Buffer’s free social media marketing kit: Plus extra resources

I’ve been a buffer convert for several months and really like its simplicity (I use it just for Twitter at the moment).  Essentially it’s just a smarter, simplified way to share content on social media across accounts with some handy built in analytics.  Yes, there are alternatives out there but we all have to settle on something eventually, right?

So unless you’re like me  spending valuable time trying, breaking and testing apps that basically do the same thing but with slightly different quirks (until you eventually decide which one you like best and even then change your mind 10 times) this may help you.  Stumbling through the Twittersphere as you do I chanced upon a pretty nifty resource today that the guys and gals at Buffer have created which I thought was great whether you use their app or not.


It’s a social media marketing resource which contains some simple but effective advice and worksheets for anyone looking to improve and better manage their social media accounts.  I know the “T’Internet is awash with this sort of stuff, but having everything in a powerful but easy to follow package persuaded me to share it with anyone who cares to read what I post!  What’s included is in the blurb below but I thought it would be especially handy for careers people who dabble personally/professionally or indeed have responsibilities for official work accounts.

  1. A guide to choosing the right social network for you
  2. A guide to coming up with a voice and tone for your social media marketing
  3. A checklist of the way to create an awesome bio
  4. A checklist and examples for the essential of completing your social media profile
  5. Infographics for the best time to post, the best day to post, and the best length for your updates
  6. A spreadsheet for tracking and auditing your social media growth
  7. A spreadsheet for measuring the impact of your tweets
  8. A list of the IFTTT/Zapier recipes we use to help automate helpful tasks

I’ve had a look through everything and I’m definitely going to use some of the resources and guides.  Be warned the spreadsheets will require some extra analytics legwork depending on what you use.  I think for most people the audit will prove more appealing and relevant than the social media analytics spreadsheet.  Just remember Twitter has its own analytics  function if you want to see how many people retweeted your flattering picture of you wearing a Rudolph Christmas jumper.

If you’re just starting out on the zen-like path to social media guru status – as 9/10 people on twitter seem to proclaim these days – then a few months back I developed some Prezis as a starter guide for helping students develop their LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging profiles.  I also produced a Prezi on trying to develop an effective social media strategy rather than going at it all guns blazing and scattergunning the web with faceless LinkedIn profiles. I blogged about the LinkedIn one here,  so once you’re viewing it in Prezi the others should be visible underneath it under “more presentations”.  They’re all public so feel free to use them.


10 things no one tells you before you become a Careers Adviser

The idea for this post came from reading an article by Carl Froch (he of pugilistic super middleweight boxing fame) when describing the woes and endeavour required to make it as an elite champion boxer and what they didn’t tell him before turning pro.  So, seconds out, round one.

10 is the magic number!

10 is the magic number!

One | Some days you’ll feel like you’ve gone 12 rounds with Carl Froch.  Not in the  physical sense, but you get the metaphor; right? Let me explain.  One client cry’s and it’s really awkward so you shuffle a tissue in their direction and feel partly responsible and terribly bad when your seemingly innocuous question results in an unexpected and uncontained outpouring of human emotion in your first appointment of the day. And it’s Monday.  And you have another 8 appointments lined up.  Your next appointment arrives late but then needs expert advice on becoming a Field Test Analyst for recreational equipment, and so it continues…..

Two | You really don’t have to know the entry routes into every career.  Following on nicely from researching a career as a Field Test Analyst for recreational equipment.  There are some clients who expect you to know the routes into the career or careers they are interested in like you have stored the entirety of the World Wide Web like some real life version of Johnny Mnemonic (a really bad sci-fi with Keanu Reeves playing a data courier)

In fact, even the job title of “Careers Adviser” paints the illusion and expectation that we know about lots and lots of careers and our value as a practitioner is validated by being able to recite with 100% accuracy the qualifications, job description, career progression, labour market and opportunities for each job title.  Us Careers Advisers like to please and sometimes, early on, it felt like I had to live up to that expectation.  Believe me when I say we don’t have to condemn ourselves to ceaselessly reading internet job profiles like some modern day career Sisyphus. I like to think of the “careers cloud”.  I don’t have to carry it with me to know where it is and how to find it.

