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Careers Management and Employment Skills

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Image While you can’t change your age, how you portray yourself when you are over fifty makes all the difference to your career opportunities

When it comes to job hunting for the over-50’s, career specialists are overwhelmingly optimistic about the odds – if people are willing to put in the work and, in some cases, to change their mindset.

Leading career coach Peter Cobbe offers a number of practical suggestions.

"Out-of-work professionals who are 50 or older may have to work harder and smarter, but they can find comparable or even more senior-level new employment," he says.

"Regardless of age, there's an undeniable need for job seekers to seem vital. While you can't change your age, you can portray yourself as current, both in how you think and what you say. For instance, read and reference the latest business thinking, be conversant in new technologies, talk about pastimes and outside interests. Develop a lifetime learning mind-set. People who show passion about business and life project a vibrant image."

"Unbundle" Your Skills

Older professionals, says Cobbe, need to "unbundle" their skills to emphasise those that are of use to potential employers.

"Somebody who has worked in a single function or industry for a long time may have a narrow idea of what he or she is capable of. If they were to look at all the skills and experiences accumulated throughout their career, however, they might find that they're applicable to many different situations. And in fact they may find they have an advantage over others with less experience."

While you can't change your age, you can portray yourself as current, both in how you think and what you say.

"Job seekers over 50 should avoid discussing their last job, assignment or work history unless asked in detail. Rather than looking back, demonstrate that you know the market, challenges and competitors of the company you are interviewing with", he says. "Instead of saying, ‘while at company X I did...." reframe it as, "have you considered this possible solution?’"

Titles can also complicate the job search, adds Cobbe. "People over 50 are sometimes held back in their job searches because they reach for titles. Today, titles aren't as important as possessing the ability to influence people in the work environment...and to be able to do it up, down and across functional levels within an organisation."

Cobbe advises older applicants to demonstrate flexibility and resilience in their job to counter the stereotype of older workers as people stuck in their ways.

"Workers over fifty need to project energy, agility and a sense of urgency," he says.

Routes to Careers

Using networks and contacts to get in front of recruiters is an approach every career coach would recommend. In the case of older people, says Cobbe, it is even more critical.

"Older professionals must pursue the ‘hidden’ job market aggressively, even as they compete for announced positions. Job hunting nowadays is all about need creation. Things are always changing in companies, even after the budget is done. Don't ask whether a company needs someone or something. Instead, portray your uniqueness...the value-added piece."

According to Career Coach Sue Duncan, older applicants have to demonstrate their continued relevance. "It’s all about currency; demonstrating current skills and experience, flexibility, being open to change and active self development."

Mature professionals, she says, "must be focused and targeted in their search on sectors and companies that value expertise and experience – value-add and uniqueness is key."

She also stresses the importance of research. "Research the company well; what are their particular issues or high priorities at the moment? Then you can show you have invested time in preparation and offer solutions in the interview."

Presentation and Attitude

Personal presentation becomes ever more important if you are in the over-fifty category, says career coach and image consultant Gill Hicks.

"When it comes to the interview, ensure that all the non-verbal communication conveys energy and enthusiasm - voice, body language and appearance. A slightly 'tired’ suit or monotone voice can say it all to the interviewer," she says.

Image It is definitely not all doom and gloom for older applicants, according to Julia Little, a career coach who has worked with clients who have been successful in finding jobs despite the recession.

"The clients that I work with have gone on to getting jobs in much the same way as they always have," she says. "They're maybe a bit more flexible and need to be a bit more pro-active, but their experiences certainly don't tend to reflect the common perception.

"I'm also finding that most clients, irrespective of their backgrounds, are really surprised when they first take a look at the advertised market in their field to see that there are a considerable number of jobs for which they could apply. As for the over 50s, I have heard that the biggest change in labour market trends recently has been the number of over 50s (and men over 50 in particular) who are being taken on by companies!"

By encouraging employers to see them in the light of their skills and expertise as well as the commitment and passion they bring to a job, older professionals stand a good chance of finding a job.

So, if you are over 50, don’t despair – career coaches agree that success is often the result of effort, persistence, a positive mindset and having an open attitude to exploring new opportunities and approaches to using your skills.

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Image UC San Diego Survey reveals that global volunteers in the US may have the workplace edge

What can give a person an edge for landing a new job or being offered a promotion? How they spent their last break could give them the edge, according to a 2011 survey by the University of California San Diego Extension's Center for Global Volunteer Service.

The survey reveals that two out of three Americans with hiring authority (67 percent) agreed that if a job candidate had foreign volunteer experience it would contribute positively to their evaluation.

Global Volunteering for Workplace Skills Development

An ongoing trend is the increased number of people becoming "service volunteers" by spending their discretionary time in meaningful ways that make contributions to others. However, survey respondents who had personally participated in a global volunteer project indicated the experience was also valuable in developing abilities back at work.

While both the general public and those returning rated global volunteer service high (more than 80 percent) for developing compassion and a willingness to give to others, participants who returned from service experiences rated workplace skill development much higher than did the public in their general perceptions.

  • Development as a leader: 73 percent for those who participated in volunteer service vs. 54 percent from general public perception
  • Development of creativity and resourcefulness: 61 percent for those who participated in volunteer service vs. 50 percent from general public perception
  • Development of intercultural awareness and sensitivity: 73 percent by those who had done volunteer service vs. 32 percent from general public perception

UC San Diego Extension regularly gathers workplace intelligence to shape its continuing education course offerings and programs. In March 2011, a total of 1010 adults from across America were surveyed on global volunteer service and the workplace.

Ratings reflecting exposure and participation in global service are the highest ever recorded in CGVS surveys:

  • Over half (52 percent) of respondents said they had joined in a discussion within the past year about participating in a volunteer service project or trip to regions outside their own community or country - a 7 percent increase over the previous UC San Diego Extension survey in 2009 and the first time that figure has risen above 50 percent
  • Over half (53 percent) of respondents said they purposely purchase products or give donations to efforts that benefit individuals in regions other than their own
  • Only 25 percent of respondents said they had not yet personally participated in ways to help people outside their own community - down from 40 percent in the previous survey and the lowest ever recorded.
The UC San Diego Extension Centre for Global Volunteer Service

Young people, in particular, are increasingly interested in global volunteer service; 91 percent of college students said they knew someone personally who had been a global service volunteer, while 87 percent of high school students gave the same response, and 61 percent of high school students said they had donated personal time to global causes.

The survey results were released to help promote awareness of National Volunteer Week in April 2011. Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week has grown exponentially in scope each year since, drawing the support and endorsement of all subsequent U.S. presidents, governors, mayors and other respected elected officials.

The UC San Diego Extension Center for Global Volunteer Service™ is a resource for successful involvement in volunteering abroad. Participants in its programs learn and serve with professionals who have first-hand international experience.

The Center enables individuals of all life stages to learn and grow through global volunteer service, always within an overarching attention to personal wellness, safety, security, and sensitivity to the cultures.

For more information, visit Center for Global Volunteer Service.

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Image Peter Cobbe offers some tips on how to build a career that encompasses taking on many different types of work

'Determine to live life with flair and laughter' - Maya Angelou

Today, multiple factors encourage the development of portfolio lives. For example, the increasing cost and complexity of travel, the growing technological ease of mobile working, the drive by organisations to reduce overheads and use a flexible workforce, the desire for autonomy and a new lifestyle balance by many people.

A portfolio career is not a simple option or the same as managing three jobs and wishing you had one. Some portfolio careers are mixtures of freelance and voluntary commitments; others are grounded in conventional roles. A real benefit can be that following such a career enables use of a variety of enjoyable skills, whilst aligning with personal values and motivation.

A Balanced Lifestyle Applying Various Skills

Portfolio lifestyles, carefully thought through and implemented, can suit any age group and are not just the province of semi-retired people

Typical definitions of this approach include:
  1. A portfolio career is the pursuit of more than one income source simultaneously, usually by applying the various skills you've developed throughout your career to different types of work. For example, you could combine consulting with part-time work, teaching at a local college and freelance writing. You could use your speaking and facilitation skills to lead workshops at companies or educational institutions. You could even develop your own product or service.
  2. A Portfolio lifestyle involves a balanced lifestyle including earning your income from a variety of sources. For example, you might work on freelance contracts or as a part-time employee for several organisations, and perhaps also run a business.

In this way of working, income is gained from several sources. This approach to working is popular with those who have specific skills that are in demand by different organisations. At different times you might combine self-employment with, for example, short-term contracts or part-time, temporary or project work.

Each job adds skills and experience to your portfolio and this type of work allows flexibility and can also be secure. Also, in working this way, a balance can be struck between paid and unpaid work and an improved lifestyle.

Success Factors

Working with several clients I have noticed that some attributes or qualities help to underpin success in holding down a portfolio career, including:

  • some risk tolerance and courage
  • high self motivation and resilience
  • adequate personal finances
  • curious and forever interested in continuous personal development
  • an entrepreneurial mindset
  • good interpersonal , self marketing and networking skills,
  • seeking appropriate support from others
  • willingness to take on new challenges
  • ability to multi-task.

If you are considering a portfolio approach, an effective initial stage is to reflect carefully and consider the following questions:

  • What aspects of my personality and values help me to be a good fit for specific components of my portfolio?
  • What existing skills and experience should I capitalise on?
  • What interests or hobbies might I expand on or cultivate further?
  • What new education might I need to complete?
  • What new skills or experience might I need if I want to include in my portfolio an area of interest or something totally new to me?
  • How will I research and test different possibilities?
  • What balance do I want between leisure, family, friends and work time?
  • What are my financial requirements in order to support myself and my family?
  • What resources and support can I call on as I make this journey?
  • What financial investment might I need?
  • What systems and infrastructure will I need in place?
  • Can I generate passive sources of income?
Taking Action

'An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.' - Engels

Having thought through and settled on at least some initial portfolio components, you are ready to:

  • Research the enablers for that option
  • Understand the time commitments involved
  • Estimate any costs involved and income generated where appropriate
  • Develop an implementation plan
  • Move to implementation - learning as you do so

A portfolio approach implies an ongoing, flexible and exciting journey. The components of your portfolio can change and evolve.

Some components can be removed if they are not meeting your needs or criteria and new components can be added as you learn more and discover new possibilities. In this sense, it is worth reviewing and evaluating progress at key stages to see what needs to change as well as being constantly curious and actively researching new possibilities.

Image Peter Cobbe is an accredited coach with over 10 years of coaching experience and an associate consultant with Penna (UK) dealing with career, life, executive and business coaching and counselling. A member of the CIPD, International Coaching Federation and Association for Coaching, he works in mentoring and coaching partnerships with executives to help achieve gains of importance to them. Peter publishes a Portfolio Career site: (http://portfoliocareerandlifestyle.coachingcosmos.com/index.html) and offers a holistic and systematic approach to coaching for executive performance (http://petercobbecoaching.coachingcosmos.com/index.html)
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Image Online networking offers many opportunities if you are willing and committed, and should be part of your career change strategy, says Grace Owen

I don’t mean lunches or parties, but social networking. Meeting people face-to-face is essential, but online networking offers many opportunities if you are willing and committed, and it should be part of your career change strategy.

It has a broad reach and you can interact any time and anywhere. Don’t simply jump on the bandwagon though; think it through.

Your Online Identity

Be aware that everything you say online stays there, albeit in virtual form, forever! If your attempts so far have been haphazard, or there are unsavoury things about you on the web, remember that they can be accessed by anyone with basic technology skills, including savvy recruiters and HR people. Many organisations now use the internet to 'check out' potential employees.


Find out what kind of social networking profile you have, by Googling your name and carrying out an audit of all your social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or You Tube. Learn the social basics from a tech-savvy friend or even get some coaching, so that you can build this in to your overall job hunting plan and set some specific targets for the next six months.

If there are unsavoury things about you on the web, remember that they can be accessed by anyone with basic technology skills, including savvy recruiters and HR people.

Look for People Not Jobs

I recently read that, ‘when you are job hunting, you are really people hunting’. In other words you are looking for ‘people who know people who know people who know people’ i.e. those who can open doors to potential work opportunities, connect you with someone you’d really like to meet, advise you or even become advocates for you.


Map out your networks, both personal and professional and connect to them online. Remember ‘netiquette’ applies; you wouldn’t give the hard sell to everyone at an event, so don’t do it online. You need to be willing to support others with help and advice as well as hoping to be introduced to their networks or be told about potential job opportunities.

Don’t be too social!

There are many sites out there. Here are the main ones:

  • Facebook is fairly informal, although you can have a business as well as a personal page.
  • Twitter offers you the opportunity to have conversations with many different people.
  • LinkedIn is considered to be the social networking site for people in business and has a more formal approach.
  • YouTube is all about sharing videos and 2 minutes video CVs are very popular. Make sure it is high quality though!


Identify a couple of social networking sites that are a 'good fit' for you and stick with them, rather than spreading your efforts too thinly. Figure out exactly what you are looking for and then create an authentic profile that presents you and your talents, skills and knowledge in the best possible way.


Local to Global

If you want to work abroad then online networking can connect you to anyone, anywhere. It is essential to be aware of any cultural norms, so that you interact appropriately. We really do live in a global village, so be careful what you say as online news (good or bad) can travel to the other side of the world before you can say ‘Give me a job!’


If you are seeking an international appointment build relationships with people who are already in the country, rather than at head office, as they may be able to influence the recruitment decisions being made centrally and invite you to apply.

Keeping the Momentum Going...

Effective social networking can help build your personal brand, essential when you are job hunting. When you are in a job, you can still use it to connect with different people, find out about events and opportunities and build your own platform. If you decide that social networking isn’t for you, then close the accounts.


Update your online profiles every three to six months to prevent them becoming out-of-date or to avoid conflicting information. Build in time each week to interact meaningful on the sites you have chosen.

You Need to Be On and Off

Remember that a combination of online and offline job hunting will bring you success. Visibility means being out and about creating rapport with people face-to-face as well as in front of your computer screen. Done well, it’s a winning formula.


Share any successes with your network and enjoy theirs. This creates a circle of trust, support, interest and celebration. Treat everyone you meet with respect and above all, enjoy it!

Grace Owen is a career coach, speaker and author of ‘The Career Itch – 4 Steps for Taking Control of What You Do Next’, £9.99 from Amazon and leading retailers. For over fifteen years, she has equipped hundreds of leaders, managers, professionals, freelancers and business owners to excel in their work. For more information visit www.grace-owen.com
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Image Employers who need to verify the suitability and integrity of a candidate are finding graphology – the study of handwriting – to be the most reliable, says leading graphologist Margaret White.

‘Getting to know you, getting to know all abut you….’ So goes the song – but there is a way of having insight into the character of people, their abilities and potential to grow and develop that is most accurate and objective, and eliminates the façade we all don to cover our emotions and vulnerabilities when we meet people face to face.

The façade, as we all have learned at one time or another, can do more harm than good when meeting someone for the very first time – and does not really demonstrate the real person standing before us. We are all actors at times and learn our lines well – none more so than when in the workplace where our persona is developed to portray us in what we believe is to our advantage, not only to our immediate colleagues, but to everyone around us. However well we act the part, it is rarely the real us. So how do we know who will prove a loyal and dedicated colleague and member of an organisation – seeking only to improve its profitability, not only for themselves, but for everyone they work with and their clients?

Graphology - the Handwriting Secret

The secret is handwriting. ‘But no-one writes today,’ I hear you cry. ‘We all use our computers, texts and mobiles to communicate.’

So how do you understand the messages you send and receive if you did not learn to read and write? To read, you have to recognise letters, understand how they translate into sound, and then know how they are formed and put together to make a word, a line, a sentence – and the only way to do this is to know how to draw them and the sound they make – yourself.

We are all actors at times and learn our lines well – none more so than when in the workplace where our persona is developed to portray us in what we believe is to our advantage.

So therefore you know how to read and write – and hopefully you find both a pleasurable experience. Handwriting is, in fact, the most disciplined art any human being is compulsorily taught in early childhood. This enables them to read and communicate freely in any medium provided.

Who knows when the phones and computers will go down and the lights will go out for a lengthy period of time as we overload their systems and deplete our resources (as we will one day); then the only way to communicate at a distance will be by the handwritten word or the hand-drawn picture.

Image The science of Graphology allows the Graphologist to be able to accurately and objectively understand, in great detail, the character of an individual from their handwriting. It is a proven tool for people to understand themselves and their partners, friends and colleagues better.


The Personality Profile that it enables the Graphologist to prepare is written totally without prejudice, as they have not been influenced by the physical presence of the writer, or their behaviour. It is purely an honest self-portrait produced by the writer’s subconscious mind, and rather like the human body, its looks do not necessarily portray the beauty or ugliness of the writer’s character – the handwriting tells it as it is!

Naturally allowances have to be made for any physical disability or injury – but Nelson’s handwriting did not display a change in character when he had to learn to write with his left hand following the loss of his right arm during a battle. Although the handwriting after the event was not so tidy or elegant to look at, its overall rhythm and form stayed the same – as did his character.

The Write Temperament

So what can we learn from the handwriting of any one person? Firstly and most importantly, their temperament – whether they are at one with themselves and their relationships with everyone around them, or whether they are unhappy with how their lives are panning out. Secondly, their ability to communicate and listen to others – which again indicates how secure they feel within themselves and how they control their emotions.


Thirdly, their integrity – whether they are both trusting and trustworthy, or if they manipulate people and events to their own advantage. It also identifies where their intellectual abilities and knowledge lie and their ability to grow and develop new skills and relationships, both personal and professional.

If you are an employer seeking an accurate, comprehensive and profitable method of verifying the suitability and integrity of a prospective employee – which is not time consuming and totally objective – then Graphology is the most reliable and least fallible course to take.

Personality Assessment – Excerpts from a full Personality Profile

The following are excerpts from the Personality Profile commissioned by a senior executive of a South African company to see whether or not it was a tool he wished to add to his staff selection process. He has now used Graphology for over 10 years and his company is going from strength to strength.

The content of a Profile is not written just to benefit an employer but also the writer and it is important that the writer is given access to the Profile in order that they may be assured that it is a direct and open statement of themselves without hint of prejudice of favour.


“A well presented, positive and independent individual. He gravitates swiftly to the centre of a group and addresses them with courtesy and care. Always most aware of all that is going on around him – little escapes his notice.”

“This writer needs plenty of time and space for himself – he dislikes having to recognise and play a part in family events and traditions, especially if they coincide or disrupt his own plans and activities. He will seem to be completely unaware of the upset, frustration and even anger that such self-indulgence engenders. This writer takes a tough and uncompromising view of what is necessary and what is not in both his life and the lives of family, friends and other people generally.”

“A writer who ensures that he is seen in all the right places and presents a positive, but perhaps a rather pretentious image. A most erudite and knowledgeable individual in all that is of considerable interest to him.”


“A writer who has a good, curious and penetrating mind and the knowledge and information that this retains is very much enhanced by his most acute intuitive powers. This man uses both logic and intuition in progressing his thought processes and can articulate most concisely his thoughts and expectations.”

Working Qualities

“An ambitious, energetic and direct writer. He does not suffer fools gladly, neither does he overtly relax his principles and direction – although he always leaves open a window of opportunity to change direction to ‘wriggle beautifully’.


An inability to relax and allow others to take responsibility from time to time. He can become too demanding and/or too anxious to complete a task or project or advance a situation, engendering resentment and dissatisfaction in colleagues and associates.


A writer who is very much his own person. He is strong-minded and determined to achieve professional and personal recognition. An individual who is unafraid to put forward and progress his own ideas and, indeed, ensure that he has his own personal time and space in which so to do.

At the time of writing:

There is some evidence of tension and anxiety primarily regarding his personal relationships which are not proceeding as calmly and positively as he would wish. Whilst he is aware of this situation, he does not have sufficient insight or empathy to resolve it. Physically, he appears sound.

The Science of Graphology

Many organisations and people throughout the world have used the services of a Graphologist and found them most beneficial.

ImageIt is important when choosing a Graphologist that you ensure that they have a recognised qualification.

There are only two organisations within the UK who have an accredited examination and diploma in this subject, the Academy of Graphology and the British Institute of Graphology (of which the author is a Founding Member).

These two organisations teach Graphology to a high standard and their tutors are all qualified Graphologists who have studied both Graphology and Psychology. These organisations have websites which give details of their members and services.

Graphology has a long and revered pedigree. It is as old as medicine, but naturally when practiced, it is only as the good as the practitioner. Certainly, it has a much longer and respected history of research and development than psychology and psychometric testing which are still, in comparison, in their infancy.

However we have learned from the great philosophers of the past including Goethe and Lavater – and adopted some of the criteria from the Masters of Psychology, including Jung, Freud, Einsynk and many others, and we include some of their philosophies in the syllabus that both the organisations mentioned teach.

If you are interested in learning more about Graphology, contact Margaret White at Margaret.white@graphocentric.co.uk or the British Institute of Graphologists and the British Academy of Graphology through their websites.
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Image Trying to engage your audience or put them to sleep? Facilitator and Coach Lin Sagovsky offers 10 of her popular tongue-in-cheek insights on presentations that let the pictures do the talking.

The days lengthen and green shoots burgeon in the garden. Our balance sheets, however, may still be telling a more wintry story...

If so, perhaps it's time to take a look at the Bigger Picture - from a new angle. Time to frame things differently for the people you meet, the ideas you plan out and proffer...

Starting with a good long look at the way you present those ideas.

So here are some more fantastically handy reminders from Play4Real on how NOT to do it. Many presenters turn PowerPoint into their WeakPoint (not you of course) - so read on: you never know who you might recognise...

    1. It's the screen that everyone's interested in - so be sure your face is in as much darkness as possible!
    2. Allowing bright sunlight to bleed into the room will ensure your slides have that kicked-back, just-bleached look. It's quite fun looking at the whole audience screwing up their faces as they try to decipher them.
    3. Remember that the best type of screen is a free-standing one which makes all your slides undulate attractively whenever the wind blows in. If the room is air-conditioned, you can get the same effect by tapping the screen a lot as you point out things on the slides.
It's the screen that everyone's interested in - so be sure your face is in as much darkness as possible!

    1. Set the screen on the skew in relation to the projector to give your slides a wacky slant along the edges. (The audience might even interpret this as a subliminal way of you demonstrating your professional ability to see things from strange perspectives. On the other hand, they might not.)
    2. Make sure you begin by showing a really naff photo of yourself on a slide with your name and title alongside, and keep it up there for as much of the presentation as possible. Saves a lot of confusion for your audience, not having to wonder who the name on the slide could possibly be referring to, as you drone on in front of it. And certainly more entertaining for them throughout your talk to be able to play 'Spot the Difference' between your photo and you in the flesh (different hair? different tie?). A great way to get across an essential message for any presentation: how naff you can look in a photo.
    3. If there's a mike, crane your neck forward like a tortoise and speak right into it. Except, of course, when you're turning your head to look at the screen (with any luck it won't be an omni-directional mike which means you'll create an engaging variation in your volume levels without even trying).

