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

How to build meaningful work for your people

Business Impact: How to build meaningful work for your people

What do we mean by ‘meaningful’ work and how can organisations provide it? Degreed’s Annee Bayeux looks at factors of autonomy, complexity and recognition

Let’s face it, we’re all looking for that dream job. The one which brings meaning, purpose and growth to our lives. Yet, in many cases, our work is falling short. In fact, only 20% of employees globally are engaged at work. And that’s bad news for employees and their employers. Disengaged employees are known to be less productive, less satisfied, and less likely to remain with their employer for a long time.

Defining meaningful work

More than anything else, people everywhere are looking to have meaningful work in this moment of time, but what exactly is ‘meaningful’ work? According to author and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell, meaningful work consists of three distinct qualities:

  1. Autonomy: having control of our choices.
  2. Complexity: being able to constantly improve and be challenged.
  3. Recognition: a direct connection between effort and reward. That payoff can be financial, spiritual, social, and so forth.

Using this as a guide, HR leaders and people managers can bring meaningful work into their people’s day-to-day lives. As a Chief Learning Strategist, I see this list as a challenge to shift the learning and growth culture of an organisation.


It makes sense that anyone stuck doing rote tasks under the constant gaze of a controlling manager is not going to have much job satisfaction. There’s no fun in having little-to-no control of what you’re working on, where you work, when you work, or your career trajectory. Instead, offering greater autonomy in the workplace will boost engagement, trust, loyalty, and work quality.

So how can you build greater autonomy in your workforce? A few ways to do this include:

  • Providing greater flexibility for people to choose their working hours and environment. Some people work better in quiet spaces while others prefer the hustle and bustle of a workplace or cafe. Likewise, giving greater control over work hours can help people fit their work around other commitments, like family or personal development.
  • Offering stretch assignments that align with goals and interests. This empowers employees to seek out experiences that will build their careers and skills, while also inspiring them in work that they are interested in.
  • Offer volunteer opportunities. Similar to the above, having the opportunity to volunteer for a cause close to an employee’s heart actually has a boost effect on productivity. Studies have shown that allowing employees to help others, either externally or internally, on ‘company time’ increases productivity over time. Degreed’s traditional ‘Good Deeds Day’ gives four days a year to your favourite cause, where many employees choose to help upskill, mentor or coach others during their time off.
  • Provide opportunities to teach, mentor or coach others. People who are passionate about their work and who have built a wealth of experience, will naturally want to share this knowledge with others. Like volunteering, the intrinsic pleasure of helping others helps to keep us happy and motivated. Don’t forget about reverse mentoring, where new arrivals can help bring fresh ideas and expertise as mentors and coaches, just like your seniors. Finally, keep it democratic – using technology to level the playing field, opportunities to coach, mentor or be coached should be transparent and available for everyone, not just a ‘happy few’.  


Complexity is… well, hard. Having complex work ensures that your mind grows constantly. Helping your people to feel challenged (but in control) will enable them to discover their passions and shape their career journeys. The first step is to understand what makes your people tick. What are their interests and career goals? By understanding what motivates them, you can offer learning and career opportunities that help them achieve their goals. At the same time, this challenges them every day, especially if those learning and career activities are done in the flow of work.

Two other things to consider when developing complexity in the workday: it needs to be challenging, but not so much so that it causes constant stress. This is how ‘stretch assignments’ earned their name – for seeking to find the sweet spot between your comfort zone and learning a new skill. Find the right balance between tricky things and activities that your people are confident and experienced in.

The second thing is to provide the psychological safety to fail. My first boss once told me: ‘Annee, you can make as many mistakes as you want, as long as you only make each one once’. This tongue-in-cheek expression really teaches you the value of learning from mistakes. Building a culture focused on growth, instead of blame, will be a key factor in managing complexity. You don’t get success without some failures along the way, and failing can provide people with valuable lessons for the future. Communicate that it’s ok to fail as long as there are learnings from it.


It’s hard for me to mention recognition without mentioning rewards, but here my intention is distinct. So much of the joy of success comes from seeing how far you’ve come and equally importantly, to feel that others around you appreciate your efforts and passion. Recognition comes in many forms, from a manager recognising the great work of a team member, to colleagues who thank team members, to winning an award for a complex project. Everyone feels great to be recognised.

