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Looking for Work Over 50

It can be tricky looking for work when you're over 50 and you might have lost confidence. You have loads going for you though so think positively and take the steps to find success!

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Recruitment! Are You Excluding the Best Candidates?

Recruitment! Are You Excluding the Best Candidates?


Recruitment – chances are you don’t really enjoy it whether you are an employee or an employer.  If you’re an employee it is time consuming, you build your hopes up, you might have the perfect skills to do the job concerned – but can you put them across in the right way, employers don’t always get back to you and it can be a soul destroying experience.  If you’re an employer it’s also time consuming, you might not get the right person, it’s expensive and let’s face it – you would rather be getting on with running your business and doing what you love than sitting in a room listening to people churn out the answers they have been coached to say!  So for both sides it can be tedious and frustrating.  The recruitment process has been developed over a long time, but what – if anything can we do differently to make it more effective and efficient?
Modern recruitment tends to focus on experience.  Sometimes this is useful as it gives an indication of past success.  Or does it?  Just because someone has done something in the past, it doesn’t mean they made a good job of it.  Neither does it indicate whether or not they did it because they wanted to pay the bills, avoid trouble with their employer, or if they are really passionate about the work they were doing.  What about transferable experience?  Does it count in your process?  For example if a candidate has been employed in a workshop making doors, is this relevant to making tables, or are you going to disregard this in your recruitment?  Experience is no indicator of ability – if the candidate made a door, how well did they do it?  And how are you going to know this from asking them?  Sometimes a quick learner will be able to learn very easily a completely new skill, but have you excluded the best person for the job because they haven’t done it before?
As regards the tedious subject of application forms, the rationale behind their use can be readily understood.  They can make it easier to pick out the information an employer is looking for and all of the applications are in a standard format.  However, they are time consuming to put together, may not transfer over from one role to another very well, and the employer isn’t really seeing the potential in the candidates as they aren’t showing you what they think is important to them, and that might just give someone with potential an edge over the other people.  This of course depends on the job you are recruiting for.  You might need to hire someone with a certain level of knowledge already, or maybe it would be best to take someone with potential and train them up……  Maybe that application form is actually ruling out the best person for that job you are advertising, because the form is so onerous and they have so many other commitments that they decide not to fill it in.  Just think of the people with caring responsibilities who have so much to give but don’t apply because they are too busy working full time and looking after children or other family members in their spare time.  You might think these people would not be committed to your organisation and role, but actually these are the people who need the job the most so if they are treated well and their needs are met so they can do both, then they are likely to be committed and achieve within your organisation.  Covering letters are another waste of time in my view, especially if the application or CV is being sent by email – the candidate has to say something to introduce themselves in the email, yet some employers insist on a cover letter too.  Why?  It is just a collection of words that a candidate feels obliged to write in order to jump through another hoop.  I believe in efficiency, and if it isn’t necessary – don’t ask for it.  I believe in politeness and being respectful towards people and so I can see the argument for asking for a cover letter in some situations – for example it makes sense if you are asking for a CV and then you ask for a covering letter to give the candidates the opportunity to say a little bit more about how they meet the criteria for the job.  So that’s my perspective for an employer.  For an employee I would advise that you follow to the letter what the employer has asked for, even if it seems a little over the top.  If you aren’t going to spend the time following the instructions, it’s not worth applying in the first place.
Lies! Yes, shock horror! People tell lies to get jobs.  The question that will encourage most lies is probably “Why do you want the job?”  Well the real reason will probably be something along the lines of to pay the bills, its why most of us go to work.  So this question is going to get people saying how fantastic the company is, how it is their ambition or whatever else they can schmooze out of their mouth on the spur of the moment.  Why do employers ask this question?  Does the answer to this really tell you about the commitment of the candidate or does it just show you how tired the candidate is of having to make stuff up to try to jump through the hoops of the recruitment process?  If there are more candidates than jobs it is likely that the candidates you’re looking to recruit have had many interviews before this one- don’t forget, it might seem like you’re in charge but it’s actually quite difficult to find someone who will do the job well and fit in with your culture.  Do you really want to put people off by asking irrelevant questions or questions that encourage lies?
I mentioned the imbalance of power already and it is certainly a perspective I’ve come across many times.  Working with job seekers, they often think that the employer has all the power.  But do they really?  It’s actually the case that both sides have an unmet need and both sides have the potential to meet the need of the other.  The best candidates will also judge the quality of the employer and how they might be valued or not in that company.  Who wants to work for a company where they are treated like a number?  Or worse?
There is much current discussion about a skills gap. I believe there is a talent gap and that there is a stagnant pool of employees who are continually recruited into similar roles to ones they have done before when actually they have the potential to achieve so much more – but they’re not given the opportunity.  A candidate might not have experience of something in particular for a variety of reasons, mostly relating to opportunity. The employer should consider the possibility that the candidate may have untapped potential yet to be discovered.
There are so many different ways to find the right people for your company – so you need a strategy over the longer period.  Be creative and less prescriptive – you’re going to get the best people by using considered judgement as well as processes.  What about putting the person into a real situation rather than asking them to talk you through a situation?  What about asking what would they do instead of what have they done?  Recruitment should be an ongoing strategy – not a one off panic every time someone puts in their notice.
If you need help with recruitment, contact Kelly on 07881294894 or email kelly@cygnetnortheast.com

