Sunday, June 28, 2009
Don’t give up. Put an extra spark in your job hunt with these tips.
Although the economy is showing signs of recovery, the labour market is still tight and many people are still finding it tough to find a job.
Many job seekers receive a job offer within two to three months. But longer searches are not uncommon. As the waiting drags on, people feel their morale and energy slipping away.
Those who have been unemployed for a prolonged period of time may tell you they have been “looking for years”. But have they tried to do something new? Chances are they have not. There are always new things to do. It may be something that they have overlooked which they could try out.
The key is to maintain a positive attitude in order to have a successful campaign with a happy ending.
Here are some tips to help keep you motivated when things look bleak:
Expand your targets
Think out of the box. If you have been looking only in the same industry as before, look elsewhere.
All of us have transferable skills. People who have worked for accounting firms should look on the client side and explore accounting for not-for-profit organisations or small to mid-sized corporations.
There may be literally hundreds of companies and organisations to explore, most of which can be unearthed by just a few hours of research on the Internet.
Try different techniques
Most people think that getting a job is about answering advertisements in the newspaper or relying on search firms. People do get jobs from advertisements. Yet fewer than 20 per cent of all jobs are filled through search firms and ads. Some people get their next job because of their “old boys’ or girls’ network”.
Another overlooked technique is direct contact, which is not the same thing as networking. Many people get good jobs because they go out and find them.
You may think that writing to employers out of the blue is a waste of time. Often it will be. But enlightened employers (the sort you want to work for) will never ignore a good letter from out of the blue. They know that first-class people are difficult to find.
Be flexible on salary
Most people are not making what they made three years ago. Many were over-paid during the boom of the 1990s. Be realistic and accept that you will be paid fairly at current market rates, as the market is not very strong right now.
Whatever your salary, think of it as temporary until the market turns around.
Be realistic and do what you have to do to bring in some money and keep yourself healthy emotionally. The situation will change again in a few years. You’re just trying to get through this rough patch.
Be around positive people
It is not helpful to associate with people who wallow in frustration and self-pity.
Join associations or do volunteer work to make positive contacts. You will meet people with an upbeat attitude while keeping yourself up-to-date in your field.
Of course, you can also seek help from a career coach to help guide you through the process of personal career mastery.
Get a job-search buddy
Your buddy is someone who is also searching for a job. He should be someone whom you can talk to fairly often and informally. You might say: “Here’s what I’m planning to do today in my search. What are you planning to do? Let’s talk tomorrow and make sure we’ve done it.”
Your classmates are your best job-search buddies if you are a fresh graduate. Or you can probably find your job-search buddy through job search agencies such as the Community Development Councils (CDCs), the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) or self-help groups.
Keep physically and mentally fit
Looking for a job can be stressful, and stress can prompt you to give up good habits such as going to the gym.
Take care of yourself physically. Watch your drinking, eating, and smoking which can get out of hand.
Get dressed every morning. Look good. Get some exercise. Eat healthy food. Take some time off to recharge. Don’t postpone having fun until you get a job.
Do something you are normally unable to do when you’re working, such as going to a musical or to the park for a walk. You’ll be more relaxed and more interesting when you go on interviews.
Don’t give up
Continue looking even if you don’t feel like it. When you were in your old job, there were days you didn’t feel like doing something, but you did it anyway because it was your responsibility.
Hunting for a job is your job right now. Make a phone call. Write different resumés for different jobs. Research a company you’re interested in. Do your best every day. No matter how you feel, remember that looking for a job is a full-time job.
You may have accumulated sufficient knowledge and experience, and cannot wait to share it with the younger generation. You wish to spend more time with your loved ones and to pursue your interests.
One option you may want to consider is a second career as a trainer. The Government is proactively promoting Singapore as a regional training hub for short courses. Visitors from surrounding countries can join short courses and enjoy a short vacation here, at the same time.
Training is a high value-added education industry. It is a relatively easy service business to set up. The training consultancy can be started as a one-man-operation. Another plus: The Housing and Development Board allows you to start a training business from home.
Starting costs are also minimal. As a training consultant, you get to work flexible hours. Training is a very fulfilling job as you impact and change peoples’ lives with your technologies. When the job is well done, it is gratifying to see participants come forward to express their appreciation.
The training market is segmented into various categories —preschool children, primary school students, secondary school students, junior college students, undergraduates, home makers, foreign workers, clerical and technical workers, executives, senior management executives, singles, parents, grandparents and retirees.
The market is as big as you can explore. Trainers should survey the market, find a niche appropriate for their skills and specialise in it. Apart from Singapore, surrounding countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, India and China present burgeoning opportunities.