There are many options to help build recognition into your people’s workday.

  • Track your team’s efforts, recognising those who have gone above and beyond, and report back on progress against set goals. Allow your stars to mentor or coach others.
  • Incorporate regular feedback into your culture. This could be as informal as a quick coffee or walk, or more formally during regularly scheduled team and individual feedback meetings.
  • Remember that rewards offer proof of recognition! Consider gamification, badges, and other reward-systems that provide incentives for someone to reach specific goals and results. Peer-recognition systems can also help to recognise someone’s contribution and teamwork across a wider organisation.

Remember to recognise all forms of effort at work, whether that’s completing a difficult task, helping another department, or learning a new skill.

A thriving and motivated workforce

Building meaning into everyone’s workday will pay off with greater retention, engagement, and productivity. Your people will feel motivated to achieve their best work because it feeds their sense of purpose and passion. This creates an environment where everyone thrives, can bring their best selves to work, and who are in it for the long term.

Annee Bayeux is Chief Learning Strategist at upskilling platform, Degreed. She has 20+ years in L&D, M&A, Talent, and HR Technologies with Global 2000 companies, such as Bosch Automotive, Alstom, General Electric, and Danone.

Building your career strategy

Business Impact: Building your career strategy

What do the terms ‘insider information’ and ‘high potential’ really mean? Kimberly Cummings, author of Next Move, Best Move, outlines what you need to know and why it’s important to put together your own career strategy

When we think about career strategies, we often expect the strategy to be handed to us by senior leadership, human resources, a direct manager, or a mentor building it out on our behalf. I want to empower you to understand the importance of putting together your strategy.

This strategy will focus on your goals and align with your career opportunities, not only for your career at your current company but for your overall career. Additionally, relationships are a key part of your career strategy to help you navigate new situations and easily move into your next opportunities. If you do not believe in the power of relationship-building in your career, I hope digging into the concept of ‘insider information’ will help you understand that this career concept is non-negotiable for you.

Insider information

I affectionately call my email newsletter ‘insider notes’ because it’s my way of sharing career-related stories, insight, experiences, and tips with my subscribers. In your everyday life, insider information is the same thing. Essentially, insider information is the 15-minute coffee chat when you learn more about a stakeholder and his or her preferences for receiving information for a new business proposal, or those quick after-hour drinks when you get some helpful feedback to learn a better way to approach your role.

As you build relationships with peers, coaches, mentors, and sponsors, the insider information you receive will make or break your ability to take advantage of various opportunities. For example, whenever I learned about a new career opportunity, the first thing I would do was go through my network to determine if I knew anyone working with or for the company to conduct an informational interview.

As a professional in the workforce, you know there’s a big difference between the beautiful job descriptions and testimonials on the company website versus the actual experience working at a company, especially as a woman or person of colour. Once I locate a contact or request an introduction from someone we have in common, I prepare key questions to inform my next steps. Typically, I ask questions like these:

  • Would you share your current experience in the company?
  • Do you feel your experience has been consistent since day one?
  • What are the policies for upwards movement at your company?
  • Would you share more about your experiences with senior leadership?
  • Do you feel like you have opportunities to grow at this company?
  • Do you feel like there’s a glass ceiling for women and people of colour? If yes, why?

If the person works in the same team or department that I’m seeking to work in, I also ask the following:

  • Would you tell me more about the leadership style of the manager?
  • What are the biggest challenges your team faces?
  • Who are the key stakeholders and external teams your team works with?
  • Does your manager have any red flags he or she looks for in candidates? If so, would you identify them?
  • What do you believe the first 90 days in this role will look like?

When you rely on your company to build your career strategy, you allow it to have a singular focus for your career. Your company spends thousands upon thousands of dollars recruiting and onboarding its talent. So, of course, it likes to ensure it keeps it, which means its priority will be to keep you in your role, or a more senior role within that same department or company at-large.

High potentials

Moreover, companies frequently focus exclusively on developing their high-potential talent. ‘High potential’ can have several meanings, depending on the company, but what I’ve seen, especially for women and people of colour, is that although they do phenomenal work, they may not have the talent designation of high potential.

