Did you ever have a boss who changed your life?

Have you ever come across Gretchen Rubin? If not you can learn about her here and here. She is most famous for The Happiness Project and I wrote about it a bit here.

Any-hoo, I was on LinkedIn the other day, trying to find something interesting, which at times (in my opinion) can be difficult,  and came across a question posed by Gretchen. She asked "Did you ever have a boss who changed your life?"

Immediately I thought yes. Many have. Some good and some bad and most taught me something and as a result, changed my life and career in some way. Here are the three bosses that immediately came to mind.

1. The Store Manager
This boss was a Store Manager when I worked in retail. I was her Assistant Manager and despite her liking me, she didn't want to teach me anything and she was often rude to customers. She was insecure and nervous and I think quite a bit worried that if she taught anyone anything they might take over her job. I wrote about her here. She was very worried when she went on holidays back to the UK for a 6 week trip that we would all get along without her and she wouldn't be needed. Myself and the rest of the team really enjoyed that time she was away. We actually worked as a team and had happy customers.

How did she change my life? She taught me all the things not to do as a manager. She taught me to be generous and teach other people what I knew and to not be insecure about doing that. Managers and leaders who are generous with their time and knowledge will always be valued.

2. The Difficult Manager
I started work at this Australian listed company and from day one I knew it wasn't for me. I didn't fit the culture and my manager was a difficult person from start to finish. She was diagnosed with a debilitating illness when I worked there but I suspect I would have still struggled to work with her demands and style despite that. I tried lots of different things to work with this manager but in the end I just couldn't do it any more. I also wrote about her here

How did she change my life? She taught me that despite being able to work with pretty much anyone, if I don't fit the organisational culture I would fail from the start. I learnt that organisational fit is really important and that there are just some people that I won't be able to work with, and to keep trying is very unhealthy.

3. The Challenging Manager
There are challenging people who are bad for your career, and challenging people who are good for your career. This is a tale of someone good for my career. This manager was open to a debate, a verbal sparring and it was great. If I didn't believe in something I could speak up. He also made me realise the importance of the role of HR. I have worked in many organisations where it wasn't valued that much, but having someone point out that I helped manage the most expensive part of running a business was enlightening. This person was also the first to treat me as a true business partner and confidant, and I learnt so much about the business by just being there to listen.

How did he change my life? He gave me confidence to be me and to not be afraid of conflict, as conflict can help relationships in the workplace.  I also improved my spreadsheet skills immensely!

Did you ever had a boss that changed your life?

Lisa x

The Resume Series: Resume Basics - the 5 don'ts

So back over here I gave you some tips on what you should do if you are pulling together or updating your resume. Sometimes it's easier to say what not to do (and infinitely more fun!). Here we go!

  1. Don't include referee contact information: If the company wants to do reference checks they will ask you. This will give you time to chose the best people to speak about you for that specific role, and give you time to contact them. This is also important if they are travelling or overseas where you may need to provide different contact details. You don't want your referees being contacted without your permission.
  2. Don't include a photo. Seriously. Unless you are a model about to go to a casting, this will just give recruiters and HR people the chance to roll about the floor grabbing their stomachs in mirth make fun at your ill chosen photo. Stop it. Do have a photo on your Linkedin account. A professional one. Not one holding a cocktail. Not one where you eyes are red from a flash and not one with someone's arm around you, that you have cleverly cropped out. It's not clever.
  3. Lose the fancy fonts (thanks Rob). I like me a fancy font. I do. Fancy fonts look great on Pinterest and craft blogs. But unless you are going for a creative type role leave them to the creative types. I recommend just using one font, two at a stretch if you are a little creative. That is it. Also use a fairly normal one. If your resume gets pulled through expensive recruitment software basic fonts and formatting will be your friend.
  4. You don't need to detail your family situation or age. Most employers don't care if you are married, separated, divorced, with 2 kids, 3 dogs, a cat and 2 budgies or whether you are living with an alien. If they do care it's none of their bee's wax and in most developed countries it's illegal to ask. In places where it's not illegal they can ask you at interview where you can tell them in person to mind their bee's wax. It's not relevant to the job.
  5. Don't send the same resume in for every job. Tailor it to each company and opportunity, AND
  6. Yes I know I said 5 don'ts but a friend who works in recruitment (thanks Lynette) made a suggestion about another great don't. It's the section on your resume about your interests. I personally think you should leave this out altogether. If interviewers are interested in you personally, they will ask. If you have to include interests don't put things like "watching TV" or "sleeping" I mean really? One resume I read told me that the person liked to do massage, both kinds. What was I supposed to think about that? I don't remember interviewing that person.

So there you have it folks. Got any other don'ts?

