Thursday, 4 December 2008

Last post here, as we open up!

OK, after much anticipation - and a fair amount of blood and sweat, but no tears - the website and blog is up and running at!

We transferred over the blog entries from here on Saturday, and I have been running through editing them up into a "standard" format - still a fair way to go.

This blog will stand for a while, as the entries here and over at will form the basis of other online services from Ajiri - plus the SEOing of the entries is good as well... ;)

So please follow along over at

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Monday, 1 December 2008

Mid-career switch ... advisable or not?

Roy asks: What advice would you give for someone in his thirties, with 7-8 years of experience in marcomm and HR, and a first degree in Economics, thinking of doing a law degree and trying to switch to a legal career? I'm actually trying to decide if I should give up on my ongoing MBA course to do a LLB, and I'm solely looking at in-house counsel or corporate lawyer positions only, not planning to take the Bar examinations and become a practising solicitor or barrister. Could someone give some advise? Go for it, or not?

In answer:
You can generally successfully make any such career changes or leaps into the unknown, as long as you are fully qualified by the age of 45. At that point you still have 20 years of career left until retirement to be able to reach a good standard, and pay back the inevitable loans you will have taken out to pay for that change of career path.

After that point it becomes a risk, as the payback period even for you - let alone an employer who may train you - becomes too short. There are also clear physical careers that you could not enter after the age of 35 - the forces, deep sea commercial diving, and even commercial airline pilot would be difficult.

I would hence conclude if advising anyone in taking such a leap to:
(a) really asses that this is what you want to do, may be looking at taking some aptitude tests
(b) speak to someone who has undertaken such a leap, for their advice
(c) solidify any existing experiences or qualifications to the point of conclusion. Hence in your case I would suggest you complete the MBA
(d) put a plan in place which includes realistic finances. Assume you won't be doing much more than burger flipping two nights a week at max!
(e) get your friends and family to sign-in
(f) have a fall back plan. You might not get there, and your health issues and risks will rise with age

If this is what you really want to do, then you can do it. But figure out a plan, get sign-in from those you care about, and have a fall back position.

Good Luck!

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Friday, 28 November 2008

Career change from mortgage sales to technology sales

Matt Youngquist, an Executive Career Coach & Outplacement Consultant from Seattle, WA asks: As a career coach, I'm currently in the process of working with a mortgage sales professional who is intending to make a career shift into the field of technology sales. I'm therefore wondering whether anybody out there has any tips, advice, or insights on the specific skills or courses of study that a highly motivated individual might acquire to make himself as marketable as possible to technology product/service companies - or whether there are certain technology sectors that would be easier to penetrate for an individual with a proven sales background, but no direct high-tech experience. Any great ideas?

In answer:
Most people who work in the technology industry have a technology background – most often a degree - or at least proven enthusiasm for it, such as a successful website. Technology and particularly IT is the highest trained sector and most degree orientated measured on a global basis. It is hence easy to tell a non-tech in an interview, as you either love it and will hence understand all the TLA’s, or just don’t get the sector.

The reason for this is that most technology sales are complex sales – long time scales, brought about by much customer customization of the solution at both the product (most likely system integration), financial and program/rollout level. This hence most often results in team working, which is a core competence most technology people don’t recognise they have.

Your client comes from a financial services background, so why is he choosing technology? Most look simply at the money and think “it’s just a sale” – but it is the training and long sales timescales which define the rewards, not simply sales ability. The good news is that like IT and technology, particularly in the telecom sector, financial services is heavily regulated. This knowledge of regulation is a transferable skill which some who may attempt the leap in won’t have.

Unless your client has base degree level training in a technology or science orientated subject, I would look at in-company training versus a return to college – both would take around the same time scale, with one an income and training opportunity, while the other is pure cost. Pick a consumer end or SME level sales position where the need for technological training is minimized, and a successful sales background is more appreciated in the job description. We have recruited for SME business cellphone sales people before, and a couple of well referenced good years in the UK version of Circuit City was good enough to get you a position with most of the major cellphone telecoms companies, or IT and technology business solutions companies. If he is successful there, then he will rise quickly and be given appropriate training.

