Archive for February, 2014

I’m Outta Love

blog heartbreakI can remember the exact moment I fell out of love with each of my ex-boyfriends. I can visualise the instances in my mind as if they happened yesterday. In each instance there was a defining moment where, while the moment itself was certainly not the sole cause of the breakup, a line was crossed and enough was finally enough. Break-ups rarely happen overnight – they are the outcome of a sum of many dissatisfactions, disagreements and incompatibilities. Things build up over time, you feel as though something isn’t quite right, you try to make things better; to turn it all around, but in the end it’s futile and better for both parties if you cut your losses and walk away.

In my experience, jobs are like this as well; with just one exception I remember the moment I fell out of love with each of my jobs. As with breakups, I didn’t fall out of love with them overnight and many factors contributed: There were no career prospects that matched my career plan, the job had become repetitive or unenjoyable, my role was insecure, management had different values to my own, and so on. Many times it had nothing at all to do with the organisation or what it stood for but, instead, that I had grown and developed and that my wants and needs for a role had changed. As with relationships, I wouldn’t go down without a fight – conversations to try change things and improve the way I felt, suggestions for new ideas, learning more about company plans… Sometimes it was a success and I moved internally. Sometimes it wasn’t.

With both jobs and relationships, I personally have a point of no return. That defining moment where all hope is lost and I fall completely and utterly out of love. Once this line has been crossed, no amount of bargaining and incentives can convince me to change my mind – things have gone too far and it’s time to move on. But even though this is perhaps a severe response, I have no regrets or hard feelings about any of my experiences (no matter how unenjoyable they may have been at the time) because they have made me who and what I am today, and I’m glad that they were a part of my life.

Though I haven’t worked properly as a direct line manager for any serious length of time (such is the joy of working in matrix organisations or as a contractor) I have seen many colleagues fall out of love with their jobs over the years, and I often wonder what it looks like from a manager’s viewpoint. I can’t believe that the signs aren’t there to be read, but knowing that something isn’t right doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to to fix it or that you are able to fix it.

So my thought for the day is this: Look around you at your staff and colleagues. Look at them without judgement and ask yourself – are they happy? Are they falling out of love with the job, team, company, management (statistics vary but nearly all research ranks line managers as the number one reason for employees wanting to leave their jobs)? Read between the lines and ask yourself whether there are tell-tale signs that you have failed to recognise before now or have spotted but are trying to ignore. And then ask yourself whether you really want to or can afford to lose that staff member. And if you’re not sure whether they’re getting close to the point of no return then sit down and have a chat with them; find out a bit more about what they’re thinking and feeling at the moment. Do it now. Don’t wait til their appraisal is due in several months time when it might be too late.

Sometimes the best thing for everyone to do is to go their separate ways; after all there’s little more poisonous than a negative and disengaged staff member. But any breakup – job-wise or relationship-wise – is much easier handled when it’s not a complete surprise to one of the parties.

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Talking yourself into it

blog pic Feb 14Yesterday I noted with some amusement how easily Mr J and I can talk ourselves into something when we really want it. I guess this is true of a lot of people generally; everyone has their weakness, whether that’s swapping your car every year or so, constantly redecorating, or regularly buying the latest tech. For us it’s holidays.

As I got ready for bed I looked back on the day and realised we’d done what we always do when it comes to holidays. And even though I’ve known for ages that it’s something we fall foul of, and I’m very aware of it, the whole thing just makes me smile. I make no effort to change the outcome or break the pattern because, ultimately, I’m getting what I want.

This is how holiday hunting goes in our house. The destinations may change but the format rarely does:

Me: Wouldn’t it be nice to get away for a few days. We haven’t had a holiday in ages.

This is blatantly not true however I conveniently don’t count long weekends or UK breaks as holidays. In reality we probably haven’t been away for three months tops. Probably less.

Mr J: Yes it’s been ages [because I’ve brainwashed him into my way of thinking…] Why don’t we do a city break somewhere?