Three | Sometimes it’s good to disagree.  I don’t mean proactively trying to annoy or be obstinate but it would be very, very easy to just go along with a client’s every need and keep the entire interaction very jovial and comfortable.  Succour comes far more naturally to most careers professionals I know and work with.  But then we wouldn’t always ethically and morally be doing our job.  Sometimes clients have dodgy values and beliefs that need to be challenged.  Sometimes we need to ask probing questions to understand before being understood.  Sometimes we need to play devils advocate to test ideas, rationale and judgement.

During my first ever two week training camp for diagnostic interviewing at a rather posh country house, our seasoned, hugely experienced expert gave us all this advice.  He said, “whatever you do, at least make it memorable for them.  If you don’t then nothing has changed and they won’t act on anything”. It took me a while to understand what he meant.  I mean, it is easy to be memorable for the wrong reasons, surely?  But what I think he was getting at was that guidance can offer both a critical lens that some clients lack and a gentle boost that some clients need.  Some of the best advice I’ve ever had is something I didn’t agree with or want to hear at the time.

Four | You’ll never really be a career expert.  Slightly contentious this one but the pinnacle of a lot of professions is to know a lot of technical stuff with theory and seemingly have all the answers.  In our world, a client forming an answer for themselves is far more powerful than just being told what our construct of the correct answer should be.  Yes, we need to give the correct answers to technical questions (using our careers cloud from number two in my list) but when it comes to decisions and what to do next. Well, that’s why we are all unique with different stories.  In this brave new world of happenstance, chaos, uncertainty and narrative it makes you realise we are very often facilitators rather than prescriptive experts.   Are we now “Reality Facilitators”? New job title please!

Five | Results are rarely instant. We’ve all been there. You’ve had a great guidance appointment where things just clicked into place for both you and the client.  You see great things ahead for them if they follow the agreed advice and actions.  But, in the most part, the people we help don’t usually check in to provide us with status updates on their life! This is both the beauty and bane of careers guidance.  99% of the time we don’t see the fruits of our labour straight away.  Sometimes this could be years away until a particular approach pays off for a client in their career.

In careers we play the qualitative long game and eschew quick win activities (much to the annoyance of politicians, why can’t we just tick some boxes damn it!)

Six | Everyone does things differently, there is no manual!  My colleague recently wrote some really thought provoking posts on his blog that got me really thinking about the diversity in our practice.  I wrote a couple of responses on this which are copied below:

 “I think we are now operating in quite a fluid theoretical base which provides a rationale for a range of approaches (or triangulation which I’ve heard it called) but which also means discrepancies across practitioners in whatever theoretical soup they are serving that day. I’d advocate a conscious method of practice but also one which can be adaptive and change to suit the needs of the client. For instance, if we are too prescriptive and inflexible and we are seeking to influence and exert change then when change occurs our interaction and approach may then need to adapt as well”.

“Both ethically and practically within our range of competency should we/do we cross the boundaries between coaching/counselling and guidance frameworks? It’s something I struggle with sometimes. In terms of competency I feel comfortable within a coaching model with different spheres of career and guidance theory hanging off that but inevitably it can stray, especially with a narrative approach. So the question is, does how far we stray is really a matter for how consciously competent we really are in our approach? If our toolbox is a construction of our perspective of guidance and career theory then who’s to say, even if our labels are the same, we are actually using the same tools? In practice how often are we observed and measured, if at all……”

Seven | Some people just think you check CVs:  Most guidance folk I know have raised this one so I know I’m not alone.  It is something I’ve come across in clients and other professionals/colleagues that I work with.  It’s annoying and makes you feel de-skilled (not that helping create/proof CVs is not important and skilled because it is) because we do so much more!  “Yes we help with CVs but not just CVs” says the tattoo on my forehead.

Eight | Not everyone values careers guidance as much as you value it: Sometimes the employability agenda in higher education can consume the narrative on what students need to get a graduate job.  Career management just doesn’t seem to garner the same importance even though those in in the know, know it does and should!

 The financial benefits to an economy of its population receiving impartial careers guidance has been well documented.  Perhaps this is to do with guidance not being instantaneous  and quantifiable at times.  Perhaps it’s because in the UK it doesn’t receive the financial investment and kudos so it isn’t as visible as it was.  Maybe it’s because some people don’t appreciate the skill, qualification and knowledge base of being  a Careers Adviser and assume you just need a little common sense and that’s it.  But without doubt at various points you’ll find yourself defending and advocating careers guidance to the uninitiated and unconvinced.

