When and how to negotiate your salary

Business Impact: When and how to negotiate your salary

When and how to negotiate your salary

Business Impact: When and how to negotiate your salary
Salary discussion need not be the preserve of the most confident or experienced few, says Talent.com’s Noura Dadzie. Find out to broach the subject and start developing a skill you can use throughout your career

Discussing salaries and negotiating a pay rise is hard. Throwing the concept of salary transparency into the mix threatens to complicate matters even further.

But, what do employees really think about salary transparency and discussing their pay?

The overwhelming majority of job applicants (98%) in the UK wish to know the salary before applying to a role, while 81% of respondents say that employers should be required to disclose salary information in a job description, according to Talent.com’s new research into salary transparency. For job seekers, salary matters.

Yet when it comes to being in a role, the survey discovered that 39% of Gen Z employees are uncomfortable discussing their salary and 35% of Gen Z feel that they have experienced pay discrimination due to to age.

For those less confident in discussing pay, this discomfort can result in salary stagnation and could even cost them money, particularly in an inflationary economy. So, here is some advice on how to negotiate salary, particularly if it’s your first time, as may be the case for many Gen Z employees. Salary discussion need not be the preserve of the most confident or experienced few. Plus, once you’ve done it, it’s a skill you can use throughout your career.

What to remember

Asking for a pay rise isn’t personal. Salaries feel personal when equated with your worth, when instead you should relate it to your value. What measurable value do unique set of skills bring to the role? What additional efforts are you making to improve your company’s prospects? What evidence do you have that you are currently being undervalued, in relation to your achievements?

Crucially – asking for a pay rise isn’t about the money. We’d all like to earn more money, but businesses can’t determine salaries by what each staff member ‘would like’ to earn. Instead, when you demonstrate your value – and that you bring more value to the company than what is currently reflected in your pay – then it’s time to address the imbalance. It’s just business – a transaction of services in exchange for appropriate pay.

How to prepare for a salary discussion

There are several things you should have in place before any salary discussion. First up, do your research: how much money are you asking for? Base your request on hard numbers – what do employees in similar positions at other comparable companies earn?

You may also want some awareness of what colleagues around you are earning, as any raise should be anchored in the value you bring to your team. When those around you progress, you may have taken on additional responsibilities for which you should be compensated.

Once you have determined a number, it’s time to prepare your business case. You need to demonstrate what makes you worth paying more based on your achievements and successes. Why have you, as opposed to another candidate, excelled in this role? We recommend you collect specific examples of work you have done, additional hours taken on, or team responsibilities, such as management of other staff, that demonstrate the value you have added since accepting the job.

When to meet

If you’ve never requested a salary increase before, you may lean towards chatting about it in a regular team meeting, tagging it onto the end of another catchup, or even dropping it in an email, to soften the expected discomfort of the conversation. Needless to say, these are all bad ideas.

Any discussion of salary increase should take place face-to-face, in a designated meeting or one-to-one catchup. The last thing you want is your manager to be distracted, such as when you’ve been discussing daya-to-day work, or by receiving a request in their inbox in the middle of the day. Your manager should be in a position where they are open to listening to your business case and be impacted by it.

It goes without saying, but only ask for a pay rise when the company is succeeding. If the company is experiencing setbacks or financial challenges, asking for a pay rise only serves to demonstrate how out of touch you are with the company, which can have a negative impact on your reputation. Your core message should always be: I am a top performer who is currently undercompensated. Top performers are in sync with the current state of the business, they understand that salaries are a transaction, and should be dealt with head on.

In the meeting

Now there’s nothing left to do but make your request. Keep it positive and stay professional – discussions of salary increases are never a time for threats or ultimatums. Remember why you’re asking for a pay rise – because you have achieved success in your role and see the prospect of appropriate remuneration for future work.

If you are turned down on this occasion, remain respectful and make every effort to understand why. It certainly doesn’t preclude you from asking again further down the line. You can enquire as to what might increase your chances of a pay rise in the future, and on what timeline you can expect to progress. Ultimately, you want to demonstrate your commitment to growing in your position and with the company.

Noura Dadzie is a senior vice president at job platform Talent.com, where she manages and oversees UK and international sales operations. She has more than 20 years of experience in online recruitment and software-as-a-service solutions.

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What does the future hold for the retail industry?

Business Impact: What does the future hold for the retail industry?

What does the future hold for the retail industry?

Business Impact: What does the future hold for the retail industry?
Is the retail sector a good career option for business graduates in the current climate? David Daly explains why he believes it is, drawing on the level of innovation and opportunity he sees in his role as chairman of Frasers Group

If you’ve read about the retail sector in the media in recent years then the chances are you will have seen headlines about doom and gloom on the high street. It may surprise you, therefore, to learn that despite the well-documented economic headwinds faced by retail sector, the industry continues to innovate for the future and that it is an enthusiastic employer of business graduates.

At Frasers Group, we work in partnership with the world’s biggest brands in more than 20 different countries, generating a record annual revenue of £4.8billion GBP in 2021-22. This demonstrates that far from being in decline, many parts of the retail industry are not only showing remarkable resilience, but are also investing for the long term.

The future of retail

If you wish to see the future of retail, I would encourage you to visit one of Frasers’ new flagship stores in London, Liverpool or Birmingham in the UK. These are designed to offer an experiential shopping environment that greatly enhances the customer experience. Our flagship Sports Direct store in Oxford Street, for example, was transformed last year thanks to a £10 million GBP tech-heavy investment. It now features around 100 high-definition digital screens, numerous digital touchpoints and a selfie booth. Special features within the store are constantly updated and on opening included a Jordan basketball performance challenge.

Graduate programmes

If you are interested in the prospect of a career in a fast-paced sector that constantly reinvents itself in order to meet new challenges, then we would love to hear from you.  

We recently welcomed our third annual intake of highly talented individuals into our elevation programme. This scheme is aimed at high-potential graduates who are seeking a career in commercial management. Over the last three years we have monitored the scheme and as a result, we will now also be rolling out the programme across our finance department. 

