.

Weighing up the pros and cons of micromanagement (guest article)

The term ‘micromanaging’ can often be associated with a manager who is overbearing and unnecessarily pedantic – but is this always the case? We don’t think so! When done right, micromanagement can bring a number of positives into the way you work with your team, and there’s no reason why it can’t be a positive thing.

Of course, management practices work differently for everyone, and it very much depends on the way you work – and, not to mention, the way your team work too. To help you figure out the best way to manage your staff, we’re going to take a look at a few of the pros and cons of micromanagement.

PROS:

Enhances organisational skills

One of the benefits of micromanaging a team is how much it’ll improve your organisation skills. Let’s face it – if you’re going to micromanage a team of people, you have to be organised. It would be impossible to keep on top of all the work if you weren’t! So, by closely managing your team of staff, you’ll develop the ability to effectively organise the work of your employees as well as your own. In other words, micromanagement forces you to be organised.

Boosts productivity

Despite some of the negative comments around micromanagement and productivity, when done right it’s possible that you will actually see an increase in productivity. By closely monitoring the work of your employees, you’re likely to pick up on any errors and mishaps before they snowball into a bigger problem. With this in mind, when you micromanage a team of people you can reduce the likelihood of human error. As a result of this, you’re likely to see an increase in productivity.

Encourages communication

One of the benefits of micromanaging a team is that it’s easier to openly communicate with each other. Working extremely closely with your team can help them feel comfortable talking to you and encourage open communication. A manager who is frequently unavailable or too busy to talk to their team will discourage them from speaking up – that’s not something you have to worry about when micromanaging.

Here at Tempest Designs, we work with people located all over the world and encourage open communication. Without it, it’d be extremely hard to work together – especially as we’re working in different countries – so we really do see the importance of open communication.

Now that we’ve taken a look at the benefits of micromanaging, let’s explore the other end of the spectrum and look at the downsides.

CONS:

Increased workload

When you make the decision to micromanage your team, you’ll inevitably increase your workload. You’ll have to dedicate more time to meeting your employees and reviewing their work, not to mention completing other tasks you still have to do as part of your role. This can take up quite a lot of your valuable time, which could be better spent elsewhere. You need to weigh up the benefits of micromanaging with how much time you’ll need to invest – is it really worth it? Only you know the answer.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you’ll be taking time away from your employees and preventing their work from getting done as quickly as it could. While it might seem productive to check their work regularly to avoid mistakes, it can sometimes be more efficient to let them complete the task at hand in one go.

Lack of trust

It’s not unusual for an employee to develop a lack of trust towards their own work when they’re being micromanaged. It can be detrimental to their confidence and could actually have a negative impact on the quality of their work. If an employee feels like you don’t trust their ability to complete tasks on their own, or think that you don’t value the quality of their work, they’ll never develop the confidence they need to become decisive, strong-minded and dedicated employees.

High staff turnover

As a result of the lack of trust, employees can start to feel resentful toward their managers. Unfortunately, this can lead to staff leaving the company, which can be pretty bad for business for a number of reasons. When you have a high turnover of staff, you’ll be forking out money to hire and vet new employees, and will have to invest time interviewing and training new staff for the job. We know you’ve probably got better things to be doing with your time, so think carefully about the impact that micromanagement can have on your team.

It’s clear that micromanagement is a tool that divides the business world, and rightly so. Being micromanaged can sometimes be difficult for an employee, especially if they’re not used to being managed this way. However, it can be a useful tool for a new employee who lacks the experience and understanding of the business. It really does depend on the situation! Ultimately, it comes down to weighing up the pros and cons and questioning whether micromanagement is the right fit for you and your team.

tempestdesigns

This guest article was written by Sarah Tempest, chief designer at Tempest Designs, a leading trade supplier of fashion jewellery in Bridgend, UK. 

 

To find out more about being a guest writer for The Avid Doer, please visit this page.

 

Career management book update: 01

A couple of weeks ago, I announced that I was starting to write a book. As promised (warned), I’ll be sharing with you how I’m getting along with it.

