Postgraduate Careers Blog http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk Latest News & Views From Careers & Employability Fri, 25 Apr 2014 14:41:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=378 Farewell but not goodbyehttp://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2014/02/farewell-goodbye/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2014/02/farewell-goodbye/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 11:16:09 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3313 This is the final post for this blog.  We have reached the end of this particular avenue. Many thanks to Tahira Majothi and Mary Macfarlane who were co-authors with me. We will no longer be maintaining and updating this blog, although existing content will remain. In the near future we will be establishing a new […]

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This is the final post for this blog.  We have reached the end of this particular avenue. Many thanks to Tahira Majothi and Mary Macfarlane who were co-authors with me. We will no longer be maintaining and updating this blog, although existing content will remain.

In the near future we will be establishing a new careers blog which I am glad to say will be part of a new blogging platform for the university.

Keep an eye on news about this on our Careers website and our Twitter feed.

While we wait for our new university careers blog, some of us will be blogging here.

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Write a CV you can be proud ofhttp://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2013/05/write-a-cv-you-can-be-proud-of/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2013/05/write-a-cv-you-can-be-proud-of/#comments Wed, 08 May 2013 20:31:30 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3290 I have just edited my prezi on writing a CV. Help with CVs is probably one of the most sought after services we offer in Careers & Employability, so I wanted to make my presentation available online. Writing a CV is often a hard thing for people to do, even though I know there are […]

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I have just edited my prezi on writing a CV. Help with CVs is probably one of the most sought after services we offer in Careers & Employability, so I wanted to make my presentation available online. Writing a CV is often a hard thing for people to do, even though I know there are so many step by step guides (my prezi included).

I think what makes it so challenging, is that doing a good CV needs you to know yourself well and then be able to use vocabulary to sell yourself. The CV is a combination of an authentic written confessional mixed with a personal ad.  No wonder, many of us hate doing one.

So don’t keep putting if off – just get on with it and update your CV!  If you are one of our students and graduates, some and get some help from us in doing this.

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Should you bother with LinkedIn?http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2013/04/should-you-bother-with-linked-in/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2013/04/should-you-bother-with-linked-in/#comments Sun, 14 Apr 2013 18:54:42 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3281 Make no mistake, you won’t get a job just because you are on LinkedIn and have a perfectly crafted profile. Your career success will always be much more about the quality of the work you do and also working hard. Some things don’t change in that respect. However, it makes absolute sense to utilise LinkedIn […]

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Make no mistake, you won’t get a job just because you are on LinkedIn and have a perfectly crafted profile. Your career success will always be much more about the quality of the work you do and also working hard. Some things don’t change in that respect.

However, it makes absolute sense to utilise LinkedIn to help manage your digital identity and to network professionally. You can start this as a student, you don’t have to be in work. And don’t wait to until you are job-hunting to use LinkedIn.  To use a metaphor  “Don’t wait until you are thirsty to dig a well”.

Here is a link to a prezi which I have recently created on using LinkedIn. It also includes links to 2 different series of films – one created by LinkedIn themselves and one by the University of Leeds Careers Service. I have endeavoured to focus on some essential steps in getting started in setting up your profile, rather than an in-depth approach to using LinkedIn for career research.

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How to prepare for a job interview?http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2013/02/how-to-prepare-for-a-job-interview/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2013/02/how-to-prepare-for-a-job-interview/#comments Sun, 10 Feb 2013 15:07:45 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3209 We have had a blog-writing hiatus recently. There just hasn’t seemed time to blog, and we’ve been consumed by other projects. I have become a student myself so have assignments to write, which has squeezed out blogging. Excuses, excuses. I have started experimenting with prezi, primarily as a way to get some presentations online so […]

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We have had a blog-writing hiatus recently. There just hasn’t seemed time to blog, and we’ve been consumed by other projects. I have become a student myself so have assignments to write, which has squeezed out blogging. Excuses, excuses.

