Goodbye

This is my final post on Inside Edge, as I leave Edge Hill and move into my new job. Here are a few highlights to my time as an undergraduate:

  • Passed my first job interview for an associate position in the Corporate Communication department at the University.
  • Gained a monetary grant through a programme Edge Hill was running with, to start my record label project.
  • Became a volunteer classroom assistant which got me into teaching – the vacancy was advertised through the Uni’s Careers Service.

Overall, I’m happy with my academic performance and my extra curricular activity, and maybe I should have gone to more events as there were a lot around, especially in Liverpool… Oh well, there’ll be time for event going in the future.

I’m thankful for this job writing for the University blog as it meant I could share my knowledge of Employability, a subject I am passionate about.

Good luck to all graduates looking for work and those starting new jobs!

Moving Out – Moving In

This week marks a moment which comes at the end of every graduate’s Uni career, leaving the student accommodation. I have been fortunate enough to live in a place which is quiet, really close to the shops, and have a landlord who is, well, good at being a landlord.

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After.

In terms of lessons I learned from being in student accommodation, here are the main ones:

  • Choose a place close to the shops – Less hassle when dragging shopping from one place to another, especially if you suddenly run out of something.
  • It helps when the room has thick walls – Less noise pollution to worry about.
  • Spend ages budgeting for the next academic year BEFORE you sign up for accommodation – Make sure you can afford to live and eat and buy essentials on the income you will be getting (not “might” be getting, like Birthday money etc.).

I wish I could show photos my new accommodation where I’ll finally be living on my own, but for now I can that that’s a new experience because the new accommodation is rented via an agency rather than through a private landlord (which also means that rent is paid automatically for me now – again, budget budget budget for safety).

Accounts Accounts Accounting

It’s been a while since I’ve done any accounting, so as I’m currently getting my money sorted out for my upcoming postgraduate job, I’ve remembered how stressful budgeting for a full year actually is.

It’s made a little problematic as I won’t be able to get a part time job to support my studies, because technically my studies IS a full time job, and of course I won’t really be able to predict any unexpected costs…

But alas, I will budget as best as I can for the Academic year from September 2015 to September 2016.

This post is about my budgeting process.

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A spreadsheet can help with budgeting. For forumulas, type in “=” then “A1+B2” etc.

I use Google Sheets which comes free with a Google account, and since it’s online, I can access it anywhere with an internet connection as well as export it to different. The alternative is Excel which comes free with an Outlook account, and Open Office which is a free version of Microsoft Office for offline work.

Sheets is of course a Spreadsheet software, hence I can add formulas into the tables and accurately calculate cash flow in and out…

FLOW IN

Personally, my cash flow “in” comprises of student loans, money from work, and birthday money, but it can include money about to be refunded such as a returnable bond used for accommodation.

FLOW OUT

My cash flow “out” is primarily the weekly rent multiplied by the amount of weeks I’m staying, plus the bond and summer retainer. I have also included money for travel as my postgraduate study will require it.

So after the money “out” has been deducted from the money “in”, I then divide that money by how many weeks I am staying at my new accommodation, and I have a weekly amount which I can spend on food and resources.

Of course then comes the task of budgeting for food and resources, and a lot of discipline in choosing the best places to buy certain items and ONLY buying those items.

In addition to all this, there is the case of gaining extra funds, albeit through attempting to find a casual job or getting additional loans, which is, to me, too variable to add to my cash flow and will only get added when those extra funds are confirmed.

To summarise, I have created my own cash flow account to ensure I don’t run out of money during my postgraduate study, and to help me budget effectively. I will also save where I can just in case there are unexpected costs.

One month before my new job…

It is dawning on me that on the horizon is my postgraduate study, or as I prefer to call it, my new full time job because of time consuming it actually will be. With that said, coupled with what I’ve heard from others who have done the same course as me, I’m aware that I’m not going to have much of a life from September. That’s not a bad thing to me, but it does mean that I’m to make the most of what hobbies I have right now, as well as get ready for what’s coming as I know I will get plunged into the deep end. This post is about my own preparation, which perhaps may help others identify what they need to do before starting or continuing their own post uni work.

Planning Ahead

One ideology I should really start putting more into practice is that I should move forward, but not move towards a wall. In other words, I must plan for the future before making moves in the present. I have looked at my CV, and judging by what I’ve done in the past as well as what my current ambitions, I have sketched out a few ideas on what to go for in the long run. But right now, I want to do my best at my upcoming job with the future in mind.

Reading

As with any new job or postgraduate study, there’s an element of heavy preparation involved beforehand. I’ve been reading up on subject knowledge as well as what’s required from those doing what I’m about to be doing so I’m not caught too off guard. I’m also brushing up on communication skills and politics, as they’ll both influence my decisions during the next year.

