IN DEFENSE OF SNOWFLAKES

“Snow is falling all around us ……” well, it certainly has this weekend for most of the country. As I threw the curtains open yesterday morning I was greeted by a beautiful sight – thick snow on the ground and the park opposite my house looking like a set from “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Watching the falling snow my thoughts turned to a different type of snowflake; one that has generated a huge amount of column inches in the press recently – not the soft, white fluffy stuff but the human variety.

Much has been written in the press recently about the “Snowflake Generation” – the group of millennials who are often described as over-sensitive, work shy and possessors of an over inflated sense of entitlement. The term “Snowflake Generation” is thought to originate with US author Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 book, Fight Club, which contains the line “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”.

While young adults in particular appear to take offence to the ‘snowflake’ label, the majority of adults also agree that the term is unfair and unhelpful and overlooks the significant stresses that our young people now face. Research by insurance firm Aviva found that 72 percent of 16-24 year-olds think the term is unfairly applied, while 74 percent think it could have a negative effect on young people’s mental health. The research also found that young people are more likely to have experienced stress, anxiety and depression in the last year.

We work with many different generations but one of my favourite groups to work with are the 16–24 age group and recent experiences have encouraged me to stand up to the critics and challenge the judgements and stereotypes peddled by the press. At the end of the Summer we facilitated a conference for nearly seventy new apprentices and we were blown away by their energy, positive attitude, thirst for learning and commitment to their new organisation and careers. Likewise, at the last set of employability workshops we delivered for the University of Essex, every student took a responsible, strategic approach to their work placement, setting specific goals to grow and enhance their already considerable skills.

So, instead of using derogatory terms about our young people, let’s celebrate what is good about this generation, who in my experience are overwhelmingly kind, humorous, creative, thoughtful and hardworking; who navigate their path through the minefield that is social media – something our generation never had to worry about. Personally, I can’t wait for my own “Snowflake” to come home for Christmas from her year-long placement with Jaguar Land Rover and have some down time; she’s achieved so much this year, it’s time to be spoiled by Mum – as long as she keeps her room tidy that is!!!

If you would like to hear about the work we do with Early Years Careers, please get in touch at hello@change-gear.com – we would love to hear from you.

ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Greetings from Dubai!

Once again my offspring are appearing in my blog. Trying not to make a habit of it, but given that I’m travelling with my 15 year old daughter (sorry, she would most definitely correct me by saying “16 in 31 days actually”) it’s a bit unavoidable.

So, at the age of “almost 16” my super lucky daughter was given the opportunity by a very generous friend to gain some invaluable work experience in Dubai. To say she’s had a blast would be an understatement. I am so grateful that she has been so well looked after and has learned so much in such a short space of time. If only more businesses could follow suit and give our emerging young talent this type of invaluable life experience – I am positive that young people would be so much better equipped to start out in the workplace.

When the opportunity was first discussed over 6 months ago, both of us were very excited. A trip to Dubai, working for a very well-known lingerie and beauty retailer (exceptionally popular with ladies, young and older, around the world). Maddie has been the envy of many friends – having said that, she’s had a busy week with a real marketing project to do as well. I’m sure this experience will stay with her for many years.

So, she needed a chaperone and here I was to be that person. It sounded like a ball… Maddie busy at work and mum could sit by the pool… maybe not! Firstly, it’s not entirely in my nature to watch my daughter go to work while I indulge in “me time”.  Secondly, I wanted to make the most of this great opportunity to network in the UAE and take some uninterrupted time to focus on doing some business development.

So, five days in I’ve started to realise a few things. Firstly, sending your daughter off at 8am in the morning whilst you’re cooped up in a hotel is nothing but odd! I found myself a little lost and wondering whether I was supposed to relax or get straight onto my work. I settled for working while she was working and then chilling out with her when she had finished. Secondly, the challenge of working remotely from an unknown hotel in the UAE was harder than expected. My normal routine had gone out of the window. I wanted to eat well, work out, swim, get some sun and be productive = it was all too much. So what did I learn and how did I cope? I needed a few strategies to keep me focused.