The bad news at present is that, much as though the IT and technology sector works behind the rest of the economy – it’s those long sales and integration time scales again – the whole sector is heading fast into recession at present, with most companies globally announcing lay off’s and redundancies. No where is now safe from those sub-prime mortgage sales of the past, including IT and technology.

Good Luck!

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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Redundancy rates rise, Pyramid schemes return

It has been reported by many media and investigative journalism programmes that the number of illegal pyramid schemes is on the rise.

This fresh outcrop seems to be particularly prevalent in South Wales (our back garden, so hence why I am writing about it), and to be on the rise thanks in part to the credit crunch. Many of these new schemes also try to add legitimacy through charity donation, and as one of my interests is in raising money for charity through old mobile phone donation through schemes run by SimuSimu in partnership with local councils, it is personally disturbing that both individuals and charities are being wholly mislead.

Since the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005, pyramid schemes are wholly illegal in the United Kingdom. If you want to know in detail about how these schemes work then please read the guidance at Pyramid or sometimes called gift giving schemes work by a layered pot of money creation:
- one member donates an amount, and then recruits two or more additional members who form the second layer
- these people in turn donate the same amount each, and recruit two or more additional members to create a third layer

Most of these schemes then pay out to the first member, once the entire fourth+ layer is full. Now, if the scheme is based on just recruiting two additional members, and pays out on layer four being full, and each member puts in £1000 (typical investments are around £3000 per member at present - a decent Christmas budget), then the first member would get a sum of £15,000 on payout: Wow!

This return on investment is why people join - but here's the problem. To get that sum you need to find 14 other people to join, and then keep joining for the scheme to pay out. A scheme in the Isle of Wight in 2001 collapsed in six months because it ran out of people, and almost made the local NatWest branch network run out of cash. In 1998, the newly liberalised country of Albania almost collapsed due to imploding pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes need to suck in new members at such rates, that the Isle of Wight trading standards office used the illustration that if membership was only drawn from new members, then the entire world's population would be needed with 18months to fulfil the Isle of Wight scheme.

So how come people are getting money out of the scheme? Well often, the first member is the scheme runner - all they have to do is find 14 more people and they have at last £15,000 in their pocket. May be a few more lucky early people do as well, but by layer 10 there is a need for at least 1,000 people. To keep people being drawn in, much like bingo their are prises for turning up or reaching specific layers, which are withdrawn from the prize fund - and these "cost" fee's go to the originator, the only person who makes a guaranteed return.

These are the reasons why since the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005, pyramid schemes are wholly illegal in the United Kingdom. If you want to know in detail about how these schemes work then please read the guidance at

In 2001, new schemes appeared which targeted their audiences and tried to get around the then bad publicity. They used names like Hearts, or the classical Women empowering Women. The new scheme which has appeared in South Wales and Bristol areas uses the name Take and Gift or Gift and Take, which increase "costs" by adding a legitimising charity gift - but they are all illegal pyramid schemes.

Be very aware with your money. As a first step with your redundancy cheque, however big or small, take some free advice from either the local citizen's advice bureau or your local bank manager. And if you think you have been approached to join a pyramid scheme, please remember that they are illegal and that you are highly unlikely to get your money back.

Look after yourself, and Good Luck!

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If you can't afford a coach, what are professionals doing to support their professional growth?

Francine Allaire, Chief Life Strategist at The Daring, LLC asks: If you can't afford a coach, what are professionals doing to support their professional growth?

In answer:
I love (?) the assumptive nature of this question: that everyone needs a coach; and that those who don't clearly can't afford one.

A better question personally would have been "how are you ensuring your professional growth" - something which everyone has to do, but which most don't.