High potential is short for:

  • Ready for an opportunity for promotion
  • Ready for a new, lateral opportunity
  • Ready to begin managing people
  • Ready for a stretch assignment
  • Needs more development but is very promising, and efforts need to be made to retain the talent, so the employee does not pursue external opportunities

After more than 11 years of career development experience in higher education, talent acquisition, and coaching hundreds of clients, I have seen that many companies do not have strict guidelines on the definition of high potential. Without high-potential definitions to remove bias and allow managers to make an objective assessment of their talent, that talent is being evaluated at the mercy of the managers.

I’ve had some great managers and some terrible managers in my career, and one of the best pieces of advice I received was from one of my mentors, a senior executive at a Fortune 100 company. She advised that not all feedback is about me. When she shared this during a conversation, my mind was blown. I had an experience in my office that I wanted to review with her, and she changed the way I thought about performance appraisals and feedback in the workplace. Managers are responsible for providing feedback and insights about their teams that can make or break a team member’s career. However, a biased opinion can paint a picture of a team member that does not align with that member’s skill set, performance, and career objectives.

This is an edited extract from Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into A Career You’ll Love by Kimberly B Cummings (Wiley, 2021).

Kimberly Cummings is an author, career expert, and the Founder of leadership development company, Manifest Yourself. She has a background as a career development adviser for US universities, and as a diversity and inclusion professional at a Fortune 100 company.

BGA members are able to receive a 20% discount off the RRP for Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning into a Career You’ll Love, courtesy of the BGA Book Club. Click here for details.

Building your career profile through experimentation

Business Impact: Building your career profile through experimentation

‘Get on the dance floor as soon as the party starts and show off your moves.’ Michel Masquelier, author of This is Not a Dress Rehearsal, says it’s never too early to embrace experimentation and start building your unique profile

Your grades and your CV are no guarantee of success. And even if they help open the door for you, the leap from theory to practice is one you will have to make by yourself, without a safety net and without the helping hand of parents or teachers. You will gain wisdom and build your confidence through a succession of experiments, through trial and error, on your journey.

Experiment as early as possible

Before undertaking her degree at the University of Edinburgh, my eldest daughter, Charlotte, had held six different summer jobs requiring three different languages – French, Spanish and English. The tasks she was given ranged from making the morning coffee to translating interviews, or simply being a runner from one desk to another. She started at the bottom and began to demystify the unknown world of work.

While taking her degree, and after graduation, she secured several internships. These ranged from an Erasmus scholarship working for EuroLeague basketball in Barcelona to working in online education in London, working in data management in Melbourne, being a marketing assistant in Hong Kong and acting as a media rights assistant at UEFA in Nyon, Switzerland.

It has become increasingly common for young people to take a gap year, either before or after graduation. That can be great fun, and a great opportunity to learn and grow. Charlotte decided to sacrifice the fun, however, and dive straight into the corporate world – to learn the trade from the inside. After a couple of years, she decided to deepen her understanding of the business by enrolling for a master’s degree at Esade Business School in Barcelona.

The choices that now lie ahead of her include going back into the corporate world or flying with her own wings and starting a business. Whatever path she chooses, she has embraced experimentation to build up a unique profile for herself, with experience based on tasting the real thing at an early stage and building communities of real friends.

The path to knowledge is practice

I am an advocate of internships. At IMG, I used such opportunities to test the practical ability, motivation and ambition of people who would later be given proper challenges and responsibilities. Many of the talents that came through the IMG internship programme went to the very top, driven by hard work and determination, as well as their innate abilities. This was how my own journey started too. I wanted to get my foot in the door and an internship was a way of doing this.

I was determined to break any barrier to have the privilege of jumping on the corporate ladder, building relationships, and learning the trade. However you are able to get your start, I recommend that you get on the dance floor as soon as the party starts and show off your moves, regardless of how outrageous or clumsy they might be. Practice, goodwill, hard work and experimentation are prerequisites for the journey to success.

You may be a talented artist, a gifted athlete or possess a scientific intellect, but without experimentation and practice, you are not yet a star. You may like cooking and feel passionate about it, but to become a recognised chef you will need to go beyond reading recipes. It is about hard work, experimenting, innovating, taking inspiration from others, creating and progressing.

