Categories
Flexible Working

Flexible Working Appeal – How to Make a Convincing Flex Request

Flexible working is undergoing a paradigm shift. Cued by the Covid pandemic, several businesses are leaning towards a more agile format. Tech giants are trailblazing and high-street brands are following suit. But many employers remain hesitant about flex. Perhaps because it was presented during lockdown in its most dystopian manner – stressful, isolated and juggled in with home-schooling. How do you convince a doubtful boss about the long-term benefits of flex?

What procedure?

You may make a statutory flexible working request if you meet the requirements. Alternatively, you may submit an informal request. For more information on your legal rights, check out www.acas.org.uk and www.gov.uk. Whichever route you choose, you will still have to sell your idea.

Slice it up

Too often people think that the default is to go part-time. There are myriad options out there and you may find that full-time but with core or staggered hours is actually more feasible. Slice up your working life and see what kind of flex will suit each part of it. For example, you could do compressed hours in conjunction with home-working. Be as creative as you can, so that you can present your employer with as many realistic alternatives as possible.

Gather evidence of Flexible Working

A case is only as good as its evidence. Check whether your employer has a flexible working policy in its handbook and use that as a starting point. To boost your request, you could gather case-studies which relate directly to your job position which demonstrate successful examples of flex working. The strongest argument against “it can’t be done” is to show, exactly and concretely, how it is being done. You may also gather statistics about flex and the corresponding impact on productivity in your industry.

Sell your business model

Our reasons for flex-working are deeply rooted because they impact on such important areas of life such as health, family or identity. But this is not the time to present a purely personal case or one that deals solely with generalities. By all means, emphasise the positive outcomes for you but that it only half the story. We all acknowledge that there are many advantages associated with homeworking. There is less stress, less time lost commuting, less pressure on public transport and a positive impact on the environment. However, your employer still has a business to run, as well as a profit and loss account to balance.

Get specific. Anticipate every push-back your employer can make and come up with a persuasive solution. If you work from home on Thursdays and there is a scheduled team meeting that day, offer to link in via Zoom.
Talk up the benefits to the employer of offering flexibility. If you work remotely full-time, your boss could save money on renting commercial office space. If business is brisk at the start of the week but sluggish later on, you could offer to do more hours on Monday in return for an early departure on Friday.


Flex back

Flexibility is two-way street. If your employer is willing to let you flex, be prepared to do the same in return. When there is an away day that usually falls on your at-home time, still turn up. If there is a sudden temporary upsurge in work, pitch in by logging on in the evening for example (although be vigilant that this does not settle into a permanent pattern). This approach not only builds strong businesses, it also promotes goodwill and fruitful professional relationships. Check out why staying connected while remote working important and how you can best state your case to your employer how it will work for them.

Schedule a Flexible Working trial period

Employers may well be sceptical about whether flex working will actually deliver and this uneasiness can lead them to turn down requests. To combat this hesitancy, offer a trial period to see how it pans out. If there are difficulties, use this experience as an opportunity to iron them out in a proactive manner.
Flex Appeal. Have you got it?

Categories
Careers Flexible Working

Remote Working – Stay Connected

“Out of sight, out of mind” wrote John Heywood, a favoured playwright to four Tudor monarchs, in his collection of proverbs. With the initially forced and now inexorable rise of alternative employment patterns, this epigram is as poignant today as it was centuries ago. For remote workers, several questions arise – how does a person stay connected, visible, remain part of a team and secure good work and promotion whilst not being on site?

The Challenge For Remote Workers

No commuting, less stress and concentrating in the relative quiet of home (in non-Covid times) mean that homeworkers are ready to attack their to-do lists with more gusto than otherwise. But there is a lingering sense that being physically present in the workplace indicates that an employee is more available, more obviously diligent or perhaps even just more personable. These issues increase with the amount of time spent out of the office, with full-time remote workers facing particular challenges.

It’s Good To Talk

Email has become the default manner of communication but it’s good to talk. When you pick up the phone and speak, you can modulate your tone of voice and nuances come across far better. There is also the chance to ask for clarification and further information on a real-time basis. With people’s in-boxes increasingly cluttered, the direct personal approach can be more effective. If concerned about interrupting someone, use instant messaging to check availability. Alternatively send a meeting invite for an Outlook calendar which can be accepted or used to propose a more suitable time. 