As an industry, we are aware that remuneration is one of a number of considerations that graduates will wish to take into account, along with factors such as opportunities for career advancement and our environmental and social policies as a company.

More than 150 people in our early-career talent pool are now enrolled on a retail leadership scheme and we have also introduced similar roles across our digital, technology and IT functions.

Technology and innovation

There are exciting developments in the way in which the retail industry is rapidly embracing innovative technology to improve customer experiences across digital platforms.

At Frasers Group, we are investing more than £100 million in our digital proposition across all channels, which includes platforms that will reinvent customer engagement, marketing and customer service.

Sustainability

Sustainability is another important priority that is being enthusiastically embraced by the retail sector.

Frasers Group supports the introduction of the Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). This has given us a robust foundation to mitigate climate-related risks and identify future opportunities.

We have built a Sustainability Team structure with our CFO Chris Wootton as the executive sponsor and there are Sustainability Champions across the business. This includes hundreds of dedicated people across our stores who are helping to deliver against our priorities.

We forecast a 10% reduction in our UK electricity use for 2022 but were pleased to exceed this to achieve a 15% reduction (compared to a pre-pandemic baseline in 2019, measured against like-for-like stores). We have additional targets to reduce single-use plastic and improve our waste management and recycling.

We also now offer a carbon-neutral delivery option on the web. Approximately 32.1 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (Co2e) was saved by the use of this option, which we hope will continue to grow in popularity over time.

Thinking without limits

If you are wondering what we look for in successful candidates who wish to join the company, then one of the attributes that we value highly is an ability to think fearlessly without limits.

I think the best way I can explain this concept is to quote the example of Cally Price, who sits on the board of Frasers Group in order to represent the interests of colleagues. Cally originally started as a Saturday sales assistant while studying for her A Levels. She then joined us full time after graduating from university and went on to become a store manager, before being elected as a one of my fellow non-executive directors.

Cally’s advice if you want a career in retail is simple and concise: “The most important thing is to have a positive mental attitude. Be willing to learn and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. You’ll be part of a team and your colleagues will be there to support you.”

David Daly is chairman of Frasers Group, a FTSE 100-listed company that owns House of Fraser, Sports Direct and Flannels, among others.

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Why you need to find a ‘higher purpose’ in your work

Business Impact: Why you need to find a ‘higher purpose’ in your work

To avoid ‘career sleepwalking’, you should find work that gives you meaning and makes you feel that the job you are doing makes a difference, says life coach, Smita Das Jain

Madhuri (name changed to protect privacy) is a senior vice president in one of Asia’s leading banks. For more than 15 years, she focused primarily on working her way up the ladder in the credit risk department of her organisation. Along the way, she gathered recognitions, promotions and enhanced compensation, and continued to work harder to meet the demands of her superiors, peers and team members.

One morning, she woke up with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She knew her calendar was choc-a-bloc with meetings and appointments, and she was not looking forward to her day. She had brushed off those negative thoughts earlier, but now she realised she couldn’t stay one day longer in a place where she had spent almost half her life, in what was the only job she had ever held. She resigned from her position on the very same day.

Madhuri had encountered a midlife crisis in her career. Unfortunately, she is not an exception to this in the high-pressure corporate world.

Statistics tell the tale of career sleepwalking

A 2018 LinkedIn study of more than 2,000 professionals in the United States revealed that a sizeable proportion of the working population felt they were ‘career sleepwalking’. Of all professionals aged between 35-44 in the survey, 47% were not sure of the career path they wanted even after more than a decade in the workforce. More pertinently, 22% of the respondents (of all ages) said that they ‘fell’ into their job rather than actively choosing it, and 23% reported feeling stuck ‘on a treadmill going nowhere’. Perhaps as a result, 84% of respondents under 24 said they were planning to change their careers even before fully settling into their place of work!

Leaders, hiring managers and organisations failed to note these cold, hard numbers. Then the Covid-19 pandemic happened, and people started re-evaluating their priorities, no longer wanting to compromise with their likes. Indeed, the ‘Great Resignation’ was something waiting to happen; the pandemic just accelerated the timelines.

‘Higher purpose’ at work: a solution to the mid-life career crisis

Why do so many smart professionals want to change their careers in midlife? The answer lies in the changed priorities of individuals.

We are all different persons at the ages of 25, 35, 45 and so on. What held good a decade ago would have lost its allure in the present, and how we see our future may be vastly different from what we are doing for a living currently.

At the outset of your career, money is often the most important thing. It will continue to be important in your life, no doubt or qualms about it. But after four to five years of working, the compensation will become a hygiene factor and lose its allure. One day, you will want to not ‘fall’ into your workday but enjoy what you do for a living. You will need something more than money to wake up from your bed with a smile on your face and look forward to your day at work.

This something more is your ‘higher purpose’ at work. More than being about economic exchanges like compensation, a higher purpose is something that gives you meaning and makes you feel that the job you are doing for your organisation makes a difference in the world. A higher purpose is your meaningful contribution to the greater good.

If your job isn’t aligned with your passions and purpose, your day will drag on, and feelings of disenchantment and disillusionment will set in. That is the real reason we are witnessing the Great Resignation today. On the other hand, studies have shown that people with a higher purpose at work are healthier, more resilient, more productive, and more likely to stay in their jobs for longer.

Rather than just another corporate initiative, ‘higher purpose’ comes from within you. It is personal.

How to find your higher purpose

To avoid becoming a part of the Great Resignation 2.0 in future, and more importantly, avoid finding yourself in the shoes of Madhuri and other individuals sleepwalking through their careers, as per the aforementioned LinkedIn study, ask yourself these questions before taking up a job:

1. Would I like doing the job as much if I would not be getting paid to do it?
2. Would I enjoy the process that the job would entail, besides the outcome that I envisage from it?
3. Do I see myself getting out of bed with a smile for my workday three years down the line?

If your answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, then congratulations! You are working in a place meant for you. If your answer is ‘no’, then you must first evaluate what jobs and careers would make you answer ‘yes’ to the three questions above and prepare a roadmap to land that job.

