Tag Archives: work

‪#‎firstsevenjobs‬

Today I’m a professional writer, but I initially studied Computer Science and Software Engineering and my career started in technology. Later on I got an MBA and moved into management before moving into writing, but these were my first seven jobs…

‪#‎firstsevenjobs‬

  1. Car washer (invested in a bucket, soap, leathers and knocked door-to-door)
  2. Paperboy (local newsagent store, every morning out cycling before 6am)
  3. Frozen food shelf stacker (Sainsbury’s store – in frozen food freezers all day)
  4. Produce shelf stacker (Safeway store – stacking apples and potatoes all day)
  5. Computer programmer (designing IT systems for Tesco and Dixons stores)
  6. Computer programmer (trading floor of Japanese bank Tokai)
  7. Software designer (Startup specialised in bank trading floor data)
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Welcome to 2015!

Welcome to 2015 – happy new year! I’m quite keen to get on with 2015.

I have a book that is about to be launched imminently. I have a second edition of my Brazil book almost ready to launch, so that will probably also come out in January, and I have a sketched out plan for another book that I want to be ready by around Easter.

I also have some plans to get back into my daily running routine again and to improve my Portuguese – possibly with some intensive immersion lessons. These are not really like resolutions – I’m not going to drop these plans next week.

I need to improve my Portuguese to integrate further in Brazil. I need to stay healthy and fit and I was always running before, but over the past few months the combination of a lot of travel and the holiday season meant I just let it slide for a while.

I’m fortunate that I like my work and I’m always excited about creating something new. I see many people on my FourSquare app checking into their workplace and counting down the days to Friday – literally wishing their life away and happy to tell the world how bored they are with their life. But I love where I am right now and I have a lot of exciting plans for 2015, so let’s go 🙂

Nascer do sol #serranegra #nascerdosol #sol #sunrise #saopaulo

Can You Help Joe Evans in His 100-Day Search For a New Job?

We all know that the Internet is changing the way people work and tools like LinkedIn are changing the way people find work, but is it possible to post your work experience online and hope that people will come to you?

That’s what British graphic designer Joe Evans has tried. He has been a designer for many years, but has never had enough design work to make it worth pursuing as a full-time option. Now that his day job at the British embassy in Paris has ended – as the entire department he worked in has closed – Joe has decided to use social media to try entering the world of graphic design on a full-time basis.

But his 100-day campaign is now in the final week. Joe has found that to build some buzz using social media is actually a lot of work. If he spends time applying for jobs then he isn’t building an audience on the social platforms and if he just spends all day tweeting about his need to find work then he isn’t applying for a job.

I asked Joe what he is really looking for: “For me the most important thing is to feel like I’m contributing to society in some way. I’ve worked with a lot of charities and social enterprises in my career and I always find the job satisfaction goes up, as does the innovation. Communications can be forgotten about in the third sector and I’d love to get the chance use my experience and knowledge to help on this front,” he said.

Joe also explained his inspiration for trying to find a new job using his blog: “I’ve been really interested in social media and especially crowdsourcing for a few years, in fact a large part of my master’s thesis was about it. In May I was beginning to panic about my imminent redundancy, and at about the same time I saw Amanda Palmer’s Ted talk on The Art of Asking.

Naturally Joe’s response to Amanda’s talk was to go out and ask. But Amanda has a big audience already so when she asks for help on a social network a lot of people will respond with offers, or can at the very least share the request with their network of friends. If you don’t have a big platform to start with then one more request for help can just sink into a deep ocean of tweets.

When I talked to Joe he was about three quarters of the way through his 100-day campaign to find a job and he explained what had happened: “So far I’ve had one formal interview and loads of correspondence, I wouldn’t have seen the adverts for most of the positions in the normal run of things so that is a real win. I’m continuing to look and following up leads from people while also trying to see if I can get some more freelance work to tide me over in the coming months. The really good thing is how much people have helped me, It’s been a great chance to get back in contact with people I haven’t spoken to in a while and just to get a much better idea of what the market’s really like,” he said.

So even starting from a lower base than a famous musician with a following, it’s clearly possible to generate connections and noise about a job search, but is it enough?

It is tough for everyone to get a job these days, even those with experience and skills so I asked Joe if he felt that things have changed since he originally graduated in 2007: “Yes, I was pretty naive then and took some temp jobs before trying to start a career and before I knew it the financial crisis happened. That really changed the game, the number of candidates seems to have skyrocketed and with restricted budgets, internal appointments have become even more common,” Joe explained. “In feedback from almost every interview I’ve had I’ve been told one of two things either an internal candidate got the job or I don’t have enough experience, even when applying for entry level jobs,” he added.

