A day in the life of a Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer (CPO) requires the traits of a passionate leader, a strategic thinker and relationship builder. Sumsub is company who’s purpose is to prevent online fraud and keep businesses and people safe and secure. Therefore, Co-Founder and CPO Jacob Sever has all these traits and more, and we excited to share with you what his daily working life looks like!
As a co-founder and the Chief Product Officer, Jacob plays a leading role in driving key strategic initiatives across the global business. And specializes in online customer due diligence relationships with financial institutions.
What does a working day look like for a Co-Founder & CPO?
It’s rather simple—early mornings, coffee, and a bike ride to the office. Then, generally speaking, there are multiple calls with our team leaders, R&D, CEO, and CTO. We have discussions about our future growth strategies and operations, review urgent issues and approve or discount certain ideas brought to us by our team. I have some time to focus on my own tasks and go through urgent emails that need my attention.
Of course there are breaks here and there too, but I’m in a work-mode most of the time. I try my best to separate life and work, but it’s not easy, being in charge of an international company across several countries, or even continents. This is true even though there are four Sumsub founders in charge.
How do you find a work life balance?
Setting boundaries and making sure you stick to them. It’s a healthy way to take a break from work, though I’m often bad at following my own advice. This gets even more complicated considering that I work with two of my brothers, so family dinners sometimes sideway into brainstorming sessions.
Are there opportunities to progress?
I think opportunities are always there. It just depends on what direction you want to grow.
What is the best part about being co-founder & CPO?
Being a founder is amazing as you can surround yourself with the most ambitious and experienced people out there, letting them inspire you, so you can inspire in return. Having built a great team and having met many of our hard-working partners, it really is the ultimate driver that gives me the motivation to be better at my job every day.
Is there a difficult part to your job?
Being online most of the time and having to make final decisions in a flash. And there are a lot of heavy and urgent decisions that need to be made every day.
If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give to them?
As a Chief Product Officer, you are able to oversee the entire scope of product-related activities and develop sensitivity for your customers, making sure your product is built in a way that brings them the ultimate value. I love bridging business and technology in order to solve challenges and benefit real people—save their time and keep them away from trouble in a most user-friendly way. It’s very rewarding.
THANK YOU TO JACOB FOR SHARING HIS INSIGHTS AS A CO-FOUNDER AND CPO WITH US!
Its amazing to gain the different insights from business leaders and to hear Jacob’s point of view on what it is like being a co-founder and CPO! This is sure to be of vital interest to other like-minded individuals wishing to follow their passions to a fulfilling career.
To learn more about the work Jacob and his colleagues take a look at the company website here.
There’s no denying the gender gap that exists in so many industries, women in STEM roles are sadly no exception to this. But research into this has raised some concerning questions and even more concerning answers. There are not enough women in STEM roles, that much is clear but is enough being done to change that?
With the Edinburgh Science Festival coming up, we at Find Your Flex thought this is a topic we want to discuss. Exploring why this is still an issue and the possible solutions to this and why change in this area is so important.
Is there a gender gap in STEM industries?
Naturally we don’t just want to state there is a gender gap without backing it up. But the short answer is yes; there is a significant gap when it comes to women in STEM roles. This is proven by the PwC’s Tech She Can Charter and their report on Women in Tech in the UK. In 2017, WISE conducted research that showed that only 23% of people in STEM occupations were female. This makes over three quarters of the workforce in these roles male. Whats worse is that a separate study in the US shows that only 5% of women were in STEM leadership roles.
Now it would not be fair to say there has been no progress. As the research of WISE revealed that the number of women in STEM roles had increased by 2% from the previous year. Is this progress? Yes… is it enough? No. If this increase per year holds steady it would still be over a decade before there is an equal number of men and women in STEM roles. That is also not taking the pandemic into consideration, this could have had an impact on that increase percentage one way or the other. Either way it is not good enough, the gap needs to be closed at a far quicker rate. So, where does the problem begin?
The Lack of Girls Studying STEM Subjects in School
There are a lot of employment issues that when traced back to their source can start in education. PwC’s research shows that this issue may be no different. They conducted a survey that of over 1000 school students; 83% of the males were studying STEM subjects, compared with only 64% females. Now 19% may not seem like much of a difference however, when you take into account the number of STEM subjects and the number of students, this is still a concerning gap.
A similar statistic in university students studying STEM subjects shows a 52% male versus 30% female difference. But when you break it down the results are more shocking. For example Engineering takes 13% of male STEM students but only 2% female, which says a lot. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why? During interviews, young women stated they didn’t want to study STEM subject as it does not factor into the career they want. Though what is worrying is the response when asked if at any point during their education (including careers advice) a role in technology was suggested. Only 16% of girls had technology careers suggested to them, whereas 33% of males were given these suggestions.
This goes hand in hand with the fact that during interviews many of the young women indicated that many STEM subjects and roles are male dominated which is why they did not wish to study them. And they are right, these statistics prove that. But they also sadly prove that schools are not doing enough to encourage otherwise. And this needs to change.
Early years education and STEM
As signatories of The Tech Talent Charter we are aware of such organisations such as Tech She Can. A charter in which signatories pledge to work with schools across the UK to educate and inspire pupils and teachers about technology careers.