  1. Remember, the PowerPoint is the most important part of the presentation, especially when it's got lots of whizzy effects. You don't really need to be there at all (and everyone knows you're only gritting your teeth and getting through this because everyone else was too scared to volunteer and anyway you were tricked into saying yes).
  2. Keep one particularly densely text-packed slide on the screen for ages and ages while you talk about something else.
  3. Facts and figures speak for themselves. So quote as many as possible in as neutral a tone as possible. (This is business, after all: no-one's paying anyone to get enthusiastic about this stuff.)
  4. Using slides in a small space for a few people or even in a one-to-one presentation is just as impressive as for a large audience. No need to adapt your vocal tone or the way you explain your subject - just set up your laptop, disengage your eye contact, and away you go.
Following a BA Hons. in Drama from Manchester University, Lin Sagovsky trained to act at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, then studied for a Master's degree in Playwriting in the USA. Over the years she has become passionate about taking drama beyond the walls of the theatre or recording studio to combine her skills in a spectrum of live business contexts: as a role-player and forum theatre performer, a writer and director of interactive plays, a facilitator of interpersonal skills workshops, a private coach in speaking with confidence, and a creative consultant. You can find more information about Lin and her work at www.play4real.co.uk – or contact her on 07957 331997, or at info@play4real.co.uk.
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Image A new survey reveals that 30% of people in their 50’s will make a career shift in later life.

A survey by global bank HSBC has revealed 30 per cent of people in their 50s decide to have a change of career later in life. A further 55 per cent of older people in the UK said they do not think they will ever completely stop working.

As life expectancy and pensions age continues to rise - HSBC reveals that nearly one third (30%) of the UK's 21.3 million over 50s have taken the plunge and "career shifted" in their later working years. This figure increases to 41% amongst 60 to 70 years old.

Longing for a Change in Direction

In a survey of over 2,000 of the UK's over 50's, HSBC found that 21% of those who have changed their career did so as a result of being made redundant - affecting more men than women in this generation (27% and 16% respectively). However, others chose to "career shift" for more positive reasons with 15% simply longing for a change of direction and 11% looking for a career that was less pressurised and demanding.

When asked why they would consider changing their job at the age when people might consider slowing down, 29% said for a new challenge and 27% said to pursue a long held ambition or to gain income from a personal skill or hobby.

Of those who have actually made the switch:

- 75% made a complete career change – for example, a teacher retraining to become a florist

- 13% "down shifted" their skills – for example, a solicitor who now only writes wills

- 6% "up shifted" their roles – for example, a police officer who is now a fraud investigator

The remaining 7% used the skills gained in their career up until then to become a consultant or adviser in the same or a complementary field. Self-employment or entrepreneurialism was a popular choice for those choosing to "career shift".

Striving for retirement?

However, to conclude that today's over 50's are embarking on their career of choice to enjoy the final years of employment before retirement would be wrong.

Of those who have actually made the switch, 75% made a complete career change – for example, a teacher retraining to become a florist

Shockingly, more than half (55%) of today's older generation never anticipate ceasing work completely. This sentiment grows as people age (54% of 50 - 60 year olds and 57% of 61 - 70 year olds) with 60% intending to do so to compensate for the shortfall in their retirement income (55% of 50 - 60 year olds and 67% of 61 - 70 year olds).

Greater Satisfaction

While embarking on a new challenge is the key driver for over 50s considering a career change, 26% said that a second career would have to bring them a greater degree of satisfaction. And for 27% this required a less stressful job - a prerequisite that decreases with age (30% for 50-60 year olds and 22% for 61-70 year olds) - and for 24% this meant options for flexible working.

According to David Wells, Head of Pensions, Savings and Investments at HSBC, "The findings from this research show the changing nature of the UK's workforce at first hand as the population ages and also highlights the key drivers influencing today's older population when it comes to decisions of employment


"As the requirement for people to work longer becomes more apparent it appears that the over 50s are embracing this head on and pursuing the careers they have always wanted. Many, it seems, are doing this to fill a shortfall in retirement income, but equally many are looking to embrace new skills and challenges that may now only become possible after careful financial planning during their earlier working life.

"It appears that it is never too late to change, but to ensure that a later career will offer the financial support required, it is important that people seek financial advice early on so they can enjoy their change of career focus for many more years to come."

The You Gov survey was carried out on behalf of HSBC of 2,003 men and women in the UK aged between 50 and 70 in 2010.

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Image In Kenya, internships can give companies and interns a combination of on-the-job training and prolonged assessment centre. However, says Michael Onsando, such work experience is still underused in Kenya, and not necessarily because corporate are not interested in interns.

Every July, Kenya's universities release thousands of graduates into the labour market. Public universities alone are admitting around 10,000 students annually.

This growing number of graduates faces an already flooded and highly competitive job market, even more so given the relatively small size of Kenya's formal economy. And like anywhere else, with little practical experience, most graduates are not entirely ready to take on a full job.

In principle, internships can create that bridge between studies and employment and can give companies and interns a combination of on-the-job training and prolonged assessment centre.

Worth Applying For?

Internship opportunities in Kenya are few and far between: interns require mentoring if they are to produce any results, the number of companies that can absorb interns is limited, and Kenya's notoriously high levels of corruption do not help either: if internships are awarded to nephews and nieces, the application process becomes futile.

And ironically, the perception that this is how the selection of interns is made also threatens to undermine the confidence of students to apply with those corporate that decide on internships on merit, HR managers indicate.

This growing number of graduates faces an already flooded and highly competitive job market…. and like anywhere else, with little practical experience, most graduates are not entirely ready to take on a full job.

Those who do apply are often hamstrung by weak language and presentation skills, seemingly unaware of the formal requirements that corporates expect: "Applications received are quite often misspelled and wrongly punctuated" said Veronica Waiyaki, Human Capital and Administration Manager of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), in a concern echoed by the other companies interviewed. This creates doubt whether the applicant is really suitable for a graduate position.

Finally, the links between universities and the corporate sector have also not been fully exploited. Each university has a placement office that collects graduate CVs and is meant to support them in finding work experience opportunities or employment.

But according to Susan Kihato, Manager of Human Resources at insurance firm Aon East Africa, this is hardly ever the case: "You are tossed from one line to the next since no one seems willing to assist you - not just at public universities, but at private universities as well. On some occasions, I have been forced to speak directly to lecturers and deans of several universities."

Experience or Cheap Labour?

An internship is intended to be work experience: for the intern to gain a first insight into the demands of professional employment, for the company to assess the candidate's abilities, soft and hard skills. But often interns merely get a stream of menial labour, for example, scanning or making badges.


Interestingly, however, many do not find this problematic. Instead, they argue that "it is worth the letter of recommendation" or "I am making great contacts for the future."

Their emphasis is on working harder in order to get employed. This can be a slippery slope: sometimes, graduates end up in what effectively amounts to a regular position, but are still on an unpaid internship contract.


Even though an internship is by no means a guarantee of a follow-up offer of employment, Kenyan companies have made positive experiences with interns: "At least 20% of our staff here started as interns" said David Sagia, Head of Human Resources in the Vision Institute of Professionals.

"When you get an intern, it is as if you were given a clean slate to write upon and it is up to you to decide what you want to write on that slate," said Veronica Waiyaki.

Michael Onsando is a second year law student and currently an intern at Ratio Magazine. This article was first published in Ratio magazine – www.ratio-magazine.com
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Image As Valentine's Day approaches, Tolulope Popoola offers some words of caution when it comes to romance at work.

Relationships in the workplace are becoming more and more common in our modern society. The majority of professionals, once they graduate from formal education, spend the bulk of their time at the office. We build a career with other people for years and maybe even decades.

While working together, we can learn a lot about our co-workers: their ambitions, background, likes and dislikes, etc. With the amount of time people spend working, and the increasing percentage of women in the workforce, it is inevitable that several couples will meet this way. Traditional meeting places such as church, the neighbourhood, family events, parties and leisure activities do not always present the same opportunities for continuous contact, or a similar pool of candidates. In contrast, the office provides a pre-selected pool of people who share at least one important interest.

Legislating Love

People who work together also tend to live within a reasonable distance to each other, and share the same office location, so they can see each other on a regular basis. Co-workers in similar jobs may also be approximately the same age, and share similar interests outside of work.

THowever, in spite of the opportunities that office romance offers, there are also several things to be aware of. Romantic involvement between employees can be awkward for both the employees and their employer. If they are handled well between the two parties involved, it can lead to a long-lasting happy relationship. On the other hand, if office relationships are handled badly it can lead to embarrassment for the couple, forcing one or both of them to leave their job. It can also lead to problems within the organization or even a sexual harassment lawsuit which the employer has to deal with.

Romantic involvement between employees can be awkward for both the employees and their employer.

With this in mind, some companies have tried to legislate against dating among their employees. However, most recognize that sometimes, relationships between two adult people who see each other often are inevitable.

What most companies try to implement are policies that restrict activities that are harmful to the business, such as adulterous affairs and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace during company time and at company locations. Some explicitly state that the management expect all staff members to behave in a professional manner at all times and personal relationships or affairs must be kept separate from the work environment.

Tips on Dating a Colleague

If you find yourself attracted to a co-worker, you must be prepared to take appropriate actions to minimise any possible damage to your career should the relationship end badly.

These are a few common sense ideas that will help you to navigate the tricky line between balancing your relationship and your career at the office:

  • Know your organization's written and unwritten policies about romantic or dating relationships. Make sure you comply with the policy and stay within the law so as to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits. Be aware of what constitutes sexual harassment and avoid doing anything that can invite those accusations.
  • Keep the relationship private and discreet until you are both ready to publicly announce that you are a couple. Discretion may be a dying art but when it comes to office romance, it is much better to keep your relationship private than it is to flaunt it. This doesn't mean you should lie about it. Just don't put it out there for everyone to watch as it unfolds.
  • Keep public displays of affection off limits at work and try not to let your work suffer because of your relationship. Any romance can be distracting, and it's no different with an office romance. When your partner works with you, you may find yourself gazing at your sweetheart instead of minding your job responsibilities.
  • Limit the number of people at work with whom you share confidential information. Your co-workers shouldn't be privy to the ups and downs of your relationship. You don't want to become a subject of office gossip, rumours and speculation. Image It could backfire seriously if personal information that you never intended to share with everyone becomes public news around the office.
  • If your position and responsibilities require you to work together, attend the same meetings, and so on, behave professionally at all times. You are encouraged to be yourself, maintain and speak your continuing opinions, exhibit the same skills, and conduct yourself in the same manner as you did prior to the relationship.
  • If you are dating your supervisor, you may react to criticism differently coming from them. You might not be receptive to his or her critiques of your work. Try not to think of professional criticism in the office as personal attacks on you or your character.
  • Discuss, as a couple, the potential impact of your relationship on your work. Will one employee have to leave a department or the company? Will your organization respond favourably to your relationship? Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Also figure out how you will handle it if your relationship doesn't succeed.
  • Set boundaries on what you discuss in and out of the office. Don't allow a disagreement at home to find its way to the office and a disagreement at the office to find its way home.
  • Keep in mind that if things don't work out for the relationship, one of you might have to change jobs. You shouldn't stay in a bad relationship because you are worried that ending it will damage your career, but seeing your ex everyday can be painful, even if both of you handle things in the best way possible.


Relationships and romance in the workplace will always be a possibility and will most likely continue to increase as time goes by. If your feelings about a co-worker are so strong that you can't deny them any longer, remember to be very careful and wise. If you are single, be prepared in advance to deal with this possibility if it arises.

Remember there is no perfect world and, as such, we all have to take risks sometimes with our romantic choices. If, however, things work out and the trend in office romance continues to increase, get ready to attend a lot of co-worker weddings!

Tolulope Popoola (aka Favoured Girl) is a writer and lover of books and all things literature. Previously an Accountant until she rediscovered her love for writing in 2006 and became a full-time writer in 2008, she is the creator and one of the writers for the fiction series and book, In My Dreams It Was Simpler. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.
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Image It's time to make your mark at work and mentoring coach Vera Ng'oma spells out the best way to do it.

In the workplace one sometimes gets the impression of a divide between two types of employees; the 'rocks' who are the stable, hardworking people without whom the foundation cracks. And the 'stars', the icing on the cake who can make the organization look good any day and can take it into the future.

The fact is you need to be both. The mnemonic ROCKSTAR shows you how;

Relevance and reliability: Learn the skills required for your job and the wider organization and find opportunities to serve with any broader skills you might have. Deliver expected performance; as in football show exhibit individual brilliance when needed but team playing is what wins the day.

Optimization and organisation: To become someone going places in your organization, you must do more than your job. You must 'have it together', set the example and come across as a leader, a motivator, a skillful front row operator ready and willing to speak up and able to earn the confidence of your peers and others at all levels.

Contribution and connection: Understand the corporate agenda so that you can contribute to it. Know the measures of success and deliver accordingly. Find a way to align your career objectives to the corporate goals. Know your job purpose so that you can produce your part in the performance chain

Knowledge and Keenness: Knowledge and skill go together so master information needed to build your expertise. Learn how to sell benefits, ideas, to develop rapport and to make intelligent 'business' conversation with others. This will help make a good impression for yourself and your organisation.

Significance and soul: Success doesn't come cheap. Be creative, figure things out, present rich insights and look for chances to share your wisdom. Work to develop your influence and your capacity to be listened to. Be enthusiastic, get to the frontlines and move things forward. Avoid situations and environments where you can become obsolete quickly.

Talent and traction: Talent can be latent, make it shine by finding meaning for it wherever you find yourself. Don't box yourself into your grade or your title, let your talent speak. Surround yourself with action-oriented people to make things happen and to amplify your efforts.

Acumen and Ambition: Acumen helps you create something out of nothing, pull things together to provide greater value, identify and pursue priorities rather than 'going with the flow'. Operate with constructive ambition. Trust your intuition, appreciating that not every choice you make will succeed but that taking action is better than second guessing yourself.

Resonance and resilience: When you exhibit resonance, your impact goes beyond the narrow task at hand. Bring a unique and positive personality to what you do. You know when you at your best so find space to play in order to leave a footprint. And when you falter, rise again and contribute to something greater than yourself.

Vera is a communications specialist, a leadership facilitator and mentoring coach with over 12 years experience in communications includes roles in the print media, corporate communications, PR and international communications across public, private and Global organisations. She currently works for the Department of International department in Malawi as Education Adviser. Prior to this she worked with the British Council Malawi as Deputy Director and also had responsibility for leading communications across 8 African countries. Her company LIVEXCELLENCE', a leadership and personal development outfit helps organisations and individuals to effectively apply a 'can-do' spirit, greater leadership literacy and purposeful action to achieve visibility, improve performance and fulfil potential. Vera Ng'oma can be reached verangoma@gmail.com
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ImageWhen it comes to networking, women seem to struggle more than men. Rebecca Hourston offers some valuable tips on how to make networking profitable and fun.

Networking often feels just that – way too much like hard work. Slimy, pushy, insincere, manipulative… many women cringe at the very idea of networking.

So we tend to put it off, naively assuming – unlike male colleagues – that doing a good job is enough to get us noticed (it isn't), or that the task in hand is more urgent than building a great network (it is – but is it more important?) Yet people with strong networks enjoy greater career satisfaction, more promotions, and higher pay (according to a 1990 study by Dreher and Ash).

Redefining Networking

Taking the 'work' out of networking starts with overhauling how you approach it. You need to redefine it on three levels: how you think about networking, how you leverage your network, and the way you do networking.

1. Redefine how you think about networking.

There is a weird discrepancy between our private and professional lives when it comes to networking. In your social life, things that you would never label 'networking' happen all the time: your neighbour recommends a plumber, your friend throws a birthday party, the mum at the school gates puts you in touch with another frustrated soul whose child, like yours, will eat nothing but jam sandwiches.

In your professional life, networking gets built up as a big deal. Yet just as in your social life, it is, quite simply, about meeting and connecting with people who you didn't already know, thereby finding the people you need and enabling others to find you.

Stephen D'Souza, author of 'Brilliant Networking', says networking is "the art of building reciprocal relationships that help individuals and the community as a whole to achieve their goals".

For Dr Samantha Collins of Aspire, increasing your network is about increasing your sphere of influence and ability to get things done or changed. "I believe in having a network (I like 'peer group' better) over and above where you are at. I'm currently working on having both Michelle Obama and Oprah in my network – wish me luck!" she says.

In your professional life, networking gets built up as a big deal. Yet just as in your social life, it is, quite simply, about meeting and connecting with people who you didn't already know, thereby finding the people you need and enabling others to find you.

Samantha has redefined for herself how to go about getting influential people like this in her network. "The key is for me to be 'attractive' enough so they will seek me out and not the other way around. If I try to seek them out, I join a very long queue. For me, that all comes down to having a unique brand that attracts like-minded people who also want to make a difference for women."

But you get to define this activity we call networking. More than the activity of 'doing networking', focus on ending up with a 'success network' – a wealth of great contacts who might come in handy one day. Take the mindset that if you bother to develop a better network, you will always have someone to call when you have a problem, need advice, or are wondering how to solve an issue.

If the word itself is a turn-off, try a simple terminology switch: 'relationship-building', 'growing my contacts', 'meeting new people', or 'staying in touch'.

Successful entrepreneur Julia Langkraehr, who has built multi-million pound businesses and is known by her colleagues as 'The Queen of Networking', thinks of it as 'net-giving'.

"My philosophy is that it's all about giving. If you're seen just as a taker, no-one wants to talk to you. You have to contribute, whether to the conversation, by taking a leadership role or by giving something back without strings to the people in your network. Always help others if you can, without expecting anything in return. It's not just about 'what goes around comes around' – it's also a great way of building goodwill, a good reputation and making you feel great about yourself!"

Julia founded and is currently Board Director for Retail Profile Europe Ltd, a pioneering company that specializes in leasing unique and temporary retail space across Europe and Russia. Widely recognized by her peers as a 'super-connector', she has an expansive and varied network across three continents, is an integral figure in the Entrepreneurs' Organization (a global non-profit network for entrepreneurs who turn over multi-million pound businesses) and a long-standing member of The Super Club, a network of high achieving entrepreneurs which represents some of the UK's most inspirational growing businesses.

Even with such a track record, "I don't like to call it networking," she says. "Really I'm just a good relator and a good conversationalist."

"When I meet someone, I'm always trying to learn from their life experiences. I try to collect in my head all of that person's best attributes by steering the conversation towards their stories. The person feels like I connected to them because I really did."

In other words, unapologetically use your natural feminine strengths of empathy and connection.


At hardcore networking events, Julia can't bear the ego-feed of 'what do you do / what do I do', and advises talking about topics instead. "Have topics that you feel comfortable talking about that you know others will also feel confident and comfortable talking about. Take a topical event like the ash cloud and the stories about who's been delayed soon come out."

"You'll walk away from the event thinking you learnt so much and met some great people with great stories, rather than thinking how well you networked," she continues. "But you will have built better quality relationships that will potentially be more valuable to you down the line as a result."

So, how would you redefine how you think about networking?

2. Redefine how you leverage your network.

The danger for women is that, having focused on building great relationships, it can just stop there. While male colleagues tend not to hold back from drawing on their network and making requests of it, women can shy away from this. Yet people like it when you ask for something back – especially if you've gained credibility and given them something first.

In their 2007 Harvard Business Review article 'How Leaders Create and Use Networks', INSEAD Professor Herminia Ibarra and her colleague Mark Hunter stress the importance of calling on your network and actively using it. "A network lives and thrives only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something – anything – gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that one does, in fact, have something to contribute."

Strategic Networking

It is key always to keep in mind the bigger picture of what you want from your networking. What do you want to achieve in your career in the next year and beyond? Who are the people or organisations – the 'ecosystem' – that need to be in your network to support you to achieve it? Where are the gaps in your network and how might you close them?

Ibarra and Hunter identify three types of networks – operational (people who impact how your current work is done), personal (people in your professional associations, alumni groups, clubs and personal-interest communities who can widen your perspective) and strategic (people outside your day to day role who can help you determine future priorities and how your role fits into the bigger picture). They point out that managers who think they are adept at networking are often operating only at an operational or personal level, and conclude that the best leaders need to learn to employ their networks for strategic purposes too.

As part of thinking more strategically about network-building, women would be wise to build greater breadth in their networks.

Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston and Rebecca Craske's research published in the McKinsey Quarterly 2008 found that "men tend to build broader, shallower networks than women do and…the networks of men give them a wider range of resources for gaining knowledge and professional opportunities. Our experience with hundreds of women at McKinsey offers additional evidence that women's networks tend to be narrower but deeper than men's."

In other words, without losing the advantage of the depth in relationships that you will create as a woman, you also need to ensure you are building a wide enough variety of relevant contacts.

What do you want to achieve in your career in the next year and beyond? Who are the people or organisations – the 'ecosystem' – that need to be in your network to support you to achieve it? Where are the gaps in your network and how might you close them?

Strategically broadening your internal network is especially important if you work for a large organization, where it's easy to get stuck on building relationships only with those in your direct area of work. Linking up with those beyond your department provides fresh perspective, new ideas, and might even come in handy in future years if you are promoted or transferred to another area of the business.

So, how would you redefine how you leverage your network?

3. Redefine the way you do networking.

There is never enough time, and the lure of completing a tangible, measurable task is always going to battle with the intangible nature of networking, the payback of which may be measurable only weeks, months, or even years down the line – or never.

Diarize time for networking. It might be a weekly half an hour for phone calls to people you've met recently; it might be a fortnightly coffee with someone from a different part of the organization; it might be external events and conferences – whatever it is, its purpose is to expand your contacts and remind yourself of the bigger picture of what you're here to do. Plan networking as a strategic career development activity with time in the working day allocated accordingly – get your manager's buy-in to it as a personal development goal. If the golf and rugby events that male colleagues arrange are not for you, find others who feel the same way and create some alternatives.

Know your industry associations, and take a leadership position within one, whether as a sponsor, speaker, chair or committee member. Julia Langkraehr has found that taking a lead within the Entrepreneurs' Organization has given her great access to an ever-widening network of entrepreneurs, to the point where she has become a renowned 'go-to' person for connecting up entrepreneurs.

Virtual networking has played a significant role in enabling Julia to manage her networks across cultures and time zones. "Online networking is not a nice-to-do anymore; it's really important, particularly if key people for your network happen to be in a different country," she advises. "Wordsmith your LinkedIn profile – it's your electronic business card." People will Google you – make sure you're managing what they see.


As INSEAD's Ibarra and Hunter rightly observe, "building a leadership network is less a matter of skill than of will". You have to get out there and take action. And that action might look different to what you have previously considered to count as networking.

Most of all, be authentic and real in the way you network so that the relationships you build are meaningful and strong. The McKinsey Quarterly networking researchers commented how "over and over, we heard, 'Make it personal,' in the sense that others will get along with you more easily if they see your human side."

Julia Langkraehr sums it up well: "I try to be like I am in both business and personal situations – whether I'm going to a friend's dinner party or an Institute of Directors event, I approach it in the same way".

So, how would you redefine the way you do networking?

Networking takes commitment, communication, time and effort to make it successful. But if you redefine your approach to it, at least it no longer need feel like such hard work.

Rebecca Hourston grew up in Kenya. Today, she is a Director at Aspire, an internationally-recognized, award-winning leader in executive coaching, leadership development, consultancy, events and research related to women as leaders. Access Aspire's must-know success secrets for women leaders. Sister organization, The Aspire Foundation is an innovative mentoring program working to improve the lives of women and girls in Africa and beyond. Learn more about being a mentor (a no-cost, low commitment way to make a difference) or mentee (gain invaluable expertise from senior corporate business people).
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Image Ever faced situations you wished you had handled better? Getting ahead in your career depends a lot on skills, knowledge and talent. But your ability to handle difficult situations maturely can build your reputation and help develop enduring professional relationships that serve you well long term.