This is fatal mistake number one. We always start our holiday negotiations with this line but in reality we’ve done the majority of Europe and what’s left we’re probably not that fussed about. I also have a “don’t go anywhere twice” rule on account of still having so much of the world to see before I die so, stubbornly, can very rarely be convinced to revisit a place.

So now the Internet search starts…

Me: There’s nowhere I want to go in Europe. The only possible options are the Italian lakes or [insert somewhere incredibly obscure and eastern European which is probably only accessible by a flight, two buses and a donkey ride here].

Again, this is a preposterous claim. Though I have been lucky enough to visit many countries I have not been to all 50 countries in Europe and there is certainly more than one decent destination in most countries too…

Mr J: Well the lakes would be nice. Look, we can go quite cheaply for 3 nights. It’s under budget.

Me: Ohhh but look at the flight times. We’d have virtually no time there [the fact it’s a short city break being completely ignored…] and would spend so much time travelling that we wouldn’t get a chance to relax at all.

Mr J: You’re right. How about this 3 night mini cruise instead? We can just relax and be waited on. It’s twice the price but will be worth it.

Me: That’s a great choice but the dates aren’t quite right. How about this five night one instead? It’s longer than we planned but a complete bargain.

Fatal mistake number two: being sucked in by a bargain. By now the budget is blown.

Mr J: My only issue with that is that it will be cold. We should go somewhere warm.

Temperature being completely irrelevant when the first mini cruise was suggested just moments prior…

Me: So where is hot this time of year? The Canaries will be freezing [lie], as will Turkey [lie also]. How about Africa or the Middle East…?

Mr J: Yeah they would be good for sun. But we’ll have to go for a week if we’re going that far. No point going for less with all that travelling.

All that additional couple of hours… More Internet research being done. Budget now disregarded altogether.

Mr J: I dunno. A week in the sun would be great but I don’t fancy any of the destinations in those regions [Africa being tiny and all…]. What about Florida or the Caribbean?

Me: Ohhh YES! That would be awesome. But we probably need to go for nearer two weeks if we’re going that far.

Mr J: Well that’s ok. We should do it properly. And if we’re going to do it properly we should stay somewhere really nice too. Here’s the perfect thing – let’s book it!

Me: I love it! Book it straight away so we don’t miss out!

And lo! In the space of a couple of hours we’ve gone from a £300pp city break in Europe to a £2000pp fortnight holiday in somewhere like the Americas. Just like that! And only at the expense of delaying the kitchen refurbishment for another few months, too!

We have the power to talk ourselves into many things but we tend to do it selectively. Rather than aiming high in everyday life we talk ourselves down, tell ourselves that it isn’t possible, and don’t make that extra effort. Problem solving is not always easy, but where there’s a will there’s a way and, while there may need to be some sacrifices or give and take along the way, that’s surely a small price to pay for something you really want. When you take things one step at a time you don’t notice the extent of the change or what you’ve achieved until you can look back on what you’ve done and see how great the overall impact of that step change really was. Other people can have an impact on our success as well – a negative comment or conflicting opinion can be really demotivating, even where it was well meant. But having someone to coax you along is incredibly powerful and that, combined with the right attitude, can really lift the ceiling on your aspirations, whatever they may be.

It’s quite remarkable what we’re capable of talking ourselves into with enough motivation. But don’t worry ladies and gents! I’ve been to this country before so it doesn’t really count as a holiday. We’ll have our “real” holiday later in the year and will splash out properly on something then. This is just a mini break after all……… 😉

MOOCing About

mooc 2This year I’ve decided to undertake my first MOOC. If you don’t know what one of these is then I’ll let Wikipedia explain it to you as it’ll do a better job than I, but fundamentally it stands for Massive Open Online Course. It’s online study, mostly free of charge (sometimes there’s a paid option if you want actual credits or a particularly flashy certificate), and as far as I can see, on most any subject you can think of.