Responding Promptly

In an office, a line manager can walk up to a desk, ask if something can be done and get an instant, and reassuring, response. Where appropriate, it is helpful to recreate this interaction by responding promptly to an email or voicemail. Even if the deadline for the work is far into the future, reply immediately to say that you have received the message and that you will be actioning it.

Make Your Voice Heard

Meetings can be testing, as everyone is in the room except the remote worker. You need to prepare carefully to maximise your meeting participation. Do not irrelevantly say things just for the sake of it (trust me, this will not make you popular) but rather focus in advance on what your contribution will be. Body language, in particular, may not come across in Zoom and certainly not on a voice-only call. Instead of just nodding your head and hoping someone will notice this on a screen, you may need to speak up to make sure you get your point across.

Communicate Your Aspirations

Remote working has many advantages. But it does not feel that way when you are at home wondering why X or Y got a plum project when you missed out. Sometimes work just gets handed out to the person who is more obviously in a line of vision.

To mitigate against such disappointment, communicate aspirations and preemptively volunteer for what you want. Your supervisor is not a mind reader. Whatever work you do get, schedule progress check-ins to get feedback and ensure that you are on the right path. This also indicates to your boss how productive you are and reassures that there are no surprise problems lurking in the background.

Connect With A Mentor

If you want more long-term input into your career, being matched with a mentor can be a great move for mapping and achieving progress. It is always beneficial to have someone to discuss how you can get ahead and to advocate for you when you are not in the office yourself. You could also offer to buddy a newcomer and thus have a positive impact on the work environment in that way.

stay connected, photo of team with one remote worker

What Next For The Remote Worker

Offices are buzzing places with collaborative relationships often built around chit-chat and water-cooler conversations. Remote workers may miss out on that sense of camaraderie and the networking that comes with it. To combat this, it is smart proactively to instigate social interaction. You can schedule in a coffee Zoom or a lunch Skype since nowadays eating “al-desko” has become popular. Other options include ensuring that you participate in Away Days and attend firm-wide events such as the Xmas lunch. 

When it comes to remote employment, the only thing that should be remote is the work, not the worker. 

Susha Chandrasekhar

Read more about how Covid could change how and where we live.

Categories
Careers Interviews And CV's

Top 10 Tips for a Compelling LinkedIn Profile

You need to be on LinkedIn. So many hundreds of millions of people have joined. These days, it looks strange not to be at the party. 98% of recruiters use it as a database and employers regularly access it to check out candidates. Your LinkedIn profile is also a fantastic way to build your personal brand, create a persuasive online presence, source new leads and network virtually. 

But merely having a profile is not enough. It has to be stellar to make you stand out.   

Use visuals for impact

Access our blogpost entirely devoted to this topic here. In short, use a smart headshot, customise your background banner, use the feature function to showcase blogs and vlogs, utilise symbols and other formatting, and link to logos. 

Get a custom public profile url

Linkedin assigns every user a clunky url full of random characters and numbers. Alter this to a shorter one which is easier to put on CVs, business cards and websites. LinkedIn also has a badge to place on your website. Your url will start www.linkedin.com/in – but you can add more individualised wording after that. 

Make the headlines

Most headlines are just a current job title as this what LinkedIn auto-fills. But the headline offers more character space which you can use to reference other experiences, qualities and values. Leaving it lonesome is a missed opportunity to make a striking and powerful statement. Consider “Speaker and Blogger on Parenting” and the more memorable tagline of “Solo Dad, Writer, Public Speaker, Blogger, Master of Ceremonies, Advocate for Equality and Change.”

Call to recruiters

LinkedIn has a spot which allows you to show that you are open to job opportunities. Limit viewing rights so that only recruiters can see this, as you presumably do not want your current boss to have advance notice of your plans.

Elevator pitch

Your LinkedIn profile has an ‘About’ section near the header. Many leave this blank or under-optimise by discussing solely a current job position. Neither of these approaches gives a sharp overview or entices busy people to press on. You need to create a hook fast because other profiles are just a click away. For a sparkling start, use this opening section as an elevator pitch distilling your career to date and targeting your offering. 

