Climbing the slippery pole – keep your career moving forward

If you want your career to progress then you have to be prepared to push it along! Embrace your current role and get all the experience, skills and knowledge it can offer you. However be mindful that your next step (and the one after) should be pointing you directly towards your career objective.

So, how do you ensure your career development stays on track and keeps up momentum, whilst doing a great job in your current position?

Continue reading “Climbing the slippery pole – keep your career moving forward”

When is it time to move on from your job?

After a few years in the same job, one day you may find that your enthusiasm, high work standards and general attitude have been gradually deteriorating.

This may have come about following changes in the workplace that you don’t agree with – maybe your skills have outgrown the role, or you’re no longer being challenged and the enjoyment is waning.

It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and identify if this is just a temporary rut or a permanent hole. But how do you know that it really is time to move on? Continue reading “When is it time to move on from your job?”

How to ask for a pay rise – and other tough questions

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Often getting what you want in life can be be simply down to just asking for it. But when it comes to your career, it isn’t always that easy. A pay increase, a promotion, extended leave, flexible working hours – these are all things we may want from our job, but are afraid or reluctant to ask for. Continue reading “How to ask for a pay rise – and other tough questions”

Is the counter offer all it seems?

A counter offer is often used by employers to try and tempt someone who has just resigned to stay with the company. Handling such offers can be a delicate situation and requires careful consideration.

Examine your initial reasons for wanting to leave; often the reasons people make job changes are for issues other than money. If this is the case, then it is likely you will return to those same issues after the initial glow of more money and feeling appreciated by your current company wears off. On the other hand, if money, or not feeling appreciated was the primary reason for making a change, you might be happy with accepting the counter offer. It is a good idea to list out the pros and cons for each opportunity and discuss these with someone whose opinion you value.

Consider the risks

While there are risks in going into a new position with a new organisation, there are also risks in accepting a counter offer. Depending upon the relationship you have with your management team, and the corporate culture at your present company, accepting a counter offer could change how you are viewed. There is the possibility of being seen as disloyal, and if the outside offer came at a very crucial time — say, when losing you would have been disastrous to a vital project or the bottom line — you may cause some animosity if the employer feels there is no choice but to counter offer to keep you on board. These feelings could pass in time, but it is also possible for you to be targeted for replacement, or passed over for promotion, important projects etc. at a time when it is more convenient for your current employer. This scenario assumes that you have not yet accepted the offer from the new employer, and your current employer, learning of your potential departure, makes you a counter offer. If, however, you have already accepted an offer from the new employer, it would be considered somewhat unethical to withdraw your acceptance based upon a counter offer from your current employer.

So what now?

You still have to do what is right for you. In the end, after weighing all the factors and discussing them with family members, close friends or a mentor, you will need to make a decision. Ultimately, you need to do what is in your best short- and long-term interests. And usually, what is appropriate for one party is appropriate for both parties concerned — even if not always apparent at first.

Is it time for a new job?

It seems that over the festive season and with a new year looming, people reflect on what they have done in the last year and what they would like to achieve in the next 12 months. Is now a good time to change job? Continue reading “Is it time for a new job?”

The dreaded group interview – what to expect and how to prepare

Although group interviews are not common, there are a number of companies that like using this method of selecting the right candidate and it’s worth knowing how to approach them. Continue reading “The dreaded group interview – what to expect and how to prepare”

Had a job offer … but don’t want to accept?

So you have been through a few rounds of interviews, you feel flattered by the attention and (possibly sooner than expected) you have been offered the job.

Great! But wait …. you’re not sure this is the dream job for you. What next?

There could be a whole host of reasons that you have come this far, but do not want to proceed:

  • Maybe the interview process has been haphazard – perhaps long gaps in between interviews (how urgent is this?), no feedback from meetings (do they value their staff?), seemingly round after round of interviews, tests and meetings (do they know what they want or are they indecisive?)
  • Maybe during the interview process the company has had negative press – could be anything from an industrial tribunal to poor results reported – or the position’s circumstances have changed. Perhaps your future line manager has left the business or the company is going through a restructure.
  • Maybe you have not been entirely honest with yourself and the business. Perhaps you have no intention of leaving your current business and you were just ‘kicking tyres’.
  • Maybe the offer is so under par, that there is no point in negotiating, because you feel that this is an indication of how they value the position.

Whatever it might be, you need to extract yourself gracefully (ideally without burning any bridges because you do not know when you might come across the decision makers again – retail is a small world), whilst also staying true to yourself. In other words give them the real reason, rather than a feeble excuse.

Expect them to try and persuade you to change your mind, after all they have made a significant investment in time to arrive at this point, so make certain when you decline an offer you give them a precise and concise reason, from which you cannot and will not be swayed. And apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Some are easy, for example: “the company’s recent annual results are a real surprise to me and I feel that I have been misled or have misunderstood the business’ current trading performance. I have set myself the target to join a growing business, rather than a turnaround”.