Joe’s own experience shows that competition has increased. Professionals, like graphic designers, need skills and experience to find a job. There is something strange about companies demanding experience when they are offering entry-level positions, but if they are this demanding then there must surely be people out there with experience applying for those jobs.

Tools like LinkedIn are making it easier to seek out new opportunities, but they have also created more global competition amongst those skills that can be easily traded or delivered online. Journalists used to getting several hundred pounds per thousand words of copy are finding that their work is drying up as people on the other side of the world are hired for a fraction of the cost – and the same applies to jobs in areas like graphic design.

My wife has commissioned several pieces of commercial art recently, logos and website themes, for start-up businesses. She tried asking local designers to quote, but ended up working with people in Mexico and the UAE. Why? Because the other designers were just as qualified, just as professional, also had a great portfolio of work, but were far cheaper.

This globalisation of professional work also means that there is a global market for the services of a computer programmer in Wales, or graphic designer in Hampshire, or journalist in Glasgow. However, the people with these skills need to learn how to sell what they can do to an international audience and that leads us back to the Internet and social media.

Because of his blog, Joe has found a lot of people who are really interested in his 100-day search for a job – many people have got in touch and shared their own experience, but he still doesn’t have that elusive new job. At the end of this month, he is going to have a lot more time on his hands to stare endlessly at LinkedIn, so if you have a role for him, or even just some more advice, then you can reach Joe by reading his blog here.

Revolution!

Photo by FanBoy30 licensed under Creative Commons

Is it really so strange to leave work at 5.30pm?

I once moved job from a French financial services company to an American one – Société Générale to Sanford Bernstein. My new boss was based in New York and he used to endlessly mock the holidays we were given by our employers in Europe.

After one particularly “hilarious” episode talking to him about holidays, I reminded him that I had moved from a job where I had annual leave of 30 days to his company where I was only permitted 20 – and that was the absolute minimum allowed under EU law. He claimed that I should be grateful because in New York he gets a week off for Christmas and a week off in the summer for a family vacation.

I never even wanted to move from a French company to an American one. The bank was reducing headcount by 50% (in London) and I was offered a job in Paris, Bangalore, or half my annual salary to leave the firm. So I took the money, left, and was in the new job within weeks.

This macho work culture also prevailed in the London office of Bernstein. I would get my work done and head off home at about 5.30pm most days. I almost always had to listen to colleagues calling out jibes such as “…going home now? Part-time or what?”

Frankly it never bothered me. I was getting paid more than the guys calling out and boasting about their long hours – who is the fool when you are putting in more hours for less cash? And looking back now, I know that spending long evenings at the office would never have made me any happier. Why do people do it?

I started thinking about my former employer when I read the breathless reports that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg leaves the office at 5.30pm each day so she can enjoy dinner with her family each evening. The way it is reported makes it appear unusual for American office-based employees to leave work before 8pm – and assuming they might spend an hour getting home, then having dinner, it means that for most people it is normal to not enjoy any free time after work . The day is just commute then work then commute then eat then bed.

I work with clients now who respond to emails 24/7, schedule calls when they are on family holidays, and never seem able to switch off. Has it really got so bad that employees are now expected to be walking around DisneyWorld with their family and yet still taking calls from the office? This really happened on a conference call I participated in recently – with the guy at Disney trying to focus on work and keep his kids busy at the same time. What a multi-tasking dad!

I realise that in a tough economic climate people are scared and will do whatever they can to appear invaluable to the company, but why don’t employers switch the emphasis on what they expect of people to the output and value rather than time? If the employee is clear on what is expected for them to be judged successful in their job then the emphasis can be shifted away from long hours appearing to be impressive – if you know you are delivering for the company then you can feel comfortable heading home to see the family.

Of course, many people fear the idea that they might be judged on results rather than just time and apparent effort. It means that the less successful members of the team cannot hide their inability just by working 12-hour days when others can achieve more in 8 hours.

But while America – and the world in general – focuses on long hours as the key to remaining in a job, expect family problems and mental health issues to soar. If only companies learned to measure employees by what they achieve, rather than the hours they spend achieving.

Only psychiatrists benefit from the present approach, and I bet they get home in time for dinner with the kids.

