Following the global success of Grad Expectations, I am running two exclusive one day masterclasses for recent and future University Graduates on how to get a Graduate Job.
Having recruited hundreds of Graduates into corporate roles and having helped as many succeed in their careers, I am offering this exclusive opportunity to learn how to secure your first professional job after university.
Only 12 places per masterclass are available, therefore seats will be offered on a strictly first come, first serve basis.
From 10:00am to 4:00pm you will go through an intensive learning experience focused on:
1. Writing a killer CV & stand-out application
2. Succeeding in interviews – telephone and face to face
3. Excelling at Assessment Centres – group exercises & presentations
The masterclasses will be held at St Matthew’s Conference Centre (20 Great Peter Street, Westminster, London SW1P 2BU) on Saturday 10th August and Saturday 31st August, 2013.
The masterclass is designed specifically for people who have either recently graduated, or who are soon to graduate from university.
Places are only £45 per person, and includes lunch, a full review of your CV and follow-on career coaching support.
Contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your place.
I look forward to seeing you there!
Author of Grad Expectations: the essential guide for all graduates entering the work force
Creator of Flow, with Purpose, as Yourself ™
A Rule without Exception
Over the years I’ve helped hundreds of Graduates secure their first job after University. Without exception each time I’ve spoken to a person about where their job search is falling down, the error they are making is simple. And, to help them resolve this error I always say the same thing:
“Don’t tell me what you’ve done. Tell me the value you have created!”
Although this may sound simple, and perhaps even obvious, I am yet to meet a Graduate who has made this their primary focus when trying to secure their first job after University.
Why focus on Value
When we in the ‘corporate world’ are trying to recruit Graduates, we’re faced with a significant challenge of sifting through hundreds (if not thousands) of CVs. Unfortunately, for those trying to secure a job, it’s quite difficult for recruiters to spot the difference between one candidate and another; just about all CVs look the same and most say the same thing. So it is essential that you seek to make yourself stand out.
In any organisation, the focus of management is on delivering greater value to their shareholders, customers and also their employees. This is irrespective to whether they are in the public, private or not-for-profit sector. With this in mind, what differentiates one candidate from another is their ability to show that they are able to deliver value. That is, they prove that they are able to show initiative by focusing on doing more than just the obvious – they prove they’re focused on adding value.
So…For any employer, if their focus is on delivering value, then they definitely want to employee people who are focused on doing the same!
How to Demonstrate Value
To secure any job, regardless of whether it is a Graduate role, the recruitment process consists of multiple steps. Throughout each of these steps, to demonstrate value it is essential to follow my advice; don’t tell me what you’ve done, tell me the value you’ve created!
What this means in practice for each of step in the recruitment process is as follows:
CV: Within your CV, go beyond just listing the various jobs or roles that you’ve performed. Instead, for each job or role (including clubs memberships, travel expeditions etc) focus on proving that you knew who the customers or stakeholders were, and that you showed your initiative to add greater value to them. For example:
Bad Example: Lead waitress at Big Bob’s Restaurant
Good Example: Lead waitress at Big Bob’s Restaurant: Implemented process improvements to reduce time customers had to wait for meals after placing their order.
Application: As for your CV, when completing your application (and cover letter if required) keep the focus on demonstrating the value you added through all examples you are asked to provide. For example, if asked about when you lead a team:
Bad Example: I lead a team of five to complete a university assignment
Good Example: In leading a team of five peers to complete a university assignment I made sure that we focused on leveraging the strengths of each team member, whilst also fulfilling each of our development goals.
Interviews: When responding to interview questions focus on using the S.T.A.R. (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique. In using this technique make sure you explain who the key customers or stakeholders were in the “Situation” component. Then describe how you used your initiative in the “Action” component. And finally, describe the value you added in the “Results” component. For example:
Question – Tell me when you’ve delivered exceptional service to customers?
Situation: While working in Big Bob’s restaurant as the Lead Waitress, my primary focus was on delivering exceptional service to our customers. Over the first week in my role I noticed that often customer orders were being delivered late, resulting in high levels of customer satisfaction.