The right time to find your higher purpose is now— when you are enthusiastic, your energy levels are high, and there’s no sense of urgency or crisis. And not when things come to pass. For if you don’t act, they will.

The last word: get your higher purpose right

What drives you in your day-to-day life? Take the time to reflect on what inspires and motivates you. Try to see the big picture of your job – how does your profile play a role in the value chain for something more significant for the community or society. Look outside your immediate sphere of influence and think about what impact would you like to have on the world.

You know yourself best. The answers you look for are all within you. You just have to pause, think and reflect to find it, and get off the ‘continuous treadmill to nowhere.’ It is not easy, but it isn’t difficult either.

Smita Das Jain is a certified Personal Empowerment Life Coach, Executive Coach and NLP Practitioner. Smita’s ‘Empower Yourself’ programmes help busy professionals unhappy in their jobs transform their passions into professions so that they work because they want to, not because they have to.

Skills for startup growth: private equity and the opportunities for business graduates

Business Impact: Skills for startup growth - private equity and the opportunities for business graduates

Looking for career opportunities in an area that’s gathering momentum? Jessica Wax-Edwards, Director at ThoughtSpark, examines the skills gaps impacting PE-backed businesses and outlines how forward-thinking Business School graduates can help overcome them

For Business School graduates, most of whom will already have solid business experience prior to embarking on a further qualification, working with entrepreneurial businesses can be an attractive and challenging option. Such businesses – which are typically backed by venture capital or private equity (depending on their stage of development) provide a lively stage on which the business skills acquired in recent qualifications and training can be deployed in the real world.

The vista of potential organisations is wide. Startups are estimated to represent 1% of all European jobs. But on top of that, accelerated development finance is available from the private equity (PE) sector, which in recent years has been raising record capital volumes to invest in fast growth or turnaround opportunities.

This is especially true in the current climate. The last two years has heralded a global boom in new businesses, particularly in the areas of logistics, delivery and IT. Many other sectors are also entering a new era of development and evolution accelerated by the Covid-19 experience. Digitalisation, new ways of working, new regulatory environments, new product platforms (such as biological drugs or cloud computing), reshoring, environmental standards, and a host of other factors are now gaining real momentum.

With PE the favoured funding source for many new companies – rather than complex and costly flotation on the public markets – investors are becoming increasingly keen to ensure that all the key skills are in place to make the best possible use of their funds. Some of these skills can be provided by the PE companies themselves, by taking a seat on an investee company board. Others, however, cannot – and this is the exciting opportunity for Business School graduates, with their combination of direct business experience and strategic training. So, where exactly do those key opportunities lie?

Skills gaps encountered by PE firms

Typical skills shortages that PE firms encounter in their investments are identified in recent research from ThoughtSpark and Mindmetre. has identified the typical skills shortages that PE firms encounter in their investments. By definition, these skills gaps should be priority areas for PE investors to fill, whether that’s through recruitment, interim staff or agencies. They are also the skills gaps that dynamic Business School graduates may seek to fill.

In the research, respondents from among Europe’s top 100 PE firms were asked to grade the skills they typically encountered in the companies they invested in. The results show that PE-backed firms generally present high skill levels in product development and sales, perhaps unsurprisingly. With exceptions, this is because they tend to be run by owner managers who have successfully built a business to date by creating, selling and delivering value to their initial merry band of customers.

In contrast, skill levels tend to be either mixed or lacklustre in three areas: digital transformation, performance visibility, and financial strategy/ management.

The findings indicate that PE investors should scrutinise digital transformation and performance reporting capabilities in the firms they acquire, filling any skills gaps with either recruited experts (listen up, business graduates!) or third-party providers. Financial strategy and management tend to be core capabilities of the PE investor, and they have traditionally bridged this skills gap through representatives at board level.

But there are a further three areas which score really low for competency at the point of investment: talent management/development, growth management/scaling, and – worst of all – marketing and communications.

These are likely to be the skills gaps that an entrepreneurial Business School graduate could fill. The first step for the investor is to recognise the potential skills pitfalls – and then a willingness to recruit/learn/collaborate in areas that may previously have been considered low priority.

Opportunities for Business School graduates

The rewards can be huge. For instance, McKinsey research shows that organisations that align talent with their value agenda are more than twice as likely to outperform their peers and achieve 2.5 times the ROI in their first year. This skills gap implies that PE investors may well need to insist on a professionalised talent management layer being introduced, that could be linked into the Business School network, and which reports on progress (talent recruitment, development and management delegation) to the investor.

Scaling and managing growth – the next area of weakness – not only requires talent development and empowerment, but also a host of skills that are frequently (according to our respondents) not the natural province of founding management. Performance incentives for board directors – indeed, throughout the company – need to encourage rapid development, but there is also an argument to look carefully at a commercial director position, possibly supported by independent consultants, which reports directly to the investor as well as sitting on the managing board. Again, the combination of real-life commercial experience and strategic management training could be a substantial opportunity for Business School graduates.

Finally, a key part of the growth picture is a professionalised approach to marketing and communications. Rapid growth requires a company’s successes to be broadcast as widely as possible, direct, through social media, through the press, at industry events, and so on. Both marketing leadership and staff need to have experience in rapid reputation building – helping the company to punch above its weight in terms of the sheer noise it is making to its target audiences.

Systematic marketing is required to bring the company’s value proposition to the total available target audience, unrestricted by limitations in the direct sales effort. Inexperienced marketing staff open the door to massive opportunities for wasting money and resources. Unaccountable or poorly measured marketing will not be able to differentiate between cause and effect, again wasting investors’ precious funds. Without experienced marketing direction and execution, scale growth is unlikely to be achieved. As with talent management and growth management, senior marketing staff and/or specialist agency support should have a direct reporting line to the investor, as well as the board, to demonstrate the alignment of priorities transparently and empower efforts towards the single goal of accelerated growth.

Conclusions

The current economic situation makes it even more important that all key operating skills are in place to offer the best chance of successful rapid business development in PE-backed companies. Put simply, any significant operating skills gaps increase the risk of failure. This is a huge opportunity for Business School graduates, especially for those who have cut their commercial teeth in digital transformation, performance management, scale growth, talent management or systematic marketing. Time to get searching!

