In pursuit of your Passion don’t forget Happiness.

You cannot live by bread alone,

But for survival bread will suffice.

 unknown

maxresdefault

Following your passion is important but there are some undiscussed road mines along the road to your passion. In a war when armies attack they try to use the route which is least defended. In other words they look for a way to attack and win with the least amount of casualties.

Same with your career. While following your passion, first ensure your own survival, the idea is not to make yourself the victim of your passions.

So blindly following the advice to do what you love and follow your passion can be bad advice for some very obvious but often ignored reasons.

The first reason being that it gives the impression that passion is all that you need to have a great career. If you recall the figure I shared last week which I reproduce here – passion is just one Vertex of the Triangle that sets you on your path to a Great career. We need to look at passion in the context of our career and as an extension our life. If passion is all that you have, with no secure means to earn a livelihood – you are in for a life of borrowing & living on your parents money – not the best of ways to plan a successful life.

GREAT CAREER ppt

And what if your real passion does not have any takers, What do you do? How long are you willing to wait? Are you willing to while away the prime years of your life digging a well without any realistic expectation of water?

The second is that it needlessly limits your options. Why close doors before you even had a chance to find out what is on the other side? People don’t have a clear understanding of jobs other than what they are in and fresher’s face a worse plight in that respect. So letting something go without a clear understanding without even trying can be a big limiter.

Lets face it deciding to stick to your passion is going to limit your options. Limited options are good as long as they help building career focus. But doing so after some experimentation can give you a greater focus. Taking up something without knowing the other available options wont help in the long run. Because someday thoughts creep in as to what have you missed.

While planning you career you need to keep a tab on both the short term and the long term. In the short term you want a job to earn a livelihood. Survival comes first. You need something to survive independently. Yes you might not like the job you are doing but no one expects you to spend your entire life doing the same thing. Be open, be on the look out, experiment, take risks, be always trying to find what you are good at and what will earn you the best income. This will lead you to career satisfaction in all aspects , in job content, closeness to your passion and your compensation.

Let me share with you a story I came across in the Chicken soup Series.

A good looking young man called Manish landed in Bombay from a  small town to pursue his passion in acting. He went to a few acting institutes which promised a great life of fame and fortune in Acting. He went to many such institutes and set up interviews. One such institute he went to was headed by a wiseman called Nitin. Nitin heard out Manishs’ dreams and background and asked him how will you survive in Mumbai for the first one year. In other words he wanted to know what would be his source of income.

Maneesh felt offended by this question. How does it matter to this fellow he thought. But he told Nitin he has some money and later he will survive with whatever small roles he get. So Nitin adviced him – Pahle apne pair jamalo ( first get a good footing … and then parallely you can pursue your passion). Without a source of income you will get frustrated after a facing the many rejections and give up on your desire to act.  Manish followed his advice took up a regular job became a program manager in a leading Firm and pursues his passion for acting by being part of theatre and conducting events at his office.  He is grateful for that timely advice he received. Many of his friends chose to pursue their passion and ended living on a meagre income.

So when we advice youngsters to follow their passion it might sound like the rightest thing to do.  But lets temper it with reality so that the person on the receiving end of that advice goes on to thank us for the impact it has had in building his/her career.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition expert based in Bangalaore.

Advertisements

What makes for a great career?

 

Give a man a fish he will be happy for a Day, show him a how to fish and he will be grateful for a lifetime.

The difference between a job and a career is somewhat on those lines. Focusing on the Job is like searching for cooked fish. You just want the next meal. Whereas a career takes care of your livelihood for life.

What does it mean to have a great career?

While each person has his or her own definition of what a “great career” means, while defining it the following components come in to play:

  • You are passionate about what you do ( now passion is fuzzy so lets say it is the nth power of Like)
  • You are so good at it that you get reasonably well compensated for it.
  • There is good potential to grow as an individual in terms of learning experiences.

Finding the intersection between (1) what you love to do and are passionate about, (2) what you are skilled at doing, and (c) what the market will pay for handsomely,  is the Sweet Spot.