Task: Recognising that we were not delivering exceptional service I set myself the task to improve this.
Action: The action I took was to gather all of my staff together and brainstorm how we could improve the processes within the restaurant. From the discussion we discovered that how we took orders and how they were presented to the kitchen was creating confusion, resulting in late delivery. To resolve this we changed how we took orders and implemented a new way of making sure that the kitchen received clear orders and the waiting staff were able to deliver the meals as soon as they were ready.
Result: All meals are now served on a suitable time and there have been no more customer complaints about this issue. Tips have also gone up by 50%.
Demonstrating value is easy, provided that you spend some time thinking through what you have done, who your customers and stakeholders were, and, how you showed initiative to deliver greater value for them.
Learn how to Secure a Graduate Job
To learn how to secure your Graduate job, sign up for one of the upcoming masterclasses. During these 1 day courses you will learn the secrets of making your CV and application stand out, as well as learning how to ace your interviews and assessment centres.
Go to: www.grad-expectations.com/masterclass.htm for more information
Get your free e-copy of Grad Expectations here:
There’s a fleeting moment when for once in your life in life when you are able to line up in the business class queue and then proceed through fast track section of security that you think; “this is it…I’ve made it as a professional.”
At this moment it’s easy to think; ‘what a glamorous life it is to be a business traveller! Jet setting around the world. Business class lounges, nice staff and great hotels.’
But, is it really all that glamourous?
As I write this I’m sitting in the BA First Club Lounge at one of London Heathrow’s many terminals. When the guy at the check in desk said, “Sir, I’m afraid I have some bad news for you,” after a tough day I did really think the worst. Instead he up graded me from business to first. With an inflated chest and sense of over importance I then trotted off the BA lounge and took advantage of their wonderful catering services.
But, as I settled down to wait for my 2 hour delayed flight I once again realised that as lovely as flying first class and enjoying all the splendours of the first class lounge are, and then as lovely as the 5 star hotel in Singapore will be…I would gladly forgoe it all to be at home and then enjoy the weekend with my partner and friends.
While this may seem a little self indulgent, I write this with an interesting question in mind:
Is travelling for work really all that glamorous?
A few weeks ago, having arrived in Edinburgh on the red-eye flight I bumped into someone I recruited many years ago who then left the organisation we worked for to join a big 4 consultancy. She looked tired and to be honest, but not overly inspired. She was earning the ‘big bucks’ but working the hours to do it.
Without wanting to dwell on the point…business travel is not glamorous, at least not in the longer term. Therefore, when being seduced by the glamorous corporate life style…see it for what it is…with glamor comes cost and more often, that cost is yours to bare! So…make your choices consciously!
Just a thought….
This week I had a couple of interesting experiences with people who finally realised that they couldn’t do it all themselves – so they asked for help!
As quite an independent person, I’ve always been reluctant to ask people for help, even when I really needed it. This wasn’t because of some foolish notion that I was brilliant and could do it all myself. Instead it was due to being quite shy and not wanting to add to the burden of other people. What I’ve come to realise as I’ve got older is this approach is flawed for three key reasons:
1. You can never do everything by yourself.
2. People are mostly always keen to help.
3. You miss out on some great opportunities by not involving others.
Of these reasons, the two that amazed me the most when I realised was 2 & 3. I was surprised at how willing people are to help out. I have always been the type of guy who would go out of my way to help others, but I thought I was the only one who did this. However, as I started asking people for help on things I quickly began to realise that people are more than willing to help others. Secondly, as I started asking people for help I began getting other opportunities to do things that I had previously missed – it was amazing – by asking people for help I was getting new project opportunities, job offers, and I was really expanding what I was learning.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help – the worst they can say is no!
This week I had two different people come to me for help. Both were at breaking point with their issues and were allowing themselves to be buried in self doubt. My first words when speaking with them were; “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?” To which they responded; “I was too embarrassed to ask for help!”