I have started experimenting with prezi, primarily as a way to get some presentations online so I can send to students after a class. I am definitely a prezi novice, so nothing flash, though it’s nice to do something that isn’t powerpoint for a change. I also see it as a way to boil down some of the content I teach to key essentials, as I do think we can over-complicate careers advice sometimes.

So this is a brief post really to embed a recent prezi I did on preparing for job interviews. It also includes a few video links – some I think you will find funny.

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Uncovering tactics that will make your career fly highhttp://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/11/uncovering-tactics-that-will-make-your-career-fly-high/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/11/uncovering-tactics-that-will-make-your-career-fly-high/#comments Fri, 16 Nov 2012 14:11:02 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3177 “The world currently is filled with workers whose weeklong question is “when is the weekend going to be here?” And then “thank god, it’s Friday”. Their work puts bread on the table…but they are bored out of their minds. They’ve never taken the time to think out what they uniquely can do and what they […]

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“The world currently is filled with workers whose weeklong question is “when is the weekend going to be here?” And then “thank god, it’s Friday”. Their work puts bread on the table…but they are bored out of their minds. They’ve never taken the time to think out what they uniquely can do and what they can uniquely offer the world. The world doesn’t need any more bored workers.”

 What Color is your Parachute 2013? (Richard Bolles)

My copy of What Color is Your Parachute together with post its

 

Well I can’t disagree with that…but what can you do as a worker, researcher, student or job-seeker do to make sure your work won’t bore you “out of your mind”. 

Based on careers adviser received wisdoms, I have been recommending the abovementioned book What Color is Your Parachute?  for years to people as a classic text which aims to get you thinking about how to plan your career.  And I confess, I had never actually read it till recently; and felt it a worthy topic for a blog post.

In case you are wondering about the title;  nowhere in the book is the title spelt out but my powers of deduction tell me that it alludes to what you can do to stop your career plummeting to the ground and instead allow you to float with grace and dignity to your desired destination. I do love a metaphor.

It’s a quirky, individual book, with some delightful illustrations and diagrams. Reading it, I felt I was being gently jollied along by a wise and trusted friend – the very one smiling from its front cover.

If you are in career transition which most students and graduates are and are looking for some inspiration about your future career, it’s a lovely book to read, though some of its content probably needs translation for a non-US readership. It would also be good to do the exercises it includes with somebody else acting as your mentor and guide. I think your friendly University career adviser/consultant would happily do this. You would be advised to pick the ones that resonate most with you, rather than doing it all.

Some of my favourite wisdoms from the book include:

Finding hope – (no, not the American sitcom) when you feel your career prospects aren’t promising

  • Hope depends on having at least 2 alternatives – so true; always have at least a plan B, and ideally a plan C.
  • However bad a situation, we can always find something that we can control, however small, work on that – agreed.
  • When you are ranting about an impossible situation:  assume that nothing happens for a senseless reason – consider what meaning you can draw from even the toughest circumstances.
  • Don’t let yourself be buffeted by miserable statistics which indicate there is no hope for job-seekers. Focus on what you can do.

The best and worst ways to look for a job

There is a fundamental disconnect between how employers recruit and how job-seekers look for a job. While job-seekers go straight to the job ads, employers think, how can I find somebody as easily and quickly as possible for a position?  I agree, this is why careers advisers like me go on about the hidden job market so much.

Bolles extrapolates from this truism and argues  that actually doing extensive homework on yourself results in an 86% success rate in getting a job, whereas just emailing your CV out to potential employers has only a 7% success rate. I am not sure where he has got these figures but he makes a sound point: too often job-seekers have a lottery approach to job search, thinking the more CVs they send out the better. Whereas thorough self-reflection which leads to making excellent and appropriate job applications just has to be more successful.

Designing a Life/Work plan of attack

Think really creatively about your approach to job-hunting. The book has a great grid in which it overturns some of the classic job search approaches.  It’s really helpful to not get sucked into traditional approaches to career planning and job search which too often turn jobseekers into passive job beggars.

e.g. Traditional approach: ”Do research to find out what the job-market wants.” “Fitting in will carry the day” vs. Creative approach “Do homework on yourself to figure out what you do best, AND most love to do. Enthusiasm will carry the day.”

