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So JUST SHUT UP!

Everyone wants to feel confident in an interview. Even if they can’t actually feel confident they want to appear  confident. And one of the ways you can do that is by shutting up!
You’re probably thinking.. ‘but I need to talk, purchase  to tell them my ideas and my experiences.. why would I shut up?’
You need to say your piece and then shut up. One of the things that confident people can do is cope with a bit of silence in a  conversation. Nervous people keep talking and keep repeating themselves and saying the same thing and go on and on and on. If you truly knew that you had given a spectacular answer you would stop, view pause to let the impact sink in, no rx sit back confidently and wait for the next question.
Many coaching clients come to me and tell me that they waffle in interviews and we work on techniques to help them stop the waffle.. so what’s the trick?

  • Be prepared to stop talking and allow a little silence.
  • Check when you have finished that the interviewer has heard enough and you have
    covered all the bases: ‘was that enough? .. does that cover it?’
  • Know exactly what your story is and then when you have said it shut up. If you are well prepared and know what you want to tell them before the interview you will feel more confident to stop talking, you will know that you have said it!
  • Watch the body language of the interviewer, that will help you know when they have heard enough and want to move on. If they start interrupting you.. that’s a dead give away.

It is not a case of ‘less is more’ in the interview, but it is a case of ‘enough is enough’. Just know when to stop!

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I was coaching someone who almost gagged when we got to talking about the ‘what are your strengths?’ question.. they really struggle to say that they are good at anything. In spite of some really significant achievements and accomplishments.  As we unpicked this reticence I discovered a deep fear of being seen as a boast or braggart.

This set me thinking and I did some research into the subject of boasting; why are we so averse to blowing our own trumpet? (or tooting as the Americans call it.. divided by a common language!) There is a strong religious element to this; major religions –Islam, more about Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity all value humility and consider boasting a vice. As the Bible puts it ‘let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’. I think there is an element of social control in the culture of  disapproval of the person who is self congratulatory. Our rulers prefer a bit of submission and self deprecation, those who know their own rights and value may be less submissive. Our parents were often quick to condemn the show off or sing one’s own praises. It is considered impolite to draw too much attention to ourselves, after all ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is still a value instilled into people when they are young.  ‘Pride’ we were told ‘comes before a fall’.


But there is also an issue of emotional  intelligence attached to talking too much about oneself or one’s achievements. It is a narcissistic and inconsiderate behavioural trait that tends to alienate others. The dictionary defines boasting as ‘to talk with excessive pride and self satisfaction about one’s abilities or possessions’ and lists a whole selection of pejorative adjectives as synonyms. When we boast we are often saying ‘look I am better than you’ and that does not endear us to others.  But the drive to tell everyone how great we are comes more often from a real lack of self esteem. People stroke their own ego in order to convince themselves of their own self worth. As one modern dictionary put it:

“Boasting is someone attempting to hide their dumbassness by repeatedly lauding their one and only (generally small) victory to their friends or a random crowd of strangers, depending on who is handy.”

So: no –one likes a braggart and boasting can reveal a real lack of confidence –where  does that leave interviewees and ambitious careerists?  with a problem? In the modern world it is critical to build a brand, to have strong networks who promote you. As Margie Warrell puts it

The old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” no longer holds true. Nowadays, it’s “who knows what you know.”

 

If in the interview you do not put forward your accomplishments then you will never get the job. Lack of enthusiasm, hesitancy and lack of confidence in your own abilities are key reasons people get turned down by interviewers. So what is the solution? Here are some tips for interviews and networking to help you promote yourself without  being annoying.

