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Psychometric Tests – even the England football team are doing them!! by Catriona Cookson

Psychometric tests – love them or hate them – they form a part in many hiring decisions. Even if they’re not called “tests”, and are labelled something more user friendly for example, Personality Profiling, it still feels like a test!

Recruiting in the management consultancy sector, it can be frustrating for us to see good candidates ruled out at the first stage as their profile doesn’t match the one the client is looking to hire. This begs the question – Is it really a good idea, business or otherwise, to recruit everyone with the same profile? However, if you don’t match the profile which has been shown to thrive in this firm, maybe it is better to know sooner rather than later when you may have invested a lot of time, effort and preparation into a recruitment process for a role and firm which isn’t ultimately going to be the right fit. I’ve always thought the most useful profiling tests are the ones which are very much part of the hiring decision, taken into consideration with a host of other factors. Perhaps they may be useful in highlighting training and development possibilities or as a guide in how an individual may complement an existing team’s strengths.

On the subject of teams….it seems even the England football team have been doing psychometric profiling to assess who is most suited to taking penalties. It would seem a far more sensible approach – and so far, so good – than just deciding on the day depending on who fancied having a go!!! So, love them or loathe them the profiling tests are here to stay, and as with the football, be true to yourself, answer honestly and don’t try to second guess the goalie!!

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Networking Groups for Women – Curious to Find Out More? by Liz Watt

One of the joys of developing a Coaching practice has been the opportunity to work on broader personal development projects, and one such has been establishing women’s networking groups.

A networking group can be a powerful thing. But why a women’s networking group? Research shows that one of the ‘unwritten rules’ of advancement in business is to have a strong network, both inside ones workplace, as well as within the wider business community. And yet it is a fact that most women do not have as strong a business network as their male counterparts. A dedicated group therefore provides an opportunity to develop a network amongst your industry peer group and a platform to discuss relevant issues in a safe, supportive and collaborative environment. It is an opportunity to take time away from the office to plan, reflect and learn, gaining confidence through sharing ideas and experiences.

Studies show that membership of a networking group helps increase women’s self-esteem, thus aiding them to reach their full potential.

My first venture has been a networking group for women in Indirect Tax. Established last year, it has really taken off. The founding group is approximately 14 strong, and meets once a quarter for an afternoon. We have a great guest presenter on a topical issue, there is time to discuss any topics that are relevant to the guests, and there’s plenty of opportunity for networking during the afternoon and afterwards. It’s non-technical – the prevailing view was that everyone gets more than enough technical input back at the office!

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So successful has the first group been that group 2 launches this June.

So as an example, our first speaker was Jayne Constantinis who gave a fabulous presentation on communication skills and how we can enhance them.   It was a really interactive session and stimulated lively debate!  Sally Smy of Queen Bee Styling was our pre-Christmas speaker and she gave us loads of practical guidance on personal presentation and how to build a great professional wardrobe that really works.  And then in March,  Jacqueline Heronfar-reaching insights into resilience and stress management and a raft of excellent coping strategies. We have an exciting programme planned for the rest of 2018 too.

I am delighted with how this initiative has taken off and the feedback has been great. For example: ‘a really informative and entertaining session’; ‘took away a lot of interesting points that I will certainly be implementing’ ‘a very friendly and supportive atmosphere for the group’ ‘really interesting and practical tips that can be put into practice easily’.

There seems to be real appetite for the network and the membership is drawn from the profession – Big 4, mid-tier and independent consultancies – and those in industry and commerce. The first group is based in London, for those at Senior Manager or equivalent and above. As well as a second London group, the plan is to establish a regional group and one for newly promoted managers and equivalent, who perhaps have different issues to tackle at this earlier point in their careers.

And of course, there is no reason why this networking initiative can’t be rolled out to other areas too so I will be exploring interest from other niche disciplines.

I’m keen that the networking groups should be inclusive and have been gratified at the support and sponsorship we’ve received from male clients and contacts. If there are any men who would like to find out more about the group, or come along as guest speakers, please let me know!

If you would like to find out some more about the Indirect Tax Women’s Network, or if you are interested in how I might be able to set up a network for your technical discipline, please get in touch for a chat.

Follow me on Twitter  or linked in

 

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Future Life Plan – Do You Have One? by Liz Watt

We meticulously plan so many aspects of our lives. It starts at an early age – one of the first questions you’ll hear an adult asking any child who can speak is what they want to be when they grow up, the first inkling that most of us will have that there is a bigger picture beyond the confines of our narrow childhood world. Then there is the endless planning that marks the transition from school to University or further education ; the thought and effort that goes into career planning; the intricate detail that is involved in organising the ‘big ticket’ events in life – significant birthdays and celebrations, holidays; and even the more mundane ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ type of planning.

And yet one area of our lives that is often significantly under planned, or suffers from a lack of deep thought and attention, is what the plan is for life post retirement. Or should I say pre-retirement? As the concept of traditional retirement rapidly evolves, the consideration should be what life might look like post 55 – 60.

