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Bad Career Story

Is your Career Story Good or BAD?

There’s an easy way to check. The number one sign your career story is lacking is if it’s missing key elements — especially, the happy ending.

Now, I’m going to show you what happens when your career story is bad. Not sure if yours is good?

Here’s an example…

Meet Mike: “Poor Me, I Got Fired by an Evil Boss”

I recently spoke a young man named Mike. He had been at a company for 10 years. In the last six months, a new manager took over. Mike says within weeks he knew he was “pegged” as someone the new manager wanted to make an example of. Mike said he tried everything to make the new manager happy, but that each time he tried, it only seemed to make her more angry. He said all his colleagues saw it too and felt bad for him, but nobody would help him fight back. Finally, he was called into a disciplinary meeting and was subsequently put onto a  performance review. Within a week, he had made a mistake, and was let go. He was out of a job with no reference from a place he had worked at for a decade.

“How do I explain leaving there to potential employers? I have no chance. She ruined me,” was Mike’s comment to me. I said, “That’s true if you are going to keep telling the story in that way.”

“How else can I tell it?” Mike replied, “That’s what happened.

I seen the opportunity as a teaching moment and my response was, “No, that’s ONLY your perspective of what happened, and telling it that way makes you sound suspect and your dismissal justified. You aren’t telling a good story. What is worse, you’re telling the wrong story to the wrong audience.”

 

Even if the facts in Mike’s story are true, the way he was telling it wasn’t going to serve him well in his job search. Stories are a creative process. There are many different ways to tell the same career story. I really wanted  Mike to think about how the audience who’d be hearing his story would react to it.

 

Here’s what’s wrong with Mike’s story:

  1. Mike mentions he was made a target. He immediately positions himself as the only person in a large organization being singled out. Most hiring managers will assume there was a good reason for that.
  2. He claims he tried everything to make the manager happy, but nothing worked. This sounds very dramatic and most hiring managers will assume Mike didn’t know what to do to really improve his performace and up his deliverables game. Hence, the reason for the increase in the managers’ frustration with him.
  3. Mike had been at the company 10 years and now a new boss had come in and shaken things up. Most employers will assume the change in management was needed and that Mike was eliminated because he hadn’t been pulling his weight for quite some time, and most likely, the previous management hadn’t done anything about it.
  4. Lastly, and by far the most important, Mike blames his entire situation on one person – The NEW BOSS. Not taking an ounce responsibility for his part in the story. This makes him appear to lack any sense of accountability, which will make hiring managers run in the other direction.

 

Solution: Present a More Objective Account of Events

When I explained this to Mike he was shocked, and frankly, really defensive. I then shared with him what I thought he should say to a prospective employer to consider him for a job. He got the message. It went something like this:

“My last job was a powerful experience. I had 10 wonderful productive years there. I was promoted three times in that period and learned valuable lessons. It was a good organisation to work for and I made friends with many colleagues who still work there.

 

Six months ago however there was a change in  leadership and while that is always good for the organisation it became very clear to me that the new manager and I different views on how the department should operate and despite my tenure there I was not able to get onto the same page. I tried to improve our working relationship as one does however despite my efforts I seemed to only make things worse. In hindsight, I think there are definitely things I could have done differently. However, it finally came to a point that the new manager felt my performance didn’t match what she needed and I felt I could not compromise my position any further and we agreed to part ways.”

And then, I made sure Mike added this (the happy ending):

The truth is leaving an organization I spent ten years in was a really tough ask. I learnt an invaluable lesson from that process itself and I learned and developed incredible skills while I was there which I would really like to apply  someplace new. That’s why I’m excited about your organization. I can see myself being really successful here.”

 

By telling a more balanced story without all the emotional undertones of blame you are able to present a more credible and more optimistic perspective. Most importantly, when he ended it with a positive spin, he proved he knew how to create his own “happy ending” to his career story.

 

What Happened to Mike?

Mike practiced this for a month. He needed time to process his emotions and really allow himself to come to terms with the situation so he could deliver a more objective career story. He had to find a way to say this on his own terms. Eventually, he was ready to answer the dreaded, “Why did you leave your last job question?” in an upcoming interview. Not surprisingly, when the question arose in the phone screen, Mike was actually eager to answer it. He wanted to share his new story. It worked. Mike got through the screening interview and went on to the second interview and was eventually offered the job which he accepted. That was truly a happy ending for both of us.

How would you describe your Career Story?

 

Want to learn how you Develop your Ideal Career and tell a better career story?

Career advice for Surviving Workplace Automation

There was a time when the term “automation” was tightly associated with advanced manufacturing plants full of robotics. While that is certainly one example it is not the only type of automation in the workplace. The truth however, is that automation is everywhere and it is not just about robots. Historically, automation required expensive servers and a team of experts to maintain them. This was cost-prohibitive and out of reach for many businesses.  As technology improved and various cloud-based platforms were developed, automation tools are now accessible to even the smallest companies.

So, what does automation look like if it is not towering robotics?

Sometimes it is as simple as a set of tools housed within common business software programs. At its core, automation is about implementing a system to complete repetitive, easily replicated tasks without the need for human labour.