A career which falls in this slot would qualify as a Great Career.

 

Interviews: 5 simple ways to Out Shine your competition

1cdb54bHaving sat though 100s of interviews as an interviewer I find many candidates making simple mistakes. In spite of all the information available on how to present one self in the best light 3 out of 4 candidates still miss out on the simple stuff.

If you are attending an interview here are five tips which will help in outshining your competition. If you expect this to be Rocket science – you might be disappointed – coz it isn’t. A minor change in can smoothen the path to your aspired role.

Be likeable.

I would like to work with people whom I like to have around. Yes there would be that one person whom I would like to have around who gets on my nerves with his criticisms and advice but I so believe in his capabilities, good sense and that he has the companies interests in mind that I totally want to have him around. But he is only one. I don’t have the band width to tolerate more sour pusses around my work place. There has to be a balance. And if I don’t get the vibe that in an interview you are unable to come across as likeable then having you around the office is not a risk I am going to consider.

So I suggest you smile, make eye contact, sit forward on your chair, and be enthusiastic.

You may have solid qualifications but if you don’t seem like an enjoyable person to work with I am probably not going to hire you.

Solid qualifications and experience take you into the door but then so are all the others who have been shortlisted.

Avoid negativity.

That includes having something not very flattering to say about your current or previous employer. Okay so they are bad and that is the reason you want to leave but grow out of that negativity. It is not going to help our organisation any way. Coz this interview is about this firm and your value to this firm. Any other way you look at it might give you only a very skewed picture.

Come to think of it, this being an interview you are displaying your best possible of view of you, and if that comprises of foul mouthing your employer – after a few months you will be a pain to have around.

Now you might feel you are justified responding to a question like why do you want to leave with and answer that berates the employer or your boss or your con-workers. But here too you can be creative in how you frame your response. Be positive be your mojo. Instead of saying that your boss is a nerve wracking micro manager – You could say that you are keen to shoulder more responsibility  and freedom.

On the same lines avoid framing responses in a self negating way. For instance as an HR you haven’t handled a training role- so don’t say I have never handled training. Instead say that you have not managed that role but have trained new hires and created several training manuals. Avoid using the word haven’t or I don’t instead share applicable experience. Human mind especially the tired interviewer mind has a tendency to latch on to negative sound bites and rule you out. Don’t play into their hands.

Don’t Lie.

Even more important don’t get caught. Incase you do remember – “Don’t Lie” I come across resumes which mention experience and when asked to go deeper candidates feign ignorance. It looks bad. Getting your resume shortlisted is not going to help you in getting the job. How you perform during the interview is. So avoid un truths – especially in your resume.

Ask Questions

Ask for the Job. Maybe not right away as you start the interview. Don’t ask for the job upfront. That can be a downer. Instead based on the way the interview progresses ask for it with specifics. Explain the pluses you bring to the table. For instance : I work well with teams, or I enjoy travel or I thrive on unsupervised roles. Ask for the job and share facts to substantiate.

Ask questions that matter to you. Here are a few questions that you could ask. Focus on the role the responsibilities , your reporting is there a clear reporting. As the interview progresses you could go deeper on the reporting style. There is really no limit to the questions that you could ask but keep it relevant to the job role and avoid redundancy. No point is asking something which is available on line – that actually shows lack of preparation.  And a word of caution no when to stop. Observe signals from the interviewer.

Follow-up

Every interviewer likes a brief follow-up note , just saying thanks and acknowledging the time spent. A reference to the discussion during the interview about something specific that was shared a common like or a new technique could be mentioned to create a more complete follow up. After all it is these small meaningful interactions which trigger even the most professional relationships.

These five tips will ensure a small sailing through any interview you face.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Expert based in Bangalore.

 

Overcoming the Employment Gap

WOMAN JUMP

Mr Ramesh is a senior professional having over 20 years of experience. For the last 2 years he has been on a break due to a Non-Compete Clause that he had to sign with his earlier firm. Now that that the clause period is over he is finding it difficult to explain the gap.