Lisa x

The Resume Series: Resume Basics - the top 10 do's

In times of change and organisational restructuring a good resume is the ticket to your next role. Over this week and the next I'll be covering the basics of resumes. Here is my first post on the topic - the top 10 do's!

Lets face it. Resumes are hard. They are hard because we don't do one very often. They are hard because they get out of date quickly and they are hard because mostly we don't know what a prospective employee is looking for. The job ad may detail a number of things and you may have addressed them in your cover letter and/or resume and you still don't get an interview. Ugh!

I would like to say the process of choosing candidates for interviews is scientific but often it's not. I mean, there is a correlation between choosing resumes that match the selection criteria but it's sometimes a little random. Humans are not particularly rational (despite what some humans tell you) so no matter how closely your resume meets the specification you may or may not get chosen. That's life and unless you have been discriminated against you should just move on. Big companies now use sophisticated resume selection and recruitment software but I'm a little sceptical about how effective it is, though there isn't much choice when you receive hundreds of applicants for any given role.

So what are my top tips for creating or updating your resume?
  1. Include basic contact information:  You don't need to provide two email addresses, two phone numbers and your home address. Cut it down. I think a mobile phone number and an email address is adequate. Put them in the header or footer. Will look good and be easy to find.
  2. Have a "normal" email address. No bunnybuns69@hotmail.com and no sexymamma81@gmail. Also don't use your current work email address. That's just bad form.
  3. Be crystal clear. You can always say something in less words. Make sure you do. Be succinct and if you are not good at this get a friend to read it for you and ruthlessly edit.
  4. Be short. I have seen a candidate for a senior role get the job on a one page resume. It can be done. I think 2-3 pages is fine. No more. 
  5. Stick to the highlights. No one wants to read War and Peace. No one. I promise, your work history is not that interesting.
  6. Be relevant. To the job vacancy. That is all. You look like an idiot when you apply for a job with nothing that matches what the company is looking for. Overseas students pay attention.
  7. Spell check. I can forgive one, maybe two spelling mistakes or typos. More pedantic people will not and if writing is part of the job, you are done for.
  8. Only include your highest and most relevant qualifications. A massive list of certificates obtained by attending time management 101, team building for dummies and "intro to excel" have no place on your resume.
  9. Don't flick it. Online job boards make it very easy to apply for jobs. Don't apply for everything that looks even slightly up your alley. It wastes everyone's time.
  10. Tailor your resume for every role you apply for. That might sound like hard work but you should be choosey what you apply for and not apply for that many roles at the same time. 
 What would you like to hear about in regards to resumes? What do you struggle with?

Lisa xx

The war for talent. The battleground has moved.

The battleground has moved

Much has been written about the war for talent, the term and book made popular by McKinsey & Company and Steven Hankin back in the 90's. The premise is that the competition for attracting and retaining talented employees will intensify due to greater need for talented people (as our organisations and the environment they operate within become more complex) as well as changes to demographics (our ageing population) which will decrease the supply.

I think in part this war for talent still exists but the war is being waged on different battlegrounds

Since the war for talent was written there are potentially other factors at work. Many markets and organisations haven't recovered since the 2009 GFC, there is a decreasing supply of talent to the traditional organisation as well as the potential decrease in organisations as we know them. The one job for life notion is certainly dead and while sitting in Brisbane airport Saturday night (yes my social life is awesome) I read this article called "Kiss the corporation goodbye". It really rang true for me working in big organisations. It talks about everything being cut back, outsourced or temp workers being used to fill a short term need. I certainly feel that a large chunk of my role over the past few years has been spent helping to downsize and cost cut. No one likes to see me at their site.

Some of this is about business models that don't work any more, particularly in Australia and similar developed countries. With high cost of living and high wages, labour intensive manufacturing businesses are just about gone and unions who could have played a role in partnering with organisations to address the issue of low-skill, high-wage jobs, have failed in ensuring their members have ongoing employment. High wages is not the only force at work but they have been a contributing factor in these jobs disappearing from the lucky country.

I think other factors are also at work. Women returning from maternity leave find that either their job has gone (despite the myriad of legislation that supposedly protects it) or they either don't have the skills to negotiate an arrangement that also allows them to support their family requirements, or the traditional corporate environment can't/won't accommodate something different from the 9 to 5 dream (or nightmare) or their partner doesn't contribute equally in the home or childcare is too expensive or the waiting list too long. Or all of the above. I had a little rant about this issue here.

