Company reorganisation leads to an appetite for change

With a 25-year background in the protein food industry, Peter Allan found his Regional Managing Director role was made redundant last May following a company reorganisation.  As part of his redundancy package, Peter’s former employers offered him outplacement support via Career Evolution.

Job hunting during a pandemic

Peter explains: “Having been with the company a long time, the decision to restructure did not come as a shock. Once the dust had settled, my key focus was to find a new role.  I was pleased to accept the outplacement support, as I knew the job market would be difficult in the current environment, particularly for the type and level of role I wanted to secure.”

Career Evolution worked with Peter to ensure that his CV was more specific and purposeful, and that his LinkedIn profile reflected the tone of his CV. With so many years in the food industry, Peter already had a well-developed, global network. However, he needed to decide on what he wanted from his next position.

Identifying what’s important

Peter found the support of Career Evolution extremely positive. He said: “Career Evolution encouraged me to really think about the sector and type of role I was looking for. Director Sue Thomas also provided me with introductions and contacts with senior people in other industries, as I had identified that my new role didn’t need to be sector-specific, but rather, there were various elements that were imperative. I wanted to work for a values-based business and thrive through leading a good team of people.

“Career Evolution also helped me prepare for interviewing via Zoom, which adds a whole new element to the interviewing process.”

After exploring a number of options, including NED positions, Peter was ultimately offered the role of Managing Director for Billington Food, part of the Billington Group at the end of last year and started in his new job in January 2021. It is an ethical, values-based, family-owned business with a good customer base and Peter is excited about the opportunities to develop the business further.

Keeping on track

He concluded: “Possibly one of the most important aspects of the support from Career Evolution was the accountability and reassurance that the team provided. I worked hard developing my network and researching and contacting companies but having someone there to motivate me and sense check my action helped keep me on track.”

Good connections lead to a brighter future with Esure

At the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, Gill Swindlehurst, like many others began working from home and later, as the pandemic continued, was furloughed.  Having only been in her insurance role since January, with the ongoing disruptions to daily life, she took the short-term decision to become the primary carer and home-schooler for her two young children and in May 2020 left her job.

Following a fortuitous introduction to outplacement specialists Career Evolution, via one of her husband’s HR networking groups, Gill started working with Sue Thomas, Director at Career Evolution. Sue helped her update her CV and advised her on the best approach to securing her next role.

Highlighting achievements

Gill explains: “Sue spent invaluable time, over Zoom, talking to me about what I wanted from my next role and looking at how I could develop my CV to position myself in the best possible way.  Sue got me to think about what I had already achieved in my professional life, with a focus on the most recent role I had held, and how that had contributed to the business’ bottom line.”

Star performance

Working in this collaborative way, Gill developed and revised her CV to make it punchy and to the point, using the STAR technique – looking at Situation, Task, Action, Results – to highlight competency examples. She also ensured that she was sending consistent messages through her LinkedIn profile and other online platforms, and that she was easy to find and contact.  The other fundamental piece of advice Sue shared, was for Gill to reach out to her professional network and make sure that they knew that she was looking for a new opportunity.

Gill continued: “The positive response I received from my network was amazing and an ex-colleague of mine put me in touch with the Claims Manager at Esure. I sent him my CV, and he contacted me, and we arranged to have a coffee via Zoom.  The benefit of having invested time on my CV, ensured that I was comfortable talking about my previous successes and that I had a strong framework to refer to during our call.”

Gill’s ‘interview’ and her CV ensured that she stood out. Gill was offered a newly created position as Claims Delivery Manager, responsible for change and improvements within the Esure Claims team.  Starting in November 2020, the position was originally a six-month placement, which has since been extended to May 2022.

Network strength

Talking about her experience of job hunting during a pandemic, Gill commented: “The advice Sue gave me made such a difference.  From updating my CV and personal statement, through to examining what I actually wanted from my next role, all had a huge impact on my approach and confidence.  However, possibly key was contacting my professional network, and the strength of the response from them was overwhelming.”

Maintaining morale

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The importance of maintaining a positive approach to work, even during these turbulent times, is a regular theme of our Career Evolution articles.  There are many ways you can approach this, and the right tips need to be tailored to the needs of your individual business. However, we have compiled a few of the ones we think are most important to give you a starting point.