How you can understand yourself more fully

The book has loads of practical exercises to help you understand yourself. If you are really struggling to evaluate yourself,  Bolles’ exercises leave no stone unturned.  One is creating your own “flower” in which you systematically evaluate yourself in the following areas:

  • What kind of people do you want to work with?
  • What skills do you most want to use?
  • Which “knowledge & fields” are you are most interested in?
  • What is your goal and purpose?
  • What is your preferred location?
  • What is your desired salary?
  • What are your favourite working conditions?

Specific approaches include the Party exercise for working out who you’d like to work with (what group of people would you naturally gravitate to), there’s also a seven stories exercise which aims to get you to really unravel your skills.

Let’s get practical about landing a job

And for those who find all this self-reflective stuff just TOO much or you really know yourself very well already – the book also has practical advice on very tangible aspects of job-hunting.

For example,  there’s a chapter addressing using social media for job search and making  the most of sites like Linked in (I certainly learnt stuff I didn’t know) .

It also has a section which many job-seekers will be drawn to about how to do well at interviews. I am always a fan of anything that boils down what people sometimes find daunting.  He does just this with what he believes are the only true interview questions which are in fact very rarely explicitly asked (funnily enough). I agree that interview candidates should definitely think about how to answer these questions.

  • Why are you here?
  • What can you do for us?
  • What kind of person are you?
  • What distinguishes you from everyone else applying for this job?
  • Can we afford you?  I don’t think I agree with this one in the context of graduate or post-University job-seeking – cross-Atlantic cultural differences perhaps. 

In conclusion, I am glad I read the book, and wished I’d read it before.

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“If you want it enough, you’ll find a way.”http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/10/if-you-want-it-enough-youll-find-a-way/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/10/if-you-want-it-enough-youll-find-a-way/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:07:32 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3165 Ever heard that before? You want to do something, but there are obstacles.  Perhaps there’s a qualification you’d need; perhaps you’d need to support yourself some other way until you got a break; perhaps it’s difficult to manage around your family responsibilities.  You express some reservations about how you’ll manage, and someone who’s already made […]

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Ever heard that before?

You want to do something, but there are obstacles.  Perhaps there’s a qualification you’d need; perhaps you’d need to support yourself some other way until you got a break; perhaps it’s difficult to manage around your family responsibilities.  You express some reservations about how you’ll manage, and someone who’s already made it shrugs and says, “If you want it enough, you’ll find a way.”

You hear it most often in competitive and oversubscribed sectors, like academia, media, law and creative careers.  The last time I heard it, an entrepreneur talking about starting your own business.  “But how will I find time to do all that, when I also have to work and I have two kids?” one woman asked.  “If you want it enough…”

It makes me a little nervous. There often seems to be a undercurrent of challenge: “If you want it enough, you’ll find a way.  Therefore if you don’t succeed, it’s because you didn’t want it enough.”   It seems to judge the person who doesn’t succeed, or who decides the sacrifices are too great: well, if they didn’t make it, they didn’t deserve it.  They gave up too easily.  I just googled “if you want it enough” and found this image, and a lot more like it:

I do not endorse this message!

 

You don’t want to be a quitter, do you? You don’t want to be someone who doesn’t want it enough!  What, you need to pay the rent to keep the roof over your head?  Excuses, excuses!  The only way to prove you want it enough is to succeed!

Hm.

And yet.  There’s also the flipside: it can be surprisingly liberating to admit you don’t want something that much.   Five years ago when I finished my PhD, I was trying to work out how I was going to stay current with research whilst also working to pay the rent.  “What am I supposed to do?” I wrote on Facebook.  “I’ve got so to do – how am I meant to do all that and still earn enough to live on?”  “You could do this … or this … or this…” suggested a friend who was already an established academic.  “But perhaps you just don’t feel that you want to do it enough?”

At first I was outraged.  How dare he, I thought.  He’s saying I’m not motivated enough!  Of course I’m motivated.  I need people to acknowledge that it is literally impossible, so I’m justified in giving up and focussing on Plan B instead!