This is a unique instance of a gap I have come across. Typically the gaps are due to family emergencies, raising children, downsizing, and some times firing.

Employers become jittery when dealing with Gaps and sometimes justifiably so. What happens is that the employee in question is unable to fit into the changed workplace environment. This could be due to loss of morale as a result of compromises made to get back to active work. Sometimes it is not being current in their field , happens especially if the gap is over 2 years.

This is not to say that returning to work is hopeless. Plenty of executives have done just that and have done so successfully.  One needs to strategize. To take care and plan on how you are going to explain the Gap in paper i.e your resume and during the interview.

Many candidates tend to run away from the situation. They tend to hide the gap hoping that it would somehow go un-noticed.

Don’t hide the fact be upfront about it.

Navy Seals as part of their training are supposed to swim in shark infested seas. Apparently the sharks don’t attack if you hold your ground. But if they do you are supposed to punch on their snout with all your might and swim away. This story might seem like an over-kill but the message is relevant – offence is the best form of defence. When you are facing your sharks ( the recruiter in this case) be proactive. Don’t punch him please; but – place the facts upfront.

Recruiters have the ability to smell out these white lies from a mile. Besides , it shows you in a bad light. Instead mention the gap, and the reason very briefly – less than 10 words. Unless specifically mandated the recruiters will shortlist your profile if the experience fulfils the job criteria.

Have a succinct factual explanation ready as to how you spent your time and what were your learnings which could come in handy for the position applied.

Suppose you were managing a sick parent  and holding the family together your organisation and time management skills were being put to the test. You could mention that.

At the end of the day it is about confidence. Ironically when you are trying to get back into the work force after a prolonged gap – that is exactly what you might be running short on.

Companies place a lot more weight on the self – confidence the individual has. Giving a picture of being self assured reassures the firm that this person can deliver the goods. Sometime you just have to Fake it to Make it. Mopping around will not give the hiring firm the confidence to take you in.

So during the interview be frank and honest about the break and the learning’s from it and guide the interview towards the experience and skills you bring to the table. Ultimately that is what counts. Your experience relating to the work in question and your ability to deliver. The manner in which you are able to project that ability will be the deciding factor.

A little bit of advance planning can help you manage the Gap in such a way that it doesn’t show up at all in your resume. No I am not suggesting that you fudge your Cv. What you can do is to undertake activities that will indirectly help you in your job search.

Build Your Network. Stay in touch or reconnect with your old professional contacts. Professional contacts become dispersed to new positions, your  coworkers would have moved on to new jobs and would be in a position to lend a hand to your search.

Get Active in Professional Associations. Become active in associations relating to your line of work by attending meetings, writing for the newsletter, acting as a goodwill ambassador and attending national conferences. Volunteer for activities relating to your career field.

Write for newspapers, and other trade related magazines. Writing is great way to display your expertise and increase visibility.

Attend training programs. Technology is changing and so are the tools. Every year something new is being added to existing lines of work. You could learn new skills in your field or add complimentary skills. Adding an additional degree can even help in opening up new career options.

Temporary/Part-Time work. Taking up part-time work helping out small businesses with their marketing or accounting work or just plain documentation will help you gain currency in the job market and eas your way into a fulltime role. Here it is better to be flexible on the compensation lest you lose focus on your ultimate goal which is to get into a fulltime role.  I have known people who get into decently paying part-time role and then find it difficult to switch to the rigours of Full time work.

With an ever volatile workplace instances of career breaks are becoming quite common.They need not be feared. They are not the end of the world. With a bit of reflection and preparation will put you in a good position to actually come out as stronger more self-aware candidate.

And remember employers are more interested in your ability to deliver so don’t over think.

Prakash Francis is a talent expert based in Bangalore.

 

Exit Interviews : Do not Burn those bridges

Burning Bridges

There is quite divergent piece of advice with regard to burning your bridges as in when you are exiting your current firm.

Lets first look at the issue of exit interviews.

If you have decided to leave your firm for better opportunities – you might be filled with a desire to let it loose, give it back to them.  Now that you are free from the shackles of the current employer  – there is nothing to lose.