Specificly "hired for results coaches" are a relatively recent development, the rise of which has been heavily tied to the wider awareness of NLP. Before this, and to way back in time, business people talked to their friends and other business people - yes, even their commercial rivals - about the state of the market, the problems they saw and how they addressed them, and what they were doing to develop commercially and personally. These relationships often ended up in what could be seen as bitter rival companies employing the others former executives to create the same results, but through the new and upcoming managers of the company.

Do professionals need coaches? No, certainly not. But they do need to manage their own careers and development, and there are many proven strategies and tactics with proven longer term success records than that of picking a coach with a single NLP certificate: that is far riskier than doing nothing.

Good Luck!

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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Facebook – a cyber cool website that is the employee’s liability

I’m on Facebook, the social network: you can find me here:

A very socially cool website valued at over $1Bn US dollars, on Facebook you can: see comments from your friends and new people; play scrabble or poker with them during work hours; find out where right now; what they think of many, including you; what’s in their social diary; and who they are dating/going further with. And you know that in a few hours time, thanks to a 2MegPixel camera in their mobile phone the resulting evidence of the pub crawl will be online and in their Facebook page. I mean, how really cool of an inside look in any friends life is that – possibly too close?

But on a work basis, Facebook is both a godsend and a nightmare. Do you really want everyone from the North Pole to the South Pole, and any potential employer to see the photographic evidence of your weekend away?

I am hence very careful on who I am connected to on Facebook; and I don’t put stuff on my Facebook profile which could harm my personal or business reputation.

Two stories have recently hit the headlines about employee’s being disciplined from entries they made themselves on Facebook:

Australian call centre worker Kyle Doyle, who after a grand night out and resultant hangover, pulled a sickie. His HR manager alerted by his manger asked for the certificated evidence, which then was responded to by an reference to his Facebook entry
Virgin Atlantic sacked 13 staff at their Gatwick hub who criticised the company for lack of cleaning, and rated customers as “chav’s.” I think they could have got away with the former with a caution, but not with the later which potentially brought the company into disrepute

Much as though employers have to be more aware of the use of social networks and make allowances in employment contracts, that doesn’t mean it is all flowing in the employee’s direction. Hence when I am searching for people for clients, half the reason I have a Facebook page is that I can both find new and check on recommended potential employee’s – it is constantly amazing what you can find out, and how daft many are with their personal reputation.

Please, please, please – be aware of what information you place in public. Social networking and Facebook can be fun - but it can also get you sacked, or rejected from a job search.

Good Luck!

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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

How to undertake a secret “new job” search – much like an affair, take precautions and turn the heat up slowly

One of the advantages for the casual job seeker of the internet is to be contactable, but also to appear to your current employer that you are happy where you are. The number of business orientated social networking sites – including LinkedIn and VisualCV – means that you can say to your existing employer that you are “just” networking, while you know that your details are out there being found by recruiters and HR people.

However, suppose you need to escalate that job search to reach a quicker conclusion, to get you out of your existing hole: what tactics can you use?

The first problem and key tactic is that, much like having an illicit affair, you have to be discrete and appear to carry on in the same old routine or path. Appearing to look like a job seeker sends out all the wrong messages to both your existing employer (untrustworthy), and any potential employer (desperate), and is likely to end in an extended period of unemployment over gardening leave.

