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S.U.R.F. your way to a new career

… By Katherine Wiid of Recrion & Career Ambitions, specialist in Career Management, Recruitment and Retention.

Earlier this month, Katherine Wiid opened our CamAW1SE Conference with an intriguing talk titled ‘From Label to Able’. And rather than leaving delegates drowning in information, they discovered a new approach to their careers and job search that would leave them riding high on the choppy waves of the job market…

 

S.U.R.F. your way to a new career…

Do you at times have doubts about whether your skills, experiences and qualifications are relevant for the local job market?

Often when I meet a client for career coaching for the first time, they say things like, “I’m a C++ programmer but I haven’t got all the latest languages like Rust and Swift, so I’m not getting any interviews.”

And there’s the problem. They’ve been caught in the label trap – seeing themselves as a set of skills on a job description. Candidates often see their applications getting rejected, with no feedback to help them improve their applications. Often candidates tell me it’s as if their CVs are going into a machine that strips their carefully crafted experience and skills into a series of ticks and crosses, translating to ‘not a good match’.

But we are all much more than a list of skills. We just need to look beyond the check list, see past the labels and identify what we have to offer a potential employer beyond their job description.

Learn to S.U.R.F.

What does surfing have to do with your job search? To change careers, start afresh and tackle the choppy job market, we need to have a balanced approach so that we can ride the rough with the smooth…

S = Skills
If you ask yourself “what do you do?” you’ll probably instinctively answer with a label. But is that all you are? Can you not be something else also?

Labels narrow down our options. Don’t assume that your qualifications speak for themselves. I see too many career professionals with impressive qualifications who fail to see what those skills actually enable them to do, beyond the label.

it's-not-what-you-have

Ask yourself:
• What did I learn that has added to my skill set?
• How does the experience allow me to offer something different in a market flooded with qualified people?
• How do I use or hope to use this qualification?

To master the art of S.U.R.F.ing we need to be skillful at identifying our skills. One of the main reasons that people aren’t motivated in their careers is because they only see half the skills they have. They only really develop and use a quarter of those skills, and they only put a fraction of them on their CVs! No wonder those CV machines are coming back as ‘not a good match’…

To uncover your hidden skills and talents, think about and write down:
• The activities you enjoyed at school / university / in your spare time. Everything we read and learn about in our own time – not just when studying – gives us new skills
• Think about how you do what you do. From day to day how do you manage your home, family, work, social life? You might be a great organiser or the person who comes up with the ideas!

It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you’ve got!

U = Unconscious

How many of your skills are unconscious, undeveloped, undiscovered? Knowing yourself and what drives you at a deeper unconscious level is one of the most attractive qualities in a candidate.

If we aren’t consciously aware of what motivates us we can end up working in an environment where we are not challenged or passionate about we do. This can knock our confidence and lead to a wasted, unfulfilled life.

To help you become more consciously aware of your unconscious motivations here are three questions to ask yourself:
• What’s important to me and has to be in my work?
• What gives me the greatest buzz at work
• If all jobs paid the same what would I do?

Remember, it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you’ve got!

R = Relevant

As you are learning to S.U.R.F. you will become skillful at assessing your skills and tapping into what unconsciously motivates you. Now it’s time to make these new discoveries relevant to the job market. How can your unique skills, experiences and passions be of use to the hundreds of companies seeking new talent? How can you help them to choose you?

To do this, we’ll need to step into the shoes of the employer. If you see a job you like the look of, but they’re asking for a skill you don’t obviously have, don’t reject it. Employers aren’t always able to articulate exactly what they want and job descriptions aren’t always accurate. Ask yourself, why do they need this? What problem will it solve?

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Try doing a SWOT analysis, which will help you to understand the context of the job within the company and within that market. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the external opportunities and threats for the organization? Now do the same exercise on yourself. What are the strengths you have that might minimize their weaknesses and threats? What have you got that will enable them to take advantage of an opportunity.

Now tailor your CV and cover letter to address what might be going through their minds when they are assessing you. This will set you apart as you are answering the problem posed by the job, showing them how skillful you are without necessarily having the exact skill they thought they needed!

Remember, it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you’ve got!

F = Flexible

To be able to S.U.R.F. well, you need to be flexible and see yourself and the job market with fresh eyes.