My suggestion to you would be to hold your horses.

Avoid doing or saying anything that you might live to regret.

You never know when the tables might turn.

Recently one of my candidates interviewed with a client. The candidate a senior professional had a difference of opinion with his current CEO but had his paths covered or so he thought. He had a good reference from the managing director of the current firm and a few other referrals from the earlier organisations. The interview went off well. Turned out the CEO of the firm he was interviewing with and his current CEO were class mates.

This is a true story which is currently playing out. The reason I share it is because you don’t know who is going to be connected with whom and you end up regretting some act.

Moral when you are leaving an organisation don’t burn your bridges.

This advice is especially relevant for employees early in their careers. Generally we see that by the time you are in the 30-35 year bracket you have matured enough and realise the importance of maintaining these weak relationships.

What you need to remember is that you are not required to cozy up to your boss and the current employees with whom you may not be having a great relationship. But Maintain a polite , civil relationship, spleen venting can be done in the confines of your room or over a beer with a very close friend . Not with your boss or your boss’s boss or your HR. Definitely not the HR.

An HR manager doesn’t want to hear, during your exit interview, that you think your manager was a jerk. While it may be irresistible to use the meeting to unload, once you’ve made the decision to leave an employer, airing your gripes won’t do you any good. Your time to talk about concerns was while you were employed. Vent ahead of time, not during the interview.

Many reasons. Mainly the HR has its job cutout. They have to maintain peace and harmony. They have to manage the egos. And in the pecking order of things – your Boss is likely to have a greater say on matters. He might have more experience, more knowledge on the subject, better qualified or maybe just closer to the leadership. So your sabre rattling is only going to show you in a bad light.

So however piqued you are about your work and the current state of affairs – make your departure pleasant so that when you meet the people again in a business setting you are able to maintain a pleasant conversation.

One way to prevent any frustrations from boiling over during the interview is to vent it out before. Write down a no holds barred letter to the soon to be former Boss, detailing out every thing that you felt disgruntled about and that contributed to your decision to move on. Don’t post the letter. Save it for later reading. That will help in having a non-emotional exit. You could even frame your opinions in a way that shows that you are thinking of the best for the company.

Exit with grace by focusing on the positive. Criticism is not easy to accept especially not from a person who decided to move on. If you do not like a situation the easiest option is to vent out. The more rewarding option is to give feedback in a non-emotional way.

Companies do want to improve – they are aware that excessive turnover is not good for them. But companies being what they are corrections take a while coming. The likelihood of improvement or positive change is higher if the employees presents his feedback in a non emotional, professional manner.

From a professional perspective workplace relationships are unique and have huge implications for the individuals in the relationship. It does’nt require an Eintenien intelligence to realize that workplace relationships directly affect the employees ability to succeed. The times of exit, the times when you are about to leave an organisation, can throw up moments, tempting, enticing moments to act in a manner that jeopardizes these relationships forever. Keeping that natural human tendency in check has a huge upward impact potential for your professional life.

 Prakash Francis is a Talent expert based in Bangalore.

 

Recruiter:Are you biased?

workplace-diversity-RS-770“You must work with people whom you don’t like because a workforce comprised of people who are all best office buddies can be homogeneous, and homogeneity in an organisation breeds failure.”                                               Eric Schmidt – How Google works

A diverse Workplace is a high energy workplace. Diversity in hiring and employment allows for the development of a robust, well-rounded teams that can perform better in v.u.c.a environment.

A high diversity workplace is likely to have more differences of opinions, different view-points getting aired leading to vociferous discussions, raging disagreements but in the end a better product a better service. The biggest hurdle to such a diverse workplace is the very human bias towards sameness and conformity. This bias in recruiters can be detrimental to hiring for a diverse and innovative workplace.

