Creating a CV with impact

A friend mine recently asked me to have a look at her CV for an amazing role she had seen, one that could offer them a huge opportunity and better job stability. Having seen hundreds of CVs in my working life, and being part of recruitment campaigns, I was more than happy to give her CV a once-over; changing things, adding things, getting rid of things, making suggestions.

I was thrilled to bits to hear that not only did she get invited to an interview (the biggest hurdle for any job search), she also got the job! I absolutely can’t take any credit for this in any way as she had all the qualities and skills needed for the role but the importance of portraying these skills in a way that has impact to those tediously looking at one CV after another inspired me to share with you how to re-format your CV to get recruiters’ attention.

Before I crack on, just a note on composing your CV in general: the best CVs are put together with a specific role in mind. This can either be your ideal role that you’re focussing all of your efforts on going for but haven’t seen yet and applying for no other type of roles other than this, or, even better, for a specific job in response to an advert you have seen. The extra hard work and effort will increase your odds and will be recognised by the recruiter.

If you’re going for the same sort of roles in specific niches like L&D, recruitment or HR advice, the changes you will have to make each time will be extremely minimal.

Job spec

Before embarking on CV feng shui, you need to have a look at the job spec on the advert. Really get to understand the sort of candidate they’re looking for by the way they compose the priority of skills – the crux of the role will be listed as the first lot of skills, any after that are still essential but just not the things they’re keeping a watchful eye out for.

Don’t forget, if you’re not 100% sure what they’re looking for, get in contact with them and find out. When you are sure what they want, begin to list the key skills, abilities and experience they’re looking for. If the spec is written well, you might find that this is just as useful instead of a hand written list.

Your key skills section

Now you know what they’re looking for, you can start creating a ‘key skills’ section. This is such an underused part of the CV but proves incredibly helpful for arousing intrigue.

Placed at the beginning of the CV, this section acts like a synopsis of you and your career. Like how readers look at the back of the book before going through the book, the key skills section of your CV gives the recruiters a taster of what’s to come, and why they should read on. You don’t need to worry too much about proving or demonstrating your skills as these will all be detailed in the specifics of your CV, like employment history.

For now, you can put together your key skills by ‘responding’ to the advert’s blueprint of the perfect candidate. For example, if they’re looking for someone who has experience in rolling out a new payroll platform, and you have that experience, brag about it as an item in the ‘key skills’ section. Don’t leave it until they get to the nitty-gritty of your employment history that might not even get looked at if you’ve already lost the recruiter’s interest.

And if they need someone to speak to all people at all levels, brag about how you are a strong communicator to all levels, appropriate to various audiences. Use each skill they’re looking for as a question that your skills can answer.

Putting together about eight to ten bullet points should be enough and must ALL be relevant to the job you are applying for. To halve the space this will take up, format this section as a double column.

Employment history

Like you did with your key skills, go back to your job spec and respond to it through the experience and skills you picked up with each employer. I would recommend putting these into bullet points which makes it easier to read, and start off with the doozies that will really carry the recruiter’s interest after such an intriguing ‘key skills’ section. Make it look as though this CV and your experience have led you up to this point that will not only meet the needs of the role, but demonstrate you can carry it so much further.

When listing your experience, the usual mechanics are the same:

  • Lots of strong verbs that resolve issues you expect to come across in the advertised role
  • Demonstrate these verbs by explaining the results you were responsible for, as well as the bad consequences that were avoided
  • Key metrics – ‘reduced queries by 40%’, ‘improved productivity by 50%’ etc.
  • Any new skills, development and ways of working you learned while being in the role that you can now bring to this role
  • One or two relevant key achievements per role that you’re personally proud of (…but really to make you look like the bee’s knees to the recruiter)

Qualifications

You might have guessed by now what I’m going to say next. Have a look at the job spec and see what qualifications they are looking for, and if you have these (or currently studying for them) put these at the top if it’s chronologically appropriate. If the key qualifications they’re looking for aren’t the most recent you have earned, you might want to have a small blurb at the beginning of this section about how you are ‘an X-qualified professional’, or the like, before listing all of your qualifications and relevant training.

If you haven’t already, have a look at the post I wrote on undergoing training for which work hasn’t paid. In it, I talk about how you can use seemingly irrelevant qualifications and training to your advantage by listing the skills you learned from it and suggest how these can be transferred over. Just be sensible about this and avoid any far-fetched crossovers just for the sake of including these.