Except … why did I need other people to validate that decision?  Did I really owe it to anyone else to slog away at something that wasn’t going to make me happy?  Perhaps, just possibly, it wasn’t a judgment, but a statement of fact.  If research was my passion, I probably would do it. I’d even enjoy doing it, at least some of the time. Yes, it would be hard work, but I’d look forward to getting home from my day job to spend time reading and writing.  I thought I was committed, because I’d been telling myself and other people for a long time that this was definitely what I wanted to do, but it actually felt like an awfully long, uphill battle for very little reward. Plan B still involved lots of work, and it would probably be three or four years until I got to the place I wanted to be in, but the difference was that the journey looked fun and exciting as well as the destination.

These days, I see it as quite a useful test of motivation and commitment.  You’ve identified your goal and worked out what it would take to get there: are you excited about the process, or just the goal?  When you’ve worked out that you want to be a teacher, then taking a year to get some experience in the classroom and another year on a PGCE doesn’t seem too bad – hey, you want to be a teacher because you like being in a classroom and you find the process of education fascinating, and that’s what you’ll be doing.  On the other hand, two whole years to qualify sounds like a very long time if the main appeal of teaching is a secure job with a regular salary.

So yes, I do believe that if you want it enough, you’ll find a way.  If you find something you want to do, and the journey excites you as much as the destination, you can be pretty sure you’re on the right track.  If that’s how you feel about starting your own business, qualifying as a psychologist, making films, seeing your name in print, or whatever else, go for it!  There’s never a perfect guarantee you’ll get to exactly where you want to be, but if you enjoy the journey too, you’re certainly not losing out.

On the other hand, if you’re focussed on the goal, but the process fills you with fear, exhaustion and dread, keep thinking.  Maybe it isn’t the right goal.  Maybe you actually want something else more.  Sometimes it’s difficult to admit that you’ve changed your goal, but it can also be a big relief.  So there’s my corollary: if you want it enough, you’ll find a way; but if you don’t, that’s OK too.

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Are You Cut Out to Be An Entrepreneur? A No-nonsense View from the U.S.http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/09/are-you-cut-out-to-be-an-entrepreneur-a-no-nonsense-view-from-the-u-s/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/09/are-you-cut-out-to-be-an-entrepreneur-a-no-nonsense-view-from-the-u-s/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2012 18:42:46 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3154 Thanks to Katheryn Rivas for submitting this guest post with some challenging thoughts for prospective entrepreneurs. If you feel you pass her rigorous personality test, bear in mind that Careers & Employability at the University can help you on your path to be an entrepreneur through our enterprise activities. Start-ups are the new frontier in […]

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Thanks to Katheryn Rivas for submitting this guest post with some challenging thoughts for prospective entrepreneurs. If you feel you pass her rigorous personality test, bear in mind that Careers & Employability at the University can help you on your path to be an entrepreneur through our enterprise activities.

Start-ups are the new frontier in the business world.  Just as prospectors traveled west during the Gold Rush in the early 19th century in the hopes of finding gold, young people are flocking to entrepreneurship today hoping to strike it rich.

The problem is that, like any other market, even the start-up market has its limits and can only take so many new businesses.  More importantly, most people don’t understand the demands that the start-up life makes on those who pursue it, and they burn out because it doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations.

While the only way to truly be sure about whether you can make it as an entrepreneur is giving it a shot, there are some key indicators of success as a start-up cowboy (or girl).  Oliver Segovia, author, entrepreneur, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review called individuals who are more drawn to the glamour of start-ups than the grit “vanity entrepreneurs.”  As you can probably guess, vanity entrepreneurs usually don’t make it very far.

As any start-up founder will tell you, starting a business is constant hard work, psychologically challenging, calls for great social intelligence, as well as the ability to juggle priorities — and above all it requires endurance.

So how do you know if you’ve got what it takes or if you’re just jumping on the hip start-up bandwagon?  To start, check yourself for the following personality traits:

 “Great job, Smith!  Keep up the good work!”