  • Don’t promote yourself but promote your value. Reframe your experience and expertise in terms of the value that you have to contribute. Describe how you could solve a problem or overcome and obstacle and describe it in terms of how you would work with others to do so.
  • Tell a story. Human beings are conditioned to like stories ad there is nothing so powerful  as a well told story (using STAR) that shows your enthusiasm and your skills. You don’t need to tell people that you are really good at something if you just describe an occasion when you have excelled with that skill.
  • Be relevant. Don’t jump into a conversation announcing your greatest triumph but listen to others and when an occasion arises tell others factually what you have achieved. Keep your story relevant to the conversation.
  • Tell it once. Part of the reason that people dislike braggarts is that they go on and on about their achievements (or those of their grandchildren)  and don’t know when to shut up. So tell your story once and then move on to ask others about their experience. Or in an interview, wait for the next question.
  • Don’t use hyperbole. People who boast tend to over dramatize their stories, keep it factual and keep it to the point. Try not to use emotive language or exaggerate the difficulties that you overcame. Be realistic about achievements.
  • Share the glory. Make it clear that although you have used first person singular , you could not have achieved this without the help and hard work of other team members. When networking give others their due praise and credit. Promote them and in return they will promote you.
  • When asked about strengths you do not have to say that you are the best compared to others,   tell them what you think you do best. That is what the questions is asking about. What are your strengths? not  ‘what are you better than anyone else at?’. Your don’t have to say “I’m really good at…”, say “what I do best..” Everyone has things they feel most comfortable doing or most at ease doing.  Find a way to express those things that you feel comfortable and confident using and practice it.
  • Never steal the credit from others when it is not due to you. You never know who or what the other person actually knows.
  • Express empathy with others. Always give the interviewer time to talk, finish their question and be sensitive to them.

Share your good news with those you trust but share your emotional intelligence with everyone. Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter give us a channel to share everything with everyone but need to be used sensitively ‘wow I got a huge raise’ is not going to go down well with people in your network that are hard up and struggling, especially if they think they deserve it more than you do. So watch what you say and where  you say it but don’t hide your light under a bushel. Follow these tips, promote yourself appropriately and promote others equally.

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Navigating through the application

I often get asked about all the different bits of paperwork: “Yes, ambulance I know I need cover letter, pill  all the advice is that hiring managers  hate getting just a CV and nothing else  but what should it say?  And is it the same as a supporting statement and why do they need two things? And why if I have done a  CV do I any of that?”  Or if the adverts says “Please explain why you are applying for this vacancy and you feel your transferrable skills, order relevant experience and achievements match the competencies for this role. Please make reference to the job description. What do I do then?”  Recently I came across another  requirement: a two page autobiography saying what had driven you career and what you are proud of”

Yes, it’s a minefield and very confusing. And what should I send and if I am applying on line where do I put it?

Ok let’s think about it. What does the future employer want to know and how are they going to find it out? They want to do three main things:

  1. What experience have you got? And the more senior you are the more likely they will be looking for experience and someone who has already been successful in that sector and that sort of role. And they are going to find that out in a CV that is rich in achievements and examples of your success in just the things that they want you to do.
  2. What motivation have you got for this role? That is where your ‘cover letter’ comes into play. Your cover letter will tell them what interests you about the organisation, about the role, what the challenges are of the role and what makes you think that you can solve those challenges. The fact that you have thought about who they are, what challenges they face, what the job involves, all demonstrate that you are interested.
  3. What skills and competencies do you have that would make you suitable for them in this role? And here we are at the supporting statement, of the statement of suitability or whatever they have chosen to call it the ‘How I meet the person spec’ bit. But you may argue, surely that is all in the CV? They know I can lead, they know I can sell, they know I can open up new avenues of business… as my bullet points of achievements tell them that, my list of key skills (or motherhood words as I call them) tell them that. Well yes they may be able to infer your skills  form the Cv but not the style. They can’t tell how you achieved those things. And saying that you have financial skills is assertion not evidence. And in many sectors evidence is king and assertion is the fool outside the castle gate.

 

cover letter

So your Cv is a summary of your achievements and your cover letter is your demonstration of your  motivation and  statement demonstrates your competence. It is longer. It is the flesh on the bones of those achievements. It is the evidence of the skills and your style of achieving. It is the demonstration that you understand the processes that go into achieving those things and that your approach and style matches theirs.

