Going the extra mile

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One of the strange by-products of being under lockdown for long periods of the last 12 months is how divisive depictions of the outside world have become. Our biggest contact with the wider world is of course the media. But there is a ‘them’ and ‘us’ divide on almost every aspect of reporting at the moment. From politics, generational differences and the Royal Family, to where you should go on holiday – home or abroad, when home for some people literally means ‘at home’.

But what can so often be forgotten at the moment is simple kindness. The kindness of going that extra mile and beyond the call of duty. To make sure of others’ mental and physical wellbeing. The impact the national lockdowns, the lack of social interaction, the lessening of physical contact and the ongoing work from home policy, has left many people feeling isolated. Even if they have large extended families or wide circles of friends, the ability to meet up with them has been taken away. Even within your own household activity is limited. You may not want to go out for a meal, or a clothes’ shopping spree,. However, it would be nice to at least have the option. And work from home is wearing thin for some now. As for many, their dining room table continues its dual role as eatery and office – taking eating ‘al desco’ to an entirely new level.

A duty of care

What we’ve found at Career Evolution is that we’ve been more in contact than normal with our clients. Checking in with them regularly. Our Consultants and Coaches always aim to build up a strong and continuing relationship with their clients during their time together. But we’re finding that it‘s simple things like asking for an update on progress – if they are undergoing the outplacement process – or getting updates in their job search or career progression, that have really been appreciated.

We have found this extra commitment, for example, checking in with clients after they have been in their new roles for three months, to ensure they’ve settled in, makes a big difference. We’ve also found that it’s happened naturally, as opposed to being something that was premeditated. Also, all our clients know that they can keep in touch with us, even after they have secured their new role. That ongoing contact enables us to address any concerns our clients may have or allow us to apply reassurance and ongoing guidance where necessary.

Whether it’s checking in with your next-door neighbour, contacting a colleague to say ‘hello’ or following up on a client’s progress and feedback following a job interview, try to find the time to make sure they’re okay. You have no idea how much some people will appreciate it.

Informally speaking

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Even in lockdown, job searches can still being carried out, fresh contacts made and new opportunities pursued. Often doors open in the most unusual circumstances, in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s a call for an ‘informal chat’, but don’t be fooled. Go in with both eyes open. Even the most informal chat requires a degree of presentation and preparation.

Same rules apply

Over the last 12 months, many aspects of business have changed dramatically. With offices largely deserted and people working remotely, things like the daily commute have become consigned to the past for now. With that has come a degree of complacency on the part of some people, who have seen their ‘work’ and ‘home’ life blur into one.

However, for some companies this remote working has been business as usual. If operatives are working in a variety of countries already, they are used to working via Zoom and Teams (other conferencing platforms are available). People are already working for companies that are based around the globe, in different time zones, with meetings taking place at all hours of the day to accommodate all attendees. What shouldn’t be forgotten at this time, however, is a consistent level of professionalism that should be maintained, even in the most ‘informal’ business situations.

Don’t knock opportunity

Imagine that through an online networking event, or a business forum such as LinkedIn, you have had an invite for an ‘informal chat’ about potential opportunities for working together. This could be from a senior person in the company. But the chat is being conducted via Zoom, so the minimum effort on your part is required, right? There’s no getting smartened up, working out travel times to the office, arriving on time for the meeting or interview. No prep at all. All you have to do is show up at your own dining room table.

However, even if there isn’t a role currently available for you at the company, you could use this opportunity of being in front of a senior person at a company you’d like to work for, to make a good impression. Our advice to our clients at Career Evolution is that there’s no such thing as an informal chat. These are busy people, who don’t give up their time freely when they don’t have to. If they want to talk to you, it’s because they’re seeing value in you.

Keeping up appearances

This means you have to dress, act and prepare for a formal interview.  Don’t be caught unaware just for the sake of putting some smart/casual clothes on and doing some preparation. Research the company and its people. Look at how it presents itself online and in the media. Determine what they do and how you could have a positive impact at the company. Give it some thought beforehand.

That extra bit of effort on your part – visually and mentally – will combine to create the right impression of you as a potential work colleague, however informal the invitation to ‘chat’ may seem to be.

