Guide to the ‘Velvet Rut’

What is the Velvet Rut?

The ‘Velvet Rut’ is where you find yourself in an unfulfilling job in which you are not learning anything new, not using the full extent of your skills and are just bored stiff.

You probably disconnected several months ago and are now just going through the motions. The work is no longer stretching. You can do most of it with your eyes closed so you are unlikely to get fired for poor performance.

Your level of competence and familiarity with the job means that, while it is not exciting, it isn’t scary either. You are pretty much marking time. The difference between the ‘Velvet Rut’ and any normal rut, is that the pay and benefits are very good. You couldn’t get the same amount of money for such an easy life anywhere else.

The longer you stay, the more comfortable the environment becomes because you know the organisation inside out and can therefore work the system. You thus minimise the risk of anything unexpected happening or of being faced with difficult situations.

Seniority and good relationships leave you well placed politically, so the pay rises and good bonuses keep coming. You are also too expensive to make redundant because of your long service. You might feel as if your brain is shrinking and sometimes want to scream at the tedium and banality of it all but, in the final analysis, they are paying you way too much for you to pack it in and do something else.

Investment banks and other large City firms often have lots of people in ‘Velvet Ruts’ in financial and also support services like HR and IT. They pay people large amounts of money but many stay because they have effectively priced themselves out of the market but will be doing exactly the same stuff next year and the year after.

If you get really bored, you can compensate for the lack of stimulation at work by finding it in in your spare time. It is no coincidence that many people who are in ‘Velvet Ruts’ are  also the community activists, charity organisers, residents’ association committee members and hobby-club newsletter writers that the rest of us rely upon so much. Even the ‘Velvet Rut’, it seems, has some social benefits.

Are you in  Vetvet Rut and how do you get out of one?

The ‘Velvet Rut’ is difficult to get out of ( which is exactly why it has been named this!) and often it’s only an external shove, such as redundancy or health problems, that moves people on. However, if you have finally come to the realistaion that there is more to life and your career than just money, then you can definitely do something positive to get out of one.

The best way to break out of your ‘Velvet Rut’ is to invest in a Career Coach. They will help you bring about a new self awareness of your career and life values and to channel your energy into finding a fulfilling job or career that you really want!

If you want to find out more visit our Career & Personal Development website

Is the time right to rethink your career?

In the current economic uncertainty, many people are still likely to be re-evaluating their future and careers and more managers have been changing jobs than before the recession!

Although it may not seem to be the best time to change career, if your chosen sector is experiencing extreme difficulties and new jobs are hard to come by then there is a strong argument that it could be a good time to consider new opportunities and even self employment and setting up your own business.

If you have had a reasonable redundancy pay off and you can survive for a good few months whilst training to learn new skills or building up your business, then maybe now is the time to take action.

Home based businesses are springing up everywhere and now could be the time to turn a hobby into a business and do something that you love and earn a living from it or using some entrepreneurial spirit and providing new products online or exploiting a gap in the market.

Many people are moving into careers where they feel that they can make a difference e.g. teaching and opportunities in the Not for Profit sector, where they have a real need for private sector commercial skill sets.

Although certain careers may need qualifications and re–training, research conducted by The Independent last year established

The top ten most popular second careers are:

1. Plumber

2. Teacher

3. Florist

4. PR Officer

5. Interior designer

6. Complementary medicine practitioner

7. Chef

8. Web designer

9. Nurse

10. Garden designer

If you want to know more about changing careers visit our Career & Personal Development website

‘Tell Me about yourself’

This is one of the most frequently asked opening interview questions but for many interviewees, their ‘nightmare’ question!

Why? Because, regardless of the level you are operating at, most people lose sight of the real reason for the question and instead of grasping the opportunity to shine, they ramble on and meander off course or cover irrelevant facts about themselves e.g. “I am 42 and married with two children etc

Instead of being overwhelming, by answering “Tell me about yourself” effectively you have a golden opportunity to make a really positive impact, first impression and set the tone for the rest of the interview.

You can take control of the interview and WOW the interviewers by really selling yourself effectively.  Bring out your personality, highlight your strengths, key skills, achievements, motivation, qualifications and value added for the position and really show off your personal brand!

Why ask the question? “Tell me about yourself” helps the interviewers assess you as a person, gauge how confidently you can talk about yourself, how clearly focused you are about your career aspirations and how you relate to the prescribed job role and the organisation.