In the same post, I also talk about how good it looks for recruiters who see candidates fund their own training. It shows dedication, initiative and forward-thinking, as well as taking the profession seriously. You have identified where you wanted to be and went ahead and made sure you got there by paying for your own training.

Just think of how omitting this fact is such a wasted opportunity – spell it out on your CV, even with ‘self-funded’ in brackets after the qualification. I paid for most of my professional qualifications and by heck will I brag about it on my CV!

References

Just to touch briefly on the last section of any CV, I wouldn’t worry about adding referees’ details on your CV, unless you need to fill up space. A usual ‘references available upon request’ would be enough, and odds are you will have to provide this information on a separate form again if you’re successful anyway.

What about interests and hobbies?

If you do relevant volunteer work, or do any industry-related extracurricular activities in your own time, this is what you should add in this section, but rename it as ‘Volunteering’ or ‘Additional work of relevance’. This again shows initiative and dedication to working hard in an industry you’re passionate about, and your CV is the perfect opportunity to be proud of these achievements.

I personally never see the relevance or the impact listing your hobbies can have on your CV. Not only do they take up space on your CV, they’re just not necessary. They’re nice to know about a candidate but you honestly can’t expect a recruiter to give you a shot if you lack all the important skills because you so happen to love needle craft too, can you?

More devastatingly, what if you struck all the right chords with the recruiter and you end on a really flat list of your love of ‘puppies, and kittens, and baking, and holidays with my friends’. What positive impact can this provide? What if the recruiter hates all of these things, is there a risk their unconscious bias might hold them back from inviting you to an interview? Personally, I don’t think hobbies and interests end on a professional note and should be kept out, and maybe used as an ice breaker in the interview.

Format

One last thing – save and send your CV in no other format than PDF. I can’t stress how much more of a professional impact this will have on the recruiters. In one of my previous roles, the recruiter had told me that my PDF CV immediately stood me out amongst the other applicants who had sent theirs as a Word document (as well as my general awesomeness, obv’).

Word documents can easily be edited, the formatting can easily be skewed if the recruiter has a different version, and it can potentially suggest that you like to put a lot of effort into a piece of work without doing the final flourish that finishes it off. Just on the safe side though, save a Word version too. Not only is this so that you can edit it later (and then save as a new PDF), but frustratingly some recruiting software doesn’t accept PDF documents.

How you put together the components in your CV, and how they’re laid out is up to you, only I thoroughly recommend using the ‘key skills’ section at the very beginning. I’ve included a very basic infographic at the end of this post as an example of a simple layout, and is quite similar to my own. No need to complicate the structure with graphics or clever design.

As mentioned, structuring your skills and experience in response to specific roles can seem tedious but it dramatically increases your chances for invites to interviews. Odds are the changes are very minimal if you know what sort of roles you’re going for.

Good luck with your job hunting!

 

CV format

The job litmus paper test

In the first post of this 5 part series, I shared my thoughts on there not being a perfect career for everyone. So if there isn’t a perfect career out there for you, and therefore any job can be a step into a fulfilling career, how do you structure an approach that at least decreases the risks of falling into the wrong job, and increases the odds of finding a right one?

Although you don’t know which job or career will give you job satisfaction yet, you know that the end goal is job satisfaction itself; however the bridge that gets you there is still indistinguishable.

Job litmus paper test

Do you remember litmus paper tests back at school? That slip of paper the teacher dipped in random solutions to test its pH scale – if it turned pink, it was acidic; if it turned blue, is was alkaline. A job litmus paper test does the same sort of thing when it comes to testing out a potential job or career.

In essence the components that make the job litmus paper test are:

Coincidentally* I wrote about these 3 elements individually in the previous 3 posts. This concept is nothing new and I’m not claiming this to be the one best way. I am however suggesting that the job litmus paper test helps you decide your steps before you take them in an unconventional way compared to other advice out there.

You see, when you don’t know what you want to do but you want to build momentum towards job satisfaction, this job litmus paper test acts as a decision maker against unknown and indefinite variables increasing your chances to job satisfaction. It may not help in determining the right job for you but it will certain determine if a job is right for you.

