TIPS FOR FRESH GRADS (AND THOSE LOOKING FOR A FRESH START)

 

Work is a great way to expose us to new environments and challenges, presenting us with experiences that will further develop our skills as well as our character.

But for this to happen, we need to find the environment that is most conducive. So if you are young and looking for work, how should you go about it?

 

Know yourself

You have only just graduated so you may think you haven’t got much to say on a CV or a job application. But having spent around 24 years on this planet, there are experiences you have had, observations you have made, things you have learned, views you have started to form. Write them down. Reflect on them. Figure out what makes you tick, what doesn’t. Discern your likes and dislikes. Find your highs and your lows. What you are proud of, where you could have done better. Your self-awareness and ability to extract lessons from experiences will start set you apart from others.

 

Get curious!

You have access to mounds of information on various industries, sectors and even the businesses themselves. Instead of spending time on social media pressing like and share, you might be better off doing some research to see what appeals to you. Make a list of companies that interest you. See what attracts you and what doesn’t. Look up the people who work there. Does anything/anyone resonate?

 

Be brave (and vulnerable)

Reach out to the companies and people you have identified to learn more. It may seem daunting picking up the phone or sending a mail to a complete stranger, but the world we live in is intimately connected. Jump on LinkedIn and track them down. See if you know someone who knows them. Create and leverage your network. Once you get hold of them, ask them about what they do. What they love about it, what they don’t. What types of people do they look for? Do you fit? Don’t hold back from telling people your aspirations. Even be brave enough to say you don’t know and you’re exploring. You will see that people are pretty kind and are willing to lend a helping hand because you know what, we’ve been there, we know what it’s like. Decent people will help and encourage you to find the right path.

 

Listen

A mentor once told me, “You have two ears, and one mouth use them in that proportion (and engage the grey matter in between)”. Ask smart questions and listen intently. Listen to what is said and what is not said – sometimes more is shared in the spaces in between. And also listen to yourself – some call it their gut, others their intuition, this will help you figure out if something is right for you or not – the package may be tempting, but are these people you want to spend your time with?

 

Do It!

Don’t be surprised if you are offered an opportunity along the way. Don’t overthink it. At some point, you must take a decision, and once you do, do it wholeheartedly. Just make sure you can learn from your boss, and s/he or someone else in the organisation will take you under their wing.

Rethinking Startup Success

We often hear ‘it’s a great company, they’ve raised $x’. This is the wrong metric, and recent disasters (e.g. WeWork, Uber and Theranos) have confirmed this. Thought it was time to peel back the layers on what we should be looking at. Here’s the article featured in Entrepreneur Middle East. read more

Discussion on AI & Intellectual Property

A recent article in Technology Review posed the question of whether AI can be an inventor. In principle, it’s a debate around IP law and whether AI can own ideas it generates. Check out the debate generated on LinkedIn. It’s worth a read. Additional views always welcome. read more

State of MENA Startups 2019

Following on from the recent report on the startup scene in the MENA Region (well done to MAGNiTT and 500 Startups for putting this together), here we peel back the layers on some of the issues raised. read more

FIND YOUR HARMONY – UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL

finding your inner harmony

Imagine a violin – its beautiful lines, the warmth of its colour, the depth of its lacquer, the tactile feel of the wood. Such a work of craftsmanship, and yet, the beauty of the violin is wasted if hidden, nestling in its velvet lined case. Its true beauty comes when it is picked up, brought in to the light, balanced in hand, tuned and the bow kisses the strings creating pure harmonies. An exquisite amplification and showcase of the player’s unique skill and technique.

This is a simple allegory for human potential, looking at our talents that, like the violin, are hidden until we pick them up and employ them. Talents need to be tuned, artfully brought out and harmonised for the myriad of possible repertoires and circumstances.

The other beautiful analogy of the violin, or any other musical instrument, is it can play many tunes, many harmonies, in solo, as a duet or leading an orchestra, both syncing and syncopating the melody and harmony to the others. The same is true of us, applying our talents to personal goals, relationships, team environments and wider organisational missions, listening to the music and tuning in.

Some pieces of music are better suited to some instruments than others – and that’s ok. You don’t see a violinist or flautist upset because a part of the composition doesn’t include their instrument at that moment. Musicians understand and love the beauty and harmony of the piece, and are happy to play their role in weaving it together. They trust the conductor, each other and themselves to do the piece justice, to woo the audience and transcend them to another place, filling them with the emotions the composer intended.