Nine | You’re not just a Careers Adviser:  Either by choice or design or both invariably our roles are much broader than just 1:1 careers guidance.  Thinking of my own role, I have to stand in 200 capacity lecture halls and deliver a multitude of sessions ranging from using LinkedIn to career planning.  In previous roles I’ve been  a makeshift Social Worker and some guidance sessions can feel like counselling.  We’re often expected to be labour market analysts and recruitment experts alongside attending meetings which sit within the realm of consultancy.  I think if we did a vox pop of careers professionals then 1:1 guidance work would actually represent a much smaller part of the role than many of us actually realise.

Ten | We need failure just as much as the next person.  It’s funny how often we try and engineer failure out of our lives.  I see it in the students I support all the time.  They say, “I need the perfect plan so I don’t mess up and end up unemployed”, or words to that effect.  Failure is generally seen as something to avoid and not revel in too frequently.  Truth be told we learn far more from our failures than we do with success.  I personally find myself asking “what went wrong” more than I say “well what went right”.  There is a cheesy sounding acronym for FAIL which has some truth.





You generally only get good at things with a healthy dose of failed attempts.  This is true of most skills in life.  Careers guidance practice is no different.  We should try out different approaches and theories to expand our toolkit and become more effective.  I have huge respect for people who try new things knowing and accepting it may not work out straight away.


So these are my 10.  Please feel free (don’t lurk) to add your own in the comments.

Beliefs, mythbusting and the role of careers work.

Myths can useful, for example when I was very young and getting into mischief I was told Santa would find out and I wouldn’t be getting any presents.  So you get to 35 😉 and realise it was all a big myth that was said to control my poor behaviour.  Myths can also make for pretty cool TV too.  The geek in me loves the science based mythbuster shows taken to the extreme to prove or disprove.  Top Gear do them as well, I particularly remember the episode where Hammond puts  a hundred or so mobile phones in a petrol fumed filled caravan and then phones them all (well gets his people to) to see if there really is a fire risk (there wasn’t, but I think they blew up the caravan anyway which is fair enough). Yet if you go to a petrol station you’ll still see signs up despite no hard evidence of a fire risk.  If they were serious they would ban polyester football shirts at filling stations because the electric shocks I have given myself over the years when driving in one of those has often made me feel like a human lightening rod.

Is there a third option?

Is there a third option?

So myths or false beliefs have their place but in the world of careers we come across dodgy beliefs all the time that can actually be destructive and counter productive.  You can never underestimate the power of beliefs as both a force for good and bad in a career.  For example, inaccurate beliefs can drive behaviour and actions that makes sense to that person but may hinder or prevent the achievement of their career goals.  Conversely accurate beliefs about one’s self and the world around us are much more likely to result in the achievement of career goals.

The formation of beliefs is a good starting point when trying to make sense of a client’s belief.  Krumbolz’s Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making (SLTCDM) and Career Belief Inventory Test represent some of the work he has undertaken on the subject about how and when beliefs are formed.

SLTCDM focuses on four originating factors of career choice that individual’s exercises which are influential in why they may end up in certain careers, change direction and offer alternate views of preferences at different points in their life.

These are :

  1. Genetic Endowment and Special Abilities
  2. Environmental Conditions and Events
  3. Learning Experiences
  4. Task Approach Skills i.e habits formed as a result of interaction between 1,2 and 3.

Krumboltz concluded that the interaction of these four factors result in the formation of correct and incorrect beliefs and generalisations that influence career behaviour and decisions.  So for example, procrastinate in making a career decision in the belief that the decision will inevitably be the wrong one. But at its most fundamental level SLTCDM is about the cognitive processing of experiences and the factors/influences affecting belief formation.

There is an awful lot of literature and reading on belief as a psychological phenomenon but a really basic starting point from the reading I have done is to think of beliefs as either core beliefs (also called occurrent  beliefs  that are active in the brain and form a central part of how we view ourselves and the world around us) or dispositional beliefs which aren’t being considered by our minds but which may become occurrent or core beliefs should they be recalled in some way.  This makes sense, as how many of our beliefs are truly active and operating at the forefront of our mind as we go about our daily lives?

So beliefs can come from a variety of places and as we know from our own lives are powerful drivers of personality and behaviours.