Which area do you want to teach? You can choose a specialty area based on your educational background. If you studied accountancy, for example, you can train non-finance executives in finance.
You can also offer courses based on your own training. If you are trained as a sales executive, you can teach others selling skills. If you have worked as a human resource manager, you can facilitate topics such as interviewing skills, appraisals, performance feedback and so on.
Alternatively, you can offer training inspired by your hobbies or areas of passion. For instance, if you have a passion in nutrition, you can teach others about dietary habits. We develop new interests all the time.
Of late, many people have wandered into alternative medicine, holistic living and spiritual areas such as aromatherapy, colour therapy, nutrition, yoga, Rolfing and graphology.
Makings of a trainer
Both human resource managers and participants like to engage mature trainers with a breadth of working experience and depth of technology.
You must have a burning passion and an urge within you to articulate it to the rest of the world. You must have fire in your belly to engage others through instruction.
A respected trainer possesses high EQ, likes interacting with people and has a lot of patience. An engaging trainer, in many ways, is an entertainer. Come what may, the show must go on. Trainers are drawn from a big reservoir of people with different backgrounds and experiences. They include mid-life executives who want a change of careers and those who have completed overseas job assignments.
Others include the self-employed (tutors, real-estate and insurance agents) as well as retirees from the civil service, uniformed services and the private sector. Human resource executives, teachers and pastoral care workers are ideal candidates.
On the other hand, there are “Plan B” executives who are still working in corporations but learn to be trainers. Such training skills will prove handy in the event their companies are restructured.
How to be a trainer?
The first step is to enrol in a “train-the-trainer” workshop or get a diploma in training. It will equip you with the necessary training skills to facilitate your maiden workshop. Delivering speeches and conducting mini-workshops let you experiment with your instructional design. The rest is up to you.
The more workshops you facilitate, the more you sharpen your skills. As you acquire more experience, you can widen your repertoire of subjects.
Where do you go from here?
Once you are a trainer, you can also dabble in related activities such as being a master-of-ceremony, game master, writer or counsellor. The more entrepreneurial ones can organise seminars, establish a commercial school, own training franchises or go on training engagements overseas. It can be a satisfying profession that you need not retire from.
Have you tried searching for a job but were turned down because you were considered too old?
Do you feel as if your time is running out because there are too many young colleagues around you getting ahead?
What matters is your attitude towards change. Change is not an easy process, especially when you are feeling insecure.
While you cannot stop some employers from claiming that “older workers are much more resistant to change”, you can certainly try to prove them wrong.
Be open to change: Older workers are perceived to be resistant to change. This makes it difficult for them to be re-employed. Change such mindsets by keeping up with the times and showing prospective employers that you are as suited to the job as anybody else.
Learn new things: Learning does not just mean taking up courses. It also means being ready to take on new projects, new tasks and new roles should the company require you to do so.
If you refuse to learn, someone else will. Then, do not be surprised if you are replaced or your job seems redundant. Recognise that it happened because you did not add value to yourself and the organisation. You can prevent this from happening to you by being open to new ideas.
Anticipate change: Understand what is happening around you and how it is impacting you and the organisation. Keep abreast of new methods. Make an effort to stay updated with new laws, new processes in the industry and new technology so that you can make the necessary changes in your work environment.
Networking and participating in seminars, conferences and workshops are good ways to stay up to date. This way, you will be prepared for what is to come and not be caught off guard.
Be a mentor: Older workers are wiser as they have working experience and a better perspective of the world.
Turn this experience into an advantage by sharing your experiences with younger colleagues and earn their respect. This also increases your value-add in the organisation.
Don’t play the blame game: It will not get you anywhere. Whether you are retrenched or stuck in your current position, be aware that job scopes are always changing. Take action and equip yourself with new skills.
If you are retrenched, look out for programmes that could train you for another career.
If you are stuck in a job, be pro-active and look for ways to make your work more interesting. Make sure you are seen and heard, but for all the right reasons.
Get it right: Not all employers hire people based on age. There are employers who value experience and are willing to take in older workers if their attitudes are right.
Show your future employer that you are willing to learn and take on challenging tasks. Highlight your achievements and show how you can add value to their organisation.
Go beyond expectations and start to fill your career history with achievements that matter.
Look at your resume. Which part of it are you most proud of? Is it the section on your career achievements? Do you secretly wish you had a few more achievements listed in your resume?
In any organisation, everyone has a role to play, responsibilities to shoulder, tasks to perform and targets to meet. But if you do all that, you are doing what others are doing -- that is, meeting expectations.
