Clarity. Care. Commitment.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who wouldn't want to work a four-hour week?

This week I have been catching up with a few of my clients that I haven't seen for a while. 2010 is passing us by way too quickly. Where is the time going? Some days it feels like Christmas was just yesterday but when I look at the calendar, one week from today it's already Good Friday.

I have had some really productive meetings as well as some very interesting conversations.

I was sitting down with Josh on Wednesday afternoon. We'd talked about how his team is going this year as well as the hires he would ideally like to make in the new financial year (at the rate we're going that will be just around the corner!).

Then he leant back in his big "manager's chair" and asked me whether I had read any good books recently.

To be honest I can't remember when I last read a good book, so I just politely said "I really haven't had much time to read since starting my business".

"I had a feeling you'd say that, Matt", he said. "And that's exactly why you should read this book".

He pulled a book out of his top drawer and waved it at me too quickly for me to get a proper look at the title on the cover. But then he put it down and said, "Seriously, you MUST read this book".

It's called "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich" and it's by Timothy Ferriss.

When Josh started talking about self-actualisatation and self-improvement I immediately began to lose interest. However when he actually started talking about the concept of the book, I have to admit my interest peaked.

Without giving too much away, in 2007 Ferriss wrote the book in which he addresses four broad topics:

Definition: figuring out what you want, overcoming your fear, and generally looking beyond the "expectations" society places upon you;

Elimination: this is about time management, or rather about not managing time and about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness;

Automation: this is about building a sustainable, automatic source of income (incidentally this was the concept Josh found most intriguing!); and

Liberation: believe it or not Ferriss asserts that technology such as e-mail, instant messaging, i-Phones and BlackBerries complicate life rather than simplify it.

Perhaps over the Easter break I won't log on to my e-mail, I'll keep my phone switched off and read more about how to run my business successfully in just four hours per week!

Maybe I do need a slight does of self-actualisation after all!

Image courtesy of: Peter Hellberg

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Understanding what YOU are really looking for ...

Whenever a new candidate comes in to meet with me, one of the first things I ask them is what has prompted them to register with me and why specifically (if they are currently employed) they are looking for a new position.

Typically I hear something along the lines of "I just need a new challenge", "I can't go any further in my current company", "I am just so undervalued", or "I missed out on a promotion". Now personally I believe that whilst some of these reasons may well be true, when I hear them on a daily basis sometimes they just start to sound a little bit "textbook".

However on the odd occasion I do hear a reason which while clearly genuine, I am still totally surprised that someone would actually admit that to a recruiter. And this week it happened twice!

Joseph came in to see me on Monday. He is in his mid-20's and has been working in his current role in a help-desk team for nearly two years and I could tell that he really enjoys his job. When I asked him why he had come to see me, he said "My parents don't like me getting home so late since they think the trains are too dangerous after 7:30pm". I couldn't believe it ... his parents were actually forcing him to look for a new job because they think he gets home too late.

Then on Wednesday I interviewed Flora (who also happens to be in her mid-20's). Her reason for coming in to see me was "My friends don't think I am spendingItalic enough time with them any more because I am working too hard".

She was being serious.

I cannot stress enough that you are responsible for your own career path ... not your friends, not your partner, not your parents ... YOU!

After all ... what is the name of the career supplement in they Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne AGE? It's "MyCareer" ... not "MyMum'sCareer" or "MyBestFriend'sCareer".

You are in charge of your career direction. If you are happy in your job then why put yourself through the anxiety and unnecessary stress of looking for a new one? But at the same time, if you are not happy where you are you can't let "significant others" tell you to stay where you are for the sake of stability or because it's "easier than looking for something new right now".

Please make sure that if you are embarking on a new career direction that it really is your decision.

Image courtesy of: gerlos

Friday, March 12, 2010

Things don't always go quite according to plan ...

It's funny how some people can get their mind (and hopes) so set on something going according to plan that when it doesn't quite turn out that way (for whatever reason) they are clearly not quite sure how to react.

Over the last week this has happened to both a very close friend of mine as well as to one of my candidates.

Jessica has been a senior IT project manager for many years. But in this story she is actually the very close friend!