Here is my list of typical pitfalls and some suggestions on how to handle them.

How you lead: Leadership these days is not just what the boss does. It's for everyone. It's an attitude, a behavior, even a state of mind. Choosing to lead isn't about usurping other people's authority or overstepping the mark. It's taking responsibility for results.

Your effect on people: Know your personal style and its impact. Putting out your best self earns goodwill. Treat people with respect and give them room to be themselves. Choose to trust people; not everything has to have your fingerprints all over it.

How you compete: Learning to compete constructively is a good skill; wanting to win all the time can be counterproductive and lead you into taking credit that is due others. Pursue your ambition sensibly and don't act like you want everyone else to fade away.

Handling disagreement: Let's face it, you're never going to see eye to eye all the time with everyone. How you handle disagreements has an impact on how you are viewed. In disagreement remain calm, professional and solution-oriented. Be assertive but polite and keep your ego out of it.

Receiving feedback: Positive feedback is great. Critical feedback…ouch. Try not to reject negative feedback out of hand. If the delivery is done rudely, respectfully say so. Mine even seemingly negative feedback for lessons to guide your journey of growth.

Handling disappointment: Lost out on that promotion, cheated out of your 15 minutes of fame? Disappointments come and when they do don't throw tantrums or act the victim. Take a long term view and don't let your reaction to single events undermine your future. Commit to excellence and worthy opportunities will come round.

Your attitude to change: Change is tough and inevitable but can stretch us positively. Diminish your unwillingness to change. When you see it coming, prepare to receive it and become a shaper rather than a resistor. You can only influence the game if you play.

Managing a difficult boss: Sometime in your career you'll work with a difficult boss. Be sure you are not seeing them as difficult because they're asking more of you than you are prepared to give. Choose to respect your boss and his authority over you

Now take action! Which immature behaviors and habits are undermining your career?

Vera is a communications specialist, a leadership facilitator and mentoring coach with over 12 years experience in communications includes roles in the print media, Corporate communications, PR and international communications across public, private and Global organisations. She currently works for the Department of International department in Malawi as Education Adviser. Prior to this she worked with the British Council Malawi as Deputy Director and also had responsibility for leading communications across 8 African countries. Her company LIVEXCELLENCE', a leadership and personal development outfit helps organisations and individuals to effectively apply a 'can-do' spirit, greater leadership literacy and purposeful action to achieve visibility, improve performance and fulfil potential. Vera Ng'oma can be reached verangoma@gmail.com

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Image The ASPIRE Foundation is transforming the world, one woman at a time.

The Aspire Foundation seeks to make a difference to women suffering from injustice in countries within Africa, Asia and the Middle East through mentoring and coaching programmes for women working in charities, social enterprises and community projects in these locations.

Aspire is an internationally-recognized and award-winning leader in coaching, leadership education, events and research related to women as business, diversity and social leaders. The organisation was founded in 2001 by Dr. Samantha Collins, winner of The Women's Social Leadership Award 2010 and voted one of the Top Ten Coaches by The Independent.

ReConnect Africa spoke to Dr. Samantha Collins about the Aspire Foundation's work and how women are coaching other women to create a 'ripple effect of positive change across the world'.

ReConnect Africa (RCA): When was the Aspire Foundation established and what inspired you to set it up?

Dr. Samantha Collins (SC): The Foundation is very new and was established in November 2009, just after the birth of my second child. Watching a programme on CNN about pregnant women in Afghanistan who were struggling to get to the birthing clinic, I felt powerless and wanted to make a difference. I wanted to harness the power of the Aspire women – 50,000 women who want to make a difference. I came up with the idea of business mentoring women in non-profit organisations that benefit women and children in Africa and around the world.

RCA: Why did you choose coaching and mentoring as the process through which to effect change?

SC: I think that it's the key to change, the catalyst to change. Only by empowering people to create their own change does change really happen. Forcing or telling people to do something doesn't make change sustainable. Being a coach and running a coaching business, this is something that I strongly believe.

ImageWhat differentiates the two processes? A mentor for me is often a more senior trusted advisor who will share their stories, ideas and experience about what has worked for them. This is how our mentoring programme works.

Our professional women (once a month by phone or face to face) mentor through sharing their stories. It's more of a telling approach. Coaching is more about drawing answers from a person without sharing your own story. I may make suggestions but I wouldn't tell or advise as such.

Not for profit organisations are making a direct impact on the lives of women and girls. Our professional coaches offer pro bono coaching to direct beneficiaries on the ground – women who are taking leadership positions in their communities. Access to phones and the internet makes the programme feasible without having to directly travel to those countries.

RCA: How do you identify and select your coaches and mentors and what skills and qualities are you looking for?

SC: The number one quality I'm looking for is passion; caring about the advancement of women, because I can't teach that. At Aspire that is the kind of person we tend to attract anyway. Over and above that, someone very well trained and accredited who has been coaching for at least three years and is good at what they do, in fact fantastic!

In terms of mentors, you have to complete an application in which we ask about previous experience, level of seniority, and the skills you want to offer so that we can make a good match. We then give the mentors the chance to choose a mentee based on an organisation they feel passionate about.


The organisations we support vary from women in prison to amnesty, water aid, international development or something closer to you. We want to try and make a match based on what people care about. We also offer monthly mentoring skills sessions to help mentors develop their skills and grow a sense of community and connect to each other. The mentors are really helping each other and we have some very senior women from top companies and at board level giving up their time. They obviously care enough to want to do it.

A Mentor's Tale

Jane Swift, a Programme Director with BT is using her 22 years experience to act as a mentor with the Aspire Foundation.

“I've been involved with Aspire for probably four or five years. A few years earlier, I had been one of the founders of Executive Women, a network for senior women within BT. Later, as the Chair of the network, I attended a number of Aspire's events to establish links and connections for Executive Women.

18 months ago, Sam Collins approached me to see whether I would be willing to be a member of the Aspire Advisory Board and to set up the Foundation. I helped with the launch of the Foundation and became one of the first mentors.

With the Foundation, we want to do something to change the world by helping women who are in organisations that are helping women and making a difference in the world. Rather than making the direct contact to African women that need help, we are making contact with organisations helping African women.

People like me offer free mentoring and the Aspire team offers free coaching.

I'm mentoring someone in a charity. Sian is head of fundraising and communications for a global women's charity that helps women in Africa, Afghanistan and others, working through local partners who in turn work with the women in-country.

My mentoring of Sian will enable her to better fulfil the objectives of her organisation and, in turn, impact the women in the country and then the women they are working with. It becomes, in effect, a ripple effect of support.

The great thing about our mentoring relationship is the benefits it has for both of us. For me, it's reminded me of all the areas that I can help with, looking at what I've been able to share with Sian from the experience I've gained. It has also spurred me on to urge my own organisation to look at how our talented women can also develop themselves by volunteering as mentors for Aspire.

For Sian, where I hope it has made a difference is in looking at her organisation's strategy, building her team and raising their performance by sharing my experiences as a programme director in setting strategy and some of the tools I've used to get buy-in and implement strategy within an organisation.

We have also had discussions around setting short/long-term aims, looking at broader definitions of success and wider lifestyle/personal and spiritual goals. It has been about thinking about her as a complete person as well as about her career and her organisation.

Sian joined up to make a difference to the women that her charity serves. Our work together has shown her that she has a direct relationship to her charity's ability to serve the women in the field. Without the funds she is going to raise through her strategy, without making the charity as highly profiled - even though she's one of a team - without her playing her part, her organisation is not going to be able to serve those women on the front line. The more messages and funding that gets out there, the more she is able to reach more women who, in turn, make the difference on the ground.

I'm able to look at things objectively and, as a result, to push and challenge things without any ulterior motive other than someone who wants her to be the best she can be for all areas of her life; her charity, the women it serves, her family, her role as a wife and mother and also what she wants for herself. If any of what I've done during this mentoring process means she is able to release potential and open her eyes to what she is capable of and grow as a person; if my self-belief becomes contagious to other women and I can transplant that self-belief to others, then that would be my intention fulfilled.

What should women realise about being a mentor? All your skills are transferable and can apply to other sectors. What you've learned is gold dust to others. To put your head above the parapet and say I'm going to help someone make a difference in the world brings a richness to me as a person and in my job at BT, because it's saying that BT has given me all these skills and that I'm going to share them with someone who's making a difference in the world.

Aspire is about releasing a woman's potential first and running a business second. Trying to make you realise the potential you have and giving you the freedom to fulfil it. That's why I really love Aspire and want to help them reach as many people as they possibly can.

Women, come and volunteer to be a mentor for Aspire; it's absolutely wonderful!"

RCA: How can professional women in the UK identify and successfully transfer their experience to women working in such economically and culturally diverse locations?

SC: I believe they can do a great job regardless of age, background and cultural difference because one of the wonderful things about coaching is that you come without assumptions, without judgement, without financial or other limiting beliefs. I've found coaches with the same background can be a disaster because of assumptions that become a limiting belief.

I feel that if we get the best coaches we can, they will create the right partnerships and relationships with the coachees. The questions that coaches ask are very powerful, and powerful questions can be very simple and very basic. People ultimately just want to be heard and, as coaches, we are trained to really listen.

RCA: have been the key challenges for the Foundation?

SC: When we launched, I didn't expect such an overwhelming response and we had to cope with that. We have the goal of positively impacting the lives of one million women by 2015 - being a coach, I like a goal! I think getting the word out about the Foundation continues to be a challenge, so getting the word out to women who want to be mentees or mentors is important. There's no money involved and we are not looking for any funding.

RCA: How do you measure your success?

SC: One measure is that we have a goal against which we can measure the number of women we impact. A more important measure is qualitative; stories, video diaries and testimonials will be a big part of this. These are already coming in and we will find better and more effective ways of using them.

When I see 500 plus mentors and can really feel and see change, then that will be the real measurement for me.

The Aspire Foundation is offering—FREE—one hour of mentoring per month for six months with a senior woman leader from a corporation. In essence, it's a ripple effect of change - helping those who are already making a difference for women so that you can make an even bigger difference to yourself and others. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an Aspire Foundation mentee, fill out an application hereemail Laura with any questions alglover@theaspirefoundation.org. This is a pro bono opportunity and there are no costs involved for you. To find out more about the Aspire Foundation:www.theaspirefoundation.org

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Image First impressions can make or break your chance of getting your perfect job.

Careers and image coach Sallyann Doble offers her top tips for dressing for interviews.

Every day, every person you meet sizes you up within a few seconds. They form an impression about who you are, what you think and how you are likely to act. Once these impressions are formed, they are difficult to change. Once we have formed a belief about something, we are reluctant to see things differently; we want to believe we are right, which leads to a tendency to accept initial impressions without question.

When interviewers form an initial unfavourable impression of a candidate, they ask specific and pointed questions targeted to confirm their initial negative impression; their body language and communication style may also change. Their positive or negative behaviour creates a self-fulfilling prophesy by inducing a favourable or unfavourable performance in response.

So, what can you do?

1. Look the part

Do your homework prior to interview. As well as selling your skills and experience, you need to demonstrate that you will fit into the corporate culture. An important way of doing this is to dress the part: 'you look like one of us already'. By wearing similar clothes you show that you have something in common with and a sense of belonging to the group. How do people within the company dress? Can you differentiate the senior people from more junior staff? As a rule of thumb, you should dress as formally as 70-90% of those in your environment.

When interviewers form an initial unfavourable impression of a candidate, they ask specific and pointed questions targeted to confirm their initial negative impression.

However, this does not mean a contrived look or trying to be someone you are not. Your choice of outfit should also reflect your body shape, personality and colouring.

2. Grooming

Many of the top image wreckers are to be found here. Good grooming means, amongst other things, clean, well pressed clothes, hair that is well cut and in good condition and manicured nails. Research shows that people notice people's hair before anything else. Remember, it is the outfit you never take off! If you haven't changed your hairstyle in over three years, get some advice from a hairdresser in an up to date salon where they will be able to advise you about suitable styles.


Your hands are noticed particularly in meetings and bitten nails and chipped nail varnish are unacceptable.

3. Accessorise

Everything visible is part of your brand. Many of the standards you have for yourself are expressed through your accessories and the way in which you complete an outfit should portray a message of quality and professionalism. You should therefore invest in a good quality pen - a chewed biro does nothing for your image! And remember diving watches or diamond crusted 'bling' are not appropriate for business.

Image Keep bags and briefcases down to a minimum as you don't want to arrive at interview looking cluttered. Acquire a good quality briefcase or leather portfolio; for women there are plenty of options for a softer style case with handles which will allow you to combine the contents of your handbag and briefcase.

4. Fit

Nothing will cheapen a garment more than a poor fit. This will ruin a good outfit and totally destroy any chance of making a positive impression. You are also more likely to feel uncomfortable and self conscious.

Men's clothing that is too short in the sleeve, leg, jacket or tie makes a particularly poor impression. Jacket sleeves should finish where your wrist breaks, trousers should rest on top of your shoes covering your socks and the tip of your tie should rest just above your waistband.

For women one of the biggest mistakes is to wear clothing that is too tight and which results in gaping buttons and seams that pull. Skirt length is another issue for women seeking a professional look (whether you wear it just above or just below the knee is a matter of preference). Short skirts detract from your professional image while, at the other extreme, skirts that are too long can make you look dowdy.

5. Colours

Colour is the essence of successful dressing. It affects how we feel and how people respond to us; getting it right gives us confidence and creates a positive first impression.

It is the first thing you see about someone and what will be remembered. There are strong correlations between different colours and how they affect our impressions of such traits as status, friendliness and intelligence.

In business, darker neutral colours give the appearance of authority and suits should be in darker neutral colours. Team them with a lighter coloured shirt or blouse; although you may love bright colours, be aware that in business you may be perceived as being less professional.

Sallyann Doble specialises in brand and image consulting and personal career coaching and management. In addition to brand and career development, Sallyann's experience includes human resources and working in recruitment and executive search across a wide range of sectors. She is qualified to carry out psychometric testing.


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Image Nigerian networking supremo Kamil Olufowobi shares his strategies, tactics and the science to employ as you endeavour to network your way to success.

A clearly defined agenda is an essential factor when you want to network effectively - even for love! You must first identify your own agenda, your goals, your dreams and start networking your way to success, as defined by you.

From my interactions, I have discovered that many people don't realize the same basic rules of networking for success could be applied to finding love! I recommend, as a change, that you start putting the same amount of effort as you do in professional life into your personal life. I guarantee, or your money back, you will witness noticeable changes!

Again, there is nothing wrong with having a clearly defined agenda and letting people know what it is. One of the keys to success is directly tied to your willingness to ask people for help; for instance, 'I'm looking for a job, searching for a wife, interested in a promotion at work, help!'

Who's Your Network?

Whomever you are asking for help is, in fact, your network, your infrastructure of support. And the more you become a person of value to your network; the more people in your network will be willing to support your agenda.

So how do you identify your network? Everyone you know is part of your network, but it is not who you know that is always important. What is really important is what they know about you! It is what people know about you that will enable them to connect you to opportunities and set you up for success.

Everyone you know is part of your network, but it is not who you know that is always important. What is really important is what they know about you!

For a quick check of your network, follow these five steps outlined by George C. Fraser, Black America's #1 Networker:

    1. Write down the name of people you regularly call for any type of information. To help your memory, check your address book, e-mail, phone logs or office directory. Don't forget your family, friends, and colleagues.
    2. Next to people's names, write down the sort of information they have that you value. Also note the names of those people they know whom you would like to have as a resource
    3. Now write down information that you need but don't have access to. Put down the names of anyone you think might have that information.

  1. Next to your own name, write down the information or contacts you have that might be valuable to other people.
  2. Congratulations! You are primed and ready to network for succes
Building a Success Network

A member of my network wanted me to explain what I mean when I speak about a success network. Here is the real life conversation between that member and me.

Chichi: Kamil, can you please explain what you mean when you speak about a success network?

Kamil: Your success network is the people you know and people who know you. All of the people who will be willing to assist you because they know you are willing to assist them. Friends and family provide support, stability and emotional balance. Mentors, role models, colleagues and business partners motivate and push you to achieve.

Chichi: How do I know if I'm plugged into a success network?

Kamil: To find out if you are plugged into a success network, list 5 or 10* people in your network, people you spend the most time with and break them into three categories: Business (money in), Social (money out) and Business & Social (money in/out). If more than 50% are in your business & social and social network combined, you are not YET plugged into a success network! *5 (1 person=20%) or 10 (1 person =10%)

This simple exercise seeks to give you an insight into what is going on around you, within you, and between you and other people. Based on such insight, you will have an increased awareness of the people with whom you spend your time. It is for you to make the changes as you see fit for your agenda as you network for success.

Chichi: I did your exercise and wow! Now I see why I'm always broke and unmotivated. How do I meet more people who will fit into my business and business & social network?

Kamil: NiPRO, for example, is a progressive global network of Nigerian professionals. It is a platform for young professionals, executives and entrepreneurs to meet, learn and connect with liked minded people who want to network for success. Join NiPRO today and get plugged into a success network.

As the old saying goes, "when the poor live only with the poor, they have restricted access to opportunities for jobs, education, and role models." They have no "success network" to plug into.


As the Co-founder and CEO of Nigerian Professionals (NiPRO) Global Network, Kamil Olufowobi is fast becoming known as one of Nigeria's youngest global networking gurus. He is living proof that networking for success works when networking becomes a way of life, in elevating yourself and the people around you.

NiPRO today is the #1 global network of Nigerian professionals with over ½ million professionals worldwide and a projected 1 million+ subscribers to the network by 2015. With a mission focused on the professional and personal development of Nigerian professionals, Kamil, via NiPRO aims to elevate professionalism in Nigeria to world class standards. In his role as ED, he works to inform, inspire, empower and celebrate young professionals, executives and entrepreneurs towards the advancement of Nigeria. ko@niproevents.com

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ImageLeading trichologist Noon Etienne busts the 5 myths about Black hair loss.

Myth No. 1: 'Hair loss is caused by pulling hair too tightly.'

Noon Etienne: This is a myth with some truth, but bear in mind that there are many types of hair loss. Hair loss is classified under four categories: pattern, patchy, scarring and non-scarring. Pattern hair loss can affect both men and women while diffuse hair loss, on the other hand, is gradual hair thinning all over the head.

Traction Alopecia, another type of hair loss, can be the result of styling options that are too tight, such as braids, weaves, or pony tails. Trichotilomania is another type of loss which is self inflicted and which involves pulling the hair out as a form of comfort. Patchy hair loss includes temporary patchy loss - Alopecia Areata - bald patches caused by stress, illness, or the body attacking itself; traumatic patchy loss caused by heat, chemicals, or physical pulling; and permanent patchy loss after an infection or of auto-immune origin. Some of these scarring conditions leave no hair follicles in place.

Myth No. 2: 'Once hair has been lost, it can never grow back.'

Noon Etienne: This is not wholly true since there are so many types of hair loss. There are non-scarring types of hair loss, such as alopecia areata, which leaves the follicles still in place and the chances of hair re-growing is therefore quite likely. Scarring conditions, such as lupus erythematosus or folliculitis decalvans tend to leave no hair follicles in place, and there is therefore, only a very slim chance of the hair growing back.


Myth No. 3: 'There is nothing you can do to help hair grow back.'

Noon Etienne: There are so many things on offer to help improve the condition of the scalp and to make hair grow back better and healthier. Some treatments, such as Rogaine and Propecia, require a lifetime commitment that cannot be broken, but will give you back full recovery of your hair. Other natural products like herbal essential oils can stimulate the blood flow and with the help and correct guidance of a practitioner, can offer a more holistic approach with no side effects and great results.

Maintaining the hair with deep penetrating treatments and moisturisers and the help of a qualified trichologist can also really help to strengthen and improve the hair on your head. We also must not forget the hair replacement option, where follicles are surgically removed from a growing section of your head and then placed in the balding section. Again a trichologist would help guide you to better understand the options available to you in your search for a full head of hair.

Myth No. 4: 'It's impossible to find professional looking wigs to mask hair loss.'

Noon Etienne: Alternatives for styling your hair when you need to mask hair loss can be professionally created by a wig maker or, depending where the hair loss is situated, you would need the help and advice of a professional.

Simi Weave, for example, is a wig that comes with different parting options and colours/textures that can be clipped on to the natural hair. All you need to do is take a section of your natural hair out in the front to comb over the parting, so the wig looks like your natural hair. Alternatively, a weave cap could be created just for you in the salon, which you could use while undergoing treatment to grow the hair back. Or you could have fun with off-the-peg wigs in the shops - but get it cut by a professional to suit your face!

There are so many things on offer to help improve the condition of the scalp and to make hair grow back better and healthier.

Myth No. 5: 'My health and diet has no effect on hair loss.'

Noon Etienne: Crash diets, stress and general health can contribute to hair loss! This is because our body depends on proper nutrients for all our organs to function at their optimum level.

Hair gets its nutrients from the blood, so if our blood is lacking iron, for instance, our hair will grow weak and start to fall out. Stress is the culprit for a lot of different illnesses, depleting our bodies of nutrients such as vitamin C. You may say, "Stress is part of life". Sure it is, but it's how we perceive it and handle it that really matters. Adding an exercise routine to your daily life and taking breaks will help you manage stress more effectively. All in all, a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates will take care of the internal requirements of the body.

Exercise will eliminate and manage stress from being harboured in the body, while drinking your eight glasses of water per day will regulate flow, remove toxins, and hydrate the body. Let's not forget a good restful sleep to recharge our batteries! All this, coupled with professional advice and subsequent treatments, will help improve on any type of hair loss.

Noon 4 Hair is offering a 15% discount to ReConnect Africa readers for a full hair health check. Quote this offer when calling to book. Noon 4 Hair, 48 Porchester Road, London W2 6ET. Tel: + 44 (0)20 7034 0734

Noon Etienne is a qualified Trichologist and a specialist in scalp and hair care. She deals with hair loss, alopecia, scaly scalp and dry hair problems. Noon is a Cosmetologist (Beautician and Hair Designer) with over 20 years experience working with all types of hair. Originally from New York City, Noon is now based in London, from where she has built an international client base across the U.K., USA, Africa and the Middle East. Contact Noon at: Noon 4 Hair, 48 Porchester Road, London W2 6ET. Tel: + 44 (0)20 7034 0734, Fax: + 44 (0)20 7692 4657, e-mail: noon.etienne@btconnect.com or noon4truecolors@btconnect.com

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Image What does thinking outside the box really mean and how should we go about doing it? Communications coach Vera Ng'oma offers some helpful tips.

I recently asked a couple of friends the following question: What comes to mind when you hear the expression 'think outside the box'?

I got answers such as 'being creative', 'doing things differently', and even 'challenging the status quo'. This demonstrated what I suspected. That while organisations often tell employees to think outside the box, there is often no clear definition of what this actually means in a particular organisational context.