If, however, you go beyond the expectations, you enter into the zone of performance called achievements. You create achievements when you go the extra mile. Achievements are those performances that you never forget and always feel proud of.
Achievements are important to you for three reasons:
Scarcity is the very foundation of any economic system. Look around and you will realise that there are always fewer jobs in the market and fewer higher-level positions in an organisation than the number of aspirants.
This means that whether it is getting a new job or growing within an organisation, you need to stand out in the crowd.
One sure way to move up the pile is to have achievements under your belt. Achievements add the silver lining to your resume. Employers love employees who constantly think, perform and value-add beyond their expectations.
Recall how you felt when you last did something extraordinary. What were those feelings? When you deliberately strive and perform beyond the routine expectations, you enjoy greater self-worth, which is no small matter.
Doing repeatedly what is expected of you is a recipe for capping your own growth as an individual. You will never know the limits of your own potential unless you keep on stretching the limits of what you do.
So how can you create achievements? The process requires a deliberate effort on your part. Here is a roadmap:
Understand expectations: First, fully understand the expected outcomes. Only when you are clear about what is expected of you in a particular project, task or situation can you think about doing it better.
Think beyond: Ask yourself in what way you can exceed the expected outcomes. Can you finish the task sooner? Can you do it at a lower cost or with fewer resources? Can you bring some innovations into it? Can you suggest some improvement to the process for the future? Can you simplify it?
What matters most: As you brainstorm about what to do, you will be flush with ideas. Identify an idea that would matter most to your organisation. Sometimes, finishing a task at a lower cost can matter more than doing it faster and vice versa.
Also, start with small achievements instead of trying something revolutionary at the beginning.
Imagine: Leave aside everything and imagine what it would take to accomplish what you are thinking of doing. Feel the excitement of creating such an achievement. See it written in bold letters in your resume.
Stretch: Next comes the hard part -- doing it. You may have to put in extra hours at work or face unexpected problems, including resistance from others. Persist with your plan and do it.
Savour the process: The process is as important as the result. Enjoy the journey of moving towards the intended outcome.
Celebrate your achievement: After reaching your destination, celebrate your achievement.
Finally, even if your superiors do not recognise your efforts and achievements, don't let the disappointment dampen your spirits. Any achievement is one more nugget to add to your resume. It will pay off in multiple ways, even if you cannot see it now.
Every day that you spend at work, you are actually writing your career history. How will you feel when you look back at your career in, say, five or 10 years from now? Will you feel more proud of your career than you are today? Start doing something about writing your career history today.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
On his first visit to Singapore, top Australian career coach Paul Stevens refused to believe that Singaporeans cared only about power, status and money. So, he set out to prove it.
He didn’t have to try very hard. His three major clients — the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Defence and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) — are what he calls “courageous” employers willing to buy into the concept of career development.
“There’s an enormous mindset change. Employers are beginning to realise that keeping talent within the organisation reduces the risk factor,” said Mr Stevens, 61, a self-styled “career technician”, who is also the author of 38 books.
The issue, he added, should not be placement, but sustainability of persons.
In Singapore recently to train the IDA’s human resource team, his approach is optimistic. He teaches people that everyone has 10 options (see sidebar).
Singaporeans, he said, think only in terms of promotion, but not all workers are interested in climbing the corporate ladder. An employee of an organisation he had coached had asked to be demoted to a lesser role because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
“We were happy to hear that, because it meant that our message was getting through to people,” said Mr Stevens.
“You can’t look at your career without looking at your life. As societies become more affluent, people are starting to question the meaning of work.”
Gone are the days when a job’s sole purpose was to bring home the bacon. “Once that is met, it’s natural for humans to seek other forms of self-actualisation,” he said. And now, skills are not “the most critical thing” to getting — and keeping — a job.
However, re-skilling is just one part of career development. According to Mr Stevens, making sure you are functioning at an optimum level in the company also hinges on:
• Work and life balance
(how you juggle work and personal life),
• Renewal of motivation (how you find ways to be motivated by your job),
• Compatibility of values (why you see your job as a perfect fit),
• Identification of primary wants (what the job means to you), and
• Self-audit (how regularly you assess your performance).
But he cautioned that career development doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s a cultural change, a mindset process” that is delicate and cannot be rushed.
10 career options
1. Remain in current role: No content change
2. Enrichment: Develop current job
3. Vertical: Seek promotion
4. Exploration: Test out options
5. Lateral: Sideways move
6. Realignment: Moving down
7. Relocation: Change business unit
8. Redirection: Change career field
9. Proposal: Create new job
10. External: Change employer