Now consider an organisation, built on great values, with a shared mission and goals. Each team member needs to play in harmony for the organisation to achieve. An environment where each person is knowing, confident and passionate about their particular talents and how they mesh with others to create beauty and harmony. Unusual words in an organisational framework, and yet, it is music to our ears when we hear positive feedback on our work, when we satisfy our customers, when we have content employees, when our shareholders are happy.

So be like the great conductors and get your orchestra to play in harmony. Lead the way in doing things differently.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

inSight - Salty not Sweet

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THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN PEOPLE AND COMPANIES

If you speak to a young person about their job search, many will say they have applied to a number of companies through their online web portal but have never heard anything. And those that get rejected are disheartened because they never got to speak to a human being. They don’t know why they got a ‘no’ so they can’t even learn along the way. I think most of us hate to see anyone lose their confidence and enthusiasm in their search for a meaningful role, let alone those just embarking on their professional lives. What should businesses that care do to prevent this?

Purpose, Vision and Values

Many companies have their purpose, vision and/or values listed on their site, but are they compelling? Is it a purpose and mission that truly reflects what the company aspires to and not just spin? Purpose, vision and values are important, but more critical is the true culture of the organisation.

Given that cultural fit is a key component in determining the suitability and longevity of a person within an organisation, it would be beneficial both for the company and the applicant to have a good understanding of the character traits they look for in determining cultural fit. These should be clearly communicated on the website and you should even give tips to young people as to how these could be demonstrated. You could have candid biographies of your current star talent at different levels of the organisation, podcasts, even call ins for applicants who want to ask questions. Fostering a human touch will improve not only the caliber and breadth of applicants but also your standing as an organisation in the community.

More than a CV

Do you think a CV is a true reflection of who you are and your capabilities? Some exaggerate their capabilities whilst others play them down, but for some reason we still use this piece of paper as a major screening tool. How does a CV highlight an individual’s attitude, personality and character? Whilst aptitude, capabilities and skills are important, there have been countless studies showing that it is much easier to teach a skill than it is to transform an attitude.

We need to encourage applicants to show more of who they are – as human beings. It is often personal experiences that demonstrate resilience, character and determination – the golden nuggets for employers. Companies need to create the environment where people feel safe to be themselves.

Get the Business Lines Involved

If we were looking for widgets to fit into a machine, I would understand the current systems. But if today’s applicants don’t become our employees, they are tomorrow’s potential clients, investors and partners. Anything we do to help foster goodwill is a good investment, for today and the future. Let’s all take it upon ourselves to do our little bit in helping guide the next generation and not leave it to a web portal or HR. If nothing else, update your LinkedIn profile saying you are willing to take a call or an email. This in turn will say a lot about your character and who knows what doors could open for you in return?

Deborah is an advocate for business as a force for good, building companies that create value, in both financial and social terms.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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3 SECRETS OF TOP TALENT

In any organisation these days, we come across a myriad of titles. But when one breaks it down, what are titles really all about? Do they help us in being better? It seems to me that sometimes, a title is a mask and stands in the way of us being our best.

For simplicity’s sake, imagine two people in an organisation, each responsible for their own area but ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of the organisation. And now imagine one of them is missing the ball on something.

I recently observed this and was fascinated by two hugely different outcomes when adopting two opposing outlooks. In the first instance, one of the colleagues was willing to allow the other to trip up. And yet, when she adopted the perspective of a fellow human as opposed to a colleague with a title, she took on an entirely different stance, one of collaboration, empathy and all hands on deck.

Somewhere along the line, we have created a belief system within organisations and ourselves that, in order to make it to the top, we have to be guarded, tough and use sharp elbows – for what end really I have no clue, since getting to the top in that manner would be very lonely indeed.

So, adopting this vein of thinking, one would like to believe that the people at the top are mean, ruthless and generally not very nice.

The good news is that this is not the case. In profiling some of the best talent from around the world, there were three elements that were consistently present amongst those who companies wanted to have as part of their team:

1. They are great human beings – possessing strength of character, commitment and integrity, they have a desire and ability to grow and guide people, working with and through others.

2. They love what they do – doing something which resonates with a deep part of who they are, something they are interested in, engaged with and committed to.

3. They all had a mentor in some way shape or form at some point in their life and/or career that imparted wisdom and guidance.

