Thinking of a change in career?

The new year has brought with it contact from a number of people who have decided to change careers and who are looking for advice on how to do so. For earlier generations it was common, for people once they had found a job, to stay in that position, for most of, or even for their entire career. In contrast, it is becoming increasingly common for people to work in a range of completely different positions.

Depending on the degree of change, this can be either a relatively straight-forward or difficult goal to achieve. If you find yourself thinking of a change in career, perhaps returning to an area you formerly trained in but never gained much experience in, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of success.

Be prepared to start again

Changing career means you should be prepared to accept a lower level position compared with the one you currently operate in and very likely this will mean a drop in salary. If the thought of this is unappealing you may need to revisit what’s most important to you. With the right attitude and application there’s every possibility you’ll be able to work your way back up to, and beyond your current level of seniority and earnings.

Identify and market your transferable skills

Even if preparing to break into a role in an entirely different area to where you are at currently, there will be skills you have acquired that are transferable. Identify what these are and promote them in your CV. Use a covering letter linking them to the role you are applying for and display them in a context that the hiring manager or recruiter will understand.

Refresh your technical skills and knowledge

Knowledge or technical skills you gained from study at the beginning of or during your career may need to be updated depending on the amount of time that has passed. As an example, roles in IT are more likely than those in, say, human resources to change quickly as new technology comes and goes, whereas the principles of human resources are likely to be more resistant to change. Reading widely on the industry you are wanting to break into/move back into and/or undertaking further study will help you to acquire knowledge and skills that are up-to-date.

Make use of your professional networks

Becoming a member of relevant groups or member organisations, including groups on social media sites such as LinkedIn can also help you acquire knowledge that is current and it can also help you identify senior people who have a depth of experience who can help you break into your target area.

Make changes to your CV

Don’t let your CV pigeon-hole you into a certain type of position. Ensure that it clearly shows all of the transferable skills you have acquired during your career and is written in a language that will resonate with those in the area you are wanting to break into. Use a covering letter to speak positively and directly to the hiring manager/recruiter about how you will apply your skills in the position you are applying for and the reasons why you are wanting to change career. If you can demonstrate you understand this is an entirely different role in a different area to where you are based currently, and that you haven’t misread the job advertisement, they may intrigued enough to meet with you.


The Value of Older Workers

At a recent evening spent with many of our contractors, some commented to me that they were frustrated by the number of roles they applied for but were unsuccessful in obtaining. The perception was that age – mid 50’s – very likely had something to do with it. I felt for this person because I suspect their perceptions, at least in some cases, reflected the reality. This is certainly not a view held by JacksonStone & Partners.

What is it that sees a younger person preferred over an older one when both have demonstrated similar ability to perform a role? Perhaps it’s a perception that older workers bring less energy, ideas that are outdated and struggle to use technology?

Job adverts often don’t help as they regularly feature adjectives such as energetic, dynamic, vibrant and flexible to describe the person sought and these are words that those who are making hiring decisions may more readily associate with a younger person. I’m not suggesting avoiding the use of these words but rather recognising that they should be applied directly to the person’s ability to perform in the role and not to a person’s age (which would be a clear breach of human rights).

If we use Statistics New Zealand’s description of the working age as 15-64, then over the years I can say I’ve interviewed many workers within this spectrum. Some who are younger have been vibrant and energetic; however, this description could also be applied to just as many older workers too. Others of those younger workers have been unimaginative, lethargic and inflexible, and again this description can be applied to others in the working age bracket, including those toward the end.

The fact is, those who fall within the working ages described above are slowly becoming a lower proportion of the population and by 2061 will comprise 58% of total population versus the 66% they represent today. The result of this is that employers will need to be more open to considering, not just those in the latter stages of the working age banding, but beyond into 65+, or they will face not being able to fill vacancies or having access to great people. One fact which may encourage them to take this step is that in New Zealand evidence exists to suggest that older workers are more productive (albeit slightly) than their younger colleagues. Other aspects employers may wish to also consider are that older workers are likely to be more experienced, and are seen as more reliable, loyal and committed.

