Managing Your Career

Beauchamps_Series_on_CareersWhen Brian McIvor started his career in insurance, it was in a different age. His boss told him he would be working in insurance to age 65.

Now a career coach and author, McIvor said the jobs environment has changed radically.

In a climate where fear, uncertainty and pressure are the norm, the adage is now, “You are here until 6:05 this evening.”

Speaking at May 2012 Beauchamps Series event, McIvor was one of four panellists at the careers round-table organized by MBA Association of Ireland’s Eastern Chapter.

The other speakers were Declan Fitzgerald, CEO Recruitovate; Ger Cunningham, CEO Careergro; and Fiona O’Connor, Head of Executive Search & Selection, Deloitte Ireland. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Clyde Hutchinson.

McIvor has authored or co-authored three books, most recently Career Detection: Finding and Managing your Career. Estimating that 60 percent or more were in the wrong jobs, he encouraged people to ask, “What is your definition of success?”

He said people should start thinking in terms of their experience portfolio, their transferable knowledge, their networks, and to be ready to consider possibilities other than full-time employment.

While he did caution to prepare for “constant discomforts and constantly being alert,” McIvor noted that “career coaching, career development is not Lidl. It’s not one size fits all. It’s Louis Copeland.”

His point was echoed by Cunningham. “Don’t you want to do what you were made for?”  he said. “This is particularly true in the knowledge economy.”

O’Connor took a different tack by detailing some of her career’s exploits. “My advice comes from all the mistakes I have made in not managing mine,” she said.

After falling in to a job she hated after graduation, O’Connor eventually came to realize that her strengths were dealing with sales and people in a blue-chip environment.

Fitzgerald, formerly head of recruitment at LinkedIn, said we have now moved to a professionally networked world. “There are tools that allow you to turbo-charge your brand online,” he said.

As an example, he ran a Google search on how a head-hunter can easily find people with specific skills and their contact information. “Understanding how to mine data is incredibly important,” Fitzgerald said.

As a challenge, Hutchinson asked the audience if anyone was hiring. One man replied that he needed a national account manager. As Fitzgerald typed his query in to Google and the audience watched, Hutchinson quipped to the hiring manager, “I like the fact that you’ve got the pen ready.”

Asked what MBAs should do to prepare for a market upturn, McIvor said they need to know what their own USP is. He also advised researching industry sectors to see if they are growing or shrinking.

On a personal level, people should look at their transferrable skills. “It’s not one strategy. It’s spreading yourself across a number of strategies,” he said.

Asked about the current state of the jobs market, O’Connor replied, “It’s a funny one, you know.” Recruiting decisions are taking a lot longer, she said. Companies are opting more often for “safer, internal candidates” too, she said. Recruiters have been cut back, and referrals and networking are used more.

On the topic of external versus internal candidates, Cunningham said those from outside are usually better prepared for interview. They usually research the company more thoroughly, and make no assumptions about what is known about their work, he said. O’Connor agreed and added that the outside interviewees have probably had a few live interviews done already in their job hunt.

Returning to digital job searches, Fitzgerald said it is also easier to track down hiring managers online. Using LinkedIn Premium, you can send them messages. If you belong to the same group, you can mail them for free.

He said the manager may also blog and tweet, and suggested those avenues as a means of engaging with them. Ideally, however, you should try to find someone that can refer your application to them, he said.

One audience member asked about ageism, and said, that for people in their 50s, they feel they should forget about career advancement and just try to protect their jobs and salary.

That drew a variety of responses. McIvor advised maintaining your energy. “If I can hold the joy and the energy with which I can do things, that’s the core,” he said.

Fitzgerald, however, said he has seen people look at ages on CVs. “That’s very disappointing,” he said but “it boils down to the individual. If you’ve got the fire, you keep learning.”

Citing the very recent emergence of social media, he said there are likely to be new industries in a few years that haven’t even been invented yet.

Cunningham suggested maintenance of a personal brand through mentoring and networking. “The value you add does not come from hard, tangible skills alone,” he said.

O’Connor said an organization full of hard-charging, A-type personalities will get nothing accomplished. All companies need steady, reliable workers, she said.

“People are not ageist. They are energy-ist,” she said and warned against  even entertaining the notion of being a victim of ageism. “We all have self-limiting beliefs,” she said. “You put that message in your head and you start believing it.”

LinkedIn

Asked advice on what and what not to do on LinkedIn, Fitzgerald has this advice on what to do:
•    Put up a photograph
•    Get at least three recommendations
•    Include two job categories, and include your specialities
•    Build a SlideShare presentation to showcase your skill set
•    Join groups and be active in them

He also advised keeping track of traditional sources such as newspapers, and said that a blog can be more effective than a LinkedIn profile.

On what not to do, Fitzgerald said:
•    Avoid trivial or bad photos
•    Avoid prominent company logos in the photographs
•    Keep your profile to the point. People will lose interest and stop reading
•    Avoid joining a group and doing nothing in it. “Brand or be branded,” he said.

O’Connor agreed on the photos. She said people will remember faces sooner than a name. However, one young woman in the audience asked about pictures.

Fitzgerald noted that it is common in some Continental countries to include a photo with a CV. Decisions are often made on sight, O’Connor acknowledged. “We are all very judgmental.”

Fitzgerald joked this can often be the case if women reviewing job applications are looking at photos of more attractive female candidates.

Looking around, Hutchinson said, “Well, as that grenade has exploded…”

Fitzgerald agreed, however, that photos should not be submitted with CVs in English-speaking countries, and one of the great issues of our time was allowed to lapse unexplored.

Photo of speakers was taken by myself in my role as PRO for the MBA Association of Ireland, Eastern Chapter. From left to right: Brian McIvor, Ger Cunningham, Fiona O’Connor, Declan Fitzgerald and Clyde Hutchinson.