Getting the attention you deserve

An opening statement on Thought for the Day on Radio 4 this morning made me smile.

It went like this.. “On a recent train journey I realised I was in a minority as I was the only person not on my mobile phone because I don’t have one!”

I smiled because I thought how simple life was, but equally frustrating at times too. Only recently friends and I recalled sitting by a phone waiting for ‘that phone call’ and forbidding housemates to use the phone in case they made the line busy at a crucial time meaning the call was delayed!

The one phone at boarding school serviced over 100 pupils in our house, with parents from all over the world trying to reach their children. The phone handset would often been seen dangling from its cord as the helpful person who answered the call had to now locate the child in the labyrinth of rooms and floors that housed everyone. A parent could be left dangling for up to ten minutes, waiting in anticipation to speak to their child. I spoke to my parents a few times a term, hard to imagine in today’s world.

In our search for immediate gratification, society appears to thrive from the increased use of social media but this can be challenging too. It can help feed our constant need for reassurance and immediate response otherwise we may wither. But it can make you wonder what you have to say about yourself or really talk about?

Do we join the conversation or do we risk getting left behind?

Are we sharing, caring or are we boasting?

Can a business that doesn't use social media be successful?

Is a business that excels at social media a good business?

If we see social media as an opportunity to communicate we then have to ask ourselves, what is the value of what we are saying? Does it inform, offer comfort, make others smile or just demand attention.

My favourite posts are those that make me smile and laugh, so if you are able to create those moments I would definitely LIKE you!

To B or not 2B

What is the perceived value of network meetings?

These popular formal or informal meetings of potentially like-minded business people in a room over a breakfast, lunch or coffee are certainly a growing trend, with a large selection to choose from that could keep you out of the office most of the week, if that suited you.

My most recent invitation provoked me to think about this question, as my stomach lurched after I had parked and started my walk towards the venue.

I knew I was going to know no one, but that is the point, isn’t it? You catapult yourself into a room of badged people and introduce yourself, smile and scan their badge for an indication of their business sector, possible value or interest.

Or do you search out someone who you think will just be good company?

It turns out I am not alone in my feelings about entering a room for a business network meeting – I asked others if they felt the same. I inwardly say to myself, I hope it’s going to be worth it, but I do have a measure – I need to take one thing away with me that I have learnt, enjoyed or maybe just potential blog fodder to ensure my time felt worthwhile; recently I managed to achieve all three.

Every year I remind myself that it is essential to step outside of our perceived comfort zone on a regular basis, less we become entrenched in our familiar ways, which neither challenges nor offers us new opportunities. This philosophical approach of course applies to life in general not just work.  It’s a bit like the health advice you read, you feel you know it all but doing it is another thing entirely. At times I feel I could write a bestseller book on ‘ how to eat yourself healthy!” but it hasn’t stopped me reaching for the crisps or chocolate on a regular basis!

What about networking and marketing yourself and business? What do you want from an event, what is your goal? I have mentioned mine, I am always looking for fodder to regurgitate, use and learn from, interesting business links are a bonus but not necessarily an expectation.

The business card has caused me some interest recently, an essential business tool that can be a vital reference point after the initial meeting.

I have met five people in the last week and this is what I received: two business cards with hand-written changes and stickers overlaying old information. One badly made and designed business card for a business that apparently offers business consultancy – I will say no more. And two people who had no business card, as they had been with the business two weeks and these hadn’t been organised yet – both of these people were also business consultants.

Perhaps I attract the unusual and out-of-the ordinary when I attend meetings or B2B events or just maybe no one else thinks it matters. I on the other hand like a business card, I look at the presented information, graphic design layout then check out the business website, social media links, as part of my active research.

One regular B2B attendee was known to review all meetings, possible leads and new business potential over a year, this was done by measuring social media engagements and potential new gained business. This analysis done, network meetings that were deemed unfruitful were no longer attended. Other B2B regulars were apparently critical of this pragmatic approach and were noted as thinking and saying this wasn’t the done thing. However as few meetings offer delectable food, the quality of the event has to be measured in pure business terms of value, and your time has a definitive value and the event costs, you do need to know what the gain has to be to ensure it is deemed worthwhile.

I am aware networking is a vital part of the business world so it is important that you find an event or medium that suits your business, work schedule and needs. After that decide what you want from the opportunity and go for it!

Our advice would be, never under estimate the value of a good business card.

Egg hunts and search engines

The question of Easter and beyond.

I listened with interest recently about Cadbury’s and their National Trust egg hunts without the word Easter apparently featuring in the event title. Apart from receiving excellent coverage on the news about the discussed re-naming of the event, and let’s be honest there is no such thing as bad publicity. It was highlighted that on the websites to advertise the event, the word Easter was listed over 300 times!

Certainly the businesses involved and the search engines would have been extremely happy with that, and no one can argue the term existed, as the search engines said so!

We now live in an age where our business exists but the power, speed and popularity of our business or event is determined by our website search engine results.

It still absolutely fascinates me and I know others, that whilst a business is a building, the people and its service it has to belong in the 'connected-world' to really be counted. You have to know how to answer the spiders, bots and coding of the wider World Wide Web.