As with much in life, balance is the key. If organisations can assemble teams of people representing a diversity of ages then they will benefit from the differing qualities that we each bring as we move through the various stages of our careers. Those who make hiring decisions – recruiters included – have an important part to play in ensuring older workers have a fair go when applying for jobs and that their ability to do the job, not age, is the prime consideration.


Why you should take care of your own personal brand

Thinking about yourself as a brand isn’t a new concept and is the kind of advice candidates may have received from recruitment consultants or careers coaches.

Last week, Stuart Baggs, a former contestant of the popular BBC show The Apprentice, was found dead in his home on the Isle of Man. On the show he styled himself as “Baggs the brand” and made various memorable remarks about himself including “I’m Stuart Baggs ‘the brand’ – I’ve got a certain type of charisma” and “I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-trick pony, I’ve got a whole field of ponies waiting to literally run toward this”.

Mr Baggs appeared to be a larger-than-life character who rightfully placed a lot of importance on how he was perceived by others. My own advice to candidates in this regard is to indeed be mindful of your own personal brand, taking care to enhance it wherever possible. I’m not advocating for people to have a stockpile of ready-made statements to describe themselves such as those Mr Baggs had at his disposal, but I would say there are some simple steps that candidates should take to help improve the perception a potential employer has of them.

These steps include standing back from your CV and asking yourself “what impression do I immediately have when I see this? Is it clearly and tidily presented? Is the font I’ve chosen appropriate? Does it appear cluttered or lacking in detail? Is it free from spelling and grammatical errors?” etc. Yesterday, when reading through CVs for a senior-level position, I came across a number of poorly presented CVs, including one that contained five spelling errors within the first two pages (six if you count Americanisms!). Given that writing businesses cases was a key responsibility of this position, the candidate obviously didn’t have the skills we were looking for.

A candidate’s brand isn’t solely conveyed through their CV of course. Their online presence contributes too, with such things as their Linked In profile, blog posts, articles they may have published, content uploaded to You Tube, Tweets tweeted on Twitter. Even their Facebook page, which may be personal and not have anything to do with their career, will contribute to an employer’s perception of them if it’s in the public domain.

Personal presentation – at interview and even just in general – such as dress, language used and a person’s overall demeanour also plays a significant part in your brand, as does obviously how you conduct yourself in business and in your relationships with others. Think here about how you feel toward a company whose product you’ve bought and have not been satisfied with if they don’t fix the issue in a professional manner. You’d be unlikely to use them again or recommend them to others.

Regardless of whether or not you are looking for your next career move, it might pay to think about your own personal brand. Ask yourself this: if you were about to make a major purchase that would cost you a lot of money and have a big impact for years to come, would you choose something that had spelling mistakes in its advertising, didn’t perform as expected when you tried it in the shop, or came from a company with a reputation for poor customer service? Most people wouldn’t, and the same applies to employers when they are looking for their next hire.

2015 Mid-Year Round Up (some recruitment related, some not)

As the first half of 2015 comes to a close, I thought I’d record a number of key events and statistics, both recruitment related and not, that stood out for me.  Some of the detail could be described as not particularly riveting and apologies for this, but facts are facts and they’ll hopefully provide a good insight into what’s occurred in the year to date, so if you’re interested read on…