Career Venn diagram

A sucker for a graph, I suggest using something like a Venn diagram, the idea being that a specific overlap of your unique formula, preferred working culture and professional motivation will bring to light a good career choice. There have been a number of theories that correlate to this concept but the issue I personally found with these is that they suggest the diagram is a sure way to pinpoint a career for you…

What happens if you aren’t aware of a specific career is in existence? If becoming a thermal fluid dynamicist is a perfect career for you, would you have been able to identify such an obscure and potentially unknown job from using the diagram?

Like a lot of people, my early working life consisted of being incredibly frustrated with the question ‘what career is for me!?’. It was only after I saw my current role advertised that I was able to compare it to my diagram; a combination here, and a combination there and lo and behold I saw a winning combo.

But, in my first post in this series, I poo-pooed the concept of the Venn diagram. What gives? Well, two things about the Venn diagram concept are:

  1. It only works in retrospect – it’s easy to fit specific skills, culture and goals (while conveniently disregarding the rest) into a fulfilling job;
  2. It only works when you stumble upon a job that meets the majority of the strongest elements within your diagram, and you can place these into the requirements of the role.

I could only see that my job was the manifestation of specific elements from my Venn diagram after I had seen the job description. I don’t think I could have easily concocted my job using the Venn diagram before I had seen it advertised.

Don’t get me wrong; when constructing your Venn diagram, you may well see a blatant career in front of you. By all means roll with it! That’s fantastic news! But this may be just one out of a few possible careers, some you’re not aware of or familiar with.

And this is why it helps those who haven’t any ideas on what they would like to do.

How to use the test

The biggest use of the job litmus test before finding a good career is that, although it might not highlight your choices, it will certainly narrow down your choices. For example if you want to work in a progressive field that allows some sort of movability across specialisms to do with numbers, all within a corporate environment, it would be safe to narrow your search towards banking, finance, accountancy or risk management, for example.

If you like to help people, to train and motivate them but in a relaxed environment and be seen as someone who independently chooses their career’s direction, you can narrow your choices to learning and development, freelance training (be it fitness, business, etc.), management consultancy or further education.

When you get to see a number of patterns of fields that take your fancy, you can then begin to make some enquiries. Begin to scope the fields you want to explore, to really get an understanding of what they entail. You can do this by:

  • Talking to people you know who are in similar fields
  • Reaching out to people you don’t know in similar fields via Twitter, LinkedIn or blogs
  • Researching job profiles through career websites like National Careers Service , Prospects, Target Jobs, Total Jobs, and My World of Work to name a few
  • Researching job profiles through good old fashioned books like The Book of Jobs, The A to Z of Careers and Jobs, Careers 2018 Directory and What Color is your Parachute. These aren’t affiliates, just hearty recommendations.
  • Watching video interviews of people who work in a number of sectors – a simple online search will bring up loads of these!
  • Contacting professional bodies and institutes that oversee their respective sectors to see what it entails and if they can get you in contact with their members
  • Searching courses related to potentially interesting sectors and understanding the module breakdown of topics
  • Contacting HR departments, specifically the recruitment teams, of companies that interest you or are related to potentially interesting roles. Making yourself known to these will also get you on their radar should any positions come up
  • Contacting recruitment agencies who can tell you more about specific roles and companies that pique your interest. Again, you’ll end up under their radar
  • Looking at job descriptions and what skills and attributes they are looking for
  • If you get the opportunity, job shadowing or taking up secondments to test out interesting jobs.

This step can and will seem tedious but it is worth the effort and time investment. When it becomes exciting and interesting, you know you’re onto something good.

Perseverance is key at this important stage and you might become obsessive if you don’t get any instant results. Just keep referring back to your diagram and make sure your efforts are in line with what you want.

When you do become more confident in the direction you want to go or specialising in a particular sector or way of working, begin your job search. The whole point of this concept though is always look back on your litmus paper test, really check to see if the job or career you’re looking at fits with your formula, preferred culture and professional motivation.

It is likely that although you might not be instantly ready to take up a perfect job or career when you see it, it will be the spark of inspiration you need to start developing the required skills and attributes, and if necessary the relevant qualifications. This process itself will eventually make your search more focussed on elements that haven’t been eliminated from previous litmus tests and you may end up, by process of elimination, getting a Eureka! moment on which sector you would fit well into.

Do keep in mind throughout the process that if you have an idea of what you want to do, and you know you’ll be really good at it, explore the option of a side-hustle or setting up your own business. They’re topics worthy enough of posts of their own, which I will be writing soon, but in the meantime spend some time on looking into the really interesting world of entrepreneurship.