No one starts as an expert. You may be gifted, talented and well educated, but the path to knowledge is practice and the earlier you take a deep dive the better: to experiment, to learn languages, to see the world, to taste real things. It is never too early to start. Do not waste time; the journey is shorter than you think.

This is an edited excerpt from This is Not a Dress Rehearsal (Practical Inspiration Publishing, 2021) by Michel Masquelier.
Michel Masquelier is the former chairman of IMG Media, part of the global sports management agency. After graduating with a degree in law, he worked his way up the ladder at IMG from intern to chairman.

BGA members can receive 20% off the price of a copy of This is Not a Dress Rehearsal courtesy of the BGA Book Club. Click here for details.

Understanding the media industry’s brave new worlds

A dark Sci-fi landscape of mountains on an unknown world with two moons on a night horizon symbolises brave new worlds.

‘Like one of the outer moons of our solar system; exotic, constantly evolving, febrile, white hot, relentlessly volcanic…’ The National Film and Television School’s Alex Connock outlines the importance of understanding today’s media landscape and developing confidence in all of its commercial forms

Question: What do Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, Fortnite and Netflix all have in common? Answer: none of them even existed in the year 2000. 

Go back a couple more years and you can add Amazon (founded in 1994, at the very start of the internet) and Google (1998) to that list. What this means is that many of the companies that determine the rhythm and the content of our daily lives are extraordinarily new. That’s indicative of a media landscape, a content footprint across all our lives, that has been in a state of constant agitation. In fact, the media business is like one of the outer moons of our solar system; exotic, constantly evolving, febrile, white hot, relentlessly volcanic… and a place you definitely want to go.

‘No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world,’ said comedian, Robin Williams, which is why media is the industry of which everyone knows the products (shows and songs) and everyone has an opinion. That makes it a joy to be in. Content spending in 2020 (a Covid year, by the way) was $149 billion USD in the US, growing at a staggering 16% year on year. Meanwhile, in Asia it was growing even faster in the same year, at 19%, and in Africa, at 46%. This means that, over time, the content creation industry is getting bigger, less west-centric, and more imaginatively global. 

From screen and audio to social media: how media has changed

Segment the media business down into its constituent categories – and you can see how radical the changes have been, and how challenging it is to fully own the space. 

Screen has seen the invention of streaming platforms to supplant the pre-eminence of the broadcast powerhouses like CBS or ITV which had defined the latter part of the 20th century, and radically upend their business models. Now, AI (specifically, machine learning) layered onto home screen platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon or Disney +, provide personalisation to user tastes at a globalised, but individual, level. The shows you are served, and the order in which you are served them, is completely unique. YouTubehas come out of nowhere to become the principle media channel for many young peoples’ lives. Meanwhile, the production technologies of video games, like Fortnite, are lending the ability to create whole new worlds in virtual studios to shows like The Mandalorian. Finally, the cinema itself has been in decline in the west (although not in China).

Audio has changed just as much. Chris Martin from Coldplay said: ‘No one really knows where songs come from’, but those involved in making them do need to know where the money comes from. Artists used to make their money from record and CD sales. Then came downloads, illegal at first, which decimated record company incomes and put the whole business model of music in jeopardy. Streamers, specifically Spotify, provided a new hope of firm revenues, but artists and record companies remain locked in alternative interpretations of who is due what.  Meanwhile, radio has been edged out by the breakthrough model of podcasting. 

In the 20th century, humanity made it to the moon – but it didn’t invent social media.  That took until the early 21st century, but now (in the west, that is) Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms are the pre-eminent media businesses in every respect except that they don’t consider themselves media businesses, because they don’t want to accept editorial responsibility for the content that is uploaded. Their production model is radically new in that it is outsourced to users. Their revenue model is driven by the personalisation and AI algorithms that make digital marketing the most powerful business tool of the era. And this is only the beginning of an era in which computer vision (another form of AI) will radically shift how we choose and interface with our entertainment.