Communicate more

People are generally more engaged when they are kept informed and understand what is happening to them and why. It also helps if you listen to their comments too.

Ideas anyone?

Morale improves when your team feels valued. Encourage, share and implement innovations and ideas. This is particularly important while so many of us are still working from home.

Celebrate success

Even during difficult times it is important to celebrate success – whether this is a new project win, completion of an existing project or the acknowledgement of an award – celebrate, even if it’s just with a coffee and a cake via Zoom!

And appreciate a job well done

Saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way towards helping with morale. Appreciation doesn’t need to cost money, it just has to be genuine.

Smile!

Smiling is contagious and is scientifically proven to have a beneficial effect on both the smiler and the smilee.

Offer flexibility

It might not always be possible to reward people financially. However, offering some flexibility in working hours might help people feel more motivated.

The right environment

Everything from the lighting to the heating, the seating and the technology all have a role to play in how someone feels about their workplace. Again, with so many workers currently in their home environment, it might just be a case if checking they have everything that they need to get the job done.

Giving something back

Many people like the opportunity to be able to give something back to the community. Encouraging your team to get involved in community projects – or fundraise for charity – builds your reputation with your staff and your local area.

Have fun…

You spend a huge percentage of your life working, so take the time to have some fun in your working day too. A short break from the daily grind will help make the team work more effectively.

Recovering with a smart career move

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Dr Charlie Orton started her career in clinical research in the NHS, at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, after completing her PhD.  Following an illustrious 15 years managing portfolios of paediatric research into illnesses which burden people’s lives, she had an opportunity for secondment to Liverpool Health Partners. This was to spearhead the formation of a new collaborative research service called SPARK. Launched in October 2019, LHP SPARK was set up to provide a centralised research governance and management team for all the hospitals in the Merseyside region.

The secondment broadened her horizons and Charlie realised there was the opportunity for future career progression outside of the NHS. She needed help to think creatively and work out her priorities for the next stage in her professional life.

Coaching support offered opportunity to re-evaluate

Charlie explains: “I wasn’t trained as a clinician, I had worked in a very narrow field of paediatric research for a long time. I did not want to manage NHS services, so my options for career progression within the NHS were very limited. This coupled with the realisation that the more senior my role became, the less I enjoyed it, led me to re-evaluate my future.  I was very fortunate that the Director of HR offered me fully-funded executive coaching support and I was introduced to Sue Thomas at Career Evolution.

The power of networking

“Kate Howsley, from Career Evolution became my Coach. We felt an instant connection and I benefited from one-to-one executive coaching with her, which was remarkable.  Kate helped me rebuild my self confidence, recognise my unique skills and identify the way forward.  She enabled me to have some difficult conversations and helped me turn them into positive opportunities. I also met the wider Career Evolution team through an immensely helpful LinkedIn training seminar. This showed me the importance of profiling myself properly and also the power of networking.”

One of the things that became apparent to Charlie through the sessions was the importance of having the right mind set to recognise status and promotion were not necessarily the ultimate goals. It was more imperative that the job ‘felt’ right. It also meant that when the right position came along – this time in the charity sector – Charlie was in the right place to accept it.

A new appointment

Charlie was appointed Chief Executive of UK Smart Recovery last Spring. The charity, which runs self-management and recovery training to support people overcome addiction of any type, provides its services free at the point of care. Smart Recovery has been running for 25 years. It is the prevailing alternative recovery programme in the UK, with 4500 people accessing over 500 meetings a week (www.smartrecovery.org.uk).

On her appointment, Charlie says: “I am so pleased to be working for UK Smart Recovery. As Chief Executive for a small organisation I can really make a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis. I find it hugely rewarding. The role aligns my leadership skills and knowledge with my personal values. Working with the Career Evolution team allowed me to embrace the opportunities the wider world presented and not be scared. It wasn’t just career development, the company’s support facilitated emotional and personal development too.”

The power of connections

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One thing we’ve learned in the last few months is how interconnected everything can become. From our family and friends, to our work, our shopping and our hobbies. We have managed to continue to keep in contact with these aspects of our lives, even in the remoteness of isolation. There’s something really positive about a world that allows this to happen and the fact that these connections are what make up who we are – and also help keep us sane.