An increasing numbers of us are finding ourselves in the position of considering our options at a far earlier stage than previous generations, especially as there is quite likely to be a gap between when we finish conventional employment and when pensions (state or otherwise) kick in. This may be an enforced situation – eg redundancy, or driven by health or family issues; it may be that one experiences a growing realisation that life in the corporate world is no longer as fulfilling and ambitions wane; or one may be in the fortunate position that financially suddenly it is possible to change tack.

Whatever the reason, the reality is that having made the decision to change direction, or retire, many are blind-sided by the question ‘Now What? ‘ Lack of planning can leave a huge gap between the world that was, and the reality that is now. The consequent issues can include boredom, loneliness, ill health, loss of purpose and direction and often financial hardship.

If at all possible I think it makes good sense to start thinking about what your future life might look like a couple of years before the change takes place. That way, you have the time to mentally acclimatize and put the practical steps in place – for example to undertake a good financial health check. You can also consider whether you still want to work and if so, in what capacity? Part time? Consultancy? Do you want to change tack completely and re-train? Or would you like to find some form of employment that simply provides company and a supplementary form of income?

If you aren’t working how will you fill your time? It is worth thinking about what your interests and passions are and how you might develop these. Or maybe there is an unfulfilled ambition or interest that you would like to focus on. It may be that charity work or volunteering are on your agenda. Then there is travel, time with family and friends, and some well-deserved down time to weave into the mix. For most people it will be a combination of all of the above!

In my experience, though, it is those with a sense of purpose that make the most successful transition. Everyone is different and the same plan won’t work for everybody. And undoubtedly there will be some trial and error involved. I have seen some people convinced that they will just want to potter at home find that they are bored senseless and have to return to work; others who had grand plans and find that actually they were far too ambitious. But undoubtedly the happiest and most fulfilled pre-retirees are those that have thought about the change, embrace the opportunities and challenges and go into it with a sense or curiosity about what might be possible.

If you are at the stage of considering your future life, but aren’t quite sure how to go about planning for this next stage and would like some help, you might like to consider my Future Life retirement planning programme. If you would like further information, please contact me Liz Watt – at bltcoaching1@gmailcom.

And if you are an employer looking to help your team with pre-retirement planning, I run Future Life learning lunches. If you would like to find out more, please contact me : bltcoaching1@gmailcom.

 

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The Gender Pay Gap – Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics? by Liz Watt

So goes the famous quote attributed to Benjamin Disraeli in the 1800’s, but the same quote could equally be applied to the present day and the gender pay gap statistics published recently.

There has been a tidal wave of comment on the statistics that all employers with over 250 employees have been compelled to disclose on their gender pay gap figures, and the data produced has veered between enlightening to quite frankly shocking.  The Sunday Times published a very good summary of the data and comment on the 8th April and of course there have been myriad articles and discussions in all the broadcast media.

I highlight the Times article though, as part of their wide ranging piece focuses on whether Footsie 100 firms ‘Talk the Talk’ – ie , does their declared gender pay gap reflect what they say about their female staff?  I think a comparison of the statistics and published comments on company websites provides a fascinating insight into the quite often yawning gap between what businesses say about their Diversity and Inclusion policies and what they actually do. Hence the slightly tongue in cheek question in the title of this piece.

I have recently witnessed the discrepancy between words and actions first hand when preparing to establish a women’s networking group. The group is for senior women working in the Indirect Tax profession and members are drawn from the accountancy profession and businesses of all size.   In the focus groups held in advance, I showed all the potential members what their company websites said about women in the workplace and asked them to talk about their own personal experiences of the reality they experienced on a day to day basis.

Needless to say, in a high proportion of cases, the reality was very different from the actual day to day experience and provided real food for thought for the delegates. It gave them the opportunity to reflect on what their businesses say they do in regard to promoting gender balance issues and how they themselves could influence the behaviours of their colleagues and the business as a whole.

Of course, the very fact that these businesses are prepared to support and sponsor their female talent through membership of a networking group says much about their ambition to bridge the gap. These businesses are actively demonstrating their willingness to promote women’s interests in the workplace and are showing their commitment to use whatever means available to them to bridge the gap.

In the same way, the gender pay gap data shines a light on what companies say they do and what they actually do. The light having been shone, the challenge now is for businesses to respond in a positive way and close the gap that these various positive initiatives highlight. The aim should surely be to dispense with the ‘damned lies and statistics’ and embrace a more honest and open culture.

If you would like to find out more about what is involved in setting up a Women’s Networking Group for your sector or business, please contact Liz Watt : bltcoaching1@gmail.com.

And if you are interested in finding out more about the Indirect Tax Women’s Network, either for yourself or for one of your team members, please contact Liz on the above email address, or on 020 7419 6416

 

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Networking – What’s In It For Me? by Liz Watt

Whilst the idea of networking can strike a chill of fear into many people, for others, networking comes naturally and they make it seem so effortless. They love it!

I would suggest though that most people – if they are honest – fall into the first category and find the whole idea of ‘networking’ and what they perceive it entails, a little intimidating.