Then there are video games – arguably the biggest and fastest-growing media sector on earth right now. One company, Riot Games, which makes League of Legends, has more than 400 job vacancies at the time of writing, such is the speed of its growth and demand for talent. There are e-sports teams and leagues too, each hungry for skilled workers. There are also business tools, like Substack, driving monetisation into blogging, hitherto a business for the penniless. And then there are traditional segments like book publishing (a sector whose demise was called way too early and which is now showing strong growth) theatre, events, festivals, music touring (Ed Sheeran, earned $700m USD on his last tour) commercials, documentaries… Oh, and sports. The soccer (football) teams, Barcelona and Manchester United, are media businesses, and best understood as such. 

Specialist skills required to thrive

Put simply, the media is of a greater breadth and scale than at any time in history.  This creative sector requires specialist skills and knowledge that can help you thrive in the industries within. As it’s primarily a gig economy with short-term, contract-driven employment, even cellists and dancers need to know enough about business to thrive. Meanwhile, those who want to design or run businesses, from animation to gaming, need to understand the multiple, complex models which drive them. Many of the text books that would tell you how to do that are so far out of date they still talk about TV advertising oligopolies and CDs. A better perspective would be that of writer, Charlie Fink, on the coming impact of augmented reality: ‘The world is about to be painted with data’.

The skills you need now, in the 2020s, are quite precise. You need to understand digital marketing – because that’s what drives sales from Broadway producers to an organic Instagrammer. You need to understand the drivers of idea creation, and how to copyright and sell those ideas – whether they are TV formats like the smash-hit US show Survivor (now in its 21st year) or the Korean megahit The Masked Singer. You need to understand accounting and finance, from the cash flow behind a streaming hit, like Chernobyl or Money Heist, to the monetisation technologies that will work in metaverse gaming concepts. You need to know how to deal with an agent, how to present a business plan, how to organise production of merchandising around your children’s animation, or how to sell advertising for a podcast. These days, even restaurants are media businesses: they make shows for Netflix and Apple TV.

Everyone in the media needs to know their worth and make sure they get paid.  ‘Chaplin’s no negotiator,’ said studio boss Sam Goldwyn of the notoriously business like silent movie star. ‘He just knows he can’t take anything less.’

There is an opportunity in business education to make sure graduates go out into the market knowing not to take anything less. Our specialist MA in Creative Business at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) maps the landscape by introducing students to a range and depth of media guests that would be impossible for a generalist education. It allows aspirant businesspeople to work with animators on product development, to deep-dive into a media sector – from the contemporary horror films of Jordan Peele and specialist Instagram commercials production for e-commerce to developing a business plan and pitching it to venture capitalists specialised in the industry. 

At the end of that, graduates emerge with an understanding of the media and a confidence in all of its commercial forms, such that they can specialise in one field, but have an informed perspective on all the others. Screenwriter, William Goldman famously wrote: ‘In Hollywood, no one knows anything.’ Only someone with proper inside knowledge could say something that smart.

Alex Connock is Head of Department of the Creative Business MA at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, UK.

Feeling ‘forgotten’? Seven steps to reclaim control of your future

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From turning rejection into opportunity to identifying strengths and matching these up with a suitable role or industry, there are lots of things students and graduates can do to lessen any sense of feeling ‘forgotten’ by their university during Covid-19, says Results Strategist, Cel Amade

This past year has been tough, and the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 may not have had the same opportunities as preceding classes to gain additional skills before graduation day. In the blink of an eye everything changed. Internships, job offers, and graduation plans went out the window. These cancellations and postponements left many graduates around the world feeling overwhelmed and, in many ways, forgotten by their university.

University is a great platform to explore and strengthen our natural talents and strengths safely. The reality is – exploring one’s strengths in order to do what we love post-graduation is not an obvious choice, but it’s a crucial one if you are after personal and career fulfilment and not just ‘any job’.

When students and graduates find themselves feeling abandoned, forgotten, or let down, they often find it harder to believe that they have what it takes to achieve their graduate goals. On that note, here are seven steps that I would recommend to any students and graduates looking to combat the idea of feeling forgotten by their university and to shift their focus to ideas they can actually execute. Ideas that are within any student or graduate’s control and that can help them design their own world after graduation.

1. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, shame, blame, guilt, regret or anger

We all have our fair share of shame, blame, guilt, regret or anger. Whether it is the shame of thinking you’re not employable after graduation. The blame for getting your internship or job offer cancelled. The guilt of what you could have done while you were too immersed in your studies, busy procrastinating or the pain of regret that comes with all of the above… Even though we cannot change our past, the most valuable thing students and graduates can do for themselves is to forgive their past and understand where they are now in relation to where they want to be.

2. See rejection as an opportunity

Too often, recent graduates use someone else’s definition of success before coming to the realisation that they have been rejected for roles that had nothing to do with their strengths. And from that perspective, rejection might not feel so painful after all.

Rejection can provide graduates with the opportunity to choose a role that is more in line with their natural talents and strengths. Rejection can provide more clarity. More clarity often equates to greater confidence in knowing what value a graduate is bringing to the table. And this increased confidence lessens the idea of feeling forgotten. Rejection might even make graduates realise that they have paid little attention to what they really ‘want’. Perhaps, for example, they have been applying to big companies all along just so that they could tell themselves and others that they work for ‘a big company’.

3. Identify your strengths

When we use our natural talents and strengths, we tend to feel more engaged and productive. We feel happier and energised. We get that buzz that comes with doing what we enjoy and we feel like we are being our ‘true self’. We are not pretending to be someone we are not. A great way to identify our strengths is to think back to some of our biggest achievements and try to identify which strengths were used to achieve those great outcomes.

4. Ask for feedback

If you are having trouble identifying your strengths, ask for feedback. It would be premature to conclude you have no strengths or natural talents. Everyone is good at something… Reach out to friends, peers, university staff and colleagues that know you well and ask them to help you answer these three questions.

  • When you need to ask for my help, what do you generally come to me, versus anybody else, for help with?
  • What do you see as my biggest strength?
  • What do you think makes me unique?

Any common themes in their responses – and that also feel right – would be a good indication of what your strengths are. Their responses will also be a reminder that your university connections have not forgotten you.

5. Exercise your strengths

The largest room in the world, is the room for improvement. Being aware of our strengths is life changing, but it’s only truly transformational when we choose to use our strengths. Once you have figured your strengths out, look for opportunities to apply those strengths. What resources does the university have? Are there any volunteering projects or partnership opportunities with student societies that would enable you to exercise your strengths?

Actively participating in leadership activities or creating new opportunities to reconnect with the university as you exercise your strengths can help combat this idea of feeling forgotten or abandoned by the university. There is boldness, genius, magic and power in recognising your strengths, using your strengths and taking strategic action towards your desired result!

6. Follow the rule of five

Match your strengths to a job type, field, or industry you would enjoy working in and get laser-focused to achieve your goal, by following the rule of five. Commit to do five (big or small) tasks every single day that bring you closer to your definition of a successful graduate life or your desired result. These five tasks could be as simple as sending five LinkedIn messages to professionals who are currently working in your dream role and which might allow you to gain insights of what their role entails on daily basis.

7. Define success in your own terms

What does a ‘successful’ graduate life look like for you? What industry or field do you wish to work in? What impact do you wish to have in the world of business and management? How do you wish to be remembered? Do you belief you can achieve it? Being able to define your own meaning of success clearly will add a sense of purpose to your life and get you one step closer to achieving it.

Cel Amade is a Results Strategist who delivers workshops and keynotes to facilitate, guide and inspire university students and graduates. Her educational YouTube content has amassed more than 433,000 views in the past year. She is committed to helping students make a smoother transition from university to graduate life and feel empowered to design their own world.


Are professional networking sites hazardous to job searches?

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The importance of understanding how to use LinkedIn and other professional networking sites, and the risks of overuse, highlighted in research from Emlyon Business School’s Nikos Bozionelos

Professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, have long been hailed as one of the best ways to connect with others in a professional capacity; through online networking with those in the same industry, its online CV platform and its easy-to-use job searching and application features. It’s safe to say the platforms’ main purpose is to connect people for new professional opportunities, and this is exactly what it does. 

In fact, according to LinkedIn, 100 million job applications are submitted through its platform every single month – which makes it seem like the ideal place to seek new job opportunities. This is certainly the case, but only if the platform is used correctly and wisely.