Practicing

And finally, there’s the element of practice makes perfect. I want to be ready for anything.

I’m slightly nervous but excited at the same time, and I’m making the most of my hobbies this month as I may have to say goodbye to them next month. But hopefully, my passion for my subject will see me through, and more importantly I’ll get to help as many people as possible in the future.

Maturity In The Workplace

Over this past year, I’ve had quite the frustrating experience in trying to figure out why there are helpful, friendly workers, and there are mean, unfriendly workers.

But then, the answer struck me earlier this week.

The one thing that separates those two groups of workers is maturity.

I witnessed workers from the latter group get very angry over tiny things, show their idea of saying “hello” as psychical assault, and / or try to solve most problems with shouting and cynicism – hence my conclusion.

This is not to say that acting immature affects the workplace negatively, as I know workers (including myself) who sometimes act immature and no harm done, but an immature mindset is a different story, because I’ve seen those with mostly that mindset react to problems in a negative way, which of course disenchanted the workplace.

Safe to say, this discovery has greatly concerned me from an employability standpoint.

Everyone is unique, but how can one expect to gain and / or progress in employment if it seems one usually applies immaturity to problem solving…?

And so, how do you maintain a “mature mindset”, where problems are usually solved in a positive, calm, and professional manner?

First of all, all attitude is learned, so a good place to start is by continuously learning from those who react maturely. For example, do they react to situations, challenges etc. professionally or unprofessionally?

Another way of maintaining a mature mindset is by being politically minded, in that consideration of the wider picture is taken into account, such as people’s feelings towards your behaviour. For example, if you shout at or heavily criticise others for no valid reason, what affect will that have on your reputation in the workplace?

And finally, one’s stress levels can be managed to the extent where stress isn’t always in control. Physical exercise (which genuinely works for me), thinking about what to be thankful for, and talking with others about frustrations can help alleviate feelings that could lead to seemingly immature actions.

Ultimately, leave all situations on a positive note. If things turn bad because of immature decisions, be really active in turning those things into something good.

This is a very tricky blog post for me to write – It’s important that I reinforce acceptable behaviour in the workplace, but every body has a different way of reacting to situations, maturely or immaturely, and I accept that.

While it’s extremely rare for me to come across negative immature mindset fuelled behaviour in the workplace, as I’ve witnessed recently, it is very possible for someone to be mostly mature, but suddenly react immaturely to a serious situation, and genuinely lose colleagues’ trust temporarily, which prompted me into writing this post.

Personally, I recommend that it’s better to react to situations maturely, as whether the situation is positive or negative, people will probably be drawn to those that are welcoming towards ideas and solutions, and will probably not be drawn to those that kick and scream.

Priorities

This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.

Recently, I’ve sometimes become disenchanted, sometimes even disgusted, with a few’s communication skills, thus now is a good time to write about generally what to prioritise when working.

This post is informed by “charity leadership” articles from respected press publications, and my own experience.

Even in offices which look calm and peaceful, I can almost guarantee that there’s some bad feeling beneath the surface – This is when prioritising certain areas can help lower that bad feeling…

1. Health And Safety

Some may say that it’s the Customer that comes first, but I think it’s best to make sure you’re safe and healthy primarily, so that then you’re able to prioritise the customer.

If you know about the “hierarchy of needs”, you’ll know that once you feel safe, you’ll be more comfortable and confident in your work.

2. The Customers

While I was tempted to subhead this paragraph as “Customers and Colleagues”, ultimately it’s the Customer that keeps the business, especially private firms, afloat.

I read in a Guardian article that not having good restraint with your ego can lead to poor working decisions… and I completely agree.

Whenever someone really puts their pride first (leave problem solving to the last minute, do things that only makes one happy), then that person’s performance, shockingly, deteriorates into ‘lazy and selfish’ territory.

I didn’t really notice it happening until I myself was called ‘lazy and selfish’ and I realised that by not putting others first all the time, I affected others without me noticing, which is a bad thing.

Safe to say, I’ve drastically changed my approach to work these days.

3. Colleagues

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, most work involves teamwork and as I’ve recently realised, the politics of teamwork can be affected by both inside the office and outside the office.

While the same professional attitude applied to customers can be applied to colleagues, it’s important to know that colleagues genuinely talk about you when you’re not around, hence it’s important to make positive decisions as much as you can, or else some bad feeling underneath the surface may start to simmer – the danger being that you may only find out that there’s bad feeling at the last minute, which would then require using up quite some time and effort to put it right.

4. The Company

You’ll probably say that it’s the Company that comes first in a job application, and that’s fine, but the reason I’ve put it so far down the list is because the company would only exist if it were for comfortable customers and colleagues.

The company’s policies, targets and objectives affect everything the worker does of course, so be sure to familiarise yourself with them so that you know that no matter what you prioritise, your actions will keep those employing you happy.