For you, that might mean experimenting with new career ideas, trialing new roles and being prepared to make mistakes. Ensure your mistakes are positive steps in your learning.

Flexibility for you might not be sitting and waiting for that career opportunity to come knocking, but to increase the odds in your favour by learning to think openly, being curious, asking decision makers for 30 minutes of their time to give you an insight into what they do. Be alert to the possibility that your skills and motivations might be suited to a job that didn’t even exist.

Remember, it’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what’s you got!

Effective S.U.R.F.ing is about finding a career that works for you, matching what you’ve got and who you are with the life you are going to lead.

Believe me, there are jobs hiding behind every wave, you just have to get up and S.U.R.F. them! Enjoy the ride…

Finding your career anchor with Tennie Videler

If you missed this workshop or love it and want to attend to an improved version book now for the Relaunch your career event. Read more here

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We all have a particular orientation towards work and our professional goals. We approach our work with a certain set of priorities and values, which we call “career anchors”: a combination of perceived areas of competence, motives, and values relating to professional choices. Knowing and understanding these will help us be more self-reliant, make better career choices and thus enjoy a more productive and satisfactory career.

Tennie Videler

Tennie Videler

This was the objective of the first WiSE UP 2016 ‘Career anchors: Identify your strengths & values’ workshop facilitated by Tennie Videler and based on Edgar H. Schein and John Van Maanen’s publications. The evening started with a networking session and a mock-up job interview to help us get to know each other. After that and during the main part of the workshop Tennie helped us identify our career anchors among the eight possible:

career-anchors001

  • Technical/functional competence
  • General managerial competence
  • Autonomy/independence
  • Security/stability
  • Entrepreneurial creativity
  • Service/dedication to a cause
  • Pure challenge
  • Lifestyle.

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As Tennie pointed out, there are no good or bad anchors, only personal choices and preferences. And although Schein and Maanen imply that there should be only one anchor, Tennie’s experience suggests that many of us may have more than one to consider. In fact, many of the attendees had more than one career anchor and some of them even suspected that their career anchors could change with the passage of time. Tennie also pointed out that considering our anchor when selecting a career will help us choose the right path, avoiding incompatibilities with our true values. This prevents feelings of discontent and lack of productivity at work, and allows us to uncover our real values and use them to make smarter career choices.

Afterwards, we had a lively discussion about our career anchors and how being aware of them could be useful in all career stages.

Profile: Anne Clarke – Senior Business Analyst, Cambridge Assessment.

Cambridge AWiSE steering group co-chair – ANNE CLARKE
Anne ClarkeI joined the Steering Group of Cambridge AWiSE a few years ago having been a member for a couple of years before that. I find the group really supportive and encouraging, providing lots of interesting people to meet and listen too. I particularly enjoyed our series of WISEUP workshops and organising a successful day for returners in Cambridge.

My first introduction was from Lucy Spokes, when she was our co-ordinator, and attended the same OU Return to Work event as myself. One meeting and I was hooked! I am especially interested in supporting other women who have put their careers on hold to raise a family and want to return to professional life.
Read more

Profile: Dr Judit Molnar- drug discovery biologist

Cambridge AWiSE Steering Group Member – DR JUDIT MOLNARI currently work at GlaxoSmithKline a large pharmaceutical company as a clinician scientist. I lead early clinical development of medicines treating autoimmune diseases, especially trying to find treatment for systemic sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

I am originally from Hungary, where I gained a Medical Degree. I lived in the US for a number of years while pursuing an academic career in medical research including a PhD and a postdoc. But… after a few years of racking up air miles with my British husband I moved to the UK to start a family. I became a full time mum with two little boys. At times it looked very challenging to return to a career path for which I was highly trained. I was lucky to be awarded a Daphne Jackson Fellowship just to do that. I used the opportunity to join Pfizer, a large pharmaceutical company and explored drug discovery as an alternative to return to Academia.

I have been a steering group member since 2011. I was new to the Cambridge area and found the networking with other like minded women at AWISE highly valuable. AWISE proved valuable again, when I was made redundant from Pfizer. The networking and the career development workshops definitely contributed to securing a position at my current company.

I always enjoy sharing my own experiences with other scientists in similar situations.

Dr Judit Molnar
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