So if you are asked for a CV… send a CV and a cover letter

If you are asked for a CV and cover letter, I think you should merge your cover letter and supporting statement into one document and send them that

If you are asked for a CV and supporting statement, I think you should send them the CV, the cover letter and the supporting statement

And if you are asked for an autobiography… get your thinking cap on… refer to my article on answering the interview question on ‘give us an overview of your career’ and tell them exactly what you need them to hear!

You need to answer those questions.  Once you know what they need to hear worry less about the format and get cracking on the superb content!.

 

pen

 

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First Impressions? is what you see what you get? 

elephant cartoon

How many legs does this elephant have? Hard to tell and sometimes you really do need to look twice or three times to see the person behind the tattoo or the lion in the sheep’s skin. It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression, and our confidence in impression formation increases with the time taken to form the impression. Not only do we take milliseconds to work out what something is when we first see it, we also decide whether or not we like it!
Two things reminded me of the power of initial impressions,  a recent poll on Linked In suggested that 25% people make a decision in an interview in the first few minutes of the interview.  Then a candidate who planned to call the Chief Executive of an organisation he was applying to  was taken aback when I said ‘you never get a second one chance to make a first impression routine’. He was really amazed. It had not occurred to him  that this casual conversation could have a decisive effect on his career.

Given that people are forming impressions of us all the time, not just in interviews but in meetings, in the corridor, when we meet a new colleague, manager of partner; we need to be aware of the fact that our Linked In profile, our telephone call or our Cv all project an image of what we are like.    ‘Your reputation goes before you is another truth’ we should not ignore.

Many of us are acutely aware of the fact that our audiences do form first impressions and there is a mass of advice out there about smiling, firm handshakes and shiny shoes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2011/02/13/seven-seconds-to-make-a-first-impression/

There is much less advice on how to improve our own ability to make those snap judgements successfully and accurately. Gladwell in his book ‘Blink’ says that these primitive (and very useful) abilities to size up a person (enemy or friend) very quickly can be both educated and controlled and that when they go awry they go wrong for a specific and consistent set of reasons . We can start to identify what those reasons are by understanding our own prejudices, to challenge in the moment our own thought processes. We can train ourselves to suspend judgement , not to label or categorise in those first 7 seconds. We can train ourselves to really listen to the person we are meeting, to see the world from their shoes, to find common ground and to build empathy. We can objectively try to compare the data  with our real experience. Consider the person in a different light ‘if this person was smaller what would I be thinking? If this person did not have tattoos, what would I be thinking? If this person was already my employee what would I be thinking…’

To take action and make un examined decisions on those first impressions maybe to dismiss someone who can have real value in your life, to  attach to someone who quickly turns out to be able to bring less value than you initially thought, or even worse who has a destructive and negative impact on you.  Keep learning and keep challenging yourself  to overcome your preconceptions and prejudices. And  keep perfecting those smiles and shiny shoes… they may count for more than you think!

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owlWise- how to be wise…

In spite of the fact that this word is worth a measly 7 scrabble points, more about I rather  like this word. The dictionary meaning is having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.

So how does one become wise?

Age apparently has nothing to do with it…between ages 25 to 75, the correlation between age and wisdom is zero. Further research shows that intelligence only accounts for about 2% of the variance in wisdom. Wisdom emerges not from experience itself, but rather from reflecting thoughtfully on the lessons gained from experience.

See the world in shades of grey, not black and white – wise people are capable of integrative thinking “the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads”—and reconcile them for the situation at hand.

Balance self-interest and the common good. A second defining quality of wisdom is the ability to look beyond our personal desires. As one psychologist puts it: “wisdom and egocentricity are incompatible… people who have gotten where they are by not taking other people’s interests into account or even by actively thwarting the interests of others… would not be viewed as wise.” It’s neither healthy nor productive to be extremely altruistic or extremely selfish. They find ways to benefit others that also advance their own objectives.