In the start-up world, there’s no one to hold your hand or tell you how great you’re doing as you make everyday progress, so if you’re someone who needs constant affirmation, being an entrepreneur might not be the ideal route for you.  It’s not that you won’t ever get praise or validation, but often you have to wait long periods and keep working even if all your data tells you that you should quit.  Furthermore, not all praise is accurate, and you basically have to take everything with a grain of salt.

“So I see from your resume that you started a business, Smith …”

The entrepreneur who thinks that it will be fun to start a business because it will look great on a resume has her priorities completely wrong.  Your focus when starting a company should always be on making a great product, not on making yourself look good.

“Welcome back to Prada, Mrs. Smith.”

As an entrepreneur you have to learn to live on next to nothing and constantly find new ways to subsist while also funding your venture.  If you are very attached to a lifestyle that includes designer clothes and costly cars or living spaces, starting a business probably isn’t for you.  Very few entrepreneurs have the luxury of living lavishly while starting their business, so don’t count on being the exception.

“That’s DOCTOR Smith, to you, pal.”

There’s nothing wrong with being attached to titles (if you are lucky enough to have one), but if you are all about having them, you may want to steer clear of start-ups.  What most founders find is that titles quickly dissolve under the pressure of the work that needs to be done, and job responsibilities are not well confined.  Just because you are the founder doesn’t mean that you get out of taking the garbage out, if that’s what needs to be done.

Sure the entrepreneurship mythos is an exciting one, but at the end of the day, it’s just like any other job — it has its ups and downs, and will demand much of anyone brave and perseverant enough to chase it.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

 

 

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PhD Writing up: What I Learnedhttp://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/08/phd-writing-up-what-i-learned/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/08/phd-writing-up-what-i-learned/#comments Thu, 30 Aug 2012 09:06:13 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3145 “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.com It’s five years this September since I wrote-up and handed in my PhD thesis.  I was sorting through my email inbox and came across the writing-up advice that I wrote about a year after I finished.  It was a useful reminder for me again, so I thought […]

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“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com

It’s five years this September since I wrote-up and handed in my PhD thesis.  I was sorting through my email inbox and came across the writing-up advice that I wrote about a year after I finished.  It was a useful reminder for me again, so I thought I’d share it here:

1. It is hard. That is the point. You should be learning techniques for motivating yourself to get on and do things you don’t wanna do that you will be using for the rest of your life.

This is first because it was the most useful one for me – remembering that this was work and that was the point. Sometimes, waiting for the Right Moment or looking for the perfect motivation strategy that’s going to make it all seem easy is just another form of procrastination, and you have to sit down and do it. There were times when I did need a break or to find a better writing strategy, and there were times when I just had to force myself  to sit down and do it.  Learning to recognise which was which was one of the most important lessons of the process.

2. There are two kinds of theses: perfect ones and finished ones. Aim for the latter.

3. Have some idea what you’re going to do next, including a workable plan B if for some reason it doesn’t all go according to plan A. This helps with the pressure a lot.

4. Be honest with yourself about what your procrastination techniques are, and cut yourself off if necessary. Don’t go into solitary confinement and don’t deny yourself all pleasures, but if you can’t resist going for coffee every time you go to the library – and find you’re still chatting to friends there two hours later – work from home for a few hours. If you can’t stay off the internet, switch it off. And really, the bathroom will be fine – it doesn’t need cleaning again!

5. Be realistic about what you can achieve. If you haven’t done one single perfect eight-hour day of solid writing in the entire course of your PhD, then you are probably not going to start now. Two great hours and 500 words is better than twelve hours when you’re going to start any second now, right after you’ve just finished reading this thing in the Guardian, and a word count of 30. (I had lots of those days.)

On the other hand, if you get your best work done between the hours of 10pm and 2am, and you can keep that up for the next six weeks, that’s OK. There is nothing actually morally superior about getting all your work done between 9am and 1pm if it doesn’t suit you, and trying to force yourself into that pattern will result in Guilt and No Work.