5. Career Progression

If you have a job and you can pay the bills, why bother trying for a “better” role? While some may be happy in their current position, some may want certain responsibilities and / or money and so on, and the latter may form positive relationships with peers and apply for a new role when it becomes vacant.

Hopefully these priorities will improve your performance at work.

As a final point, I have finally realised that “Employability” is in fact a form of Politics which considers the wider perspective of how people, such as stakeholders in a company, will feel and react. 

Now I theorise that researching politics (such as the science and philosophy of it) will greatly aid a job seeking process…

Graduation Series: “I’m a grad with excellent teamwork and communication skills!”

[ Countdown to Graduation: 0 days. Yay, I’ve graduated now 🙂 ]

This blog post is the one (hopefully) everyone has been waiting for – My opinion on how to get a job after graduation. You’ve probably noticed that the title of this blog contains two of the biggest cliches in graduate job hunting – That’s not to say that they’re unworthy elements of a job application, but of course it’s best to think about job seeking with a broad and creative mind.

Step 1 – What do you want to do?

Close your eyes. Imagine you doing your dream job. What would happen if it lasted for 24 hours only? Open your eyes. Now that you know what you would love to do, you can develop a sense of what you realistically can do. If you imagined yourself as a rich and famous singer, then realistically you could maybe gun for a role in marketing and do singing as a side hobby. If you imagined yourself as a teacher, then realistically you could maybe get a teaching qualification after checking your subject to teach is definitely in demand.

Step 2 – Talk to people

Ever wonder why there’s such a lack of graduate level jobs out there? Whilst actually there, they’re mostly hidden and are only shown to those that network beneath the surface. Whilst it is important to let it be known that you’re searching for certain work, it looks really good if you’re introduced to an employer through a contact who already knows the employer (like reliable professional representation, but free).

Step 3 – Apply

And of course there’s the selection of advertised jobs, from zero hours contracts to senior graduate positions. There’s the usual application methods such as a Cover Letter and a more specialised Graduate CV, but be ready to copy and paste and even add new information to online applications. Be sure to get a LinkedIn.com profile, as LinkedIn is a “Wikipedia” for graduate employers. And please don’t simply use that cliche “I’m a graduate with excellent teamwork and communication skills” – Of course it’s good to have work offices filled with sociable, reliable people, but try to stand out with unique as heck examples.

Step 4 – Hope for the best

The jobs market is competitive – you’ve heard it all before. I think the best way to look at the applications process is from a perfectionist point of view. If you’re the best, then hopefully you’ll win. If you’re not the best, identify why (do you need more experience or contacts or confidence etc.?), then hopefully you’ll win. Chip away and chip away at the barriers stopping you from getting that ideal job.

Good luck to everyone that’s graduating this week and this year. I hope my “Graduation Series” has been of some help to those reading that are finding work or hoping to progress in their career. As for me, I’m nervous and excited about my upcoming job as it’s shockingly full of responsibility, so from now until then I’m going to prepare heavily for it.

And yes I will continue to write blog posts about job seeking…

Graduation Series: When ‘Bad Feeling’ Consumes | Part 2 of 2

[Countdown to Graduation: 12 days]

The previous Part talked of how it is very possible to encounter someone who suddenly gets consumed by bad feeling and goes on the attack attitude wise (mildly or strongly), and how to deal with it using my SAD (Stop, Acknowledge, Divert) technique. Part 2 is more about you, and how to strengthen the mindset to lower the chances of getting consumed by bad feeling, and to help you keep calm in a crisis big or small. The three main areas I personally focus on are Humour, Open Mindedness, and Positivity.

Humour

This is probably the least helpful mindset strengthener, as comedy and laughing etc. doesn’t exactly solve problems. But what it can do is lower stress levels and any uncomfortable adrenaline, so that if something frustrating does happen, then a sense of humour, possibly developed from watching comedy media, can stop you from going over the edge.

Open Mindedness

Branching off of Humour, keeping an open mind is, of course, vital to productive communication. I personally define “open mindedness” as ‘thinking of as many possibilities as possible before being curious’. It’s not a silent alternative to communicating curiosity verbally – you have to be curious verbally, including about frustrating things, to maintain a relationship – but it can prepare you for the answer to an issue, so that the answer itself doesn’t shock you too much.

Positivity

I left this part until last because a positive note is, in my opinion, the best note to end any communicational encounter on. But before any positivity is ended on, positivity needs to be maintained throughout communication, and by that I mean be sensitive to body language and tone of voice. If you looks like you act like you’re in a neutral mood, then your words may seem non judgemental and unbiased, but if you act like you’re in a bad mood, your words may seem the opposite.