Changing times

Once upon a time, people would have looked at you askance if you’d said home delivery of groceries would make a comeback. Years ago, especially in rural villages, a van would often ‘do the rounds’, selling essentials like bread and other goods from outside your own home. The rise of supermarkets put paid to those ventures. Now, the supermarkets themselves are offering home delivery. The same is true of working from home. Who would have thought that it would have been possible to have almost an entire office-based population working from home? But that’s what’s happened and we’ve all got used to it. For many though, the physical isolation has taken its toll and staying connected offers positive reminders that there is still a world outside your front door.

Wired up to the network

The working from home policy has sped-up how interconnected we all are. Those who didn’t have a decent internet connection, or had never used online meeting platforms such as Teams and Zoom, are well versed by now. It’s become an even more vital part of our lives in other ways too. The impact increased connectivity has had has resulted in other benefits growing out of it – such as home entertainment and socialising. Business aspects such as exhibitions, job interviews, training and mentoring have all moved online for the time being. Technology and connectivity have ensured that these things – a job search, a training course – have been able to continue. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The way has been made so much easier thanks to the internet and digital technology.

Positively connected

From my own experience during lockdown, I have found there’s been a real sense of collaboration and kindness. I joined HR Manchester Connect at the start of lockdown. Its members comprise of professionals working in the Human Resources sector. This has been one of the areas most affected by lockdown, working from home, furlough and the uncertainty the job market has endured. The organisation has developed into an amazing support network of friends and connections. This is all the more incredible as I haven’t met the people in person, only virtually though my laptop screen. Over the last 12 months, we have all supported each other, both personally and professionally. This is so heartening in these uncertain times. I do hope that this positive ethos continues after the crisis has passed and we can meet in person.

Return to the office

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For many of us, something like ‘normal’ is slowly approaching. After what actually seems like a remarkably short winter, spring is here. And as the buds start to come out, so can we. Some businesses are beginning to think of how to bring at least some of their workforce back to the offices in the near future.  The logistics are complicated, the territory uncharted, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. As this strange chapter in our lives comes to a close, have we been working from home, or living at work?

The outside world

Some people have adapted to working from home rather well. Others have been doing it for years and are now pleased that it’s being recognised as a viable way to be both productive and happy. For others beginning to get back to work, or even travelling to work – sometimes using public transport – will present significant challenges. You don’t have to be a particularly nervous person to feel as though this virus is a very dangerous issue, which has to be taken seriously. The statistics don’t lie and this has had a huge impact on the UK population and economy. Mind-sets have changed and you can’t just say one morning, “Right, all back to normal now. Off we go!”

Transitioning slowly

The transition back into offices needs to be a progressive one. For many an office will feel like a very alien environment. For certain people there are some behavioural changes that can be implemented, to make them less anxious about returning to work. Social skills may have been impacted by months of seclusion. It’s a good idea to start taking small steps, to rebuild confidence in interacting with people. This might get you used to using public transport once more. Or at least moving among people and conversing in a natural, friendly way. It may feel strange wearing a mask, but try and smile and be yourself as you go about your activity. Social distancing and masks are a constant reminder that this isn’t ‘normal’, but until they are dispensed with, they’re here to stay.

Safe office space

It’s also important for employers to reassure their staff that they will be returning to a Covid-safe environment. This will mean there will be sanitising measures, social distancing observed, and potentially, flexible working. Some people are more productive in the office, some at home. Some managers prefer their staff present in the office, but for many large firms – especially those cited in multi-storey buildings or in densely-populated business districts – the complications of space and numbers just aren’t feasible to bring everyone back at once.

It’s been suggested by some commentators that around one third of the workforce will be in at any one time. This is particularly true in the larger organisations. A proportion will be in some days, other staff on others, with larger groups in for key team meetings or training. But by and large, working from home will continue to be with us, in one form or another, for a while yet.

Speaking to a mentor or coach, either at work, or externally can help build confidence. It can ascertain what aspects of returning to the office you are looking forward to, and which fill you with dread. If working from home suits you, then don’t feel as though you’re being forced to go back in, while others have missed the interaction and can’t wait to return to the working environment once more.