I Quit!

I Quit!

Having problems at work?  Feel like quitting?  This blog post will examine why it’s rarely a good idea to walk away from a job in the heat of the moment, or indeed because of problems in the workplace that are building up.

Rewind 10 years, and I did exactly that.  I had a minimum wage job following a redundancy and the negative impact of that job was quite substantially affecting my quality of life alongside some personal issues that I had at the time.  The combination of stress due to home and work was awful.  I endured the job for six months, but it felt like a lifetime.  I was contracted for 16 hours, but working 30 hours, so when it came to taking time off I couldn’t afford to take holidays as I would only get paid for 16 hours.  When I started I gave my new employer my P45, but the manager failed to pass this on and I didn’t realise it at the time but the whole time I was there I was paying emergency tax (which I did get back but I needed it at the time, not 8 months later).  The manager changed my hours on a weekly basis without consulting with me and this impacted on my childcare.  The final straw for me came when the manager changed my hours so that I was only working at times where I had to pay for childcare and not when the children were in school.  In tears I walked out of the workplace.  Thankfully, it didn’t impact on my life negatively but only because I had managed to secure a new job and was waiting for a start date which happened just a few weeks later. So walking away from this job might have been a disaster, but actually wasn’t!

I’ve been in other situations too, where people have told me that I couldn’t possibly return to work due to the impact the stress of the situation would have on my health.  But I did go back and I handled it so that I managed to make the situation as positive as it possibly could be under the circumstances.  The impact on my health was detrimental but if I hadn’t done it the long term consequences would have been enormous.

So, if you’re having problems at work, it’s important not to walk away but to use the policies and procedures of the organisation (also a requirement of the law) to ensure your position is strong when you do leave.  You must follow the policies (even if the company fails to) and ensure that you continue to do your job to the best of your ability.  Take notes of situations that arise as this might become necessary in the future as evidence.

If you work for a reputable company, then chances are that they will be as keen to put the situation right as you are.  However not all companies follow the guidelines they should and in these circumstances it is vital that you protect yourself as much as you are able to.  Your work impacts every aspect of your life so it’s important to be in a role that suits your circumstances as well as your values.

You can get free, independent advice from ACAS and it’s also a good idea to gain support from others around you, for example friends and family.  However, remember that the situation is confidential so it’s also important to ensure that you stay within the parameters of confidentiality.

Whilst you are in the midst of problems in the workplace, it can be a very stressful and intense environment.  After all, it is one of the few situations you are unable to remove yourself from without severe consequences.  If there is an argument at home it is easy to go into another room to calm down, but it’s not always possible at work – depending on the circumstances of your job.