The most important thing for businesses, is repetition. When there is something, you need to do more than once that adds value you want to be able to automate it.

Many businesses already use at least one common form of automation: electronic communication and marketing is one such example. This software can be configured to send follow-up emails days later; only to those who opened the original email, without requiring any person on staff to lift a finger. Many of these tools are used to develop relatively sophisticated email marketing campaigns with minimal attention.

Automating these repetitive business processes frees up humans for tasks that are less mundane or more valuable than those that can be completed by machines and software. However, more advanced forms of automation like machine learning can be used to complete higher order tasks that require a bit more adaptability.

The ability of these software programs to more quickly and effectively pour through massive troves of data and contextualize that information in a useful way to support internal decision-making is crucial to business sustainability.

Automation is also making in-roads in arenas such as talent acquisition, employee recruitment and payroll. Human resources departments, using automated processes like tracking down potential candidates and scheduling interviews frees up time for humans to examine potential hires and determine who is the best fit for their organization. Hiring the right people has become more intricate and a lot is happening in recruitment systems and using AI to match the right people to the right team for the right projects is becoming more popular.

Automation in the workplace is a trend that is here to stay and could eventually disrupt a third of South Africa’s workforce. Automation is present in modern businesses small and large, ranging from subtle features in common software applications to more obvious implementation, like self-driving vehicles.

Customer service departments are also getting an automation makeover with the introduction of tools like chatbots. These consumer-interfacing tools automate typical customer service interactions, answering inquiries immediately and only referring customers to a representative when the chatbot is insufficient for handling their needs. Up to 80 percent of customer service interactions could be handled by a chatbot alone, offering businesses the potential to significantly cut costs associated with conventional customer service.

Opportunities to automate common workplace processes are everywhere, which is why automation is becoming a common element of every business. Whether it’s providing good customer service, streamlining the hiring process, or more efficiently managing marketing campaigns, automation is already playing a role in many businesses. As technology improves, more tasks will become available for automation as well; we’ve only seen the beginning of workplace automation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) enables new forms of “smart” automation. As the software learns, the more adaptable it becomes. These technologies open the door for automation of higher-order tasks as well, rather than just basic, repetitive tasks.

News reports in America suggest people losing their jobs to robots have become more frequent and will only continue to increase. Some reports earlier this year  indicates that roughly 36 million Americans hold jobs with “high exposure” to automation ,  meaning at least 70 percent of their tasks could soon be performed by machines using current technology.

When faced with this inevitable reality globally, the best thing to do locally is to prepare. Here are some tips to survive automation in the workplace.

Be Aware of the Status of Your Job

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Honestly, this is good career advice for anyone.

Industries go through peaks and troughs and it’s important to keep track of where your industry stands, so you know if you are at risk for losing your job to automation.

According to a 2018 Visual Capitalist article, the professions most at risk of automation are telemarketer, tax preparer, insurance underwriter, bookkeeping clerk, legal secretary, payroll clerk and real estate broker, just to name a few. It would be prudent to think long and hard about what you can offer beyond your existing set of skills and competencies.

Knowing whether you are at risk is crucial for three reasons:

First, if you are currently working in one of these types of jobs you can prepare yourself for a possible job loss.

Second, if you are a recent college graduate that studied and now has a qualification in one of these fields or you are considering one of these professions as part of your job search, knowing this info will help you make an informed decision about the future of these industries.

Third, if you have just started your university or college career, knowing which careers to avoid will inform your selection for majors or areas of specialization and therefore allow you to set realistic career goals.

Take Advantage of Up-skill Opportunities 

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No matter what advancements are made in robot technology there are certain human skills that can never be replaced.

Visual Capitalist list the following skills as being on that cannot-be-replaced list complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, decision making and negotiation.

Take note of whether you possess any of these crucial workplace skills and how you have used them in the past. Consider how these skills may translate into another industry of interest. If you’re struggling to find a new profession that these career skills may fit into then connect with me HERE to get a better idea of your professional strengths and what type of industry you may fit into.

If you have some idea of what career you may want to move into evaluate which skills you may be lacking and identify ways that you can gain them through available programs or online courses. If you are a student you could also consider getting a part-time job in order to acquire additional skills.

This is also a good time to update your professional network by reaching out to old connections and making new ones. You never know when a connection could point you in the direction of a potential dream job.

Stay up to date with Changes in Technology

Robots taking over jobs is an uncomfortable thought. The center of all this talk is the fact that major advancements are being made in technology that will change the workplace forever. A 2016 Stanford University report says that some of the industries that will benefit from automation include transportation, home services, health care, education and public safety. Further alludes to that fact that while some of this automation will result in job loss, for the most part it will make life easier for employees and eventually open up the need for different positions.

Given the current trend of automation, it’s practical career advice to stay current with all the changes and take a proactive role in learning these new technologies.

An unwillingness to adapt to new technology can put a major damper on your job search or cause you to fall behind in your career

A willingness to learn new technologies shows initiative to prospective employers. Employers will realize that you are not afraid of change and are willing to do what it takes to do the job well. Knowledge of certain technologies are also great career skills to put on your resume. This type of willingness to adapt to change may make you invaluable to prospective employers.

