Posts Tagged 'Human Resources'

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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#TRULondon and the World of Graduate Recruitment

So I know I’ve written mostly about my students recently – apologies if that’s not what you come here for! Indulge me once more though if you will…

Next week (17th Feb to be precise) some of the Middlesex University Bright Futures committee and I will be attending #TRULondon.  Sadly our attendance wll be a bit limited due to the raft of presentations and work due to be completed that week, however we’re incredibly excited to be coming and will be running a track on Thursday afternoon about what it’s like to be a student tackling the graduate recruitment processes these days. Well. Not me. I have almost finished my BA in Recruitment Practice but, you know, I’m not wholly sure I’ll be done in time for graduation this year… :s

Final year students face some huge challenges at the best of times: Slogging through the toughest year of their studies in addition to job hunting (though not as you and I know it) and often juggling part-time work and family commitments as well.

To you and I, job hunting probably means tweaking your CV a bit and labouring over a nice covering letter. Now this is work enough, but students have it even harder: The application forms for a lot of graduate schemes are projects unto themselves! Highly reflective, essay-style questions that take time and work to complete. If (IF!) you make it through the first round screening then there’s a good chance you’ll have to sit a raft of skills tests – literacy, numeracy and sometimes logic too. Now I’ve never sat any of these for real myself, but I’ve done plenty of practice ones and let me tell you now that all common sense goes out the window when you see a little clock ticking in the corner of the screen and a raft of numbers in front of you! I can only imagine how much more stressful they are when you’re trying to do your best to get onto a scheme with a company you really want to be a part of! Then there’s the interviews, the assessment centres and, if the stars align, maybe a job at the end of it all! I can’t begin to tell you how many hours work go into each and every graduate scheme application.

But obviously there’s not just the big schemes, and that’s often what a lot of students fail to realise and where universities, friends and family can really add some value. All those wonderful SME’s out there who could benefit from a bright, enthusiastic grad and vice versa!

The single biggest hurdle I’ve come across when working with students has been getting them to realise that, no matter what company a person works for, they are just that: A person. We get employees to come in and talk to the students wherever possible and I also like to drag them along to networking events and so on when I can. The feedback is always resounding: They are just normal, nice people! Who knew, eh!? 😉

Aside from taking the fear away a little, the networking is fantastic. It’s so great to be able to talk to and get advice from someone who’s shoes you might like to be in a few years from now. It’s nice to hear real stories and to know you’re not the only person out there who’s found it tough. It’s also great when they identify that, actually, they have friends and family already in the industry who might be able to help them too!

The other big challenge I often face is getting students to see the value of what they do. One girl I spoke to the other week had been running her own dance business for years but it wasn’t even on her CV! Despite marketing it herself, sorting out the finances, taking lessons, working with schools, choreographing and hosting events… She’d mentioned it in passing under Hobbies & Interests on her CV and that was it. All that amazing business experience not mentioned anywhere because she didn’t consider it to be a “real job”, just something she enjoyed doing and that she happened to make a bit of money out of!

We all need to do more to help the next generation of business men and women. Many big companies won’t even come to our university because we’re not Russell Group or one of their target uni’s, and many of the students don’t have the billion UCAS points required to even apply to some of the big schemes due to personal circumstances. I understand why things are as they are, but as one person said in one of the higher ed employability forums this week: How is that not discrimination?!

I hate the term “employability” though. The meaning gets so warped that I don’t even know what people mean when they say it half the time! Judgements are made on so much more than skills and sometimes I think that being employable just means being able to distinguish yourself from everyone else! But these are all the things we will be discussing at #TRULondon this week and we really hope you’ll join us for the debate! 🙂

In addition to myself, you can meet six wonderful young men and women from Middlesex University, all of whom have done me incredibly proud this year:

Don’t be a Smug Git

So I like to think I’m reasonably tolerant of cold calls from recruiters. They are calls that I myself sometimes have to make and I hate when people give me  the run-around rather than just saying from the word go that they’re not interested. But you know what? If you’re going to cold call any company, then try and retain some form of professionalism and don’t be a smug, arrogant git!

The website of my recruitment-related employer often attracts agency phone calls. We’re very niche and, while we do often recruit in-house, we also recruit for external positions and, if you don’t look at our website properly, it can be an easy mistake to make.

Of course; if you read the website properly it’s screamingly apparent…

So anyway, yesterday I had a phone call from an agency (who shall remain nameless… for now!) touting for business. I didn’t have to, but I took the call. The guy made his pitch, spoke about a specific role we were advertising for, told me how he had looked at our website (looked perhaps, but not read…), and asked whether we’d be interested in utilising his services. Though he had read the job ad, he had clearly done no further research on the company. He didn’t understand what we were or what we did. I explained that we wouldn’t be interested and why. I explained what the company is about how we work. I was, in my humble opinion, perfectly polite, friendly and helpful – if you know me then you’ll know it’s not generally my style not to be.

At the end of the conversation – clearly annoyed by his lack of success – he opted to take the sarcastic, smug approach and closed with “Oh, I see. Well in that case, I suspect the job you’re advertising is for XXX company – thanks for the heads up on that!” [Note: For this to really work, when you imagine him saying it in your head, you have to imagine a really smug, stupid voice and, at the end, a really fake, self-satisfied laugh]

Well there was no need to speak to me like that. And, actually, it wasn’t for XXX company at all…

…But thanks for the lead! 😉

Work related stress

There are people in this world who are always stressed about their job. They moan about it and (genuinely, I believe) get really upset and harassed by the problems and conflict that the role brings about.