Storyboarding

Your LinkedIn Profile ‘Experience’ section should tell your professional story using compelling language. Access our blogpost on word choice here

  • Summarise key achievements, accomplishments and attributes
  • Quantify success – instead of “grew sales”, state “grew sales by 50%” 
  • Use bullet points to break up the text and leave white space
  • Be selective about what you cite. People want to a quick scan, not a deep read 
  • LinkedIn has a separate part for honours, awards, courses, publications, languages so you can place info under those headings to avoid cluttering the ‘Experience’ section.

Skills and recommendations

Audit your character and career to ascertain what you can bring to the table. Recruiters often search using keywords and job ads list required core competencies. Do you have them? You can also ask for endorsements for these skills or more specific recommendations from other LinkedIn users to increase your credibility.

Engage

Log in frequently and join groups related to your subject area, education or interests. Post updates or at least make pertinent comments on posts in your feed. Keep it professional – you could refer to business books/articles you have read, seminars given or attended, or the latest statistics and industry developments.                                                             

Know when to disengage

LinkedIn is for business so omit snaps of holidays, social evenings out, weddings etc. Beware of releasing confidential information or stating anything embarrassing to an employer. And this is not the forum to air grievances.

Refrain from descending into heated online exchanges or unnecessary point proving – disagree politely. LinkedIn has a digital footprint so anybody can scroll through your activity and draw unflattering conclusions based on off-the-cuff remarks. To err on the side of caution, review your LinkedIn history and delete anything that could come back to haunt you.  

Connect

LinkedIn is a good way of staying in touch with people you already know. But it is also an effective means of widening your network. 

If you ask a stranger to connect, add a reason why it would be beneficial to accept your invitation. After all you would not march up to someone, foist your business card on them, and then stalk off in silence. Perhaps you have a common acquaintance, a shared employment field, similar volunteering or a passion for a cause. Whilst tempting to link to anybody anywhere, in the long run your time is more efficiently spent nurturing valuable contacts that you can leverage.

Your LinkedIn Profile In Summary

Creating a LinkedIn profile is akin to planting a garden. Once the spade work is done to get it in shape, you still have to keep pruning and tending. But it looks great when it’s in bloom.

Susha Chandrasekhar

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

Will Lockdown Change How and Where We Live?

Home Sweet Home. It is our shelter, our sanctuary, our escape from the world and is reputedly where the heart is. But the Covid-19 crisis has caused us to reassess how we interact with that space in so many ways including in a professional context. The rise and prevalence of remote working has shown what can be achieved without crossing the threshold of our front door. What does this mean for how and where we live?

Redefining Home Working

Few would wish to re-create the emergency lockdown makeshift of balancing computers on the kitchen table or precariously on knees whilst perching on the sofa. There have been noises and disruptions, with drying laundry scattered around, and the paraphernalia of personal life in the background. We have all suffered at times from cabin fever and sensory overload. Clearly this ad-hoc approach is not the best long-term strategy for effective homeworking and many increasingly do want to work remotely on a more sustained basis.

A designated room in the house to be used solely as an office is one solution. It presents soundproofed peace and, if carefully devised and arranged, a business-like environment. One which is separated from its domestic counterpart. There is also the chance, physically and mentally, to shut the door on work at the end of the day. And we all do need to switch off at some point. But how to magic up this space?

Space – The First Frontier

One option is for people to upgrade in their existing location which means negotiating a bigger mortgage and taking a harder hit on monthly repayments. This is not always financially viable. With the economy stuttering and redundancies afoot, it may also be a risky step.

Another route is to improve-not-move. This is done by building an extension onto an existing property or converting an attic to be used as an office hub. Basement renovations are also popular when you have no choice but to dig deep. Alternatively, open plan could be ditched with a large footprint split into two smaller rooms to create a work bubble. Once Covid is over (yes, this too will pass), builders may face a welcome upturn in demand for their services as people redesign their homes to meet changing needs.