Challenge the status quo. Wise people are willing to question rules. Instead of accepting things as they have always been, wisdom involves asking whether there’s a better path.

Aim to understand, rather than judge. Wise people resist the impulse to judge, operating more like detectives whose goal is to explain other people’s behaviours. This yields an advantage in predicting others’ actions, enabling wise people to offer better advice to others and make better choices themselves.

Focus on purpose over pleasure. Wise people weren’t any happier than their peers. They didn’t experience more positive emotions, perhaps because wisdom requires critical self-reflection and a long-term view. They recognized that just as today’s cloud can have a silver lining tomorrow, tomorrow’s silver lining can become next month’s suffering. However, there was a clear psychological benefit of wisdom: a stronger sense of purpose in life. From time to time, wisdom may involve putting what makes us happy on the back burner in our quest for meaning and significance.

Wisdom is  a virtue according to every great philosophical and religious tradition, from Aristotle to Confucius and Christianity to Judaism, Islam to Buddhism, and Taoism to Hinduism. According to the book From Smart to Wise, wisdom distinguishes great leaders from the rest of the pack.  So maybe practising your wise muscles could be a winning formula!

I think a wise person seeks out experts and ensures that they have a counsellor to bounce ideas off, someone who can help them see all sides of a situation and help them integrate those views. Someone who does not judge and who will help them to keep focused on their purpose. Yes I think that a coach can do all those things and help you achieve more careers success.

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.

William Arthur Ward.  Very wise words for our politicians as they throw the blame around……

For more on balancing self-interest and the common good, see Adam M Grant’ s book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

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The JOY of  work?

penguin love my job

joyI recently watched ‘Sunshine on Leith’, page described as a feel good movie, page I found myself grinning at large chunks of the film. The same expression I saw on my father-in-law’s face as he watched his younger son with newest grandchild on skype. How often do we feel real joy like that? We often talk about job satisfaction or enjoying our work, but when does it give us that real boost of endorphins? And should it?

Well work should give you both satisfaction and joy but for it feel ‘joyful’  I think you have to release some of your inhibitions, to understand that it is OK to take pure pleasure in a  job well done, in a colleague triumphant and a customer satisfied. I think we fail to find joy in work because we don’t savor the moment.. we rush on by to find the next customer, the next task… So my advice for 2014 – savor the moment!

It’s an exercise I often set people, spend a few minutes each day focusing on what went well. Get a nicely bound notebook (such a Luddite, I know) and make a note of what went well. Turn your focus and attention, not to what you have to do tomorrow but to what you have done today. On the minutiae of your accomplishments and observations.  I often wonder if daily prayer is not an excellent way of doing this but you don’t have to be religious or address your comments to God. Just notice what went well and allow yourself to smile. Keep your book in private place and revisit it often – especially when you feel down.

We know that our brains are very selective about what they notice and what they pay attention to. Your brain finds evidence to support the mental map it has made of the world. But the map is not the territory and if you send this fantastic, sophisticated tool on a mission to find things at work that make you smile and give you joy.. then it will succeed. Joy can come from (as the cheesey song says) raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens… if we stop and notice those things and allow ourselves the possibility of joy. So savor your moments and capture those things that make you smile.

And if you would like to see what made me smile..  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOAv4KYnweo, this is an amateur video of the screening but shows the exuberance of the flashmob dancing at the end of the film. Now being part of a flashmob that would make me smile… just how do you find one?

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Why you might need some  conscious competence!

recording deskI was doing my stint on the local ‘talking newspaper’ where I am a sound engineer the other night. What a difference a year (or two) makes! My first few recordings were fraught with anxiety and littered with mistakes; I dreaded the phone going on Saturday mornings with the  ‘hello its Ken here, buy information pills just thought you should know……’  Now I multi task and could not tell you what I do, shop it ‘just happens’ and seems to take no time at all.

