The rules of office romances: whatever you do, don’t look down

If you're thinking about sending your office valentine a rose this year, make sure you read these tips for budding lovebirds. Photograph: Alamy

The rules of office romances: whatever you do, don’t look down.

If your Valentine’s Day prospect happens to be a colleague, here are some rules to ensure your office tryst doesn’t turn into a romantic nightmare

Picture the scene: you’re working for a growing company that has some of the best staff in the industry. The organisation could be the market leader within a year, which means you could be climbing the corporate ladder in no time.

 

You all work longer hours, push yourselves and rely on colleagues more and more. Then that pesky little thing called human nature comes along and threatens to unsteady the ship. Office romances can have disastrous consequences and affect not only you and the other person involved, but just about every section of the workforce, depending on the size of your team. In fact, if you don’t handle it correctly, you could have a Dawn and Tim from The Office scenario on your hands.

 

Even though there is little an employer can do when two employees decide to get together, there are responsibilities the couple in question should take on board – and they’re not to be shrugged off lightly.

Here are a few tips for budding office lovebirds:

Socialise outside work

 

It’s easy to understand why office romances start; you probably spend more time with your work colleagues than withanyone else. Furthermore, the recession has seen workers “look inwards” and batten down the hatches. There has been a sense of workers versus the boss as more people have felt under threat.

 

This huddling together fosters bonding. So, if you feel you have more in common than you should with a certain co-worker who’s caught your eye, perhaps you should try to socialise more with your friends outside of work in order to gain some perspective on the situation.

 

Don’t look up or down

One scenario even more potentially disastrous than dating a colleague is a relationship that crosses the command chain. Fancy having an affair with your boss? Then get ready for a career brick wall if it goes wrong. Similarly, bosses should be extremely careful about the legal implications of a relationship with someone further down the food chain.

There is a caveat here: statistics suggest that people who start a relationship with their boss are more likely to end up marrying them (as indeed I did, 14 years ago), perhaps because both parties realise just how much is at stake.

 

Loose lips sink ships

If both employees are at the same level in the company, then the romance should be kept as low-key as possible; an office can be unsettled by rumours and gossip around the water cooler. Also, consider what you put out on social media, especially if you have work colleagues who can read your timeline. If you don’t want to answer awkward questions, don’t give people ammunition.

All workers are equal

There is little an employer can do about a budding relationship. But, as an employee, make sure you treat everyone equally. Just because the new love of your life is sitting five yards away, doesn’t mean they’re always right about work-related decisions. Leave your private life at home, and maintain a sense of professionalism at work.

Not in the kitchen, please

PDAs (also known as public displays of affection) are a no-no in the office. No one wants to walk into the kitchen to find you two squeezed up against the microwave while your lunch goes nuclear. Also, never use emotional language – a relationship is private. If you start an argument or row based on something that has happened outside the office, it can have a catastrophic effect on staff morale and therefore the company’s bottom line.

Over and out

There might come a time when your relationship ends, and you may need to talk to your boss about this. This can be tricky and something which, frankly, your employer probably doesn’t need. Always remember that your boss cannot side with either party if your affair is over; they’ll have to maintain discretion and impartiality.

What both staff and employers need to set out from the very beginning is: we’re all adults and we understand these things happen from time to time, but there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Just as you trust your colleagues to drive the company forward, and use their commonsense and initiative to implement procedures and plans, you need to trust anyone you might get involved with romantically to behave themselves at work. And please, don’t do anything dodgy on the photocopier.

 

How to help your child navigate a route to career success

Navigate

 

 

EY, the global professional services organisation, reported in January 2014 almost half of parents are unaware of the range of options open to young people turning 18, and that more than half didn’t fully understand the long-term implications for their children’s careers.

While most parents are well intentioned in supporting their children at key stages in their academic career, the simple reality is that in a rapidly changing world, they’re not always fully equipped with the resources to do so successfully.

Here is my guide for parents on how best to support their children in theircareer choices:

It’s a changing world

The simple reality is the world is a very different place today to the one you will have faced when making study, training and career-related decisions. New roles are being created all the time, and it seems many jobs open to young people today didn’t even exist 10 years ago. While areport from the Education Endowment Fountation last year found non-cognitive skills are increasingly seen at least as important as cognitive skills or IQ in determining job prospects. These equally important other factors include character, persistence, ability to cope with failure, to make connections and to think critically.

A good starting point to better understand the range of job options available and what skills employers are looking for is to visit the job profiles section of the National Careers Service website, where specific roles are categorised by occupation. This resource will enable you both to examine some of the specific roles in the sector your child is most interested in.

You can also help by supporting your child as they discover where their non-academic strengths lie. Psychometric profiling is an effective means of doing this and provides an element of impartiality – something which is difficult for a parent to achieve. There are a range of tests but to find out more information, visit Futurewise New Generation.

Encourage individuality

Be careful that you don’t unintentionally pressure your child to realise your own unfulfilled ambitions. They may not be suited to the career you once dreamed of, but remember they’re an individual and need to be given the freedom and space to live their own life.

Where your concern over their career and study choices may be deeply held, it is vital that your advice and expertise remains impartial. You should be realistic about your child’s potential, and seeking guidance from their school or college as to their likely educational achievements will help to identify appropriate routes out there.

Open your mind to alternatives

Don’t assume that your child will follow your academic path. Today, more than ever, there are a myriad of options for breaking into different sectors. Earning while they learn on an apprenticeship may not only be better suited to your child, but will allow them to avoid the daunting student debts that so many young people experience.

There are a wealth of online resources which can help to explain the various paths that you and your child may wish to consider, including theUCAS Progress website for information on further education and college options, Which? University, or the notgoingtouni site which provides details on alternative options such as apprenticeships, employment options and sponsored degrees.