  • Coming off a solid 2014 economically speaking, new jobs listings got off to a strong start but then dipped as the year progressed, according to data from Seek.
  • The country’s economic growth continued to chug along nicely and is expected to grow at an average of 2.8 per cent over the next four years. This will help create the right conditions for more jobs and higher incomes.
  • Over February and March the country got completely behind the Cricket World Cup due in all probability to the Black Cap’s outstanding display of skill and tenacity as they played their way into their first CWC Final.
  • In the March Quarter 2015 unemployment remained unchanged at 5.8 per cent. During the same period strong employment growth was recorded, particularly in Christchurch and Auckland.
  • During April the stunning new national war memorial park in Wellington, Pukeahu was completed in time for the Gallipoli Centenary celebrations with an estimated 40,000 people heading along to the Anzac Day Dawn Service.
  • An announcement from the Government adjusting its policy to ease LVR restrictions outside of Auckland will help home buyers and contribute to stimulating local economic growth. Again, any policy changes that favour economic growth is conducive to a growing job market: Business confidence rises so employers hire and people who are confident about their state of finances and feeling prosperous are more likely to consider a career move.
  • Some of the big winners from the Budget in May included; DHB’s, education and infrastructure such as roads, broadband and the rail network. Further investment in the Christchurch Rebuild will help to continue momentum in the Garden City.  This substantial funding is likely to support jobs growth in all these areas.
  • The average number of new job listings in Wellington advertised on Seek have been down 3.1% for the year to date ending May.
  • As I write in June Greece is inching closer to defaulting on its debt, which will have significant negative implications for global markets, but particularly those in the Euro zone. I won’t even attempt to find a link between this and the New Zealand jobs market!

And finally, here at JacksonStone & Partners  the first six months of 2015 has seen us working on an increasing number of Chief Executive positions.  This has been complemented by strong numbers of other senior positions across the private, public and NGO sectors.  It’s hard to predict what will happen in the second half of the year, but given the favourable economic conditions currently prevailing, the general trend should be positive and we’ll likely continue to see healthy levels of activity in the jobs market.

Confidence gets you places

Another weekend gone by and the Hurricane’s continue their impressive season by convincingly beating the Blue’s to go 13 points clear of the second placed Chief’s in the New Zealand Conference and top overall of the Super Rugby table. A team known for its attacking brilliance, they’re also renowned for poor performances that can come from nowhere. Part of the attraction of this team though is that when they’re playing with confidence spectators witness a brand of rugby that has huge appeal. It seems that when their confidence is high anything’s possible.

Confidence is a wonderful thing and is fundamental to success. Take successful people in any aspect of life and you’ll very likely find that confidence and resolute belief in themselves will be central to what they’ve achieved. Steffi Graf didn’t win 22 tennis Grand Slams doubting her ability to win, Steve Job’s didn’t half-heartedly launch the first ipod, Barack Obama didn’t apologetically announce his bid to become the Democratic nominee to contest the presidential elections, and our own legendary running coach, Arthur Lydiard showed an unwavering belief in the principals of his training as he produced a stable of middle distance runners that were the world’s best.

Candidates who have good levels of confidence stand out from those that don’t. It’s a trait that as humans we find attractive in others. Not only this, but confident people tend to display other attractive traits that go hand-in-hand, such as resilience, optimism and tenacity. Bring all of this together and you’re starting to face a person who has attributes that most, if not all, employer’s want in their team.

Five Classic Mistakes Managers Make When Hiring

Understandably, there’s plenty of advice out there for candidates on how to make a favourable impression on those who are hiring. It’s equally important, however that hiring managers portray their business’ in a way that’s attractive to candidates if they want to secure top performers who have the potential to add immeasurable value.

Here are some classic mistakes that hiring managers often make.