At the start of my work with them, I was in a state of unconscious incompetence; I did not know what I did not know. Very soon I moved to a state of conscious incompetence! We use 3 different computer programs to record and there is a lengthy instruction manual and it seemed to take ages to fiddle and twiddle all those knows and dials. I lived in constant fear that I would delete the recording (I did once.. we had to sit down and re read). It all felt bewildering with labyrinthine instructions, illogical instructions and references to techie words I’d not met before.

Somehow with some practice and analysis of the process, some putting down the  manual and figuring it out for myself I learned to make the recordings. I  got myself to a state of conscious competence. I amended the process to suit my brain and I  was flying, sometimes I ‘d finished without using the manual or even thinking about it. I have reached the state of unconscious competence.

Things that we do a lot and that we are competent at become automatic. We don’t think about them (I am better at guessing a mental arithmetic sum than trying to do it purposely- my subconscious is better than my conscious), we just do them.   Being able to just do something is great as it frees our conscious brain up to do other things. When James Martin is doing his live cookery show he only thinks about the interviews he is doing not the cooking. Cooking is ‘in the muscle’ so he does not need to think about it.   However there are some dangers in being in unconscious competence:

You may slip into bad habits and find that you are not as competent as you think you are or should be. Driving is a classic, we get to drive without thinking about it but there are real dangers in not giving the road and other users one’s full attention. One of these days my shortcuts could mean a major recording error.

You can’t train someone else to do something if you don’t know how you  do it. Each of us needs to develop our staff and share our skills, that is not going to happen if we can’t explain how we make things happen, how we understand our budgets or build relationships. These things may be ‘in the muscle’ but to train you need to make them explicit.

In interviews you can’t convince someone that you can think strategically, motivate staff  or deliver a project by saying ‘I just do’. You need to work at unpicking what it is that you do and then be ready to describe it. Increasingly organisations want people who are self aware and self managing.. so ‘I just do’ is not going to wash. Get some conscious competence!

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Recently there  I read an article called ‘the cover letter is dead’, physician it suggested that no one has time to read these things and that if you want to stand out from the crowd in your application you need to phone up the recruiting manager and talk to them, prostate then send your CV. I can’t quite remember who it was who wrote it or what planet they were from, but I was howling in anger! Standing out from the crowd is not the easiest thing but to give people blanket advice to ditch their cover letter is to help them commit job hunter’s  suicide. So how does one stand out from the crowd and get past the gatekeepers?