Encourage networking

A rich and varied CV can pique the interest of an admissions tutor or potential employer. You should encourage your child to seek out work experience placements, take up volunteering roles, attend taster days, or simply speak with people already working in a sector that they’re interested in. It may be that your own professional and social networks can come in handy here.

It’s never too early to start thinking about the future – encouraging your child to start a portfolio of experiences for use in a future CV or as part of a personal statement can be beneficial from as early as year 9. Remind them to record all their work experience placements and gain references from them, as well as include part-time jobs held and roles involving responsibility either at school or outside organisations.

It’s also a good idea to ask someone not familiar with your child to appraise their CV/personal statement and review how it comes across given they won’t have preconceived opinions of them as an individual.

Get to know key dates and be prepared for what’s ahead – we all know teenagers aren’t always the most communicative or organised, so there’s no harm in equipping yourself with knowledge of the key dates for each stage of their academic career. From as early as 13 you can support them by attending subject option evenings for GCSE (or equivalent) choices. By 14 or 15 they should be thinking about first work experience placements and you’ll undoubtedly be able to help with this. By the time they’ve completed formal education you can be on hand to assist with preparing for, and travelling to, university and college open days or job interviews.

Be prepared to let go

There can be a fine balance between giving guidance and supporting your child and becoming a parent who can’t resist taking over and organising everything for them. Up until 16 many decisions relating to their education will have been made for them, so it’s a good idea to start encouraging some independence that will enable them to cope when the time comes. This doesn’t have to mean a sink or swim scenario and you’ll naturally want to discuss things with them – just make sure you are in the background.

What about school?

There is quite a variation in the level and sophistication of guidance and support offered by schools in the UK – an issue often discussed in the media – and it may be you feel that your child’s own school isn’t providing this to a sufficient level, or to meet their bespoke needs. If this is the case, Careers Advice for Parents, Parental Guidance and theNational Careers Service all serve as a useful starting point offering guidance and signposting parents to both free and paid-for services. However, in the same way as some parents choose to invest in private tuition for their child, you might also decide to seek professional careers guidance when subject or career choices need to be made.

Getting onto graduate schemes: a guide to phone interviews

Boy-on-mobile-phone-in-pu-002

 

 

Grad scheme tipster, Hannah Salton recalls a series of disastrous phone interviews and urges all candidates to be super prepared

 

n my previous blogpost, I talked about the research I did when applying for the BT graduate scheme. This time I’ll be focusing on the next stage of the application process I went through.

This part of the process wasn’t all plain sailing for me. After I’d done my initial application for BT, I was asked to complete numerical and language tests online. While I found the English language task fairly straightforward, having studied A-level English literature, I didn’t have enough time to complete the maths test. Maths has never been my strongest point, and I have to confess to having a rocky relationship with numbers.

Unsurprisingly, I had a bit of a panic that I hadn’t completed the whole test. I knew I should have listened to my dad and concentrated in GCSE maths. However, despite my worry, it seems it’s better to be relatively thorough and complete what you can correctly rather than rushing through all the questions and guessing (probably incorrectly in a state of panic) many answers. I only ended up completing around two thirds of my online maths test, but as I did that carefully and methodically, I was ecstatic to hear I’d got through to the next round; a phone interview.

Not being very technologically minded, I’ve always tried to prepare for the unexpected, and learnt to realise that whatever can go wrong, often will go wrong with technology. A short while before my phone interview with BT, I had another one with a different company. In preparation, I had my mobile phone fully charged, and assessed my entire room before the call to ensure optimum signal at my desk. Incidentally I’d never had a problem with phone reception before, but I was being overly cautious. I waited patiently by my phone for the interviewer to ring, and answered quickly when they did so.

The phone interview seemed to be going well, until halfway through when I lost all signal on my phone. After uttering my apologies, I managed to find a spot sitting on top of my wardrobe (not necessarily the best look for a young professional) leaning towards the window. I completed the phone interview OK, if a little stressed. Needless to say, I never had problems with the reception in my room again. But for my phone interview with BT, I had learnt my lesson. I had smugly booked out a room in the university library, just for me, to conduct my interview in. The study room was private and enclosed, and as I settled down with my notes (very important) I felt very proud of my forward thinking.

The great thing about phone interviews is you can relax in your own environment (phone reception permitting), and have as many handy notes as you like. I found having my CV to hand with a few key points about your skills and situational example answers can be really helpful. I did try and keep my notes simple and easily laid out though; the last thing you want to be doing is flicking through rustling paper, umming and arring as you try to find the answer to why you are a great team player.

Some of the questions included giving an example of a time I have demonstrated leadership, responded well to a challenge and been flexible in adapting to change. For my phone interviews, I printed off my CV and annotated it with different skills I thought I could be asked about, allocating them to different achievements on my CV. For example, I used my numerous group presentations and projects at university to demonstrate my ability to team work, and so on. One project in particular I found useful to discuss was a retail marketing module where I worked with a group to launch our own fictitious clothes line. Our team was allocated different roles such as marketing, finance and commercial specialist, and put in simulated market situations which we had to respond to.

I didn’t think it is a good idea to sound too rehearsed on calls, like a robot reading cliched lines, but sometimes having one or two examples can be reassuring when you’re asked the dreaded “what’s your biggest weakness?” (note: I came to find that saying you’re a perfectionist is apparently a bit over used – and opted for “I take on too much work and sometimes find it hard to say no to people” instead).

I think it’s important to try and relax and let your personality show in phone interviews. At BT you’re encouraged to be yourself, and even though it can be hard when you’re getting grilled, I think it’s better for a company to know what you’re like upfront as there’s only so long you can pretend to be someone you’re not.

As I mentioned before, keen to avoid another phone-signal dilemma, for the day of my BT phone interview I booked a library study room. But I hadn’t counted on a group of six international students setting up camp outside (loudly) brainstorming ideas for their group project. Even after I politely asked them to keep it down, the quiet hum of their energetic chatter couldn’t help but distract me. As it turns out, it didn’t matter in the end, as I managed to pass through to the next round.

