Work Success Open Secrets

A Normal Time Waster

  • 8 am: So I want, just like you, to recreate the world by 5pm today. I want to do exactly what I plan to; uninterrupted and efficiently. I want to solve a major problem, or at least a chunk of it to a point of satisfaction.
  • 1 pm: Okay, I shall not panic. My to-do list is untouched and I have 30 emails in my sent items list. My inbox has 15 unread emails. I’ll read all of them as I eat lunch. I’ll have plenty of time for my main tasks at 2pm.
  • 5 pm: I feel cheated by the clock. Where has my day gone? Why is it that only 1 thing got done? Why is it that my sent items list is now 60 emails long yet I feel so unfulfilled? Why is it that I can’t account for my day confidently and I feel like the absolute opposite of what I set out to feel when I woke up?
  • 6.30 pm: Stephen is late. No, no coffee, just a cold coke please. Sigh. I’m so tired. Googles, ‘how to be more effective at work’.
  • 10 pm: Tomorrow shall be different. I will wake up early and be in the office by 7 am. I’ll get more done, I promise. Presses play on ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta Season 8, Episode 2’.
  • 12 am: Logs into Facebook.
  • 1 am:Sleeps.

OR perhaps you simply had a binge watching sort of day.

* * * * * * * *
I didn’t even factor in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snap Chat time!

It’s a vicious cycle. Each day we do a series of things that pushes us further away from effectiveness. Then we turn to Google.

  1. 5 things highly productive people do every morning.
  2. 10 things highly effective people do
    every day.
  3. 7 things to do to have an awesome day.
  4. 20 little things to put on your to do list.

Enough already! Surely by now you know what to do to live like an above average human being. Bloggers haven’t let you forget it! Heck you’ve subscribed to medium.com, haven’t you? So have I. Yet I know what ails you because it ails me too. Can we simply focus on being average, simple, honest and cliché phrase-free?

I am not attempting to convert a simple analogy into something fancy to impress you. I’m simply saying, let’s focus on being normal. Also, learn to forgive yourself. It is alright to have ‘lazy’ days.

Being Employed · Work Success Open Secrets

Can I Have Your Job?

If you are fortunate enough to be employed by an organization that you actually like, there is someone in that place that has a role you want and I dare say, one that you feel you could do better if you were given the chance.

Hopefully, this person (be it your immediate supervisor, a peer or even a person working in a different organization) is not making a mess of things but they are actually making their work look easy. There in lies the major challenge and opportunity. Take time to really study them. Get to know them. Don’t wait for an ‘HR Department’ type of opportunity. Ask this person direct questions like:

  • Do you have a succession plan for your role? Tell me more about it over coffee later, perhaps?
  • You make what you do seem so interesting! What is the secret?
  • Hello, you look nice and bright today! What have you got planned? Anything I can support you with perhaps?

These are questions that will surely get you learning and noticed. Even the most reserved person can ask at least one of these. You deserve the best kind of career the world of work has to offer. Refrain from filling yourself with  defeatist thoughts. You can do it. You really really can!

All the best!

Being Employed · Corporatebugs

I should have left ages ago!

So the contract says works 5, 8-hour days but in reality, you work 7, 12-hour ones! What do you do? Continue working that’s what!

I, like many of you have scores of friends who often complain about the overtime reality. Instead of joining them, here are simple ways you can make the most of this unwritten performance term.

  • Facebook and tweet! Open those social media tabs either on your phone or PC (if the company allows access to social sites) and keep in touch with the outside world! The pro: time moves pretty fast when you’re socializing virtually. The con: the probability of getting any meaningful work done is quite low.
  • Idle chat! There is always that one person in the office who likes to talk more than the rest. That is the one who will help you breeze through those hours. Engage them in a mutually benefiting conversation and make a friend while at it. The pro: they may end up being great allies. The con: they may be the ‘me’ type and drag on and on about stuff only they care about!

  • Work! Yes, work. Use those hours to actually get some work done! The pro: you will gain favour with the supervisor. The con: you will be freeing up your schedule (for more work!)

Personally I apply all the above as I work through the day. How about you? Which one of these do you agree with? Do share them with us!

Being Employed · Corporatebugs

The Big 3

The dissection of a corporate bug:

  1. A corporate bug’s asset: Qualifications. These are acquired in instituitions of higher learning. A high school certificate is meaningless to a corporate bug and a masters degree most valuable!
  2. A corporate bug’s weaknessAppreciation/Acknowledgement. This may come in extrinsic and or intrinsic forms. “Here is a KShs XXX,XXX cheque as a thank you for all the hard work you’ve put in this month!” or “No. Don’t call me Sir/Madam, call me by my first name!” or both these forms of appreciation/acknowledgement can make a corporate bug go berserk with joy (inside of course!)
  3. A corporate bug’s strength: Special Skill. No corporate bug worth the title is void of special skill either in letter writing, public speaking, negotiation, quick thinking, self control under pressure e.t.c. Corporate bugs have something unique that they bring to the table. This is what sets them apart from all other CBs.