What is the best way to tackle the question? Because you need to give a really positive and well structured answer, start by writing it down and then practice reading it. To do this effectively you will need to practice your answer repeatedly and refine it until it feels right so it becomes second nature and comes across in your own style, rather than scripted and robotic.

When you are comfortable with your ‘pitch’ practice it in a mock interview situation with family or friends or in front of the mirror until your delivery is natural and confident.

However, remember one of the golden rules of interview technique; ‘aim to intrigue not inform’. Ensure you give the key headlines and some interesting top level detail rather than firing all your bullets at once and drying up. Also, keep your answers to no longer than two minutes as this is the maximum attention span for most people.

So what is a good answer to ‘Tell me about yourself?’

Firstly, it is useful to build the picture of the type of person you are and your key personality traits, as in addition to technical skills, the ‘fit’ is important in most roles and then a brief overview of your career to date. Depending on the nature of the interview, it can help you with your interview flow to structure your answer along these lines:

“I will tell you a bit about myself first and then give you a brief overview of my career to date”.

This is where 3rd party endorsement (see winning at interviews part 1) can really help e.g.

“My boss always tells me that I am a real asset to the team as I am very self motivated, positive and highly passionate about my job and my enthusiasm rubs off on the rest of the team.

My main strength is the ability to motivate teams and lead them to deliver targets and I am at my best while working under pressure and faced with challenges.

I applied for my current job because I have a real interest in this field ……..

What I am most proud of is my record for consistently delivering against required targets ………

Before I got promoted, my role was mainly focused on …. and I worked hard to gain my …..  qualification.”

Winning at interviews is not easy. If you are lacking in confidence or really want to ensure you ‘nail’ the interview, it will pay you to invest in a good Career Coach. They will help you to plan your interview approach, hone your interview skills and challenge you to answer the key questions, especially ‘Tell me about yourself’ in the most effective way to give you a greater chance of success.


Guide to Winning at Interviews

Do you have a fear of interviews? You are not alone. Interviews for many people can be highly stressful, intimidating and downright nerve racking.

In today’s competitive job market interviews come in all shapes and ‘sizes’ from telephone interviews to full blown day (or longer) assessment centres.

There are strategies for all types of interview. The focus of this article is on the importance of having the right mindset plus some effective strategies to help you ‘nail’ that interview and show why you are the best candidate for the job.

Interview myth 1 – “You won’t get the job because there are far more experienced candidates than you”.  I have heard this comment from clients countless times then helped them turn this round to achieve interview success. Invariably this is your perception rather than reality!

Core belief – “If you have been invited to an interview you must have a good chance of success”. Winning at interviews involves having a positive mindset. Although we all know situations where a candidate is already earmarked for the job, you must believe you have a fighting chance of getting get the job or at least create a positive impact for the future.

A recent senior level client is a wonderful example on these two points. Whilst I have respected their anonymity, they have agreed to share their thoughts to benefit others.

Self belief – If you have self doubts and focus your thoughts on your lack of ability or experience, which could be perceived as more limited, it could become the focus of the interview. This is exactly what happened in a previous interview.

“My self doubt took over and I was set on course to planting the seed of doubt in the interviewers’ minds before they even have had a chance to really get to know me”.

Passion – I coached the client to prepare them for a similar level interview some months later and really worked on their mindset and approach, especially as they felt that there were candidates with more specific experience who had been short listed.

“This time I was prepared and proactive. I approached the interview confidently by realising and focusing on the transferable skills, qualities and experience that I did have and how my abilities, previous achievements and passion would make the difference in the role.

Practicing answers to likely interview questions and your feedback on my style and content of answers was really helpful and relevant. Many of these came up, so I felt ready and confident”.

The client was successful and got the job! This was another fantastic example of what I passionately believe and have proven with hundreds of similar successes i.e. passion, desire and a positive attitude can win the day against more experienced candidates.

The 12 P’s for Winning at Interviews

Plan and prepare. Research the organisation, job role and questions you wish to ask

Use positive mindset strategies for overcoming self doubt and nerves.

Be punctual, you may only get one chance.

Presentation – First impressions count. Smile, firm handshake, eye contact, good posture, dress for success and display positive body language.

Be enthusiastic, use tone of voice effectively and build rapport. Be yourself, sell yourself, and bring out your personality.

Be polite and personable. Listen, check understanding and ask for clarification if necessary.

Be professional and only volunteer positive information. Answer questions confidently, concisely and honestly, don’t waffle. Never be critical of a previous employer or boss.

Give specific examples to show competency and bring out your passion.