But my advice? Anything that can go wrong often will go wrong, so always prepare as well as you can in advance for all kind of questions and unexpected situations. Especially enthusiastic exchange students.

[getevents]

Top 10 questions to ask in job interviews

Light bulb with question mark in

 

Being inquisitive during interviews makes you stand out from the crowd and can help you make sure the job is right for you. Here are 10 tips on how to ask the right question

Although job interviews often feel like an interrogation, they’re meant to be a conversation between you and a potential employer. Asking plenty of questions during a job interview can not only help you build a dialogue, but it can also help you evaluate if the job is right for you.

Before you pick and choose from the following top 10, be sure to consider the culture of the organisation and the interviewer doing the selecting. Adopt the right tone and convey a positive attitude – you want to ensure this opportunity works for you, not against you.

• What are the most enjoyable and the least enjoyable aspects of the role?
This can show that you like to know what sort of challenge you are going to face and that you like to get properly prepared for it, all in the expectation of being able to rise to it.

• You mentioned there will be a lot of presenting/researching/liaising; what do your most successful people find satisfying about this part of the role? 
This question can serve two purpose; it demonstrates your listening skills and associates you with being successful in the role and finding it satisfying.

• What types of training opportunities do you offer?
This is a classic question – it highlights that you’re keen to advance your skills and add further value to the organisation.

• Is there scope for promotion in the future?
This is another classic question. In a similar vein, it emphasises a determination to make progress and over the long term.

• Can you tell me how the role relates to the overall structure of the organisation?
With this question you’re drawing attention to a preference for teamwork. It looks as though you want to know where you would fit in and how your contribution would affect the rest of the company.

• How would you describe the work culture here?
This signals that you want to operate at your optimum and understand that for this you require a positive environment. This indicates you’re a good self-manager who is aware of how to get the best out of yourself.

• In what way is performance measured and reviewed?
This question flags up that you appreciate the importance of delivering real results. You will be seen as someone who understands the value of commitment, reliability and returns.

• What are the most important issues that you think your organisation will face? or • You have recently introduced a new product/service/division/project; how will this benefit the organisation?
These variations both show that you are interested in the job and employer behind it too. It will be apparent you have done some research, done some thinking, and are now eager to hear their analysis.

• May I tell you a little more about my particular interest in communicating with clients/developing new ideas/implementing better systems?
This is a cheeky and obvious way of getting permission to blow your own trumpet but then that’s what this interview is all about.

• Do you have any doubts about whether I am suited to this position?
This is a rather more brazen way of emphasising some of your strengths. It suggests you are open to constructive criticism and willing to learn from the experience of others. It also gives you a real chance to address any weaknesses the interviewee may think you have. Finally, it allows you to finish on a high, re-stating why you think you are the right person.

 

Having cancer made me determined to have the career I’ve always dreamed of

Charlotte Newman paralegal

Charlotte Newman shares the challenges she’s faced and why she’s sticking to her ambition to pursue a career in law

  • Charlotte Newman

It was January 2011 and I was sitting in the hospital waiting room. I was 21 years old, in my final year reading law at Leeds University, and I didn’t have a care in the world. Just a few minutes later, everything changed. I was told that I had Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone and soft tissue.

I had to leave university abruptly and embark upon a year of treatment, with the outcome uncertain. In March 2012, I was given the all-clear. I was eager to get on with life, but the cancer left its marks. It was aggressive and this, coupled with the intensity of the treatment, left me weak and vulnerable to infections.

Nearly two years after being diagnosed, I went back to university to complete my degree. This was a very trying time. I was still not 100% fit and I felt incredibly insecure, anxious and apprehensive – cancer had come close to consuming my life in more ways than one. Now I was about to return to the normal world, but I certainly did not feel “normal”.

During lectures I found myself looking at the other students, admiring their carefree and straightforward days. Surely they were not worrying about missing lectures because of MRI scans, being late to seminars because of hospital appointments, or even requesting an extension because they had just lost another friend to cancer? In this sense I felt isolated and different, but there was a way that the illness benefited me as well. I had been given a second chance at life and I was determined to cherish every moment and take advantage of every opportunity.

I struggled at times: during one exam period, I was even admitted into hospital. On the day of my equity exam I started suffering from an adhesion of the bowel due to the scar tissue left by surgery. I missed two exams, which were scheduled during my hospital stay, and had to take them in August. But I didn’t let this stop me. I made sure that I gave it my all and I have now, finally, graduated from Leeds with a first class honours degree.

While I was completing my degree, I was approached by the Teenage Cancer Trust. The charity had read my story on my sister’s JustGivingpage, which she had set up when running a marathon for the charity. I was asked to become the face of the trust – an offer I couldn’t decline.

I had my treatment on the trust’s ward at St James’ Hospital in Leeds and I attribute my positivity to the charity. Being treated on a charity’s ward meant that I was not alone in my ordeal. I was surrounded by young people fighting the same battle and sharing the same experiences. I was able to gain some degree of a social life, formerly made redundant by the cancer. The trust also arranges professional make-up artists to visit the wards on the aptly named “look good feel good” days, which taught me to embrace the physical changes brought on by my illness – it gave me a reason to smile when all I wanted to do was cry.

I had been searching for a way to give back to a charity that had already given me so much. And as I was still in no physical condition to run a marathon or do anything too taxing, this was the perfect opportunity. Now I speak at events, telling my story and spreading awareness of the charity. When I took on the role while still at university, I knew that it would be difficult to juggle speaking engagements with a law degree’s heavy workload. But this only made me more determined to give back.

Upon graduation I was offered a work experience position at a law firm,Stowe Family Law. I suppose this was the universe giving something back to me. The competition for places was fierce, but I was offered a paralegal position and right now I can’t tell you how excited I am to be working towards my dream career. The firm allows me to design my working hours around my hospital appointments and is very understanding about my health issues. Hopefully, I can inspire other young people struggling with illnesses, or who are at other crossroads, to keep their spirits high.