But some are contemplating more radical solutions. The Office for National Statistics, which is tracking the impact of Covid-19, indicates that office-based employees are now willing to exchange crowded cities for pastures new. Among those planning to work from home, 12% have considered moving to a rural or costal area. Estate agents have seen more buyer registrations for properties in commuter villages and around small market towns. The temporary stamp duty holiday offered by the Chancellor, to kickstart the housing market out of its virus paralysis, has provided a further incentive to up sticks and turn daydreams into reality.

New Home, New Lifestyle

It is not merely the extra legroom that is the draw. As per Rightmove, the online property website, there is a “lure of a new lifestyle, one that is quieter and has an abundance of beautiful countryside and more outdoor space.” If people can work from home more, they may decide to live further out. Thus accepting a longer commute on certain days in return for a mode of living that is calmer, greener and less polluted. In turn this leads to a healthier and less stressful existence. It is an appealing vista.

This approach pans out on more than a personal level with a possible wider economic impact. There is a chance to rebalance house prices in different regions, to reinvigorate local economies and to promote a rural renaissance. Perhaps it is time to update the old saying to Home and Office, Sweet Home and Office.

Categories
Careers Interviews And CV's

LinkedIn Profile – 5 Ways to Add Visual Impact

When it comes to LinkedIn, much attention is sensibly devoted to finding exactly the right phrases to reflect careers, experience and values. But the old adage that a picture speaks a thousand words still remains true. Follow these 5 pointers to boost your Linkedin presence through visual impact.

Upload A Professional Photo

Profiles with photos are 12 times more likely to clicked on and 36 times more liable to receive a message than those without.

 A studio portrait is best but not strictly necessary. Select a well-lit, high-resolution headshot with good posture. Dress smartly as this is business, not Facebook. Unless relevant to your job, avoid anything that shows you doing a hobby such as cycling etc. Use LinkedIn’s crop and filter functions to get your image spot on – your face should take up at least 50% of the frame. It should be a solo picture. 

Photo of Cheney Hamilton
Photo of Cheney Hamilton

Adopt a positive and engaging expression. No need to grin like a toothpaste ad but a stern countenance radiates less warmth. Ditch fussy backgrounds and heavily patterned clothing. Ensure the photo depicts you accurately. Arriving at an interview looking rather different can be disconcerting for others.

The best size for your Linkedin portrait photo is 400 x 400px.

Modify Your Linkedin Background Image

LinkedIn provides a background, which sits behind the headshot, where you can insert a relevant image. This could be your company logo, a cityscape of where you are based, your ideal workspace, the front cover of a book you have written or a picture of you speaking at an event. 

Linkedin Banner – Rebecca Amin

Due to its size, the background photo is the first thing that a visitor’s eye will land on. Do not settle for the default option – it’s a lost chance to pack a punch and create a unique identity. For example, career coach Rebecca Amin, has chosen “Dare to Begin” that acts as an incentive for visitors to her profile to take action.

The best size for the Linkedin background photo is 1584 x 396px.

Use The Featured Section And Embed Function

Have you written an article or a blogpost or made a video/vlog that you can reference? If so, place these in the featured section at the top of your page or embed in a career entry. 

This is one way in which LinkedIn has more force than a paper copy CV. You can present more about yourself than on two A4 pages, so don’t miss this opportunity.

Site visitors and recruiters are too busy to  look for you in multiple places online. Make life straightforward for them by signalling your media output.

Formatting Your Copy

Linkedin entries can become densely written which makes them energy-sapping to scan. It is also harder to pinpoint key achievements. Whilst a profile benefits from detail, it also needs white space to be reader-friendly. 

  • Bullet points and numbering can provide formatting solutions. 
  • You can also cut and paste colourful icons from online resources. 
  • Ensure the symbols you select are professional.
  • Do not overuse icons to the point that they detract from your message.

LinkedIn does not provide a method of adding words in bold or italics. To do this, type Unicode Text Converter into Google to access a number of sites which allow you to insert phrases which are then transformed into bold and/or italics. Simply cut and paste the newly “converted” words into a LinkedIn entry. 