Here’s 5 top tips that might help if you’re planning something similar:

Internet – Have a plan for your Internet connection. When you’re travelling internationally, you can’t always rely on the corner Starbucks. If you’ve griped about the WiFi speed at the coffee shop in the UK, the connection can be even more frustrating abroad. Do your research before you travel and find out what WiFi provision is in your destination, and have a back-up plan, whether it’s purchasing an Internet SIM card or securing a spot in a co-working space.

Old-school rules – Carry around a notebook and pen. There will come a day when you can’t connect to WiFi and you’ll be grateful you have this.

Time after time – Be mindful of the time differences. Keep track of time zones so you don’t end up calling a potential client or another important contact at 3am without realising it! Most smartphones allow you to set a clock for another time zone, or you can download an app to keep track.

Be realistic – The days are shorter than you think. Don’t over-estimate what you can do. And plan some down-time. You’ll feel more productive as a consequence.

Be culture savvy – Every country has its own specific customs and traditions. Although immersing yourself in a culture is the best way to learn what is appropriate and what is not, try to research and avoid any major faux-pas before you pack for your destination. I’ve only worn 10% of the wardrobe I brought with me so far as everything else is either inappropriate or unacceptable.

And so today it’s my official day off with my gorgeous daughter – a well-deserved trip to the Burj Khalifa – and I can’t think of a better person to be on top of the world with!

 

 

#employabilityskills #luckymum #pricelessmoments #fabworkexperience #workingmums #beautifuldaughters #worklifebalance #verygrateful

All Change…

Some of you may remember in my last blog I mentioned how my son had done a complete u-turn by choosing not to go to university and getting himself a job instead. I was just about coming to terms with his change of mind when (the day before his course started) he decided that he actually did want to go! Somehow after a frenzied trip to IKEA and some crash packing we did manage to get him there (albeit on the Wednesday as opposed to the Monday of week 1) and 3 weeks later I am pleased to confirm he is still there! So, change can happen fast and as I repeatedly told him – there’s no such thing as a wrong choice – just a different outcome.

So this change of path got me thinking about how easy it was for him to just change his mind and would that be the same for me, or for anyone else, once we are firmly embedded to our careers. We hear all the time about people who have “Reinvented Lives” … I decided I wanted to speak to some of them. I didn’t really have to look too far. Our lovely Clare, who is now an integral part of the Change-Gear team has herself recently undertaken a huge change in her career journey. So I decided I’d see if she was happy to share her story.

Carrie:
Clare, firstly just to say how pleased we are to have you on board the Change-Gear team and what a great difference you have made already for us. Thank you also for agreeing to share your experiences with us in this blog. As you know it’s all about “Changing Gears into a different career”

Clare:
“I’m enjoying the opportunity to flex my skills and I’m really pleased to be making a difference.”

Carrie:
It would be great to hear a little bit about your background – where did you start?

Clare:
“I worked in a branding and design agency as an Account Director”

Carrie:
So what made you decide to do something different?

Clare:
“I started a family and wanted to be able to prioritise their needs – but I still wanted to be able to work, and keep a career going. I have three children under 7.
I have lots of experience working with a wide range of clients in a wide range of businesses – I realised that some of what I did within the agency could be done on a consultancy basis. And so I became a freelance branding and marketing consultant.”

Carrie:
And what gave you the confidence to actually make that change?

Clare:
“The skills I gained in dealing with clients and accounts gave me the confidence to sell my own abilities. I attend networking events as much as I can, and keep in touch with colleagues and clients – these interactions have been the key to keeping my confidence.
Plus, becoming a parent has given me a different kind of innate bravery!”

Carrie:
So now you’ve made the change, how are you feeling about it?

Clare:
“I love working on my own terms, and planning my own time. Seeing positive impacts from my work motivates and encourages me. Making great new contacts makes me feel connected and enthused.”

Carrie:
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Clare:
“Figuring out how to present my skills without limiting myself or pushing myself too hard – I’m still working on this! Making sure I have time away from work and family commitments is tough – I find yoga helps me to focus and rebalance.”