What is recruiter bias? Recruiters have been blamed for a lot of mischief but this is one which is not exclusive to recruiters alone – it is part and parcel to all individuals. As Daniel Kahneman in his Nobel Prize winning book –Thinking Fast and Slow says our default thinking mode Thinks Fast and Jumps to conclusions he calls it the System1 our rational mode is the System2 which is lazy and slow. So by  default we think fast and take quick decisions hence – our tendency towards bias.

But this is the very tendency which needs to be avoided if we want a diverse workforce.

How do you change something so deeply ingrained in the human psyche – something over which you have almost no control. It starts with awareness. Just by being aware that such a bias is affecting our decision making will help us in exercising caution. Leading firms are making it mandatory for all employees in decision making roles to undergo bias training.

Human race is not homogeneous. People from countries that fought wars 20 years ago over religious, cultural, racial differences are now on the same table sharing workspaces. The basic instinct of survival – our lizard brain triggers our bias against people who not from the same pond.Recruiters are no different.

Typically the biases to which the recruiters remain susceptible are the following:

Affinity Bias

“Birds of a feather flock together”.

I am reminded of my dad and this very old saying which he used often. Whenever we kids sided with mom during fights – he would call us birds of the same feather. Sarcastic Offcourse. Nevertheless there is truth in this saying.

As we are so we associate – says Ralph Waldo Emerson. We are most comfortable with people we understand, with whom we share some kind of common linkage. As recruiters we tend to hire people with whom we share some sameness. When we talk of culture fit in companies it helps businesses to run smoothly. It is the same sameness which also is a barrier to diversity, inclusion and innovation.

Confirmation Bias

This is when people have prior beliefs and look for ways to substantiate those beliefs. It is an innate tendency to seek out confirmation for our preconceived notions. An example is in the case of college passed out from. The recruiter might form a favourable or unfavourable opinion purely based on the college of the candidate in question. Once the opinion is created He/she looks for evidence to support that opinion. He/she is giving in to confirmation bias. School can be replaced by village, town, state etc for the confirmation bias to trigger.

Gender Bias

This is one of the strongest biases in the workplace. Multiple experiments have repeatedly proven the unconscious bias we have about men and women. At the workplace males are believed to have better leadership qualities even if research shows otherwise. Even when a woman’s voice is thought to be trustworthy, clear, and comprehensible on its own, her credibility is lowered when her voice is compared to a man’s voice – even if the man’s voice was deemed as not-so-reliable or intelligent on its own. In an  experiment by Harward Business School more than a decade ago, the Heidi/Howard Roizen study showed that when the exact same story was told with different names (Heidi vs Howard), participants said the woman Heidi was selfish and not “the type of person you would want to hire or work for,” while the fictitious Howard came off as appealing.

All in all, when women are compared to men, they lose. And as you can imagine, this kind of “gendered listening” is a huge problem in hiring, as you might assume someone is best for the job, but you’re not really hearing what they’re saying.

Racial Bias

Racial bias remains another strong issue. Candidates with ethnic minority names are less likely to receive a call back on submitting a resume. Many companies shy away from hiring minorities for a more difficult reason. They fear customer pushback.

Whatever be the reasons these prejudices exist. Recruitment plays a crucial role in building a diverse, forward-thinking environment in fact it is the first step. Unfortunately, the hiring process is incredibly vulnerable to the influence of unconscious bias, which can hamper objective decision making and ultimately become a roadblock to the pursuit of diversity.

Hence it is important to take steps to contain this bias.

How do we do that?

Time

Give, devote sufficient time to the hiring process. Avoid quick decisions. Let the decision rest for a few days. This would allow the System 2 of Daniel Kahneman to kick in and give us a better more rational decision. Studies have shown that allowing enough time to do evaluations increases accuracy and reduces any bias. So, allow plenty of time to read interview materials and take notes.

Structured Questions

A set of structured questions asked to all the candidates in the same sequence sets the stage to compare apples with apples and prevents bias. Research has found that structured interviews are more predictive of on-the-job performance.

The idea is to standardize the interview process to make it more fair, objective, and accurate.