My advice for any one who’s struggling with a problem or issue they can’t resolve, no matter how big or small, is don’t be afraid to ask for help. Trying to solve everything by yourself isn’t a good approach. Humans are social creatures that learn most effectively from interacting with others. So it’s in our DNA to engage others to solve problems. And the worst thing anyone can ever say to you is no – which isn’t really that bad at all.
My final piece of advice in asking for help, is make sure you go to those who will really be able to help you. Often this is people who will have a completely different perspective than you. Once again, the worst thing they will say is no, and to be honest, in my experience very few people ever say no!
A last word on Asking for Help
When you first ask for help and someone say’s yes, it’s a hugely liberating experience for you as you get to cast of your shackles of suffering and get the support you need. As you get this support however make sure you use it - implementing the solutions you create is where change comes from!
For anyone who’s been following my blog, let me apologise for the gap in posts.
I’m back on line again now…so there’ll be more to come.
If you’ve got any thoughts on topics…drop me a line or comment on this page.
Politics is just Personality
Last week I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of university students who’ve just finished their studies. During my presentation I asked the question: “What do you expect the professional world to be like?” Amongst the flurry of responses, organisational politics seemed to be a favourite!
“What do you mean by politics?” I asked
“People just being in it for themselves,” someone responded angrily.
In the discussion that followed, a simple conclusion was drawn; politics is nothing but personality – it is just the behaviour that results from the self-driven egos of ourselves and others!
How do we deal with Politics?
If politics is nothing but personality, then dealing with politics is as easy as dealing with difficult people.
People who we believe to be ‘difficult’ are so because they disturb something in us. When we encounter politics (or self-driven ego based behaviour), we must recognise it for what it is. And more importantly, we must recognise it for what it disturbs in us.
The first step in doing this is to recognise that all behaviour of individuals is driven by some motive that’s ‘pure’ for them. Although this is sometimes very hard to appreciate, all people I meet are seeking to satisfy something that’s important at a very deep level for them. For example, I met a person recently who insisted on challenging every single thing I said. It turned out that she had been bullied early in life and for her, this form of challenge was actually a strategy of ‘attack is the best form of defence’, which when I heard the full story I could fully understand.
So, whilst the initial behaviour seems very self-focused, the motive behind the behaviour is pure for the person pushing it.
When we realise that all behaviour is driven by a motive that is at least pure for the individual, we can take the second step. This step involves responding to the motive not the behaviour. For example, with the person I met, rather than react negatively to her constant challenge, I could relax my own ego and help her to feel safe, hence responding to her deeper need. This point of relaxing your own ego when dealing with politics is the key. In the past you might have heard it being called; “being the bigger person”, but ultimately it is about responding and not reacting. Often when we deal with politics it disturbs something in us and hence we react. But, if you are able to focus on their motive and not their behaviour, then you can begin to respond instead.
A last thought…
When ever we experience something that frustrates us, such as office politics, it’s always easy to get drawn into as our own ego is tested. However, the key is always to recognise that it is disturbing something in us. By doing this you can draw yourself out of the emotion of the situation and focus on responding to the other person’s motive rather than their behaviour!
Read more about this in Grad Expectations: the essential guide for all graduates entering the work force
When things go wrong…
Occasionally in life things don’t always go the way you wanted or expected – yes, sometimes things go wrong! Examples of this include not doing well on an assignment, not getting the job that you desperately wanted, delivering a bad presentation at work, getting bad feedback from your boss, or anything else where you just didn’t get the result you hoped for!
When things go wrong its very easy to feel a sense of despair and to feel deflated by the experience – disappointment is natural and everyone feels it at some stage of their lives and career – every famous or fabulously rich person I know of has failed at some point!
The important thing to focus on when things go wrong however, is not that it has gone wrong. Instead, you need to focus on why it went wrong. Focusing only on the fact that something hasn’t turned out how you’d hoped often results in you unconstructively dwelling on it, rather than constructively using it to succeed in the future!