Hence, the first and only rule is to leave no evidence of your job searching in your work place. Hence while searching for work, do not use your employers infrastructure, including computers or phones. A majority of employers monitor systems usage through a clause in your contract called “bringing the company into disrepute,” they can hence keep details of websites visited by computers and calls made from phones. I have heard of people being sacked after expense accounts included the receipt for purchase of heavy weight paper, or cardboard-backed envelopes which showed up on the accompanying paperwork as “12 x CV/Resume no-bend envelopes!” All expenditure goes to a personal account, and choose to take a preference for paying cash for items and services – particularly including stationary. And don’t go using the company photocopier – a personal printer which includes a copy function can be bought for under £100/$100

Your first task is to separate your existing personal and current job contact details from your new job search self. You must keep your CV/Resume, eMail correspondence, and anything and everything related to your job search on your home computer. This may mean obtaining:

• a new free web-based eMail account specifically for job searching. For instance, if you have AOL and Hotmail accounts, get a gMail account
• a new PAYG cellphone. You could use your home phone answering machine, but it is often difficult to access and always comes with the “I have to tell the other people who I live with” secrecy consequence compromises of your job search. As it is initially for incoming calls, no need for more than the standard starter credit which can cost you from £30/$50 upwards. Please make sure that you record a voice mail message, that clearly states your availability and eMail address
• I would also recommend optionally a PO Box for mail. At around £15/$20/month, a relative bargain

Security of these details is sacrosanct – any leak and unemployment is almost inevitable, so don’t leak them to anyone outside those who need to know. For instance, if you have a Plaxo account, or similar MSOutlook back-up service, don’t put these in your own Plaxo details. They will replicate to all of your contacts, which probably includes your boss! Only once in the job search do you get the excuse in this entire exercise to create a new person identity, so call it something different to your normal choice, which could be for instance: a holiday destination; a name from your year of birth in the phone book; or a name from the newspaper. At NO point will you be using this “identity name,” it is just a point to store your new job search contact details.

Secondly, create a new CV/Resume, or polish up the old one. Make sure it reflects your new career goals and requirements – and include your new job search contact details. But you must be very careful where you post, so only post on job sites where you can keep your employer history and contact information confidential. Monster for instance provides such a facility, which means you can still be found by recruiters and HR people, but your details are confidential and they can only post to you – it is then your choice whether you respond. Store the final document at an easy-access secure document location, such as Google Docs, which allows you quickly to send it out to any CV/Resume requests – but clearly don’t publish it in public!

Thirdly, you can now polish up your existing online profiles. Make sure these are aligned with your new skills and new CV/Resume. On LinkedIn, you can tick a box from an options list which states whether or not you wish to be contacted, while an other option asks if you are interested in new job or contracting opportunities. Most professionals do tick these boxes, and they are just options – but it is not as blatant as posting your CV/Resume across an open jobs site.

During your search, you may find it difficult to make contact with potential employers during work hours – and hence although you may get some contact, following this up will prove difficult. Everyone should take a lunch hour, so use yours to find:

• a place or location where you can go which is away from the work place, and quiet enough in which to conduct a 15min conversation. Your car could be a good option, but make sure the location you park has great cellphone coverage
• a public library or alternately an internet café which gives access to computer terminals. Libraries are good as they provide “cover story” opportunities as to why you are going to the library. Alternately, find a public access Wifi location, such as Starbucks

You now have locations in which to take lunch, and follow up on job search eMails and detail requests.

When you get to the interview stage, try scheduling them at points of the day when it is easier and causes less suspicion. This could either be in the morning or late afternoon, and away from normal office “busy” periods such as monthly or quarterly target or finance period closes. On the day of the interview, if you don’t wear a suit in to work normally, then don’t on the interview day – use a suitcase, or leave your clothes in the car and allow time to change on the way. Men, at the start of your job search, start shaving in a presentable to interview fashion every day – if you want to keep your beard, then trim it. If you suddenly turn up on one day well shaven, then you either have a hot date or are going for an interview!

During your job search, keep a diary and plan of progress – monitoring will tell you what channels are working, to put more effort into them.

Most importantly, always be discrete and try to keep the number of people you tell below four. Only tell those you can trust, which I suggest is family only and no co-workers – it will some how inevitably always get back to your boss!

Job searching can be fun, but you always need to take some sensible cautions just to make sure your existing job is not lost before you have a signed contract for the new job: until that point, it is never secured and assured.

Good Luck!

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