I’m often asked why I am pursuing such a demanding career, after going through cancer. It seems the general consensus is that I should be out there travelling the world. My response is simple. I have fought long and hard to have a future at all. Having cancer has made me even more determined to have the future that I have always dreamed of – one where I am a successful lawyer.

 

Charlotte Newman is a paralegal with Stowe Family Law.

Changing career paths: advice from the experts

Hedge maze at Blenheim Palace

From how to highlight your transferable skills to drafting your cover letter, we round up the advice shared in our recent live chat on how to switch careers

Here are some tips to help navigate the career change maze. Photograph: Jason Hawkes/Corbis

Tailor your CV and highlight transferable skills

Lisa LaRue, career counsellor and coach at CareerWorx: Highlight the skills and experience that are most relevant. That’s not to say that other skills and experience aren’t valuable – the key is to turn the spotlight on the most relevant content. Transferable skills are best emphasised in a CV by including a key skills, skills overview or summary section. This should be bullet pointed and, wherever possible, directly match what the employer is looking for.

Clare Whitmell, Guardian contributor and qualified business communication trainer: Link your past to the present; pull out all the relevant aspects of previous jobs that are similar or the same. Downplay the rest. Draw out themes too. For example, highlight all your admin experience if you’re moving into the admin field and make sure your achievements are relevant. Sometimes it can help to explain your career change, especially if it looks like a logical progression. So, if you worked in marketing and you’re now going for sales, emphasise the overlaps.

Hannah Morton-Hedges, careers adviser and founder of Momentum Careers Advice: Make the most of a chunky skills section on the front page of your CV where you have the opportunity to present this information. Make it relevant to your new role. Don’t leap straight into talking about your employment history as this may make it hard for prospective employers to see the potential.

Speak to people in the industry

Sarah Byrne, online editor at Careershifters: Connect with people who work in the sector you want to move into. If you have a shared passion and enthusiasm for the industry, it should be easy to bond with them. They can not only give you some insider knowledge about how the industry works, but also perhaps advise you on how to get a foot in the door and keep you in the loop for upcoming opportunities. If they could refer you to the person hiring (which isn’t always HR), even better.

Lisa LaRue: Contact recruiters or company HR departments as they can provide a good insight into the industry and what employers look for. Think about what you want to ask before you contact them – be concise so as not to waste their time.

Get some industry-based experience

Bev White, managing director of HR consulting at Penna: If you can, offer some free resource to get some work experience for a defined period of time. This gets you work time in a relevant industry on your CV and introduces you to people who would be willing to recommend you to others in the industry for paid schemes.

Hannah Morton-Hedges: Try and get some industry-based work experience. Even if it is just a few days or a week, it could make things easier for you, may open up new contacts, and will certainly show you to be enthusiastic and committed. Start contacting companies to see how willing they would be to have you on board for some work experience.

Sarah Byrne: Find ways to gain experience in this specific line of work. Could you shadow someone who works in this role for half a day? Could you assist someone who works in the role you want with a short-term project? You would then have some direct experience of the role to flesh out your CV.

What should I write in my cover letter?

Clare Whitmell: Cover letters are a good place to briefly describe your motivations for the job (whether that’s a progression or a career move). But the focus should be on what value you bring to the role, and for that to happen, you need to think from the employer’s perspective. What can you offer them? Why are you a strong candidate?

Lisa LaRue: Your cover letter won’t be much different to a regular cover letter except it is a good idea to include a paragraph stating why you are changing careers.

Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management: Even if you have relatively little experience in your new field, you must position yourself as someone who is highly capable of the role – not as a career changer. Emphasise all the skills, experience and qualifications that are relevant to the role. If you haven’t got any experience, then go out and get some, even if you have to do it on a voluntary basis.

Hannah Morton-Hedges: Your covering letter should address the reason you want to change direction. Make it clear to them this is a well thought through change of direction that you are passionate about pursuing. Make sure you are also addressing the reason why you are applying to the particular company – show that you have done your research.

Work out what you want from a new job

Sarah Byrne: Clarify what you would like to do next. What boxes aren’t being ticked in your current role? What would you like your next role to give you? How would you like to interact with your colleagues, and/or clients? Do you want to stay within your current interest field or are curious about a new field?

Use LinkedIn effectively

Lisa LaRue: Be sure to work on your LinkedIn profile so that it markets you to potential employers. You are missing out on a huge part of the job market if you’re not using it effectively.
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How can we encourage more women into tech? – what the experts say

Female executives like Marissa Mayer are rare in tech. So how can the sector improve its diversity? We round up the expert views from our recent live chat
  • Martin Williams

Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo, is one of very few women to reach the top of the tech industry. Photograph: Handout/REUTERS

 

It’s the million-dollar question; how can the technology industry shed it’s reputation for being a man’s world and encourage more women into its ranks?

Here we round up our experts’ views on the issue:

Encourage girls from an early age

Eileen Brown is the chief executive of Amastra: “Schools are often playing catch-up in the technology sector and do not have the time to invest in learning new and emerging technology. Parents are hugely influential in a young child’s life – even casual conversations can change the way a child thinks. Supportive and encouraging parents can make all the difference in helping their child follow whatever career they choose.”

Wendy Tan White is co-founder and chief executive of Moonfruit:“If you ask girls whether they use Facebook, iPhones or Instagram, everyone raises there hands. It’s often the application and the difference technology can make to people that girls engage with. We could frame the introduction of tech to girls differently to engage a broader audience.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon heads up the Stemettes project: “The media has a role to play – how many techy girls do we see on children’s TV and in papers and magazines? Girls who aren’t already in the industry or don’t know anyone in the industry have nothing to look to, or to aspire to.”