Understanding WHY it went wrong…
When something hasn’t gone as you’d planned or hoped, whilst it’s ok to be annoyed or upset, you need to take this energy and focus it on understanding WHY it didn’t go as planned. Seeking to understand the ‘WHY’ is important for two reasons:
- It helps you stop dwelling on the negative and start focusing on using the experience constructively.
- It helps you use the experience to learn and develop as an individual.
How do you understand WHY it went wrong?
To understand WHY it went wrong , grab a sheet of paper and write out a short description of the situation at the top of the page. Then, below your description of the situation, answer the 3 simple questions below:
- What did I do well in the situation? In any situation, even if it went wrong, there are always things that you have done well and it’s important to recognise these so that you can focus on using them again.
- What did I not do well in the situation? This is an easy place to focus when something hasn’t gone well, but it’s important to stay objective when focusing on what you specifically did to result in it not going well.
- What would you do differently in the future? Using the answers to questions 1 & 2, this final question is the most important. I had a mentor once who said, ‘that making a mistake once is a learning opportunity, but making a mistake twice is a character flaw!’ Although I’m not sure I fully agree with the statement, when things go wrong it’s important to look at how you would approach the situation differently in the future. This simple question is where the learning comes from and will help you focus on moving forward.
A Last Thought…
It’s an unfortunate fact that things don’t always turn out how we’d hoped. However, when they don’t, it’s important to take some time to fully consider why and what you can learn from the experience. And, although feeling disappointed is perfectly natural, you will always learn more from when things don’t go well than you will from when things do go well!
Good luck living and learning…it is a part of life!
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Over the last few weeks I’ve met and helped a lot of people who’ve spent a very long time looking for a job after Graduating, but with no luck! One person had even been looking for 3 years without a single interview – yes, 3 years with not even an interview!
When I listened to each of these peoples’ stories, I kept coming to the same conclusion - each of them had a couple of things in common:
1. They were trying the same failing approach over and over again – hitting their heads against the same brick wall, you might say! and
2. They had stopped believing that getting a job was possible!
Ultimately, because they’d fallen into the trap of these two things, it was clear to see that they were stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you don’t believe you’ll get a job, then chances are you wont!
Although there’s a lot more to the story of these people than what I’m writing, there’s one thing that each needed to develop; they each needed to learn to believe again - they each needed to change their state of mind!
Breaking the Prophecy – Change your State of Mind
When looking for a job, if you’re not having any luck, or, if you’ve discover that you’re in a self-fulfilling prophecy, there’s a few critical things you must do:
First, recognise that whatever you’re trying, it isn’t working.If you’ve been repetitively knocked back at any stage of the recruiting process (initial application, phone interview, face-to-face interview, or assessment centre) it’s critical to stop and consider what you’re doing wrong. To do this, if you can, seek some feedback from the organisations you’ve applied to. They should be able to give you some insight as to what worked and what didn’t. If they won’t give feedback, then don’t worry. Depending on what stage you’re going wrong, seek to do a complete review of what YOU think YOU could be doing wrong. For example, if you’re not getting an interview from your applications, you need to take a serious look at your cover letter, CV and also your approach to your applications. There are plenty of experts who review CVs in the market, and if you can find a good one it’s worth investing to get them to take a look at what you’re doing. If you are failing at another stage then you need to reflect on every aspect of what you did to identify (i) what you did well, (ii) what you didn’t do well, and (iii) what you will do differently next time.
Second, keep the outcome in mind, but take one step at a time. In the process of getting a job it’s easy to become fixated on the end outcome, i.e. getting a job! Although starting with the outcome in mind is really important, focusing solely on it is dangerous because you pay less attention to the steps in between where you are now and getting a job. What I mean with this is that to get a job you must excel at all the steps in the process. This includes, developing an excellent CV and application, researching the organisations you have applied to, and rehearsing your key interview approach and responses. By keeping your outcome in mind, whilst also taking one step at a time to get there, you can make sure you excel at all the steps to success.
