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Monday, July 30, 2012

No Job! You are overqualified.

We are all pushing for a time when we will have amassed great achievements and work experience as a way of catapulting us to the highest levels in line with our career aspirations. But as we push our way up the ladder, there seems to be a new trend where the higher we climb, the harder it gets to get certain jobs. For the majority of persons who have held senior positions in their careers, making changes to lower positions seems a daunting task.

Take the case of Peterson. He has worked as a HR practitioner over the last 16 years. Due to changes in his social commitments, he has reconsidered taking up high-end positions and has now been in the job search process for less involving jobs. He has been seeking for jobs with less managerial responsibilities and one that accords him more time with himself and family. This seems like a trend in the market. Many people like Peterson, are realizing the need for healthy work life balance and hence the current readjustments.

However, it has not been rosy for him. Over the last 6 months, he has been attempting in vain to convince potential employers that he would be the right person for the jobs available. As if being read from the same script, all interviewers have let him know that they are afraid he is over qualified for the job and this makes him wonder whether it is a crime to be over qualified.

As you prepare for the job search, realize that employers will have reservations against employing persons they consider over qualified. They are unsure of your staying within the company since the feeling is that you will move on should you get a job at your level. The burden is hence on you to convince them otherwise. The other concern the potential employer would have relates to how well you would work as a member of the team with your high qualifications. All these are valid concerns that you should be ready to respond to, either directly or otherwise.

Potential employers will always be concerned about the salary question. It could appear to the panel that the company may not be able to match your current or past salary due to budget constraints. The subsequent feeling is that you may not be as motivated by the salary on offer.
Just how should an individual respond to this challenge in job search? It starts with the realization and admission that you are over qualified. In most cases, potential employers weed out overqualified applicants at the short listing stage since they realize they are not the appropriate candidates for the interview. Should you however be invited for the interview, it could be an indicator of some level of interest and that interest could just be the panel wanting to know why you would be interested in a lower level job despite your high qualifications. The ball is hence in your court to determine how to score.

You should not wait until potential employers inform you that you are over qualified. By the time you are responding to a given job advert, you should have evaluated your suitability for the position and if you regard yourself as overqualified, you should develop an appropriate response to the concern even before the interviewers raise. You should be seen to have considered the issues and developed a way of working with the team with your high-end qualifications.

On the salary question, you should have developed a way of responding in line with the motivating factors beyond the salary. It could be that you are up the scale on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and are now seeking for higher level needs beyond the salary.

How to get ready to avoid shocks of job loss

As I put down my thoughts on paper for this weekend, I am sure it is not one of the best of articles you want to spend your time reading. It does not seem to motivate reading about how to prepare yourself for a possible job loss neither does it pretend to be inspirational. It is however, as uninviting as it may seem to be, necessary that you indulge me to quickly think through the prospects and challenges of seeing your job come to a close. With the harsh economic moments the world is going through, reports about job losses have become a common feature in our bulletins both locally and globally.

Let us reflect on these experiences through the motions that Jean had to go through over the last couple of months. Having worked in the NGO sector for the last 5 years, she had been on a relatively stable job serving as a manager in charge of the Sanitation Project for over 3 years. However, as years passed by, the projects seemed to be getting closer to the end faster than expected and true to her fears, the donors indicated clearly that they had no intentions of renewing the grant. With 3 months to the end of the project, Jean was sure her job was ending with the third cheque. This had been a distress thought through the previous 6 months as she was sure she needed to quickly get space onboard another project or else she would risk being unemployed for a duration unknown to anyone.

Job losses occur as a result of several factors. It could be due to poor performance of the company  in the market or change of tastes by the clients. It could also be a result of more aggressive competitors or the company is ejected by the sitting government for being considered antigovernment in its agenda. Regardless of the cause of the job loss, it is important to consider ways in which we can prepare for the loss.

It is always safe to imagine that the job you hold is not permanent, even though you hold a contract indicated permanent and pensionable. No job is permanent any longer in this world. With this thought in mind, always seek to develop critical networks with people in your field of work. Keep the networks active through regular communication of email, phone and social media. Let your peers in the sector of work have you in their minds always so that should you have a need to contact them for support in job search they do not struggle to remember how you look like when you make that distress call.