From the moment she found out she was pregnant last year she had everything planned out to the minute. She would work right up to Friday March 5th, have a relaxing two weeks off and then have her baby at 3:30pm on Friday March 19th (by Caesarian Section). There was no way she was going to experience any pain. She would then breast feed for three months ("every mother should breast feed"), then go back to work part-time for three months and then be back on board full time with her baby boy (naturally she chose to find out what she was having) in daycare.

You can imagine how surprised I was to get a text message on Wednesday to say that Jessica had had the baby that morning.

Apparently by the time she realised what was happening and got to the hospital, her labour was too far gone that she couldn't even be given the epidural so she went through a totally natural delivery (and had felt everything!). I went to visit her in the hospital today and apparently baby Zach isn't quite taking on to the breast feeding option.

Jessica - the "everything has to go according to plan" power woman doesn't quite know what to do and has been thrown into a slight state of chaos.

Now take Jarrod - another senior IT project manager (this time my candidate).

He has been going through an incredibly lengthy interview process for a role down in Melbourne. It has actually been going on for over three months and on Thursday he had his fifth and final interview (and that doesn't include the three-hour psych test he took at the beginning of March).

After the third interview Jarrod basically stopped looking for any other positions. He was so sure he would get this particular role and was prepared to go the distance in terms of the interview process. Nothing else mattered.

Yesterday I had to give him the news that unfortunately he had not been successful in the role and that the client had gone with "the other guy". When I gave him all the feedback I had received from my client Jarrod was absolutely stunned. Actually he was guttered.

Jarrod - the "everything has to go according to plan" Mr Confident doesn't quite know what to do and has been thrown into a slight state of chaos.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Perhaps (in both your career and life in general) it's a good idea to not necessarily have a Plan B per se, or to have the fall back option (some might feel this is being somewhat pessimistic) ... but to at least know how you might react if things don't go quite according to plan.

Image courtesy of: orangemoonapparel

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sometimes it's good to think about things differently ...

Whilst there are times when for me it may seem a lot longer, when I stopped to think about it this week I realised I have now been running C Sharp for about seven months. So much has happened in that time but this week I was really flattered when I was approached by someone who expressed a genuine interest in working for me.

When I first got the call I explained to Warren that all my contractors actually work for C Sharp, but he quickly corrected me and said "No, Matthew. I actually want to work for you as a recruiter. I want to join C Sharp".

What a great feeling!

Warren has been a recruiter in the IT industry for nearly two years, but things just aren't going according to plan for him at the large agency where he currently works. He explained to me that although he is seeing consistent results, any idea he puts forward to his manager is ignored (without any discussion) and on the odd occasion he has even been called crazy.

"I just wish they would sometimes think about things a bit differently", he said.

It was the way Warren said this that made me think of a YouTube clip I saw recently from Apple which clearly highlights the importance of not looking at people who might see things differently as necessarily being the "crazy ones" and to take into consideration what they may really have to offer.

I have been in the recruitment industry for quite a while, but when Warren said, "I want to work in an organisation that isn't 100% obsessed with JFE's" - I had to ask him to clarify what he meant as I really had no idea.

He continued to explain that he was being sarcastic and that JFEs (Justification For Existence) was the way he and his colleagues referred to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) - the way his organisation measures activity. The recruiters where he currently works are made to feel like they have no other role in the business other than generating revenue and making their contribution to the bottom line.

Warren also told me that some of his candidates who had also been to see me felt that the way I treated them was pretty unique and that I just "saw things differently", which was why he wanted to talk to me about an opportunity at C Sharp.

If this is the perception that my candidates (and hopefully my clients) have of me and my business, then my business is certainly positioned just where I want it to be.

Sometimes a bit of self-promotion doesn't do any harm, does it?

Image courtesy of: junkiemind

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A case of "sink or swim" ...

What would you do if you found yourself in the following predicament?

You have been working for one particular organisation for over five years. You love what you do. You are very good at what you do. You get along with all your colleagues and you even like working for your boss. Then the economy takes a nose dive and your boss is actually made redundant.

The team you are in is left to fend for itself for a few months and one day you are called into a meeting. You are convinced it's your turn to be let go, but instead you find yourself being told that because you have always done such a great job you are now being promoted into a management role ...

As Nick has found out (the hard way) over the last three months, management is not always the most pleasant place to be. In fact Nick is finding the challenges of leadership so strenuous (on both his professional as well as his personal life) that he has recently come to me to help him find a new role.

