In pursuit of your Passion don’t forget Happiness.

You cannot live by bread alone,

But for survival bread will suffice.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.

The 3 C’s of Employee Feedback

SHERYL SANDBERG quote

They say feedback is the breakfast of Champions.

I say for an employee it is also lunch, dinner and dessert.

Whether we realize it or not, we’re always giving or receiving feedback. Sometimes it’s explicit, like in a one-on-one meeting, or it’s implicit, through our tone of voice and body language. Whatever be its manner, performance feedback can either inspire, uplift, and motivate the recipient to do better or it could even lead to de-motivation, resentment and loss of morale.

Feedback is an organisational imperative. To improve one needs feedback, to grow one needs feedback, to know that they are on the right track one needs feedback. Feedback is the invisible guide rope that keeps the team on track towards the organisation goals.

Hence, the ability to give and receive feedback is a skill that needs to be honed. Developing proficiency in this area is essential to building good relationships with and inspiring your team to peak performance.

Constructive performance feedback hinges on the three C’s – Clarity, Consistency and Consideration. These three C’s together help to shape the behaviour of employees and to keep them aligned to the organisation purpose. Lets consider each.

Clarity

Bosses and managers avoid confrontation because they would rather have peace and harmony. As a result the tendency is to soften the edges of the feedback. The feedback – Karan always gives his best only allows Karan to walk away thinking that he is doing okay. The organisation doesn’t get any insight on his ability, contribution or potential.

If Karan is a high performer he is going to be frustrated. If he is a marginal performer he gets affirmed and his mediocrity is reinforced.

Instead a specific feedback would affirm Karan in areas he is doing well and help him precisely focus on areas he needs to improve on.

Considerate

Performance feedback is not an opportunity to get even. Be tough, not mean. When someone drops the ball at work and you have to give him or her feedback, resist the inclination to belittle the person. Focus on the behaviour not on the person.

Discuss the behaviour you witnessed without allotting causes. For example, you could say that the report you needed wasn’t done on time, but don’t assume it was because he is not interested in his job. Instead, talk about the impact of not receiving the report on time and how that affected others. Give him a chance to explain why it wasn’t completed at the deadline.

There is no one way to do a task. In our eagerness to give feedback are we limiting the creativity of the staff. Before giving someone feedback, check to make sure that your expectations are reasonable . Limiting your staff to do everything your way limits innovation, learning in your organization and robs you of the varied skills, experience and perspective of your employees.

Don’t lose sight of your purpose for offering that feedback: to improve the employee’s performance.When a negative feedback is inevitable , make sure to deliver your criticism in private. There’s nothing more humiliating than being criticized in front of your co-workers.

Understanding that every person deserves a modicum of respect is critical to the entire process.

Consistent

When I am happy I am effusive in praise, slow to criticize. When I am not happy I sting with my criticisms and am stingy with praise. That lack of consistency is felt by people who I work with and keeps them off balance. Keep your emotions outside the equation. Being aware of how I behave and how factors impact me is a good start to responding to opportunities for feedback in a consistent manner.

To these three C’s we can also add the fourth C which is Constant. The feedback needs to be part of the routine. Leaders, managers and supervisors need to be praising and critiquing everyday whether it is effort or outcome.

Based  on the way it is delivered feedback can be of two types – Informal & Formal –

Informal feedback is spontaneous and made on the spot when possible. The closer in time and space the behaviour is paired with the consequence , the stronger the connection.  There are different ways to do this. It can be as simple as a compliment (Hey Arun , nice job with the presentation) or  mild rebuke ( Nitin, need you here okay?)

Informal feedback needs to become part of the workplace culture. Its especially important for new employees as they learn the ropes of not only their new job but also the company. Givning feedback early and often leads to the employee getting shaped up and aligned much faster.

The power of informal feedback cannot be overstated. When people get quick feedback the damage mistakes is minimized leading to faster results.

Formal feedback is given regularly on a weekly monthly or quarterly basis. Too many times when someone is called in for a one on one its only for screw-ups. Eric Schmidt the ex-CEO of Google shares an example where an engineer had shown exemplary performance so Eric decided to call him to his room personally. The engineer came in white and ashen faced and asked – “Have I done anything wrong?”. At Novel the culture was that if the CEO calls you for a one on one – it was to get fired.