I believe that the starting point for responding to a call to 'outside the box' thinking is;

    • Be clear the nature of 'the box'. The box tends to be accepted longstanding ways of doing things. Knowing the type of box helps determine what constitutes alternative strategies in a given situation.
    • Whose box is it anyway? Some 'boxes' have and continue to serve a purpose. Some established traditions are held onto dearly by some people; so it's important to establish to what extent the box could do with some fresh ideas and insights.
    • Know what represents unconventional thinking. Some organizations are very traditional in their way of doing things. Change may not be immediately welcome; check the readiness of the organization or team to some different thinking.
    • Strategize how to get outside the box. There are always defenders and protectors of the way things have been done. Take an approach that acknowledges this point of view and work out how best to gain support for the options you're proposing.
While organisations often tell employees to think outside the box, there is often no clear definition of what this actually means in a particular organisational context.

  • Don't think outside the box just for the sake of it. This skill of lateral thinking must help to solve real problems or present a better way of doing things. Sometimes it's more a question of widening the box rather than going outside of it.

The above said; if you must think outside the box, here are some suggestions on how to go about it.

  • Challenge your assumptions regularly; interrogate things you have taken for granted and learn to hold your assumptions and opinions lightly.
  • Stop looking at things only from your point of view; Get someone with a very different way of looking at things to challenge the ideas you come up with.
  • Make 'what if' your mantra. Commit to experimentation and think about what's possible instead of what is or was. Asking 'so what?' also opens up angles for further examining an idea.

  • See old things in a new way. Explore connections between alternatives that are not immediately obvious and don't give up on an idea because it did not work in the past. Take a fresh look in light of any new information.
  • Constantly ask new questions. Come at things with an open mind and use open ended questions to explore the issue at hand. Avoid questions that yield 'yes' or 'no' answers.
  • Be your own devil's advocate: Many of us are quick to critique others' ideas. Pretend your idea is someone else's and critique it accordingly. Don't be reluctant to let go of ideas with no merit.

Vera is a communications specialist, a leadership facilitator and mentoring coach with over 12 years experience in communications includes roles in the print media, corporate communications, PR and international communications across public, private and global organisations. She currently works in Malawi as Education Adviser, having previously worked with the British Council Malawi as Deputy Director with responsibility for leading communications across 8 African countries. Her company LIVEXCELLENCE', a leadership and personal development outfit, helps organisations and individuals to effectively apply a 'can-do' spirit, greater leadership literacy and purposeful action to achieve visibility, improve performance and fulfil potential. Vera Ng'oma can be reached via verangoma@gmail.com

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Image Managing impressions is critical to our chances of succeeding at interview, says leading careers coach Robin Alcock.

It goes without saying that how well you can convey your expertise to the interviewer and how you can show its relevance to him or her, will play a major part in getting hired or not.

But, in this difficult economic climate where the job markets are not working in favour of candidates, it's important to focus also on what some people call "Impression Management". This article looks at what you can do as a job candidate to improve your chances at interview.

Creating Belief and Trust

What people think you are will influence their decisions about you and how much of what you say they will respect and trust. There is a well-known psychology experiment which shows this. As with all such experiments, a group of volunteers is assembled, paying attention to keeping it as mixed as possible as to gender, age group, economic status and so on. Volunteers are usually paid a modest amount for their trouble. In this experiment they are told "We are doing some research into memory, and soon we will ask you to listen to a 20 minute lecture and will give you some questions to answer afterwards."

The group is taken to the lecture room and they are introduced to the guest speaker, a "professor of criminology at (Whatever) university, who will talk to us about crime and its causes".

What people think you are will influence their decisions about you and how much of what you say they will respect and trust.

They hear the lecture and are given the question sheet. It contains lots of questions asking what facts they remember. Sprinkled among these, are questions about how much they believed the points the speaker was making.

The memory questions and answers are irrelevant. Only belief and trust are being measured, but the volunteers are unaware of that, so as not to distort the outcome.

When the volunteers have gone, the whole process is repeated with new volunteers and this time the speaker is introduced as a "reformed former criminal" talking on the same subject.

Finally the whole process is repeated with a new group of volunteers and this time the speaker is introduced as "a concerned citizen".

Influencing Perception

When the results are analysed we find the speakers who are introduced as experts are much more strongly believed than the "man or woman in the street".

The interesting part is that in all three lectures, the identical script was read out and by the same speaker. The only difference was how he was introduced.

So, how we are perceived, is often as influential as what we say. How do we influence how we are perceived? Image Firstly, by what we have already written about ourselves in our CV and letters before we even get there. You may think that because you are being interviewed, your written material must have been fine or you wouldn't be there. Not necessarily true.

Most interviewers have views about which contenders are strong and which are more marginal before they interviews start. Make sure your paperwork tells the best possible story and is convincing about what you can do that is important to their situation and needs. Keep your material focussed on this, even if it means playing down, or leaving out things that are good but not relevant.

Secondly give attention to first impressions. I know, it's a bit of a cliché but there is a marked "primacy effect". We unfortunately are prone to making a very early first impression and using all the subsequent answers to confirm that impression was right!

Another experiment shows this. Student volunteers were given short descriptions of two lecturers they had not met, and asked their opinions of them. The first description was along the lines of "cold person, analytical, intelligent, practical, hard working". The other lecturer was described in exactly the same words, except the first ones were "warm person". The student volunteers assessed the second lecturer ("warm person") much more favourably than the first.

No surprise there. But when the experiment is conducted with the key words placed later in the list, the differences in assessment are much less. The students have been pre-disposed by the first impression (that is, by the first words).


So how you behave when you first meet the interviewer is very important. You need to be "dressed for success", which usually means following the dress code of the job one level above the one you are going for. I have known clients say that they can do their particular job just as well whatever they are wearing. Sometimes this is true. But what is the right impression for interview? I have never known anyone lose points because they were "too well dressed".

Establishing Rapport

Thirdly, although the interview is mainly a serious business meeting, you must work at establishing rapport with those you are talking to. We hire people we like and who we can see ourselves working comfortably with. So smile and be friendly, don't just wear your "business face". Smiling conveys confidence, friendliness, happiness, enthusiasm.

Follow the right social and non-verbal conventions. Our body language and verbal tone convey up to 90% of the message. In other words if there is any ambiguity or if the message is at all unclear, we believe the non-verbal and the tone above the meaning of the words themselves.

We hire people we like and who we can see ourselves working comfortably with. So smile and be friendly, don't just wear your "business face".

We can't change the voice equipment nature gave us, but we can practise our delivery. Try asking a friend to listen to some of your answers and give you honest feedback. Practise answering topics that are bound to come up. (Such as describing your career up to now and what you have achieved in your different roles).Get familiar with the content and then practise the delivery, much like a singer would. If your normal delivery is a bit one-tone and one-speed (like mine!) then learn and practise to make it more animated and to vary the pace.

Finally, rapport is helped by "mirroring" or matching some of the other person's behaviour. But be cautious. We do not mean slavishly copying their words or gestures. That is going to look contrived or even, ridiculous. Mirroring means taking a lead from how they are sitting, talking, moving. For example, if their speech is relaxed and fairly slow paced, keep yours the same way. If they are very concise and hurried, be brief and speak faster.

Robin Alcock, Elmstead Consulting Limited, is an experienced career coach. Robin's coaching work is mostly helping people to enhance their workplace skills and become more fulfilled and successful in their working lives. His services cover a wide range of issues, such as a need to step up successfully to changed responsibilities, to overcome obstacles to performance, or to improve relationships at work. His other main coaching work is helping individuals who are stuck in their career or who have become casualties of reorganisation or downsizing. You can find Robin's profile on www.ecademy.com and on www.linkedin.com

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ImageThe rise of Interim Management offers experienced professionals an attractive alternative to working life.

Does the thought of working on new and challenging assignments for nine months and then taking time off for three months appeal to you?

Experienced professionals looking for variety and a better work/life balance are increasingly turning to the interim management market as the next step in their careers.

Interim Management

Interim Managers are senior directors or managers who work for companies or organisations on a fixed fee, short-term basis – usually at least three months - taking on specific roles or working on particular projects. As self-employed professionals, Interims are employed on a freelance basis, with many working through their own limited companies.

According to the Institute of Interim Management, the total market for Interim management services is estimated at approximately £500m pa in the UK and €750m in the rest of Europe, with sustained long-term growth of 15% per annum. However, these statistics could well be below the actual number as, on average, Interim managers find two thirds of their work direct from clients, with only a third of assignments coming through providers and other intermediaries. Many Interims have well developed networks and never need to turn to agencies or providers for new assignments.

Interim Managers are senior directors or managers who work for companies or organisations on a fixed fee, short-term basis, taking on specific roles or working on particular projects.

Measuring the Interim market, says the Institute, can be tricky. Interims often change between temporary, contract, consultancy and Interim roles to meet the needs of client companies, and even move into permanent employment or retirement. They estimate, however, that there are about 2,000 career Interim managers in the UK, with a further 7,000 to 8,000 'passing through' – in other words, doing Interim work to fill a gap in permanent employment.

A Different Way of Working

Changes in the economy, such as a recession, lead to changes within organisations. Tighter budgets may freeze traditional headcounts but essential projects still need to be undertaken and completed.

Interim Managers are often seen as an ideal solution for companies that need highly skilled professionals for specific periods or to bridge the gap between the departure of a senior manager and putting in place a replacement.

ImageToday, Interim Managers are used across virtually every sector and business function in both the private and public sectors, including Human Resources, Finance, Business Development and IT.

Typical Interim assignments include managing a major change programme - for example following a merger or company restructure - leading projects, implementing staff reductions or cost savings and helping to turn around a business in crisis.

As highly skilled professionals and specialists, Interims can hit the ground running, helping to successfully deliver a project on time and within budget. Interims are frequently needed at short notice and, for companies, the ability to access experienced talent quickly and on a flexible basis makes using Interim Managers an attractive and often cost-effective way of recruiting.

Many Interims enjoy the fact that they can stay above company politics and this also enables them to bring a fresh perspective to a business and to stay focused on what is best for the business. As independent workers, they are less likely to be seen as a threat to permanent staff, which means that they are better placed to contribute honestly to the organisation.

An Interim Manager has to take responsibility for managing their assignment and must track progress and feedback regularly to their client. Using their expertise, they may manage teams and projects and have to get close to the business, while remaining an independent practitioner. At the end of an assignment, the Interim must ensure that their objectives have been met to the client's satisfaction. Finishing a project may also involve handing over or training a successor.

Making the Grade as an Interim

So, how do you know if you are suited to the work style of an Interim Manager?

Interim assignments can be very intensive and, as a result, many Interims choose to work for only part of the year. Assignments can last from three to twelve months, five days a week and Interims need to place their client's needs first during an assignment.

Typical Interim assignments include managing a major change programme - for example following a merger or company restructure - leading projects, implementing staff reductions or cost savings and helping to turn around a business in crisis.

To be immediately effective, you need to be more or less over-qualified for the job, and you must have a strong, proven track record and the competencies needed for the assignment.

Image According to the Institute of Interim Management, the key qualities of a successful Interim include being credible, diligent, enthusiastic, self-motivated, independent and comfortable with being held accountable for your work.

Interims can take full line or project responsibility from day one and are often part of the management team. As a result, a successful Interim needs to be action oriented and capable of hitting the ground running. Being able to think flexibly and take a hands-on approach is critical as your role is to implement the project and to make it happen.

Clients' needs may not always be straightforward and a good Interim has to be able to deal with ambiguity and influence the business in the right direction by identifying and dealing with the key issues. Strong communication, team and leadership skills are also essential for this type of work.

Being able to stay above the fray of office politics requires experienced managers who are principled and independent and who can remain objective throughout an assignment. Interims should have a high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) and be adept at dealing with different corporate cultures and working well with people across the spectrum.

Interims frequently have access to confidential and sensitive information and they are expected to remain highly principled and ethical in their dealings with an organisation, its employees.

As a consequence, interims bring tremendous benefits to an organisation and are highly cost-effective when compared with the potential costs of failure for the business.

Risks and Rewards

As with any career area, however, there are risks as well as rewards to be found with an Interim lifestyle.

Interim Managers are paid on the basis of delivering the goals and objectives set for their assignment, and not simply on the basis of attendance. Unlike consultants, rather than taking on a purely advisory role, Interim Managers are managers who have to take responsibility for and manage a business or project in their own right. They can therefore be expected to be held accountable for results.


Interims are not permanent employees, but are professionals in business on their own account, with the risks and rewards that that implies. As a result, although they are generally highly paid, Interims have to take responsibility for their own financial arrangements, including tax, pension, and health insurance and are normally expected to carry professional indemnity insurance.

Networking, while important in any career, is a critical skill for Interims. A wide network of contacts and providers is essential and allows Interims to plan their work schedule according to the pattern of work that suits them. An Interim's reputation can be key to their future success. Working as an Interim Manager means maintaining high professional standards, as your future work is often based upon referrals as well as a successful track record.

Working as an Interim Manager can be challenging and highly pressured, but it also offers a lifestyle that is varied, well-paid and satisfying.

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ImageA British Careers Advisor's visit to Cape Town has led to a spirited campaign to bring professional careers advice to a disadvantaged township.

While many of us want to make a difference and to help those in need, very few people actually take on the painstaking and often grinding task of seeing an idea become a reality.

Sue Doyle, a Scottish-based Careers Adviser, is one of those rare individuals who have shown determination against the odds to turn an idea into a project and, in her case, one that will make a lasting impact on the lives and prospects of the residents of Langa in Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town is the second most populous city of South Africa, with strong tourist, agricultural and manufacturing industries. It is an affluent, thriving, vibrant city. Yet in Langa, Cape Town's oldest township, unemployment is estimated to be at least 44%.

Eyuthu Careers Point

Through setting up Eyethu Careers Point, a not-for-profit, non-government organisation, Sue and her team of dedicated South African colleagues, aim to provide a service to assist the people of Cape Town's townships to develop their potential through jobs, training or education, so they can take advantage of the opportunities offered in the city and within the new South African economy.

Eyethu Careers Point will help the people of Cape Town's townships to develop their potential, through jobs, training or education.

Eyethu Careers Point will help the unemployed citizens of the townships find work, or gain the training or education that will enable them to earn, to become independent, and therefore able to support their own kin. The organisation also plans to assist organisations such as St. Francis Adult Education Centre and Learn to Earn who are helping adults in Langa to improve their skills so that they might go on to better their chances of taking advantage of Cape Town's opportunities.

ReConnect Africa spoke to Sue Doyle and Roy Moatlhodi about their plans for Eyethu Careers Point and the help they need to achieve their vision.

ReConnect Africa (RCA): What inspired you to begin this project?

Sue Doyle (SD): I'm a Careers Adviser who loves my job – well most of it! Specifically, the part of my job that works directly with people, whatever their age and situation. I've had lots of different jobs myself, and, whilst not greatly successful in terms of financial gain or achieving management status, I have had both interesting and amusing experiences. And this has perhaps become my motto – to challenge myself, to have adventures that will widen my knowledge of others as well as myself! In this, I have been lucky and have had some success. A Careers Point for Langa is my latest adventure.

Why this project? During a voluntary stint in Langa a few years ago, I was really shocked at the lack of careers guidance and assistance given to school leavers. I also became aware that assistance with, for instance, applying for a college or university, depended on whether the teacher responsible for Life Orientation (of which careers education is a part) considered them as sufficiently morally upright. One teacher eventually explained this by saying that she was tired and depressed by AIDS and so much death around her.

There was also a lack of assistance for those young people who wanted a traineeship/apprenticeship rather than an academic training. Image I realised that I had no right to judge, but I also recognised the damaging effects of the lack of a professional careers adviser who could provide objective and unprejudiced guidance.

Shortly after my return from my first voluntary stint in Langa, I had an operation on my foot which meant that I was unable to go to work, and I spent the time researching the whole question of careers guidance in South Africa, finding useful information in the World Bank's Human Development Sector Report in 2003 "A Framework for the Design of Career Information and Counselling Services in Developing Countries – A Country Report on South Africa" by LLE Kay and DH Fretwell, and "A Review of Labour Markets in South Africa: Career Guidance and Employment Services" written in Oct 2005 by Dr. R du Toit, Senior Research Specialist of the Employment and Economic Research Programme, HSRC.

I returned to do more practical research in 2007, and with the help of my friend Su Gangat, we confirmed that not only was there a lack of such support for school leavers but also for the huge number of unemployed in the townships.

For family reasons, I was unable to return until April 2009, when I was pointed in the direction of Roy Moatlhodi, as someone who was strongly motivated in his desire to help his people to rise out of their poverty. When I think of it, looking back, I was truly fortunate in finding someone so upright as well as being driven! Perhaps that was inevitable, because it was my friend and landlady Sisthandi who pointed out that her son was the ideal person to help and eventually lead the project.

RCA: What do you think your experience and Roy's brings to this project?

SD: I came to Careers Guidance late in life, when I had gained a great deal of tough life experience. I am a strong believer in social justice for all, so I found the poverty and lack of hope in the township truly shocking and difficult to understand. So perhaps the first contribution that Roy gave to me was to help me to understand more fully. I had created a website by then (later edited by a young Scottish colleague to be more tactful and less angry).


For 3 weeks during 2009 we went round everywhere together trying to find out where we could get help and how to set up our organisation. It was a tough and frustrating experience, perhaps exacerbated by the very fact that I was a white 64 year old lady and he is a 40 something young black guy! We got some strange receptions, which could have been embarrassing, and we used to get angry afterwards until we could see the funny side!

He had experience as an entrepreneur so knew what we had to do to set up an organisation. He is also farsighted and it was his idea to change the name of the organisation from Langa Careers Point to Eyethu (meaning 'our' in Xhosa) Careers Point so that we could spread to other townships when we could.

It was a tough and frustrating experience, perhaps exacerbated by the very fact that I was a white 64 year old lady and he is a 40 something young black guy!

I returned to Scotland leaving Roy feeling frustrated in that we hadn't got as far as we wished. This period was actually frustrating for both of us and at times our relationship was sorely strained. During this interim period my colleagues and I held a pub quiz which raised a sum of money which proved useful when I returned to Langa in mid October 2009. After "a frank discussion" with Roy which clarified our thoughts about where we both stood and where we wanted to go, we were stronger, perhaps because we were now really coming from the same viewpoint.

Growing the Team

We spent a great deal of time applying for government grants, which hopefully should prove fruitful in the next few months. Image We also knew that we needed to get more local support. The first one to bring on board was Roy's sister, Neo, who had taken me to a prison to meet some young men who she had taught when she was a primary teacher. I thought (perhaps because of my experience in a secure school in Scotland where I go once a week) that one of our target groups should be ex-offenders, so Neo was an obvious choice for this portfolio.

Then there is Belinda Dilima, a young enthusiastic entrepreneur who was immediately onside. She had already run a group for youngsters in the township on Saturday afternoons and who connected us to Dr. Mzwandile Plaatjie, an Educational Psychologist who was seeking to start up his own operation.

So an arrangement has been reached whereby the non-profit making organisation, ECP, has - or will have, when in operation, an income generating organisation alongside. Recently we have had the luck to make contact with Mandisa Makolomakwe, a Johannesburg businesswoman originally from Cape Town, who believes strongly in our cause.

Eyuthu Careers Point is certified in South Africa as a non-Government Organisation and we now have a Board that is responsible for the project as well as an Accountant and a lawyer.

RCA: Roy, what was your background before joining forces with Sue on this project?

Roy Moatlhodi: I was born and bred in Langa, completed my primary school in Cape Town and went to further my secondary school studies in Francistown, Botswana, Image ultimate finishing my high school in Cape Town. I then went to the University of Cape Town, where I enrolled for Social Sciences and majored in Political Science and Sociology. I furthered my tertiary education by enrolling for a postgraduate diploma in Marketing and Advertising.

I started my employment career at Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, as a freelance consumer behaviour researcher. In 1998 I was recruited by the department of Trade & Industry in Pretoria, where I worked as a Communications officer. Afterwards I was headhunted to work for a USAID primary health care project in the Eastern Cape for a period of three years. At the end of the contract I went back to Johannesburg, where I joined my wife and kids.

After a contract role assisting the Minister of Minerals and Energy with the drafting of the mining charter, in 2004 I decided to venture into entrepreneurship. I am currently the Programme Manager for the Eyethu Careers Point.

RCA: Sue, how can people in the UK or elsewhere help to support this project?

SD: We need laptops and PCs in our Careers Points to help our clients to gain the information they need. I have found a charity which refurbishes computers but the hardware still need to be bought and transported.

Our Careers Points need total refits - I have only seen the one in Langa and know that it will take money and hard work to make it not only habitable for staff and clients, particularly in the coming winter, but secure, so that the equipment will be safe.

Our staff members need training, let alone salaries that befit people who are working so hard to find employment for Cape Town's townships' many unemployed. I am hoping that my experienced colleagues from Skills Development Scotland might volunteer to come out to help with training, and that eventually negotiations between Scottish and South African universities might enable the development of postgraduate courses to provide the training for Careers Advisers to serve South Africa's townships in the future.

My co-workers are still persevering without appropriate incomes! It is great that Roy now has on-the-spot support from Belinda, who is equally motivated to help her people. For me, I am hoping that I will be able to return sometime soon to Langa when funding permits.

Sue, Roy and the team are looking for sponsorship and funding to take the programme forward.

For further information and help with funding Eyethu Careers Point


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Image Think you can't make the career choice that you want? Yes, you can, says leading career coach Richard Yates.

So often some people think of the reasons why they can't do something, whereas a change of thinking might unlock a new path, an alternative thought process which reinforces the reasons they can do something. It's the challenge for those of us who work with others to assist in finding the key that unlocks that process.

Pressure from Above?

A friend suggested that Sally came to see me as she was due to come to the end of her current contract in the Metropolitan Police and had admitted to being rather unsure of what she, unmarried and 29, wanted to do next. She sat down for our session, actually quite confident and self-assured. So I asked her what she wanted to talk about, did she know what she wanted to do next.

"Probably, Advertising" she replied, although I detected a slight suggestion of doubt in her voice. "Ok" I said, "So why have you come to see me?" "Well, you know, simply confirmation that this is the right thing to do."

So often some people think of the reasons why they can't do something, whereas a change of thinking might unlock a new path.

So then we started the tale, from the beginning; how she had actually wanted to become an internet webpage designer, seemed to have a gift for it, but her father had other ideas, wanting to see his daughter 'do something with your life' – suggesting of course that webpage design wasn't quite the right thing! Funny, and sometimes tragic, how parental pressure can seriously affect the decisions you make in your late teens, often only realising later in life with more maturity and experience that you should, perhaps, have stuck to your guns.

Trusting your Own Thoughts

Sally asked her father whether he would loan her some money to pay for the web design course that would give her the skills she needed. He says: "Of course! But I have an inkling you could carve out a great career in the Metropolitan Police;" following his own illustrious one. "Would you please me and just see whether you could pass the selection tests? If you decide it's not for you, then I'll give you the cash you need."

Well, she did well, and he didn't honour his side of the bargain; with no funding, she stayed, resentful and untrusting. And so by now we had we got to 'today' ... and 'advertising'.


As we talked about relationships and her experiences, she began to trust her own thoughts and ideas, secure in the unthreatening confidential coaching environment. Suddenly, and I can remember this moment as if it was yesterday, she leans forward and says: "Do you know what I really really want to do?" "It's not in advertising then?" "No!" "Go on!" I say; and out it came, ideas unfettered by parental judgement and personal insecurities, a stream of excitement and enthusiasm. She outlined her ideas, her timescales and her business model.

Eventually, breathless, she asked: "What do you think? Can I do it?"