So where this all began was me thinking about some of the common beliefs or myths that I have heard undergraduates I work with use in guidance interviews and workshops and some of the advice myself and colleagues have given to challenge and alter their perception.  This then turned into a workshop idea that I will trial this year but I’d be interested to hear thoughts on whether my belief that these beliefs students have are fairly universal or not!  So in the session I will identify eight myths and explain what they are and why they are wrong.  Here’s a brief outline.

Myth 1: Your career is just your paid work. Everything else is something else.

Reality: Our career is far broader.  Includes work, training, unemployment, study.  Your meaning of career is unique to you.  Career Metaphors can be useful.

Myth  2:  A Degree guarantees me a good.  The focus should be on academic work. This will give me the optimal chance of finding a good job. A 1st or 2:1 is my passport and speaks for itself.

Reality:  A degree is great currency, but there is a lot of currency out there.  Here I throw some stats in (below) around grad employment rates and degree holder numbers.  I also mention employability, career management and recruitability (convincing an employer and understanding recruitment proceeses) as being equally important.

UK domiciled awarded a degree in 2012/13 (HESA): 324,015

Working age population that has a degree in 2013(ONS): 38%

Graduates in UK (ONS): 12M

Myth 3: One careers aptpointment and I’m sorted! Typical situation of seeing a final year student who has visited our service for the first time.

Reality:  Career management requires time and effort.  Try and correlate and factor the thousands of hours spent studying for three years to the time spent actively managing their career.

Myth 4:  You need a perfect career plan.  You then need this plan before being able to “begin”. This belief is still based on the matching paradigm and does not account for happenstance, chaos or developmentalism.

Reality: We need a Career TomTom! Journeys of old relied on maps with as much detail as possible. The more detail the better. The journey was known from the start between two fixed points (matching paradigm). However, the labour market now requires flexibility and adaptation for the developing technological world. The perfect plan is not the same as planning. Students need to continually refine and adapt their journey as they respond to unknown variables (roadblocks). A career sat nav does this far better than a detailed paper map. The Career TomTom actually refers to Career Management Skills.

Myth 5:  The best career decision comes from the best match.

Reality: Makes many assumptions such as:

Everything is fixed/stable

There is only one best decision

Indecision is bad

Logic is the best decision making style

Makes reference to Happenstance and Chaos Theory for Careers being far more useful to students in explaining and navigating their careers.  A great quote from Amundson (2003) I’ll use is:

“Our paradigm has shifted away from stability, order, uniformity and equilibrium towards a new order of instability, disorder, disequilibrium and non-linear relationships where small inputs trigger major effects”

Myth 6: Common misconception from students that their career options and choices are hugely limited by their degree. For example, LLB students can only work in the legal sector.  Or B’Ed students must now teach.

Reality:  Recruiters focus on talent.  Grad schemes requiring relevant degree: 40% approx. Any degree: 60% approx

Myth 7: Most graduate jobs are through large corporate schemes. Students often covet and think of larger organisations as the preferred or aspirational route. The fact remains this is the most difficult and not always beneficial path for every student.

Reality: UK business by size SMEs make up 99%.  Large make up only 1% Source: http://www.fsb.org.uk

Myth 8:  We just do CVs.  I’ve heard this a lot when I’ve spoken to careers people from other unis at events.

Reality:  We do more, much more!  We need to explain and promote and our service offer and that we are not just here when the student perceives a problem. Use our service as a careers health check to discuss ideas or get a second opinion.

So there we have it, I’m still tweeking but I’m looking forward to running this session and creating open discussion with students on some of the common myths I have come across and the contrary arguments that explain why the reality may be very different.

Employability v Individuality: A bitter pill to swallow?

First off this isn’t a rant against the employability agenda sweeping through higher education in the pursuit of making graduates more employable graduates. In principle that’s a good thing and is hard to argue against. In fact since the rise in tuition fees in England many institutions have received an increase in complaints from students regarding value for money which is a very commodity driven, market reaction.

So if students quite rightly pay (or shift debt) into their name they can quite legitimately expect or hope for a return on their investment. So does this represent a cultural shift amongst students, staff and institutions? I think so but I wanted to focus on one particular aspect. This is the drive to creating the employable graduate or super grad. Employers can quite easily and rightly reel off a list of attributes and attitudes they require of a graduate in order to A) pass their ATS systems and assessments and B) perform in the organisation and role. This list is fairly homogeneous and covers most sectors and careers.  If you take a look at the CBI skills survey report from 2011 on page 23 those skills are listed and broken down.