Positive or helpful feedback makes sure the person knows what went right and what went wrong and points them in the right direction.

To sum-up, feedback is a crucial organisational tool. The satisfaction you gain from watching your team work together like a well-oiled machine will make the effort expended on your regular feedback sessions entirely worthwhile.

Prakash Francis is a Talent expert based in Bangalore.

 

Employee : Are you Too Nice?

Two Roads
TWO ROADS IN A WOOD

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both…

…. I took the one not too nice,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (modified)

Have you been trying to be a nice person at work? Have all your attempts at being nice made you feel miserable? Perhaps you might consider being “polite” instead. This subtle shift can make all the difference to your future.

Being Nice has its pluses. Nice people are an asset to the organisation. They are well liked and are fun to have around. They are accommodating, helpful and Easy to work with. But Too often we find the nice employee gets passed up for promotions.

Does that surprise you?

Russ Edelman in his book Nice Guys can get the Corner office Says that Being too nice impedes career growth. According to him Nice people are so caught up in pleasing others and getting others approval that they don’t stand up for themselves. If you are a nice person, which most of us are, this insight can hurt.

Right from a very young age we are taught not to fight, not to confront, not to be blunt in voicing our opinions, not to hurt others. We are taught to be sensitive to the people around us. That is a very good thing. Thanks to this grooming we are tuned into other people’s feelings being careful not to cause them any kind of discomfort. In the process some of us overlook our own discomfort. And, in a work place this kind of orientation can at times lead us astray.

For instance it can promote conflict avoidance when practical solutions need to be ironed out by confronting the problem. Avoiding Face – offs at all cost leads to a refusal to address important disagreements in a straightforward manner which would help in improving performance.

Being nice is good but there is a point beyond which the rules of diminishing returns take over. If we were to plot the relationship between being Nice and performance it would be an inverted U. Beyond a point being nice becomes a problem.

 

inverted U

  • In trying to be Nice people suppress their view points to go with the flow even if they are strongly opposed to the view. The organisation misses out on valuable inputs and eventually suffers.
  • Out of deference to others nice people end up saying yes to everything and get taken advantage of.
  • Nice people feel awkward in accepting their rightful credit. A nice person believes he is being humble but not valuing your own work has its pitfalls. You miss out on your rightful credit and the just rewards.

To succeed at Work and avoid these eventualities there is one primary tenet which  people having a “Nice Guy” syndrome need to keep in mind.

  • Business is competitive. It is a place where people come together to work and they also compete. “Competition” is an intrinsic part of business. Performance counts. There will be winners and there will be losers. We need to decide with which crowd we might want to throw our lot in.

At the workplace the urge to be Nice needs to be balanced with the requirements of achieving results both individual and organisational. Nice people need to realize the importance of speaking up when they perceive that actions are not taking them towards agreed upon goals. Working in an organisation means times when we work with compromises, it involves mutual give and take. But win-win on paper should also be win-win in reality , Nice types should not allow themselves to be shortchanged.

So how do we move away from this self-defeating tendency ?

To start with it requires a mental shift from “nice” to “polite”.  That means we stay kind and considerate to our office colleagues but are clear about our boundaries. It means we are do not hesitate to speak up.

This mental shift would not be easy for the Nice and sensitive souls but it can be done. It will require practice. Here is how –

Know what you want. Have a clarity on your goals. This will ensure that you get to prioritize your results over others needs and requests. Getting clarity about your goals and internalizing the same would take time. But it will help in setting your boundaries.

Acknowledge Anxiety. When you anticipate others discomfort you might turn anxious. Acknowledge the anxiety and Let it be. Face your fears and move on.

Fake it till you make it: As Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook in her book LeanIn says – sometimes you can’t wait for everything to be feel right. You might not feel confident but Just go ahead and fake it. Fake assertiveness speak up even if you don’t feel like it. See what happens.

If being Too Nice is an issue that is affecting your work it would need more attention. Start reading on this topic and enroll for workshops on assertiveness training. You could even get a coach to help you out.

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The difference is too nice – where ends the Virtue, and begins the vice.

Alexander Pope

Prakash Francis is a Talent expert based in Bangalore.