Professor Susan Eisenbach is head of the department of computing at Imperial College London: “Our women graduates get the same level of starter job as our men graduates. The problem is mainly about the lack of women going into the IT sector in the first place. What surprises me is that even daughters of IT fathers don’t consider it as a career.”

The tech sector is not meritocratic

Suw Charman-Anderson is the founder of Ada Lovelace Day: “No matter how much we like to think it is, the tech industry is not a meritocracy and never has been. No industry is. Instead, people get where they are through a variety of means, whether it’s their connections, their charm or one big past success. It’s not just about ability. It’s true that there are a lot of cultural issues at play, but the industry is not blameless. Women’s pay is still lower than their male counterparts and there are few women at board level in major companies.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon: “Sometimes it’s not clear to certain leaders what they should be doing to embrace diversity. As far as they are concerned, the lack of women means it’s not their fault that women aren’t in senior positions.”

Are quotas and positive discrimination a force for good?

Rachel Coldicutt is a director at Caper, founder of Culture Hackand co-founder of Articulate: “Given that white men have had the benefit of 100% quotas in management positions since the industrial revolution, it only seems fair that people who are less well represented have the benefit of a structure to operate in.”

Jenny Griffiths is the chief executive of Snap Fashion: “The whole point of addressing this problem is to make women feel naturally part of the technology industry, instead of the strange minority. Positive discrimination can generate some feelings of suspicion among male colleagues and make women feel uncomfortable. Having said that, companies offering it are trying their best to make women feel valued in the workplace.”

Companies should embrace diversity policies

Suw Charman-Anderson: “The key is to identify the barriers at each rung of the ladder and eliminate them. We need to ensure companies have diversity policies and programmes – not just for women, but all aspects of diversity. Women often don’t have networks that reach far enough up in the hierarchy, so it’s harder for them to get a sponsor to help them develop their career. Equal paternity and maternity leave would also help, as family life wouldn’t be seen as something women have and men don’t.”

Eileen Brown: “Having gender neutral language on a job description might adjust the balance and get more female applicants.”

The sector is very varied

Wendy Tan White: “There are so many different roles other than pure coding in the tech sector. We should do a better job communicating and essentially marketing these to the female audience. Hybrid skills are what technology organisations need today – we look for this as well as aptitude and talent.”

Rachel Coldicutt: “There are lots of incredibly inspiring women who are doing jobs that no one has ever done before. There are so many facets to technology now that you don’t have to work in a male-dominated company – particularly if you’re prepared to take a riskier career path and set-up or work in a smaller agency or start-up.”

Research companies when you apply for jobs

Suw Charman-Anderson: “When you interview for a job, you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. There are plenty of tech companies with supportive, healthy cultures, so and it’s a matter of avoiding companies which are less welcoming to women. That may lengthen the job search a little, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon: “Don’t assume that an all-male environment will be hostile. If you’re concerned it may be work raising it at interview, watching for the type of response you get.”

Speak up

Suw Charman-Anderson: “Women who are already in tech need to be vocally supportive of other women, and senior women need to help junior women learn to negotiate the network. And we need to encourage others to take that leap and get involved in an industry that’s incredibly energetic, exciting and satisfying.”

Don’t be put off

Rachel Coldicutt: “There’s no point in worrying till you’ve gone along and met the people who work there. Just because it’s more tech-based it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be ‘laddy’, even if the majority of the staff are men.”

Jenny Griffiths: “It’s a male-dominated environment, but it’s not that scary and you can help to change it. If you perform your best then you’ll excel whether you’re female or not. There are women out there being highly successful and loving their tech careers. We need to hear from women at all points in their career and show that it’s a great path to chose.”

 

 

Women in logistics: there’s more to the industry than just moving and lifting

Work boots

 

The logistics industry needs a more diverse workforce, but it suffers from poor perceptions about career opportunities. Melanie Hall shares her experiences as woman in the sector
  • Melanie Hall
  • theguardian.com, 

Nearly 1.5m people work in transport and logistics in the UK. But less than a quarter of these employees are female, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

The logistics industry also suffers from poor perceptions of its career opportunities, which has led to a debate around skills gaps and a lack of gender diversity.

Addressing perceptions that the logistics industry is a career option for a very specific type of person is a real challenge – it’s hard to escape the impression that roles primarily involve moving and lifting. What’s more, the industry’s position within the manufacturing sector has, for some, meant that the legacy workforce is more male dominated.

As a woman working in the sector, a few of my experiences have highlighted this: health and safety gear being produced in large sizes; I’ve felt that having shorter hair would make for easier compliance; and I’ve had to manage plenty of quick changes out of tights and into socks and steel-toed boots. These are small things, but considerations that sometimes make wardrobe decisions longer in the morning. I won’t opt to wear a skirt or dress on the days I know I’m in the warehouse.

When I first started in logistics, I was more conscious of being female than I am now. I once noticed at an internal meeting that, aside from the HR rep, I was the only female present. I wondered at the time if this was likely to be a regular occurrence. But as the competitive landscape changes, delivering for a customer is fast becoming the single most important measure of success.

Logistics permeates every industry and business sector in the world – retail, life sciences, fashion, technology, construction, transport and so on. This means that in addition to needing drivers and warehouse operatives, there’s also a requirement for business development and customer-facing personnel with expertise in the industries in which customers operate.

I manage a diverse team of professionals in operations, customer services, finance and even industry experts. My typical day is full of meetings with customers, my team or the company as a whole to ensure we’re moving in the right direction.

The logistics industry is working to make changes to attract a more diverse workforce but, in doing so, it’s important that there is a focus on hiring women in positions where they have visibility to inspire and encourage other women into the industry.

For me, being a woman in the logistics industry isn’t an issue. I have always believed that I’m in a role to do a job, and to get the job done you need variety in the skills and expertise of the team. I can see why the industry may seem daunting to some, but it’s important to understand that current perceptions of the industry aren’t always accurate.