Tactically use ‘3rd party endorsement’ e.g. ‘people say / my boss says’.

Ask relevant questions. Never discuss salary or benefits unless asked.

Follow-up with a short polite email confirming your interest.


If you want to know more about how to win at interviews, visit our Career & Personal Development website.

Guide to developing a good CV

Firstly some key considerations ……………

Q/ What is the purpose of a CV?

This seems like a simple and obvious question but amazing how many people of all levels and at all stages of their careers fail to grasp this!

A/ To get you to an interview. Forget anything else, as this is your primary objective

Q/ How long has your CV got to create the right impact with a recruiter or potential employer to get on the yes pile?

A/ A trained eye will take around 20 seconds to scan your CV. You therefore need to create an immediate impact and show initiative; otherwise they might not read past the first half page!

Key tips for ‘Killer CV’s’

1) Focus with the end in mind to get you on the ‘yes’ pile for the interview i.e. try to see things through the eyes of the reader/’buyer’. Make it easy and interesting for them to read your CV

2) Presentation is key. The aim is 2 pages of quality information. Use the space wisely with plenty of white space for ease of reading and bullet points to keep it short and specific, avoiding cluttered text

3) Start with a profile and bring your CV to life by bringing out your personality, work ethic and career objective, as (apart from your covering letter or email) this is your one chance to really sell yourself and create a positive impression

4) Write the CV in the 3rd person (not I) e.g. self motivated rather than I am self motivated

5) Focus on what you have achieved and contributed rather than what you have done. This is what employers want and shows initiative

6) Think carefully about your specific career achievements. Highlight achievements that you have gained recognition for, also aspects of importance to you that may have gone unnoticed

7) Flesh out your key skills, attributes and experience; relate these to your job roles or as a separate heading to stand out

8) If you have had a long career, concentrate on the last 10-15 years. Most employers aren’t too bothered about what happened before this

9) Highlight relevant work related training, qualifications and memberships of professional bodies

10) Highlight anything else that will put you in good light or shows that you have developed or demonstrated skills outside of the workplace e.g. voluntary work, outside interests and projects

11) It is not essential to highlight interests, however it is always useful to show that you have a life outside of work and it maybe that one of your interest could be a talking point at the interview especially if unusual or beneficial e.g. you like to keep fit

To find out more about CV’s and job search strategies visit our Career & Personal Development website

Getting Ahead of the Job Pack

Finding a job, especially the ‘right’ job for you, can be almost a full time occupation, particularly in a difficult employment market. So how to you get yourself ahead of the pack to stand a greater chance of success?

The following tips should put you in good stead:

1/ Treat your job search as a campaign – Be clear about your purpose and focused

2/ Develop a targeted plan as you would with any project and build in review dates

3/ Utilise all 4 key job search methods:

Applying to advertised vacancies – Online, via trade journals, newspapers (national, regional, local)

Utilising Recruitment Agencies – Either specialist agencies for your chosen sector or national or local agencies in your high street

Direct Speculative Applications – Targeted applications to companies or organisations who are not currently advertising vacancies (or vacancies that are not of interest to you) that particularly appeal to you based on what they do, their ethos or location.

To stand any chance of success your applications should always be personalised to the Manager in charge of the department or function that is of interest to you. Dear Sir/Madam or speculative applications to unnamed people in HR are highly likely to end up in the bin!

In a downturn, good personalised, targeted applications have a much greater chance of success of getting you to an interview, as employers will be looking to save money on recruitment costs and especially recruitment agency fees.

Personal & Social Networking – This is often the most successful route to market, especially in a downturn, when employers are reluctant to pay agency fees and may even have ‘bounties’ in place to entice staff to introduce friends and known contacts, which could still save them significant money against hefty employment agency fees.

4/ Awareness of you as a product – what you have to offer a potential employer, your value added, USP’s (unique selling points), skills, attributes, attitude, knowledge, experience

5.  Awareness of what you want from a job/employer – your career values and needs

6.  Develop a winning CV and job application approach

7.  Look for the right job that matches your values and skills

8.  Show initiative, research, personalise your applications

9.  Persistence pays – don’t give up

10. Review your strategy as you would with any project plan as no point in firing blanks!

If you want to know more about how to be successful with your job search campaign visit our Career & Personal Development website

How Social Networking Can Help Your Job Search

In these days of web 2.0, online forums and blogging, having an online presence is equally important as offline.

Most of us have heard horror stories about how a person’s online profile wrecked his or her job search or career. However, there are increasing amounts of social networking sites and both candidates and forward thinking employers are now tapping into this new low cost resource.