Let’s not forget the importance of early years education. These children are our future. A future that needs the brightest and most imaginative individuals to be able to flourish, regardless of gender or background. This is the point when children absorb information like sponges. The formative stage where children learn more quickly that at any other stage in life. It is at this point we need to inspire our children. Our young girls need role models and a complete removal from gender bias in STEM. Perhaps the focus should be on our teachers and equipping them with the tools needed to do this.
Women in STEM roles in the Media and Pop-Culture
In PwC’s study, only 22% of students could name a well-known female working in technology. The truth is when you think of famous people in STEM roles, the vast majority are male. There are of course many pioneering women in STEM roles throughout history. Women like Ada Lovelace or Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and many more. Yet despite the numerous women who have revolutionized the world through their work in STEM roles, their names don’t immediately spring to mind. We tend to think of the Steven Hawkings or Albert Einsteins, but why? It could be down to the fact the media over the years have recognized and celebrated the male figures over women. Perhaps the media should be doing more to promote women in STEM roles. Especially during the pandemic, both men and women dealing with this issue have given information and opinions via news channels and in print.
In terms of pop-culture, there are women portrayed in STEM roles in film and particularly television. One that comes to mind is The Big Bang Theory, a comedy that originally started with a cast in which all the scientists were male. Though this changed as the series progressed with female scientists being showcased and two becoming mainstay cast members. Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz with a Ph. D in microbiology and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler a neurobiologist, the latter of whom’s actress has a Ph. D in neuroscience in real life. The show and characters are to this day extremely popular. The two showcased how the females of the group were just as intelligent and successful as their male counterparts and had equally large personalities.
Though other hit television shows have also portrayed STEM female role models. Shows such as Body of Proof; featuring a female protagonist Dr. Megan Hunt; a former Neurosurgeon turned Medical Examiner who has a straight-talking, never-back-down attitude. Even featuring a female in a STEM leadership role as Dr. Kate Murphy is the Chief Medical Examiner. Though there are other shows that showcase females in STEM roles: Grays Anatomy, Casualty,Holby City, Doctor Who etc. So in terms of pop-culture there isn’t a lack of fictional females in STEM roles, so why is there still a lack of non-fictional females in these roles? Its high time life started imitating art on that score.
How to get More Women In STEM roles?
PwC believe that the technology sector must take steps to deal with some of these highlighted issues. However, this should be the responsibility of all STEM industries to get more women into STEM roles as a whole. First and foremost it is the responsibility of STEM organisations to get more involved in the education of young people. They need to do more to raise awareness and showcase the importance of these roles. Make them attractive to young women as well as men. Many students did indicate the reason they wouldn’t consider a role in technology is they don’t know enough about it. STEM organisations should also look inwards to ensure they are providing the women in their company with the same opportunities as the men. More women in senior STEM roles creates more role models and inspirations for future generations.
Schools also need to do better in encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers. The statistics above show there is not enough encouragement or access on either front. If girls voice concerns on entering male dominant industries, there needs to be encouragement to overcome this. The research showed roles that make a difference were appealing to young women. Therefore there should be encouragement from both schools and STEM organisations that pursuing these roles makes a difference. A shift in perception is the first and arguably most important step.
The media need to do better at portraying female STEM role models. Make a bigger splash about the life altering contributions females make in STEM fields. Its important that these women are at the forefront of STEM fields to give young women something to aspire to and show them that they are just a capable as any males in this area. Pop-culture is doing a good job at presenting women in these roles, however there is room for improvement. Perhaps television, film and books aimed at a much younger audience should feature more STEM characters. This very well could plant the seeds of girls pursuing STEM fields when they are older.
Hopefully when young girls are grown up enough to make a decision whether or not to pursue a STEM career, the world will be a different place. One where there are just as many female role models in this sector and no obstacles. Its up to society to drive these changes, we need do our best now to set the wheels in motion.
Being a leader in business can be a long and difficult road, especially if you are a founder and/or CEO of an organisation. However if you have the drive and determination, every day in the life of a Founder and CEO can be rewarding as Alex Bozhin shares with Find Your Flex.
Alex managed to build a fast-growing company in Postoplan; an automated marketing platform for social networks and messengers. Alex is proud that 95% of his team stayed with the company since the beginning. He developed not only an efficient company structure but also corporate standards that allow to onboard new employees being fully remote. He would now like to share his journey and experience so far, to help and inspire existing and aspiring business leaders.
What does a working day look like for a Founder & CEO?
My workday begins at 6-7am. This has already become a habit, so I don’t use an alarm. I always do my morning warm-up exercises, and then spend about two hours on strategic issues, such as plans, indices, goals. Then comes breakfast.
Between 9am and 2pm, I have meetings and calls with my team, partners and investors. I try to use these hours as effectively as possible, and I believe that things should always be discussed in person because that’s much more efficient than exchanging a hundred letters.
The hours between 2pm and 5pm are usually spent on less important projects, dealing with mail and managerial tasks. During this period, I also try to go for a short walk, have lunch and get some exercise. I leave work that requires the least mental effort for the evening, and use this time to plan my next day. I work more than eight hours a day, but try to keep a work-life balance, improving the effectiveness of my actions.