Sunbathing?

Photo by David Reid licensed under Creative Commons

Email: The time bandit

I was on the road travelling and working for the past two weeks. Sometimes sleeping on planes and working from airports, sometimes at conferences – I did five events in those two weeks involving four talks and one where I was doing the official social media coverage.

During this time, my email stacked up. If you have been waiting for me to reply to something then I apologise. Today was my first proper day in front of my desk for a couple of weeks and I have nearly 500 messages in my inbox today and about 350 of those are unread.

I probably get the same amount of email as most professionals. A few important mails, a few that can wait, and a lot of junk… whether it’s actual spam or just notifications about this or that on ebay or the social networks.

But email takes time. Each mail has to be read, even just to decide whether to delete or file it. I now hate it when companies email me press releases when they could be using a social network such as Twitter – I can see far more quickly on Twitter whether something is worth pursuing or not.

At least I don’t organise my time by email. I know of many people whose working day is dictated by what arrives in the inbox… I usually have a to-do list that has nothing to do with the arriving email.

But everywhere I have been travelling on my journey has had connectivity, so in theory I could have been checking my mails in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. But the reality is that when travelling on business, your time is packed with more important things than sitting in front of a list of emails. The day, from breakfast to dinner is usually packed with meetings or talks or other work.

But if this prioritisation of time is how I behave when travelling, then the obvious question has to be, why do I suddenly have time to deal with the deluge of email when I get back to the office or my home?

If my time is too valuable when on the road, then surely it is even more valuable when I am working hard on the things that I get paid for.

So here is a new resolution for 2012. I’m going to spend a short amount of time, maybe 15-20 minutes at the start and end of each working day, checking for important email. Anything else I don’t have time for is just going to get binned.

Will I lose anything valuable? Will I miss something vital? Or will I just reclaim wasted time and start resetting my priorities back to spending more time on what I actually get paid for?Bizarro-email-hell

Recession in the UK

The UK economic data for Q4 2010 was staggeringly bad. The economy contracted by 0.5% when economists had predicted growth of around 0.5%. If the next set of UK numbers look like this then the country will be officially back in recession – the dreaded ‘double-dip’ where growth is not strong enough to sustain recovery from the last recession.

The economic downturn at the end of the past decade was the worst I have known in my life. In 2008, I lost all of my clients and I was also in the middle of getting divorced – so I was paying for two houses in London. Not the ideal time to be increasing costs and reducing income! Still, I rode that out with a reduction in savings, I found new clients, and now I have moved to Brazil where the economy is growing.

But when I look back at the UK now, I can see so many more real problems that I could never see before, not least in terms of economic stagnation. I don’t mean in the terms an economist would use, I just mean in human terms.

Food prices are going up, it’s harder to borrow money for major purchases such as a house, fuel costs are increasing… but worst of all, I know of at least four friends who are searching for a job. Highly skilled, qualified, experienced, and able people out there searching for work. I’ve never seen this before even back in the hard times of the early 90s or the dot com crash a decade ago.

If the people in London with degrees and experience are getting turfed out into the gutter, then what’s happening to less affluent parts of the UK – especially where they depend heavily on the public sector for work? Wait and see, because the public sector job cuts are only just beginning…
Who Moved My Job?

It’s the last day of my thirties today – goodbye youth

So that’s it. The end of my thirties. I’ll be 40 tomorrow – that sounds very middle-aged, worse than heading from your 20s into 30s.

In the last decade I got divorced, I bought a house in London before prices exploded, I published my first book… followed by several others, and I also started working for myself rather than a company as an employee.

It’s been seven years now since I quit ‘regular’ employment and it’s been fruitful at times, and close to the wire at others. Fortunately things are OK right now as the companies I work with are fairly positive about a recovery from the recession… though who knows if they are right?

But I have lot of new plans for the future, and a great partner. I remember the BBC journalist John Humphrys once saying that you shouldn’t live each day planning for the perfect holiday, you should try to adapt your life so each day can be like a holiday.

Obviously most of us still need to work, but I like what I do – it’s very flexible and allows me to travel the world and meet interesting people. It’s certainly not a holiday when clients are chasing me over blogs or presentations, but being the master of your own destiny is a far nicer life than being in a bank or a consulting firm where your soul is exchanged in a Faustian pact all in the hope of that annual bonus.

So I’m not all that worried about getting older, life has got more exciting through my 30s – I expect it can only get better now!

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