Carrie:
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on your journey?

Clare:
“I wouldn’t do anything differently, I believe that each step of my journey has led me here for a good reason – and I have learned valuable lessons along the way.”

Carrie:
And is there any advice you’d give to anyone out there thinking about making a change at the moment?

Clare:
“I’m a big fan of change, it keeps me feeling inspired. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you! Don’t be afraid to draw on the expertise and connections of your contacts – friends, family, colleagues, networking – all these have supported and helped me immensely.”

So, I hope that Clare’s bravery and determination has inspired some of you to just get out there and do it! Big thanks to Clare for sharing this with us. We’d love to hear from anyone out there who’s made a change in their career and how that’s impacted upon them.

Hot Topic – Are we doing enough to support young people joining the workplace?

Our new “Hot Topic” posts look at what is currently trending either nationally and/or globally, allowing us to share with you our unique Change Gear point of view. In our first “Hot Topic” Carrie shares her thoughts about how employers can do more to support young people entering the workplace – a very real hot topic for everyone waiting for their A-Level and GCSE results to be unveiled!

As a mother, whose son is about to get his long awaited A Level results today, this question is certainly one that has catapulted to the front of my mind recently. Having been very clear that university was the way forward for him, a sudden last minute change of heart (high expectations and the thought of being saddled with a huge debt from university fees) had him announce that he was going to get a job instead.  I’m all about encouraging my children to make good decisions and choices and do what makes them happy but knowing the employment arena as I do, this new revelation has made me a tiny bit anxious on his behalf.

Recent research is suggesting that as much as 80% of young people finishing education feel they are not being taught the right skills before they leave to help them successfully find work.  So it’s no surprise that today over 900,000 people aged between 16-24 are unemployed in the UK.  The ratio of youth unemployment is far higher than adult unemployment and this gap does not seem to be decreasing.

Yet in order for organisations to future proof themselves against a back drop of an ageing workforce where knowledge transfer is critical they are going to have to start actively promoting the recruitment of young talent into the workplace.  There are so many positive reasons for businesses to employ young people; it’s certainly more cost effective to invest in your own young talent rather than buy in more expensive, skilled people later.  It also adds to workplace diversity – young people bring with them different perspectives, fresher ways of looking at things and usually their technical and digital knowledge far outweighs that of older generations.  It’s also a fantastic way to boost the PR of your business.

So how can your business help transition young people from education to work?  Here are Change-Gear’s 5 top tips to help you on your way:

  • Start to form relationships with your local schools and colleges to bridge the gap between your business and education. Careers offices are always keen to meet employers.  Offer to run workshops or taster sessions for them giving young people information and advice about what a career in your industry would be like. Share your stories and expertise with them.

 

  • The Apprenticeship Levy has forced many employers with an annual pay bill of over £3 million to think differently about hiring apprentices into their workforce. Faced with spending 0.5% of their total pay bill they are keen to make sure they use their £15,000 allowance each year by taking on apprentices into their businesses and providing on the job training and coaching using this allowance.  Whether the levy applies to your business or not, offering apprenticeship schemes is a great way of attracting young talent into your business.  Many bright students are opting for an apprenticeship programme as opposed to facing huge uni fees, so you are likely to get some great young recruits.

 

  • Provide high quality work experience opportunities giving young people the insight and skills they need to work in your industry. This can also be a great way to “try before you buy”.  Plan out the work experience so that the student really comes away with something useful and a good impression of your organisation.  Do remember you are as much on show as a business as they are!  Social media will make sure the message about how good or bad their experience was will spread wide and far!

 

  • Question whether you definitely need someone with previous “work experience”. We often make assumptions that taking on a young person straight from education will be a lot of hard work for us and time consuming “showing them the ropes”.  How many times have you hired someone who didn’t have enthusiasm and energy (even in their first few months) and you ended up spending far more time dealing with their lack of motivation and commitment?  Often young people are really keen to show what they can do and work exceptionally hard to prove themselves.