Grey Matter – Making Visual Connections

You can connect each LinkedIn entry to a LinkedIn page belonging to the company you worked for or the institution you studied at. Do this wherever possible, as a line of bright logos conveys more information and is more visually enticing than a string of dull grey boxes. Sometimes a grey box is inevitable but minimise this. 

Use Linkedin links to institutes or companies

If you cannot find a specific link, consider connecting to pages that are generic. For example, if you took a career break to see more of the world, you could link to a general travelling LinkedIn page. 


Make Your Linkedin Profile Colourful And Interesting – Just Like Yourself.

LinkedIn is your digital reputation, your online calling card. We all react strongly to visuals and live life in colour, so do not overlook these as important aspects to integrate into your profile.

Need some CV Tips?

Try these…

CV Clinic: 10 Tips for choosing the right words.

Online Interview Tips

Categories
Career Change Careers Interviews And CV's

Career Wheel

Assessing and Handling Your Strengths and Weaknesses

When seeking a new job or trying to progress in a chosen path, there are so many aspects to consider. Many people understandably feel overwhelmed. A multitude of matters demand attention but you may experience trouble in categorising them, prioritising them and tackling them optimally. The career wheel is an effective technique to assist with these concerns.

Fill In The Wheel

Print off a copy of the large wheel shown. Identify the 8 most important features of your job search or career progression. 

For example, you might select any of the following – check online recruitment noticeboards, research employers’ websites, rewrite CV and improve presentation skills. 

You may also opt for increasing confidence, interview tips, sourcing childcare, organising finances, expanding a network of contacts, or even buying appropriate business attire. 

Write these on the edge of the wheel with each feature taking up one segment.

Rate yourself out of 10 on each one. How well are you doing at the moment? Be honest but also be fair to yourself.  

Place a dot on each score in each segment in the 1-10 line. Join these dots together in the manner shown in the small diagram.

What Shape Are You In?

Is your wheel a large, clean circle or does it look more like the uneven, bumpy ride shown in the small diagram? Whatever the outcome, you can immediately see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Take A Balanced View

Avoid the mistake of concentrating solely on the “lowness” of some scores, which can lead into a downward spiral of negativity. Instead, look at each ranking, whatever it may be, and give yourself credit for what you have achieved by this stage in your career. Assigning due notice to your positive attributes and your journey so far is vital both in terms of creating a realistic skills audit and in engendering an upbeat perception of yourself.

Ordering Your Needs

The next issue to be determined is the order in which you confront each segment. There are various strategies that you can adopt to help you decide.

  • What is the lowest score? – usually the weakest point attracts immediate attention and you may feel this needs to be managed in a timely manner.

  • Which would be the easiest to implement? – if buying business clothing is a necessity, you may opt for this as it is relatively straightforward to achieve (compared to working on aspects of your character). Do not underestimate the power of quick wins in building confidence.

  • What would have the biggest impact? – if presentation skills are going to make or break your chances, you may wish to enhance these even if you already have a reasonably good score in this respect.

  • What appeals most? – if you have similar scores and nothing stands out, choose what you might enjoy most in developing. This way you can build your motivation.

  • Which is the most cost effective? – resources are finite and improvement may be most helpful when undertaken in an economically conscious manner.

Action Plan

Assessment is of limited value without a plan of action to back it up. For example, assume that you decide to focus on updating your skills. Perhaps, in the past, this was a sticking point when it came to landing the right job. You might come up with the following solutions.

  1. Research what skills prospective employers in a particular market require.
  2. Read a book on how to obtain these skills.
  3. Access free information and pointers on the internet relying on reputable sources.
  4. Take a course.
  5. Join a professional organisation which offers industry accreditation.

Rank how far up the segment scale each option will take you. If one alternative improves you from 2 to 3, but another promotes you from 2 to 4, you have pinpointed what to prioritise. Time and money are scarce commodities, so use them wisely.

Ditch Perfection, Pitch For Progress

Be careful not to be despondent if you do not attain a very high score in every area, even after making significant alterations. The key is to make progress incrementally. As all of us are a work in progress and learning is a lifelong endeavour, aiming for a string of 10s is simply unrealistic. 