Jessica Wax-Edwards is a Director at ThoughtSpark Agency, where she manages an international team on projects for clients in the financial services, legal, logistics and technologies industries. She has worked in PR and marketing for the last 10 years, during which she completed her master’s by research and PhD at the University of London. 

Researching the employment market: five steps to finding the right job

Business Impact: Researching the employment market: Five steps to finding the right job

Get some advice on finding the right role for you as well as ways in which you can network effectively and increase your chances of a successful application, in this extract from Get That Job: CVs and Resumes

To find the right job and present yourself in the best possible light at interview, you’ll need to research industry trends and find out as much as you can about the companies you want to work for.

Step one: do the research

In the early stages of your research, you should begin by researching industry trends.

In a nutshell, you need to look out for:

  • Major growth areas
  • Major and up-and-coming players
  • Key challenges, opportunities, or potential problems for a given industry

If you are not sure which industry you want to work in, there are several good references and reports on attractive jobs and desirable companies. For example, look at the Financial Times website which provides well-organised information about trends in various business sectors. The Economist website contains extensive articles on business worldwide.

Look also at the websites of the top Business Schools – these give guidance on where to go and which directories to look at.

Step two: go from a macro to micro level

A: Research your chosen companies

The next step is to narrow your research by gathering information about the companies you would like to work for.

Aim to find out:

  • The size of the organisation (sales, profits, market share, numbers of employees)
  • Its mission statement
  • The company’s strong and weak points
  • Its key partners
  • Its key competitors
  • Information about the organisational culture
  • How the company is organised
  • Its key strategic challenges
  • The subject of recent press releases

Also, use social media and networking sites, like LinkedIn, to learn as much as you can about the company, the sort of culture they have and the type of opportunities they offer.

B: Speak to current employees

Once upon a time, the only way to talk to someone at a company that interested you would be if you had a direct connection with it, via family, friends or location. The internet has made it possible to do this from the other side of the globe, knowing no one, if necessary. Use social media and networking sites, such as LinkedIn, MeetUp and Xing, to find people who work at the company, tell them you are interested in working at the same place, and ask them if they’d be happy to have a quick chat over email or social media.

Also, get in the habit of telling everyone you know what sort of work and/or opportunity you are looking for, and ask them if they can help. It’s really important, in a job search, to seek out any connection you can find and it’s often surprising how easy it can be to have a chat with someone helpful. Be prepared, of course, to do the same for them when necessary.

Step three: think about the job you want

When you are looking for a specific job in a specific company you will want to know:

  • What qualifications are needed?
  • What would my tasks and responsibilities be?
  • What is the typical salary for a job like this?

If you can gather information ahead of time, you will be better prepared for your covering letter, your CV, and your interview. If the job has been advertised, then the tasks and responsibilities will have been listed. If you know for sure that there is a job opening, ask the company to send you a copy of the job description.

Step four: make the most of everything available

A: Job alerts

Many recruitment agencies or career-related websites offer an online service to both job hunters and companies trying to fill a vacancy. For job hunters, registering your CV online is a quick and easy process, and means that should an interesting vacancy arise, you can ask the agency to submit your CV quickly.

In addition, take advantage of email job alerts, in which agencies or career websites email you when a job that meets your specifications comes on the market. This is another quick and easy way to keep on top of job opportunities in your particular market.

B: Network

Networking is one of the best ways of getting a new job and finding out about potential openings. The internet has revolutionised the way that people can keep in touch with each other, and one of the simplest ways to use it for networking is to email people on your contact list.

You can ask them about industry trends, potential job openings, or for specific contacts within an organisation. Other ways of networking on the web include:

As with all other types of networking, though, remember to:

  • Thank people for their time and help when they get back to you
  • Offer your help to other people as much as you possibly can
  • Be patient

Step five: be organised

Create your own database of organisations you are targeting and keep track of information you have gathered about each. Record any job-search actions you take for each organisation, such as dates of letters and CVs you have sent, what form of CV you used, dates of phone calls, and who you spoke to and what was said.

*

One common mistake to watch for is to ensure that your research is not patchy. If you don’t thoroughly research the industry, the company, and the job, gaps in your knowledge may jeopardise your chances at an interview. If you can demonstrate that you have done your homework, you will stand out from the crowd and will have a better chance of being offered the job.

This is an edited extract from Get That Job: CVs and Resumes – how to make sure you stand out from the crowd (Bloomsbury Business, 2022).

BGA members can enjoy a 30% discount off the RRP for Get That Job: CVs and Resumes. Click here for details.

Five steps for tackling the transition from Business School to career

Business Impact: Five steps for tackling the transition from Business School to career

In the face of an unknown future, it can help to have a mindset rooted in curiosity about what is possible in new terrain. Marketing professor, Joan Ball, outlines five ways to prompt enquiry, exploration and learning

In a world filled with promises of quick or easy answers to life’s most challenging questions, I wish there were five easy steps I could offer to set you off on a well-marked path to success, post-graduation.

Unfortunately, after nearly 15 years of working with students transitioning from university to career in my research and practice, one thing is clear – there is no single path, best practice or model for professional and personal success in the 2020s. You are graduating into an environment where commitments and priorities are constantly shifting and changing. One where opportunities (and challenges) abound and no single map, compass or true north is available to guide your way.

In this uncharted territory, careers are increasingly nomadic, and the future of work is being co-created in practice, as organisations and the people who keep them afloat are called on to adapt to new tools, tactics and approaches to living in a paradoxically predictable and unpredictable postdigital world.

Some people find this realisation exciting. They are inspired by the freedom and creative potential of uncharted territory and the adventure of blazing new trails in their professional and personal lives. These are the people who embrace uncertainty and ambiguity as a prompt to explore. For others, the lack of stability and predictability is unsettling – even threatening. They long for clear markers on well-worn paths that lead to a clearly defined notion of a successful career and life. In either case, the space between university and career is a liminal space between the highly structured life of the university and the multitude of possible ways to move forwards beyond graduation.