6. When you are reading other people’s work, you will probably find that there are some people in your field make you feel absolutely hopeless and as though you are the stupidest person in the world who will never amount to anything.  Some other authors, however, sparks off ideas and connections which make you feel as though you are actually kinda clever and maybe a sophisticated thinker with one or two good and original ideas. Use this knowledge wisely. You shouldn’t ignore all the stuff that’s hard and makes you feel rubbish, of course, but reading stuff that makes you feel clever and capable and sets your brain fizzing is OK too.

7. Reward systems rock. Have something to look forward to after you hand in.

8. You can do it. If you’ve got this far, you can. It’s just a matter of doing it. If you decide you don’t want to, that’s OK too, but own that decision because it’s not the same as not being able to.

9. There will be other summers/ holidays/ family weddings. It’s OK if you miss this one, as long as it is in the service of getting this thing out of the way forever and doesn’t set a pattern for life.

But for my money, number 1 is still the big one – it was hard work, and it was supposed to be. I learned a lot about my own personal style of working, my weaknesses and my strengths, and what I need from a job. Actually being present in the process and not purely focussed on the product was what kept me sane.

Good luck to those who are finishing!  And to those who have also finished, what are your top tips?

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When you’re going through hell, just keep goinghttp://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/07/when-youre-going-through-hell-just-keep-going/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/07/when-youre-going-through-hell-just-keep-going/#comments Fri, 13 Jul 2012 17:19:16 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3110 I love this quote attributed to Winston Churchill – it sums up that sometimes when you are facing tough times, there’s going to be no rescue squad on hand and you’ve just got to stick with it and keep on going. I’ve written about resilience before and in this post I’m returning to that theme. […]

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I love this quote attributed to Winston Churchill – it sums up that sometimes when you are facing tough times, there’s going to be no rescue squad on hand and you’ve just got to stick with it and keep on going. I’ve written about resilience before and in this post I’m returning to that theme.

Recently, I have met a number of people who have hit career lows. There have been lots of reasons for this, but largely it’s come down to the political/economic environment we are in and the subsequent re-structuring in organisations and squeeze of individuals therein. We can all experience career lows; e.g., any PhD researcher reading this will probably very easily be able to tell you about low/s within their research or similarly a student who realises they are on a course they hate; the same can be the case if you’re in the wrong job, facing redundancy or in an unhappy work environment.

So career lows are normal but it’s how we respond to them that’s important.

I recently read Peter Hawkins new book “No Regrets on Sunday”. I have seen Peter speak on numerous occasions and am familiar with the excellent Windmills programme which he jointly devised, so thought his latest book would be worth a read.

Peter Hawkins talks about lifting off from your lows and using them as a way to re-evaluate what you want. It sounds cheesy but he also argues that we do need lows as the provide contrast and help us appreciate our highs. That’s positive thinking for you.

So what can you do when you’ve hit a low? Hitting a low can provide an opportunity to really do some soul-searching about where you want to go next. Much of this is about asking yourself questions and allowing yourself time to give fully considered replies.

Below, I have borrowed Peter’s 7-day plan ideas and put my own twist on it.  The 7 point plan goes beyond just work but looks at how you position your work and career within your life as a whole

1.  What’s your mindset?

Be honest with yourself. Remember in many situations, the only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude. Think about any limiting beliefs you have, are you always saying something like… “If only”, “I can’t”, “It’s not fair”. If you recognise you do have a negative mindset, try to start re-framing events/experiences in a different way. For example “I’m devastated that I didn’t get the job I applied for” could become “I have to trust that I didn’t get that job because it wouldn’t have been the right job for me, but I have learnt a lot from the experience of going to interview”

2. Analyse how you use your time.

The Windmills programme describes the 4 parts of your life: Working, Learning, Playing, Giving (WLPG).  Take time to reflect on how your time divides up now and what your ideal division of time would be. You can do this using circles. Think of the size of each of your circles and whether they overlap etc. If your Working circle dwarfs all other circles, is this something you are happy with?