What do these women do? They either decide to look after their children full time, giving up their income, or they do something else like start their own business. I have just been on the Gold Coast with around 500 bloggers, mostly women, many who are making an income from their blogs. Not all have kids and are blogging as a way to have flexible work that allows them to look after their family, but many are. And you know what? These women have attributes that organisations are wanting to go to war over:
  • They are smart. Super smart.
  • They are organised
  • They work bloody hard. Some 80 hours per week.
  • They know what is important to them and what they want.
  • They are passionate and engaged.
  • They are usually working for a higher purpose. They want a different life to what is offered by large organisations. They have built a community of readers that they fiercely protect when brands and advertisers come offering the bucks to market to their readers. 
  • They are self starters. They have initiative and are curious and courageous.
  • They are inspiring. 
While corporations are struggling and downsizing and losing sight of values that mean something to their customers this particular group of women have moved off the battleground of the offices and towers of big cities and into the homes of (mainly) women. And the women are not at war. They are not competing. They are doing their own thing in their own way. They are collaborating and sharing and connecting and as a result changing traditionally held business models, and making money while they do it. I can't help but think that the traditional organisation has lost the war for this group of talent. Completely. 

Change is as good as a holiday.

Well that's bullshit crap rubbish! I mean really. Lie on a beach drinking cocktails, or sell your house in 4 weeks? Sightsee in a new city, or pack up your life in 2 days? Go skiing for a week or move to another country with a 2 year old and 5 year old?

I mean what is more stressful in your opinion?

When I moved to Sydney 13 years ago, I got to do a little work with Expatriates. I helped organise cultural training for employees and their families moving to countries in Asia and also assisted with medical insurance claims. My experience left me with 2 indelible thoughts.

  1. Expat employees are difficult, and
  2. How amazing would it be to move to another country to live and work?
My first experience with Expat families was when the company I worked for, sent two employees to the Philippines, one as the head of the business and the other in a finance role. I helped organise the cultural training for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) and a couple. I was able to sit in on the training so I understood what it was all about, and subsequently desperately wanted to move to Manila with them! 

I have visited Manila since then and perhaps it wouldn't be my first choice for an Expat assignment but the idea that I could live and work in another country seemed exciting none the less.

Now I realise that perhaps those Expats were not so much difficult, they were just stressed! Actually, some of them were probably difficult but overall I just didn't understand the head exploding stress of packing up your whole life and moving to a different country where everything is slightly or very different, you don't understand the culture and you are still expected to do a good job. 

Over the past 4 weeks Arran and I have been in Singapore I have been reflecting on how we approached this change and how this approach has helped us through a difficult period. We approached the move with excitement and possibilities. We knew that we couldn't have the same style of housing that we had in Sydney so we decided to embrace condominium living. We knew we would be living in a much smaller place so we got rid of a lot of our furniture (not enough as it turns out) but we have the motivation of people visiting us soon will get us organized quickly in our smallish apartment!

Moving in day. Rainy and humid. View from our balcony
We have a view of the pool just 4 floors down, which someone else maintains as well as a kids playground and beautiful gardens. We have apartments all around us and instead of feeling overlooked we feel part of a big busy city. Sitting on our large-by-Singaporean-standards balcony drinking wine and blogging in the humid air is bliss!

View from our balcony as the sun sets
We have both started to make contact with people with know here. Me with a lovely colleague I met when working at Coca-Cola Amatil, who took me to just the kind of place I needed for coffee, and Arran a friend (and his wife) from high school, who invited us to their "condo" for drinks nibbles and dinner (just when we were getting sick of each others company). I also have other friends who are ready to catch up when we are. Both of us enjoyed a dinner with some of my new work mates in Singapore. Networks and contacts are important and in the 4 weeks we have,been here we have missed our social life and are looking forward to seriously ramping it up.

I'm sure if you approached an opportunity like this negatively you are never going to have fun or learn from it. If you expect things to be like home, they won't be. If you expect the same kind of housing with the same amount of room, you will be disappointed and if you expect people to be the same, well you are kidding yourself. And if you expect the weather to be the same and the ability to buy the same food and clothes well I guess you should give up*

How does this to relate to your career? Well I think it relates very well. Sometimes we end up in a place where we are not happy, and we don't really know how we got there and we don't know how to get out and move forward. This is a miserable existence and when I have been there myself my health suffered and so did those around me.  In these circumstances it's hard to get positive. The ability to make a deal with yourself about what you can learn for the experience and how long you are going to put with where you are can make a massive difference. It can get you focused with purpose in the short term.

I'm not feeling this way about my career. I'm generally happy. How could I not be? I have reached a  career goal and I still have so much to learn including the best way to work with a new business leader. Everything I touch at the moment seems hard and I don't know the answer, but I guess I will get there, as I have done before. I have never set up a payroll in South Korea, but I'm learning. I have never supported employees in the Middle East or Kazakhstan but I'm learning. Actually I'm still learning to even spell Kazakhstan! What did we do before spell check?

So tell me about when your career has been hard for you. How did you get through it?

Lisa xx

*I have already felt like giving up trying to buy swimmers. I'm only human.