I must admit mine is quick thinking! I cannot honestly count the number of times this noggin of mine has rescued me!

So do you agree with the big 3? What’s your special skill?

Being Employed · Corporatebugs

Catch that Bug!

Welcome to the Corporate bug series.

The series is meant to better understand the new business species and what can help it strive in the dynamic business habitat.

A corporate bug is an individual currently tied up in all matters corporate and earning a salary while at it.

Don’t bother checking the dictionaries. The word is created by me to describe the group I am now a part of . What I haven’t yet figured out (and I am hoping you can help me) is whether a start-up owner is a corporate bug as well.

Corporate bugs are also not in executive roles that are involved in actual strategy formulation. The are more so the strategy implementers.

Welcome!

Being Employed · Work Success Open Secrets

Got time? No? Then say so!

I have friends and acquaintance approaching me everyday asking for input on various projects and advice on various dilemmas and my biggest challenge is turning them down. So I rarely do and I end up with a lot on my fragile plate and with just a tiny spoon (a metaphor for time) to scoop the tasty tasks with.

As a solution, I have developed a simple and honest way to take a pass at some of the requests. Below is a typical scenario.

I have just met my friend Taylor  for coffee and he/she has just told me about this brilliant business idea he/she has. Then he/she drops the dreaded request!

Taylor: Please  help me draft the business plan! You are so good at these things!

Me: Your idea is brilliant Taylor. Thank you for the compliment. All I do is my best. I would love to get involved as you would wish but unfortunately, I have committed myself to a host of other projects and I cannot apply myself as effectively as I would at this time. I am confident that you will maneuver without me and create an outstanding business plan for this one-of-a-kind venture!

Taylor: Ok. I wish you could write it up for me but since you are committed elsewhere, I understand. Can I then send the finished draft and get your feedback?

Me: Of course you can.

Note that I have not not cut off my dear fictitious friend completely. I have just excused myself from the heavier task using honesty, respect and grace.

What do you think of my technique? Do you have one to that works? Do share them with me.

The Interview

The STAR factor!

The Human Resource Management Students Association (HURMSA) did it yet again on Friday 25th May! It brought to the University of Nairobi, School of Business Tom Shivo, Head of HR Relationship Management & Reward, Kenya Airways! If you didn’t get a chance to read about this spectacular association’s previous stellar event, read it here.

In this cold Friday morning, all of us were leaning in to catch every bit of what Mr Shivo was so concisely addressing: Appropriate job application techniques, CV writing and handling of interviews. Right off the bat, his experience, skill and knowledge was apparent. He stressed the importance of self assessment and how it opens the door to one’s full potential. How do you self assess? By simply looking at the things that make up your daily activities. Are you a player of a team sport or individual sport? When in a group, do you speak your mind or would you rather let others go first and then contribute? These factors tell of your introvert or extrovert traits. He mentioned this in the context of CV writing. A balance of the extrovert and the introvert in you is vital. Once you analyze yourself in these and many other scenarios, you will be able to know where you need to improve and how.

This brings me to what I think was the highlight of this tremendous session. Mr Shivo introduced S.T.A.R – Situation, Task, Action and Result. This is the technique that should be used when answering those interview questions that we think are really challenging. He gave an example of  questions asked to two HR candidates in an interview, “Have you encountered a challenge in your work life?” Candidate 1 simply answers, “Yes. I had two differently ranked employees and I found it really difficult to discipline them!” Candidate 2 on the other hand is asked whether he has any weaknesses and keeping in mind that he arrived 30 minutes earlier, is composed and taking steady deep breaths to relax says calmly, “Indeed I have had a weakness of smiling a lot! When it would come to disciplining employees, I would smile and they’d often take offense thinking that I am mocking them! So I decided to approach my mentor for advice and I have since learnt how to keep my facial expressions in check and so far no employee has brought forward a complaint!” In this second answer, you can trace out a situation that occurred in a certain task and for which action was taken and the result was positive! Neat, isn’t it? 🙂 For those who haven’t started doing so, do apply this S.T.A.R factor in your responses!

A warm thank you to Mr Shivo for taking time to visit and share his knowledge with us. Salute to HURMSA for the continued effort in adding value to the lives of students in the University of Nairobi, School of Business! Two thumbs up!

Being Employed · Work Success Open Secrets

Sorry, No Career Path Here!

