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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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.

 

Interviews:Five steps to an effective close.

This is not the END
This is not even the beginning of the END!
If anything, it is the END of the Beginning!
Winston Churchill

INTERVIEW CLOSE

Endings are important whether to a War or to a novel. Great endings lead to great New beginnings so, It makes sense to make them memorable.The same goes for Interviews too.

But, when it comes to closing interviews, candidates too often end in a jiffy with a smile and thank you. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t propose that they stop being gracious to the interviewer or for that matter stop smiling. No! of course not. But, there is room to do a lot more than that.

This is a key moment of Interviewer “Face Time”. Why would you want to waste it?.

Ask any Toastmaster, he will tell you the importance of a great opening and a great close. That’s because the audience remembers what came first and what came last, they forget the rest.  As an interviewee you can take advantage of this human frailty to leave an impact on your audience ( the interviewer) by crafting a memorable close.

How can you do that?

Here is a simple Five step process to close any interview with impact.

Step-1. Summarize. Provide the interviewer with a synopsis of your experience. Recap, re-state, recount why you feel you are the best fit for the job. For example – “As an experienced finance professional having worked extensively on international taxation, I have proven ability in building and leading teams and developing effective solutions for tax automation. As such I hold a sincere interest in joining your team”. Highlight how your skills and experience fit with the job reqs and work environment.

Step-2. Express Interest. Continuing with the last point re-express interest in the job. Emphasize by stating how exciting the position sounds and how you look forward to work with the team. Demonstrate knowledge about the company products and services and focus on its positive reputation. Leave the interviewer with the impression that you this company is your FIRST CHOICE.

Step-3.Concerns. Now to tackle the unspoken anxieties of the interviewer. Silent concerns are a hurdle standing in way of you getting the job. Here is an example of easing an interviewers concern by proactively bringing up the topic – If I were in your place I might wonder as to why I would leave, own house and family and move to a different location. I would like to clarify the reasons for this move …. This clears the air and creates room for a healthy discussion which other-wise might remain a nagging thought in the interviewers mind.

The above three steps will set you up for a classy ending to your interview. The next two will pave the way for a smooth transition to a post interview phase.

askStep-4.Ground work. After the interview you would want to be in a position to call up and speak with the interviewers. This requires some ground work. Ask by when you can expect a response and if it is okay for you to follow up in-case you do not hear from them. You don’t need their permission to ask but having the permission makes your job easier. Helps in overcoming any inhibitions that you may feel when the time comes to follow up. Further ask what the next step is going to be, are the shortlisted candidates going to be called for another round, what would be the time frame? Will there be multiple rounds? Keep these questions ready.

Step-5.Names and a Thankyou. You have got the permission to followup, how will you do so if you have not managed to get their contacts. So, get the names of all the people whom you have met, who interviewed you and their contact information. Send them an individual thank you note. There are innumerable resources online which will help you in crafting a professional thankyou mail.

Following this five step process will help you stand out in the eyes of your interviewer. Always give a great amount of attention to each one of the steps above for every interview you attend. Your interviewers will appreciate your preparation and professionalism and surely want to have you in their team. And yes, don’t forget to shine your “close up” smile to bring the proceeds to an effective close.

Prakash Francis is a Talent Acquisition expert based in Bangalore.

 

AI/JOBS/& increasing opportunities

Lawyers and accountants join list of workers whose jobs are likely to go – screamed a headline. ai_0

Increasingly such headlines are becoming everyday affairs.

Artificial Intelligence has come a long way and seems like it is set to takeover our jobs , especially jobs that are of a repetitive and mundane nature. These include jobs of order takers – cashiers , maybe even waiters might get replaced by robots. Telecallers might get replaced with Robo callers. Are there any firms already doing so – I am not sure. How far into the future can we expect sizeable volumes of AI replacements? could be 5 years or 10.

A point to remember is that Automation is expensive and is not going to replace any job as long as it is cheaper for a human to do it.

A Mckenzie report suggests that as of now 5% of the jobs are ready for AI takeover. The good things is that 95% of the jobs are going to stay. Even better is that new jobs will replace the old ones. As the human population increases more jobs get created. It is a simple case of demand and supply.  Technology will eliminate certain kind of jobs but more new jobs will be created catering to a different set of problems and solutions.

Opportunities continue to increase.

To find out if machines will actually take away our jobs – watch this TEDx by David Autor

A case for Interning

What does Steven Spielberg has to teach us about Interning?

intern_nation_are_we_exploiting_a_generation_of_workersSteven Spielberg was a movie fanatic who was desperate for a job in the film industry. One day he landed at the Universal Studios , looking for a job. No one had one for him. So he just hung around. He showed up day after a day even though no one wanted him there. But he hung around and volunteered to do anything that was required to be done.

By doing unpaid jobs at the studio he got to watch movies being shot. He learnt by watching  and interacting with folks in the industry.

Eventually the studio invited him to do a short film. And rest ….. well you know it.