So for my first update, there’s actually no writing that’s taken place. It turns out that there’s a lot more to this book-writing malarkey than buying new stationery and creating a folder on my desktop titled ‘Book’, which I have of course dutifully done.

I knew research would be a key task to do long before I actually put pen to paper but when preparing for this, I knew there was a step before this which I’ve been working on; building the skeleton.

I’ve read up on countless articles and books on the best approach to writing non-fiction, and I concluded that my book first needed a skeleton. This comprised of me writing every idea and concept I wanted to cover in the book – one per post-it.

I ended up with a desk full of uncategorised ideas, and while it felt liberating getting them out like that, I needed to put them into order. Looking through each idea, I began to determine the chapters needed to provide the structure for these ideas.

I then had a big blank card per chapter which homed the relevant post it notes. This resulted in my chapters being formed (well, the first draft at least), and the topics that were to be included in each. After a careful and logical feng shui of the order of the chapters, I have a sort of blueprint to the book.

While I’m working full time in my HR day job, writing for The Avid Doer, editing guest posts for The Avid Doer, writing for HR Zone, and peer-reviewing papers, I decided that writing this book should fit into my schedule, and not the other way round. As such, I’m not approaching any publishers at the moment, but I got thinking in terms of the services they could offer me.

Kogan Pages seemed to me like a sensible publishers, so having a gander at their website, I came across their publishing application form. On this, it sets out what they expect from applicants, for example, a synopsis, a detailed summary of each chapter, why this book is needed, what hashtags would you use to promote this, what gaps is this book filling based on what is already written, and a load of other useful guidance for me to ponder on.

So when I wasn’t creating an indoor autumn-scape with post-it notes, I’ve been completing this application form to get me thinking the right sort of things.

Still no title (I had a really good one, but somebody pre-emptively nicked it years ago!) but I think that will manifest organically over time.

Next steps – provide a synopsis for the whole book and one for each chapter.

Mitigating risk at work

It all sounds a bit corporate, doesn’t it? ‘Mitigating risk’. It’s usually a term associated with project management. You don’t need to hold a title of ‘project manager’ to manage projects; in theory, most of the tasks you carry out in your day-to-day role are either short- or long-term projects, and with each of these projects come various degrees of risk, i.e. factors that can make a project go wrong.

These factors include:

  • People – the skills, capabilities, behaviours and attitudes of those who are actively participating in the project
  • Resource – the amount of people needed for a successful project
  • Stakeholders – a step beyond ‘People’, but those who have a degree of influence and interest in the project but may not actively be involved in carrying out the project
  • Money – whether enough is available or not
  • Logistics – the logistics and scheduling needed to carry out the project
  • External influences – the economy, politics, environment, and customer behaviour.

And many more. Effective communication throughout the entire process promotes a seamless synchronicity and ensures red flags are brought to the right people’s attention at the earliest possible time.

Risk management

To quote from the aptly-named project management blog Project Manager:

“At its most simple, risk management is a process of forecasting and planning for potential challenges to your business or project. When done correctly, risk planning enables you to prioritize risk and work to eliminate or lessen the impact of the potential risks on your project or business.”

For projects, for work or for our careers, avoiding risk means that we:

  • Identify the risks, listing out all worst-case-scenarios, potential dangers and any hiccups that might and will crop up
  • Analyse these risks to determine the impact they have and which of these hiccups are in our control
  • Prioritise these risks by the likelihood of them happening
  • Mitigate these risks by putting in the appropriate and proportionate anticipatory measures – or safety nets – so that if the risks were to have an impact despite your efforts to avoid them, you can prepare and lessen the impact. This could even include a contingency plan
  • Monitor these risks, and the efforts we make, to ensure they’re always on our radar so that we are always ahead of them.