How do you find a work life balance?
I believe that dividing my workday in two helps me to preserve the work-life balance. I think that leisure time should be treated as a separate task that mustn’t be skipped. We may have plenty of internal resources and work for 16 hours straight, but such an approach has a negative impact on effectiveness. This is why I try to switch back and forth between work and leisure and spend my lunch with family.
Physical exercise also helps to reduce stress. I spent a lot of time fine tuning this balance, and things, obviously, change as time goes by. The company is growing, and that means the growth of both responsibility and obligations. On the weekends, I try to work no more than seven hours a day to avoid burnout. I cannot stop working on weekends altogether, because when your company has a monthly growth of 20%, you have to work hard to keep up. Nonetheless, I’m convinced that doing things outside of work is an important resource of energy.
Are there opportunities to progress?
Opportunities are always there. For me, opportunities are all about balance. I don’t work because I’m forced to, for me, it’s both a hobby and a part of my life. This is why I don’t have negative emotions when I work long hours. But it’s important to add that I’m finding points of growth not just in my work, but also in my personal interests and family.
What is the best part about being Founder & CEO?
The best thing is to receive positive feedback from clients and investors. When an investor writes to give you a positive evaluation and notes the company’s growth, for me that’s recognition of my professional expertise. When users say that we have the best user support, it’s important for me that I’m doing something big and that my efforts to make something better than others are recognized.
Is there a difficult part to your job?
The most difficult things are the mundane tasks, and that’s not just all the documents one has to deal with, but doing any kind of same-type tasks. I also believe that hiring new people is difficult. You are given a very short time to judge both the person’s level of expertise and their ability to fit in with the team and uphold the company’s values. We routinely reject those who have the necessary experience, but won’t fit in with the team. So, that’s difficult. But corporate values and team cohesion have greater importance to us.
If someone was considering a career in your area of expertise, what advice would you give to them?
Learn to build relationships with people. This is the key factor in any job and profession. It’s not difficult to learn new skills, but stepping up the career ladder depends on your ability to find common ground with people around you. Even experienced managers may have a hard time discerning a genius behind a standoffish person. Learning the art of communication requires more than just the ability to be easy-going and non-confrontational. You also have to learn to keep the promises given to the team, the company, and your superior. The market is huge, but having a reputation of reliable and easy-going employee will definitely help you in building your career.
Thank you to Alex for sharing his insights as a Founder and CEO with us!
We are delighted to gain these valuable insights about Alex’s personal journey as a Founder and CEO. We hope it benefits others who are wishing to start their own company or have reached the position of CEO or a similar leadership role.
To find out more about Alex and his organisation visit Postoplan’s site here.
In work, how much focus is there on input as opposed to output? Jobs and projects are often defined by the number of hours that must be worked, where and when they must be worked, the personal qualities and experiences that are required to be inputted and so on. By defining such matters at the outset, there is a sense that this will inexorably lead to the desired result.
Time and Motion
A prominent human time-motion study was carried out by Frederick Taylor. An employee’s work in a factory would be timed with a stopwatch and from that the output would be calculated. Human beings were treated as automatons and indeed much of the manufacturing work done in Taylor’s era would be done by machines today. There was an emphasis on control within strictly defined limits with no flexibility for a person to manage their own input in the way that suited them and their lives in order to reach the same output destination.
Start at the destination
Output is crucial as it is how we define and measure attainment and how we tackle the bottom line of making money.
Begin with the end in mind.
Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
This method requires having a clear, overriding vision of what the outcome should be and then crystallising that into a useable set of statements. If you have an output mission statement, the question arises as to what extent you need to control input.
For example, “outgoing” may be used as recruiting requirement for new employees. But if a person is working from home on invoicing with little direct human contact, is “outgoing” really an absolutely necessary quality? The output is that a certain number of invoices need to be processed in timely manner. If that is fulfilled, the intended outcome has been reached. The employee concerned may indeed be an introvert or someone who is neurodiverse but who thrives on procedure and steadily gets the job done well.
Getting the most out of employees and hitting targets is an art form, with styles ranging from micro-management to complete laissez-faire. By focusing on the output, however, a worker has more freedom about how to reach the point of success.
Clearly some sectors are, of their nature, regimented. NHS nurses and those operating customer service helplines must be present at certain times and follow defined procedures. But a more nuanced approach can be used to effect where there is scope for autonomy.
For example, if you need a project to be completed in a month, is it necessary to dictate exactly how it is done? A person can work flexibly to suit their needs, doing the work later on in the evening, at home, or whenever is convenient. Obviously, the worker would need to be available to participate in relevant team meetings and would need some supervision along the way. But checking in on whether the work is being doing correctly is not the same as checking up how the employee is doing it in terms of personal time management and working strategy.
When it comes to machines, we have chemistry and physics equations to help us determine precisely what goes in, when, in what proportions and what should come out. Humans are rather more complicated, approaching matters according to their personal characteristics, commitments and lifestyles. When it comes to people, different inputs can create the same output. With that in mind, it’s now time to take the “output challenge” and review how we recruit and manage people
Time for something new on Find Your Flex. In the weeks and months to come we’re going to be doing some Q&A style articles and videos with people from a variety of different professions so you can get a flavour of what it’s like to work in their chosen field and we’re kicking off with an amazing example. We are delighted to welcome doctor, writer and broadcaster Dr Ranj Singh to FindYourFlex.co.uk.