  1. Do not ditch the cover letter! Time and again recruiters complain that applicants send a CV and a note saying ‘here is my cv’. Actually someone who writes a good cover letter, stands more chance of standing out than someone who writes nothing.  But the cover letter has to say something meaningful. It has to say why you want to work for them, what you like about them; it has to say what you see as their challenges and how you can help address those challenges. Having recently screened a batch of applications I could have wept at the number of people who threw away the opportunity to convince me that they understood the organisation, its issues and to show me that they could do the role. Ok in the public sector you are asked to do a supporting statement saying how you meet the person specification but please do it intelligently. Say what the reader wants to hear about, give evidence and include a cover letter!
  2. Think about who is recruiting and how they might like to communicate. I was coaching a young man who wants to work in gardening. My guess is that many of the bosses in those firms are walkers and talkers not readers. In that case ‘the cover letter is dead’ might be true. How much more powerful to go and visit those firms and ask to see the boss, give him the Cv and say you are looking for work. An emailed Cv won’t get read. A young man who calls in every two weeks to offer his services will stand out. If you work in a highly creative adampacitti_600x300sector the Cv and cover letter may be dead, to stand out you may need an infographic or a video or website link (with a suitable website behind it). Take a look at  phildub.com/ or the man who hired a billboard or the one who sent out a chocolate bar.   BUT  in the public sector world of words and forms – yes the cover letter , the supporting statement and the Cv are all key tools. But to stand out they need to be good and tailored to the role you are applying for.
  3. Get the inside track. Do your research on the organisation you are applying to. Make them realise that you really are keen on them by your use of three or four key bits of information that show you have looked beyond the first page of the website.  Use your networks to find people who have worked there, use websites like  glassdoor.com to gain intelligence on the organisation.
  4. Less is more. Research on smart thinking makes clear that most people will remember roughly three things about any new meeting, book, or encounter. That rule of three applies to what employers will remember about you. So find three things about yourself that you want to highlight. Focus your communications on those three elements. Three clear bullet points. Three distinct paragraphs. Don’t be tempted to tell them everything  you have ever done but make those three things really specific. Not ‘I have thirty plus years in housing  and am a strong, decisive  leader’  but three key skills that they need.
  5. Stand out in a good way. Some people think that they can be quirky and it will always be good, no love hearts or emoticons please. And yes in the Uk a photo will make you stand out but usually it does not help you impress, photos are generally seen as being ‘odd’ in the uk, so avoid in this country but in Germany you should include and in France hand write…. They love their graphology.  Don’t be tempted with fancy fonts and fancy formats on your Cv, remember people scan these really quickly and if it looks too fussy they will not read them, so keep the format  plain and the content sophisticated. choc bar cv.jpg
  6. Don’t forget  your key words in case this application is being read by a machine not a person in the first instance.
  7. Phone a friend, well if not a friend who can open a door for you in that organisation, phone the recruiter or the hiring manager if you can. And ask (amongst other things) what they would  like to see in a job application, how they want it presented, what will make their life easier when they are screening. You’ll stand out as the one that considered their needs.

Standing out in a crowded market place is really tough but it can be done, through  thought, work and excellence.

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The Joy of Introversion

Published on September 17, 2013 by in Uncategorized

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Susan Cain’s book ‘Quiet’ Has been described as ‘an extraordinary book that will change for ever the way society views introverts’, and it has certainly made me stop and think about a couple of issues. And my greater understanding is changing the way I act.

The introversion/extroversion spectrum is not just about whether people love parties and make a noise, sildenafil it is actually about how people relate to the world and the amount of stimulation that they desire.  Introverts are very sensitive, they startle more easily, empathise more readily, they are more easily overwhelmed by noise, emotions and others.  They are reflective, thoughtful and highly conscientious. The opposite end of the spectrum is the place inhabited by the stimulus hungry extrovert, who craves more noise, adventure, parties and thrives in the midst of the storm. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of events whilst extroverts plunge into them to inhabit the moment.   I have long been aware of the limitations of those who inhabit either end of the spectrum: the extrovert under performs in school – too busy enjoying the now to focus on the solitary pursuit of study. The introvert may fail to form a broad array of relationships  with people in the workplace (preferring a few intimate relationships to a wide range of  casual acquaintanceships with colleagues), they may be seen as aloof and distant.

But what are the key messages of Cain’s book that could and should colour our thinking and behaviour?

Leadership

We know that the average manager is more extrovert that then average person and I have engaged in many discussions about why that might be. Cain suggests that since the 1920s Western culture has come to value the expressive qualities of the extrovert more than the  godliness, humility, dutiful values that our Victorian forebears prized above all others.  Dale Carnegie et al have indeed taken over the world,  promoting people who can communicate, charm and  amuse.  People who are social able are valued more than those who contemplative.  Talkative people are rated as smarter, better looking , more interesting and more desirable as friends.  Harvard Business School, which has been so influential in defining what leadership is, requires group work and constant social activities of its students.  However, Cain argues that the cult of the charismatic extrovert leader means that our organisations are promoting those who take risks easily, who enjoy variety for its own sake and who may not be attuned to the feelings of those around them. They enjoy the ‘thrill of the chase’ of  money and status, making fast decisions, they may add life and energy to a gathering whilst exhibiting  all the  classic leadership traits but they may not have a rounded view of success and may ignore risks.