If you look at Olympic diving and gymnastics competitions, gold medals are handed out to universal acclaim for scores of less than a perfect 10. Bearing this parallel in mind, do not be too harsh on yourself. A rank of 8 may well be good enough for your purposes. 

What is top-notch, however, is that your own personal career wheel is an ideal tool to highlight talents and opportunities. Use it to roll on to the success you deserve.

Career Wheel, scaled 1 - 10
The Career Wheel
Categories
Career Change Careers Interviews And CV's

CV Clinic: 10 Tips for Choosing the Right Words

Your Guide To CV Writing

CVs can come in waves, clogging up in-boxes. Busy professionals, with a burgeoning schedule of other things to do, have just enough time to skim through them. You have a window of opportunity, perhaps seconds, to present yourself to full advantage and catch an employer’s eye. Your word selection can either tank your application without a trace or fast forward you to the interview stage.

Follow These 10 Tips To Get Your CV Noticed For All The Best Reasons. 

  • What not to write – do not put “curriculum vitae” at the top of your CV, as it should be obvious what the document is. Instead write your name as the header which is the first thing the reader should alight upon. Avoid irrelevant information such as your marital status and date of birth. There are legal protections against discrimination, so an employer is not required to be privy to certain types of personal data.
  • Me, myself and I – there is no need to keep repeating “I”, as it can be cumbersome. It is, after all your CV and the sense should be clear from the context. Fast forward to your accomplishments by skipping over redundant words.

x I created a new distribution system

Created a new distribution system

  • Say it, spell it – some words sound the same but are spelt differently. As this is not always picked up by computers, be vigilant and proofread your CV carefully. Even minor slip-ups can suggest a lack of attention to detail and damage credibility. 

x Principle lead for there projects

Principal lead for their projects

When your CV is up to scratch, print it out. It is easier to pick up on spelling and grammatical errors in hard copy than on a screen.

  • Cut out superfluous words – as Thomas Jefferson said, “the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words where one will do.” Avoid verbose phrases and stick to simplicity.

x Undertook the implementation of

Implemented 

x Achieved the completion of

Completed 

  • Generic v specific – ditch sentences that could be applicable to anybody in any situation. These have limited appeal. Instead cite examples which differentiate you from your competitors and which showcase transferable talents relevant to a prospective employer. It is important also not merely to state your general duties but what you impact you had.

x Enthusiastic about knowledge transfer

Established monthly training sessions to give updates on market developments 

x Responsible for personnel development

Mentored junior colleagues to achieve industry accreditations

  • Jargon busting – unless writing for someone who understands sector-specific language, beware of abbreviations and acronyms. They are confusing and few have the patience to work out what a jumble of letters might signify. Your task is to provide a smooth read, not a guessing game.

x Member of ACEVO

Member of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations 

  • Active verbs – highlight what you actually did by using engaging verbs which suggest a dynamic rather than a passive or marginal contribution. 

x Attended a product launch

Demonstrated a product at its launch and handled all customer queries 

x Helped with the marketing strategy

Created a digital marketing platform

  • Add it up – some buzzwords are so over-used as to be meaningless and can become wearisome to read. But figures turn your expertise into concrete, memorable facts rather than vague, forgettable assertions. Quantify your success.

x Passionate about achieving cost savings

Achieved cost savings of 25%

x Gained experience in people management

10 years managing a team of 12 employees

  • Easy reading – avoid the temptation to cram more into your CV (the standard format is two A4 pages) by reducing the size and type of font. If a recruiter is left squinting, it’s game over. Opt for Arial or Times New Roman in font size 12. 

Your CV also benefits from white space, headings and bullet point lists in order to be user-friendly. The solution is in changing your words, not your layout. Consider different phrase formulations until you hit the most succinct one. A thesaurus is a helpful tool in this regard as it can suggest a range of suitable words.    

  • Made to measure – whilst you may have an all-purpose CV, attract more interest by tailoring it for each employer. What exactly does the job ad specify and how can you respond convincingly with words that resonate in this particular situation? Bespoke clothes feel special. So do bespoke CVs.

A smart move is to read your CV aloud, either to yourself or to a trusted person who can give practical feedback. Is your text punchy? Are you precise enough about your results? How do you come across? Edit and edit again. With the appropriate word choice, you can do justice to yourself and your talents – and be several steps closer to the job that you want.