Crucially these attributes and attitudes should be assessed and evidenced/articulated by the graduate which is why careers services have so much demand for help with paper based (CVs, cover letters) and online (Linkedin, personal statements, applications) methods of application and assessment. So students and universities logically want to do well in this process  – as we are all benchmarked one way or another – and so we have the employability agenda driving change through the curriculum. The purpose of what is education for isn’t new. There has always been the long standing argument that tends to polarise opinion towards the purpose of education as being either the predict and provide solution for industrialised nations or a representation of the civilised world we are incumbent to supply in order to explore self-expression, self-actualisation  and knowledge growth of the human race.

This got me thinking of a rather outlandish idea (and pays reference to the blog title) that if there was a pill that students could swallow that instantly and permanently enhanced desirable traits that employers valued would they take it? Let’s assume this is the year 2100 and this pill has got through all its efficacy trials! Perhaps this isn’t so outlandish after all given our preoccupation in film  – think Gattaca as an example – of seeing progress of the human race as a removal of weakness whilst accentuating strengths.

If so, would some traits such as eccentricity, introversion and narcissism be excluded? (You may wonder why I included narcissism but this is often considered a trait prevalent in leaders.  It is also a trait that creates divide and ambivalence. Whilst on the surface domineering and egotistical qualities  aren’t revered they do seem to aid one’s career by helping certain individuals rise to the top and even lead to better interview performance).

The notion of a pill as a way to correct and enhance is really just an extreme variance of how society at large attempts to normalise and encourage selected behaviours. But I would like to think there is a place in the world for everyone’s uniqueness and individuality to thrive.

The world needs behaviours such as risk taking, introversion, narcissism and many other traits that never seem to end up in job descriptions, person specs and assessment centres. Wouldn’t life and the workplace be boring if we were all the same and good at the same things? There is a conformity to fit into the employablity agenda and become malleable to the needs of employers and society. This raises important questions.

In the pursuit of trying to create more employable graduates is it possible within the gains of this agenda there are also losses?

Specifically within the value of certain traits and how useful they are deemed and therefore valued.

Is there also a risk the individuality and uniqueness of the human spirit is lost within assessments, benchmarks, performance measures, employer wish lists and all the other terminology used in recruitment?

So where does the individual fit into this and have we now got a system that means doing well in the recruitment process can be compared to whom can best paint by numbers?

In the ever increasing competition for roles there is seemingly more investment and science placed in methods such as application tracking systems and an increased assessment inventory (psychometrics, group exercises).  In essence it feels like these are just reductionist attempts to standardise and measure very narrow fields of a complex being which creates the potential for talent to fall through the gaps.

If you enjoy TED talks take a look at this one from Ken Robinson, it’s a heady mix of humour, enlightenment and perception but it also raises important questions on what education should be which relates to some of what I am trying to get at in this post.

Ted Talks videos and text are embedded on this blog under the Ted creative commons license]

So from cradle to grave we are assessed and probed and fairly soon it becomes ingrained into culture and the individual psyche.  But if we stop and standstill just for one minute and think about what the hell terms like “talent acquisition” actually mean I’m fairly certain the process doesn’t fit the intention.

I’ll leave you with a quote that I think sums up what I am trying to say – some might say I could have just read the quote and not wasted my time with the preceding 800 words – it was attributed to Albert Einstein.

You did great at our assessment centre so you must be very talented!

You did great at our assessment centre so you must be very talented!


Britpop: Career identity, transitions and non-linear thinking.



It’s been as near as dammit 20 years since the rise of Britpop swept all before it and launched itself onto a grateful and well received world (ok, you can tell I’m nostalgic). So in wanting to mark this milestone I thought why not blog about it!   I’m not doubting my initial curiosity in this genre may well have been due to timing and the fact I had started going out to bars and clubs with friends and this stuff was being played.  So rather than go all NME and pretentious and critique why I listened to this music so much – we called it Indie by the way not Britpop – let’s just leave it simple.  I loved it because  the bands were cool, the music sounded original (I know, I know) and it all seemed so relevant and terribly important.  It was as much about defining my own identity and projecting it as it was about enjoying the music.  It felt like being part of a club or tribe much the in the same way as football supporters follow “their” team.  N.B. anyone who says they follow two club teams, is not a “proper” football supporter as this is sacrilege and widely frowned upon in the football supporting fraternity; take note.