Introverts, enjoy the opportunity to think the, the world slowly and deliberately, they like to focus on one task at a time- concentration is great. Introverts are not necessarily shy, nor are they incapable of forming strong relationships, who would not love a friend or partner whose strengths are listening and focusing on one individual at a time? People  who are introverted do  have the talent and skills to be successful , it has certainly not hampered Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Brenda Barnes or Charles Schwab.  Cain suggests that generally we overestimate how outgoing our leaders need to be.

The challenge for the introvert is to get through the selection process which may favour the loud and articulate rather than the slower paced, contemplative  less charismatic introvert. When a recruiter says ‘I couldn’t see them in charge’ what traits did they think were missing.

Creativity and innovation

Cain is very clear that many of the greatest discoveries of our time have come not from the highly collaborative social environments that seek to stimulate creativity but from individuals who have worked alone to develop and perfect the ideas. Steve Wozniak invented the pc in his garage not in an open plan office. Darwin, Einstein, Newton,  Curie were all solitary loners; introverts.  Cain suggests that the fashionable ‘collaborative’  environments actually inhibit creativity because of the degree of ‘group think’ that comes to dominate such groups, the way teamwork is the zeitgeist of the workplace.

There are many who will disagree with Cain’s thesis that it is introverts, working alone, engaging in   reflection, and deliberate practice to perfect something, producing numerous iterations of an idea  or product, who are the real engine house of innovation. But if you think of the traits of the engineer,  the artist, the writer and the poet, these are people who need and thrive in  deep concentration and the silence of contemplation.

So when we are looking for innovators, perhaps we should give them more space and demand less team work whilst they are in the ideating stage.

Sociability and open plan offices

Given the introverts propensity to be overwhelmed by too much stimulus – noise, activity, emotion, pressure it comes as no surprise that Cain is no fan of open plan offices.  Open plan environments have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory. hey are associated with high staff turnover, make people sick, hostile, unmotivated and insecure. There is better communication but also more arguments and fewer close comradeships. So whilst companies save money by treating staff as battery hens, these environments are costing in other ways. And the extrovert  fairs better than the introvert for whom such environments  are overwhelming  and toxic. So for those who are excellent at tasks requiring deep concentration and thoughtfulness the environment of open plan is really unhealthy.

The solutions are to allow more working at home, to ensure people can escape either to quiet spaces, ‘no talk days’ or to wear headphones. Even someone as far along the extrovert end of the continuum as I am,  used to wear headphones to that I could  screen out the activity in the office around me.

Equalities

One of the key themes  of the book is that the cult of the extrovert leaders is a western concept and embodies western values. What Cain discovers is that not only are there many Americans who are introverted and don’t enjoy all this noise and sociable activity but that the  Asian Americans she talked to found it a total anathema. Culturally Asian communities value very different things from their Western counterparts. So if we recruit for sociable, outgoing, ‘high energy’ leaders we may well be indirectly discriminating against the team work those of Asian cultures where the individual subordinates their own desires to the group’s interests.

Neither one nor the other but some of both…

My own understanding of introversion came form sharing my home with a young man (our au pair) who was a typical introvert, exhausted by a few hours with my son, able to sit alone and practise his guitar, his maths and his English for hours. Someone who seemed not to need friends or a social life but who charmed the Grandmas and would argue the toss with the husband (he had a real stubborn streak). Watching these traits at close quarters was fascinating. But rather than hinder him, these traits have been the key to his success in achieving his career goals. Many years on, he designs motorbikes for Triumph – a boyhood dream.