With thanks to Rob Ashton of Emphasis Training, a consultancy specialising in business writing and communication –  www.writing-skills.com

Looking for more CV writing tips… How To Approach CV writing After A Career Break.

Categories
Careers Interviews And CV's

Online Interviews

How To Zoom To Success

Online interviews are on the rise, offering employers the opportunity to engage with a wider range of candidates in a more efficient manner. Digital possibilities bring the economic and strategic benefits of reducing the time, resources and cost involved in selecting the perfect hire. But how ready are you for this form of recruitment?

“There are two aspects to online interviews – situation preparation and personal presentation. You need to nail both to maximise your chances of getting the job you want,” advises Samina Kiyani, an experienced broadcast journalist, awards host and media trainer. “The golden rule is this – minimise distractions.”

10 Tips For Zooming To Success.

By Samina Kiyani

  • Location, location, location – usually the employer decides upon the setting. But, with online interviews the onus is on you. Choose a spot which is neat, tidy and neutral. Steer clear of intimate spaces such bedrooms, as this is too personal for a business meeting.
  • Unintended soundtracks – consider what is within earshot. For example, you really do not want the sound of a distant washing machine to feature as the theme music to your interview. If the home phone rings, can you hear it? As you switch off your mobile, consider also temporarily disconnecting your landline.
  • Let there be light – ensure that the light falls on your face. It is best to sit facing a window, about a metre away from it. Avoid having your back directly to the window, as sunshine from behind can form a halo effect. Have a lamp that you can switch on, if your potential employer says it is too dim to see you properly. The amount of luminescence in the room is not always the same as that transmitted via the screen.
  • Connectivity and technology – check your internet works and the wifi speed is good exactly in the place where you site your computer. Some have been caught out by poor connection in certain areas. Verify the audio, video and mute functions. Just as you would arrive 10 minutes early for an office interview, log on before the scheduled start to deal with any last-minute mishaps.
  • Max headroom – too much headroom means that the interviewer mostly sees your background. You are pitching yourself, not your choice of wallpaper. Your head should appear 1/4 down from the top of the screen to maintain the right proportions.
  • Right height – placing the computer too low can distend your neck, and over-emphasise your chin and nose. Position the screen at eye height, balancing on sturdy books if required, to give prominence to your facial expressions.
  • Dress well – avoid anything with a small design as the print can seem to waver, slightly but noticeably, on the screen. Whilst white clothing may sparkle in a traditional situation, on a screen ensure it does not reflect so much light that it leaves your face dull by comparison. Stick to simple, structured clothing and dress professionally from top to toe. Accidentally revealing pyjamas or jeans under more formal upper attire is a clumsy approach. 
  • Body language – given that things become magnified on screen, even minor tics can distract. Fidgeting can give off an unhelpful vibe of shiftiness. Refrain from over-gesticulating to the point that your arms move out of screen, as this is disruptive and gives the impression of flailing. Beware also of making strong forward gestures with your hands, as this can come across as jabbing. You don’t have to freeze like an Easter Island statue but be mindful of your movements.
  • Roving eye – you may have reduced disturbances at your end but this may not be true of your prospective employer. They may perhaps be in a setting that inadvertently shows people walking past or undertaking office activities in the background. During an online interview keep your focus on the interviewers. A loss of eye contact can break rapport.
  • Trial run – it can be uncomfortable to see home videos of ourselves. A mock interview is essential to highlight what aspects require attention. Preferably do this online with a knowledgeable person who can make an objective assessment and give you honest, constructive feedback. Are you making one of the errors listed here or are you inadvertently speaking at an unexpected pitch or speed? If nothing else, at least record yourself and replay to figure out what to improve on. 

“Ideally an online interview should feel as natural as a face-to-face one,” says Samina. “It’s definitely a skill that candidates need in their repertoire. But don’t get too fixated by the fact that there is a screen in front of you. With practice, you can pull it off.”

Samina Kiyani provides communication and online interview training at www.saminakiyani.com 

For more advice on interviews and CV’s you may want to read these 5 ‘Top Tips For Nailing That interview‘ and ‘How To Approach Writing A CV After A Career Break’

Categories
Flexible Working Lifestyle

Why Flex About It?