3. What roles do you play in life?

You may be a student, a researcher, a parent, a son or daughter, a volunteer, a partner, a colleague, a neighbour, an employee, an employer etc.  How much time and energy does each role take? Rank their importance; and reflect on whether the importance of a role is reflected in the amount of time/ energy you give to it. If roles that are very important to you are getting very little of your time or energy, what can you do about this?

4. Do you really know what you are good at?

Have you done a thorough analysis of your skills and talents and are you currently able to utilise these? Are you stuck in a rut doing something that isn’t fully optimising your prime skills?  If you’re not sure what your prime skills are, do a skills audit (the No Regrets book includes one), and consider ways to fully optimise your skills, e.g. if you’re an engineer but you know you have skills in developing others, why not volunteer to coach a youth sports team. It makes sense to play to your strengths.

5. Is your life fulfilled or just full?

How happy are you? How happy were you before you hit this low? Does your work and life fulfil you? What really gets you excited and passionate and are you able to make use of this passion in your life or have you done at any point in the past? Think about your purpose in life and whether you have been side-tracked along the way. What do you do that really gives you a buzz and you can really lose yourself? When was the last time you were so absorbed in something so that you didn’t look at the time for at least an hour. You can safely assume that when you are absorbed by something you’re doing it’s because you’re bringing together a combination of your innate skills, interests and even purpose.

6. Create your goals

Take time to step back from the conveyor-belt of life; create your goals by imagining a date in the future and thinking about what you’d like to be doing. On this date in the future (it could be 6 months, 2 years, or 10 years); how would you like to describe to a questioner, what you may have done over that period of time. Start to take small steps to reach those goals. Hawkins talks about creating your own Golden ticket (thanks Charlie Bucket from Roald Dahl). He suggests writing it on a postcard and sending it to yourself – the postcard should outline your long-term vision but also create a quick-win. A quick-win should be something you could do in the  48 hours; writing/updating your CV could be a good example of this, or creating a Linked In profile to act as a vehicle to keep in touch with your extended network.

7. Appreciate and nurture your supporters’ club

Hawkins uses the “benchmetaphor to capture the idea of who is in your all-important supporters’ club. Sometimes having a career low can really help you evaluate who really is on your “bench”. Who would be there with a stretcher to take you off if you were injured and give you a morale-boosting talk after a defeat? Think about who is on your bench and be ready to appreciate them; do something to thank them.  Sometimes one of the best things about having a low is that the people that matter will often help you. Very often it may be people you have helped in the past.  It’s really useful to know who your supporters are as it is within that group of people that you’ll grow. So sometimes a low can make it clear in terms of relationships where you can flourish or in contrast what relationships are not fertile ground for you and will strangle you with weeds or starve you of a good soil for growth.  Move away from the latter soil and plant yourself firmly in the former.

Thanks to Peter Hawkins and Windmills, as well as all the people who have shared their career lows with me – for inspiring this post.

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Social Media for Researchershttp://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/07/3093/ http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/2012/07/3093/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2012 14:29:03 +0000 http://pgblog.careers.salford.ac.uk/?p=3093 We’re back online, yay! Did you miss us? To celebrate the return of our Postgraduate Careers Blog, I would like to draw your attention to two really useful resources for researchers around the theme of digital literacy. The first is the June 2012 release of findings from a joint study by the British Library and […]

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We’re back online, yay! Did you miss us? To celebrate the return of our Postgraduate Careers Blog, I would like to draw your attention to two really useful resources for researchers around the theme of digital literacy.

The first is the June 2012 release of findings from a joint study by the British Library and JISC. This focuses on the ‘information-seeking and research behaviour’ of Generation Y doctoral students. I was alerted to this resource by Cristina Costa or @cristinacost on Twitter. Cristina is our Learning and Research Technologies Manager.

Researchers of Tomorrow

This Prezi presentation ‘Social Media for Researchers’ is by Dr Emma Gillaspy, Vitae NorthWest Hub Manager. Follow on Twitter @vitaenwhub.

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