Take Control of Your Future

What strange times we are living in! Our health and wellbeing has never been so important with most of us spending all of our time staying home and supporting families and friends remotely. Our permitted local walks, exercise in the garden, virtual Pilates sessions and, of course, Joe Wicks’ daily torture sessions are starting to become our new normal.

How I discovered Pilates

My name is Jenny Roberts and I am a Careers Specialist. My connection with Chapel Allerton Pilates started many moons ago. I have had back pain and issues with my joints for as long as I can remember and in despair I spoke to friends and medics who all recommended I consider taking up pilates. I was very sceptical - but I went along for a one-to-one with Sarah Stonier and agreed to try a couple of the classes. My first reformer class felt 'too easy' - how could lying on a moving bed and just stretching a bit be classed as exercise or be of any use to my achy back? I was waiting to 'feel the burn' or to get out of breath quickly. To my surprise two lessons later all of my joints, including my back suddenly started to free up - I was hooked!

Seven years on I try to attend two classes a week and feel that without the regular reformer class my movement and posture revert back to my default slouch and I stiffen again.

Breath of fresh air

The new studio in Chapel Allerton has been a breath of fresh air - it's near to my home and I find the cosy feel and helpful staff create a really positive atmosphere. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis three years ago, but this has actually incentivised me even more to go to pilates - Sarah always finds alternative exercises I can do to avoid weight-bearing and increase my flexibility. I am now enjoying virtual Pilates classes from the comfort of my own home. For many of us this has been a saviour, creating routine in a life which doesn't feel the same.

So what now?

Only a few short weeks ago we were going about our daily lives and careers on autopilot, with no inkling of what was just around the corner. Thought processes might have included:

- Looking for a new job

- Returning to work post maternity/paternity leave

- Considering complete career change

It is difficult to know the extent to which this pandemic will impact plans. It’s hard to remain focussed when we are suddenly not only Mum or Dad, Son or Daughter, but by necessity also Teacher, Carer, Chef, Organiser, Counsellor and family Accountant!

Some industries are hiring in even greater numbers – certainly supermarkets, delivery companies and healthcare/social care firms are seeing unprecedented recruitment campaigns and there are opportunities to apply and be hired quickly, whilst recruitment in other industries has been frozen, some job offers withdrawn and it’s hard to second guess how much the Coronavirus will effect hiring plans for the coming months.

As a Careers Specialist, I believe that the current situation can actually give job hunters and career changers a valuable opportunity to take stock of their situations and to positively start to work on those areas they may have been putting off. Here are my top 5 tips for people looking for a job during or after the pandemic:

  1. Narrow down the field

When everything feels chaotic it’s easy to go all out to apply for everything and anything. In my experience, a scattergun approach rarely works – in fact generic and unfocused applications usually lead to multiple rejections resulting in your self-confidence and ultimately motivation being negatively impacted.

Instead, prioritise and think carefully about what’s really important to you. Reflect on jobs you’ve held previously and think about the elements you want to stop, start and continue. Recognise what is ‘non-negotiable’ and what would be ‘nice to have’. Understanding that our priorities can and do change is key to all of this – it may be that your former workaholic lifestyle no longer suits your young family or that you need to earn more than ever now in order to make ends meet, perhaps you are looking for stability and routine or want to put your hitherto creative side into the spotlight.

You can’t define a goal and make a plan without working through who you are and what you really want and need in your next role.

2. Have a goal and make a plan

Evidence tells us that we are far more likely to stick to something when we write it down, and even more likely to implement our written plans when we tell someone about our intentions.

My clients often say they don’t know where to start but this is rarely the problem! Not everyone will start an action plan in the same place and my advice would be to look at the end goal and work towards it – what are the key steps you need to take to achieve your goal and what actions will you need to undertake to actually get there?

For some people it’s simple, practical aspects such as working on a CV, researching opportunities, practicing rusty interview skills, or re-training/taking a vocational course. For others it might be about exploring themselves and really considering what makes them tick – thinking about what you value in your workplace can be a crucial element. Once you have your plan – make sure that you make time to implement it – the plan won’t work unless you block time out and stick to it.

3. Network, network, network...

My clients often cringe when I talk about networking, yet forging strong professional relationships and speaking to people in the know can ensure you get to your end goal faster and with a far better understanding of what will be involved in the job/company itself.

Think about who you know – your family near and extended, friends, partners of friends, and former colleagues. Networking is not calling someone and asking them to help you get a job, nor is it sending your CV to everyone you know in the hope that it’ll stick somewhere and secure you an interview.

What networking is, however, is the opportunity to find out more, equip yourself with information and vitally it is also chance to offer something back – reciprocating further down the line. Obviously, the current situation we are all now in means you won’t know how the person you are contacting has been impacted by the pandemic, so sensitivity is crucial. Have the genuine intention of reconnecting with your contacts and express genuine interest in how they are doing.

Remember - few of us will have a large, active network now – you will need to work on your network consistently and proactively in order to extend it and really get the most from it. LinkedIn is one of the best tools to do this – if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile – prioritise this – it’s a great way to connect with people and ask the kind of curious questions that can lead to building new professional relationships and growing your business acumen.

4. Reflect, Research and Grow

What skill-sets do you have – make a list of those competencies you have and those that could be better. This is a great time to improve yourself and focus on how you can grow and move forward. If you think your presentation skills might benefit from some practice use a partner or friend and practice – Skype, Zoom, House Party. WhatsApp and even the good old phone offer us the chance to interact and give and receive feedback.

See if you can find a friend who’s also looking to improve a skill and work together – factor a time each week to practice. If you really can’t face the thought of doing this with someone else, then record yourself and write down your own feedback! Research on-line courses and consider those that might be interesting but also helpful to your future career aspirations. Many courses are free at the moment so this could be a good time to take up a new language, learn coding, have some leadership coaching or practice public speaking.

5. Be Kind To Yourself

It can be really hard to maintain a positive outlook when you are job hunting – let alone managing to stay sane in the midst of a pandemic. You’ll need to be able to convince a future employer to make you a job offer so being confident in your abilities will be crucial. Think about what is in your control – how you can find solutions to current issues and consider the things you are genuinely grateful for. Writing down your achievements, or ticking off your to-do list on your action plan can be a great way to be kind to yourself and to focus on what is working for you. Set aside time to exercise and to be calm – this will help you refocus your priorities day to day.

Whether you are at a career crossroads and you are not sure which direction to take or you have been left without work following lockdown I can help answer your careers questions and offer advice and guidance. I am fully qualified in careers information, education, advice and guidance and work on Skype and phone with people of all ages and at all stages of their careers. If you are looking to update your CV and don’t know where to start, or you know exactly what job you are looking for but can’t seem to get there, I can work with you to help you navigate the next steps. I offer practical assistance (including mock interviews, assistance writing personal statement for University, action planning and signposting resources) and am passionate about supporting people.

Jenny will be hosting a careers workshop on Friday 15th May at 7:30pm. Bookable on Mind Body online very soon.

Contact Jenny at her website by clicking here

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