I sincerely hope that the idea (and it is only that) of testing interesting roles, careers and sectors against your job litmus paper test has inspired you to realise there is another way of getting closer to finding job satisfaction. I also hope it has quashed any deflation after another idea that there isn’t a perfect career for everyone, but instead a spectrum of possibilities based on varying combinations of your Venn diagram.

This is the last of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. If you missed the first four, you can find them here: A secret about finding your perfect career; Too many interests to choose a career; 6 signs of toxic and healthy work cultures; and Professional motivation.

 

* Not coincidentally

 

6 signs of toxic and healthy work cultures

A work culture can be crudely defined as ‘the way things are done around here’. It can be considered as an entity of its own, the collective subsequence of the workforce, policies, practice and management. Despite best efforts, it’s something that cannot be tamed or controlled, but organisations can certainly focus their energy on the individual elements that direct it. It’s also an important part of working life and has a very direct influence on job satisfaction.

For example, you could have the best job in the world but if the culture is toxic, the job itself isn’t enough to keep you there, or at least happy. Often companies neglect the significance and impact a culture has on their staff and scratch their heads at their appalling attrition rates.

Being aware of this, and beginning to identify the sort of work culture you can flourish in, will add to your efforts to reaching job satisfaction. When it comes to this particular element of job satisfaction, it’s important to consider the consequences of a work culture to your life outside of work, for example, a culture that encourages late nighters and regular weekend work might not work well with keeping a family, working on a side hustle, or studying a course.

As I touched on in this post about the secret behind ‘the perfect career’, the work culture is a particularly important element for those who find job satisfaction by fitting in with their lifestyle and contentment rather than the actual role itself.

Or for those who consider themselves as ‘multipotentialites’ (which I talked about in this post), a work culture that encourages entre/intrapreneurialship and has a strong focus on training and learning new skills will play a strong contribution to job satisfaction.

So with this in mind, below I list 6 signs each of toxic and healthy work cultures.

  1. Recruitment

Toxic – From the beginning of the process, the job description is ambiguous, over-generalised and rife with spelling mistakes. Communication during the interview and onboarding processes is flaky and unprofessional. Rocking up to work on your first day, you’re given a desk, a computer and told to get on with it; no induction, no introductions, no first day training. These signs suggest that the culture isn’t professional, and it likes to cut corners at the cost of quality. The lack of communication suggests that they don’t invest in the employee experience before they’ve even started the role and could come across that they just don’t care. This can also be a sign that the company has experienced high attrition rates as the process is one that doesn’t have a long impact on new starters as they’ll soon be out of the door any way!

Healthy – From the beginning of the process, the job description details everything about the job and what is expected of the successful candidate. The pay respectfully reflects the nature and level of the role, as well as the qualifications needed for it. Communication is led with consistently, constantly and with integrity. A formal induction program is ready for you on day one (if not before) and you’re introduced to everyone in the office. You’re walked through the upcoming training and all of your new starter objectives. This culture is one of professionalism and respect and shows that they value their workforce.

  1. HR Policies

Toxic – HR policies and procedures are either very short or excessively long. They also focus only on how management should use them and to control staff. Heavy policies that deal with attendance, disciplinary and grievance matters are rigid, strict, unreasonable, and restricts or altogether forbids professional flexibility or judgement. Or very little measures are in place to protect staff from bullying and harassment, manage poor performance before disciplinary action is instigated or to assist staff who are experiencing physical or mental health problems.

Healthy – HR policies and procedures provide enough information that is transparent for employees and their managers that have equal and proportionate weight in terms of assisting employees and managers. All policies provide a clear structure for managers to align their professional judgement to individual circumstances, while providing appropriate flexibility. They also have the right sort of measures in place to ensure staff are protected, assisted and supported while giving managers a guide to work alongside when implementing remedial action.

  1. Work-life Balance

Toxic – Leaving on time is discouraged as putting in extra unpaid hours is expected of you; sometimes you’re expected to be able to take calls or step in at a minute’s notice on your days off. Flexible working applications are refused as standard without assessing each case appropriately. The process of applying for annual leave is tedious and doesn’t feel like an entitlement but a privilege; some leave might also be denied for multiple months, showing extremely poor workforce planning. Leaving work unexpectedly for emergencies to do with dependants is either not allowed or something begrudgingly granted with a consequence of being made to feel guilty upon your return.