Third, keep the faith through being self-critical. When looking for a job, you’ve got to believe that you can get one. This means believing that the job you’re after is out there, and you just have to find it and earn it. To do this, you have to keep the faith. This will help you remain positive and focused. To do this however, linking back to the first step, you must stay self-critical. That is, you must be constantly reviewing, reflecting and improving what you’re doing so that at each stage of the recruitment process you are excelling. You don’t have to do this alone, because often when you’re in the heat of the moment trying to find a job it’s tough to step back and look objectively. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask those around you for help to ensure you are excelling in all areas!
A last thought on Getting a Job…
Getting a job is 50% about belief and 50% about your approach. And, believe it or not, but your belief will heavily impact your approach, and vice versa. Therefore, if you find yourself hitting your head against the same brick wall, then stop and take some time to see where you may be going wrong. Through doing this as objectively as possible you’ll be able to change your approach to ensure you’re successful!
For help with getting yourself in the right mindset and breaking out of a self-fulfilling prophecy as you look for a job, contact Grad Expectations at email@example.com
Too many things to do – Not enough time!
Often in professional life, whether it’s when your finishing University or when you’ve officially started working, you find yourself feeling like there’s too many things to do and not enough time. I call this feeling like you’re spinning plates – you’re trying to keep momentum on too many things and you feel like if anyone of them drops, it will break.
For anyone trapped in this cycle it’s a dangerous place to be – why? Well, to put it simply, it’s dangerous because we’re all only human and there are only so many things that we can keep moving at anyone time. And, if you spin plates for too long, you will burn out!
What do you do if you’re spinning plates?
When you find yourself feeling like you have too many things on and not enough time to complete them all – feeling like you’re spinning plates – there are 3 things you can do:
1. Be honest with yourself – Recognise You’re Spinning Plates!
The first and most critical thing to do is to be honest with yourself and recognise that you’ve taken on too many things. It’s widely understood that the human brain can handle 5 +/- 2 things at any one time. Trying to take on any more than this and you’ll feel over loaded. This feeling of being over loaded is what you need to recognise, and with that, it’s important to be honest with yourself that you’ve taken on too much.
2. Prioritise What You’ve Taken On
When you’ve got many plates in the air, it’s often difficult to step back and look objectively at all the things you’re doing. The reason this is difficult is because you feel that if you step back there’s a chance one of the plates might fall. Despite this feeling, once you’re honest with yourself that you’ve taken on too much you have to step back and prioritise. One simple way of prioritising is to use the Importance v’s Urgent Matrix (see wikipedia for an example).
Using the four quadrants of this matrix, you assess each of the tasks you have to complete against their importance and urgency. In doing this, it’s critical that you assess each task against each other so you avoid seeing them all as important and all as urgent. As you do this prioritisation, you will start to see that some of the tasks are less critical than others. You should also make sure that you only focus on a max of 3 Urgent and Important at any one time. More than this and you’re back to where you started.
3. Take Action
After you’ve prioritised all the things you have on, you need to take action. This action must include the following:
- STOP doing anything that isn’t both important and urgent. You should let people know that you’re doing this, but it’s important that you stop it because it just isn’t high on your priority list.
- RE-NEGOTIATE that which is important but not urgent. These things must still be done, but you should re-negotiate their completion date.
- FOCUS on that which is important and urgent. Even as you do this however, it’s important that you prioritise these against each other also, and that you allocate the time needed to get them done.
A Last Thought on Prioritising…
When you feel overwhelmed with too many things on, it’s really important that you’re honest with yourself about this. Struggling on, without prioritising and taking the right action will only lead to the feelings intensifying and ultimately you burning out. When looking at the actions you need to take once you’ve prioritised, I always find the ’stop’ doing the non-critical tasks as most difficult. And, usually this is due to me not wanting to let people down. However, it’s important to remember that you’re only one person and you can’t do everything, so sometimes you just have to say no!
For further tips like these, see Grad Expectations - the essential guide for all graduates entering the work force.