So why am I interested in undertaking a MOOC? I finished my undergraduate programme this time last year and was due to start my masters last October, however things changed and that plan has unfortunately had to be temporarily shelved. I enjoy learning though and, having worked with at least one foot in higher education for the last four years, I’m really intrigued by the MOOC offering, particularly at a higher education level. Is it possible that a free online course can really be as good as that provided by a university? Well, yes, it can in terms of content because many well known universities all over the world have their own MOOCs. But when you go to university you’re not just in it for the content, your also in it for the life experience, the learning experience, the support, the great qualification, the networking… University is about more than just the content of your lectures.

So far a MOOC won’t get you a degree or even university credits (except in some rare instances in the US). The whole system is based on honour, trusting that you want to learn and that you complete the course and exercises off your own back and that you take any tests unaided and in the conditions requested. In its current form this works well – all you get at the end is your learning (but provided in a structured, engaging way way) and, I’m told, some sort of e-certificate of completion which doesn’t count towards anything but presumably makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and as though you’ve accomplished something. But, while you don’t receive any official recognition, the knowledge is what you’re presumably there for and who knows, maybe there’s a challenge or entry exam you can take to demonstrate equivalency of knowledge at your institution of choice.

So my journey starts here. I’ve signed up for a couple of courses, both different formats, subjects and providers. Here’s a bit more info about them and the differences between them:

Principles of Microeconomics

  • Provider: Saylor.org
  • Level: Undergraduate
  • Start when you like
  • Structure: 7 units, done at your own pace
  • Anticipated completion time: 124 hours
  • End of unit exams for practice purposes but pass determined by a final exam after the course has been completed
  • Part of a bigger programme for those who wish to continue their Economics studies (you can effectively “major” in economics if you complete 11 courses)
  • Anti-social (no tutor contact and minimal contact with peers. Though there is a discussion forum it appears to be mostly unused)

I don’t know much about economics so I’ll be starting from scratch on this one.

Principles of Project Management

  • Provider: Open 2 Study
  • Level: Unknown
  • Fixed start date
  • Structure: 4 modules over 4 weeks, complete with deadlines
  • Anticipated completion time: 16 hours
  • Individual end of unit exams only
  • Standalone course
  • A little social (I don’t think there’s any tutor contact but, again, there is a forum and presumably this will be used more considering everyone will be completing the course at the same time)

I already know a good bit about project management and have an Agile PM qualification so it will be easier for me to gauge the content for this one.

I have already started the microeconomics course and I’m really enjoying my first unit. While economics is certainly not an easy subject, the materials are well written and use lots of everyday examples to describe more complex ideas and models. I am finding it very accessible. There is a real mix of materials: some videos, some recorded lectures, some articles, some “textbook” reading, all broken down into bitesized chunks. Each unit and sub-unit suggests the amount of time you will need to allow and these can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as an hour. I’ve accessed various resources on PC, mobile and tablet but the only downside to studying on the go is that you really do need to take notes (on this subject anyway!) so you need a dedicated notebook and to have that with you at all times if you don’t want to have to repeat your activity.

So how do I think I’ll fare? I’d like to think I won’t become one of the drop out statistics (allegedly up to 90%) and, having completed my undergraduate programme on a part-time distance learning basis, think I’ll work better with the more flexible, deadline-free format as this is familiar territory for me and I’m used to managing my own study time (or, you know, not…). I think I’ll probably be a bit half-hearted with topics I find less interesting because ultimately it doesn’t really matter if I pass or fail the final exam as I’m not getting any official recognition for my work. I think I’ll find that lack of recognition frustrating when I finish, particularly if I have studied hard. But mostly I think I’ll be pleased with what I’ve achieved, and with the fact I will have have discovered, for free, whether I’d like to pursue my studies more formally in either field.

So we shall see! I’ll be keeping you informed over the coming weeks and months about how I’m finding my programmes. I will share my experiences and feedback, good and bad, and hopefully pique your interest to try a MOOC of your own 🙂


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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