"I work with a team of people who used to be my friends and who now stop speaking when I walk into the room", he explained when I asked what the biggest challenge was. "Nobody's productive, nothing's coming together, and no-one has even shown me how to enforce leadership. I don't even like managing people".

Nick was totally frustrated.

What would you do in his situation?

You see Nick is too ashamed to tell his boss that he isn't comfortable handling the extra responsibility. However it's not just that he isn't comfortable ... he just doesn't like it and he doesn't even want to have the additional accountability.

But he's scared that if he admits it, he might find himself out of a job.

Just because someone has given their commitment to a business and might be very good at what they do, it should never be assumed that they would make a good manager or that they would even necessarily want a leadership role.

After all, look what's happened to Nick. His elevation into management was in fact the beginning of his decline in the organisation. After five years with the company and really enjoying what he did, his promotion became his downfall and he is now actively looking for an exit strategy.

Nobody should ever be thrown in the deep end ... not without at least being given some form of assistance to stay afloat.

Image courtesy of: sagebrush7

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's really important to you?

I have heard from many of my candidates over the years that there are a number of recruiters out there who like to play the power game during interviews and actually control the discussions to the point that the candidate can actually feel quite uncomfortable or intimidated.

Personally this approach to interviewing has never even once entered my mind. In fact for me it's quite the opposite as I know I get the best out of my candidates if they are feeling relaxed and comfortable when they meet with me and not overwhelmed or threatened in any way.

When I met with Preston yesterday afternoon I could sense that he just needed to get a whole lot off his chest, so before I even started to look through his background and CV I just casually asked him how he was feeling and what was going on where he was working at the moment.

Preston works in a busy IT department as a member of the national "IT Help" team for one of the big banks. But in his words "the craziness is getting out of hand", "all the team wants is for the chaos and stress to stop" and "people are just walking out the door".

I'd been right. He just needed to vent.

But then I began to subtly probe to find out what part of his job he had enjoyed over the last three years and what was important to him in his role. He immediately sat back and the tension lifted from his shoulders as he started to talk about the "order and structure" that had once existed, the way the division used to run so smoothly, how he used to feel in control all the time, and how everyone used to be so much calmer in the team and how they used to respect one another so much more.

He then looked at me and said "I've never dissected it like this before" and then he just started to list everything that was important to him in his job. And it didn't all come down to the actual role and responsibilities ... for Preston it was more about the way the team functioned and the structure in place around him.

It was the work environment that was becoming damaging for Preston and not his job, so it didn't take him long to realise that the solution was fairly simple. He just needed to find a new environment even if his job responsibilities remained exactly the same.

Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery.

Image courtesy of: mercipatron

Friday, February 12, 2010

It's all about persistence and determination

Later today the world will turn its sights upon Vancouver for the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and for the next two weeks records will be broken, hopes and dreams will me made (and shattered) and adrenalin levels will be pushed to the max ... not just for those taking part in the events but also for those watching in awe.

Over the last few days I have been admiring the determination in our Olympic athletes and as it turned out I was able to share my thoughts with one of my candidates yesterday.

Patrick had been put forward for a few positions recently not only by me but also by another recruitment agency. In all three instances he'd been told that whilst he was certainly a very qualified and capable candidate and had interviewed very well, there had been one candidate slightly more suited to the roles. Patrick had been pipped at the post three times and at one point he had even said "when it comes to going for jobs, I am always second best and second place is the first loser".

Personally I am quite a fan of the Winter Olympics and I decided to share with Patrick an interview I had watched with Steven Bradbury (no relation to me I should point out) - our own Australian Gold Medalist from the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Steven Bradbury had taken part in three Winter Games previously and it was finally in his fourth games in 2002 that he brought home the gold. I pointed out that there are four years between each of the games so it was in fact at least 12 years before he achieved his goal.

Talk about persistence and determination.

For Patrick there had only been a few weeks between the interviews where he had come a close second and if he really wants to prove himself in the interview I have scheduled for him next Wednesday (and the job is perfect for him), then he will have to focus on the goal and not let his level of determination slip.

For anyone who may have missed out on a job they really wanted, or who for whatever reason my feel that their dream job is too far out of reach, think of our Olympic athletes for a moment. They train for hours every day, have one chance of glory every four years and for those who miss out on gold, they keep trying and immediately set their sights on the next possible opportunity - no matter how far away it is.

Go for gold!

Image courtesy of: kgmphoto