You will no doubt have seen Dr Ranj on TV. He is the resident doctor on ITV’s This Morning and presented Dr Ranj on Call as well as having a very impressive run on Strictly Come Dancing. Dr Ranj has also just published a superb book for tweenage and teenage boys called How to Grow Up and Feel Amazing.
In this Q&A, Dr Ranj tells us about his work as a paediatric doctor. He also tells us a bit about his book. Do have a read and learn more about his very impressive and diverse career!
Tell us about your latest book?
How to Grow Up and Feel Amazing! is a modern, up-to-date and honest growing-up guide for boys and anyone else that might be interested in the challenges they face.
It covers everything from how your body and mind changes, to having healthy relationships, to dealing with social media, as well as how to get the most out of every day. We go beyond that to also look at what it actually means to be a boy, exploring ideas around stereotypes, diversity and inclusion.
Plus you’ll get an insight into the things I went through when I was a kid and what I learned. I want every young person that reads this book to feel like they are not the only one going through puberty. I want them to feel more confident about themselves, and also feel empowered to seek help if they are struggling – something that boys really need right now. I didn’t always have that when I was growing up, and I really wish I did – but we can make sure that people have it now.
What inspired you to write it?
It’s the book I needed when I was growing up! When I wrote it, I always kept asking myself: what did I wish someone had told me?
I wrote this book to educate and empower any young person that picks it up and reads it. I want it to be that companion that you can turn to for reassurance about anything that is happening in your life, but also helps you learn how to deal with it. It’s that friendly, non-judgemental friend who can allay your fears and advise you on how to make things better. I want the reader to feel happier, hopeful and inspired to dream and be better. I made a specific point of putting my own life mantra in it: dream big, work hard and be kind. Those are words I live my own life by and they have helped me immensely, and I hope they’ll help other people too.
I’ve also tried to make it as relevant to as many people as possible. I don’t want anyone to feel like it doesn’t consider, understand or mention them. That’s why we talk about sexuality and identity as well as biology, puberty and everything else. And you’ll see from the amazing illustrations by David O’Connell that there are people of every background, colour and culture in there. This book is for everyone.
Moving on to your life as a doctor, what does a working day look like for a doctor?
Well, a ‘working day’ could be any day of the week, daytime or nighttime. It’s a 24/7 job. I work in Children’s A&E and Intensive Care, so I tend to do shift work. Each shift lasts around 13 hours and every one is different. Some days are steady, and others completely hectic and unpredictable. That’s one of the wonderful things about my job – no two days are the same and it’s never boring!
How do you find a work life balance?
Probably not very well! I’m guilty of not switching off when I should and working late into the evenings. But I always make sure that I have some time to down tools and have fun too. I love my various jobs, both within and outside medicine, and the variety keeps me going.
What is the best part about your job?
The variety of the work and the people I get to work with. It keeps me busy and interested. I found I’m naturally suited to flexible working because it means I get to do different things. I feel very lucky to be able to do so. There is an inherent lack of security in that sometimes, but I’m the kind of person that likes to try out different things and go with what works. It’s going OK so far!
Is there a difficult part to your job?
Working in hospital can sometimes be difficult because of the long hours and also the nature of the stuff you’re dealing with. So you have to be both physically and emotionally resilient. My media work can be unpredictable and quite demanding, so that needs a lot of energy and attention too.
So overall, I guess the hardest part is remembering to allow yourself time to rest and recover. Sometimes I have to tell myself that taking a break is just as important as doing something – because it’s in those spaces that you get a chance to reflect, recover and refocus.
If someone was considering a career in medicine, what advice would you give to them?
I would say aim for the stars. No matter who you are or where you are from, go for the best that you can be, without fear. You can deal with the challenges as they come along, but there is no reason why you can’t dream and strive for those goals.
The first thing I can remember is wanting to be an astronaut. No idea why… I guess it just seemed like a cool job. Then I wanted to be a teacher, but soon changed my mind when I saw how hard teachers have to work! Eventually I settled on wanting to become a doctor. I realised that I loved science, had a fascination with how things worked and really wanted to help others. So medicine seemed like a logical choice.
But I was never really that academic and I didn’t think I could make it. And I didn’t know any doctors so didn’t have any idea of what it entailed. Fortunately, we were very good friends with our local pharmacist who advised me to just aim as high as I could and see what happened. He was absolutely right, and that’s a piece of advice I’ve carried with me throughout my career. Just give it your best shot – no matter where you end up, you’ll be in a better place than where you started.
Oh, and always remember, nothing good ever comes easy… so be prepared to put the work in!
Lots of youngsters will be stressing about GCSE and A-level assessments. What advice would you give to mums and dads to help their children cope?
The thing to remember is that these young people aren’t just dealing with exam stress. They’re trying to figure out growing up too! As adults we can forget what it feels like to be a young teen and we need to try and throw ourselves back to the feelings we experienced. That’s easier said than done though, and the best advice I can give any parent is to create an atmosphere where your children can talk about their stress and anxiety if they need to. Try and answer their questions and above all else, support them. Anything you can do to encourage them to take healthy breaks from revision is important too – no one performs at their best if they’re exhausted.