In the event you are sure a job loss is imminent, either by way of project closure or relocation of your employer, remember to position yourself early enough for job search. This is a hard time for both the employer and the employee. The employer risks the challenge of having key staff departing long before the project ends hence affecting the quality of project closure and this can negatively impact on all the great work achieved till the close of the project. However, for staff, it is never settling to wait until the last moment for you to start seeking for a job. On average, it takes about 3 to 6 months to settle on a new job, though this depends on the place you are and the field of work. The earlier you start the process, the better for you as you will seek for an alternative job under minimal pressure.

Finally, as you consider a possible job loss, evaluate your competitive advantages in the job market and enhance efforts of making yourself more marketable and visible. Seek the services of a professional for support in personal branding and start to market yourself in a more targeted way. Start early to pursue courses that give you a competitive edge over the competition and not just registering for a masters programme like everybody else. A unique professional course may just be what you need to stand out.

By now, I hope talking about job losses no longer sounds a taboo topic like preparing for ones demise. Unless we talk about preparing for possible losses, we will keep on talking about managing distressed ex-workers. This can be mitigated by proper prior preparation and planning.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Partying with your boss

Are there limits beyond which we would consider harmful in the process of having fun with our bosses and colleagues? Should we not drop all guards when out on team building activities and just have fun as we would in the company of other friends? This is a critical concern many employees seem to have as they prepare for the office team building retreats.

It is midyear and companies are reviewing the progress of their organizational plans over the last 6 months. This process often takes place out of the office in the form of retreats or dinners to reflect and celebrate the achievements as they plan for the second half of the year. And this ushers in the party season for most of the workplaces. How can we best have fun with our colleagues and bosses while at the same time ensuring we appreciate and respect the power relations within the workplace? 

This was a dilemma that Francisca faced six months during the Christmas break party at her former employer. She feels like she had gone overboard and that could have resulted in her dismissal a few months later. She had accompanied her workmates to the beach party at the close of the year and as had been suggested by the management team, she put all protocol behind her and decided it was time to party and have fun, celebrating great strides made by her department throughout that year.

As she prepared for the party, she had shopped for her most desired party dress and true to her judgment, most of the workmates informed her about how ‘hot’ she looked. She however noticed that a few of the staff appeared shocked at seeing her dressed in the way she was. They had all along known her as a relatively conservative staff and could not relate the Francisca they were seeing at the party with the one sitting behind the accounts desk. It was truly a shocker for all. 

As the meals were served, she appeared too conscious of her weight and hence went for the smallest of the plates and served a portion that could hardly pass for a serious dinner. When the time came for the wine to be served, she generously served herself and in a matter of minutes, she started talking to everyone on the table as though they were her younger brothers and sisters. She got into a joke-making mood and some of them were squarely targeted at her bosses and as the team ate the night away, some of the bosses were getting more and more uncomfortable with her talk and decided to move to other distant tables. Francisca had lost her person and was uttering words least expected from such a finesse woman.

Parting with your boss is one of the most important occasions for workplace teambuilding. It presents an opportunity for the team to interact with each other away from the confines of the office environment. This enables staff to know each other more and provides an opportunity to share ideas not easily available on the normal days. 

It is however important to note that even with the expanded and free space during office parties, some level of protocol and respect is still expected of everyone in attendance. The boss still remains the head of the unit and should be accorded their appropriate respect regardless of the games and dining. You will want to consider using appropriate language when dealing with the persons at the party as they remain the same people you meet at work.

As people get overcome by the power of the pleasure during parties, there is always a tendency to utter words that may easily jeopardize your chances of growing within the organization. A friend once indicated their dissatisfaction with their job while under the influence of alcohol at an office function and as a result, the contract was not renewed when the time came for the performance appraisal. Although no reference was made to the comment made at the party, other colleagues indicated it could have been informed by the talk at the office party. 