"If you think this idea has merit, it's worth pursuing. Only then will you know whether you can do it or not"

"Great" she said, and got up and left!

I sat there in the aftermath, reinforced in my personal belief that if you really want to do something, the best thing is to do it. In my hand I had held her metaphorical brake!

Richard Yates set up The Yellow Palette in 1996, mainly offering leadership and management coaching, amongst other assistance. He is trained in coaching and is a Certified Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Time Line Therapy. www.theyellowpalette.co.uk

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Image New to training or need some advice on improving your training skills? Vincent Owen outlines his 5 top tips for delivering high impact and effective training.
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

There are three elements you need to prepare. You need to prepare yourself to deliver the content. If you've developed it yourself, you will obviously be familiar with the content but if not, it is critical that you become as familiar with it as possible before you start to deliver, especially for the first time. But remember, every time you run the programme it's best to go through this preparation stage, even if the programme is to be run many times.

The next thing to prepare is your materials for use during the programme. As with the content it's up to you to develop these and you need to make sure you have the right paperwork in the right place at the right time.

The last element of preparation is ensuring the environment is right for you and right for the participants as well. You will need to liaise with the people at the training venue to make sure you have flipcharts, projectors etc., and that the room layout is right. When I'm running an event, I always aim to get to the venue well before to set up the room well in advance and to check the equipment in good time.

2. Use a variety of methods

Use a variety of teaching methods. As we all know, different people learn differently. Some by listening to others...some by watching other people do things...by reading a book...watching a DVD or whatever.

If you ask most people 'What's 6 times 9?' they will almost certainly answer 54. But most people will have forgotten how they know that.

If you ask most people 'What's 6 times 9?' they will almost certainly answer 54. But most people will have forgotten how they know that. By including different kinds of learning activities within your programme you will almost certainly develop a far more effective piece of training. So, whilst you will need to do a fair bit of talking at the start of the programme, the sooner you can introduce some group or syndicate activities, the better.

Introduce some scenarios to not only get the participants to try their hand in a safe environment but also to get other participants involved as observers to help their colleagues. In essence, the more of different kinds of activities that you can put into the programme, the most effective the learning is likely to be.

I think it is always important as well to have an activity of some sort in the session immediately after the lunch break if you can. Whatever you do, you must ring the changes to try to keep all involved.

3. Remember the golden rules for visual aids

Some golden rules for using PowerPoint slides:

  • Don't use slides as a substitute for what you're going to say and don't just read out the words on the slides.
  • Don't put too much information on one slide.
  • Don't use too many fancy transitions from one slide to the next as they can annoy people
  • If you have a number of points to make on one slide, reveal them one by one rather than show them all at once. After all you want your audience to be with you, not ahead of you.
  • Only use sound effects if they really add value.
  • Make sure that the font and background colours you use give a high degree of contrast to make sure people can read them and, of course, it's also important to use a large enough point size.
  • Try not to stand between the projector and the screen. Participants want to see your slides, not your shadow.

Flipcharts are a very useful, and a somewhat underused trainer's tool. There are a few points to remember when using flipcharts, however:

  • Use capitals rather than lower case. They may take you, as the writer, longer but they're a lot easier to read, especially from the back of the room.
  • Use high contrast colours such as black or blue in preference to greens, yellows, oranges and reds which are harder to read, particularly for those with a degree of colour blindness.
  • Try to write in straight lines.
  • Spell correctly.
  • Try to face your audience when writing on the flipchart rather than turn your back on them.
4. Remember your role

Remember you are there as a facilitator. The dictionary definition of the word 'facilitate' means 'to make easy or to help forward'. And I think that's exactly what we should be doing in the training environment, trying to make learning easier for the participants or help them forward with their development.

Different people learn differently. Some by listening to others... some by watching other people do things.

In addition to your role as facilitator, you're also the designer of the programme content and, as such, I think you have a number of responsibilities or roles. Your role is both interesting and quite difficult to achieve successfully. As facilitator, you need to:

  • Identify exactly what your organisation wants you to deliver as training and be clear of the outcome.
  • Develop appropriate training material to address the needs identified by the organisation.
  • Deliver the material to the best of your ability to meet the training needs of your participants i.e. the consumers of the product.
  • Involve subject matter experts as necessary as co-presenters but work closely with them to ensure consistency of message.
  • Demonstrate that the training that you have designed has been effective by improving the skills or success rate of the team to the satisfaction of the organisation.
5. Critically review your programme

Some trainers use a review questionnaire at the end of their programmes and these certainly have their use, but they cover a number of items which relate to the venue, the room facilities and the like. I always feel that the comments unless they are particularly negative about the programme content and the performance of the facilitator are not always particularly useful.

Why do I say this? Largely because we ask people to complete them right at the end of the programme when they may well be a little tired and they almost certainly will not have had time to reflect sufficiently on what took place during the programme. In my view asking people to complete these forms a week after the programme finishes would probably be a lot more use, but that can be difficult to manage.

So, whilst the participants' feedback sheet has a value, I think the best person to review the programme is you, as facilitator, but this needs to be done very critically and as objectively as you can.

What we should be doing in the training environment.... (is)....trying to make learning easier for the participants or help them forward with their development.

The sort of questions you should be asking yourself at the end of the training includes:

  • Do I feel overall happy with the way I performed and managed the learning process on behalf of the participants? If we go back to our definition of "facilitate", did I really help them to learn and meet their objectives?
  • Have I met the learning objectives set out by my organisation or department?
  • Did the programme run reasonably smoothly in terms of keeping to time and covering all the material?
  • Did I manage to engage with most of the participants most of the time? If not, why not?
  • Did the activities and group exercises used actually work and add to the participants' learning?
  • Do any elements of the course content need changing before I run it again?
  • Will the participants be able to perform better next Monday?

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant for Interims for Development a Human Resources and Training consultancy for Africa. Vince has developed and run a range of Human Resources and Management Training programmes across Africa.

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ImageWith the right agenda, attitude and planning, attending meetings can make sense. But then, of course, there’s the other way.

Business coach Lin Sagovsky offers more of her popular tongue-in-cheek advice on meetings.

    1. Everyone knows most meetings are a waste of time, so don't bother to read any notes that may have been sent round beforehand - you can probably pick things up easily enough as they go along.

    2. Be late.

    3. Spread your papers on the table, rustle them as much as you like, and doodle over all the most important bits.

    4. When it's boring, yawn audibly, and pick your fingernails while other people are speaking. Or have a chat to the person next to you. In fact, feel free whether it's boring or not.

    5. Take your sandwiches in and unwrap them as noisily as possible. If you've forgotten your sandwiches, place the biscuits where you can get at them whenever you want and everyone else just has to gaze at them wistfully.

When it's boring, yawn audibly, and pick your fingernails while other people are speaking.

    1. Feel free to shoot other people down in flames when they express opinions - and jump in as soon as you like; you can always guess more or less what they're going to say so there's no need to let other people hear it. (If someone shoots you down in flames, sulk.)

    2. If an argument breaks out, practise topping everyone vocally, adding emphasis by wagging or jabbing your finger at the offending parties. And then tell the Chair to shut them up - after all, it's not your responsibility to make the meeting go well.


  1. It's best to begin any questions with an exasperated sigh and the words "I suppose...," followed by the most negative assumption possible - e.g. "I suppose you're going to keep us all here until after five o'clock?" rather than "What time are we aiming to finish?"

  2. If you're a smoker, make a lot of fuss about needing cigarette breaks. If you're a non-smoker, make a lot of fuss about people who need cigarette breaks.

  3. If things get really dull, have a nice little kip.


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ImageNetworking guru Kamil Olufowobi shares strategies and tactics to network your way to finding a job!

It was back in 1986 that the late Gwen Guthrie's hit single, "Ain't Nothin' Goin' on but the Rent" popularized the phrase "You got to have a J O B if you wanna be with me!" Fast forward to 2009, you'll find that both men and women are ever more conscious about having a partner or significant other who has a J O B! Do you have a J O B?! Or do you already have one and are looking for another?

Your ability to find a job is directly related to how informed your network is about your education and expertise. Caution; if you didn't start networking long before you started looking for a job, you are in for a rocky road.

Networking is a long-term process; without an established network, you will have to reach out to four or five times as many people to even begin to get some leads, so patience.

Both men and women are ever more conscious about having a partner or significant other who has a JOB!

Here are a few important things to think through when networking for a job:

- What are my skills and strengths? (Education and work experience included)

- What industry(s) is my focus? Where are my skills needed? (Identify your desired industry/field/company)

- Where, geographically, do I want to work? (Would I be willing to relocate?)


- What position level am I qualified for? (Entry level, mid-level or top level) Caution; to ensure you don't abuse your network, don't shoot for positions that you know you are under or over qualified for!

- How much do I have to earn to meet my responsibilities? (Be realistic, don’t just accept any offer in desperation; think it through.)

Once you have carefully answered these questions, then you can begin to formulate your networking strategy.

Formulating your Networking Strategy

First, using the above questions, formulate a cover letter and resume. Be sure to get someone else to review it! Your ability to compose an effective cover letter and resume will be one of the most powerful and revealing aspects of your communications skills.

The job may not require any writing or presentation skills, but you will be judged by your ability to communicate effectively. You are a brand, so sell yourself. But please don't over sell! Abstractions such as "Ambition mixed with a striving for excellence is my strongest asset or MBA in view!" OKAY, sure, but can you do financial reporting, use Microsoft Excel or oversee a staff of twenty people?

The job may not require any writing or presentation skills, but you will be judged by your ability to communicate effectively.

Create your own networking card, think of yourself as a sales person in the business of marketing yourself to get a job. On the card list your name, address, email, mobile number, college, degree and your most marketable skills, keep it short and simple. Although the networking card is no replacement for a well prepared resume, it is convenient and fast. It demonstrates thoughtfulness, uniqueness and professionalism. You will be surprised how responsive people can be when they are approached in a professional manner.

Second, make a list of everyone you know or that knows someone in your desired industry/field/company, start making contact to inquiry about job opportunities, career fairs and professional events. Ask your peers and colleagues. Read newspapers and join online forums dedicated to your field of interest. Basically, get out there! It is a job to find a job! Take it seriously.

For people that you haven't spoken to in a while, be sensible enough not to ask them on first contact that you are desperate for work. Instead, reach out to them on a personal level before you ask. Use any recent information you have about them to start the conversation. For example, "Uncle so & so, how is the baby? I trust you and Aunty are enjoying the joys of parenthood. Congrats again!" Or, on the first of the month, call or SMS to wish them Happy New Month, ending it with "If our paths cross, it will be joyful and fruitful AMEN.” Then follow up appropriately - try not to be too obvious!

Take Charge!

Finally, with any luck you will secure an interview. Be yourself, dress for success and ask questions! Send a thank you note to the interviewer; avoid using "hoping to hear from you soon." Instead, propose a specific next step by offering a next move such as: I'm free for a follow up interview M-TH 9am – 3pm. I'll call your office on Tuesday to find out if you would like to see me during these times." Take charge! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Remember, your ability to find a job, is directly related to how informed your network is about you at all times, both before and after your job search! Far too many people neglect informing their network once they have accomplished the mission of finding a job. There is no such thing as job security anymore, so you cannot afford to pull the plug on your network. Keep your network plugged in, stay in touch!

For people that you haven't spoken to in a while, be sensible enough not to ask them on first contact that you are desperate for work.

A networking case study comes from Ada, a member of the NiPro network and a NYSC corps member who is seeking a job. She is uncertain whether she will be retained at her company once her service year is over.

Here is the real life conversation between myself and Ada that inspired this topic.

Ada: Kamil, I'm scheduled to leave my place of primary assignment by mid-September and I'm yet to receive an offer of employment. What should I do?

Kamil: I trust you must have been a person of value in your time there? Go ahead, have the courage, to ask your supervisors about your future with the company or any company he/she might have contacts.

Ada: I have a feeling they will not be retaining anyone because it is cheaper for them to just bring in a new batch.

Kamil: In that case, if there are no prospects now doesn't mean there wouldn't be in the future. Again, plan to stay in touch! Ask for a recommendation. And, I suggest you get out there and start networking!

Image As the Co-founder and CEO of Nigerian Professionals (NiPRO) Global Network, Kamil Olufowobi is fast becoming known as one of Nigeria’s youngest global networking gurus. He is living proof that networking for success works when networking becomes a way of life, in elevating yourself and the people around you. NiPRO today is the #1 global network of Nigerian professionals with over ½ million professionals worldwide and a projected 1 million+ subscribers to the network by 2015. With a mission focused on the professional and personal development of Nigerian professionals, Kamil, via NiPRO aims to elevate professionalism in Nigeria to world class standards. In his role as ED, he works to inform, inspire, empower and celebrate young professionals, executives and entrepreneurs towards the advancement of Nigeria. ko@niproevents.com
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ImageIf your job has been made redundant, leading coach Richard Yates offers some advice on how adopting the right attitude can help you deal with this challenge.

At an eighteenth birthday party before Christmas, I was talking to someone who had retired at the age of 53; he put forward the view that the world of work and opportunity for 'the young’ today was so uncertain, so difficult that he 'despaired for them'.

He was clearly comfortable with his vision and banged on, and on. I interrupted, gently, to suggest that maybe he had a view of the world through his own eyes, fashioned by the values and beliefs of his generation, by his own experience of his working life, and that the 'young' of today had very different views. Surely the opportunities today that are open to those who want to take them are wonderful?

To him, the challenge was to join a company that could offer career progression through a hierarchical structure, reward, job security and the company pension, pewter tankard or gold watch and society's gratitude at the end; his parents wanted this and, therefore, so did he.

Fear of the Unknown

Today we live in an increasingly international community that can offer a whole range of acceptable options that were not available when my companion was young. This world is a very different world, a world that those in middle age can find bewildering and frightening; it depends on your viewpoint, but I get incensed by the very negative attitude of some, such as my companion, and the effect that is communicated to the young.

I get incensed by the very negative attitude of some.... and the effect that is communicated to the young.

What has this got to do with those who read this column, those who have just been made redundant? It is about attitudes.


Despite the growing understanding in the community that redundancy is something that has become an acceptable fact of life; to the individual redundancy, or the threat of it, still represents a fearful experience.

Earlier this year, one of my clients, an intelligent mature individual, would not show his face outside his house during working hours, even to walk the dog, because "people will know I am redundant". It is a fear, a fear of the unknown, a fear of having to prove one's abilities and one's worth, a fear of having to sell oneself.

The British tradition is to understate everything, certainly not to follow our American cousins who are often perceived as pushy, even rude, by the way they confidently say how good they are. Another client can still remember his father, on receiving the news his son had won a choral scholarship to Cambridge, saying, "Don't let it go to your head my son" - and since then his son has never said how good he was at using his skills.

Expanding our Horizons

Numerous authors have quoted the story of the frog which, gradually warmed in a beaker of water, died as the water boiled; if it had been put straight into hot water, it would have jumped out.

Gradual change will eventually kill; for us humans it is not a physical death, but a mental one - we become 'brain dead'. Employers expect people to be alive, or at least appear alive, to be passionate about what they do and what they are good at; yet how often are individuals advised that the word 'passion' is not very English - "You can't say that"!!

To change we need to be open-minded, to be passionate about what we do; to be able to expand the horizon beyond that which we perceive as possible, for "a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight".

"A horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight"

A former client in his early fifties wrote: "The past six months have not been an easy ride, but it has been interesting, educational and quite revealing about me as a person....It won't be forgotten, neither will I be so unprepared in the future should a similar 'career change opportunity' occur again".

It appears to me that far too many people express negative feelings about life; in some way we are conditioned to by simply listening to the news!! People talk in terms of problems, not issues and solutions, use 'can't' and 'won't' more often than 'can ' and 'will'.


I used to think that the opposite of negative was, simply, positive but now accept that those who think in this way resist and get bored by people who constantly say "think positively". I now understand that a realisation of how destructive negative thoughts can be is in itself beneficial.

To quote Patanjali in Yoga Sutras:

"Negative feelings...are damaging to life, whether we act upon them ourselves, or cause or condone them in others. They are born of greed, anger or delusion, and may be slight, moderate, or intense. Their fruit is endless ignorance and suffering. To remember this is to cultivate the opposite".

Making Choices, Seizing Moments

We all have choices in life and the choices faced by those made redundant need to be carefully examined, with the stretching of horizons and the adoption of the right attitude. Then you can go and market yourself with enthusiasm and passion, focused on where you will gain satisfaction, share values and where you can best contribute your skills and experience.

In answer to the question "What do you want to do?" do not answer what someone did recently, "I thought I would be suited for a general management position".

"What sector; industrial or service?" I asked.

"Any".....Kiss of death.....

Clearly they had not focused on what might excite them, where their interests lay and where they could create the enthusiasm. It's actually common sense, but when you have been made redundant it often needs career counselling to bring these thoughts to the surface.

I remember a scene in a film. An old lady sat under the shade of a tree, chatting to her grand-daughter.

"I have always thought of myself as seventeen until the other morning, when I looked in the bathroom mirror, and saw the wizened, wrinkled face of an 86 year old. Where did my life go, I asked myself?"

She turned to the girl; "Seize the moment, my child".

The opportunities created by being forced to adopt the right attitude are as endless for the middle aged redundant individual as they are for the youth of today.

Richard Yates set up The Yellow Palette in 1996, mainly offering leadership and management coaching, amongst other assistance. He is trained in coaching and is a Certified Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Time Line Therapy. www.theyellowpalette.co.uk

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ImageThinking about changing your hair colour? Leading Trichologist, Noon Etienne, tackles some of the myths around colouring Afro hair.

Myth No.1: 'The hair colouring products sold in the supermarket/drug store/chemist are the same as the products used in the salons.'

Noon Etienne: This is not so! The hair colours used in the salon are the professional type where professional strengths are used to achieve the various types of results required, be it semi-permanent colours, permanent colours, streaks, and bleaching. These colours have various strength of activation or need the stylist to mix peroxide with the colours for the desired results.

'The hair colours used in the salon are the professional type where professional strengths are used to achieve the various types of results required.'

Myth No. 2: The product from the drug store is described as a 'rinse' but you need to mix two products together before applying.

Noon Etienne: The process of mixing two products together will indicate that this is not a rinse. This is actually a semi permanent colour; it has a very small percentage of peroxide that opens the cuticle so the colour particles can lodge themselves in the top few layers of the hair.


Myth No. 3: 'I use a natural product on my hair that you just mix with water and then apply.'

Noon Etienne: These products are usually in a powder form; whether it is henna or a Chinese product called begin. Even though these are 'natural' products and in some ways have some good properties, they do eventually cause too much dryness to the hair, which can lead to breakage.

Myth No. 4: 'I coloured my hair dark brown and I can put another colour on it to make it a light brown'

Colour does not lift colour! The colouring process involved depositing colour inside the hair. Now, to get a lighter colour from your darker colour, you would have to get professional help. This would entail having to lift the darker colour off the hair before they could apply the light brown tone you want.

Myth No. 5: 'A home highlight kit is just as good as going to the salon.'

Noon Etienne: Use a home highlight kit and your hair is likely to come out looking and feeling like straw! Highlighting is a process that should not be done at home at all - you should seek professional advice. A lot of commercials make you think that you too can have a beautiful hair colour that leaves your hair in better condition than before. That only works if the hair is already in good condition before you put on the colour!

Noon Etienne is a qualified Trichologist and a specialist in scalp and hair care. She deals with hair loss, alopecia, scaly scalp and dry hair problems. Noon is a Cosmetologist (Beautician and Hair Designer) with over 20 years experience working with all types of hair. Originally from New York City, Noon is now based in London, from where she has built an international client base across the U.K., USA, Africa and the Middle East. Contact Noon at: Noon 4 Hair, 48 Porchester Road, London W2 6ET. Tel: + 44 (0)20 7034 0734, Fax: + 44 (0)20 7692 4657, e-mail: noon.etienne@btconnect.com or noon4truecolors@btconnect.com

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ImageHuman Resources professionals may have to implement redundancies but they are also just as likely to lose their jobs.

In arguably the toughest market for 20 years, Owen Morgan offers advice for HR professionals searching for their next job.

DON'T panic because there's a recession. Most of the rules of job seeking stay the same, whatever the economic climate. It might take you longer to find work, and you might have to be more flexible about the kind of role you will take. But, unless the wolf really is at the door, don’t accept the first offer that comes along if it isn't the right position for you.


DO start making lists What skills do you possess? What are your interests? What work have you particularly enjoyed over the past few years? Why? Taking an objective look at your experience will help to shape your thoughts. Most people don’t give enough thought to their careers and limit themselves by considering only roles that are very similar to their previous one. Professionals who are self-aware about their skills are able to move across a range of different roles throughout their careers.

DO draw up several CVs tailored to the different kinds of roles you're considering. Always start them with a strong statement about who you are, what you've done and what value you can add. This is easiest when you're going for jobs that are similar to your previous one, but it will need more careful thought if you're applying for something different. For example, if you're a resourcing specialist applying for a generalist role, your opening statement might say: "Skilled HR professional with experience of process management, performance evaluation and communication with a wide range of stakeholders." You've avoided overtly labelling yourself as a resourcing specialist in your first sentence, thereby encouraging the recruiter to read further.

DO consider a skills-based CV if you want to make a big change of direction. Break things down: what projects have you been involved in; what people management skills do you have; what financial experience? The "Star" acronym – situation, task, action, result – is useful to bear in mind when you're doing this.

DO network This is probably the most undervalued and underused method of securing a job. Don’t forget all the contacts you have made – the friends whom you haven't seen for a while. A quick chat over a coffee can often lead to opportunities that you probably wouldn’t have uncovered but for your network. Networking is not a talent that all of us possess, so getting some guidance here will help you to improve your skills in the long run.

DO make a plan Stick to a daily routine of research, networking, writing applications and following up leads on the telephone. Set yourself targets and review your progress regularly. Give yourself a few months to find your ideal job and, if that doesn’t work, think more laterally.

DO stay fit Keeping physically active, even it's simply going out for a brisk walk every day, will help you to maintain a sense of well-being. It will keep your mind clear and give you time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

DO seek financial advice Having been awarded a lump-sum redundancy payment, many people consider paying off a chunk of their mortgage. But don't be hasty. There may be more effective ways to manage your money.

DON'T enforce a rigid austerity plan on your family This will make the impact of losing your job harder for everyone to handle. By all means be sensible with money and budget accordingly, but don't ban all treats.

DO try to stay positive Many thousands of people lose their jobs each year and most go on to forge interesting and rewarding careers. Even in a recession, there are good jobs to be had.

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ImageDon't get caught out at a job interview – prepare for some of these tough questions and make your next interview the best one ever!

Tough Interview Question 1: "Tell me about yourself"

While this is often a question that strikes terror into the hearts of candidates, you should see this as an opportunity to build rapport with the interviewer and to show them a little of who you are.

Give a brief summary of your career in chronological order, highlighting the companies you have worked for and some of the positions that you held. Bearing in mind the skills that you want to demonstrate to the interviewer, include one or two major achievements that illustrate these. If you are still early in your career, include more information about academic or extra-curricular activities that show these skills.

You should keep your answer to three minutes at most and stick to the highlights – the interviewer will ask you for more detail if they want it. Keep your tone lively to hold their attention and don't get sidetracked.

Tough Interview Question 2: "What do you believe you would bring to this role?"

If you haven't done your homework about the company and the job role, this is where you might just as well get up and leave.