Those considering the move into logistics should focus on building their own brand – it’s the best way to ensure you’re accepted in the role for your abilities. I’ve been guilty of looking at a role of thinking “what can’t I do?” but it’s important to focus on what you can bring to your role that’s currently missing.

We should relish diversity. The industry will only be able to attract the right talent and overcome its perception issues by better promoting the scope of opportunities available.

 

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Jobless young people without basic skills told to learn or lose benefits

Jobless young people without basic skills told to learn or lose benefits

Unemployed 18 to 21-year-olds without basic maths and English will only get benefits if they undergo 16 hours of training a week
  • Rowena Mason and Patrick Wintour
  • The Guardian, 

Unemployed teenagers who leave school without basic English and maths will be forced to go back to the classroom for 16 hours a week or lose their benefits under new rules announced by George Osborne.

The chancellor said he wanted to get rid of a “culture of worklessness” among some school-leavers, as he unveiled a package of measures to get some of Britain’s one million unemployed young people into jobs.

Among the changes, Osborne said he would gave a tax break to companies that hire under-21s, create another 20,000 apprenticeships, fund more training for 16 to 17-year-olds and bring in elements of an “earn or learn” system to stop 18-year-olds going straight on to the dole.

The principles of “earn or learn” have been hotly debated within the coalition, after David Cameron used his conference speech in October to float the idea of taking away housing benefit and jobseeker’s allowance from under-25s who were not in work or training.

The Liberal Democrats have not agreed to all those ideas but appear to have relented on some elements of “earn or learn”, as Osborne announced that 18 to 21-year-olds without basic skills would only get their benefit if they undergo 16 hours of training a week.

On top of this, all 18 to 21-year-olds who are unemployed for more than six months will have to undertake compulsory work experience, a traineeship or a full-time community work placement.

The measures appear to be an extension of the government’s controversial “workfare” schemes – or mandatory work activity – where jobseekers are forced to go on a month of work experience in order to qualify for their benefits.

Senior Lib Dem sources said the policy had been significantly watered down by Clegg’s party and agreed on the condition it will only be rolled out in pilot areas.

In his speech, Osborne said the government “will not abandon those who leave school with few or no qualifications”.

“Without basic maths or English, there is a limited chance any young person will be able to stay off welfare,” he said. “Starting in some areas at first, anyone aged 18 to 21 signing on without these basic skills will be required to undertake training from day one or lose their benefits.

“If they are still unemployed after six months, they will have to start a traineeship, take work experience or do a community work placement – and if they don’t turn up, they will lose their benefits.

“A culture of worklessness becomes entrenched when young people can leave school and go straight onto the dole, with nothing expected in return. That option is coming to an end in our welfare system.”

The Social Market Foundation thinktank said the new policy should help young people in spite of Osborne’s tough rhetoric designed to appeal to the right about cracking down on their “worklessness”.

Its director, Emran Mian, said: “Getting young people without qualifications to go into training is very much a sheep in wolves’ clothing. Despite being couched in the rhetoric of a benefits clampdown, it is a sensible policy that could improve people’s skills and employability.”

Osborne also said the job market for young people would be given a further boost by scrapping National Insurance contributions for companies when they hire under-21s.

This move is the second policy designed to encourage firms to take on young people, on top of the struggling £1bn Youth Contract programme championed by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister.

That scheme offers businesses a subsidy of up to £2,275 for taking on a young person who has been out of work for at least six months but figures released earlier this year showed it had only helped 4,700 in its first year out of its target of around 50,000.

Getting rid of National Insurance for hiring under-21s will provide a further incentive, effectively meaning an employer could hire two young people for the price of a 50-year-old, according to Sian Steele, a partner at accountancy firm PwC.

“Dissolving employment taxes for under-21-year-olds is a welcome and sensible move to get employers to give jobs to young people,” she said. “The worry for older workers is that it makes them less attractive in real cost terms.”

 

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How to be a shoo-in for a job

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Interviews will become a thing of the past when your reputation has firms queuing up to hire you, says Clare Whitmell

Some people never ‘apply’ for jobs, but are approached directly. But it’s not luck that generates these opportunities, it’s the reputation you’ve built with industry peers who are happy to recommend you. Here’s how you can turn your CV into a mere formality.

Be recognised for your work

Whether you’re a top sales person with a string of impressive results, or the “go-to” tech person who keeps the intranet running, you need to be known for something. Specialise (rather than generalise) and develop the crucial attributes valued by employers: a can-do attitude, ability to communicate and work across cultures, and strong problem-solving skills.

Keep a record of your successes in each role, quantifying where possible in terms of bottom-line impact. Regularly update company managers on what – and how – you’re doing, to increase your visibility and influence salary and promotion negotiations.

Build an industry-wide reputation

In a live Q&A on new year career resolutions, Deborah Simmons quoted some interesting research on career success. “Doing the job well” has less of an impact than “relationship with others”. But by far the biggest factor (at 60%) is “reputation/exposure”.

Meet influential people at industry events such as conferences or presentations. Increase your exposure by offering to speak or present at events, and getting quoted in trade journals or publishing white papers.

Build relationships with key figures, thought-leaders and specialist recruiters who can refer you to others, including those with hiring authority. Personal referrals are among the easiest ways to get a job.

Be visible online

As recruiters and hiring managers increasingly use Google and LinkedIn to source (and ‘screen’) candidates, an active online presence is no longer optional.

Social media is very much a level playing field. It’s easy to build contacts through participating in online forums and Twitter conversations, and by thoughtful and useful comments on blogs and LinkedIn group discussions. Maintaining an industry-related blog also enhances your professional reputation and can lead to further opportunities, such as guest-blogging and conference participation – as well as job leads.

The transparency of social media can also work against you. Aim for quality over quantity of output, and be known as someone who provides value.