So stumbling, as you do, through the social media quagmire I happened upon an article written by Mark Nicholls on the rocksucker website called “Britpop: Who are they now” (interesting it was who rather than where).

Where – or who in this case – are they now articles spring up all the time across various media channels and can be fascinating, uplifting and depressing in equal measure.  Let me explain. Pro footballer retires from the game and ends up in a downward spiral of substance misuse becoming a shadow of their former self.  That’s depressing.  Pro footballer retires from the game, becomes a coach and leads his (or her) boyhood/girlhood team to glory in the FA cup.  That’s uplifting.

The article mentions all bands I used to like, even to some slight embarrassment Menswear.  Here is a brief synopsis of the person, band and what they are doing now.  There really are some surprises.

Then. Alan Leach, the drummer with Shed Seven

Now. Successful entrepreneur, with a mobile pub quiz app called SpeedQuizzing.

Then. Debbie Smith, Echobelly guitarist.

Now.DJ and also works in a record shop.

Then. Mat Osman, bassist with Suede.

Now. Still a bassist with Suede but also writes for established UK newspapers and is is the London editor of the email magazine le cool.

Then. Johnny Dean, singer, Menswear.

Now. Rumoured to work in a mobile phone shop but nobody knows for sure.

Then. Justine Frischmann, singer, Elastica

Now. Internationally acclaimed Artist

Probably my favourite is Alex James the bassist from Blur.

Then.  The bassist from Blur.

Now. A real portfolio career.  The bassist from  Blur,  journalist and tv presenter and award winning artisan cheese maker.  (you could argue Blur were making cheese long before Alex started down this path).

So we have some uplifting (Internationally acclaimed artist), some depressing (Johnny Dean, phone shop worker?) and some fascinating (Alex James, journalist and tv presenter and award winning artisan cheese maker).

The labels we give to ourselves and are given by others all form part of our identity and shape how our career may develop as well as how we manage the transitions we then encounter. So rather than write about identity and transition, when David Winter does a far better job than I could do in his brilliant blog I thought I would focus on one key point.  Linearity.  Many (not all) of the students I see often view career as sequential very often leading towards a singular goal.  So for example, school, college, uni, graduate job.  Of course this also links to some of the metaphors we use such as “ladder” when discussing our career. I think when I was younger I used to view career in the same way.  Bill Law might suggest this was as a result of community interaction (my parents influence) and he may be correct.

But more and more theoretical evidence suggests that careers are and should be viewed in non-linear and less predictable ways. From the textbooks think happenstance, chaos, portfolio and boundary-less careers to name a few.  Some of this change is environmental in the way that the labour market is shifting and will continue to shift in new directions (I blogged about that here) but some of this must also be due to the social cognitive process of how we view career and what we think it should hold for each of us.

Thinking and acting in more non-linear terms can help each of us in navigating our career and manage change.  I do worry how much linear thinking is challenged in schools and college in today’s educational system. A large part of higher education and my role is helping students become prepared for the unexpected and not to try and exert and expect total control over their career.  There are too many variables.

So going back to my much loved indie movement of twenty years ago and the career transitions that have taken place of its protagonists it is a gentle reminder of how both non-linear and divergent life really is.   You know what I really quite like it like that.


What is success? The implications for careers work

So what is success?  I don’t mean the dictionary definition, instead I want you to think about and visualise in your mind what you believe your future life (you choose the time frame) should look like in order for you to feel it has been successful.  To make this work I must stress the word “feel“. Take your time and really reflect about  this.  Think about where you are now and where you want to be in order for you to believe that the vision you have would make you feel like you had been successful.

So what have you created?  Possibly a  mental check list  – wealth, happiness, nice car, big house, power, influence, respected, a final vision or outcome – I’m sat on a beach in front of my private villa with my business running itself without a care in the world or maybe it looks more philosophical and involves living by a set of values and morals and being true to that (so not so focussed on an end goal or tangible outcomes).