Growing up is such a confusing time for young people and even more so after the year we’ve just had. Trying to put yourself in their shoes is really helpful, which is why I think it’s really worthwhile for parents to read my book themselves – it will help them understand and empathise with their kids and what they’re feeling.
Finally, where can readers get a copy of How to Grow Up and Feel Amazing?
How to Grow Up and Feel Amazing! is available from all good bookshops and online here.
Thank you to Dr Ranj for being the first to contribute to our ‘A Day In The Life Of…’ series.
Are you struggling to land that interview and wondering why? There could be several reasons for this and we explore these further in our blog:
Is your personal statement engaging?
You have approximately 6 seconds to grab your reader and get your CV read. Write a snappy introduction stating the industries you have excelled in and skills you can bring to the role. What value do you bring? What is your USP? Make your introduction relevant to the role.
Have you spent time tailoring your CV?
You need to be tailoring your core CV for each job application. It’s far better to apply for a few jobs well and spend time tailoring your CV for these positions, than to send your CV out on mass.
Tailoring your CV does not need to take long. Spend 30 minutes tweaking your core CV so that it reflects what the employer is looking for and what skills and achievements are of importance to them. Include some of the keywords used in the job description to beat those applicant tracking systems.
Is the contents of your CV relevant?
There is no need to list every single job you have ever held. Keep it relevant to the job you are applying for – what skills and aspects of previous roles are going to help you land this job? Ensure you tell the reader about the most relevant experiences, qualifications, achievements and skills you have early on in your CV. Avoid leaving the best for last as your CV may not be read to the end.
Are you using meaningless soundbites?
It is easy to fall into the trap of reeling off soundbites in your CV and regurgitating the job description. For instance stating that you are a hard-working, team player with excellent attention to detail. This is not going to help you to stand out from the crowd and tells the reader very little about you.
Instead, take these key words and weave them into your CV in your own words. Go that step further and provide evidence to support these statements, quantifying your skills and achievements where you can.
Is your CV inviting to read?
Your CV needs to be short, easy and inviting to read. Aim for 1-2 pages. Your CV is essentially your career highlights and a sales pitch, rather than a list of everything you have ever done. Keep paragraphs short, make use of bullet points and utilise white space. A simple, short format will keep your reader happy.
Are you proofreading your CV?
The contents of your CV may be great but spelling and grammar can let you down at the last hurdle and lead to your CV ending up in that ‘no’ pile. Spend time proofreading your CV for spelling, punctuation, grammar and format. Use a free download like Grammarly to check your grammar, spelling and punctuation as you write.
It’s very easy to overlook these aspects of CV writing but they are quick to remedy. When you’ve finished writing your CV, imagine you are picking it up for the first time. What jumps out at you? Is that what you intended? What changes do you need to make to pass the five-second glance?
If you’re not sure, ask someone else to review it for you, a fresh pair of eyes may spot what you’ve missed.
These quick tips will help ensure your CV is read and increases your chances of landing that interview.
Need some expert help with your CV?
Our Mastering CVs course makes it easier for you to quickly refresh and update your CV so that you are ready to market your expertise successfully and secure that interview.
We will give you templates and guide you step-by-step through the process of writing your CV. We’ll explain how to structure your CV, what to write for each section, how to handle career gaps and how to tailor your CV for the job you want. We will help you to present yourself successfully as the perfect candidate for the job.
As it is Mental Health Awareness week, Find Your Flex wants to do its part in raising said awareness. We are calling on all organisations to prioritise having Mental Health First Aiders on site for their staff at all times. We wish to help Mind.org.uk spread the word on mental health and how as a society we can bring further awareness and support to this matter.
Why it is an employer’s Responsibility to Provide Mental Health First Aiders.
Thankfully, society is moving forward in recognising and supporting people’s mental health. Something that was more or less a taboo subject not that long ago. However, now that mental health is a top priority, we must take steps to support this. At present employers must have an onsite First Aider to deal with any physical issues that can occur. However, it is now just as important that businesses provide Mental Health First Aiders for their staff.
At all times there are people struggling with their mental health. Whether due to ongoing issues in this area or in response to some traumatic or stressful event. Employers cannot expect their output and quality of work to be of the highest standard during this time. Therefore ensuring the company has a trained Mental Health First Aider equipped to support people is just as much an investment as anything else. However, it is more of an obligation. Mental health issues can be just as damaging and debilitating as physical health issues. Therefore businesses have the obligation to keep their employees as safe as they can in this regard.
What is a Mental Health First Aider?
It is important for a Mental Health First Aider to set boundaries. Just as a physical First Aider is not a doctor, a Mental Health Frist Aider is not a psychologist. They are not there to diagnose people on their mental health. What they are first and foremost, is someone who will listen. A Mental Health First Aider is a good listener; understanding, empathetic and approachable. They are given tools to properly respond to certain situations regarding mental health. While they are not meant to provide diagnosis or ongoing support, they are shown how to recognise symptoms. And can advise seeking further professional help, or in severe cases report concerns to the appropriate manager.