  • They let their own prejudices and personal bias’s cloud their judgment. It’s human nature to like people who are similar to ourselves or who display behaviours that appeal to us. Selecting a person for a job because they display these attributes doesn’t necessarily mean you are hiring the best person available for the job. A competent hiring manager will remove from their decision-making any preconceived ideas they have and assess a candidate objectively against the criteria for the job.
  • They forget that candidates are assessing them as a potential employer as much as they are assessing the candidate. Top performers often have a number of opportunities available to them, which means hiring managers have to compete with other organisations to secure their talents. This fact is all too frequently lost on those making hiring decisions and can result in them not doing enough to attractively ‘market’ the opportunity to the candidate.
  • In an ideal situation, panel interviews are all held on the same day. If this is not possible then the next best alternative is to hold them within as short a period of time as is practical. Holding interviews over a short period of time helps ensure the first candidate interviewed is not disadvantaged relative to candidates interviewed last, because their performance has faded in the minds of those interviewing. I recall hearing about an interview process where the shortlisted candidates were interviewed over several weeks and felt for the poor candidate who had to go first. As it turned out, half of the candidates withdrew from the process after accepting competing offers due to the drawn-out time-frame – hardly a surprise.
  • They allow the results of a selection tool used in the latter stages of the process, such as psychometric testing or reference checks as the deciding factor of whether or not to offer the role to their preferred candidate. Both of these ‘tools’ have validity, but should always be used in conjunction with the parts of the process used to assess a candidate i.e., competency interviewing, presenting to the interview panel, a work sample test etc. If all the other indicators suggest the person is right for the role then this should be balanced against the one indicator that raises a concern.
  • Once interviews have concluded, a mistake hiring managers sometimes make is a lack of decisiveness in confirming their preferred candidate. It’s in the interests of everyone for a decision to be reached quickly. This reduces the chances of a competing offer for the preferred candidate coming into play, and just as importantly, allows the unsuccessful candidates to move on and focus on other opportunities.

If your goal as a hiring manager is to hire the best person available to you, which it should be, then recognising that top performers are sought by other organisations and not making the mistakes above will increase your chances of the achieving this.

Mistakes Candidates Make and How To Avoid Them

During my career in recruitment I’ve met a significant number of candidates.  Most of them present themselves very well, but there are some that don’t.  Here are my observations of some of the mistakes candidates frequently make and how you can avoid them.

  1. They request information about the role or ask for a copy of the job description when the information they are asking for is already available i.e., online. Making contact with the hiring manager or recruiter can be a great way to help you stand out, but it can backfire if you ask for information that is readily available as this could be perceived as showing a lack of initiative.  A job description, where the role is based and an overview of the type of experience required can, on most occasions, be found online.
  1. Their application doesn’t include a covering letter. A covering letter (or lack of one) tells you a lot about a person.  A covering letter that is well written adds “colour” to an application, can reveal the personality of a candidate, and articulates their motivation for applying and why they believe they are a strong fit.
  1. They arrive late to interview. This one’s easy – do everything possible to not arrive late. If it does happen then at the least be very apologetic and ring to say you are running late.  You will salvage your application and remain in contention if you offer a profuse apology and give a genuine reason.  I know interviewers and panels often keep candidates waiting, but two wrongs….
  1. They dress inappropriately. The best advice I can offer here is to mirror the dress of those interviewing you.  This helps build rapport and helps create a perception that you’re “one of them”. If you’re unsure what to wear it’s perfectly acceptable to ask.
  1. A lack of preparation. If a candidate hasn’t properly prepared themselves then this will be apparent to the interviewer.  Do your due diligence on the organisation, the job you’re applying for and those interviewing you.  The internet makes this easy so there’s really no excuse for not being prepared.  Be sure to have some intelligent, considered questions to ask the interviewers at the end and make sure your questions are not all about ‘what’s in it for you’.

And finally….

  1. If you are unsuccessful in your application, accept feedback in the spirit that it’s given in. Very occasionally I find myself going around in “circles” explaining to a candidate why they weren’t offered the job.  Calling a candidate to deliver bad news is never easy no matter how many times you’ve done it.  A candidate “throwing their toys” by saying “it’s their loss” or “I wouldn’t have taken the job if it was offered to me anyway” won’t put you in a good light.  Sure, ask for constructive feedback, but try to be magnanimous in defeat.

Next time I’ll look at the biggest mistakes people hiring make. There are many.