Guide to Graduate Career Transition Part 2

Looking to move from academia into the workplace but unsure how to move forward?

You have now hopefully addressed the questions in part 1 of this guide. If not it is best that you refer to this first, as it will save you time and get you focussed!
Depending on the type of job and organisation you have decided you would like to work for will to a large extent shape your thinking

SMP top 10 tips to make a successful transition into employment:

1/ Develop a plan as what gets measured gets done!
2/ Clearly define your goals, set realistic timescales to achieve them and review your plan on a regular basis
3/ Consider what help you will need and how you will access this
4/ Research, research, research. Use your skills from university life to establish as much as possible about specific jobs of interest, the organisation, the culture, the opportunities, the recruitment process, their competitors, vision and anything else that can put you ahead of the pack
5/ Match yourself to the job and organisation with your skills, attributes and attitude.
6/ If you know people who work there yourself, or know people who know other people who work there, ask if they can get you an introduction or some initial work experience. Once you have a foot in the door it is so much easier to make an impact, so that the employer is keen to offer you a full time role
7/ Seek help and advice to get you the best possible CV, as this could make the difference between making the yes pile for an interview!
8/ Although it may go against the grain, be prepared to start ‘at the bottom’ and work your way up, especially if the employer only recruits via graduate schemes or internships.
9/ Once inside an organisation, be observant, network with as many people as possible and establish what type of roles that you would like to aspire to and make it obvious that you are ambitious and prepared to learn and graft to get there!
10/ Ensure you have a back up contingency plan in case ‘plan A’ doesn’t work and remember that persistence pays!

If you want to know more about developing your career, visit our Career & Personal Development website

Guide to Graduate Career Transition part 1

Got the graduation blues?

Looking to move from academia into employment but unsure how to move forward?

If this is your first foray into the world of work, after enjoying university life, for the majority of people it is a scary situation. The dawn of reality!

Regardless of whether you have any previous work experience, you have now reached one of the first milestones in your life and In order to make a successful transition into employment, there are a number of key questions that you must first ask yourself.

Be totally honest, otherwise you are likely to make mistakes before you have even really started on your journey!

1/ How important is your degree to you in a future role or is it something that you can utilise to give you a better chance of employment against the competition?

2/ Do you have any real idea of what job you would ideally like to do?

3/ Are you looking for a job (possibly any job to get you started) or a career?

4/ Have you researched the entry criteria?

5/ Are you aware of your marketability and what you have to offer?

6/ Do you know any contacts who might be able to network you in?

7/ Do you have an up to date CV and does it reflect you as a person, to sell you in the best light?

8/ Have you thought about what is important to you in your job?

9/ What type of organisation do you want to work for?

10/ How far are you prepared to travel?

Before you can start down the road of making this key transition in your life, you must first address these (and many more) key questions.

See how you do then get ready for some hard work to ensure you get what you want.

If you want to know more about developing your career, visit our Career & Personal Development website

Guide to Making Redundancy Work for You

For many people redundancy is highly traumatic and rates with bereavement, divorce, marriage and moving house as one of the most stressful situations you may ever have to face in life.

If you have been in a job for a long time, it will inevitably have become an integral part of your life. To have this taken away from you can seem like your own personal loss or bereavement.

In the current competitive global market, which can nowadays be affected by so many previously unthinkable influences, company fortunes can change almost overnight, making for an extremely volatile employment market.

Sometimes radical decisions must be made, which can leave you ‘out in the cold’, through absolutely no fault of your own.

However, as with most things in life, there are two ways at looking at your situation:

1/ You are a ‘victim’ and a failure

2/ You view this as an excellent opportunity to completely re-evaluate your career and what is important to you in your job and life

You may well find it extremely difficult to be of a positive mindset and take an optimistic view, especially when redundancy has suddenly been thrust on you!

However, even when you have months of warning and think you have come to terms with your situation, it is often difficult to see past the negative emotions and feeling ‘bitter and twisted’ and as a result waste all this opportunity to be proactively developing your career.

If you have never experienced redundancy or it is something that you previously didn’t manage particularly well, it is important for you to understand how redundancy may affect you and what you can do to turn this negative situation into a positive outcome for you.

There are five main impacts of redundancy, which can be dramatically exaggerated if the redundancy is very sudden or totally unexpected:

  • Shock, denial and anger – why me?
  • Fear of the unknown – will I get another job, can I survive financially?
  • Loss of Confidence/self esteem – do I have any value?
  • Loss of control – you feel this has been taken away as ‘the rug has been pulled from underneath you’
  • Loss of structure – to your daily life or thoughts about how will you cope without routine?

What can you do to help kick start your career?

SMP Solutions top tips for making redundancy work for you:

  • Learn to be proactive and to take control of your career to be the ‘architect of your own future’
  • The biggest mistake many people make is to procrastinate (especially if they are likely to get a good pay off!) and wait to just before or even after they leave before they start even thinking about their next step
  • Worse still, don’t spring into life when you become desperate
  • Getting a job can become almost a full time activity so a good tip is to treat your job search like a project in itself with a start and end date, review points along the way and contingencies
  • Consider what resources may be required to ensure your success
  • If you have access to a company outplacement programme then use it at the earliest possible opportunity
  • If not, don’t feel too proud to get help from a Career Coach or Career Development specialist, it could put you ahead of the game and repay you handsomely!
  • It may not seem like it at the time but this is your great opportunity to take stock and review your career to establish what is really important to you and plan your next step
  • Review your finances – take a good long hard look at your outgoings and incomings, taking account of your partner’s earnings if you have one plus ‘discretionary’ expenditure and everything that you value e.g.  holidays, meals out, sport and leisure
  • This is an incredibly powerful exercise, as you can clearly establish what you need to earn as against what you were previously earning or desire to earn
  • Understanding your financial situation can totally empower you to thinking about your career in a completely different light, especially if you establish that you do not need to earn as much as you had anticipated!
  • Avoid taking the first job offer that comes along just because you feel flattered, relieved or because you feel you have got one up on your colleagues, as you could be jumping from the ‘frying pan into the fire’
  • If you plan your campaign right, you will get offers of jobs that you really want or you may even decide to set up your own business
  • Actively network and use more than one approach for your job search
  • Enlist any other support you can get, including friends, family and acquaintances who have won through redundancy and share knowledge and experiences
  • Surround yourself with positive people as it is all too easy to get in with the whinging negative crowd who will quickly drag you down even further
  • Above all else you must keep a positive mental attitude
  • There is always something else on the horizon that may prove your redundancy to be a blessing in disguise!

If you want to know more about developing your career, visit our Career & Personal Development website

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

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