There are not many guarantees in life from this point on apart from death and taxes but I can offer one such guarantee.  That your vision is truly unique and different from anyone else’s.  In other words – from a constructivist perspective – your vision/construct only exists in your head and no other. Following the constructivist view further, if what you imagined is your current version of success, then that is indeed what success is to you.  As such, it is your success and no one else has ownership of that.  So what we have in the world is several billion constructs to the question I posed at the start of this blog entry.

So let me tell you what got me thinking about this and where I am going with it.  I read an article from Business Insider entitled Here Are The Major Differences Between Successful And Unsuccessful People.  The postcard in the article came from Andy Bailey who is CEO of Petra Coach.  The article made it on LinkedIn here and to date has had 557,991 views, 10,496 likes and 1,887 comments.  How we view, value and think about success and becoming successful clearly resonates with a lot of people and created plenty of conflicted discussion in the comments section.  What is interesting is that despite success being a deeply personal, subjective and unique standpoint individuals/groups/society attempt to exert nomothetic conformity and right/wrong scenarios or in the case of the article a collection of actions/traits aligned to successful/non-successful people.  Now, I’m not being obtuse. I realise that these traits do not explicitly define what success is,  but more like if you acquire these traits and perform these actions you are more likely to be successful.  Or following this logic further, this works for me and it can work for you too.

We need context here.  The author of the postcard is a CEO (some might say that is success).  To move up in his world this is what he perceived to be of value to him and worked.  We assume he attached value to these traits because they then shared this with others.  I see issues with this from a career guidance perspective in terms of how useful is it to just share a set of actions/traits in order to achieve success. If I use the example of a cookbook to create a cake, we can be told the ingredients (traits/actions) and shown the recipe (combination order of actions/traits ) and still have something at the end that tastes awful/great (success/failure).  However, we know with home cooking that what may taste great to you might taste quite horrible to someone else.  So who is right? Do we need to decide someone to be right (positivist view)? Are we both right? (constructivist view).  Let’s muddy the cake mix mixture further.  For James Altucher, in his key influencer article on LinkedIn, suggests abundance will never come from your job and you need to choose yourself for success and quit that job, which is certainly a diametrically opposed viewpoint to climbing the corporate ladder. So the values/actions/skills/traits for one construct of success may not be useful for another construct.  Which leads into what Earl Nightingale has been saying all along.

So who owns your job really?

So who owns your job really?

In the context of my own work in higher education I see the process of results orientation and prescribed success becoming increasingly prevalent in the sector. Getting a 1st or 2:1 and an observable set of skills and traits is highly valued as a key indicator of performance and success.  Just look at the DLHE (destination of leavers in higher education) survey organised by HESA and how the results are presented.  My colleague Tom Staunton wrote a really thought provoking piece called HE Careers Learning Outcomes which certainly got me thinking that the aim is just as important as actually getting there.  So not understanding your aim and how  that was constructed in your mind can have consequences.  I see this manifesting itself in the students I see.  Striving towards a set of goals that were not constructed but  transferred and adopted from a systemic set of values and indicators for measuring success for higher education students.  The media also plays a huge part as well (and I include social media in this of course) but there is some balance out there like this article in the Guardian.

So what are the potential  implications for careers professionals in all of this and what can we do?

  1. Be introspective:  What is your view of success and why? (back to what I asked at the start of this piece).  Be conscious about how this paradigm shapes the guidance you give to others.
  2. Be conscious of your approach to guidance:  We all do things differently.  But identify what is your current approach/model and how does this interact and influence  how success can be achieved for a client?  Do I help the client construct their own view or am I taking a matching approach to my guidance practice?
  3. Focus on failure:  We can spend too much time in the process of actioning  success, without acknowledging the crucial role our failures play in shaping what success actually means for each of us.  Failure is good if we learn from it.  But interestingly even though failure is a vital component of performance improvement  you won’t see too many articles which read “how to achieve failure”.

So we need more balance and focus in our work  which incorporates what success looks like to each of us as well as how this construct interacts with our practice and the billions of other constructs that exist.


The best advice I ever received.

I’ve been reading a series of contributions from key influencers on LinkedIn under the title “the best advice I ever got”.  It’s quite addictive once you get started reading them.  The format is simple.  The author writes a short piece on the most influential advice they ever received and comment on how it has shaped their life and career in a positive way.  Forbes also collated a selection of what the ten top influencers had to say.

Having read through quite a few now I’ve  added some condensed extracts below so you can get a feel for the type of advice given.