Others are more difficult: “I feel that the position is not significantly different from the one I have currently and know that my prospects for promotion are greater where I am”.

Or: “On reflection, I have misgivings about the fact that the company culture is so different than I am used to, and I’m concerned that this appointment will not work out for either you or me”.

My advice is to make sure that the reason for turning the offer down, cannot be (easily) rectified. If it is about money, they may offer you more. If it is about not being able to work from home, they may offer you that concession.

The financial state of their business or current performance, the company culture or the lack of available progression are not easily fixed…

Need help? Call me!

How to turn a job interview into a conversation

It seems to be ingrained in many people that job interviews are something you need to do well at – you need to impress, you want to show your best side and hopefully you will progress to the next round.  And I wouldn’t disagree. So prepare accordingly (and read my previous blog Interview tips).

What most people tend to forget is that an interview is the main opportunity to do your due diligence on the company, the job, the culture and your potential future boss.

Remarkably, most people are judged not by the answers they give, but by the type of questions they ask. If you have conducted interviews, have you ever said about a candidate “She asked all the right questions”?

There you go, someone stood out because they asked good questions, because they really wanted to know whether this opportunity is right for them.

Therefore, in preparation for an interview, tell yourself that by the end of the meeting, you need to have gathered enough information to decide whether you want to go forward to the next round.

So what do you need to know?

I guess a starting point is the company culture. Questions like:

How are the company’s results communicated with the workforce?
What is the dress code?
Are you aware whether colleagues socialise with each other outside of work?
Does the company hold team events?
Does the company support a charity, if so which one and how?
If I asked one of my future colleagues to describe the company culture, what words would they use?

To find out more about the job itself and your potential boss, you could ask:

If I were to join the business, what would your expectations be of me during the first 3 months?
What do I need to have achieved in the first 6 months? And in the first year?
What obstacles or bottle necks can I expect to encounter?
Are you aware of any ‘problems’ within the team I am about to manage or join?
What support can I expect from you? And how much autonomy?
What background, experience and skill sets would the ideal person for this position have? (Check where you fall short and ask whether that is an issue)
How open is the company to my learning and development?
Why is this position open? And, if appropriate, where did the previous incumbent fall short?
What made you decide to join the business and what are your plans for the future?

The thing to remember is that no one likes to be interrogated, so you will need to practise the art of conversation so that the interview feels like a two way stream of information and rapport is developed along the way. Frankly, if the interviewer does not want to have a conversation or just wants to stick to their set questionnaire, you really should ask yourself if this is the right business for you.

Happy to help you prepare, just ask me!

Maarten Jonckers

Procrastination is an inherited trait – but you can beat it

We loved this article from careers expert Zena Everett and are re-publishing it with her permission.

There’s nothing like exam time to highlight our universal tendency to procrastinate. Colouring in a revision diary instead of actually revising, or in my case when studying a mid-career masters, developing a daily desire to polish my oven before opening up my laptop.

Recently I caught myself watching a YouTube clip on how to get out of quicksand, when I was supposedly doing some real research, ironically on productivity tools.

We procrastinate over tasks at work and also about starting difficult conversations at home, getting medical symptoms checked out, speaking up in meetings and making life decisions. This causes frustration, inertia, stress and regret.

I have two Crazy Busy principles for getting stuff done:

1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
2. Spending a long time on something does not make it important.

So why do we faff around, preparing to start, rather than just … starting?

Procrastination is a lifelong trait and researchers have found that it is in our genes: a tendency to procrastinate runs in families. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck with it, but the fix is more complicated than ‘just do it’.

It isn’t the task itself that’s the blocker, it is the transition to getting started that we need to work on.

Here’s two reasons why we delay starting, one psychological and one practical:

[mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”true” color=”#393836″ size=”18″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]1. Fear of Failure[/mk_fancy_title]

You are paralysed by your perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionists aren’t trying to be perfect – they just feel that nothing they do is ever good enough.

Do you like to do everything at the last minute, right up to the deadline?

You’ve got an important report to write, due in by Friday morning. If you block out time early in the week to write and edit it, you stand a fair chance of producing a decent quality document. If you do it over Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning, you are giving yourself a get-out clause for a sub-standard result, ‘If I only had more time, it would have been perfect.’

You are protecting yourself from the fear of failure. If you’d wholeheartedly thrown yourself into writing the report, and it still wasn’t up to your uncompromisingly high standards, you’d have to deal with that. This way, your perfectionist tendencies have held you back, protecting you from facing up to your perceived sub-standard performance and failures.

Rather than giving you a safety net, this avoidance behaviour creates even more stress and anxiety.

Your delaying and last minute approach probably creates stress for the people you work with too.


– Untangle your performance from your self-esteem: see yourself as more than just your achievements; there is more to your identity than that.

– Decide when only outstanding performance will do and when to aim for average performance. In most cases average is perfectly fine.