Healthy – Managers practically push you out the door if they suspect you working longer than they should and respect your time outside of work. Flexible working is dealt with sensibly, compassionately and pragmatically, and arrangements are reviewed regularly to make sure it’s still fit for purpose for the individual. Annual leave is worked out fairly amongst the team and within sensible time frames. Emergencies are dealt with realistically as there is a strong working family culture and understand unforeseen things do actually happen in real life. When you return to work after the emergency, your manager and colleagues are genuinely concerned. Temporary working patterns are offered to accommodate any further disruptions.

  1. Learning and Development

Toxic – Professional development and learning is an afterthought and is considered an add-on rather than something that needs investment or strategic planning. Even with little learning and development opportunities offered by the organisation, self-directed learning is scoffed at and you’re reminded by management that it won’t get you anywhere within the company. Skill gap analysis isn’t conducted leading to a severe skill shortfall, and self-assessment and learning objective setting are alien concepts.

Healthy – There is investment and strategic forethought in learning and development, on both an individual and company-wide basis. There is an intrapreneurial spirit that encourages everyone to fully utilise the full spectrum of their skills and interests. Self-directed learning is encouraged and taking time out to study can be a form of a flexible working arrangement. Skills are regularly assessed and very rarely are skill shortfalls detrimental to business-as-usual activities.

  1. Staff Engagement

Toxic – Company values are forced upon staff without exemplary behaviour demonstrated by management. Feedback is rarely asked for, but when it is, any constructive feedback from staff is considered negative and therefore dismissed. Employees have very little influence on policies, procedures or processes even when they have ideas on improving costs and efficiency. Team and individual meetings are tick-box exercises with little or no value to either the manager or individual. There is a strong focus on penalising those who get things wrong but little or no emphasis on lessons learned or celebrating successes.

Healthy – Core values are demonstrated by managers and senior managers throughout the whole organisation and every action from the organisation is evidently aligned to these core values. Internal communications are for the benefit of staff to provide useable information and requesting thoughts and feedback. Employees have a strong influence on how policies, procedures and processes are shaped and can be involved in projects or stretch assignments that implement these changes. Team and individual meetings are very useful and benefit everyone involved. They’re used as a safe opportunity to share views, concerns and successes, and any failures are used as an opportunity to learn lessons.

  1. Management

Toxic – Management favour organisational inertia over progress because ‘this is how it’s always been done’. Efforts are focussed in fire-fighting and keeping business-as-usual items ticking over without any focus on the future or putting in developmental plans. Line managers use their position to shirk responsibility, duties and to exert their power. As a line manager they also feel they can do no wrong and don’t require any training as they know everything already. Management lack any forward thinking in terms of succession and workforce planning which has an overall negative impact on organisational performance, attendance and staff morale. Hostile and toxic environments are left to fester.

Healthy – Management pay attention to what’s on the horizon and make sure their efforts on current activity are future proof and may lead to future opportunities. Line managers use their position to coach and mentor their teams and actively keep involved in their team’s work. Line managers have management-specific objectives and keep their training up to date. Succession and workforce planning is an integral part of business-as-usual and is a need-to-have, not a like-to-have. Early intervention is a key part in nipping any hostility in the bud and management actively play a part in promoting and supporting a healthy work culture.

These are just a few signs to look out for in toxic and healthy work cultures, the effects of which are detrimental to your work life and job satisfaction. During your search for a career or job that provide job satisfaction, you might find it hard to judge the work culture in organisations or sectors you know very little about. Even if you were to read up on the legal sector, you might hear stories of late nights, micro-management, heavy workloads and tedious hourly rate calculations, which might be completely untrue for a number of firms.

Your perfect work culture

Using the first point above on recruitment will be evident from the point of reading the job description, as well as any proactive phone enquiries. But in the meantime, you can use these signs to begin to think about the work culture you want to work in. In the absence of knowing what career you want to do, you can start thinking about what culture you want to be in, the one that allows you to work with the least stress, the most flexibility or the emphasis on continuous career progression.

This is the third of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. Next week, I will be talking about professional motivation and how it can help you towards job satisfaction.

 

Too many interests to choose a career?