Assuming you have taken the time to find out what you need to know, you can use this question to demonstrate what you have learned about the company and the job in question. Making reference to the organisation's products, markets, strategy and competition, you should explain where and how your skills and experience will add value. Show the interviewer why you are motivated to join their firm and what they will gain by taking you on board.

Tough Interview Question 3: "What are your weaknesses?"

This question sometimes comes disguised as 'What would your team/manager say are your weaknesses?' Usually, this question is an attempt by the interviewer to see how self-aware you are and how you address gaps in your competence.

Be honest but also be aware that this is not the place to admit to a bad character trait or confess to ignorance about a skill that is critical to the job you are after! Pick on something that is not key to the job and show how you are working towards improving the weakness; it is often better to pick on a skill that you can learn fairly easily or are already in the process of improving.

Tough Interview Question 4: "Why did you leave your last job?"

Every employer is going to want to know why you left your job or why you are planning to move on. Make sure you prepare your leaving story carefully; be honest and factual, but brief, in your reply and move the focus of your response to the future and the kind of opportunity you are now seeking. Remember that an employer will ask for a reference and will find out if you are not being completely honest.

Every employer is going to want to know why you left your job or why you are planning to move on.

If your reason for leaving was due to redundancy, de-personalise your response – 'the role I was in was no longer needed by the company'/'my position was one of a number that were no longer viable for the company's new direction' – and stick to the facts.

Don't be critical of your last employer and instead show your ability to move on and to be professional. Turn your answer around to highlight the skills and experience that the role gave you. This may give you the chance to explain your desire to move on to more challenging opportunities.

Tough Interview Question 5: What are your salary expectations?

This is the question that's always best avoided until you actually have a job offer in front of you, but this might not always be possible! Before you go into the interview, it is useful to have some idea of the salary and/or package that you would ideally want – and how far you are prepared to compromise. You can then state the salary range that you would expect, showing that you can be flexible. Consider the whole package on offer and not just the base salary as this can make a major difference in terms of your total take-home income.

If you can't postpone salary negotiations until a firm offer has been made, you should do some research to find out comparable salaries for the job role and the industry that you are going after. Some job sites provide salary checking information and reviewing the kind of salaries on offer for similar jobs will also give you an idea of the salary ranges.

Another approach is to reply by asking what the normal salary or salary range is for the role in question. While not dismissing the issue of compensation, keep the focus on the fact that you see this job as a wonderful opportunity to add value to the company and to progress your career.

Need some help to prepare for interviews? Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced careers coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you make the right impact at interview.

Contact us now to discuss your needs: careers@reconnectafrica.com

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ImageWhat's wrong with relaxing your hair? Leading Trichologist, Noon Etienne, examines some of the myths around relaxing hair and offers some advice on how to make relaxing work for you.

Myth No.1: 'I can relax my hair and braid it the next day'

Noon Etienne: No, ladies! The newly processed hair is in a fragile state and you would need to wait at least 4 weeks before you can braid it.

Myth No. 2: 'I can take my hair out of braids or weaves and put a relaxer on it the same day or the next day'

Noon Etienne: This is totally wrong! To get the best results, you need to remove the braids and treat the hair with a reconstructive, moisturizing treatment. Then you should wait for at least one to two weeks before relaxing or retouching the roots.

Myth No. 3: 'I can use a permanent colour on my hair and then put a relaxer on it the next week'.

Noon Etienne: This is totally the wrong way around. The correct sequence is to relax the hair and then you can apply a rinse or semi permanent colour the same day - once you have neutralised and treated the hair.

A permanent colour would not be recommended after having a relaxer process on the same day because the scalp would not be able to with stand the hydrogen peroxide that is found in the permanent colour – in other words, it will sting or burn the scalp!

To get the best results, you need to remove the braids and treat the hair with a reconstructive, moisturizing treatment.

Myth No. 4: 'My hair is totally natural, so I don't need to put any treatment on it before relaxing it'

Noon Etienne: Well, ladies, that is wrong thinking! Even though your hair is natural, you still need to prepare your hair for the chemical process to 'take' correctly.

When the hair is not at its best, the chemical will not relax the hair and may even cause damage to your hair, which will result in breakage in some areas. You should be taking good care of your natural hair with reconstructive, moisturizing treatments every week or two, then your hair will have the strength that it needs for the breakdown process of a relaxer.

Myth No. 5: 'I can put a no-lye relaxer on and leave it for more than one hour!'

Noon Etienne: This is what I call the "Oh, it's not burning yet" attitude –does it sound familiar, ladies? Well, something you need to know about ‘No-Lye relaxers’ is that it is "the biggest Lie in the hairdressing industry"

Of course there are chemicals in the relaxer! There are several types of Lye chemicals - Sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide and guanidine. Any of the relaxer kits that you purchase off-the-shelf would contain one of the latter thee ingredients and usually involve mixing a cream and a lotion together for the chemical to be activated. Even though this type of relaxer does not burn, it does not mean "you can leave it on until you feel the burn"! You will end up over-processing your hair, causing it to lose elasticity, moisture and strength.

Noon Etienne is a qualified Trichologist and a specialist in scalp and hair care. She deals with hair loss, alopecia, scaly scalp and dry hair problems. Noon is a Cosmetologist (Beautician and Hair Designer) with over 20 years experience working with all types of hair. Originally from New York City, Noon is now based in London, from where she has built an international client base across the U.K., USA, Africa and the Middle East. Contact Noon at: Noon 4 Hair, 48 Porchester Road, London W2 6ET. Tel: + 44 (0)20 7034 0734, Fax: + 44 (0)20 7692 4657, e-mail: noon.etienne@btconnect.com or noon4truecolors@btconnect.com
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Image10 Ways to Bludgeon People into Agreeing with You (sometimes known as 'Negotiation')

Trainer Lin Sagovsky offers some tongue-in-cheek advice on the 10 best ways to sabotage a successful negotiation.

    1. Remember this is all about winning - and nothing to do with whether or not people like you. So be prepared with as many clever arguments as possible. However tenuous the point, it's very important to be able to contradict everything the opposition says to you on principle.
    2. Determination is better than flexibility, every time. Whatever your strategy, stick to it no matter what.
    3. Don't give away any information of any description. And don't ask any questions. You're in there to tell them what they ought to accept: like it or lump it.

However tenuous the point, it's very important to be able to contradict everything the opposition says to you on principle.

    1. Tell them yours is a better deal by far than they'd get anywhere else, so they'd better hurry up and say yes while you're still in a good mood. Wagging a finger across the table at the same time will make your position even clearer.
  1. Never talk about 'I' or 'we'. Use the passive or second person ('you'), e.g. 'It's obvious to anyone', or 'Surely you must see that...' Be sure to avoid saying things like: 'I'd like to explain' or 'How can we move this forward?'
  2. Be constantly suspicious. Whatever they say, they're bound to be lying.
  3. If they say something you think is unfair, protest loudly and emotionally.
  4. Never allow silence in the room. When you name your price, carry on talking until they say yes.
  5. If you're part of a team of negotiators, decide who's the leader and let that person do all the talking. The rest are only there to bolster up the show of power on your side.
  6. Remember that some things are just non-negotiable.
Lin Sagovsky runs Play4Real (http://www.play4real.co.uk/) and has been using her background as a professional actor, voiceover and writer for over twenty years to facilitate learning and development in business in creative ways.
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ImageTrainer Veronica Broome suggests seven steps that organisations can take, even during an economic downturn, to keep good clients and attract new ones.

In a recession, businesses selling training and coaching services to other businesses face huge challenges to get customers to continue investing in staff as a way of increasing business success.

An economic downturn does present opportunities for some businesses as they expand their products and services to a wider range of customers. Businesses are faced with the uphill task of retaining customers and attracting new ones cannot rely on a bruised and demoralised sales and marketing teams.

What they need are simple and effective actions to create an innovative and energised working environment. This article summarises seven steps organisations can take to strengthen relationships with current customers even as they attract new ones.

An economic downturn does present opportunities for some businesses as they expand their products and services.

Whether you call it recession, economic downturn or financial crisis, there is no doubt that events over recent months have caused major concern and severe upheaval for many in business. For some, however, it has been an opportunity to expand their products and services to a wider range of customers. In contrast, many business owners and managers have faced the huge challenge of how to keep current customers, rather that increasing the search for new ones.

Training and coaching services are often the first budget items to be withdrawn as organisations are reluctant to spend when their assessment on the return on investment is not easy to calculate. Sales trainers, however, are often busy during this time as organisations focus on how their sales and marketing teams can hit even higher targets.

After that initial blitz, the situation returns to what it was pre-sales training and, even worse, a weary sales force with staff more concerned about who will be the first ones to be asked to leave. There is an alternative. Organisations can choose to strengthen relationships with current customers even as they attract new ones.

Here are seven steps you can take to ensure you retain existing customers, even as you attract news ones:

  1. Improve customer service. Treat everyone as a valued customer (internal and external). It pays dividends with motivated staff and loyal customers. Loyal customers provide referrals.
  2. Repackage your services or products to include a menu reflecting the varied needs of clients. Clients will benefit by getting greater value for money.
  3. Offer post-sale support, e.g., free advice, instead of selling another 'solution' immediately.
  4. Reward client loyalty –provide free reports or product samples.
  5. Be flexible. Make it easier for clients to do business with you. Go to them, rather than having them come to you.
  6. Provide incentives for new clients, discounts for multiple purchases.
  7. Invest in staff training, especially in improving customer service and innovative approaches to winning new clients.

Difficult economic climate calls for creative solutions and innovative approaches and repositioning of businesses. Businesses offering creative and flexible solutions and responding quickly to opportunities will survive and prosper in the current financial crisis.

© 2009 Veronica Broomes. www.executive-solutions.co.uk. For more useful free tips on public speaking, go online to www.executive-solutions.co.uk where Veronica Broomes shares numerous useful tips and quotations, or sign up to her blog at http://executive-solutions.blogspot.com/
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ImageIn the midst of weak economies and rising job cuts, it has never been more important to have a plan for your career than it is today.

Here are five tips to help you deal with the realities of a tight job market.

1. Invest in your Education

If you have just finished with one degree, it may not seem particularly appealing to return to University or college to study for yet another. But, in a climate where there is stiff competition for fewer jobs as well as greater numbers of first degree graduates for employers to choose from, a Master's degree or a professional qualification will give you an edge when you do go job hunting.

While college fees and other costs can be daunting, doing some research could lead you to opportunities for grants and scholarships to ease the financial burden. Investigate all options and negotiate with your chosen institution to identify flexible approaches to paying your tuition costs.

2. Renovate your CV

To make an immediate impact with recruiters and employers, whether you are a new graduate or an experienced professional, you must have a powerful CV or resume. Don’t be content to add your latest job description to your old CV – this will not serve you well! The simple truth is that there is no such thing as having one CV. Each time you apply for a job you should tailor your application to make sure that you are highlighting the skills and experience needed for that particular role.

Writing a good CV takes time and careful analysis so throw away your tired old CV and write a new one that really highlights who you are today. A high-impact CV is one that shows your skills sets and the talents that you can bring to an employer to help them deliver their business goals.

For more advice on writing a CV, take a look at this advice from our Careers Coach or contact us to arrange a CV writing session.

3. Invest in an Internship or Overseas Experience

While we would all like to be paid for the work we do, an internship can offer you a great way to build your skills and increase your experience and to create or extend your professional network in your chosen field.

For a new graduate or someone seeking a career change, a well placed internship will be a worthwhile investment of your time and will help you reap greater dividends further down the line. Taking an unpaid role when money is tight is a challenge and you will need to be resourceful in terms of finding ways to make additional money in the short term.

Working overseas is another way to gain invaluable hands-on experience and there are a number of overseas voluntary programmes that offer not only the opportunity to experience working in a different culture, but that also provide accommodation and a financial stipend.

While we would all like to be paid for the work we do; for a new graduate or someone seeking a career change, a well placed internship will be a worthwhile investment of your time.

4. Strengthen Your Networks

During economic downturns and difficult job markets, having a wide and powerful network is going to be crucial to getting the job you want. Enlist your contacts, starting with your family and friends, and move on to include your professors, alumni and any former work colleagues. The rise of online networking also means that using networks such as LinkedIn can help you find people who work in the field you are targeting. Join relevant professional networks and build up your contacts list by attending industry events, careers fairs and other venues where you can mix with and meet the right people.

Making effective use of your networks will give you a chance to get in front of the people you need to impress. Bear in mind, however, that the key to leveraging your network is how well you articulate your message to your contacts. What are your areas of interest and what experience or expertise are you bringing to this? What type of job role are you looking for and how flexible are you about possible opportunities? The more specific you can be when you interact with your network, the more effective your contacts can be when putting you in touch with the right people or opportunities.

For more tips on networking, take a look at this article from a previous issue of ReConnect Africa.

5. Be Flexible

In a tough employment market, it is vital to be flexible and to look positively at every opportunity that comes your way. While what is on offer may not appear to be your ideal job, ask yourself if it will give you the chance to learn new skills that will be helpful for the job you really want or if it will put you inside an organisation that offers the chance of a lateral move in due course?

However lowly the position might seem, working hard and making a positive impact will get you noticed and moving up the ladder. Being flexible and showing yourself to be a team player will make you an extremely attractive proposition to an employer, while starting at the bottom can give you a great understanding of how the business works at all levels, making you a more informed and empathetic leader as you progress in your career.

Finally, however tough it looks out there, stay focused, show a positive attitude and keep your eyes firmly fixed on your ultimate career objective!

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ImageIn a challenging job market, having great interview skills will make all the difference.

If you dread the thought of them, beat the interview blues by following these simple steps to getting that great job!

1. Do Your Homework

There is simply no short-cut when it comes to making the right impact at interview. You need to take time to research the company that you are about to meet. Before you arrive for your meeting, you should have a good understanding of what the business does, who its key clients are and some idea of the market in which it is operating.

Start with a detailed look at the company’s website and search the internet for recent news about the company and its business performance. Your objective is to find a company that is on the way up, not on the way down!

Doing your research will help you find information that will help you decide whether you are interested in the company as well as offering you important data that you can refer to during the interview.

2. Read your CV!

You may think you know all about yourself but you should also prepare by reading through your CV or the application form that you sent in. This will remind you of what you said so that you remain consistent in your responses.

Refresh your mind about the companies that you have worked for and projects and other achievements that you cite on your CV. There’s no point listing your successes if you can’t remember the details when you are asked!

3. Look the Part

How you look will have a much more immediate impact on an interviewer than what you say. Research shows that 55% of what we feel about a person is based on their appearance and on the non-verbal communication that receive from them.

An interviewer will be assessing not just your technical skills and experience but also how well you are likely to represent the firm and, as the saying goes, ‘clothes maketh the man’.

Even if the organisation is one where casual clothes are the norm, when it comes to an interview you should aim to look smart and professional. Keep an eye on the colours you choose to wear and stick to clothes and jewellery that are clean, well-tailored and understated. You want the interviewer to focus on you and not to be distracted by what you are wearing.

Dress for the job you want and you will have a far better chance of convincing someone that, given the opportunity, you will be capable of delivering.

4. Mind your Language

Bearing in mind that body language (i.e. non-verbal communication) has such a big impact in terms of how we are perceived, try and stay aware of how what your body is saying.ImageEven if you don’t feel it, appear confident from the first interaction with your interviewer. A friendly and professional greeting coupled with a firm handshake will set the tone for a positive encounter.

Sit in a way that shows you feel comfortable and, if possible, aim to ‘mirror’ the position of the interviewer. Control any urges to play with your hair or tap a pen while you are speaking and try and maintain good eye contact and a measured tone.

Speak clearly and slow your pace down if you tend to speak quickly (particularly if you have a foreign accent) so that you can make yourself understand. Show your enthusiasm for the company and the job – offers are more likely to be made to people who demonstrate that they are hungry for the opportunity.

Keep your answers brief and concise. Stick to the point when answering questions – and don’t ramble. Unless you are asked to give more details, limit your answers to two to three minutes per question. Practice by timing yourself to see how long it takes you to fully answer a question.

Unless you’re interviewing for another role in your company or department and you are absolutely sure that everyone understands what you mean, avoid jargon. It stops you being understood and is an irritant to an interviewer.

5. Spell out your Successes

Having good body language is no substitute if your verbal skills are lacking - think about why the company is hiring for the role. Your research and a thorough analysis of the job vacancy will have told you which skills and experience the organisation is looking for.

With that in mind, your job at the interview is to comfortably and confidently articulate your strengths. Explain how your strengths relate to the job and to the company’s or department’s goals and how they might benefit this employer. Find ways to keep repeating your strengths so they will be remembered and support this with quantifiable accomplishments so that they are more likely be believed.

Having good body language is no substitute if your verbal skills are lacking - think about why the company is hiring for the role.

Many organisations will interview based on competencies – the skills and behaviour needed for a job, rather than going through your specific experience. This approach needs you to answer answers based upon your actual experience rather than your theoretical opinions. By thinking about the competencies or skills needed for the job you are after, you can prepare specific examples of past experiences which indicate how you have demonstrated the behaviour or used the skill.

Prepare a number of ‘success stories’ that you can use to demonstrate a range of competencies. It can also help to make a list of your skills and key assets and to identify from past jobs one or two instances when you used those skills successfully.

6. Ask the Right Questions

Interviews are a two-way street and you should use the opportunity to ask questions about the job on offer and about the company.

The current economic climate may be creating new challenges for the company and you should be aware of and comfortable about any changes in direction, market or service lines that may be coming up.

Good questions need advance planning and, in the same way you should plan on how to answer questions, develop some specific questions that you want to ask and look for opportunities to ask them during the interview.

Conventional wisdom would always recommend that you stay away from asking about salary and benefits until an offer is on the table. If the interviewer tries to press you on your salary expectations, focus instead on talking about the opportunities that you believe the job will offer you.

Help the interviewer to maintain a conversational flow by creating a dialogue instead of a monologue from either party. Occasionally use feedback questions at the end of your answers and let the tone of your voice create a conversational interchange between you and the interviewer.

7. Follow up!

Having made the effort to impress, don’t forget to follow up in a professional way. If you have been asked for any additional information, make a note and do it immediately.

Whenever possible, prepare and send a brief, concise thank you e-mail or letter. Re-state your skills and stress what you can do for the company. In a tight contest between good candidates, the candidate that appears the most enthusiastic about the job is more likely to be selected.

Help the interviewer to maintain a conversational flow by creating a dialogue instead of a monologue from either party.

To help you in future interviews, as soon as possible after an interview make some brief notes for yourself about your performance (and ask for feedback from the recruiter later if you were not successful).

Think about your attitude and the way you answered the questions. Did you ask questions to get the information you needed? What might you do differently next time? No interview is wasted if you use the opportunity to learn and to improve the skills that will help you get the job that you really want.

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ImageIf you think your qualifications are enough to take you to the top, think again. Here are 6 (maybe not so) easy ways to really make an impact at work!

No matter how hard you worked for your degree, diploma or doctorate, what will make the difference in how far and how fast you climb the corporate ladder is your ability to make an impact. In other words, what will really make you stand out from the competition is your ability to use your personality to motivate people, inspire a team, communicate effectively and – of course - look the part!

Personal impact is about what you bring into a room and what others read from that. Think about the people you have met who are able to command attention simply by the way they carry themselves, speak and engage an audience. What is it that makes certain people appear confident and able to draws others to them?

Personal impact is about what you bring into a room and what others read from that.

Just as a commercial company strategically develops a brand to make it stand out in the marketplace, you should be developing your own personal brand that will make you first choice when it comes to your professional career.

Here are some useful tips to help you take that step up the ladder.

1. Make your Image Matter

Just because the expression 'you don't get a second chance to make a first impression' has become a bit of a cliché, doesnt make it wrong. We live in an image-conscious society where perceptions count and trying to change negative impressions can be very difficult once someone has made a judgement about you.

>Studies have shown that what we see accounts for about 55% of the feelings that we have about another person – and how they feel about us. By understanding what you are saying about yourself through your appearance and your body language, you can strategically manage your visual impact.

Your personal brand will be established first of all by your image, so before jumping into whatever clothes happen to be within your reach each morning, consider what attitude your image is reflecting to those in charge and remember that people will take you at your own estimation. Clean, well-tailored clothes will reflect a well-groomed professional person, so avoid loud colours, large, bright jewellery and other personal expressions of style and remember that when you are at work, you are representing those who are paying for your time. Dress for the job you want - not the job you have - and never think that it doesnt matter how you look.

Be aware of your body language and the impact that this makes on other peoples perception of you. An upright posture, firm handshake, warm smile and good eye contact when speaking to others sends the message that you are a professional and can confidently handle any situation.

2. Be a Team Player

To make an impact at work, you have to be able to work effectively with your colleagues. If you are part of a team, this means not just doing your share of any assigned projects, but also delivering any work given to you on time and to a consistently high standard so that you can be seen as reliable and dependable.

Aim to inspire those you work with by offering and sharing ideas and by being proactive. Listen to your colleagues' ideas and give positive and respectful feedback rather than purely negative comments, even if you don't agree with their position. For example, 'That's an interesting idea' is a much more positive response than 'Don't talk rubbish – that would never work!'

Be supportive and share your skills with others in the team. Not only will it build a bank of goodwill for you when you need help, it will also show you to be a leader and a natural coach – an essential skill for getting ahead today.

Dress for the job you want - not the job you have - and never think that it doesn't matter how you look.

3. Manage your Time

Being late for work or for important meetings will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. Think about how you manage time and the impact this makes on your colleagues and manager.

With the range of gadgets and other electronic tools on the market today, there is no excuse for being late, missing deadlines or for forgetting an important meeting. Getting your timekeeping right means prioritizing between what is urgent and what is important.

If you report to more than one person, communicate conflicting priorities or delays to manage your managers or colleagues expectations. Even if you dont own a Blackberry, you can still use pen and paper to write a 'To Do list or use your diary to help you manage time.

4. Check Your Attitude

Making an impact isnt simply about having the skill – its also about showing the will to get things done. This means showing leadership by taking responsibility and having a 'can do not a 'must I do? attitude. People will remember you for taking responsibility when, instead of saying 'its not my job, you are the one who says 'let me find out who can help you.

Dealing with people at work isnt always easy but it is important to keep control of your emotions. Try to remember when you have to deal with difficult people – whether these are customers or colleagues – that when you are at work, its business, not personal. Keep any conflicts in perspective and aim to find a resolution that allows a win/win situation for all concerned.

Being shy and retiring at work will not make the kind of impact you need to get ahead. Be positive about what you accomplish and learn to talk up your achievements in a clear and confident way. Take credit for what you do but remember to share the credit with others in your team who helped you.

Avoid getting sucked into office politics and, however tempting it may sometimes be, keep your ethics and integrity intact, even when others are losing theirs. There are no short cuts when it comes to planning a long-term strategy and while it can take a long time to build a good quality personal brand, it takes a very short time to lose it.

Being late for work or for important meetings will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

Be assertive, not aggressive when dealing with others at work. Being assertive means communicating what you want and need to your colleagues clearly and respectfully and treating people with the respect that you would like to be given. Be assertive by learning how to say 'no when it is appropriate and setting clear boundaries so that everyone knows where they stand.