WHAT you do is significantly important than HOW you do it.

[mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h2″ style=”true” color=”#393836″ size=”18″ font_weight=”inhert” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”18″ font_family=”none” align=”left”]2. You haven’t planned the task into your diary[/mk_fancy_title]

If work isn’t scheduled, it doesn’t get done. Most of spend our day driven by what’s screaming out in front of us – usually our inbox. Vital tasks get fitted in around the sides. Our diary is full of meetings, not real work.

How we spend our day can depend on our mood and what we feel ready to take on. We have a slow build up to getting ready, regardless of our intentions.


– Block out time to do priority tasks, in the same way you schedule meetings. Make sure you have all the resources you need and start it on time. If you are in an open plan office you may have to go to a quiet location where you aren’t interrupted. At the very least, shut down all message pop-ups. Try it for 60 minutes and see what you get done and if the world can cope without access to you.

– Design a routine and stick to it. Don’t wait until you are in the mood. Start your task and your mood will catch up. Structure your day in a disciplined way so you can be as effective as possible. Aim for 90 to 120 minutes a day of deep ‘flow’ working on challenging tasks that will make significant impact. Allow time to get a few quick tasks and conversations done each day to get your energy going, then drop into scheduled flow working.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what to do first, or the task/project seems overwhelming. Your first chunk of time can be for figuring out how to do it and making a plan.

This is taken from Zena Everett’s new book, Crazy Busy: How to get more done in a day than you do now in a week. It is available in print versions from her website and Amazon. If you would like a FREE digital version, please email 

Zena runs 90 minute Crazy Busy events in organisations, leading to increased productivity and team collaboration.

Are you a bull or a butterfly?

Do you have a career plan or are you just floating along?

As an executive search consultant, some of the biggest regrets people tell me about are:

1. I have stayed too long with the same company (because it was comfortable and although they offered me new challenges every few years, it did not actually enhance my experience or career)

2. I wish I had cultivated a relevant network, now that I am looking for a new job

If your ultimate goal is to have fun and see where it takes you and to have only worked for businesses that are interesting and where you have a pleasant time, then perhaps drifting along and being opportunistic concerning job opportunities could be the strategy for you. Rather like a fun road trip to southern Italy, without a set destination, just following the sun.

However, if you know where you want to be by the time your career peaks in terms of position, size of company, size of team, location (international?), remuneration, etc. then you need to plan your career journey, and you need to start with the end goal in mind. Are you the person who wouldn’t drive to southern Italy without looking at a map or at least taking a SatNav, making sure you have enough money for petrol, European breakdown service, an idea of hotel cost and location?

When it comes to planning your career, it’s much the same philosophy: Define your current role, autonomy, budget controls, kpi’s and take an estimated guess at what parameters your final destination job will have. Now that you know the gap between the two, you can start to make a plan for building experience in the relevant areas.

Questions to ask yourself will be:
• What do I need to do to move from an area manager to a regional manager position? (e.g. can I deputise for the regional manager when she is on holiday and what do I need to do to make sure that I succeed in this temporary role and get noticed?)
• How do I gain experience of managing a bigger team?
• What project work can I do to gain the experience to move from management accountant to financial controller or from digital marketer to head of ecommerce?
• Will my current employer offer me the opportunity to gain the additional knowledge and experience required to take the next step up?

Invariably you will run out of runway in your current business and that’s the time to find a new company with a longer runway – not necessarily one who pays more money (although that would be nice).

For the new employer it should be a huge benefit to hear that their new recruit did not just join for the money or the bigger car or the shorter commute. They need to understand that if they help you manage your career and help you develop, you will add value to the business over many years to come and ideally in a number of different roles. (If they think that this is an issue and really just want someone to do the job that they are recruiting for then this is probably not the business for you.)

Remember, to succeed in a role, you need clear (and measurable) objectives, if you cannot keep score than it is difficult to measure whether you are keeping on track with your career goals (it would be like driving to southern Italy without a fuel gauge or speedometer – how do you know when you need to fill up?).

Find yourself a senior mentor, who will challenge and direct, who will praise, listen and give advice. This will be an invaluable sounding board and sense check, however make sure that this person has all the knowledge, experience or contacts that you feel you need! If someone asks you where you want to be in 5 years’ time, don’t be ashamed to say that you have not given it much thought yet because you need to master your current role first.

It is much worse to answer: ‘Managing Director’, but on further questioning having to admit that you have taken no steps in order to get there and really it is a pipe dream rather than a well thought out plan.

Finally, when you use a recruiter/executive search consultant/head hunter for your next role and they omit to ask you about your career goals, your ‘runway’ and what additional experience you would gain if you stayed in your current role, then the chances are that they are trying to sell you a job.

Any self-respecting professional in the recruiting industry plays the long game, they should be there to help you and advise you on the best career options, so that they can place you (again and again..!).