Have you ever found it hard to choose a career because you just have so many interests? Or you’re frightened that you’ve gone from obsessive hobby to the next, you’re hesitant to commit to a single interest in case next month you would have moved onto something else? Have people often commented that you have an eclectic set of skills and ‘there’s no end to your talents’?

This can be frustrating for the fellow avid doer. We have the energy to devote our efforts into something that will build a flourishing career, but with so many interests, most seemingly completely unrelated, choosing one proves difficult. Moreover, the fear of choosing the wrong one is just as bad.

I spoke about how there is no perfect career for everyone in my last post so it’s important to remember that there is no right way about finding job satisfaction, or in other words, there will never be a perfect solution as it doesn’t exist so therefore mustn’t be ventured for.

So this should give you more room to play with your multiple interests, the number of potential jobs out there that will satisfy you.

Multipotentialites

What better way to begin than to explore the concept of Multipotentialites. For those who aren’t familiar, this is a term and way of thinking developed by Emilie Wapnick who founded the website Puttylike. The ‘Start here’ page, for obvious reasons, is a really good starting point for people with many interests to explore.

Multipotentialites, Emilie explains, are people with multiple interests and creative pursuits. They have no chosen career but instead like to explore as many of their interests as they please. They are also known to learn a new skill or interest, become obsessive about it (it literally takes over their life) and then some time later (a week, a month, a year…) the interest is no longer interesting and they move onto a new creative pursuit.

Now without knowing this concept and the basis that this sort of behaviour is OK, a lot of closeted Multipotentialites will be beating themselves up for flitting from one interest to the next, frustrating not just themselves, but family and friends around them who can’t keep up.

Knowing this inspiring concept has made my transitions from one interest to the next incredibly natural and guilt-free, so I thoroughly recommend hopping over to the website…after you’ve carried on reading this of course.

Indulging in multiple interests

There seems to be an apprehension for indulging your multiple interests especially when you’re determined to focus on your career, but by denying yourself to do this, and explore even more potential interests, you’re not honing the particular set of skills that are wholly unique to you.

Only you have the specific level of competence in a specific combination or related and unrelated skills and hobbies.

Your personal formula

I believe your personal set of skills and competence, or your personal ‘formula’, is the very thing that separates you from the rest when it comes to choosing, perfecting and advancing your career. I talk a lot about transferable skills, so it won’t come as a surprise to you if I said that transferable skills from each of your interests could have a place in devising the career that is uniquely you, plays to your strengths, your weaknesses, your interests, your motivation, your reason to get up in the morning…all of these things that help people love their jobs and in turn progress professionally. This unique formula is one element that creates job satisfaction.

To put it into context, Bob (fictitious) dawdles between a number of jobs that tickles his multiple interests that are seemingly unrelated. He had a try at accountancy, music engineering, law, decoupage, and internal communications. Some might think that Bob is fickle and that he just goes from one job to the next that caters to his multiple interests but doesn’t really help him build a solid foundation on which a fulfilling and progressive career can be built upon.

Sure, Bob is a bit lost and can’t seem to get an ‘A-ha!’ moment where he’s truly found job satisfaction.

But the thing about Bob is, he’s been creating his personal formula. It might be a hodgepodge of skills but come the time he knows what he wants in life, what he wants out of a career, and how to indulge in all of his interests, he has a unique formula that could give him a competitive edge at an interview.

Bob’s formula has profiled him as:

  • Accurate with numbers
  • Attention to detail
  • Creative and capable of thinking outside the box
  • Highly computer literate
  • Intelligent
  • Willing to learn new skills
  • A strong communicator
  • A strong collaborator
  • Eager
  • Not afraid to go for what he wants

Hopefully Bob will figure out what he wants to do with his career, and when he does, he can add qualifications to the formula he has already developed. There might come a time when his certain elements from his formula combine to make him a super-suitable candidate for the job that has seemingly been made for him.

Having multiple interests does not mean you have to pick your favourite and run with it, neglecting the others.

On the contrary, if you have a blatant favourite and you really want to take that off, then that is absolutely fine, but keep a finger on your other interests, even at pastime or hobby level. This helps keep your formula up to speed and keeps it unique. It also means you get more satisfaction out of life in general.

By doing something you enjoy in your spare time, it helps you separate work from home life, the mental or physical muscles you use at work and the ones you use at home. ‘Variety is the spice of life’ they say.