There is usually a way of leaving your job without walking away from it.  If you walk away, you walk away from the security of the income stream you have had, you risk a negative reference when you apply for other jobs and you almost certainly will struggle with claiming benefits.  I advise my clients on this basis – as the old saying goes,

it’s easier to find a new job if you are working already.

Job Rejection and Reflection.

Job Rejection and Reflection.



Today, I would like to focus on how to overcome rejection when you apply for a job and either you don’t hear back or you get an interview and are unsuccessful.  When applying for work it is beneficial to have an idea of what sort of work you would like and what sort of company you would like to work for, but then be flexible enough in your search so that if something comes up that you hadn’t thought of you can match it against those criteria and decide if you will apply.  Its not a good idea to focus on particular job titles as these can be misleading and may not be what you are expecting.  Its good to try not to get too focussed on one particular job that is advertised (sometimes easier said than done) and its not a good idea to be too narrow in your search, or too broad.

Once you have applied for some jobs it is sensible to keep on searching and applying for jobs that interest you.  I have worked with clients who have applied for one or two jobs, and then they sit back and watch the phone or letter box on and just after the closing date, becoming more and more depressed if they don’t hear back and sometimes very angry that the employer hasn’t even responded to them.  Unfortunately this approach is not only demoralising and demotivating – it is counter productive and you are much more likely to succeed in your job search if you carry on searching and applying, keeping good records of those you have applied for and moving on to the next application form or CV adaptation.

If you have an interview and are told you were unsuccessful, it is good practice and often advice to ask for feedback.  This can help you in the future if you are given constructive reasons why you were not chosen for the job.  However, I would advise that it is good to think about the reasons given and if they are constructive, accurate and based in fact.  I have had an experience where I was told I missed something out of a presentation but no examples were given of what I had missed so was left without anything solid to build any improvements on.  Of course this may not be the real reason for rejection.  It could be something else that they would rather not tell you about for whatever reason that might be, it might be that they had someone in mind for the role already or that there was nothing you could improve on but they had to make a decision and this time it wasn’t you.

It is good to reflect on the interview and if you can constructively criticise it yourself.  Often we can tell when we could have answered a question more thoroughly or thought of a better scenario of where  we have demonstrated a skill or quality.  Think of these examples and write them down as they might come up again in another interview.  Don’t beat yourself up though – in the moment when we are being interviewed we are often nervous and don’t always perform at our best.  Each interview we encounter is good practice for the next time we need to go through this and hopefully each time we can improve on the last one.  The more interviews experienced, the less nervous you will feel (and if this is not the case then I recommend that you access some support around this.)

Eventually, if you have your technique well honed and you have the skills needed you will be successful in changing your job.  It is a matter of time, and a numbers game.  The more applications you make the more chance you have of securing that role.  If you take the rejection personally and give up, this is obviously not going to help you get a new job.  It will of course take patience and resilience to achieve this goal, but keep going! Remember there are many people who apply for a job usually, with only one vacancy available.  If you are getting interviews you are doing well and will be successful .  If not you need to look at why you aren’t – do you need more training?  Experience?  Do you need to look at the information you are putting into the application forms?

There is help available for each stage of this process, so make sure you get it.  If you need help to stay on track ask someone you know to hold you to account for the number of jobs you apply for etc.  There is no need to do this alone – it is a difficult and time consuming time, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t succeed – remember each application you fill in is taking you a step closer to your goal!

Staying Motivated

Staying Motivated

Staying motivated is essential in any job search, but it is really difficult.  The situation you face might be that you’re applying for loads of jobs and hearing nothing back.   Many of my clients find this very rude on the part of the employer, but unfortunately it is the norm and can be very frustrating.  My advice is not to take it personally and to keep on applying.  However, if you are applying for job after job and not getting interviews then it may well be time to ask why.  Is it because you don’t have enough experience?  Is it because you aren’t giving the best examples of your competencies? Or is it that you’re applying for the wrong jobs? There will be a reason and it is important to identify it as soon as possible, otherwise you are wasting valuable time.