Accountability

Increased accountability reduces the effect of any kind of bias and increases the accuracy of evaluations. Hence a culture/requirement for interview note taking, and evaluators using named forms, and each interviewer selection decision is justified, documented and filed. Here again the google system of using a hiring packet is worth emulating. The Hiring Packet contains all known information about the candidate based on his progress through the interview process. All members of the hiring committee get the exact same information and every decision is based on the same set of data ensuring that there is no room for bias. An important tenet they follow is that only information in the packet is considered, if its not in the packet it doesn’t get considered.

This goes to show to what extent the top firms are willing to go to get the best talent on board. The talent selection process should reflect the vision, value and goals of the firm. The best available talent that helps the organisation to realize its vision should get hired. If individual biases are impacting the hiring process in a negative manner immediate corrective action needs to be taken.

Prakash Francis is a talent expert based in Bangalore.

 

Are you Good at Conducting Interviews?

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”   Larry Bossidi – GE

Interviewing is a skill that needs to be mastered. You can get the most from the interview by carefully planning in advance what you want to learn from candidates as well as what they will need to learn from you.

Each interview needs to be in a positive frame of mind remembering that, as a prospective employer, you are also a salesperson for your firm and the position you want to fill. As you evaluate the candidate, he is also evaluating the position and you as a potential employer. Remember your behavior during this interview reflects directly on you and the firm.

Here are a six tips to have an effective interview.

Be Prepared

To start with be prepared with a list of questions. Depending on the position it is good to take the help of a subject matter expert to decide on what you want to ask the candidate.

The questions need to be a mix of open ended, behavioural and yes and no times. The objective being to evaluate the best fit from among the probables. The questions need to be structured based on the type of behavioural competence expected of the candidate. For instance to check his ability to handle stress – you could ask “What is the most stressful situation you have found yourself in at work? How did you handle it?”. To check attention to detail – “tell me about a time when you were confused by a customers request. What steps did you take to clarify things?”

Go through the resume

It is never a good idea to open the resume for the first time after the interview has started. Go through it in beforehand and also check his/her linkedin profile. Possibly you could scan the recommendations section and see what his/her colleagues have to say. This gives multiple reference points to evaluate the answers.

Follow up on the answers.

Devil is in the details. Having list of questions gives a broad direction to the interview but the real understanding of the candidates level of competence is in being able to ask specific questions based on the answers she provides. Being able to probe in an encouraging manner helps one to get a clear picture of the how well the candidate has performed a similar role in the past.

Take Detailed Notes

Jotting down as the candidate explains is key because a you will need it for reference and comparison with other candidates and b as you write down it helps to focus thoughts and you are able to frame better follow up questions for the candidate to process. It is important that you write in a legible handwriting or half your time will be spent deciphering what you have written. I mention this because when I started out in this line I used to scribble during interviews and later would be left scratching my head as to what I had written a few minutes ago. I have come a long way now.

Listen

As an interviewer your job is to listen to what the candidate has to say. Your job is to evaluate the candidate so you should be listening , most of the time. Let the candidate talk. That doesn’t mean the interviewer should not talk at all. Probably a quarter of the time should be good enough. You need to be able to explain the position, the job, and the company the culture, and answer any other pertinent questions the candidate might have. But the majority of the time needs to be spent evaluating what the candidate has to say.

Be Courteous

Sometimes the interviewers are in such a hurry to get the interview over that they right away jump into experience part. A little courtesy won’t do harm – unless you are planning on stressing the candidate for some reason. Even if that is the case it would be a good idea to mention as much towards the end of the interview. Coz, even the candidate is evaluating you, and good candidates have options. Unless you are Miranda Priestly ( Devil wears Prada) you don’t have to be rude.

Fullscreen-capture-8172012-22402-PM

There is a chasm that separates politeness and being chummy. However attractive or like-minded the candidate might be – suppress the urge to bridge that chasm. This is not the time to make friends. You are at an interview get on with the job.

In the modern workplace where knowledge is the most important resource the ability to assess a candidate and select the best fit can be crucial differentiator to the financial viability of a project or even of a firm. That is the reason why leading organisations place so much importance on the hiring process.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Expert based in Bangalore.