And so, the next time you go out partying, party as much you like but within the confines of decorum and respect for others.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Be alert for feedback during job search

You can never afford to miss out on that all important call while on job search, but Janet missed the call. She had been on the job hunting mission for the last 5 months and had sent out lots of applications to all who would care to receive. As long as there were no returned mail messages, she assumed that her applications had reached the intended persons. By the 5th month, she had lost track of the number of applications she had sent and the kind of jobs she had applied for.

One mid morning, while switching on her phone to update her Facebook status, she got a note that someone had tried calling her. She brushed over the message and went on to work on her Facebook account, reading other posts and checking on what her friends were up to. Later in the following week, while travelling back home on a bus, she decided to call back the number that had attempted to reach her the previous week and to her shock, as the receptionist picked up the call, she realized that it was one of the potential employers who had tried calling her for a second interview.

When she was eventually transferred to the HR department, she was informed that the office had attempted contacting her for a second interview but since they could not reach her, they had facilitated the interview for two other candidates and already considered one of them for the job. By this time, the bus conductor had been standing next to her for a few seconds requesting for her fare and in her disappointment, raised her voice and asked the conductor, ‘why should I pay for a job not offered? Ooops…she exclaimed, paid the fare and requested the driver to have her alight at the next stage though she was yet to get to her final destination.

Many people would not forgive themselves for missing out on key feedback during job search. With the knowledge of the hustle and the challenges of job search, it is important to always remain vigilant for any form of feedback from a potential employer or reference by a friend or job search partner to a potential employment opportunity.

Always have your phone on at all times. In addition to having it on, since you will find yourself in some relatively noisy places, consider having your phone vibration alert on so that should you not hear the ringtone, you would at least sense the vibration. Should you find a missed call, regardless of your experiences with many friends who ‘flash’ for you to call back, take the risk and call back as it may just be that important call for you to confirm whether you are available for an interview.

Ensure your phone battery is always beyond the 50% mark as you don’t want it to go off when receiving an important call. It is hence expected that if you must call back when you find missed calls that you should have enough phone credit to enable you call and talk to any potential employer in no hurry. You don’t want to find yourself telling the potential employer to call you back as you are out of credit. Create a great impression on phone. Have communication expenses as key on your job search budget (hoping you have such a budget and well resourced)

Finally, the other common feedback channel by many employers is email messaging. As a job seeker, consider checking your emails as part of your daily priorities. If possible, and it is now possible with the high level of phone connectivity to the internet, check your email account at least thrice a day just to be sure you are aware of any important messages sent to you. Often send yourself an email to ensure your email address is still functional and has not been hacked and currently sending out promotional messages to other people.

How are you faring on your 2012 resolutions?

We are now midway through 2012. It has been a hectic start of the year and as we keep up the pace on the second phase, a pause to reflect on the journey so far could be a welcome idea. The pause is important just to provide a self-facilitated guide on whether we are on the right track towards our 2012 goal. Allow me to remind you that at the start of the year, we took time to reflect on the year ahead and listed a number of resolutions for the year 2012. Looking back at our performance so far could just be what we need to ensure we remain true to our personal commitments. I suggest we consider three important resolutions most of us may have made in January 2012.

Self Supervision: Remember the consideration you had about the need to be more self supervised? You may have suggested that through this year, you will want to remain true to your workplace calling and meet the deadlines and targets even when no one is watching. You may have committed to ensure that you report to work early even when the boss is on leave and to be at work throughout the prescribed working hours. You may have considered the need to ensure you do not use your office stationery for personalized engagements neither would you divert to pursue personal business while on official trips.

Work-life balance: In a bid to make your work life more productive, you made commitments to be more available with yourself and with other spheres of your life beyond the job engagements. You committed to ensure are are at work for a specified number of hours and have quality time with your family and friends. As you might remember, you may have suggested to yourself that it will be important throughout this year to check on your leave schedule to ensure you take time off from work at certain intervals to ensure you refuel your system and be on ‘a regular service’ just like a motor vehicle would. It could be that you made a personal commitment to join a gym in your neighbourhood to check on your unfitness as reflected severally when climbing up the staircase. It could be that you bid farewell to the lift at your workplace and gladly considered the possibilities of befriending the staircase, at least going up 3 floors by the stairway every day.