Beth Comstock:  CMO at GE

665,974 views 4,134 Likers,1,513 Comments

Advice given:  “You have to wallow in it,” he said. “Take time to get to know people. Understand where they are coming from, what is important to them. Make sure they are with you.”

Impact:  Time to think and time to connect with people are as important as getting everything done. Sometimes you have to go slow before you go fast.

Martha Stewart: Founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

533,925 views, 3,685 Likers, 2,067 Comments

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father when I was 12 years old and willing to listen. He told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose.

Impact:  I’ll never forget the favour my father did me when he instilled in me the tenacity I needed to build a career based on what I love most.

Richard Branson.  Influencer: Founder at Virgin Group

253,732 views, 2,872 Likers, 1,317 Comments

The best advice I ever received? Simple: Have no regrets. Who gave me the advice? Mum’s the word.

Impact:  When I was a child, she inspired me to take risks in all manner of business ventures. Most of them didn’t work out (notably growing Christmas trees and breeding budgerigars!) but the lessons learned were invaluable.

Jordy LeiserInfluencer:  Co-Founder and CEO at StellaService

64,599 views. 1,309 Likers, 250 Comments

The best advice I ever received was not really advice but more of an approach to living. It applies to several aspects of life: careers, relationships, sports; health and wellness, and probably many others.

“The harder you work, the luckier you get”.

Impact:  Serendipity fits with my approach in that it’s possible to put yourself in a position to benefit from an unexpected occurrence if you work hard and make the right choices.

At this moment in time I’ve probably read through about 50 of these over the last two weeks.  Some commonality between them all is that the advice given created  a powerful resonance for that person.   That ability to evoke long lasting memories and emotions we keep with us. It subsequently changed the way they thought and acted (which goes back to a previous blog post of mine on the importance of recognising paradigm shift moments).

So we are now exposed to thousands of examples of advice, proverbs, inspirational stories in our lives.  It is hard to now look through your own  LinkedIn or Facebook news feed without someone having referenced or shared  a cliched (yes, I’m a cynic at times!) quotation of some sort.  There are far more outlets in which we can now share and connect our thoughts which for me makes it interesting in how one key piece of advice can really influence and change your life.

What wasn’t a surprise was that out of the stories I have read so far, no one has said “my Careers Adviser gave me the best ever piece of advice”.  I’m fairly confident as I carry on reading that not one will say that either.  This shouldn’t be construed as any sort of failure on the part of practitioners or the process of careers guidance in general.  Like I said, we are exposed to tens of thousands of pieces of advice through various channels so the work we do represents a minuscule part of the total.  It is also important to note that a large portion of the “best advice ever given” came from somebody who knew that person really well such as family or friends.  Just think about how the effect of the exact same message could change if it came from someone you didn’t like or respect.

What we also have to appreciate and acknowledge is the professional space in which we work.  No careers practitioner is hired to exclusively trot out sagely words of wisdom.  Guidance is as much about the process as what is said.  I also think there is an arbitrary nature to the notion of having to describe and evidence “the best ever piece of advice” I ever got.  Why not then have the second best piece of advice and the third and so on? Over time it is often hard to recall what words have had what effect and influence so perhaps we clutch on to the most memorable depending on what synapses were firing at the time.

In summary, if nothing else, have a read through some of the stories.  Quite a few of them created some resonance with me and there is value to be had reading through them.  Finally, in the spirit of these stories I wanted to share some (indirect) advice that created lasting resonance and influence on my life.  It wasn’t given to me by family or friends but rather from the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” [sic] starring Will Smith (I’m not normally one for spread thickly sentiment, but we don’t always get to choose what creates those paradigm shifts, however it is a great film).

In the 2006 film Will Smith’s character – whilst fighting homelessness and trying to make it as an intern stockbroker – says the following to his young son.

Pursuit of Happyness [sic] quote

I remember hearing that the first time and missing the next 10 minutes of the film because it just made me stop and think.  I thought about it at random times for weeks afterwards as well. Eight years on and it still influences how I approach challenges in my life but also in how I approach my practice. I didn’t take from it the fact we can always achieve everything we want.  Sometimes we are presented with barriers that mean some things are just not possible or worth pursuing in life and career.  I just feel we should always feel empowered to make those decisions for ourselves and not by somebody else.  It’s something I’ll keep telling my little boy when he is old enough to understand.