Common beliefs challenged 

In a study conducted at Emlyon Business School, we looked into the effective use of LinkedIn as a job searching platform to determine whether there was any best practice for finding a new role. A key finding was that jobseekers who excessively use professional networking sites (PNS) such as LinkedIn, to search for jobs are less likely to find a job via that route. 

Two common beliefs seem to be that the amount of time you dedicate to looking for job opportunities via PNS is of equal importance to other factors, such as qualifications and experience, and that the more applications you launch, the better your chances of finding a job. These beliefs were challenged by the findings of the aforementioned study, which surveyed 104  employed individuals in France at the end of 2019. The respondents represented all age categories, with a third aged 45 years old and above, for example, and were relatively balanced in terms of gender, with 41% women and 59% men. 

Respondents completed questionnaires that covered: frequency of use of PNS (all of them were using LinkedIn); intensity of interaction when using the platform (i.e. the degree to which they connected with other individuals and organisations); the number of job applications they launched; their desire to change jobs; and the number of job offers they had received. They were also asked for their main reasons for using PNS, and the impact they believe it has had on their careers. This data was supplemented with questionnaire responses from 28 people who were involved in recruitment, and four interviews with hiring managers and HR professionals with more than 85 years of working experience between them, to gain a recruiter’s perspective. 

A cautionary note for candidates in frequency and intensity of use

The results found that 70% of the employed individuals perceived that PNS had increased their opportunities for a career change, including finding a new job and changing their occupation. Indeed, 44% of respondents indicated they had found their current job through PNS. 

There was also a very clear pattern between the length of time they have been using PNS for and the desire to find a new job. The less time people were using PNS for, the greater their desire to find a new job. However, the vast majority of participants did not think that use of PNS increased their desire to change jobs. Therefore, our data suggests that it is the desire to find a new job that may entice people to start using PNS rather than the other way around. 

Yet, arguably the most arresting findings were how frequency of PNS use, intensity of use, amount of job applications launched, and the number of job offers received were related to each other. The relationship between frequency of use and receipt of job offers resembled a U-shape. People who used PNS either very infrequently or frequently had the highest chances of reporting receiving a job offer. Those with intermediate levels of frequency of use were the least likely to report receiving a job offer. 

The pattern with respect to intensity of use – defined as the amount of effort expended to contact others and launch job enquiries – was the reverse. Results here approximated an inverted U-shape, with the chances of receiving a job offer increasing until a point at which the chances then drop dramatically. An increasing intensity of job search via PNS was therefore beneficial to finding a job until a certain point, but too much effort was detrimental to the receipt of job offers. Finally, the amount of job applications launched was negatively related to job offers, the more applications launched the less the chance of them leading to the receipt of a job offer.  

Taken together, these findings suggest that a high number of job applications and a high number of attempts to contact others on PNS do not, in themselves, bring the best outcome. In fact, if viewed in terms of utility (a useful scientific index of benefits divided by effort expenditure) the outcome is close to the worst possible. The most plausible explanation is that PNS users who initiate many contacts and launch job applications with high frequency through PNS may lack selectivity. They may, for example, take all responses as ‘invitations’ to apply and launch job applications regardless of whether the positions fit their skillset, background or experience. 

Launching a great many job applications is also likely to lead to applications not being thoroughly put together. Such applications can often lack sufficient detail, or a persuasive cover letter, which fail to impress recruiters. As a consequence, there is less chance of identifying those jobs that suit them best and they have less time to prepare their application adequately and maximise their chances of success.

Indirect importance of a strong profile

The responses of recruiters and HR professionals were in line with the findings from the main survey. Eight out of 10 recruiters felt that PNS are most useful for expanding one’s professional network and becoming aware of opportunities rather than for directly applying for jobs. Their responses also pointed out the importance of PNS for indirect success in the job market – seven out of 10 noted that they look at applicants’ PNS profile, regardless of the route via which he/she applied for the job. 

It seems that the best approach to using a PNS, such as LinkedIn, to search for jobs is to view the social media platform as a way to network with as many relevant people as possible. Putting a name to a face and having general conversations can increase a person’s chances of being informed about, or applying for, a job that fits their skills, experience and desires. This is more effective than just applying for any job that is loosely related to their desires. 