I don’t think of myself as particularly technical but I do happily write blogs, post on social media, edit websites, edit images, know what a Meta tag is, read with interest information about websites and love logic, And yet I still know I am only scratching the surface. But then we can’t all be the total wizards of technology (we have others in our team who are specialists!); some of us have to be the translators of the importance of what needs to be done and help others through the on-line maze. I like to think of myself as the trusted guide.

And I will be doing an Easter egg hunt in my garden too!

Getting work experience and finding a job.

How do I get work experience or get a job?

I realise that there is a lot of advice and information available about how to go about getting work experience and how to apply for a job. When I looked at some information recently I didn’t think it imparted the crucial bit, about being interested and engaged with your potential new working environment, so I wanted to share a few thoughts.

I absolutely know getting work experience and applying for a job is nerve-racking. Even those adults who have worked all of their adult lives and consider changing careers and jobs will procrastinate about it for weeks, months and possibly years. They will doubt their ability, their worth and find lots of excuses why they can’t do it.

So if you’ve never worked, you’re young and inexperienced how are you going to do it?

Firstly, you have to remember young energy is infectious, and actually every business needs it. Contrary to what you may think, the business world likes young people and would be lost and dying without it. They love the fact you can be taught, you have no pre-conceived ideas (you may have but they don’t think you do!), you have raw energy, and your IT skills are better than most, plus you may offer new thoughts about processes. They know you don’t know the mechanics of their working structure, you may need training and for a while they will have to invest in you but if they get it right they have a great employee. Equally for work experience, an employer enjoys giving young people an opportunity, you can always offer to write blog on their website about your wonderful experience, businesses like to have their ego boosted, trust me!

What do you have to do to get the chance?

You have to convince the business you are enthusiastic, you are worth their time and investment and you’ll turn up every day and be eager to learn. In other words be keen, sound interested, be interested and find out about the business you want to work for. And please look happy, smile and dress appropriately!

What should I do first?

Sort your CV out. It takes time, possibly a day or two. Yes, it takes time to get a job. I always suggest keeping your CV to one page when you are young, employers don’t have time or the inclination to read pages of waffle.

Check your CV for grammar and spelling mistakes and seek help. Schools and colleges all offer valuable support but you have to ask for it. There is always help available if you ask.

Then write your letter to support your CV and address the letter to the specific business. Find out the name of the person who will be dealing with job or work experience applicants. Better still why not phone first, engage with the business and then ask if you can send your CV to them. This way you will be able to find out exactly whom you should address your letter to and be able to call back in a week to see if they received it.

Do some research, check out the business website, their social media sites. Take mental notes of things you thought were good, interesting and maybe something you thought was not that great. Be ready to share your information with them when you get a chance to show you are genuinely interested in their business.

The big question: why do you want to work for us?

Do not say any of the following, I have heard and seen this in correspondence, and I simply cringe:

Because my mum suggested I call you

My other work experience opportunity fell through

I don’t know but I think it would be ok

It’s close to my home

You really need to think of some genuine reasons why you would like to work for the business. Remember what we said at the beginning, a business would invest time and energy in you, if they believe in you.

And lastly, no matter how much your parents or guardians love and care for you, they must never speak to employers on your behalf.

You must do the work, the business is potentially employing a person they can engage with, who they can train and will fit in with their organisation and that isn’t your mum, dad, aunt or any other caring adult!

Good luck, you deserve a chance and you will get it, if you persevere.

Radio, students and the arts

Last week I was interviewed for the Kent Creative show to be broadcast on Channel Radio on-line on Tuesday 21st March at 4pm.

I was fortunate to be in great company with Lucy Medhurst from Artworks and Nathalie Banaigs of Kent Creative Arts, as the radio host / presenter.

The setting for our interview and the temporary radio studio was the art hub of Faversham, Creek Creative studios on Abbey Street. Sitting among the delectable collection of handmade jewellery, cards and beautiful trinkets we chatted about the importance of art, design and working with students.

At the beginning I did wonder what I was going to talk about, what would I say when asked. Would I just keep saying ummmm and not pronounce my syllables correctly, mumble and say the dreaded “you know” all the time.

Actually I found I was bursting to talk, to contribute to the discussion about the importance of art in our lives. I am not an artist but I really do enjoy creative things, which is art. I work in a creative industry with talented creators and know how important it is to get it right, share enthusiasm and opportunities.

We moved our Madcreative office onto the MidKent Campus in December as part of our proactive approach and belief that it is important for businesses to support students and young people in the work place. We currently have two students working in our office during the week. We set them work and offer guidance to ensure they can complete their task. It does take some dedicated time and focus and you do need to think about what a student can do, what support they need and how you can make the most of their time in the office, ensuring it is mutually beneficial.

Nathalie asked me this question last week, “What makes you satisfied / happy when you are at work?”

Which I answered with the following, “succeeding on a project, which initially feels slightly outside the comfort zone. An achievable challenge which gives such a sense of accomplishment at the end.”

Yes this is true but after considering the question more over the last few days, and in light of our location here at MidKent College, I want to add more. There is something very personal about design and art, you are sharing a part of yourself and it can feel as if your ideas and interpretation of a brief are being examined, which they are. Therefore getting it right feels very good but equally getting it wrong can be very deflating.  If we can help students by giving them real work opportunities, allowing them to gain confidence about their abilities and grow their self-belief that would be extremely helpful to them as they pursue more opportunities within the workplace.


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