In this new environment, embarking on the career journey is less about following prescribed steps and more about developing and adapting practices and principles that are customised to amplify our unique strengths, address our particular challenges and guide us on a path towards our context-specific aspirations in ways that are relevant to the lives we hope to live.

For many of us who were trained in systems that favored finding a true north and relying on models, frameworks and best practices as our compass, this can feel daunting. Many students I work with describe themselves as feeling lost, overwhelmed or stuck at this point of inflection – even though they are excited and eager to embark on their career journey.

Fortunately, uncharted territory is just as navigable as a clearer path if we gather resources and develop the principles, practices and approaches we need to engage uncertainty with curiosity, confidence and humility. This involves shifting from a traditional navigator mindset (‘GPS, tell me where to go!’) to a wayfinding mindset.

Wayfinders mindset

The wayfinders mindset is rooted in rigorous self-awareness and a curiosity about what is possible in new terrain. I offer the following prompts as a place to begin. Not so much a set of steps, but more a stepping off point that I hope will prompt enquiry, exploration and learning in the face of an unknown future.

1. Stop: you are entering liminal space

You’ve spent the past 22+ years studying, preparing and having your life reset every quarter, semester or trimester for as long as you remember. This rhythm of life and the prescribed routines surrounding them (registering for classes, studying, preparing for exams) are now over. You are no longer a student, which is a huge identity shift. You no longer have the prescribed timelines and approaches that were created by your university.
Making the shift to a new identity and a new direction is not something that always happens intuitively at points of transition. This sort of disjunction can be unsettling and lead to incendiary emotions. Pausing to acknowledge the change and give it consideration prompts us to shift from a mindset that views the future as a problem to solve to a mindset of discovery. Doing so can help temper the threat we sometimes feel when we’re not sure what to do next and help us to embrace uncertain transitions as invitations to learning. This makes it easier to approach change with dispassionate curiosity rather than fear-based reactions.

2. Ask: what is the new terrain I am entering?

Once we’ve paused and set an intention to engage transition with dispassionate curiosity, we can reflect on who we’ve become and the particulars of the current state of the world we’re entering. You are not the same person you were when you entered university. Who have you become? Are the aspirations you had when you started the same as they were then? What are you clear about? Where is your sense of who you are and what you want murky?
No judgement here, just enquiry and taking a clear-minded inventory of who we are, where we are and what is possible. Once we have a sense of ourselves, we can do the same for the state of the world we’re entering. It is not the same as it was when you entered university. Making time to get the lay of the land can help spark ideas about what comes next.

3. Ask: what resources do I need to navigate this new terrain?

Open an enquiry into what resources you have or don’t have. What strengths do you see in yourself as you enter this transition? Where do you have gaps and holes? How might you connect to the emotional, physical, material and social resources you need to amplify your strengths and reinforce areas where you feel less prepared?
Gathering the right resources to enter the uncharted territory of your life, post-graduation, is as important as gathering resources for a backwoods hike.

4. Ask: what do you hope for as I enter this new terrain?

What are your aspirations? Have they changed since you entered university? Are you still not sure? Acknowledge that having a clear sense of what’s next is sometimes available and that, at other times, we are exploring. Neither is better or worse than the other, but each invites a different wayfinding approach.

5. Explore: how do I find my way in this new terrain?

Wayfinding is an art – and a science. Entering into the transition from Business School to career with the open-minded creativity of an artist and a scientist’s structured willingness to experiment, learn and build on learning can provide a framework for engaging in uncertainty as an adventure in learning, doing and exploring rather than finding the ‘right’ answer to living a good life. This is a critical orientation for entering this next stage of your life – and every uncertain transition you face in the future.

Joan P Ball is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Peter J Tobin College of Business, St. John’s University in the US. She is a transition expert, holds a PhD in international business management and is the author of Stop, Ask, Explore: Learn to Navigate Change in Times of Uncertainty (Kogan Page, 2022).

 

Headline image: Greg Rakozy on Unsplash.

Will your social media profile replace your CV?

Business Impact: Will your social media profile replace your CV?

From Amazon and Netflix to LinkedIn and TikTok – your digital footprints offer glimpses into your personality. Algorithms can use these footprints to reveal your soft skills and suitability for a particular role, say the authors of The Future of Recruitment

What do you think reveals the most about you, your carefully curated resumé, or your online browsing habits? I think we all would agree that the latter would give any stranger an accurate picture of your unique values, characteristics and personality.

If I know that you spend a lot of time browsing and contributing to Wikipedia, as opposed to if I know you spend your time bouncing from one influencer to the next on TikTok, I can make a safe bet that you’re intellectually curious — a personality trait that is a strong predictor of job performance.

When evaluating job applicants, recruiters are evaluating a candidate on their technical skills and expertise, alongside their soft skills – or in other words, their personality. The field of industrial-organisational psychology (I-O psychology) is dedicated to identifying and measuring the personality characteristics that explain who performs at work, and who doesn’t.

Thousands of scientific studies have demonstrated that psychological qualities – such as being disciplined, curious and considerate, to name just a few – consistently predict important work outcomes, such as leadership effectiveness, innovation, and collaboration, as well as which industries or vocations would be most engaging. These findings are then used by recruiters to improve their hiring decisions and organisational performance.

Digital footprints offer new ways to evaluate applicants’ suitability

While it is somewhat easy to measure one’s technical ability, understanding whether a candidate has the ability to work alongside others, stay motivated and practice curiosity is much harder. Recruiters are often left to their intuitions (which are inadvertently biased) or rely on psychometric tests that are usually cumbersome, expensive, and often unscientific. Fortunately, new technologies powered by machine-learning and our digital footprints may offer new ways to identify top talent and evaluate the suitability of job applicants. They can also open up new job opportunities to underserved communities, save time and minimise the bias that holds many people back.

As you live and work online, you leave a large trail of digital footprints that reveals an insight into what makes you, you. The films you watch on Netflix, the things you purchase on Amazon, the TikTok influencers you follow — each provide a tiny glimpse into your personality. These footprints can be aggregated and mined by machine-learning algorithms to reveal your soft skills.