Preparing for the automation of the workplace is all about being willing to learn and adapt.

The more diverse your skill-set is, the easier it will be to transition into a new job. For those in the workforce; or for those just joining it for the first time, the big question is: what skills are needed to navigate this monumental shift in the economy? How will humans create value in an increasingly automated world?

In short, for those looking to future proof their careers, building competencies in areas that machines will be unlikely to tackle effectively is likely the best recipe for success.

In a  study  done by Oxford University the list below is a quick look at automation potential of select positions..

Machine learning as a driver of more sophisticated automation

There is a lot of focus at the moment on the tasks that humans don’t want to do, but what’s going to happen in the future is automation will not just be about automating those tasks humans are doing today, but it will be about realizing potential opportunities.

As data sets become more thorough and available, and as software draws on more sources and synthesizes more data points, contextual information in human decision-making will only improve. Machine learning, could serve as a supplement (perhaps even an enhancement) to human knowledge. Combine those capabilities with improved data retention through the internet of things (IoT) and the possibilities are seemingly endless.

To make interacting with these tools more natural and intuitive, companies will begin tailoring AI and automated technologies for a more organic, human experience.

To make customer service chatbots appear more human, for example, Sage has intentionally built “imperfections” into its AI. For example, the answer to a user’s question might already be queued up by a chatbot, but Sage built a slight “thinking” delay into its system to simulate a more human customer service interaction. An ellipsis in the chat box indicates that the bot is “writing” a response, even though it immediately pulled up the queried information. Kriti Sharma VP at Sage said initial user feedback to the feature is highly positive, reflecting a desire for a more human, less machine-like interactive experience. “Things will get more and more accessible,” he said. “These technologies will never replace the human being, but they will relieve the human being of the things that are less valuable, relatively speaking. [Humans] will be able to instead focus on those things that require creativity and touch. We will see more accessible, better experiences, and we’ll see human beings move to their highest and best use.”

For humans, the shock of an increasingly automated world can be difficult to process. According to Sharma, successfully integrating automation into human life starts with a comprehensive effort to educate people about what automation is, what it isn’t and what it means for them. “Users are often initially surprised by the capabilities of automation” Sharma said. “The first time they see something automatically there is a bit of delight, and it’s also a bit scary until you show them the process the software went through. It’s more of an educational challenge than a tech problem.”

Easing the pain of transition

The steady march of workplace automation has prompted discussion about the future of a fully automated economy. Efficiency, convenience and profitability are naturally at the top of the list, but so too are concerns about the fates of workers whose jobs are automated out of existence. There are several proposals to support those displaced in an increasingly automated world, such as retraining programs.

 

When it comes to supporting those left behind in an automated economy, there are more questions than answers, and there are many competing perspectives. Access to educational and networking opportunities will offer workers the opportunity to remake their careers and find a way in the new economy to support themselves and their families.

The same kind of technology that displaces certain workers also opens up new opportunities. Work life has changed to the point where everyone is essentially their own free agent. Managing yourself has really become the theme in the last 10 years, and so we are trying to empower people through tools and open-ended communities.

“Jobcase” as an example such a community of 70 million people, including experts and professionals in a variety of industries. As far as education goes, there are resources available which offer free courses on topics like economics and coding. Certifying the skills learned on these platforms, will likely come from completing freelance tasks, rather than from academic institutions. “The rise of platforms for gigs and labour are increasingly breaking down this notion of skill certification” Goff said. “It might still be difficult to get that full-time job, but building on contracted experience is a way to give that competency verification.

In the education and training world, it means decoupling the certification of your education from the delivery of your expertise. In other words, the people you’ve worked with would increasingly certify your skill set and level of competence, rather than an established institution with a four-year degree program.

“We’re living through something now that is an unfortunate but necessary pain,” James Wallace co-founder of Exponential University said. “The conversation should be how to reduce those growing pains. The reality is the ultimate effect of automation is something very positive for everyone.”

Naturally, Wallace said, the economic insecurity displaced workers feel is very real, but automation is not the enemy. Instead, educating people about leveraging this powerful technology to create their own incomes and essentially establishing a society of entrepreneurs and small companies is probably more realistic.

“If we can establish a way to make sure we all have enough food, clothing and shelter to survive … and allow people to re-purpose their gifts, unique abilities and enable them to proliferate that and sell it as a good or a service, then we’re adding income,” Wallace said. “We can create an opportunity to generate income for next to nothing, so why not teach people to leverage the tech that disrupted the marketplace in the first place to embrace it and use it for something more in line with who they are, as an expression of their unique abilities?”

Automation for efficiency and profitability

The bottom line of business process automation is, well, the bottom line. Automating processes saves time and allows resources to be diverted elsewhere. It means companies can remain smaller and more agile. Increased efficiency, productivity and lower costs all translate to healthier profit margins for businesses small and large. How automation transforms the economy at large remains to be seen. However, it appears inevitable that we’re headed toward a future of more automation.

What this means for businesses, workers and consumers will be the subject of much debate moving forward. One thing seems certain, however: If it can be automated, it will be.