There are some positive shifts taking place, with a call to basic and traditional values of honour, integrity, respect, etc. A time when people want to treat others and be treated as human beings as opposed to numbers. Where, to bring out the best in others and ourselves, we must be true to who we are as human beings as opposed to hiding behind some title.

We are in a time when we can create positive changes in our ‘corporate’ experiences. An opportunity to instil a strong value set within our companies that resonate with and embody members of the organisation, enabling them to tap into who they truly are instead of resorting to titles for position and power. A time when companies live human values as opposed to a string of words and niceties that beef up a website or other corporate collateral. An opportunity to shape our organisations to create real value with every interaction and along the value chain.

It will be interesting to see the progress of our students, our future leaders, who are currently watching the debacle we are going through.  They are a key element since they will be demanding more from the companies they will be choosing to work for.  And if they don’t find the right value set, I hope they will have the courage, determination and network to create their own new cultures which will resonate far more deeply with the customers they will have set up to serve.

Headhunter turned talent spotter, Deborah creates the connect between people of character and companies with principles. The Founder of AMANI™, she is an advocate for business being a force for good, vested in the impact business has in both economic and social terms across various strata of society.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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HOW TO ATTRACT THE BEST PEOPLE

Searching for talent is about fixing a problem – that of finding the right person to tackle a business opportunity or challenge. Contrary to popular view, the toughest challenge is not finding the right talent. It is finding great companies to find talent for. This is because the objective is not merely to find talent but to retain it and get the best out of it.

In Executive Search, potential candidates are typically happy and successful in their current roles. In my experience, more than 80% of cases involve international relocation. This brings with it an extra layer of complexity – that of moving house and in the case of children, school.

So what are the markers that ensure the new environment would be such that the person, and their family, would settle in and stay?

Purpose

Companies need to present a compelling proposition that candidates can relate to and connect with. A company whose sole objective is to make profit with no sense of meaningful purpose or differentiator, have a tougher time attracting the right people. It doesn’t have to be complicated but something that is real and the company is committed to pursuing.

Principles in Practice

Mission statements are great but what happens in reality is what matters. People joining and working in an organisation want to ensure their own personal values will not be compromised. There is no point in brandishing a set of values if the modus operandi and decision-making does not reflect this in reality. The spin and facade might bring them into the organisation, but it will not bring out the best in them and it will not keep them.

People

The leadership and team already in place impact the quality and calibre of talent a company will be able to attract. High calibre talent looks for environments in which they can grow, excel, contribute and thrive. Leaders needs to have the ability and foresight to bring out the best in people, providing them with the tools and resources to succeed. The team needs to foster collaboration, trust and mutual respect, a cohort of colleagues with different yet complementary capabilities one can resonate with.

Performance

High ideals are great but for a company to be successful it needs to deliver. Failure to do so will result in poor financial results and the inability to support its employees. This takes appetite, commitment and follow through. For instance, if the problem to be fixed is the financial well-being of the company where a turnaround is required, the company needs to ensure they have the willingness and ability to bring about the change. There is no point in hiring people if they are hindered from doing what is necessary to deliver.

 

Packages

Fair compensation is key. That said, I would ward off anyone hiring a person whose sole motivation is the financial package. This is for the simple reason that unless the individual is aligned and committed to the mission, there is always the next biggest bidder willing to dangle a bigger carrot. It is important for people to feel they are fairly rewarded for their efforts. Compensation packages need to be fair and look at the person in terms of return on investment and effort. Companies also need to ensure the metrics they are measuring and rewarding are in alignment with the business’s objectives and principles. Avoid conflict that arises from mismatched incentive programmes – this is a sure way to demotivate people and create an atmosphere of resentment.

Process

The process through which you take a potential candidate can make or break your hire. From interviewing to induction, getting bogged down in HR processes is a sure way to turn off top talent.Talented individuals want to get a handle on the business environment, the vision and the task at hand. They are looking for data that will enable them to determine if this is the type of company they are best suited for and if they are fit for the mission at hand. If the role requires a relocation, a broader set of decision criteria will be at play. My counsel would be to identify who else is affected by the move and include them in the process.

Ultimately, companies need to ensure they have the ability to understand a candidate’s capabilities, character, concerns and level of commitment. Only in this way will you ensure you have people on board with the right fit – and cultural fit is essential for people to thrive in and add value to your business.

Deborah drives business as a force for good, building companies that create value, in both financial and social terms.

Did this resonate and you’d like to know more? Please get in touch for your confidential one-to-one.

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