Nearly 10 years ago, researchers from Cambridge University demonstrated that your Facebook Likes could accurately predict your personality, with greater accuracy than your closest friends and family. In other words, you are what you Like. Other researchers have since expanded these findings to include Spotify playlists, Tweets, smartphone usage, and many other sources of online behaviour. So how does this impact the way organisations recruit talent?

Benefits of incorporating digital footprints into the job application process

The fundamental objective of all talent assessments is to sufficiently understand a person’s tendency to behave in a given way and infer that they will continue to do so in the future. After all, if talent is the product of the right personality in the right place, recruiters need more accurate and comprehensive tools of one’s dispositions, decision-making styles and motivations. Incorporating digital footprints into the job application process offer multiple advantages over traditional talent assessment methods:

  1. User experience. Digital footprints can be analysed in seconds, as opposed to the 30 minutes or more that it takes applicants to complete a traditional talent assessment.
  2. Fairness. If trained and deployed correctly, algorithm-powered talent assessments standardise the job application process. This means that all candidates are assessed against the same criteria, minimising human bias and subjectivity.
  3. Diverse talent pools. Digital footprints allow for ‘one click’ job applications, and when coupled with the switch to virtual working, they can attract applications from underrepresented groups and communities. New assessment methods can reduce barriers to entry and build more inclusive organisations.
  4. Accuracy. Digital footprints provide an accurate and objective measure of an individual’s disposition. By using objective behavioural data, from a variety of sources across multiple points in time, recruiters can gain an accurate insight into one’s dispositions and potential. 
  5. Transparency. It is hard to understand and ‘debug’ human decision-making, it is comparatively easy to study how algorithms work. The use of algorithms in hiring contexts will lead to talent decisions that can be easily explained — another way to combat bias.

Ethical use of algorithms  

We hope that you are hearing alarm bells as you read this article. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the use of such data and technologies in the hiring process. As US mathematician, Cathy O’Neil, writes, algorithms that are used to evaluate people and guide human decision-making can become ‘weapons of math destruction’. In fact, we have already seen how these technologies have been used to foster social tension and inadvertently lead to biased recruiting decisions. That said, we believe it is better to be proactive about the future and guide the development of these technologies for the benefit of individuals and society. 

To ensure that the promise of alternative measures of talent can be fully realised and used ethically, it is important that the developers and users of these next-generation technologies think critically and intentionally about the following questions:

  1. A lack of transparency. To what extent do applicants and recruiters know how their data is being processed, weighted and analysed by the algorithm?
  2. Power asymmetry. What can be done to equalise the imbalance of power between those wielding the algorithm and those being subjected to its decisions?
  3. Bias and discrimination. Can the developers and users of talent algorithms demonstrate that there is no adverse impact on the selection of minority and protected groups?
  4. Privacy. Are the requested digital records relevant, made clear to the applicant, and what safeguards are being made to ensure their privacy is being protected?

Talent algorithms should not replace human agency and decisions. Instead, they are a tool to balance our intuition and subjectivity that so often leads to bad hires and wasted resources. As the way people live and work changes, so must organisations change the way they understand and recruit talent. Digital footprints show promise to be a valuable addition to the job application process, providing we can ensure that it is done with fairness, transparency and ethics.

Franziska Leutner is a Lecturer in Occupational Psychology at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Reece Akhtar is a Co-Founder and CEO of personality assessment firm, Deeper Signals.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is Professor of Business Psychology at University College London and Columbia University.

Franziska Leutner, Reece Akhtar and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic are the authors of The Future of Recruitment: Using the New Science of Talent Analytics to Get Your Hiring Right (Emerald, 2022).

Finding your fit: the relationship between stress, career and creativity

Business Impact: Finding your fit – the relationship between stress, career and creativity

While an optimal amount of stress can help you focus and perform better, ‘bad’ stress and anxiety can impair your ability, says the author of Beat Stress at Work, Mark Simmonds. That’s why your characteristics and your work must be a good fit

Fit is everything.

If you want to give yourself the best chance possible of enjoying a rewarding career – one where you are able to fulfil the loftiest of ambitions – it’s important that you’re able to choose a path where you are able to manage ‘bad’ stress as much as possible. One way of doing this is to treat your job in the same way you would treat a personal relationship. In other words, look for a job where there is a close alignment between your own values and those of the company. If there is misalignment between the two for too long, the pressure will mount and it will more than likely end in tears.

This is what happened to me when I kicked off my career. It was really painful.

The prolonged panic attack

In my early twenties, I started working for Unilever, the global consumer goods company – one of the largest in the world. Its household brands, like Dove, Axe, Knorr, Magnum and Domestos are available in around 190 countries.

Unilever also has one of the most respected management trainee programmes for young people who want to forge a career in marketing. I succeeded in joining it when I was 25, working for Birds Eye Wall’s, one of its operating companies at the time and I was pretty proud of my achievement. The career roadmap was now neatly laid out in front of me and the future seemed bright.

A year later, I found myself pacing up and down the basement of the Birds Eye Wall’s building liked a caged animal. I was alone, surrounded only by freezers full of frozen peas, beef burgers and fish fingers and my own confused thoughts. I was trying to work out why I was suddenly feeling so anxious, why I seemed incapable of completing the most basic of tasks at my desk upstairs. I needed a bit of head space, away from people, to think clearly and work out what was going on in my frazzled mind. At the time, I was only a trainee, the lowest of the low. Admittedly, I had now been handed a little more responsibility and people in the team were relying on me to get things done, but I was still a relatively insignificant cog in the wheel.

Yerkes, Dodson and the electrocuted rat

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing a prolonged panic attack. During those ‘basement wandering days’, I felt frightened and agitated all the time. Back in 1908, two psychologists, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, discovered that mild electric shocks could be used to motivate rats to complete a maze, but when the shocks became too strong, they would start panicking and scurry around the maze haphazardly in an attempt to escape. This became the basis of the Yerkes-Dodson Law which suggested there is a clear link between performance and arousal.