PNS may also be more beneficial when used as a piece of personal branding, self-promotion and an impression management tool – making it easier for recruiters to see a candidate’s skillset and knowledge and making them more accessible to these same recruiters. 

In the circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic (or other crises of a similar nature), people should ‘keep their nerve’ and hold on to the above approach. The pandemic is far from being over in the ‘western’ world, and firms will continue to be cautious while trying to maximise resource efficiency – hence, they are less likely to hire. When they do hire, they will be very selective to attract, and get, exactly the right person (and they will have the luxury of a larger-than-usual pool of well-qualified candidates). 

An approach that allows PNS users to launch well-thought and well-prepared applications for the jobs into which they fit most will therefore maximise the chances of success in a difficult market. Enhancing one’s personal branding through a PNS profile – at which firms look at – will further enhance the chances of success in a job application. 

Nikos Bozionelos is Professor of International HR Management at Emlyon Business School. His research focuses on careers and career management, employability, individual differences in the workplace, high-performance work systems, and cross-cultural issues in management.

This article originally appeared in Ambition – the magazine of the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

Strategy is not just for organisations

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People need to plot their course for the future as much as firms, and using the same processes deployed by organisations can help develop your career strategy, says Saïd Business School’s Kathryn Bishop

Sarah works in the head office of a UK retailer, and has been frantically busy over the last few months, as her employers have moved their business online. They’ve made rapid changes, opening up new distribution and delivery methods and investing heavily in web design and data collection.  This was all new to them – and to Sarah, too. She has had to learn fast to oversee these new developments, and work closely with people in partner organisations whom she has never met and whose work she doesn’t really understand. It’s been a demanding year, and it doesn’t look as if things will ever go ‘back to normal’, or return to the way they were.

As we come out of the pandemic, Sarah is wondering what to do next – and so are her employers.

She has proved to herself that she can adapt and pick up something new quickly – and this could help her to make a transition into completely different role. Could this be the right time for her to pursue her interest in film, maybe by working for a media distribution or streaming business?  Or should she stay where she is? After all, online retail is here to stay and there will be plenty of new developments in the months ahead. 

Sarah needs to plot her course, decide whether to make a move and to time it to best advantage. And that’s precisely what organisations will need to do, as consumer behaviour continues to change.

Defining new strategies

Strategy teams inside organisations are gearing up for the work ahead, researching new market trends and devising possible new operating models. They are also thinking about the right time to implement these plans.

So, as they sharpen their pencils and get to work, there are parallel questions for each of us: what are you going to do next? Where do you want to work in the next few years? Is this the right time to change employers or even to move into self-employment? And if you are forced into making some changes because of post-pandemic pressures, how will you decide what to do?

Applying strategy ideas to yourself

This is the what, when and how of strategy: what to offer the market, and when – and how best to make these changes. There’s a why, too: has the organisation’s purpose, its reason for being, changed in this new context? All those questions apply to Sarah, and to all of us, as we try to manage our working lives for the next few turbulent years.

‘Strategy’ is a word with multiple definitions but here’s one: ‘a set of guiding principles which when communicated and adopted in the organisation generates a desired pattern of decision making.’ Having our own set of guiding principles will make the next few years easier to navigate.

Start with a focus on the present, and then look forward

For individuals, these principles come from your view of both the present and the future: where are you now, and where do we want to be?  To develop your own strategy for you, start where organisations typically start: look at your current skills and resources and see what’s working well now, and what’s not going so well.

Add to that a view of your ideal future – where do you want to be in five or 10 year’s time? – and you will have a much better basis for deciding on your next step. For example, Sarah might conclude that her aim is to be promoted into a much more senior role and that therefore she’d be better off capitalising on her current experience and networks and staying where she is.

It’s easy to ask these questions about your possible future options, but they are often hard to answer. The tried-and-tested strategy processes used by organisations can help you develop your own answers, so that you are ready to make the choices and seize the opportunities which lie ahead for all of us, as we move into our next normal.

Kathryn Bishop is an Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and Chair of the Welsh Revenue Authority. She is also the author of Make Your Own Map: Career Success Strategy for Women (Kogan Page) – written for women, but containing ideas that will work for everyone.

BGA members can benefit from a discount on Make Your Own Map, courtesy of the Book Club. Please click here for details.

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