By getting yourself known on the web, you can develop key contacts, business networks, exchange information with other people either in your field or a different field and advance your career to even find a new job!

What Works

Consistency of your online profile

Take great care with your online profile. The viral nature of social networks means that anything unprofessional on a site, blog or forum could come back to haunt you!

Often recruiters and hiring managers get mixed messages about job candidates based on their online profiles. For example, you might have a LinkedIn profile that portrays you as a driven go-getter with an excellent background in marketing but your Facebook profile portrays you as someone who lives the life of an 80s rock star! Ensure all your online profiles portray the same person i.e. a respectable, professional and high achieving individual.

Choosing Your Social Network

Be selective about the online networks you choose. The demographics vary hugely e.g. Facebook is ideal for those in their early twenties and marketing opportunities but no so ‘cool’ for the 40 plus brigade. For managers and executives LinkedIn is the most respected business networking site but new ones are springing up all the time. Check out the link to this excellent article on how LinkedIn can help your career!

Develop your reputation

You can do this through an effective hard hitting profile, briefly describing your work history, strengths and notable achievements. Write this similar to a typical thirty-second ‘elevator speech’ you may have already prepared about yourself. Also, having interesting and useful comments to add to blogs and forums helps to show your knowledge and expertise on a subject and is likely to get you noticed.

What doesn’t work

Provocative photos

Unless you are looking for work in the ‘glamour’ sector, having near naked photos of you is unlikely to impress a potential employer, unless they have another agenda for recruiting you! It may be great to impress friends on Facebook but you might rue the day you uploaded photos for the eagle eyed recruiters to see.

Derogatory remarks about your employer or boss

Be warned – as with interviews, this is a simple but golden rule i.e. never ;slag off’ an employer or boss, regardless of whether this is your current organisation or in your past career. Your thoughts might be funny to your friends and fellow bloggers but could overshadow all the good work you have done to develop your career and your networking to positively raise your profile.

It may be very tempting but essentially, if you are serious about developing your career, then be totally professional in your social networking to keep your professional image intact.

Follow these simple tips and social networking can open up new career opportunities for you, especially in the current economic climate where employers will be looking to reduce the cost of recruitment.

To find out more about job search strategies visit our Career & Personal Development website

Guide to Career Values & Needs

What are your values and why are they so important?

Our values are the things which we hold dear and we all have a set of values. However, our values often change over time but we rarely audit them.

Values when we are young may not be our values when we are 40 and have the responsibility of a family, or as result of other factors and situations that shape our lives. Yet without understanding them it is almost impossible to find real meaning and fulfilment, which is especially important when it comes to finding the right job or career.

Your career values and needs are also inextricably linked to your personal life values and needs. Getting to know yourself will help work out what is going to make you want to stay in a job, career or organisation, move into a new one or even want to become your own boss!

People traditionally left their jobs because of a clear gap in their skills between their skill set and the organisational requirements, whether through redundancy or other reasons.

In today’s employment market, skills are not necessarily the issue. You might leave your job because you are unhappy or unfulfilled. You might feel you are a ‘square peg in a round hole’. This could be as a result of a mismatch with your skill set but far more likely because your values are out of synch with the organisation, job or career that you are in i.e. nothing to do with your ability to do the job.

For many people this is most unsettling and can cause self doubt, which could make you a prime candidate for redundancy if the organisation is restructuring.

Being clear about and knowing what is important to you will be a great guide to you as you move forward or change direction as it will also:

  • Keep you on track and motivated
  • Help with decision making and provide a sense or purpose
  • Add to your sense of fulfilment

Examples of Values & Needs

As a result of your family situation (either young family or caring for elderly parents or relatives) you may have come to the decision that work-life balance is now of the utmost importance to you. This could become more important and turn from a value into a real need.

You may really value the opportunity to be able to work flexibly, possibly even 1 day a week from home.

Equally, you may value being able to give something back to the community and do voluntary work part of the week. This value may determine that you change career into the Not for Profit or Public sectors.

Other typical examples of Career Values & Needs

  • Feeling needed and appreciated
  • Choosing where you want to work
  • Making your own decisions
  • Developing new skills and experience
  • Managing others

The list goes on but it is not something that most of us a good at working out on our own. It is definitely best to seek help from a Career Coach to really help you flesh out what is important to you to enable you to move forward with confidence to find the right job or career.

If you want to know more about how career values can help you find a fulfilling job or career, visit our Career & Personal Development website