This reflects the danger of falling into the misconception that making money out of each and every interest leads to job satisfaction, or ‘following your bliss’. It’s important to remember that if you happen to enjoy doing something for free, there is no automatic assumption you’ll enjoy doing it for money. For example, as a foodie, I absolutely love to cook, but I couldn’t do it as a job. It’s something I do to unwind from work, an enjoyable hobby that doesn’t have any professional pressure.

I took this same approach when I realised I wanted to start a blog about career development. I’m an HR professional and love all things HR. I could’ve easily started an HR blog but I chose specifically career development because, as well as wanting to help people like me progress professionally, it’s also something I’m really interested in.

So while I develop my skills as an HR professional at work and through CPD (continuous professional development) I get to develop my skills as a blogger and sort of career coach-y person (is that what I am?), on top of the other interests I have. I’ve since gone on to find many elements of HR and career management overlap and one feeds into the other. Even if they didn’t overlap, indulging in my multiple facets that make me me, means I’m forever strengthening my unique formula.

But is there a way of making money from a number of your interests?

Portfolio career

Portfolio careers are essentially working a number of part-time roles, usually 2 or 3 at a time. Not only can this way of working mean you will never have a monotonous week, or ever have to choose one career aspiration to follow, it’s also considered to be a safer way of working in terms of job security. You lose a job? That’s fine, you have two others to fall back on.

Portfolio careers are a better way of networking than if you remained in one job, especially if each of the jobs were in different fields. Just think of what this social asset does to your personal formula!

It does have its pitfalls though, for example making sure schedules are synchronised and switching from one working culture to another all the time can be confusing, but it is an option to consider, a popular one at that.

So please do not worry if you have so many interests that they’re confusing you to the point of frustrated inertia. It’s such a good thing having so many interests and experiences, and it’s a case of deciding how to use these to build a career, and life in general, in the way that suits you.

This is the second of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. Next week, I will be talking about how working cultures can help you in your quest, and the signs to look out for.

 

 

 

A secret to finding your perfect career

Are you frustrated with the unending struggle of figuring out what you should be doing with your career? Too many interests, too many options and no idea where to begin? Or you just don’t feel strongly enough about any particular field, subject or type of vocation that you feel like you’re moments away from going eeny meeny miny mo? 

Is there a way to finding out your perfect career?

No.

But is there at least a perfect career for each person!?

No.

….Does this give you relief? ‘At last the struggle is over!’ Or does this make you even more frustrated because time and time again you’ve been promised the contrary?

Allow me to expand a bit on this. By all means this is not a negative view on the hot topic of discovering what you should be doing with your career, on which there are thousands of books, blogs and so forth. I have read a large number of these but I did not discover my ‘true calling’ by doing so.

This is my own perspective on the topic and should hopefully bring a little relief that there is no one way for finding out what is your perfect career – you no longer have to frantically search for an answer as the answer does not exist. Indeed the question is superfluous.

Analogy time!

An analogy, if you will, for food for thought (pun intended…you’ll see in a bit). Imagine if you’re looking for the perfect weekend dinner (see). You want a go-to dish that you want to cook every Saturday that will need to meet a number of criteria:

  • It must be tasty (in job terms, it needs to scratch a vocational itch)
  • It must be easy to cook, or at least easy to learn how to cook (it uses previous experience. ‘Easy’ is relative to the amount of interest you have in it, for example a someone with a natural flare to be a doctor won’t necessarily find the medical exams easy, but it’s easy for them to be determined to study for them)
  • It needs to involve the utensils you have (the skills you have)
  • It shouldn’t take a long time to cook (not compromise your free time)
  • It mustn’t be too uninspiring so you won’t get bored of it (be stimulating over time)

Now, to discover this perfect dish, do you think a personality test will give you the one correct answer? Or if you spoke to a professional chef with 5 Michelin stars, they will give you the one correct answer? Or if you read dozens of recipe books to learn about all the dishes available and the first dish you choose, after careful and lengthy assessment, would without doubt the best dish for you? Or by choosing all of your favourite ingredients, combining these with your experience and utensils, you will reach a culinary ‘ikigai’, the centre of a perfect Venn diagram?

Is this really achievable? Hypothetically, lets humour that the answer is ‘yes’ and the perfect dish for you came out as chorizo, olive and mushroom pizza. You might think to yourself you’ve hit the jackpot and you have finally, yes finally, found your perfect Saturday dish. Nothing can beat this.