For example, an optimal amount of stress will help you focus on an exam and remember all the key facts. You might feel energised, stimulated, even exhilarated. That is ‘good stress’ and this might help you perform even better. But too much anxiety can impair your ability to remember anything worth writing down on the exam paper. You might freeze and become incapable of thinking straight. That’s ‘bad stress’ when you might not even perform at all. For what it’s worth, I felt like that electrocuted rat.

A round peg in a square hole 

When I was writing the book, Beat Stress at Work, I reflected back on that period and tried to work out what had gone wrong. What was it that had caused me to suffer from the prolonged panic attack and the years of discomfort that followed working at Birds Eye Wall’s? The problem was fit. I was a round peg in a square hole.

By nature, I was more of a creative type and enjoyed ruminating and cogitating, playing around with ideas and concepts, preferably on my own. I liked to have time and space to think things through. However, Birds Eye Wall’s was a fast-paced environment where making decisions quickly was very much the order of the day. Long ‘to do’ lists and pressing deadlines were very much the order of the day and all the beautiful inefficiency associated with the creative process was frowned on.

Matching careers and characteristics  

I developed the Matchmaker to help people make good career choices. It identifies a number of characteristics that define the DNA of both the company and the individual. The goal is to try and ensure that there are as many matches as possible, because the more matches there are, the more aligned the needs of both parties will be, and the less likely that ‘bad’ stress will rear its ugly head.

You can see in the Matchmaker table that in the case of Birds Eye Wall’s and me, that it was only ‘team orientation’ where alignment existed. For crucial pairings such as ‘focus on people development’ vs. ‘focus on task completion’ and ‘bias towards introverts’ vs. ‘bias towards extroverts’, the company and I were misaligned. Over a period of time, this misalignment began to cause me more and more ‘bad stress’.                            

So, how do you use the Matchmaker?

1* If your current job is causing you significant ‘bad’ stress, use this framework to highlight the differences that exist between you and the company, dimension by dimension. Put your name and your company’s name in the relevant boxes and insert a star where your names appear side by side.

2* Use the completed framework as the basis for a constructive conversation with your employers to see if you can achieve greater alignment. Be prepared to discuss the source(s) of your stress. Try and agree what they can do, what you can do.

3* Alternatively, if you are on the lookout for a new job, then use the dimensions of the Matchmaker to help you identify companies/positions where there is likely to be greater alignment between you and them.

Remember that fit is everything. Don’t be a square peg in a round hole if you can avoid it.

Mark Simmonds runs a creativity agency called GENIUS YOU and is the author of Beat Stress at Work

Pursuing purpose in your career and life

pursuing purpose in your career and life

Society in the western world has lived in a dearth of purpose since the 1970s, but now is a great time to pursue it once more, says McKinsey Consultant and author of Outgrowing Capitalism, Marco Dondi

What role should your job play in your life? The range of possible answers today is quite different to those of 100 years ago.

If you’ve never thought about this question, now might be a good time because the answer is often a window into the quest for our life purpose. Those who rarely ponder the question are likely to end up regretting it on their death bed.

A good sign that you are pursuing your purpose is that you are proud of who you are and are not afraid of people getting to know you. But what should you do today to be proud of yourself? What should you do to make your future self proud? You spend most of your waking time working – is this time spent in a meaningful way?

The historical decline of purpose

A century ago, most people gained pride from their role in the family, namely with men as breadwinners and women as caregivers. Work led to a material increase in living standards for both one’s own family and society at large, and in times of war, it contributed to survival, freedom and national pride. Over the last 50 years, these historical sources of pride and purpose have declined in the western world.

The fight for survival and freedom has, thankfully, almost disappeared from our day-to-day lives. Raising a family has become insufficient or secondary to finding purpose, as more women have joined the workforce and both men and women have delayed marriage and having children. Increases in living standards as a source of pride, meanwhile, started to plateau once the masses reached middle class. And work, that should have strengthened its contribution to purpose, has instead been sullied by a ‘wicked’ turn of capitalism.

At the worst possible time, the prevailing narrative among economists and politicians made shareholder profit the sole purpose of a business, and a person’s salary became the main measure of their worth. From the late 1970s, society has lived in a dearth of purpose. Some clung tightly to their family values, but divorces and wage stagnation among the middle classes made the road to purpose more arduous. Others espoused the pursuit of higher salaries and personal achievements, only to find out later in life that this road too often leads to perdition and narcissism.

But here come the 2020s. From the ashes of rising inequalities, social divisions, and the failures derived from letting greed loose in the financial markets, a new society is starting to take form. Businesses are repudiating shareholder capitalism and are placing all stakeholders – as well as purpose – back on the agenda. Some governments are prioritising people over money and ideology. Covid-19 lockdowns forced people to break away from habits and gave them the uncommon luxury of time to reflect. In addition, climate change provides a common enemy to fight against. By the end of 2021 the world was facing the start of The Great Resignation. Could this be the dawn of a new purposeful society?

The road to purpose in the 2020s

While a good dose of optimism is justified, younger generations should not be naïve in thinking they have tailwinds. Gender equality has long been a priority for most actors in society but after decades of struggle we are nowhere near a satisfactory situation. Much of the power to enact change has historically lain with senior white males at the top of the ladder, siloed by several layers of mostly male executives and managers. In this context, conscious and unconscious bias has made the road to gender equality a terribly frustrating one for hundreds of millions of women to this very day.

The road to purpose is likely to face similar barriers. There are decades-long habits and mindsets ingrained in your peers, your more senior colleagues and – depending on your age – they might even be ingrained in you too. There is a window now where people are more open to consider alternatives and look more favourably to a diversity of approaches for individuals to pursue purpose in their own way. But creating new habits will not happen overnight. People showing up less in the office might still be labelled as ‘they care less’. People de-prioritising a fast career trajectory might still be labelled as ‘less ambitious’ or ‘less capable’. All the while, businesses still need to turn profits, with markets pressuring for higher profits and faster growth than the competition. Many executives and managers will still look at numbers before people and have expectations of you.

Navigating your path to purpose

How can you navigate your path to purpose in these choppy waters? Is quitting the only solution? Should you set up your own business? Or should you hang on and chart your path in your current organisation?