Non-participation in social media may leave you sidelined. Recently released statistics show that people of all ages are active online, with 152 million blogs, and 200 million people on Twitter. Measurement tools (such as the Klout score, which aims to calculate your online influence) may become another stage in the hiring process, as decision-makers try to assess the professional reputation of a potential candidate.

Be choosy

Don’t tarnish your credibility by lunging at any job that comes along. Roles that don’t offer career-building challenges are unlikely to keep your interest for long, and a job-hopper label will damage your reputation.

Understand the trends

Know what’s happening in your industry. Where are the growth and opportunity areas? Where is your next role likely to be, and what skills will you need for it? Keeping current will help you plan your next move strategically.

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Twitter Job Challenge: Can you catch an employer’s attention using Twitter?

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You’re probably already spending/wasting time on Twitter. So why not combine it with looking for work in our #twitterjobchallenge?

Via Twitter, lots of you have been asking us “what’s this#twitterjobchallenge, then?” Allow me to explain.

But first, a little context. It all started when the Careers team was sat around engaged in deep discussion about the theme for our nextCareers Talk podcast.

“Desirability of the public sector, despite cuts?”

“Nah”

“Jobseeking on Twitter.”

“Oooh, yeah.”

The Twitter idea was actually inspired by Ulrike Schulz’s recent blog, Can Twitter help me land my dream job? We decided we wanted to explore, in more detail, just how good Twitter was for looking for work and creating job opportunities, in what podcast that will be coming soon calls ‘how to use Twitter to find a job’.

But, first we had to think about the conflicting evidence of how effective Twitter really is when it comes to careers. Because, while Ulrike plugs away admirably, using Twitter to put herself in front of employers and immerse herself in her chosen industry of advertising (with some impressive success, I must say), a survey has just been released that suggests social media job-seeking might not work for everyone.

Research from recruitment consultancy Robert Half claims “social media is a fail whale for recruitment”.

The survey found that 52% of chief financial officers said their companies have not used any social media for recruiting.

But, as discussed in our recent podcast, we’re not entirely convinced that chief financial officers are the ones plugging away in the HR departments. Plus, there’s still that remaining 48% that do use social media to target people.

It was at this point that my colleague Harriet Minter had a brainwave and the #twitterjobchallenge was born.

Her idea was to to use Twitter to find out which employers are really paying attention to jobseekers on social media and involve graduates in the process.

So we started by asking our esteemed graduate blogger Sara Barnard to take the challenge.

All she had to do was:

• Pick five employers

• Use Twitter to convince them to give her a job

• Tell us who responded and how she did it

Then we opened it out to our followers, and anyone else who happened across it on Twitter.

We’ve just set @saramegan a #TwitterJobChallenge: Try to convince your top five employers to give you a job using Twitter. Want to play too?

Actually, although I’ve used 400-odd words to explain it, that’s it. Try to convince an employer, your top employer if you like, to give you a job using Twitter. And share your experiences with us, of course.

You can also keep up with how the challenge develops by signing up for our weekly newsletter. We’ll be posting updates via that too.

Good luck.

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You’ve been Googled: what employers don’t want to see in your online profile

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Before an interview, you’ve done your research on a company. But it’s also important to research what they might have found out about you online too
  • Professor Cary Cooper
  • theguardian.com, 

What are recruiters looking for when they conduct online searches on individuals before deciding whether to offer them interviews? Evidence of involvement in business networks and community projects? Examples of success at work, college or on the sports field? Or are they simply trying to tool themselves with a few choice examples from dodgy websites that will do nothing but cause discomfort for an already nervous candidate?

So, what will employers want to find, and what will put them off? Luci Baldwin, IPC Media resourcing and recruitment manager, says anything constructive and positive will work in a candidate’s favour. “Evidence of involvement in community activities, a presence on a business network such as LinkedIn, and anything to demonstrate good communication skills are key attributes we look for,” she said.

“Written material should be positive and error-free. So much the better if there is evidence of teamwork, or an account of some really special project a candidate has been involved with. Anything constructive and memorable can go a long way to supporting an individual application.”

And what about the bad stuff? Shuvo Loha, director of headhunting specialists Janikin Rooke, starts simply. “It would worry me to find negative remarks about a person or from them,” he says.

“So much of what we do is documented somewhere online nowadays people have to be very careful. What seemed like a funny photo from university could end up costing you a job or an interview without you even knowing. Evidence of a negative or bad attitude, revealed through too much complaining or ranting, would put me off, as would anything that suggests a candidate is intolerant or extreme in opinion. Bad mouthing other people, especially employers, is out, as is anything that exaggerates or is too self-promotional.”

Luci and Shuvo offer sound advice. After all, the truth is that good interviewers, like good candidates, take time to do some research on the person or people they are planning to meet. Research by ExecuNet showed that 77% of recruiters said they used search engines to find background data on candidates. Additionally, 35% admitted they eliminated a candidate because of what they found online.

The same survey quizzed job candidates, too. It found that 82% expected recruiters to check out their names on a search engine, yet only 33% bothered to search for information on themselves, to see what their prospective employer might find out.

In conclusion, it pays to be a little circumspect about what you contribute to the web, and where your contribution is placed. And since it’s tricky to take back any words you might later regret, then do expect questions in an interview, and think hard about how you will explain yourself. That in its own right will earn you valuable points.

Whatever you do, don’t get into the position one candidate found himself in. He was at an interview, facing a panel of senior executives. The CEO began the interview by stating, deadpan: “Yes, you ARE stunningly gorgeous.” Completely wrong-footed by this bizarre opening to the interview, the candidate failed to recover his composure and the encounter went from bad to worse. Eventually, the penny dropped that the CEO had done a search on the candidate and found the bold assertion on his Facebook page that he was ‘stunningly gorgeous’. The candidate’s failure to do a mental mop-up of his own cyberspace contributed to his failure on this particular occasion.