The Human Resource Management Students Association (HURMSA) this afternoon gave me an early birthday present by granting me attendance to its inaugural  Career Talk held at the University of Nairobi, School of Business.  The speakers were none other than Christine Orono, Founder of People Insights Limited and Susan Kiama, the Managing Consultant of Three Green Apples Consulting.

These two ladies, experienced recruiters and Human Resource consultants and entrepreneurs, added unquantifiable value to my budding career and I can only be but thankful to the organizers of the event for their assertion and vision.

The first speaker, Christine Orono, was filled with infectious fire which inflamed the whole room! She had this easy laugh that though was meant to put us at ease, only made us more sensitive to what she had to say. I was strategically seated right at the front row to pick up on every little bit of information and report it back here to you, my wonderful readers!

We are, at this 21st Century, Generation Y who drive an ‘all-terrain’ vehicle through a non-existent career path, she said. Our world is globalized and unlike our parents and guardians, we do not have the privilege of job security. We leverage our skills on risk and uncertainty management, being time and results oriented, being assertive and self confident and of course packaging our creative talents in a way that creates an eclipse between our capabilities and that of the job opportunities available to us.

She highlighted that keeping in mind the dynamism of the job market, one needs to put themselves in the employer’s mind: Will you do the job? Can you do the job? Do you fit? In an interview, your fit into the culture of the organisation and its competency requirement is overtaken by your motivation! If you seem dull and lacking of optimism and positive attitude, then it’ll be, ‘Good bye, dream job!’ Attitude is everything!

At this point I was so charged, I resisted the urge to stand up and clap!

So when the calm and collected Susan Kiama came on, she did so just in time to allow me to regain composure! But alas! Her opening video left all of us perplexed! Watch it here. In addition, she had amazing facts to share: 4,000,000 job openings in South Africa went unfilled as at 2011 because no skills could match the demand. Kenyan Employers’ frequent complaint is that they can find no suitable recruits for positions (Ms Orono nodded in agreement). These facts were mauled by a question she asked: No one thought of bringing their CVs to this Talk even though you were well aware of the presence of recruiters? Jolly old me almost walked out at this point!

‘Attitude’ is a word that stood out in one of her first PowerPoint slides. That charged me right back up again! She reiterated Ms Orono’s statement by saying that only with the right attitude can we get to where we want to go, whether it is in self employment or not. She shared a story of a girl who earns 2500/- per day by making mandazi every morning for sale in local schools in her neighborhood. Informally employed, the young lady earns more than the average graduate will on their first job!

Her message was clear; as individuals, it is vital that we strive towards being well read, well researched and well versed. I think she should write a book titled, ‘From Earning to Learning’! Her presentation on that amidst constant power outages was flawless.

She kept it real by bluntly pointing out our avoidable mistakes in our thought processing, communication and networking skills and shared inspiring success stories of young entrepreneurs in Africa who have made it by simply channeling the right skills and passion in the right direction!

I must say, when I grow up, I want to be just like Susan Kiama and Christine Orono! What with their diction and easy charm bundled with experience and sense of humour? Who wouldn’t want to be!? 🙂

All in all, I bet everyone who attended the Talk walked away a tad intimidated. I know I did! I say this because that CV we thought was ‘all that’ may not be so after all! Our gut feeling that the job market could be a monster waiting to swallow us whole, suit and tie and all, may indeed be a real one. Not to worry! Thanks to HURMSA, we are pretty much sorted because from what I hear, Ms Orono and Ms Kiama will be back! This time, CVs ni lazima zibebwe!

Being Employed · The CV

To CV or not to CV?

“Forget about the cover letter! What are you, 60?!”

“Cover letters are very important.”

“Forget the Personal Statement! What are you, a doctor?!”

“A Personal Statement tells the organization who you are.”

“Network, don’t stalk!”

Urgh! It is all literally exhausting! Just when you think you have read the right book, or signed up to the right website, you stumble upon another book and another website that negates it all!

Is there really a best way? Should you just wing it and hope whoever is on the receiving end of that envelope will appreciate the magnum opus that is your application?

The internet is flooded with information, as it should. But where does that leave us? In a mess, that’s where! And I don’t mean that place where they serve us university students ‘gourmet’ meals! No. I mean the good old fashioned untidy state of things! We find ourselves bombarded with opinions from established professionals all telling you contradictory things about how you can differentiate yourself from the rest.

I am personally back to where I began with my simple old fashioned Microsoft Word CV and cover letter! I have decided to stop trying to find that which will make me ‘special’ and ‘stand out’! At the end of the day, as the cliché goes, it’s what’s between your ears that counts! I stand corrected though. Maybe someone can recommend a site I may have missed…! Send me a link!