Career progression: This appears as one of those key resolutions that we all seem to share. We consider the possibilities of growing in our careers, working through means of enhancing our visibility at work. To this end, you could have planned for an extra professional course and was willing to set aside some resources for self sponsorship. There could have the suggestion of joining a professional body in line with your career interests and had started off contacts with the group on requirements of membership and the calendar of events for the year. As a way of bolstering your linkages with other professionals, you could have joined LinkedIn social network and hoped to keep abreast of the goings on in the sector and had committed to be an active member by way of engaging other professionals on issues that interest you.

Great were the resolutions. As we come to the middle of the year, how are you fairing? Out of the issues you committed to pursuing especially with regard to your career growth, how are you fairing? On a scale of 1 to 10, one being very poor and 10 being excellent, where are you on the scale? What percentage of the resolutions have you started working on? Mine is to wish you well. Keeping up to the promise may not be easy but with focus, you will have yourself to congratulate 6 months down the lane with positive results. I will checkout on you in December 2012 on the final lap results.

Dealing with ill health at work

Every so often, we all have to deal with situations when our colleagues at work fall ill. In some of these situations, we have to live with the effects of the ill health as some are long term while in other cases, it is a one off condition that gets treated and has the staff get back to normal work processes. Dealing with ill health situations at work can be a stressor and if not well managed, can lead to reduced performance and strained relationships at work.

Consider the experiences of Monica. When she was diagnosed of cancer late last year, it appeared to her as a dream. She had always heard of persons being diagnosed with the illness and had never, just like the majority of us, imagined herself having to bear the effects of cancer. By the time the diagnosis was arrived at, she had hopped from one hospital to another in search of the best treatment for the unending pain around her chest. With the diagnosis confirmed, she informed her line manager who requested her to also discuss the situation with the HR department.

The most important news that Monica got from her employer was that the company insurance cover would take care of her treatment and therefore needed not to worry about the financial implications of the condition. This was a real boost to her commitment to the employer as she felt appreciated and cared for. However as she started off with her treatment, it was realized that she had to be redeployed from her current duty station to ease the process of accessing the health centre. This meant swopping positions with another staff. This was not easy. Since she was working from a far flung town, none of the staff at the head office in the capital was willing to swap places with her. The management of the company had to almost force a certain staff to relocate.

Ill health among the staff team can be a real source of organizational headache yet since people will once in a while break down (just like machines also do), every workplace needs to be ready to deal with this situation when it arises. It is as sure as the sun rising tomorrow that a staff will at some point fall ill. In addition to the strains caused by the need to redeploy ill staff, the workplace also experience a sudden slump in performance. Ill health slows every one down as the persons take time off to seek medical attention. This affects team performance since each person has a role within the system.

It is also clear that in most cases when staff fall ill, their tasks are in the short term redistributed among the rest of the team and this leads an overload within the team. If this is not well appreciated, it leads to discontent and could easily break the team.

Since staff will at some point in their work-life get sick, it is important for the organization to develop responsive policies aimed at providing adequate support to the ill staff. Such policies relate to provision of medical services at the employers’ expense or through an agreed upon cost sharing mechanism. The employer must be seen to be concerned about the health of the staff and not project themselves as only interested in the staff when they are in good health.

Since ill health has a way of taking strength and time away from the workplace, it is key for the teams to be prepared on how to best reallocate tasks among them whenever one of the team mates is taken ill. You don’t want to work in an environment where your colleagues grumble and murmur whenever you fall ill since they have to bear the burden of your tasks. Staff should consider being helpers since we all will go through the cycles of life at our own times.

Finally, it has been noticed that some staff take advantage of their ill health to abscond work or operate below average. Taking advantage of ill health is an immoral practice and since others would easily note when the colleague is taking them for a ride, it is likely that there would be a revolt to the detriment of your career growth plan.