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LinkedIn and how to use it: a graduate job seeker’s guide

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Creating a LinkedIn profile enables you to build a network and gain access to industry insiders. Clare Whitmell reveals her step by step guide to getting started, and making the most of your profile
  • Clare Whitmell
  • theguardian.com, 

LinkedIn offers much more than job listings. It enables you to build a network and gain access to industry insiders. It’s also the easiest way to create a professional identity online, as a LinkedIn profile appears among the first results when your name is googled. And with the option to add files, presentations and updates, your profile can become a more dynamic version of your CV.

Getting started

Your first step is to create your profile. Aim for 100% completion so you show up in more searches. To do this, you’ll need to include your educational history, current position and three recent ones, upload a photo, write a summary and then get three recommendations.

The settings tab (underneath your name in the top right hand corner) allows you to change things like privacy settings. You can edit your profile any time, add updates or applications, or rearrange the sections of your profile by clicking on the section header, then dragging it to its new location.

Tips

Use the headline under your name to reflect your career goals – not necessarily your current job title.

Claim your name on your LinkedIn url (from the edit button next to Public Profile).

Use keywords in your summary and experience sections. Be specific about responsibilities, achievements and educational experience.

Don’t be too formal. Inject some personality into your summary section by writing in the first person and giving an idea of your interests and goals.

Making contacts

LinkedIn suggests names based on your work history or mutual contacts. You can also invite people to connect by using the contacts tab on the top of the page to search through past or present colleagues and university (alumni) contacts, or through importing your email address book.

Groups

Joining and participating in groups raises your profile and expands your network. LinkedIn suggests relevant groups, but you can also search or create your own. To help you decide the usefulness of a group, check the group statistics feature, which gives information about demographics, growth and activity. Group membership has obvious benefits: you can invite other members to connect, view jobs which might not be posted elsewhere, and stay up-to-date with industry trends by reading and taking part in discussions.

Company pages and job opportunities

Use the navigation bar to find companies you’re interested in, then follow them to receive their updates. You can see if any of your contacts work at the company – useful if you need an introduction or information you wouldn’t normally get from a job description or company website.

A dedicated jobs portal for students and graduates allows you to refine your search by sector and location.

You can also find opportunities (through the “jobs you may be interested in” feature or through a search) and be found by companies and recruiters.

Use the applications

Show off your expertise by embedding your blog, adding a file (such as your CV) via the box application, or including a slideshare presentation. Keep your profile active with updates or by integrating your LinkedIn updates with Twitter (you’ll need to add your Twitter account, then decide what – if anything – you want to merge).

Stay up-to-date

LinkedIn is constantly rolling out new developments; a recent one being the skills feature (accessed under the ‘More’ tab) which allows you to include crucial keywords. Other additions particularly relevant for grads are the new profile sections designed to highlight university achievements. These include projects, awards, organisations, courses and test scores and you’ll find them from the “add sections” bar immediately under the main profile.

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My Twitter job hunt success story: I’m employed!

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Since March, graduate Ulrike Schulz has been using Twitter to find a job in London. Last month she landed her dream social media role at We Are Social. Here, she reveals how she did it

It’s December and I’m in London, employed. The year 2011 is almost over and so is my Twitter project – looking for a job via my@TheLondonJob account.

After the first notice of having an interview in London in July I immediately booked a flight to my dream city. I got this interview through Matt O’Shea, a digital strategist at the creative agency Public in Shoreditch. He sent my CV to his managers at Public after I contacted him on Twitter. My application was successful and they invited me in for an interview. I was offered a six-week paid internship, which I started on 28 September. As I didn’t know if I would be hired me after the internship, I kept looking for contacts on Twitter.

During my internship I met Mat Morrison, head of social media at Starcom MediaVest.

At the event, Mat introduced me to people who work in social media and I enjoyed the night chatting not only about my job hunt but also about general topics like social media or life, and also giving away my business cards.

On another occasion, I met Rob Mosley from Nonsense, a digital agency. I also contacted him on Twitter, asking for some help and to see if there were any vacancies at Nonsense. He was really interested in what I had to say and although he wasn’t able to offer me a job, he promised to send out a note to people he knew. I was not disappointed. I had two agencies ask me for an interview. I had started my internship at Public, researching on social media and writing blogs for the company’s website, when I had the other two interviews, but was told that I didn’t have enough experience.

When I came to London the first person I met was Mauricio Samayoa, who is a former We Are Social account manager. That was the first time I heard about this agency. The second time, I encountered We Are Social was with Mat Morrison who introduced me to Robin Grant, MD of We Are Social. It didn’t lead me immediately to a job but, looking back, it was part of what I like to call my career destiny.

It happened that We Are Social was looking for a German account executive and Grant remembered me. He invited me to an interview.Steve Ward, a social media and digital recruiter, who I met as well before, told me about the job at the same time.

I just had the feeling the job was meant to be my dream job because wherever I went in London there was always the talk of We Are Social from different people. In the job I could use my German skills, connect with people via social media, and live my creative and communicative side within account management. After the interviews, I was even more convinced of it – the whole atmosphere in the office was really great.

My first interview was with Melina Hägglund, an account manager. I didn’t feel any pressure in the interview because Melina seemed to be easygoing. But the interview was really about what experience I have, why I like social media and so on – and I had lots to say about that!

After the interview with her I talked to Jordan Stone, the account director of the team I would work with. He made me feel comfortable as well. It just didn’t feel in an interview anymore, although I took the interview very serious. They told me that I will be responsible for the German Facebook page of their client and they expect something big next year (no more details about that – it’s a secret).

Two days before finishing my internship for Public, I got a call from We Are Social and was offered the job as account executive. This was by far one of the happiest moments in my life. I live in London and I found my dream job. I’ve completed my first couple of weeks at We Are Social; I love the team and I can’t wait to take the daily challenges in social media.

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