The answers are, of course, many and diverse but here are four suggestions:

  1. Take time to reflect and gain clarity on the version of yourself that you would be proud to show the world and for the world to know – the version that you’d be proud of when looking back at your life. What would this version of you do, and why would you do what you do? This should give you a glimpse of land beyond the choppy waters and can be your guiding North Star.
  2. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses and set a path to purpose that plays to your strengths. Be humble when choosing or you’ll be, quite literally, fooling yourself. Ask others for an honest opinion, after all, it’s not too difficult to listen to others’ talking about where you excel.
  3. Stay open to changing what you do to live up to your purpose. There are multiple paths to reach your North Star, so you might want to stay relatively detached from any one path in particular. Stay nimble and acknowledge that some waves are too big to surf.
  4. Be consistent with who you want to be even when you’re faced with more complex situations. We have a cunning tendency to create justifications when we take decisions that are at odds with our principles. This helps superficially but a deeper reflection will uncover the inconsistency. It is better to keep a tight grip on the steering wheel than to follow the waters wherever they take you and fool yourself into believing that it was your intended course.

Now is a great time in history to pursue purpose. However, the pursuit is yours to captain.

Main image credit: Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Marco Dondi is a Strategy Consultant at McKinsey & Company and former global manager for economic development working on labour markets. He is also the author of Outgrowing Capitalism (Fast Company Press, 2021). Marco holds an MBA from INSEAD and a master’s in management, economics and industrial engineering from Politecnico di Milano.  

 

How to answer tricky interview questions

Business Impact: How to answer tricky interview questions

Congratulations, you’ve been selected for interview – now comes the nerve-wracking part. Get some advice on preparing for, and answering, questions designed to explore your decision-making and reveal your potential

Job interviews are the single most important part of the work selection process – for you and for your future employer. Once your CV has shown that you meet the basic skills and background requirements, the interview then establishes how well you might fit into an organisation’s culture and future plans.

Most interview questions are generally straightforward, unambiguous enquiries, but some interviewers like to surprise you by asking questions specifically intended to explore your thinking and expectations. Or they might try to throw you off guard to see how you react in high-stress or confusing circumstances. Or they may not be intentionally tricky at all. The interviewer may not be very experienced and so ask you questions which seem unrelated to you and the position.

Answering tricky questions successfully could help you gain the position you are applying for, but remember that the nature of the questions, and how your answers are received, can tell you volumes about whether this is a company you would really want to work for.

Prepare for the interview

1. Think about the potential questions

Spend time in advance thinking about questions you might be asked during the interview. Also, study lists of questions that are available online and formulate possible answers. Although you may not be asked those questions specifically, being well prepared will help you feel relaxed, confident and capable.

2. Think about the purpose

The best job interviews are positive encounters that allow a two-way exchange of information. It may feel as though the employer has all the power as it is they who will decide whether or not to offer you the job. But, in fact, it is you who holds the power – it is you who will decide whether or not to accept the job. So, interviews are just as important for you as they are for the interviewer. Keeping this power balance in mind will help you stay calm, dignified, and clear-headed.

3. Think about the interviewer

It is safe to assume that the interviewer is slightly uncomfortable with the process too. Not many people enjoy grilling a stranger. Remember that you may be the 25th candidate this week and the interviewer may be quite sick of asking the same questions and hearing the same rehearsed answers. Remember, too, that the interviewer was once sitting in your seat, applying for his or her job within the company and worrying about the same surprise questions. Establishing some empathy with the interviewer can help to make the encounter more relaxed.

Communicate effectively during the interview

Never lie. Many interviewers do this work for a living, so they have heard all the ‘correct’ answers many times before. Don’t trot out what you think the interviewer wants to hear. Instead, be candid and clear, and use lengthy answers only when you think that demonstrating your thought processes in detail will add valuable information.

Be sure you understand the question. If the question is unclear, ask for clarification. ‘I’m not sure what you mean. Could you explain?’ or ‘could you rephrase that question?’ are perfectly acceptable queries in any civilised conversation. Job interviews are no different. Similarly, if you didn’t hear the question properly, don’t be afraid to ask for it to be repeated.

Be prepared to answer questions about salary. You can politely decline to give details about past salary and future expectations if you wish, but be warned that this is difficult to do without creating a bad atmosphere in the interview. The most important thing is to keep the focus on your worth, not your cost.

Many companies offer salaries only at a certain percentage above a candidate’s previous salary. However, if your previous salary was below the market average or your worth, this doesn’t mean you should be forced to accept a lower salary in the future. Decide before you go into the interview on a salary range that is acceptable to you. Make sure the top of the range is well above the figure you would be thrilled to accept, and the bottom of the range slightly above your predetermined ‘walk-away’ figure.

Deal with tricky questions

There are roughly eight areas of questioning that could pose a challenge in the interview:

  1. Your experience and management skills
  2. Your opinion about industry or professional trends
  3. The reasons why you are leaving your current job
  4. The financial or other value of your past work and achievements
  5. Your work habits
  6. Your salary expectations
  7. Your expectations for the future
  8. Your personality and relationship skills or problems

Identify the topic areas that might be the trickiest for you, then think carefully about how you might answer them. You don’t want to have to try to blag your way through difficult parts of the interview, and you certainly shouldn’t lie. However, you should also be wary of rehearsing answers to anticipated questions word for word, as this is likely to come across as false and insincere, too.

Your solutions to ‘scenario’ type problems will tell the interviewer a lot about you – whether you can make tough decisions, for example, or if you have leadership qualities.

Questions about your weaknesses are usually designed to discover the extent of your self-knowledge. Keep your answers short and dignified. Identify only one area of weakness that you’re aware of and describe what you are doing to strengthen that area to demonstrate your enthusiasm for self-development. Try to avoid using the response of being a ‘perfectionist’ as it is a cliché. Remember, no one is perfect.

This is an edited excerpt from Get That Job: Interviews (Bloomsbury Business, 2022) from the Business Essentials series. Available in paperback, ebook and audio, £8.99 GBP. www.bloomsbury.com

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