Fundamentally, a Mental Health First Aider is there to provide reassurance, information and acknowledgment. Sometimes all a person needs is to talk to someone about the issue. In more serious circumstances a Mental Health First Aider is able to provide information to get the professional help they require. Mental Health First Aiders are often the first point of call for people who may not know they have a serious mental health issue and need professional help. Therefore it is imperative that we have more Mental Health First Aiders on the workforce in every sector. Just like with physical First Aiders, there are training courses to become a Mental Health First Aider. MHFA England are one such course providers, look here to find out more about becoming a Mental Health First Aider and what the role entails.
Mental Health and the Future of Working
As we head toward the future of work, we are claiming to be a more diverse and inclusive society. Organisations are also claiming that their working environment is diverse and inclusive. In order to prove this, having adequate Mental Health care is a must. We know now how important this is and it is vital that the proper support is in place for workers and even their families if need be. Businesses are taking the steps to accommodate mental health issues; flexible working, mental health days, stress related leave etc. This is the next step to ensuring people have the support they need personally and professionally in this area.
For companies that don’t have these support systems in place, that is no longer acceptable. The Future of Work is having the correct support for mental health in place. One day this could become a legal obligation rather than a moral or ethical one. It would look far better if businesses already have this in place when that day comes.
Have you ever thought about becoming a Firefighter? It’s a solid career path. But, you need to know where to look for job openings, the requirements than need to be in place for you to be considered for the role, and how to apply.
What does being a Firefighter involve?
It’s a lot more than putting out fires – and there’s rarely a ‘typical’ week! Firefighters are an integral part of their community, evacuating buildings, rescuing people who are involved in road traffic collisions, carrying out animal rescues, being on standby at public events, and working to educate their community on fire safety.
Preventative services like smoke alarm fitting and checks
Attendance at at major incidents such as chemical spills, terrorist threats or natural disasters.
Firefighters will also carry out safety checks on commercial premises, complete risk and health and safety assessments,
Ensure the safety of vulnerable members of the community, investigate causes of fires
…it’s an incredibly varied, challenging and rewarding career.
What’s the difference between Whole-time and Retained/On-Call Firefighters?
Wholetime Firefighters have full time contacts and work set shifts. They generally work in urban areas or those with higher populations.
Retained firefighters are ‘paid volunteers’ who are on-call. They usually have other employment or responsibilities. Retained firefighters are available to the Fire and Rescue Service for a set amount of hours per week. Therefore, they’re usually based in more rural areas with lower populations, and need to live within 5 minutes from their assigned station.
What are the Basic Requirements for the Role?
Firefighters in the UK come from a wide range of backgrounds. There are over 50 Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) in the UK, each covering a set area, and each has slightly different requirements and application processes.
Qualification wise the general minimum requirements are a pass in GCSE English and Maths, or equivalent. This is the standard needed to pass the psychometric ability tests which are part of the application process (more on these later). However, some FRSs will let you sit an entry test in lieu of this, and others will look at life and work experience over ‘paper’ qualifications.
A few basic requirements that will be in place for the majority of FRSs.
You must be over the age of 18 (some FRSs will let you apply at 17, provided you will be 18 by the time training begins.
You must have the right to live in the UK
You must be eligible to work in the UK
You’ll also need to:
Hold a full UK driving licence. Some FRS’s will accept you if you’re in the process of getting one, or if you’re willing to get one within a specified time of beginning training.
Be confident in and around water, and have the ability to swim at least 100 metres unaided
Have no known phobia of heights or enclosed spaces
Pass the required medical health checks, including eyesight tests
Meet the required physical fitness standards
Training will normally take 12-18 weeks and cover the practical and theoretical basics you need for the role. After passing your initial training you’ll be on a probation period for two years. During this time you’ll need to keep records to demonstrate that you have met all the requirements detailed in your role map.
How do I apply to be a Firefighter?
Most UK FRSs have an annual recruitment drive for Whole-time positions, and recruit retained Firefighters at various points throughout the year, or on an ongoing basis.
Generally you will need to live in the postcode for the FRS you are applying for. Be prepared in advance as some FRSs will close the process early if they receive a high volume of applications.
Again, the process will vary slightly from FRS to FRS, but you can expect the application and recruitment process to include:
Online Application. Including personal details, education and employment history, and questions on why you think you’d be a good fit for the role.
Psychometric Ability Tests. Usually these are completed online, and will involve multiple choice questions in the areas of verbal, numerical, and mechanical reasoning.
Behavioural Questionnaires. Multiple choice, and usually online.
Physical and Fitness Testing. Including physical activities specific to the Firefighter role (casualty ‘dummy’ evacuations, working with ladders, exercises wearing breathing apparatus and full PPE)
Assessment Centre. This could be in-person or virtual, and might include activities like group discussions, presentations or role-plays.
One to one interview.
Medical and background checks. Including a criminal record check.
Diversity in the Fire Service
Diversity and inclusion is incredibly important to the UK Fire Service. They pride themselves on being an equal opportunities employer and welcome applicants from all genders, backgrounds and cultures.
To make things easier for people who may feel intimidated by the application process many FRSs now have ‘have a go’ days, or ‘taster’ days, specifically for specific genders, or ethnic minority or LGBTQ+ applicants.