Most people are not completely introverted or complete extroverts, we lie somewhere along that continuum.  Introverts are often good at turning on the charm, forcing themselves to appear more gregarious than they feel  and disguising their need for ‘quiet’, (but it drains them to do so). Depending on what study you read somewhere between half and third of us are introverts, and to ignore or under value that talent pool and the very particular talents that they have certainly appears to be folly.  Cain describes introverts as having ‘soft power’ and suggests that in the way we organise our lives and businesses we need the skills of both extroverts and introverts and that to organise our business to foster that extrovert ideal alone is at our peril.

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When it comes to applying for jobs and making your application a winning missive – one size definitely does not fit all! When I am recruiting and screening a significant pile of CVs and applications there is nothing more despair inducing than realising that I am reading a batch of CVs, erectile most of which have been sent out a significant number of times before.

Sometimes it is really obvious that this is a standard issue application.. sometimes the writer has not even checked to make sure that they have referred to  the correct organisation. “I am really excited about the opportunity to work for NASA and fly to the moon”  says the applicant to the local bank.  “I would really enjoy the opportunity to contribute to the space program”. Well I am sure you would but that is probably not going to happen at the local shoe shop. The person reading the application deserves the courtesy  of getting their name correct (and their gender) and the role and organisation you are applying for correct too. But a good application goes further: it demonstrates an understanding of the skills and challenges of this job. It is tailored to the specific job you are applying for.

So one of the very first rules of making a job application is that you have to tailor your application to the job you are applying for. But this is a concept that many people struggle with; so just how does one tailor an application?

Firstly look at your Cv, medications For too long people have thought the CV is a standard document with every detail of their past in it when it needs to be a breathing and alive and tailored pitch for a particular role.  Have you expressed a career objective in your CV? Is this job (that you are applying for ) actually in line with that objective? Have you given your self a profile statement? Is that profile a description of the person they are looking for? (and if you are not what they are looking for, prescription just why are you applying?) You can’t change where you have worked or what jobs you have done, the tailor can make many different garments with the same cloth.  But look at your achievements – do they demonstrate that you have achieved the things they need you to achieve? Are you speaking their language? Are you showcasing the skills they are looking for? You will have undertaken a number of tasks in your last role, have you thought about the order that you mention them in? Have you used great adverbs and adjectives to show that you accomplished those achievements in the way they want you to work?

I recently looked at a Cv of someone whose greatest highlight was playing a key role in saving lives in crash whilst waiting for an air ambulance. I am not for one moment suggesting that he is not a hero…. But the job was not looking for daring do or for feats of bravery. So think ‘what do I want the reader to see and be attracted to?’ What have I done and achieved that is of most interest to my reader? ‘ Think about changing the order of your achievements to highlight your most relevant skills. Is your Cv a job description with no qualitative statements that show you were successful? Think about which achievements you include.  Really demonstrate that you have the right experience for the new job. Delete points that suggest your interests or skills lie elsewhere. Just as a tailor clips and shapes each suit to fit the size and shape of the wearer, clip and shape your application.

Secondly, think about your supporting documents, whether it is a cover letter, a supporting statement or both.  These documents are your opportunity to demonstrate how you deliver the role achievements and a showcase for your skills. In your covering letter, show tat you really have done your work on that organisation and know why it is attractive. Tell, that organisation why you are specifically drawn to it and that role. And if you are doing a  supporting statement  choose great examples of having cracked the problems they are facing. Make sure you tell them about the end results of what you have done (or contributed towards) so that you show you understand their mission and purpose. My administrator may have spent most of the day photocopying and fixing interviews but what she contributed to was client retention and candidate satisfaction. It’s great to see that someone understands why they do the day to day tasks in their job.

And finally, what is really sad when there is so much free help and advice on the web (and my site included) that someone has not bothered to look at it. So their submission is outdated and outmoded. And yet they are still surprised that they don’t get an interview.

One size does not fit all and an application needs to be thought through so that you really communicate with the reader and tell them the very relevant information in as succinct a way as possible. Good luck with your tailored applications.. and don’t forget a tailor needs their scissors as well as their other tools.

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