Another situation you might face when applying for jobs is that you’re getting interviews but haven’t been offered a job and have faced a few rejections.  This can have a damaging effect on our confidence too, however my advice would be that if you are getting interviews the employer thinks you have something to offer because you have been short-listed – so keep going!

It’s really important in any job search not to get too hung up on wanting ONE job in particular.  This is easier said than done as it’s only natural to imagine yourself in a particular role – especially if you have been for an interview and you like the feel of the place.  However, in order to be successful you must stay detached – but not too detached! If you seem like you don’t care about the job or the company, this will not get you the job.  But the best way to approach a job search is to be like a robot.  Keep on knocking out the applications and try not to get too emotionally involved.  It can feel very personal, but it really isn’t.  An employer has a role to fill and has to make decisions based on past experience and a very impersonal application process.

Of course, the above advice does depend on your circumstances.  If you are out of work or facing a redundancy situation you might need to get a job quickly.  Whereas if you have a job but would like to improve your circumstances you will be more selective about the jobs you apply for.

I am sure your job search will be as unique as your individual circumstances, but the scenarios above are very common.  If you have a question please contact me.  Also – remember that the person who gets the job will probably be the best at selling themselves and these skills aren’t necessarily the same as the competencies needed for the job.  The good news is that you can learn the skills needed to get the job you’ve always wanted.

Skills – What are Yours?

Skills – What are Yours?


Skills – What Are Yours? When you’re looking for a different job or want to progress in your current employment, you need to know what your skills are.  Sounds simple, but is it really?  If anyone asks me what my skill set is I sometimes have difficulty answering, possibly because I’m not a teacher, or a solicitor, or a bus driver.  So in the past when asked I haven’t got a straightforward answer handy!  When looking for a career change, it can be difficult to demonstrate you have the skills an employer is looking for.  So I like to ask about transferable skills, which are more general skills which can be used in many different professions.  An example of a transferable skill is driving – many of us have this skill but it does take quite a bit of practice to acquire it.  When thinking of work, it can be useful in a range of jobs – courier, project worker, community nursing, and so on.  I once asked a client what skills he had and he told me he didn’t have any, despite being a driver! When I pointed this out, he told me that driving wasn’t a skill because everyone can do it.  Of course not everyone can drive, and I paid rather a lot of money to an instructor to learn this skill!  It shows how often we can take for granted our skills because we can do them easily without thinking about them too much.

There are many other transferable skills that you might have that you don’t think about but may be able to use when looking for different work.  For example if you are a parent, the skills involved in this are wide ranging and very varied.  They might include being organised, having a high level of assertiveness (to stop bullying perhaps), being motivated (when you could really do without picking the toys up AGAIN today!), negotiating skills (ever tried to get a small person to eat a carrot? Or stop siblings fighting?),  cooking, cleaning, comforting, taxi driver, being a economical with the truth (Santa does exist), teaching and coaching.  The list could go on.

You can take any area of your life and think in this way about what your skills are.  Of course if you haven’t had a career break you can think of the skills you have from your current role as well as your hobbies and interests.  If you are very creative you might be able to think of how a particular skill is useful in helping you learn a particular task you have never done before in a potential new role.

If you are struggling to identify your own skills, or to fit your skills to a position you are applying for please do get in touch as I can help you with this.

Returning to Work After a Gap

Returning to Work After a Gap

It can be difficult to return to employment following a gap for any reason – whether that is because you have been looking after someone (bringing up a family or supporting a family member due to ill health), because you have suffered a health problem yourself, or if you have been working in a career and decide you would like to pursue a different direction.