A strong awareness of the importance of diversity, and a positive commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, is a critical attribute for any Firefighter. You will be required to demonstrate this to the FRS you are applying to.
What are the other important Attributes of a Firefighter?
Each FRS will have their own mission statement and role map for their Firefighters. However they will include the following attributes in one form or another:
Firefighters need to be understood by others through Effective Communication skills.
Firefighters need to evaluate risks and find solutions, using Problem Solving capabilities.
Firefighters need to be trusted to care equally for the welfare and security of all members of the public because of their Commitment to Diversity and Integrity.
Firefighters need to support the positive reputation of their FRS through a genuine Commitment to Excellence
The FRS you are applying to will also be looking for applicants who have a strong work ethic, who can remain calm and collected under pressure, who can work well as a team (and look out for their team) as well as having the initiative to think for themselves and make rapid decisions in a high-pressure environment.
Career Progression for Firefighters
There’s a lot of scope for progression within Firefighting for those who aspire to it.
Firefighter to Crew Manager or Commander
Crew to Watch Manager or Commander
Watch Manager to Station Manager or Commander
Station to Group Manager or Commander
Area to Brigade Manager or Commander
There’s also ‘In-band’ promotion, where you progress to the next level but remain within the same managerial ‘band’ – for example Supervisory, Middle or Strategic.
Your FRS and line manager will let you know what the eligibility requirements are for you to apply for promotion. Most FRS require a line manager to validate an application and sign off their support for your career move.
The application and recruitment process for Firefighters is challenging, and competitive. There are often far more applicants that positions available. This is where FRS Development can help.
Our site and products help Firefighter applicants through every step of the process, from completing the application form correctly, to acing the interview, to developing your career within the Fire Service. We also have specific guides detailing the selection process for different UK FRSs.
The first step in recruitment is creating a job description. Yet while evolution has effected other aspects of recruitment, it has past right by job descriptions. We have had the same outdated format and content for decades, and it is massively understated the negative effect this has on candidates and employers alike. From ridiculous experience requirements to asking for redundant skills, businesses have gone unchallenged on this topic for long enough. The future is now and the future is output-based.
The “Ideal” Candidate does not Exist
Businesses need to manage their expectations when it comes to recruitment. All too often job descriptions contain a phrase that is counter productive to say the least. Many job descriptions contain the phrase “the ideal candidate will have:”. If you are a recruiter writing a job description, let me stop you right there, because this phrase tends to be followed by a long list of unrealistic expectations and you are setting up everyone involved (yourselves included) to fail. The majority of candidates will not apply based off of the fact they do not meet every single one of these needs. A small minority will lie and apply anyway just to take their chances.
The chances of you finding someone who ticks everyone of those 30 boxes are slim to none. The literal definition of the word “ideal” is satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect, existing only in their imagination and unlikely to become a reality. No human has achieved perfection since the beginning of our existence so how can it be expected from your applicants? The bottom line is your not going to get what your asking for and realistically a job description should not be about the candidate in the first place.
The Practice of Inclusivity Creates Exclusivity
Since society is making a genuine effort to be more diverse and inclusive across the board, business are trying to do the same with their workforce. When recruiting, employers now factor in; gender, BAME, LGBTQ+ and Neurodiversity as a plus. Within job descriptions, employers will even say they are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive working environment. However by actively including certain groups you are excluding others, there is something of a paradox there; you cannot be inclusive without being exclusive. This is called positive discrimination, which is a contradiction in terms in and of itself. It can be argued that by definition; discrimination in any form cannot be positive.
The whole point of diversity and inclusion is to create equality. If you are favouring someone because on their gender, sexuality or race then that is just a different brand of exclusivity. So a white, heterosexual male is automatically at a disadvantage regardless if they are just as capable of doing the job as other applicants who fall under the above categories? Is this not just more of the same issue in a different form? If every organisation does this then inclusivity is just an illusion that we are kidding ourselves with. The only way to be truly inclusive is to take inclusivity completely out of the equation and out of the job description.
Generic Job Descriptions don’t lead to Quality Candidates
Many business don’t put enough time and effort into the job descriptions. The format is so out-dated that businesses to tend to throw generic essential requirements in without thinking, or they overload it with paragraph after paragraph of information about the company. Yet they include very little about the roll itself. This is not appropriate, a full summary of the company comes later in the recruitment process not the beginning. And if the candidate really wants the job they will do their research on the company beforehand. A job description is a job description, not a company description and not a candidate description.
Another issue is the throwaway skills recruiters have in their job descriptions. What is a generic skill to an employer can be a deal breaker for an applicant. This issue particularly affects neurodiverse people. Neurodiverse people are some of the most talented people on the planet and yet so few are in employment today. They perceive things differently, so if they see a skill in a job description they do not have, they will take it no further. Though this does not just include neurodiverse people, many applicants move on when they see an essential skill that they do not have. Yet the role itself does not require the skills the job description asks for. A job where the person predominantly works alone does not require great interpersonal skills. But the at the end of the day, none of these should be included in a job description.