The etiquette of online meetings

In the past year we’ve become very used to seeing Zoom, Teams and other platforms in all kinds of places. Many of us have been using them for meetings, presentations and interviews, or even just to catch up with friends and family. They have become ubiquitous in all sorts of media too. On TV we’ve seen them being used on everything from news interviews, to the nightly round-up of tomorrow’s papers. We’ve even seen supporters watching football matches remotely – as screens become a chessboard of small faces. They’ve also been used for podcasts and other online forums and have allowed people to ‘see’ each other, albeit remotely.

Screening calls

Not everyone is comfortable with the format however. Some find it too informal, intrusive even, to have a camera trained on them in the privacy of their own home. As offices struggle to get staff back to work, due to the ongoing restrictions put in place by the UK government, work from home continues to be the most likely scenario for the foreseeable future. This is particularly true for larger office complexes.  But what are the rules when it comes to onscreen etiquette?

There’s some basic no-no’s from the off, like don’t Zoom and drive. But there are many layers to carrying out successful, worthwhile Zoom calls that will be beneficial to all participants. If you’re uncomfortable with the visual aspect – or your IT isn’t up to it – is it okay to not have the camera on and just use the format as audio-only? If you’re happier with that, then why not, but you might find its better received if you explain that is what you are going to do. Some people seem to take umbrage if they’re onscreen and you’re not.

Sound and silence

To minimise background noise, it’s best to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. This will stop any extraneous noise (a door slamming, a child shouting, a pet growling, the washing machine running) in your room activating your mic and causing you to ‘take the floor’ so to speak. Some software allows the coordinator of the meeting to automatically mute mics their end and introduce speakers as they are needed.

It’s probably best to buy a headset or a freestanding microphone, as the audio input quality on laptop speakers can be less than ideal. Some people use desktop webcams, but the camera in your laptop should suffice, if you’re not broadcasting to millions of people. Make sure it’s positioned properly though, so you don’t look as though you’re stuck down a mineshaft, or looking up out of a well.

Looking professional

Appearance-wise it’s also best to dress as though you were going to work. That Winnie the Pooh onesie isn’t going to present the right image as you pitch for a new client.  You may also have to stand up to retrieve something during the meeting.  You should always concentrate on what is being said and try and avoid external distractions, such as checking your phone, or watching the TV.

Nodding to acknowledge you’re listening and understanding what is being said is a good and won’t interrupt the speakers flow. If your meeting requires a contribution from you, outside of informal conversation, then prepare well beforehand and have notes to hand and prompts, should you need them. But avoid multitasking onscreen if you can help it. Don’t start playing with the printer, or trying to make a cup of coffee, while you’re supposed to be listening.

If it’s an interview or presentation, approach it with the same attention to detail you would as if it was in person. Make sure you have rehearsed what you would like to say and come across as confident and knowledgeable.

Online meetings hopefully won’t be the only answer in the long term, but for the moment it’s something we all need to use. You might as well get good at it!

Four ways to help employees uncover their personal strengths

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Strong leaders know that their success is not measured by their own personal achievements but instead by the success of their employees. It is important to take the time to analyse the attributes of new and existing employees in order to make the most of them. Try to learn fully about their passions and interests in order to help bring out strengths that they may not even know they had.

Empower your employees

To feel comfortable enough in a workplace that your strengths shine through you have to feel empowered. Bosses can empower their employees in three different ways. Firstly, you must provide the right training to enable your workers to do the tasks necessary. Secondly, you need to motivate people. This can be done by introducing employee incentives or rewards. Finally, you should clear the path for their success; you should remove anything in the company’s control that may prevent them from being the best version of themselves.


Go straight to the source. Ask your team members about what they believe to be their abilities and passions. Having conversations with staff about what they view as their best traits shows that you value this information, and want to make sure that these abilities are being utilised most effectively.

Observe the past

Whether an employee is new to the team, or has been around for longer, it is important to look back on previous work to really find where your employees strengths really lie. Look for previous major successes and what skills they used while doing this. Once you are aware of this, you can assign employees to tasks that bring out strengths that are specific to them.

Allow an employee to test drive a new role

It is possible that an employee’s strengths could blossom in a role different from the one that they perform day-to-day. Allow your employees to shadow co-workers to find out about their roles and responsibilities. This test-drive might spark new ideas about increased value from the employee, and allow you to see where a role-shift may make sense for the individual. At the end of the day, you want to get the best out of your employees.