 

  • Consider whether the recruitment processes in your business actually are “youth friendly”. Think about your own interview questions and whether you adapt your interview style to bring out the best in them during the interview process.  This may well be a first interview for a first job – so make sure you are giving them the right environment to relax and be the best they can be.

 

So hopefully that’s given you some food for thought and if you’d like to learn more about how we help our clients with induction programmes for apprentices and graduates or some of the one to one work our coaches do with young people looking for work, please get in touch.  In the meantime, here’s wishing all the students getting their results tomorrow the best of luck.

Creatures of habit

 “We are what we repeatedly do” – Aristotle

A habit, good or bad, is something we do regularly without thinking much about it. It is an automatic behavioural activity which makes it possible for us to do many things, without expending too much mental effort. In other words, habits help us get through our day. Good habits create routine, order and efficiency and can free up our time to explore the larger experiences of life. Successful leaders often talk about the significance of the good habits they adopted early in their careers.

But as we all know not all our habits are good for us. Bad habits interrupt our lives and prevent us from accomplishing our goals. They can jeopardise our health, both mentally and physically. And can waste our time and energy.

So we resolve to change our bad habits. Sometimes we succeed but often we fail. Why? Simply put, habits are extremely hard to change.

How long does it actually take to change a habit?  You have probably heard about the 21 day theory which stems from the work of Plastic Surgeon Maxwell Maltz who claimed in the 1960’s best-seller “Psycho Cybernetics” that it took his amputees an average of 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb and therefore this must be the same for all big changes in life.  A more recent study from Psychologist Phillippa Lally from UCL suggested it was taking her research subjects around 66 days to create unchanging automatic behaviour patterns.  How depressing!

It’s clear that there are a wide range of variables that determine how long it takes to break a habit and no simple remedy.  It really depends upon how much you want to break the habit with most people being relatively ambivalent about this.  You may want to lose weight but love eating or are desperate to stop biting your nails but it helps reduce your stress levels.  It’s also about how established the habit is: It is certainly easier to break a new habit than an old one.  And finally it’s about the impact of the consequences of not breaking the habit – will something really bad happen if you don’t?  Of course, some people have addictive or obsessive personality types that may make breaking a habit even harder to do.

So if you want to make a start at breaking a bad habit where do you start? New York Times Bestselling Author Gretchen Rubin says that there’s no “one size fits all” approach; we are all different and therefore different strategies will work for different people.  In her book “Better than Before” Gretchen suggests that to change our habits we need to first know ourselves.  In particular our “Tendencies” – how we respond to our expectations.  There are 4 tendencies and a short quiz to help us work out which one we are: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers or Rebels.  Once we understand our tendency it’s easier to work out a strategy for breaking our bad habits.

Once we know our tendency how do we actually work out a strategy?  Here are a few simple things for you to consider:

  • Understand the reason why you haven’t been able to break the habit before now. Once you establish the root cause of a problem it’s much easier to find a solution to it.
  • Start with habits you can’t say no to. Keep it simple.  If you can see progress it will keep you motivated to continue.  Doing one yoga class a week is better than none.  Build up from there.
  • Choose habits that reinforce each other and link together. So if you are like me and would like to go to bed earlier each night and find more free time to read, deciding to go to bed an hour earlier read a book or an article or a magazine in bed goes hand in hand. Simple!
  • Plan your new habit. Boring I know, but try to keep to a schedule and monitor your progress.  It’s all about managing your time effectively so find a way to monitor what matters.  There are all sorts of habit tracker apps you can use to help you with this – Strides, Goals on Track, LifeTick to name but a few.  Keep a journal if you prefer a good old fashioned paper and pen technique.
  • Develop a plan for if you fail or break your habit – we are all human and it’s ok to slip up once, but commit to not doing it twice.

In an attempt to keep my new habits on track I like to use a phrase I stole from a good friend of mine “Make the right choice” and sometimes I’ll turn this into a question “Is this the right choice?”.  Of course there are times when I’ll just answer myself “No, but who cares?” Nine times out of ten it is the right one!

We’d love to hear your ideas for breaking bad habits and reinforcing the good ones too …