Now I’m not unsympathetic to work related stress, and there are some jobs where it pretty much goes without saying: For paramedics, firefighters, social workers, and so on, stress is pretty much a daily occurrence in their lives. But on the whole (and I know this is a sweeping statement), office workers don’t really have much to grumble about. We don’t look death in the eye every day and people’s lives don’t really depend on us (though I concede their livelihoods often do!)

I understand totally that stress in the workplace can be caused by more than the obvious though. I’m not that obtuse – honest! There’s a whole host of things that can have an impact – from trying to do a role you are not trained for, to not receiving support from colleagues and, not least of all, from bullying and harassment. But honestly; this is where I fall down a little…

Annabel Kaye recently posed a question on Twitter about grievances. We exchanged a couple of tweets on the topic and she asked what, if anything, would make me more likely to raise a grievance. I tell you – my mind went blank! Now I’ve worked in jobs I’ve hated and for people who’ve been bullies and I’ve never raised a grievance. I genuinely can not imagine a situation where I would! Maybe (maybe!) if I had a problem with one person or aspect of a role, and it was something I felt was worth trying to resolve, then I would consider it. But only if the good really outweighed the bad overall, and only if resolving it wasn’t going to be like stirring up a hornets nest! Even then though, I sincerely doubt I’d ever make it to grievance level. If I have a problem with someone or something, then I talk about it. I’d like to think that my colleagues and managers are mature enough to do likewise and for me not to have to make matters formal just to have my basic working environment and rights maintained.

I’m a great believer in second chances and I like to think I’d never quit on a role without trying to resolve any problems first, but I would want to do it informally, and if it wasn’t resolved reasonably speedily then I wouldn’t waste my time bringing up the issue again. In my experience, it’s often those at the top of the food chain who are the biggest culprits too and, if this is the case, then who are you meant to turn to?! To me (and this is only my personal opinion) if the problem is major and not likely to be easily resolved, then I won’t stick around. I don’t want to work for a company where the owner is a bully – that kind of behavior seeps down through the management chain and often becomes seen as “acceptable”. Likewise, I don’t want to work for a company that allows whole groups of people to bully and intimidate other members of staff. And, for me at least, this applies on so many levels: Don’t want to train me to do my job properly? Then I don’t want to work for you. Don’t want to support your staff? Then I don’t want to work for you either! I know it’s a very black and white view, but I’m a black and white kinda girl! I either love you or I hate you – there’s not generally many grey areas in my life!

Everyone likes to gripe about work sometimes and I’m all for venting because we all need to do it and it’s part of what makes life bearable! But if your job really has such a negative an impact on your life that it’s causing you to be stressed and is affecting your health and life, then you have to ask yourself: Is it worth it? We work 7, 8, 9 hours a day – that’s the bulk of our waking day. Yes, not many of us can afford to be out of work and I’m not for a moment suggest that you hastily hand your notice in, but do be honest with yourself! Ask yourself what it really is that makes you so stressed at work and try and formulate a plan of action to remedy it. Maybe that involves an informal chat with a manager or colleague; maybe it involves raising an official grievance; or maybe it means recognising that the role just isn’t for you and that it’s time to look at moving on. Whichever: Don’t let work related stress rule your life – it’s just not worth it!


If you’re an employer and want to find out more then you should check out the
ACAS Stress at Work PDF Advisory Booklet.

The Problem with Short-Time Working

I suppose I always knew this day would come, I just didn’t realise quite how soon it would arrive. For those of you who know me or who follow my blog with any regularity (and rest assured, you are loved!) you’ll already know that I currently split my time between two jobs. There’s my “proper job” as a recruiter in the construction industry, and my “freelance job” consulting with a university on graduates and the buzz word of the day: Employability. This came about because my “proper job” had to put me on short-time working just under a year ago due to the recession. I held off looking for any other work for a long time in order to avoid the complications that have now arisen… Plus, you know, it was nice being a part-time lady of leisure for a while (albeit a poor one)! But here I am… Between a rock and a hard place.

Yesterday my “proper job” said that they’d like to increase my days from three a week to four a week. I am genuinely really pleased – though it’s partly due to the fact that another member of staff has left, it’s great that they’re in a position to ask me rather than letting the days go as “natural wastage,” and hopefully-maybe-possibly it means the beginning of the end and an eventual upturn in business for us. But I only started the university work a little over three months ago and I’m deep into it now. I sincerely doubt it could cope with just one day a week’s attention. In fact, I was only saying the other day that it could do with more really.

So here I am. Contractually the recruitment job can ask me back at any time, however I did ask permission before taking on the freelance work and it’s not fair to just walk out on the university. But what to do?! My recruitment job can still only offer four days a week and is still not as secure as it once was. But the freelance work, while guaranteed for another two months (and possibly to be extended a further six on top of that) is still freelance and is not really any more secure itself.

The university were kind enough to take me on on very flexible terms due to my situation and I enjoy the work – it’s a new, interesting challenge for me and really good for my professional development. I don’t want to burn my bridges with them. But, likewise, my employer has been flexible about my getting another role and has kept me on where others have fallen by the wayside. I love the company and everything they stand for. And I don’t want to burn my bridges with them either!

So what to do… Until I can speak to the university later in the week I don’t really know where they stand on the issue but, presuming they’d still like my services for two days a week, I’m not really sure where that leaves me. The worst thing is that I don’t even know what I want really. I like both jobs. A lot. And I like working for both companies. And I actually enjoy splitting my week in two, too!

I always knew this day would come. I knew that taking on a second job would ultimately end up complicating things and it was for exactly this reason that I shied away from finding one sooner. But in the end I didn’t really have a choice. And now I have to lay my cards out on the table for all to see, and see where the tide takes me…


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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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