Until you travel to Italy and try their pizzas and it’s better than your perfect Saturday dish. What did all that time mean when you’ve researched, did the homework, spoke to the professionals – all the things you were told to do to find the best Saturday dish – only to have all the effort gone awry with this new Italian spanner in the works.

Would you apply this logic to find the perfect job? Personality tests, experts, books and assessments? Yet there’s so much out there saying this way is the only way to find the perfect job. In times of desperation, it’s easy and convenient to believe them. It’s a reflection of our avid doer spirit; it’s a problem that we want to solve and we’re more than willing to use as many methods and techniques to get the answer. But it feels that bit more frustrating when an answer is promised but not reached.

Personally, I found it satisfying knowing that there isn’t a perfect career for me.

But I love my job. I find it interesting, uses my experience and skills, with plenty of room for development and progression fueled by my own professional motivation. I feel I’m making a difference and scratches my vocational itch. The people I work with are the best and the working culture suits me and my personality. On paper, this is the perfect career for me. So why isn’t this the perfect career for me?

Because perfection is time-sensitive and specific to my current life circumstances right now which include the extra things I do in my free time, for example addressing my other interests in my leisure time (like blogging!) that my job doesn’t meet. I’m not saying that in time I will go off the job. But who’s to say a couple of years down the line I’m offered a promotion I hadn’t thought about, and that is way better than the job I’m in now but is in a slightly different direction or niche? That therefore doesn’t make my current role perfect as I would have found something better.

Do you have a preference to loving your job or having the best career specific for you? Does either one provide more satisfaction than the other?

In my opinion, I don’t think so, but the former is a lot more achievable, realistic and tangible than the latter. That’s why I think the question shouldn’t be ‘what is my perfect career?’ but should be ‘how can I love my job?’

So what do you do?

There are four types of people who get their job satisfaction right:

  1. They’ve known all along and literally made it their mission to be what they want based on their personal interests eg a musician might have picked up a guitar at the age of 5 and couldn’t put it down. Those who say they would love to play an instrument but have never given it a go are not musicians. They would have had an involuntary compulsion to pick up that instrument long ago.
  2. They’ve stumbled into their career by accident eg those who find themselves in less sexy roles than we’ve not normally been exposed to, or have eventually found it by a few attempts of trial and error
  3. Their job fits their lifestyle and therefore gives them satisfaction – this is not the actual role, or the nature of it per se, but it provides enough happiness and contentment for the life they want to live
  4. They encapsulate these three points into one whole, contented life that meets the needs of their interests, job satisfaction and lifestyle.

You see, focusing your efforts into finding the best job for you is, I believe, just one element to finding job satisfaction, or satisfaction in general. Would you be less satisfied with your work life if you could still pass the time with your interests when you’re not at work in the form of hobbies, or if you incorporate elements of your interests in your role, giving it your own unique angle? Would you be less satisfied if your job meant you couldn’t get home earlier than most people so you can spend more time with your family? Would you be less satisfied if the itches that aren’t scratched by a good job could be scratched by ways of a side hustle, either paid or for leisure?

You might put blame on a job that didn’t cater to your interests, for example, if you didn’t take the time to fulfill these interests outside of work.

As multi-faceted beings, we have many interests, and the concept that one career can satisfy multiple dimensions of a personality is inaccurate and unnecessarily leads to inevitable dissatisfaction.

In time I believe more and more job roles will take this concept into more consideration, allowing people’s unique set of skills and experience to ‘meat-out’ the role, bringing a competitive edge to the organisation, a workforce that isn’t identified by their job roles or by the job adverts to which they applied. Indeed, the concept of ‘intrapreneur’ is becoming a thing now, where organisations are harnessing employee’s entrepreneurial spirit by giving them free rein on certain aspects of projects and tasks, and reaping the benefits while providing more job satisfaction.

So it questions: is there is a need to find the perfect career if more organisations will adopt this spirit of intrapreneurship meaning that careers aren’t being shaped by a cookie cutter, but by the employee themselves?

In the meantime, I hope that if you agree with my perspective on achieving ‘the perfect career’ it hasn’t left you disheartened – instead I hope it has lessened the weight of the burden in trying to find the perfect career.

This is the first of a 5 part series of posts on discovering how to find job satisfaction. Next week, I will be talking about what to do if you have too many interests to decide on a career.