The Output-Based Job Description
So what is an output-based job description? Simple; you take the candidate: their skills, qualifications and experiences out of it. You also take the company out of it; no mission statements, passions, goals etc. A short two to three line introduction on what the company does is the most that should be in a job description. The rest of it is solely about the role itself and the output of the person within said role and what their day to day duties will be. It should be based off of what an existing or past employee within that role does. Or with a new role, the purpose of it and why it was created should be made abundantly clear. There should be no abbreviations of what skills these duties will require, if the description of said duties is clear and precise the candidate will know if they are cable or not.
Take all labels out of the equation no; ‘diversity & inclusion’ or ‘flexible working’. These labels, regardless of intent, are creating an unconscious bias that contradicts their meaning. The most inclusive way to form a job description is to not include any labels whatsoever, this is the mark of true inclusion. This will ensure that the right candidates apply for the role as opposed to candidates trying to be perfect for the role. This is the future of the job description. If we as a society hope to abolish all forms of discrimination and promote true equality within the workplace. It will give everyone the same chance, no one individual will have an advantage over another. This will of course have a domino effect on the entire recruitment process, but a positive one none the less. But one step at a time and its time to take that first step.
We at Find Your Flex challenge you and your business to take part in our #OUTPUTChallenge type form: https://findyourflex.typeform.com/to/I523nXuA. Be the pioneer businesses in creating a better Future of Work for candidates and businesses alike! Businesses will create their 3 best Output Job Descriptions and the winner will receive 100 business credits with us for a whole year and will also be the core focus of our press release on the ‘Future of Work’. The future is now, cement your part in it by taking the challenge!
The days of working in the same career or company all of your life before being rewarded with a carriage clock, are fading for most of us.
If you’ve been considering your next move but aren’t quite sure how to execute it – we might be able to help.
If you’ve always felt a pull towards working within an industry where caring for others and building meaningful relationships – is on the important list, then there’s never been a better time to get experience within health & social care. You can get flexible work experience that pays and you can fit around your life, exactly as you need too.
The Health & Social Care industry is one we feel passionate about at Find your Flex.
It’s an industry you’ll always have a job in, you won’t be replaced by a robot and you always have the opportunity to work as flexibly as you need.
While it’s been a sector cast in a negative light for decades, we want to do ‘our bit’ to shine a light on all the positive & immensely rewarding work that happens day in and day out.
If you’re searching for flexible work and a job with more meaning, becoming a Support Worker could be the experience you need to begin transforming your life for the better.
Considering a career in Health and Social Care but not sure if you have the right skills?
Here’s are the scenarios it could help you with:
Maybe you’ve been curious about working with elderly people ever since you watched your Grandparent (s) experience the Care System?
Or perhaps you’ve had a hunch you’d find helping young and older adults living with mental or physical disabilitieshugely rewarding?
Have a listen to these podcasts:
Hear are some really inspiring stories about what motivates so many to work in the Health and Social Care industry (and try to not be moved or cry):
Working as a Support Worker on either a part-time or ‘Bank Staff’ basis, will give you the chance to see and feel, what a career in health and social care is like in reality. Not just through our preconceived lens.
And if the role of Support Worker doesn’t feel quite right but you develop a love for the sector, there are many ways your employers can help and support you in establishing which area of the sector you are most suited too: https://careers.cygnethealth.co.uk/learning-at-cygnet/
Considering retraining into Counselling, Therapy, Psychology, Nursing or Psychotherapy?
Perhaps you need to do some academic training over the next two to four years in order to start this new role?
If you’re about to enrol onto a part-time Btech, Diploma, Degree or MA; this could be the part-time income you need to facilitate a period of retraining.
Working part-time or as bank staff is a brilliant way to see if you have the skills you need to work with a diverse range of people with diverse conditions.
While you study to gain the academic foundation required, you could also develop your people skills, listening skills and empathy. And make some money.
Working part-time as a Support Worker usually requires a minimum of two 12 hour shifts per week.
That equates to £223.20 per week so £892.80 per month. Bank Staff are expected to do just one twelve-hour shift per week, £111 per week and £446 per month.
Rather than take a part-time job in retail or hospitality to make ends meet while you study, this could provide you with something truly rewarding.
You want to live a more nomadic lifestyle? A career in Health and Social Care could be the solution
We know remote working will become ‘normalised’ over the coming years.
Flexible office space and collaboration venues are popping up all over the country (YEY!).
If you think you’ve got a book within you, or a desire to run your own business; working as a Support Worker can provide you with a regular and steady income to balance your passion projects.
Care work also teaches you an awful lot about life and the psychology of people. An untapped source of inspiration if you ask me.
I’ve also heard that if you work your hours right in part-time vacancies (which entitle you to holiday pay), many staff take a full month or two off every year to do extended holidays.
Imagine sitting on a Greek island and writing that novel or self-help book with your face in the sun?
Want to break out of the Corporate shackles?
If you’re about to return to work after a career break or perhaps have fallen out of love with the corporate world. Working with the more vulnerable in society could be just what you need.
You’ll understand what it means to feel truly valued. Knowing your contribution helps the wellbeing of others, every single day.
The organisations that have struggled to meet the well-reported increased demand in this sector are at the point where they recognise fundamental changes are needed ASAP.