I said in the previous post that people getting consumed by bad feeling is rare, but now that I think about it, it’s probably more common than I think – I just don’t see it happen very often…

But, so that I leave this hard hitting post on a positive note, I’d say that 99% of the people I work with are lovely, and with the advice from these blogs preparing oneself for the 1%, there’s one less thing to worry about in the world of work.

Graduation Series: When ‘Bad Feeling’ Consumes | Part 1 of 2

[Countdown to Graduation: 13 Days]

I had a random theory the other day that there is great Bad in the world, because there is great Good in the world. As much as I honestly didn’t want that theory to be correct, it turns out it actually is, after I recently saw someone get suddenly consumed by bad feeling, and began negatively criticising with seemingly no valid evidence, no positivity, and no productive suggestions – The attitude (not the words – feedback is very important) shocked me, and I would have been equally as shocked if the criticism was grossly positive without due reason. Now that I think about it, this isn’t the first time this has happened… Theoretically, it could happen to any one, in front of any one, at any time!

This is an interesting theory…

I have now realised that, as someone who wants to go into the Welfare To Work sector, there is a significant barrier to Employability that’s a kind of parallel to Workplace Bullying – Vulnerability to bad feeling. Employers may tell if a candidate is likely to be in a “bad mood” mostly, and colleagues may avoid other colleagues that are “easily frustrated” – See the barrier? This post is about dealing with people consumed by bad feeling who show it to others, and Part 2 will suggest how to strengthen your mindset so that you can positively handle the situation in the first place.

The S.A.D. technique is what I use to deal with “consumed” people on the attack (say with a malicious and / or bullying attitude)…

Stop – Listen to the point of view, whether it’s positive or negative. Even if you don’t agree with what’s being said, there may be something relevant said that you can use to your advantage personally and / or professionally later on.

Acknowledge – Let the person know that their message has been heard, or they will continue. Don’t Argue, or they will continue. Do ask unbiased, non judgemental questions, such as for meaningful evidence, to make sure the point of view is as clear as it can be.

Divert – Ask for a positive message from the person. Even if they’re being extremely unproductive, it’s important to make sure everyone involved is genuinely aware of Positivity, and leave the encounter on a positive note. It should also sensitise the person towards how their attitude seems to others.

Seeing someone get suddenly consumed by bad feeling is, in my experience, thankfully very rare, and I want it to stay that way. I don’t want job seekers or workers losing out in their career because certain actions from them makes people avoid them…

Part 2 about ‘strengthening the mindset’ coming soon…

Graduation Series: Collaboration – Part 2

[Countdown to Graduation: 22 Days]

And so, assuming your pitched collaboration is given the green light, now comes the part where the project goes under way in the usual “Planning, Production, and Polish” stages.

Collaboration is almost inevitable in the real world.

Collabs usually work the best when there’s at least steady momentum within it – I imagine projects as ‘paper planes’, in that they won’t crash as long as they maintain speed. That said, a common crasher of my past collabs has been extremely slow communication – as in, no communication between days to weeks to months – so I have to be frank at the start about maintaining overall momentum, even if it means just doing one progress meeting every two weeks. And of course if momentum is lost completely, it’s better to move onto another project instead of wasting time on a crashed paper plane.

In terms of what to look out for, my current collaboration has pointed something out that I never realised before. It’s important to choose the actual collaborators themselves very, very carefully, as a collab will only work out if EVERY ONE involved is reliable. I can usually tell if a collaborator is reliable first hand by looking at their digital footprint – For example, if they Tweet that they will do something by a certain day, then there’s clear evidence that they fulfilled their promise by that certain day, then it speaks volumes. Additionally, in past collabs I have been very fortunate in getting to work with others who clearly share a similar passion and attitude that I have, but I have also ended up working with others who are opposite minded to me. Working with “opposites” is not a bad thing necessarily (my current collaborator is more or less opposite to me in many, many different ways – but we get along really well anyway), but when two people see things in different ways constantly, of course the chances of arguments increase dramatically. You should be prepared to communicate positively and productively in any situation and with any one.

Speaking of communication, this brings me to my last point in Collaboration, and that is be aware of feedback. Although generally positive feedback sounds good, and negative feedback sounds bad – poor positive feedback is useless, and detailed negative feedback is too much. What has to be considered is what the feedback is being measured against – In employment, the company’s measurements are essential, but what about the opinions of those giving or getting the feedback in employment and self employment? For my current musical collaboration, our ultimate goal is to create a song which my collaborator’s audience will react positively to – hence the measurement for this project is against her current most popular song. Set out reasonable measurements of success.

I hope this blog post covers the most important elements of collaboration, so that they have a high chance of working out. Working on projects with others is almost inevitable in the world of work, so be fully ready by brushing up on communication skills, reflecting on past collaborations / teamwork exercises, and above all, think responsibly.