When someone commented on my “tidy and uncomplicated career”, as apparently demonstrated by my LinkedIn profile, I was astonished. Whilst I was glad that my LinkedIn entries were giving a favourable impression, my life behind them was at various junctures full of twists and turns, some beneficial and others more challenging. That simple, casual aside caused me to ponder upon the role of flexibility in my own situation and the implications of flex for the workplace and society more widely.

How And Why Of Flex

“The trouble with this flexibility lark,” I was once advised, “is that it’s all about part-time for mothers.” Leaving the matter of whether flex employees merely “lark” around (we don’t), such a narrow view overlooks the myriad respects in which work and personal life can meld together. People want a variety of adaptable arrangements, regardless of their gender or parental status. 

Although I switched to part-time after the birth of my son, before that I was full-time in varying formats – remotely from home, compressed hours and staggered start/finish. The motives for doing so ranged from fracturing my foot, caring for my father who was temporarily very unwell, undertaking voluntary activities that accorded with my values, and studying for a postgraduate qualification. There were also two instances when I took sabbaticals to be an expat spouse, accompanying my husband when he was posted abroad. 

On each occasion that a dilemma arose, I worried that I would either have to discard the job I enjoyed or compromise on other equally important concerns. After all, we are more than our CVs. Fortunately, things were made easier by having a far-sighted employer who played the long game, coupled with a line manager who was a results-watcher rather than a time-and-motion monitor. When I asked my employer why there was such understanding and accommodation across the spectrum, not only for me but the majority of my colleagues, the HR specialist responded, “we get it back in spades.”

Flex For Life

Flexible working should not be confined to the trials and travails of one person – it affects all of us. With the pension age ever increasing, we are facing a career span of 50 years. With these demographics, is it really feasible to expect people to soldier on unremittingly with set-in-stone hours for half a century? This might be acceptable if life were akin to a pleasant amble on a beach but we know that, instead, events can crash upon us in huge waves and grab us in the undertow.  

As a former Chair of a legal diversity organization, I saw the attrition rate of highly trained people who walked out for the sole reason that it was impossible to find a work pattern that suited their changing circumstances. It is a dismaying waste of talent. Sadly, in many cases, even relatively minor adjustments would have swung the pendulum in a more positive direction. 

Through being a trustee of diversity and inclusion charities, I know that flexibility is required for all groups and at every stage of a person’s life. For example, grandparents need it to help care for grandchildren as much as a young person requires it for disability issues. And it is vital to remember that flex is not only an answer to difficult situations, such as dealing with illness, but is also a liberating response to optimistic aspirations, such as having more space for oneself or one’s interests.

Ripple Impact Of Flex

Should we really care whether Jill can log on from home once a week or whether Jack leaves early on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Actually, these seemingly innocuous changes have a startling domino effect. Such tweaks result in workers being motivated to continue in jobs that best utilise their talents, instead of seeking a new employer with the upheaval that brings. Oxford Economics, for example, has calculated that replacing a staff member can be as much as £30,000, taking into account factors such agency fees, advertising, interviewing, management time etc., with a major expense being the impact of disruption.

If Jill works remotely, this minimises commuting with the attendant extra cost, exhaustion and environmental pollution. Both Jack and Jill remain in gainful employment, paying the taxes that we need for schools and the NHS, and building up pensions for their long-term security. Through flex they gain a better work/life ratio and maintain their well-being, thus cutting down on sick days and medical visits. When flexibility keeps people in jobs, in health and in balance, the ripple effect means that we all win.      

Flex Update

Reflecting on this, I rewrote my LinkedIn profile so as not to photo-shop out the significance of flex to me. Without it, I could not have engaged constructively with various aspects of my life cycle – family, health, education, volunteering, living abroad. Even worse, I might have abandoned the workplace altogether and become just another disillusioned statistic fallen by the professional wayside. This is why I advocate for others to have the advantages that I had and continue to enjoy.

Now is the time to flex and flex for all.  

 

Susha Chandrasekhar

Susha Chandrasekhar