5. Make the Most of Mentors and Networks

Navigating the maze of office etiquette and understanding the unwritten rules of different corporate cultures can be incredibly difficult. A mentor can help you understand the norms of your workplace, particularly when you are fairly new to a company.

Finding someone inside or outside your organisation from whose experiences you can learn something can be critical to your success in making a positive impact. Think about a mentor who has the skills or qualities that you would like to model yourself on and dont restrict your options to someone who looks like you. Quite often, having a mentor with a different ethnic background or gender to you can help you see other points of view and provide you with different experiences that will be of help to you.

When you do find a mentor, treat the relationship with respect. Follow through with any assignments that you are given and be ready to take advice when its offered without being defensive.

Another critical way to make an impact is through networking. Whether we like it or not, the harsh reality in any society is that its not always what you know but who you know. Understanding why and how to network is one of the most critical of the new skills that we need to apply at work.

Networking can be for business or social reasons and it is important to set goals for your networking and to clarify what you want to achieve. Think about where and how you can most benefit from making new contacts and the types of people in your company or your industry that would be most helpful to you. List your contacts and highlight the best people to help you towards achieving your goals. Get involved in your company or industry networks, attend events and stay in touch with your new contacts on a regular basis.

Navigating the maze of office etiquette and understanding the unwritten rules of different corporate cultures can be incredibly difficult.

But do keep in mind that networking is a two-way street and while building your contacts, always look for ways to offer support to others as well.

6. Keep Challenging Yourself

Just doing what you have to do may see you get by, but is unlikely to help you get ahead. Making a success of your career is not an easy option and it calls for continuous personal and professional development.

You can increase your knowledge of your companys business and widen your network internally by getting involved in projects outside your immediate job description. Consider mentoring others in a more junior role to you; not only will this help improve your management skills, it will also help to demonstrate your leadership potential.

To make an impact at work, you need to be proactive and to keep looking for opportunities to progress. You need to be persistent; to take strategic risks and eventually, you need to also be smart enough to know when to move on.

Go out and make an impact!

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ImageCan’t get promoted? A new report reveals how the role of language and ethnicity in interviews contribute to ‘enduring and intangible’ barriers for ethnic minority groups to progress into management positions.

’Talking like a manager: promotion interviews, language and ethnicity’ is a report by Celia Roberts, Sarah Campbell and Yvonne Robinson which aims to identify some of the wider organisational cultures and practices which may act as a barrier to promotion.

The research, which was carried out by Kings College, London on behalf of the UK Department for Work and Pensions, is a follow-up to the previous Talk on trial study which examined the role of language and ethnicity in selection interviews for low-paid jobs.

The Linguistic Penalty

Talking like a manager confirms the earlier finding that there is a 'linguistic penalty' in promotion interviews against those ethnic minority candidates who were born abroad. First generation ethnic minority candidates fared less well than other candidates in interviews.

‘While the requirements of the interview produce challenges for most candidates, its linguistic and cultural demands disadvantage this group disproportionately,’ said the researchers. Despite well-meaning attempts to design objective and fair interviews, the taken-for-granted cultural and linguistic norms of the job interview disadvantage this group.

There is a 'linguistic penalty' in promotion interviews against those ethnic minority candidates who were born abroad.

The report also highlighted a lack of shared understanding about the purpose of the interview and expected responses which lead to frequent misalignments between interviewer and candidate. This, said the authors, can lead to a negative dynamic in which interviewers' modes of questioning serve to reinforce an initial, negative impression.


The study used a mix-method approach including discourse analysis of promotion interviews from three companies and case studies of two companies using semi-structured interviews.

Twenty-two promotion and selection interviews were video or audio recorded and analysed using an interactional discourse analysis approach. The researchers also conducted brief pre- and post-interviews with candidates; decision-making sessions were observed and interviewers gave feedback on recorded interviews. In the two case study organisations, sixty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted and DVD trialling sessions were audio recorded and analysed using an interpretive discourse analysis approach.

Key findings

The research showed that there are persistent but intangible barriers to ethnic minority groups progressing into management positions. While some of these relate to specific practices, such as the interview itself, others can only be overcome if organisations address the more general issues of race equality that affect satisfaction and morale.

While formal procedures in place in organisations are a necessary element in overcoming or preventing barriers to progression for ethnic minority groups, they are not, in themselves, enough.

The processes of socialisation with managers that would help them to ‘talk like a manager’ as one of the many factors that demotivate staff from applying for promotion.

For example, the researchers identified the processes of socialisation with managers that would help them to ‘talk like a manager’ as one of the many factors that demotivate staff from applying for promotion or inhibit their access to social networks and social capital.

In the same way, formal procedures for training in diversity and interviewing skills, while giving the appearance of objectivity, do not always engage with the detailed processes of the job interview or scrutinise them for the potential they have for indirect discrimination.

Interviews are ‘a Paradox’

In terms of diversity and equality, the selection interview is still what the researchers call ‘a paradox’. While presented as an objective, transparent and institutionally defensible procedure, more detailed analysis shows that it is a distinctly human and subjective process in which candidates are sorted primarily on the basis of their personality.

The culture shock of the interview, particularly for ethnic minority candidates born abroad, is rarely acknowledged, while talk of respecting differences is hard to reconcile with the interview’s culturally determined criteria.

The issues are similar across all levels of jobs, says the report, although for promotion and management interviews, there is greater attention paid to displaying ‘a management persona’.

‘The largely hidden demands on candidates to talk in an institutionally credible style are similar in both low-paid and management interviews. The competency frameworks are similar in both levels of interviews as are the expectations to align to the interviewers and to the particular blend of work talk, analytic talk and more personal talk which comprises the ‘linguistic capital’ expected in job interviews.’

The general design of interviews, says the report, creates a persistent barrier to those who have less access to and experience of the communicative style and knowledge that they need to succeed at interview.

Good Practices are Closing the Gap

On a more positive note, the research also found many good practices, both informal and formal, that were closing the gap between official statements and the reality of some persistent disadvantage.

ImageHowever, they noted, there were still institutional norms and local attitudes that had the potential to negatively affect ethnic minority progression.

In its recommendations, the researchers have highlighted the need for formal procedures such as ethnic monitoring to create fairness in promotion.

Many of the identified good practices such as language training, mentoring, preparation and support for the interview and open systems of communication are transferable to any organisation where ethnic minority groups are not progressing into management posts, they conclude.

Organisations also need to consider the gaps between formal procedures and local practices. Organisations should introduce more formal and wide-ranging systems for mentoring those who are considering, or might consider promotion. Once these are in place, mentors can better develop extensive and informal relations with mentees so that the latter can be given the opportunity to be socialised into ways of talking like a manager and into the specific linguistic/cultural demands of the competence based interview.

Organisations need to recognise that the management selection interview is a highly culturally-specific event, reflecting the normative values and styles of the majority ethnic organisational culture. The researchers suggest dispensing with the interview or re-weighting it in relation to other assessment centre activities.

Recognising the Differences for Those Born Abroad

Interviewers should be trained for a better awareness of the dangers of ethnic minority candidates’ perceived discrimination which can occur because of the gap between their perceptions of their performance and how they were rated by interviewers. The researchers recommend that interviewers should also be given a more detailed awareness on the difficulties that a competency-based interview presents to candidates, particularly those born abroad.

Candidates born abroad should also be given more advice on the purpose and conduct of the interview.

For interviews with candidates born abroad, the researchers recommend that the focus should be on differences in communicative style and the implicit expectations of the interview. This involves finding a middle way between discretion and display, supporting claims with evidence and managing the social relationships of the interview.

Candidates born abroad should also be given more advice on the purpose and conduct of the interview. While interviewers look for a holistic picture of the candidate through the style in which they answer mainly competency-based questions, the research showed that candidates born abroad expect more opportunity to talk explicitly about their different life experiences.

To help individuals improve their interview skills, the research also recommends that specific feedback should be given to unsuccessful candidates on the detailed reasons for their lack of success.

’Talking like a manager: promotion interviews, language and ethnicity’. Celia Roberts, Sarah Campbell and Yvonne Robinson. Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No 510.

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ImageIf you see networking as something you simply can’t do, career coach Jane Adshead-Grant's tips will help you transform the way you make contacts and move ahead in your career.

Many of us assume networking is an activity we engage in only when we seek a new job. It is important at this time; however we encourage you to network throughout your career on an ongoing basis. In this article, we share our thoughts on networking, its importance and benefits, and some tips to get you started.

What is Networking?

Many believe it is asking others to help you find a new role. Networking, quite simply, is an exchange of information between two people. Networking is mutually beneficial for those involved. The key is to have a clear intention for the purpose of your networking conversation.

For example, it may be that you are seeking information about a new job opportunity you are interested in and therefore you will network with someone who can provide this information. At the same time, as we have described, you will also offer information to this person.

Why is Networking Important?

Research* has shown how women who have developed strong networks experience greater success. They achieve this through developing relationships both across and outside their organisation.

What are the Benefits of Networking?

Having a strong network can more effectively facilitate:

  • Moving roles internally
  • Finding a new role externally
  • Gaining new opportunities for personal development
  • Attaining flexible working arrangements
  • Support with childcare challenges
  • Acquiring information to help our decision making
  • Offering insights from experience and knowledge of others
What are the Techniques for Networking?

The first is to correct any thinking errors that we may not be very good at it. Remember, networking is an exchange of information, it is a conversation. Below are some tips to get you started:

  • Be clear on your intention or outcome for the networking conversation
  • Articulate what it is you want from the conversation
  • Share your purpose for the networking conversation
  • Offer what you think may be a useful exchange, or if you don’t know, ask
  • If appropriate, share how you think you could add value to the person with whom you are networking

As you begin to develop your network, consider who is in your network already; colleagues, boss, individuals with in the senior team, previous boss, friends, family, community network.

Research* has shown how women who have developed strong networks experience greater success. They achieve this through developing relationships both across and outside their organisation.

When you are clear on what you want from a networking conversation, consider who might be the best person to assist you with what you want. It may be that the person you engage with initially recommends that you speak with someone else. This automatically adds to your network.

Therefore, as you begin the process, start with no more than two or three contacts. These contacts may refer you to others and very quickly your network increases. It is important to maintain your network. This does not have to be an arduous process, it is suggested that you make contact two or three times a year, updating your specific network contacts on where you are and what you are doing now.

A case study: Network that supported new Childcare Arrangements

Susan worked 4 days a week. She needed to revisit her childcare options as her eldest child would soon be starting school.

Through Susan’s external network, she began to gain information and experiences from others about various alternative childcare options. One conversation led Susan to making contact with one of the nursery nannies who was on maternity leave to enquire whether she would be interested in working for 4 days a week, looking after Susan’s two girls. The nursery nanny accepted the job which was mutually beneficial as Susan was happy for the nanny to bring her 6 month old baby whilst taking care of her two elder daughters.

A case study: Network that supported Flexible Working Arrangements

Beverly wanted to return to work with flexible working arrangements, a 4 day week with one day working from home. During her maternity leave Beverly had submitted a strong business case as to how this could work.

Unfortunately her manager, who felt under-resourced and stretched, turned down her request. Beverly however had developed a strong internal network within the organisation and got in touch with one of her network contacts. She asked for their help in obtaining the flexible working arrangements. This contact was a senior manager and, with his influence, was able to support her in her request which was later accepted.

The line manager apologised for overlooking her request and recognised that he had not given it sufficient attention due to the pressure he was experiencing. This case study illustrates the benefit of having a strong networking internally and how capitalising on the seniority of a contact can be beneficial.

Reference: Research conducted by Boris Groysberg, Assistant professor at Harvard Business School, Boston, HBR Article: How star women build portable skills, February 2008

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ImageTips for Telephone Interviews

If you are facing a telephone interview, here a few tips from leading careers guru Peter Cobbe on how to make the most of this opportunity to win your dream job.

The key to having a successful phone interview might be to remember - it's an interview. Treat it as you would any important business call, wherever you happen to be.

  • Be on time: Phone interviews are scheduled by appointment, so don't treat it any differently than an in-person interview.
  • Select a quiet place: No barking dogs, no kids in the background. You want silence and privacy. Close the door to the room, answer the phone yourself and wear a headset if possible so your hands are free to take notes. Shut down your e-mail or anything else that will distract you.
  • Prepare some crib sheets: One advantage to phone interviews is you can have information in front of you. If you don't know the names of the interviewers in advance, write them down as they are given to you and make a note to help you recognise their voice. For example, Mr. Jones has a high pitched voice, or sounds like your Uncle Bill.
  • Have a print-out of your resume and your experienced-based stories/vignettes in front of you in large type, so you can refer to them.
“No barking dogs, no kids in the background….. You want silence and privacy.”
  • Do your homework: Study the job description and the company's Web site. By doing so, you can anticipate some of the questions you'll be asked, and you'll be able to customise your examples and vignettes.
  • Smile: Okay, it's corny, but there's a reason everyone suggests it: It works. Stand up if it will help you transfer more energy into your voice, and try putting a mirror on the wall in front of you. To prepare, role play with a friend or your spouse and try recording your voice to see how you sound.
  • Speak clearly and not too quickly: Remember that on most conference lines, one person cuts out if two people speak at once. So always wait a second before you start speaking to make certain the other person has finished.
  • Listen: Connections can be challenging and the interviewer who's the furthest away from the speaker phone can be hard to hear. Focus on what you're being asked and request clarification if you're uncertain. It's always good to start your response by addressing the questioning interviewer by first name. If you're not sure who asked the question, identify them first before responding.
  • Prepare some questions: Don't focus on compensation and benefits. Ask about the company, its performance expectations, and the culture. In other words, show interest! Also be sure to close by saying you're interested in taking the next step and asking if there's anything else you can provide.
  • Obtain the contact information and titles for the interviewers and send each a follow-up note or e-mail as soon as the interview concludes.
  • Because most phone interviews focus on screening a candidate for their knowledge, it's important to be ready to articulate your expertise clearly and succinctly, but not curtly. Avoid 'ums' and 'ahs' because those bad speech habits have a tendency to magnify when you're speaking over the telephone.

Finally: Although many candidates don't like phone interviews, in some respects they're fairer than in-person meetings because the candidates aren't judged on their appearance, just their competency. So, in that sense, phone interviews are truly equal!

An accredited Career Coach, Peter Cobbe holds a BA and MBA and is a member of the CIPD, CIM, ICF and Association for Coaching. His aim is to provide insights to help people make a real difference in their careers, business and life. His career experience includes HR Director and executive roles in Barclays plc and Tesco plc. “In my private practice I have had the privilege of helping people of all ages, different cultures and job levels to understand more about themselves, their impact on others and how to develop across major dimensions in life,” says Peter. “My philosophy is to be kind, totally respect the integrity of my clients and to wander in total amazement with unending curiosity through life.” cobbep@aol.com
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ImageFed-up with the daily grind of the ‘9 to 5’? While running your own show can be a tempting proposition, do you really have what it takes to move away from employment and to be your own boss?

The increasing number of television shows about budding entrepreneurs has highlighted the rising popularity of self-employment. Whether you are a young entrepreneur with a sure-fire idea, a busy parent looking for a more flexible career or an early retiree with no inclination to simply fade away, self-employment can appear to be an attractive route to achieving riches while following your passion.

While statistics show that a good number of businesses do not survive beyond their first three years, a quick glance through any ‘Rich List’ is proof that a good business idea can be extremely profitable. Even if you don’t end up earning millions, with the right preparation, skills and attitude, you can build and grow a successful business.

But while we may relish the idea of being in charge of our own destiny and carving the career of our choice, the self-employment route may not always be our best option. Here are a few suggestions to help you move in the right direction.

  • Challenge your Decision

If you are already in a paid job, you should think carefully about your reasons for wanting to leave. Are you running away from the difficulties of your job or are you actively choosing to change your lifestyle for a positive reason? If you want to leave your job because you’re stuck and not progressing, are you doing all you can to improve your skills, use your network and look for more challenging opportunities both within and outside your company?

  • Ask the Tough Questions

Analyse your motivation for self-employment carefully and honestly.

  • Is about seeking independence and being your own boss?
  • Are you motivated by the idea of creating something for yourself?
  • Are you motivated by the idea of controlling your working future?
  • Do you think it will earn you more money?

When you apply for a job, someone else makes the decision on whether or not to hire you, usually based on interviews or tests. If you are opting for self-employment, you have to interview yourself – so be as thorough and objective as possible!

If, after asking these questions, you are still intent on becoming self-employed, it is vital that you take time to research and to plan and that you keep working while you do so, to keep some income coming in.

  • Analyse your Entrepreneurship Qualities

Opinion is divided about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Whether or not you believe you have the ‘e’ factor, it is really important that you ask yourself some key questions and that you have a very clear idea about where your strengths lie. Even if you think your business idea can’t fail, you should try to identify all the major considerations when contemplating setting up your own business.

  • How important is job security and a predictable future to you?
  • Do you prefer to have set hours for work and leisure activities?
  • Do you need some one else to organise you?
  • How good are you at networking with people for business?
  • Are you good at coping with rejection?
  • Do you have lots of stamina, good health and patience?
  • Get your Plan Right

As with every area of your career, preparation is vital. If you want to set up your own business, you need to first create a business plan. In terms of your business idea, you should ask yourself:

  • How aware are you of the market you want to enter and your competition?
  • How will you make money from your idea?
  • Is there an existing market or is this an innovative product or service?
  • Is your product or service really viable as a business or is it more of a hobby?
  • How compatible with your personal goals is your business idea?
  • Does the business idea play to your strengths and weaknesses?
  • If not, how will you address the areas of weakness?

Just as you had to learn the skills for the job you have, consider your own personal development needs, such as selling, business planning and basic accounting? Identify the skills you will need and how competent you feel to run your business. Careful questioning will also highlight areas that you need to address to ensure the success of your enterprise.

  • Find Support

Being self-employed will impact both on you and your family and you should therefore also consider whether the use of your home or other assets is involved and, if so, will your family understand and support the implications? Family is often the first resort for financial support for entrepreneurs so you should aim to get your nearest and dearest on-side with your plans. Rather than being defensive when family or friends challenge your business idea, address their concerns and objections by preparing detailed financial plans that show that you have done your research and that you have a viable business opportunity.

Even with family backing, it will be important to create business networks to support you as you go forward. Research network groups in your sector that can give you valuable links to expertise, information - and new clients!

  • Get Your Timing Right

Before you print off your resignation letter, make sure that you have done all the planning possible to get your business started. Research your idea, speak to people, network and get advice before you jump off the employment ladder. Gather all the necessary information, assess fully all the risks involved, communicate with everyone who will be involved, plan your budget and set time goals.

Starting your own business can be an extremely rewarding experience, but with hard work and careful planning, your business should succeed.

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ImageIf you have lost your job through redundancy, don’t despair!

Here are 10 steps to help you cope and to find that next great job!

As the effects of the global credit crunch and slowing economic growth hits us all, a number of companies are cutting jobs in a bid to save on costs and salvage their stakeholders’ investments. Yet, however logical redundancies may appear to an organisation, when you are the one at the receiving end, it’s often hard to handle.

Here are some suggestions to help you cope with this (temporary!) crisis in your life.

1. Take a Minute

Resist the urge to panic. However unexpected and unwelcome the news of impending redundancy, it is NOT the end of the world. When you have had some time to reflect, it might even turn out to be the best thing to have happened to you. Don’t go straight from your office to the nearest recruitment consultant after hearing the news; you need to assess what you have and what you will need. You need to take stock, plan and develop a strategy.

2. It’s Not About You

Although it might seem hard to believe, try to remember that it is the job you were doing that is now redundant, not you. While you may be the person at the receiving end, cutting back on jobs is the company’s response to its business situation or to its need to reorganise and is not a reflection on your skills and abilities. It is completely natural and understandable to be angry, frustrated and bitter (particularly if you have put in long hours and worked hard at your job!). However, if you can keep in mind that this is not your fault, you will be able to move on in a more positive frame of mind.

Although redundancy is usually not a voluntary decision, it has given many people the chance they may otherwise not have had to choose what works better for them.
3. List your Achievements

Look back over your achievements in this last job and the others before and appreciate what you have already accomplished. Take pride in what you have done and practice talking about your achievements. In addition to boosting your flagging confidence, this will be good practice for marketing yourself to prospective employers who have not yet had the benefit of knowing how you work and what you have achieved.

4. Check your Skills

Use this opportunity to think about what you have enjoyed - or hated - about your last job. This will help you focus on where you might now want to take your career. Although redundancy is usually not a voluntary decision, it has given many people the chance they may otherwise not have had to choose what works better for them. List your skills and rate how competent you are. Do you need to brush up on particular IT programs? Is this the time to take that training course you have been thinking about or to improve your language skills? There are a number of training programmes out there and opportunities for re-training into new professions, so…

5. Research the Market

Invest in the time needed to really research what’s out there and which jobs match your skills and experience. However, just because you have been doing one kind of job for a few years is no reason to continue doing so, if it doesn’t match your strongest skills or real interests. The internet offers invaluable research material and you can also pick up information about other career opportunities from libraries, professional associations and government funded organisations.

6. Value your Values

Use your recent experience to think about the kind of organisation that you want to work with. Are you better off in a large organisation or a small one? Do you work best in a team or by yourself? Are you more comfortable in a caring organisation than a profit-driven company? Is a good work/life balance more important to you than salary? Do you need an environment that offers flexibility due to family or caring responsibilities? For a working environment that brings out the best in you, make sure that your values are in line with those of your employer.

Use your network of friends, family and contacts to help you identify potential opportunities….Go out and talk to people and don’t be reticent about letting people know what you are looking for.
7. Use all the Routes

There are various routes back into employment and you should make sure that you use them all. Find out which newspapers and magazines publish jobs in your sector or profession and either buy them or visit a local library to access a copy. Choose a few recruitment agencies or head hunters that specialise in your sector and register your CV with them. You should also keep an eye on the vacancies they advertise and contact them about any that are relevant to you – busy agencies may not necessarily have the time to contact everyone registered with them. There are a host of online job sites advertising job vacancies so sign up and check regularly with those that have the kind of vacancies that you are interested in. Research other companies in your sector and don’t shy away from direct approaches – although such applications need to be well researched and specifically targeted. One approach that is always highly recommended is to....

8. Network, Network, Network!

Use your network of friends, family and contacts to help you identify potential opportunities. Remember, the redundancy is not about you and hiding away is just reducing your chances of finding another job. Go out and talk to people and don’t be reticent about letting people know what you are looking for. Knowing the right person can get your foot through the door of many organisations. Contact past colleagues; some may know about a vacancy. Even social gatherings can give you the chance to market your experience. Remember to always follow up any referrals promptly and professionally. Get involved in industry associations for your sector; offer your help and attend any relevant events to boost your networking reach.

9. Get your CV Right

Don’t miss out on the right job because of a poor or misleading CV. Use this time to take a fresh look at your CV and to make sure that it is marketing you in the best and most appropriate way. Keep the look and feel of your CV professional; check your spelling and, most of all, make sure that you are using it to state your (relevant!) achievements rather than just reproducing your last job description. Keep it brief and make sure your contact details are up to date. Include information about the skills and qualities needed for the job you are targeting. Bland, generalized CVs without a focus will not make an impact or make it through rigorous and often automated scanners. Grab the attention of recruiters and prospective employers by doing your research and producing a winning CV.