This is a standard, non-fancy risk management model. Applying this model is useful for us in two ways. Firstly, managing risk by following this model is a useful skill for anyone in any role. Managing risk from the beginning of any project you work on will help you do your role much more effectively and with minimal disruption. Not only will this promote better mental well-being (as you experience less stress from avoiding, preparing or lessening the impact of hiccups), but you also establish a reputation of being organised, credible and reliable. You are much more on top of things.

Secondly, risk management also plays a role in managing and developing our careers if we recognise it as an ongoing project. Being able to identify risks in your career trajectory means that you can adopt a more proactive approach to development, rather than winging it and dealing with hiccups as they present themselves. This is particularly helpful for those who are in an industry that’s prone to fluctuation (and really, what industry isn’t?). Being able to identify the risks that may influence your field means you can start making the necessary arrangements to mitigate that risk. We need to predict to the best of our ability where our industry will be in 5 years’ time, the demand for our skills in the market at that time, and the skill gaps that may become apparent.

For example, there’s a (necessary) focus on AI at the moment and the associated risks it brings to the job market. If you assess that your current role or career progression against this risk, you can begin now to readjust accordingly, for example upskilling, developing new skills that don’t rely on AI like soft skills, or, in really bad (but opportunistic) situations, changing careers altogether. Determining the likelihood of each risk and how it will impact your career means you can lay down the ground work in time, long before you would feel the impact and influence.

Horizon scanning

This approach to your career trajectory can be coupled with another corporate doozie: horizon scanning.

Olivier Marteaux, Principal of Horizon Scanning at the RSSB, puts horizon scanning eloquently as:

“the intelligence gathering part of strategic foresight, concerned with emerging trends, issues and uncertainties that the future may bring, and assessing their potential impact on organisations.”

While this could be seen as the same to assessing risk, I’d like to think as horizon scanning as something that scopes out opportunities, as well as risk. The quote mentions ‘emerging trends, issues and uncertainties’, and forever the optimistic as I am, their ‘potential impact’ can be just as positive as risks are negative.

Adopting this foresight means you can spot the uncertainties that lie ahead of us and see them as opportunities to learn in anticipation which can be enormously positive for your career.

Look past the corporate jargon and realise the advantages of mitigating risk and horizon scanning. Your work-life, professional reputation and career will reap the benefits if you put the effort into these.

I’m writing a book!

I’ve been writing for The Avid Doer for just over a year now, and most of the material touches on the developing transferable skills, the importance of these and how we can develop our careers with the application of a little extracurricular effort. 

There’s so much more to write on this topic but I feel that blog posts somehow don’t seem to be the most effective medium for it – or at least for articulating them into the depths that the topic deserves. I’ve been struggling to produce new material simply because whatever I want to write just can’t be fully explored in a blog post (or even a series of posts).

After umming and arring, I’ve decided to carry on writing about this topic…only as a book. 

Record scratch!

I know. It’s a big task and I’m not taking it on lightly. It won’t be an e-book or something that might be seen as an extended blog post either – it’ll be a physical good old-fashioned book (my personal preference for reading material). Writing the material as a book will also incentivise me to conduct the appropriate research the topic needs, and in the process learn and share my findings on the important aspects of career development in such an uncertain environment that is the current and future workplace. 

As a writer I’m also looking forward to the process of improving my research and writing skills that I feel can only be developed in the way I want by writing this book.

I want to focus on the particular element of career development that I predict being a pertinent part of career management in the not-too-distant future – career mobility. There’s currently very little written on this particular subject so I don’t want to give away too much at this stage but what I will be giving away are the behind-the-scenes peeks of writing the book. 

I want to keep The Avid Doer live and usable with multiple purposes – for existing advice and guidance I’ve already written, as well as an account of how my book is coming along.

Writing this book will also allow me to divide my time more evenly towards my writing for HR Zone and my own past times (all work and no play makes Charles a dull boy), including painting; those who know me from a couple of years ago will know that I’m a keen portrait painter and I’m donning the painting apron once more now I have my art mojo back. 

So please stay tuned with The Avid Doer as I still very much want to keep it going and share the journey with you all, along with my discoveries on career development through my research!