Without recent experience in the field that you would like to move into, or without an idea of what it is you want to do it can be difficult to know where to start.  There are many options open to you, and your path will be determined by a number of factors.  These include your current financial situation, how long you want to work towards your chosen field (are you prepared to retrain or volunteer for a few years?), what your current skills are and what your values are.  Its also wise to think about the opportunities that are available to you.  Is it realistic to want to be the next Prime Minister?  Well someone has to be but it’s important to know what might be involved in this and whether you think it is worth the effort.

Having a fixed idea of what you want to do can be helpful as it means you will be able to plan the steps you need to take quite easily, however there are disadvantages to this approach if you don’t have any flexibility and you are not prepared to change course if opportunities arise on the way to your chosen goal.  However on the other hand not having any idea of where you want to go and being swayed by every potential opportunity that comes your way can be a massive barrier too.  This is due to having too many opportunities and not focusing on any one thing, you are less likely to achieve any of them.

So the point of this article really is to point out that it is good to have a plan, but a plan that is flexible and one that is dynamic based on developments of the situation that invariably come up in your life.  If you don’t know where to start, or you just need a little bit of help, I can help you to get onto the right path and help you to stay focused.  Sometimes, just knowing that there is someone there asking how you are getting on with your plan can help you to stay focused and make sure you do all the things you say you are going to do!

If you need help to decide what next, or how to be successful in finding a job after taking a career break for whatever reason get in touch – Kelly@cygnetnortheast.com or phone 07881294894. Or you can use our contact form.  We can help you to explain why you haven’t been in work in a positive way.

Do I Really Need a CV?

Do I Really Need a CV?


Many employers expect a candidate to fill in an application form to apply for a job so is it worth having a CV?  I would say it is, for a few reasons.  Putting the time and effort into developing a CV (or Curriculum Vitae to give it’s full name) will help you think about what skills you have and what you are interested in.  The process will help you to think through what you are offering an employer and also what you hope to gain through employment.  There can be a perception of a power imbalance when applying for a job, and in some cases this is true – the candidate needs a job to pay the bills and fulfill responsibilities.  However, I encourage my clients to remember that when looking for a career change it is important not to lose sight of your values otherwise when you start work, it won’t be the right job for you and you won’t be happy.  Having a CV will help you fill in application forms as you may be able to copy and paste from your CV into an application form to save you time.  After all, filling in application after application is very time consuming and any tool to help you do this more quickly will be valuable.

If using a CV to apply for a job, it’s worth taking some time and making sure your CV reflects the job you are applying for.  If we have a long career history it is likely that we have so many skills and so much experience we can’t possibly put it all into a CV because it would make it as long as a telephone directory.  Your CV should be ideally one side of A4, two as a maximum.

A CV is a tool designed to make an employer take notice and want to find out more about you. I once had a client who was upset at having to cut out lots of information that he saw as relevant.  He complained to me that the employer had commented on the lack of information and he had to phone the client to find out more.  I told him this was exactly what was intended.  The tool was a CV that gave just enough information for the employer to be interested in finding out more, without falling asleep.  The employer rang and asked to meet the client.  That is exactly the result intended.  Don’t be tempted to put too much information in there.  Employers are busy, and if it’s too difficult to read they won’t read it, it will go in the bin.  Harsh but probably true.

There is so much more to talk about when it comes to building a CV, it’s impossible to cover it all in one blog post.  However, I would encourage you to get in touch with me if this is an area you would like some help with.  I encourage clients to write their own CV as it will then be a better reflection of themselves to give to the potential employer, but it can be difficult to know where to start.  A CV is there to SELL a product (you as a worker) to an employer and it can be difficult to identify our own strengths and skills.  I am a professional and find it easy to see skills in other people and help them to identify their skills, yet I struggle if anyone asks me this question! I do have to think (although I have a CV there to help me if I need it!).  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I know you will have skills and experience gained from your work or life experience, but looking for work and selling what’s on offer to employers is often a completely different skill set.  If you haven’t applied for a job in a long time it can be hard.

If we can help, get in touch through our contact form.