10. Plan your Finances

Scale back on your expenses while you anticipate having less income. It’s also a good time to plan your finances for now and for the future. Have you put insurance policies in place for you and/or your dependents? Have you contacted creditors to ask about the possibility of a repayments holiday until you find new employment? Have you written your will? Use this time to look ahead at your life plan. While there’s no point trying to make absolute plans, you can start preparing for some of the inevitable changes that will be coming along.

Need some help with dealing with redundancy and getting your career back on track? Want to freshen up your CV? Contact us at ReConnect Africa Careers to see how we can help. careers@reconnectafrica.com
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Opportunity Africa – Young Africans in the Diaspora build career skills to enhance African development

September 2004 saw the launch of Opportunity Africa, a project developed by the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) to provide a gateway to Africa-related/international development careers, training and education for young people of African descent in the UK.

Opportunity Africa evolved out of the aspirations of young Africans who came to us and was a response to their need to align their careers with the development of Africa,” explains Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie, Executive Director of AFFORD, the UK-based NGO. The project lays equal emphasis on career opportunities related to Africa in both the private and public sectors. “One of the key challenges was to widen their view of development from being just about aid and about reducing Africa’s development to working for an NGO or aid agency. A lot more is happening and needs to happen.”


Since its inception, the project, which is supported by the Learning and Skills Council Central London region, has taken over fifty people through a series of monthly career seminars developed and run by Interims for Development to increase the understanding of young Africans of their career options and the implications of their career choices in terms of skills and training requirements. The seminars are followed by individual career coaching sessions to provide further information about career opportunities related to Africa and guidance and support with chosen career paths. Support materials are also provided at AFFORD’s Resource Centre in London. Other components of the project include working with careers advisers in other institutions and with African community organisations to enable them to provide more help and guidance to young people.

A key element of the project is the facilitation of volunteer, internship and apprenticeship opportunities for young people of African descent in organisations and institutions in Africa that will equip them for Africa and development related careers. Christine Matambo, the Youth Programme Officer at AFFORD who runs Opportunity Africa, sees internships as an invaluable tool for young Africans living in London to gain a better understanding of contemporary Africa.

“The internship opportunities we have sourced in Senegal, Zambia and Ghana, in collaboration with Interims for Development, will offer our young Africans with little experience of living and working in Africa a chance to get first-hand knowledge. Although they have access to newspapers and books, the reality of Africa is often very different.”

An important benefit, from Matambo’s perspective, is that the interns will be able to learn about the efforts being made on the ground and will be in a better position to assess the effectiveness of those efforts. “Most importantly,” she adds, “interns will be able to see what efforts national governments are making to develop their respective economies.”

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“As Africans, we are not very effective networkers”, says Beatrice Njindou, founder of the Young Professional Cameroonian Network. But can networking really boost career success?

When Beatrice Njindou noticed that her European and Asian colleagues were using their networks to find new positions and move up the corporate ladder, she realised that it was time to act.

ImageBorn in Cameroon, Beatrice has lived in the UK since the age of 2 and, in common with many Africans, used to believe that if you work hard enough, you will do well.

Now working as a Sales Account Manager for a well known international financial institution and seeing the impact of successful networking for other groups, she has become a convert to the power of using your contacts wisely.

Understanding workplace relationships and challenging our Cultural Attitudes

“Understanding how to make relationships work for you in the workplace is critical,” she says. “I realised that networking really makes a difference to your ability to prosper at work. This also means challenging some of our own cultural attitudes. Instead of saying ‘I didn’t get the job because I’m black’, it might be about admitting that ‘I didn’t get the job because I turned up late or I didn’t follow up’.”

Njindou launched the Young Professional Cameroonian Network (YPCN) in October 2003 with a group of 6 other people. Today the network is made up of 22 core members plus over one hundred ‘Friends of the YPCN’ and 22 Diamond Members. The core group, which is exclusively Cameroonian, is based in London and meets on a monthly basis. Friends of the YPCN include supporters from a wide range of nationalities, such as Ghanaian, Nigerian and Caribbean. Friends are based in countries as far apart as France, the USA, Gabon, Dubai and, of course, Cameroon.


The YPCN provides a network for professional Cameroonians to share job opportunities, information and business opportunities. Having participated in some of the other networking groups in London, Njindou and her colleagues wanted to be part of a group that had a strong core. “For us, the strongest link is the cultural link we have with each other as Cameroonians”, she explains. “It was also about trying to do something in and for Cameroon at some stage.”

ImageThe Network’s activities are meticulously planned and as all the members work full-time, personal commitment to the group is crucial. In 2006 the Network has hosted the Abbia Film season in conjunction with Black Filmmaker Magazine, highlighting films made by Cameroonian directors. This has included classics such as ‘Sisters in Law’ a Cannes Film Festival prize winner, ‘Quartier Mozart’ and ‘The Story of Soul to Soul’. In October 2006, the Network will be hosting ‘Black Survivors of the Holocaust’ which highlights the little known story of the Africans based in Germany during World War II.

2006 Careers Event

The YPCN was initially set up to help develop the careers of its members and this remains one of its key areas of focus. The Network’s members are working professionals with, on average, less than 10 years work experience.

As Njindou points out, “Most of the Network are working or have good jobs. We are looking at how to make a strategic move to find the job that takes you to the next level. As a network, we want to help each other to progress, to take a step up in one’s company or in another company.”

So what are the issues that the Network’s members face? “It’s not so much a case of overt discrimination but of more subtle exclusion,” says Njindou. “We had a debate in our first year about why there are so few high ranking black professionals in the UK. What we realised is that it is less about outright discrimination and more about identifying the skills and networks that we need to move ahead.”

Image This was the motivation behind the YPCN’s 2006 Careers Event, held in collaboration with Interims for Development, the UK based HR, Training and Career Management Company. “As Interims for Development is run by Africans, their expertise in careers management is particularly relevant for our members,” explains Njindou.

The 3 hour evening event was developed by Interims as a guest event to allow Network members and other guest participants to think about their career strategy and to learn about CV skills and how to market themselves effectively to employers. The event was attended by 23 people and generated very positive feedback.

“The event went really well,” said Njindou. “It was really interactive and gave us all new insights into winning at interview and thinking strategically about our careers. There are things that we tend to excuse in our culture, like being late, and we sometimes take these attitudes into professional situations. It’s also clear that we often don’t do enough research on a company when we go for an interview.”

Benefits of Membership

ImageSo what do members gain from being part of a professional network? “Being a member of the YPCN offers loads of benefits,” explains Njindou. “For the fee paying core membership group, we hold monthly networking meetings and provide access to a message board for jobs and information.”

There are three different levels of membership; Bronze, Silver and Platinum. As you progress within the Network, opportunities arise to become part of a Working Committee and to get involved in event management, radio and TV appearances as well as to take on responsibilities within the group. The Network also produces an annual journal, Lerewa, and offers access to a large network of corporate and individual contacts. The Friends of YPCN are not required to pay fees but do receive 2 or 3 e-mails per week sharing information about events, professional information and new businesses.

Networking for Career Success

Not surprisingly for the founder of a professional Network, Njindou is passionate about the crucial importance of networking, particularly for Africans living and working in the West.

“As Africans, in my experience, we are not very effective networkers,” she says frankly. “Too often, there is no follow up, which is key to networking. You meet someone at functions, you are given a lead and yet you don’t follow up. On the whole, it seems like as Africans we have a challenge to realise that you have to put in hard work to generate opportunities through networking.”

The Network has brought significant opportunities, contacts and information to its members. Njindou cites the example of a member who had been looking for a job with an NGO but had not been able to break into the sector. “Another new member posted a job vacancy from their organisation onto our internal job board. She saw the notice, applied and got the job. This is an opportunity she would never have got if she wasn’t part of this Network or, in fact, any network.”

What’s next for the YPCN?

The YPCN is growing and building on its success. Its focus is now on leveraging its network of Diamond Members – previous guest speakers at the Network’s events. “We are holding a Diamond cocktail event, which we hope will become an annual event,” says Njindou. “As our Diamond Members are senior professionals, we are looking to them as a professional think tank for the Network.”

The Network is also working with Africa Foundation Stone, who pay for professionals in the UK to travel and work to share their skills in French speaking African countries. “We are hoping to encourage our members to participate and next year we will be creating such links for Cameroon.”

The YPCN is open to new members. The core membership is for young Cameroonian professionals with less than 10 years work experience, while Friends of the YPCN is open to professionals from all cultures and communities. Contact the YPCN at: theYPCN@hotmail.com

For further information about Careers Seminars and Workshops, contact Interims for Development at: www.InterimsFD.com or info@interimsfd.com.

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Fresh Fish: A Motivational Story

ImageTake a fresh look at your career as this year comes to a close. This motivational short story from Raju Bhatia should guide you to make a difference.

The Japanese have always loved fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades. So to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring in the fish. If the return trip took more than a few days, the fish were not fresh. The Japanese did not like the taste.

To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats. They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. However, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen and they did not like frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower price.

So the fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks, fin to fin. After a little thrashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive. Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish.

So how did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan? If you were consulting the fish industry, what would you recommend?

How Japanese Fish Stay Fresh

To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies still put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish are challenged.

Have you realized that some of us are also living in a pond but most of the time are tired and dull, so we need a Shark in our life to keep us awake and moving? Basically in our lives Sharks are new challenges to keep us active and taste better... The more intelligent, persistent and competent you are, the more you enjoy a challenge. If your challenges are the correct size, and if you are steadily conquering those challenges, you are the Conqueror. You think of your challenges and get energized. You are excited to try new solutions.

Dr Raju L. Bhatia is the Chief Executive Officer of Fun and Joy at Work, a Human Resources, Training and Management Development company based in India www.funandjoyatwork.com. A Change Management and Organisation Turnaround Specialist, Dr. Bhatia holds a PhD in HRD from the University of Missouri, USA.

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ImageThe first in a regular series of articles by Caroline Harper Jantuah that will focus on personal development, providing tips and techniques to enhance your self awareness and round out your interpersonal skills.

Are you living your best life? Do you know what matters to you and is this serving as a guide to the decisions you are making about your life?

A few years back Seyi worked in an international company, where she was valued and her career prospects were good. She had waited a long time to become a parent and being there for her son was very important to her. As the result of a reorganisation she was offered an international role and was faced with the dilemma of what to do – accept what was a dream job or opt for redundancy. Well, whilst it was an agonising weekend trying to figure out what to do, in the end knowing what was more important to her at that moment helped her make a decision. She declined the new position, opted for redundancy and went on to set up her own business built around her need to spend time with her son. This was a person who had clarity about what mattered to her and was able to use this as a principle on which to base her decision.

Evaluating Opportunities in the Workplace

Key defining moments in our lives can come when we least expect them. Opportunities in the workplace do not always come in the shape or form that we expect them to. Knowing what your values are (i.e. what matters) will better equip you to make informed decisions.

One way to establish what matters is to take the time to write down your answers to the following questions – jot down whatever comes to mind and keep going till you dry up or find yourself writing down the same words

Alternatively talk through your responses with a friend or colleague.

  1. What’s important to you about your career? (work, business or whatever best applies to your circumstance) E.g. One of Seyi’s values was a job that fitted around time with her son.

  2. Can you remember a time when you were totally motivated in the context of your career? What was it about that job, project or activity that caused you to be totally motivated? What‘s important to you about that? ( e.g. challenge or financial reward) Add these to the list. Can you think of another time when you were totally motivated? What was it about this second example? Add this to the list as well.

  3. Review your list - Is anything missing? – Ask yourself if you were in a career or job or made a job offer that met all the values on your list, is there anything that could happen to make you leave or say No? Add this to the list.

  4. The next step is to identify and number the top 8 values according to their importance to you. 1 being the most important.

  5. You can test that you have ordered the list correctly by imagining that you had a choice between two careers or jobs etc, one that met your values 5 – 8 and another that met your values 1-4. Of the two which would you choose? If you have prioritised correctly then the offer with values 1-4 should be the most attractive. If not, review the 8 values again

Applying your Values to your Career

You can now use this list of values in a number of ways – to take stock of how well what you are currently doing meets these values and identify what changes if any you wish to make; use as one of the criteria in seeking out a new career or job or different organisation to work for; as a guide on how to get more satisfaction our of your current role – i.e. know what matters to you and seek to have more of that.

Finally take note that values can and do change and so it is good practice to go through an exercise like this every so often. Also work or career values are very likely to be different to the values you hold dear for other aspects of your life. So you can apply this exercise in the area of relationships, health, finances, family and so on.

ImageCaroline Harper Jantuah is an executive coach and organisation development consultant, who is passionate about enabling othersto be the best they want to be and in so doing live more fulfilling lives. Director of Xerion Consulting and the Diversity Practice since 2001, she is currently working on a study called Different Women Different Places, a study into the careers and lives of black and minority ethnic women working across Europe.

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Changing Places?

ImageYou have decided to change careers, but how do you go about it?

In this article, Beth Harvey suggests some simple steps you can follow to help you on your way.

Career change can be a daunting experience, but for many of the clients that I see, it can be a necessity. Changes in skills requirements, technology, and society as a whole often mean that entire classes of job or career can disappear literally overnight.

For others, the idea of doing something different appeals on a more basic level. We spend a lot of time at work; many people now in the their thirties and forties “stumbled” into their careers; which all adds up to facing another twenty or thirty years doing something that lost its attraction a while ago.

So if you decide to change career, through circumstances or interest, how do you go about it? Here are some simple steps you can follow which might help you on your way.

  • Do your research

Before starting out on any expensive courses or taking huge leaps of faith, make sure you know what you are getting into. A job that looks exciting and challenging on the surface may not live up to your expectations. Talk to friends, family and other network contacts and see what you can find out about the reality. If you can, try and work shadow someone in your chosen area for a couple of days. You’ll be glad you did!

  • Check the Market

Make sure that the field you want to enter has an active job market. There is little or no point in retraining in a specialism that is becoming obsolescent.

  • Check the Competition

Some careers are intensely competitive. Media is a prime example; many people do unpaid internships for months in TV, radio or journalism, simply to get some experience on their CV. One of my ex-clients joined a television company as “the oldest runner in town” at the age of 30 to kick-start his career in the area, having worked successful in retail previously. This is fine provided you can afford to live on virtually nothing for some time; not an option for most of us with families to support.

  • Too many changes at once don’t work – a word of caution

While it is possible to move countries, careers and sectors all at once, it is extremely hard. Try and stage your moves. Remember, the job market in one country may be very different to the market for the same skills in another, and your qualifications may not be valid in another part of the world.

  • Never, ever quit your current job

Until you either have a role in your new area lined up, or are about to start a full time course. It may sound obvious, but people do it!

If, and only if, you have considered the steps above, and still decide that you are serious, the time has come to try and take the plunge.

  • Get some experience

Volunteer, take internships, do whatever you can to show prospective employers that you are serious about your move.

  • Get some training or qualifications

If you can, try to start some educational activity in your chosen area. Again, it will convince potential employers that you are serious.

  • Try the three step move

Take your current skills into the sector you want to target. For example, if you want to become a teacher, and you are currently an accountant, a move to a bursar’s position in a school or a finance post in a college may be a good move. You can get to know the sector while training, and be perfectly positioned to hear about possible jobs.

Finally and most importantly, have faith in yourself. A career change is challenging, and needs to be treated as a serious project, but can put the energy back into your working life.

Enjoy the journey – and enjoy the new career!

Beth Harvey, MSc, MCIPD provides coaching, mentoring and training and development services to clients in a variety of business sectors, including media, publishing and financial services. Beth is an external moderator for the CIPD. Her academic and research interests include mentoring, coaching and career development and transition in financial services organisations. One of her passions is working with individuals who want to re-engineer their lives.

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Making the Most of Job Fairs

ImageMany job seekers tend to overlook job fairs. They can be crowded, busy, competitive and confusing events. But they offer the opportunity to contact many potential employers all within one place and they can really help you land a job. Leading career coach, Peter Cobbe, offers his top 10 tips for making the most of them.

  • Do some advance research. Your goal is to target the most promising employers at upcoming job fairs. To do that, you need to know who those employers are and what they offer. Usually, the promotional materials or advertisements for job fairs will list participating employers and the general types of jobs they have available. Get online and search for information about the companies you are interested in. Knowing more about the companies than the other job seekers who visit their booths will help you make a memorable impression. The more you know, the better.
  • Bring enough CVs. Bring at least 25 copies of your CV (more, if it's a large event).
  • Be prepared to fill out applications. Many companies will not accept a CV instead of an application. So even if you provide them with a CV, you may be asked to fill out an application form, too. Be sure to bring a pen and a "personal data sheet" with the information you'll need to complete job applications on the spot. This is better than taking the applications home and sending them back later, as many job seekers will do. You'll beat them to the punch!
  • Dress for success. First impressions are important. Just because job fairs tend to be friendly, informal events, don't be too casual. Dress and act professionally, be enthusiastic, and remember to smile.
  • Arrive early. Pick up a booth-location map and plan your route. By arriving early, you may be able to get in and out before it gets too crowded. Visit your targeted companies first, then "shop around" and do some networking.
  • Think "Quality" over "Quantity." It's much better to spend quality time talking with only a few, well-targeted employers who are looking for your specific skills, than to drop off your CV at every booth you see.
  • Be prepared for interviews. Some companies may want to do short, on-the-spot interviews at the job fair. Be prepared to talk about your best selling points, the assets and skills you will bring to the company. Doing research, as suggested in point 1, will help you to design your answers to meet the companies' specific needs. As the interview is wrapping up, remember to ask what the next steps are.
  • Keep track of where you submit your CVs. Collect business cards and make a list of the companies you apply for. Jot notes about conversations you have with representatives or topics discussed during interviews. This will help you when following up later.
  • Send thank-you letters within 24-48 hours to each of the companies/representatives you spoke with. Even if there was no real interview, doing this will help you to stand out in their minds among the hundreds of job seekers who visited their booth during the job fair. Tell them how much you appreciated the time they took to talk with you and answer your questions. Mention the name or location of the fair and the positions you discussed, and reiterate your interest in working for their companies.
  • Follow up. Depending on their answers to your "what are the next steps" question (see point 7), follow up appropriately with the companies for which you applied.

An accredited Career Coach, Peter Cobbe holds a BA and MBA and is a member of the CIPD, CIM, ICF and Association for Coaching. His aim is to provide insights to help people make a real difference in their careers, business and life. His career experience includes HR Director and executive roles in Barclays plc and Tesco plc. “In my private practice I have had the privilege of helping people of all ages, different cultures and job levels to understand more about themselves, their impact on others and how to develop across major dimensions in life,” says Peter. “My philosophy is to be kind, totally respect the integrity of my clients and to wander in total amazement with unending curiosity through life.” cobbep@aol.com

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Presenting with Power Microsoft PowerPoint © – Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

ImageYou have been selected to attend a two-day external training programme. You arrive at the venue and, after registration, go into the seminar room. You see a large screen at the end of the room and on the presenter’s desk a laptop computer and a projector. Aha, you think to yourself, chances are we’re going to get some PowerPoint slides here.

Does this excite you or fill you with dread? Is the presenter one of those people who actually use this very powerful product intelligently or one of those who are keen to show off their ability to use the product and subject you to a large number of over-fussy slides, using every transition in the book with cartoons and Clip Art in excess?

In the right hands, PowerPoint can be a tremendously helpful visual aid. In the wrong hands, it can ruin an otherwise strong presentation.

Let’s examine some of the key elements in using PowerPoint effectively and see how the product can be used to the best advantage.

Planning the presentation

When developing a presentation, you will need to decide what you want to try to achieve through the content and commit the structure and content i.e. what you actually want/need to get across to the audience to paper in some format. Having decided on content, you then need to decide on what visual aids, if any, you want to use to support it. The key here is whether you actually need anything visual to help the presentation along. Whilst PowerPoint is in common use, is it actually the best support for your presentation? Do you need anything at all? Would a simple flipchart actually provide all you need?

If you decide that PowerPoint is the visual aid best suited to support your presentation, the time has come to start planning the slides themselves.

Developing the format

If you are working in a corporate environment and your company has a preferred PowerPoint template, colour scheme and font, then you will probably need to go with the flow. However, if you have choices, the following rules of thumb should help:

  • For the background use a neutral colour. Visually a shade of medium blue works well for most people
  • For the font colour, use either white or yellow. Both these colours provide a good contrast with the background colour and are normally viewable even by people with a degree of colour blindness. Colours combinations to avoid, save in exceptional circumstances, are red and green (colour blindness issues), blue and green, yellow and green (insufficient contrast) and black and white (uninspiring, if not boring!)
  • Choose a sans serif font e.g. Ariel or Verdana, rather than the default Times New Roman. Sans serif fonts are less fussy, arguably more business-like and most importantly, much easier to read from a distance
  • Use a point size of no less than 18 – 20. A lower point size may be difficult for people sitting a distance away from the screen to read.

Creating the slides

You have already decided what information you need to deliver during the presentation and have decided to use PowerPoint to provide visual support. The key word here is support. The visual aid should be there to add something to the presentation, or to help it along in terms of structure, but not to replace the presenter!

When going through your material, consider where slides might be of assistance. An example might be the agenda for the presentation, key points for discussion etc. but there is little benefit in reproducing large elements of your presentation as slides. The people attending the presentation are in the room to listen to the presenter, not to read slides! If large amounts of information are committed to slides, the audience may well spend longer reading the slides than listening to you. In any case, if you take this to extremes, you could simply give them all a set of slides, ask them to read through them and then see whether there are any questions.

Key tips to creating slides include:

  • Consider whether a slide will actually add value. If not, don’t create it. In terms of using the tool effectively the golden rule is “less is more”.
  • Keep the amount of information on a slide to a minimum. Include no more than 4 to 5 points per slide.
  • If you have a number of points to make on one slide, reveal the points one at a time, rather than all at once. In this way, you will keep the audience with you, rather than have them reading ahead.
  • If you need to display graphs, charts etc. try to make them as simple and legible as possible. If there is a large amount of data you need to display, by all means include it on a slide, but it may be better to enhance the impact by giving out the same information in hard copy.
  • When moving from one slide to the next, use transitions with care. PowerPoint has the ability to make information fly from almost any angle, dissolve etc. Whilst these can be fun to use, the risk in overusing them is that the viewers will most likely be more interested in what the next transition will be rather than concentrating on the material itself.
  • Use cartoons and Clip Art sparingly. If they really add value to the slide, so be it, but overkill can get in the way and unnecessarily distract the audience.
  • Always check out your slides before using them by testing them for clarity and legibility, ideally in the venue in which you will present.

Using the slides

Having prepared your presentation and the slides you will use to support it, the time has come to present. The following ideas may be handy:

  • Only display a slide for the period you are talking to it. Once the slide, or a bullet point on it, has served it purpose either switch the projector to sleep mode or simply put a card, or similar, between the projector and the screen
  • Try not to walk between the projector and the screen. Reading off people’s clothing is difficult at best!
  • If you want to point out something on the screen, which will generally be behind you, there’s no point in touching your computer screen. Your finger will not show on the large screen (as it would have done in the days of overhead projectors). If you need to draw attention to a particular element of a slide use a laser pointer
  • Try not to read word for word from the slides. The audience should be capable of reading for themselves

And finally…

Good luck with your presentations. Make PowerPoint your best friend rather than your worst enemy i.e. something that helps, rather than hinders.

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with Interims for Development (www.interimsfd.com) the award-winning Human Resources and Training consultancy for Africa.

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