I can still vividly remember attending my first solo networking event as a rookie recruiter, at one of the leading firms of accountants, and feeling literally terrified of the sea of people before me, all seemingly chatting away with supreme confidence, effortlessly moving from group to group, whilst negotiating the wine and canapes without spillage, and feeling in awe! It is only now, with the benefit of hindsight and a bit more knowledge, that I realise most people have felt the same at some point, and even after many years of experience will still feel apprehensive about taking the plunge and stepping into a room full of strangers.

So if the idea of networking can make all but the most hardened extrovert feel a bit nervous, why do it? What is the big deal? There is a great deal of research and anecdotal evidence that shows that having a robust professional network leads to more business opportunities, opens the door to career opportunities, strengthens and deepens sector and professional knowledge and can lead to long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. In short – building and nurturing a professional network from the early days of your career can stand you in good stead throughout your working life.

One of the most common misconceptions about networking is to assume that it is ‘selling’. It is not. In fact it is quite the opposite. It is about making connections, being curious about the people you work with, about the clients and businesses with whom you come into contact and building relationships with those people. It is about using the information and insights you gain to add to your knowledge bank of the world in which you operate and then using this to your advantage. And remember – you don’t always reap where you sow, so think of this as a long term game. If you can adjust your mindset in this way then it might make the prospect of networking a bit more palatable!

It’s important to remember that building a network isn’t just about an external network; your internal network is invaluable too and a good place to start. Those able build great relationships internally can find themselves assigned to key clients, asked to work on high profile projects and put themselves in the frame for further advancement. They are ‘visible’ and this is crucial in a fast moving and competitive business. And don’t forget that the connections you make internally may become external connections in time, as people change jobs or take on senior positions elsewhere. Very quickly the tentacles of your internal network will reach outwards and infiltrate into all sorts of unforeseen places.

So where do you start? Here are some ideas to help you build or extend your network:

  • Who do you know? Map your existing connections. You may think you don’t have much of a network, but we all have a network of some sort. It might help to divide your potential network into categories : Professional – colleagues, clients, suppliers, alumni groups, professional bodies, professional training groups; Personal – family, friends, school / university contacts, sports, hobbies, volunteer work, community contacts, wider social networks; Aspirational – people you admire in your sector, potential clients and mentors, colleagues who have technical knowledge or experience that you might benefit from; groups or networks you’d either like to join or establish.
  • What do you know? Everyone has something they can bring to the party, whatever their age and stage. There’s an assumption that the more confident networkers are those who are established in their careers and will therefore have more to talk about. However, those at an earlier stage have plenty to offer too. Maybe it’s insight into generational trends, new markets or technologies? And what are your outside interests? By doing your research in advance of a meeting or event, asking questions and actively listening to everyone you meet, you are bound to find points of interest and connection. Without too much effort, you are starting to build a relationship based on mutual interest.
  • Learn to listen! Networking isn’t about overwhelming everyone with your own magnificence. We’ve all attended events where we have been stuck with the person who loves the sound of their own voice, so don’t be that person! Work on being a great listener by asking the right open ended questions that will get people to engage with you in a meaningful dialogue. If you show genuine interest, an open and warm demeanour, people will naturally gravitate towards you.
  • What’s your purpose? It’s worth thinking about and being clear in your own mind why you are developing your network. Without a sense of purpose, anything you do won’t feel authentic.
  • Having committed to extending your network, where are you going to network? Identify what works best for you, whether it is attending industry focussed events, going to internal client seminars, arranging a coffee with someone in another department who might be useful or who you can ask advice from. Are there useful social groups you can join, or events that you can initiate and organise? And judicious uses of social media can also be a great way to extend your network – but use appropriately!
  • Once you’ve made connections, keep in touch with them. Clearly use your judgement – you don’t want to bombard people with unwanted calls or mails (think PPI or the calls you get from power suppliers – you don’t want to be seen in that bracket). But maybe there is useful industry intelligence you can share, or an event you can invite someone too – if you’ve exercised your listening skills effectively, as mentioned above, you will know what will get a positive reaction!

There is a reciprocal element to networking too. You might be able to help someone, or facilitate an introduction, or offer some advice, or mentor someone – for no immediate reward. But generally these acts of generosity don’t go unnoticed and pay back can come at the most unexpected of times.

The bottom line is that creating a network is not only advisable to maximise your career potential, but in many businesses it is seen as an essential part of your job, as a way of promoting the business and bringing in new clients. So getting comfortable with it and finding techniques that work for you are an essential part of the armoury of skills that you should be developing in your career. After all, it is no use being an industry expert if no one knows you exist! Or having fantastic ideas and no one to share them with. And what about those jobs that are never advertised that could be your dream job if only the person recruiting knew of your existence? Or that piece of business you would love to work on if only you were connected to the right people?

The case for developing a network are compelling. However, if you still feel apprehensive about your networking abilities and would like some help and advice, call Liz Watt for a confidential discussion : bltcoaching1@gmail.com

 

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