change

Changing careers might not be as hard as you think

These days it’s more usual than it used to be to meet people who are onto their third or fourth career.  I can think of quite a few examples amongst my own group of friends and associates.  On Friday at the London IIBN conference I met Niall Quinn & then heard him talk about his own transition from footballer (Arsenal, Manchester City, Sunderland and of course the Republic of Ireland) to Sky Sports commentator to entrepreneur/businessman (when he led the buyout of Sunderland AFC by the Drumville consortium) and now executive Chairman of newco Q Sat, a rural broadband provider.

Any of you who know me will not be surprised to see there’s a photo involved – many thanks to Sinead Crowley of IIBN for snapping that one below!

Mary McKenna with Niall Quinn at the IIBN conference in London on 9 Nov 2012

Niall shared his brutally honest insights with us in his talk & I thought I would in turn share some of them with you.  He talked first about how he now views his former life as a footballer as quite a false existence.  He used to go training in the mornings & then come home & lie on the sofa.  His wife would bring him his meals & make sure the children left him alone.  When his first career came to an end he was quite depressed about it & drifted into a job at Sky Sports which although it paid the bills, didn’t really put fire in his belly.

Then he saw his old club Sunderland AFC in trouble, met with his former chairman & after talking to a few of his Irish contacts decided to lead the buyout & after a short (unsuccessful) spell as manager Niall moved into the Chairman’s seat.  Along the way he had to stop being a footballer and learn to be a business person.

He found he enjoyed the change and the new challenges and he began to take an interest in new technology.  This interest has culminated in Niall moving into a start up business as their executive Chairman.  He commented what a big difference it is between selling footballers for £50m & persuading someone to pay you £35 per month for broadband.  Q Sat has grown from 22 to 50 employees in the time he’s been there and they now have 11,000 customers (6,000 of those in rural Ireland) and are about to open an office in Nairobi.  It’s clear to see that Niall enjoys building relationships with partners and putting something back as well as building a successful and profitable business.  He talked a lot about the mentors he has learned from (in football and in business) and the way his company is seeking to build on the work that other Irish people have done before, especially in Africa.  One of the pieces of advice he offered to us was in business to keep some space aside to meet people, have conversations and network.  I’m a great believer in this approach too.

One of the funny stories he told us was about one of his friends Patrick M’Boma, a Cameroon striker and former teammate at Sunderland.  The two guys had clashed heads & both gone down.  Niall claims he knew his time playing at Sunderland was over when the physio ran onto the pitch & ran straight past him & over to Patrick.  For me thinking about this since, it seems that the life of a footballer is indeed different – as you’re either on the way up or you’re on the way down – the time at the top seems fleeting & hard to define.  Hopefully Niall doesn’t miss that aspect of his first career although I’m guessing the same boy has hung onto his competitive streak which will do him no harm.  I’m also guessing he’s enjoying being part of a team again as that team spirit is one of the most fun things about being in a small, growing company.  He said that one of the odd things about being a footballer is that although you play in a team, you still hope you are the best in the team – something that doesn’t really come up in a business because everyone has their own defined role to play as part of the overall team success.

He finished by saying that looking back he wonders now how much further ahead he would be in business if he’d quit football 10 years earlier.  We have a rule Niall – no regrets.  It’s the experiences you have along the way that makes you the person you are – and if you meddle with the order then who knows where we’d all end up.  Good luck with career number 4.

So – some people change career because they have to & some because they want to.  Whatever your reason get on, grasp the nettle and don’t be afraid to ask your network for help and advice.  Great speaker, great conference and thank you to all at IIBN for making it a lot easier for the Irish diaspora to do business outside of Ireland.  Please share your career change stories in the comments below – you know I love to read them.

 

So you’re staring at redundancy…what happens next

Change_of_seasons

This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I know or have heard about, especially in the wider public sector, who were made redundant from their jobs on 31 March.  To some folk this may have come as a surprise, to others they’ll have had a sinking feeling this was going to happen for some time – perhaps since the change of government last May.  For everyone it’s a shock and sometimes a relief.  A shock because your pride is dented and in your heart you wonder why you were picked and not someone else.  A relief because perhaps you’ve know for a long time that you weren’t getting enough from your job or the organisation you were working for – you had become a “prisoner” – reliant on your regular salary to pay the bills & taking the easier option of leaving things as they are instead of grasping the nettle & making a change in your life.  It’s ok – we all do this and not just with our careers!

I thought I’d drop a few thoughts down in my blog in case it helps a couple of people out there, especially those that are going to use what’s happened to them as an opportunity to take stock and think about a complete change in career or change in direction.

First thing to do is not to rush into any decisions but think about what you’d like to do next and avail of any help your former employer has provided – especially the services of a career coach if you’ve been offered one.  On this, do take whatever you’ve been offered – you never know what you might learn or who else you might meet.  Seek advice or read up about coping with change and how to go about starting an active thinking programme.  Consider all your previous experience and what else it might enable or equip you to do – many people will have passively thought about changing their career so you may have already planned what else you could do.

Next make a plan.  Type it up or write it all out longhand but do physically do this.  It’s cathartic and research has shown that if you write a plan in this way it’s much more likely to happen.  Get your family on board and keep your partner in the loop – especially in terms of any significant changes you are considering (perhaps moving to another place) or any changes you need to make to your immediate financial plans and household budget.

Once you’ve narrowed down the jobs and sectors you’re interested in, do some research on the companies & players and keep in mind that 70% of jobs never get as far as being advertised.  Target your chosen companies or organisations carefully and beware when using job agencies – sometimes they flood the market with your cv or worse still employers see your cv coming in from several agencies in a most random way and this makes you appear desperate.  Remember that there are always opportunities and there are always opportunities for good people. 

Take a long hard look at your cv and show it to someone else (not your mum) once you’ve reviewed and updated it.  Do the same with your LinkedIn profile and any other online presence you have such as a blog – prospective employers will always check you out online.  As a small, growing business, Learning Pool has spent the last 5 years in recruitment and on the lookout for new people – it’s the most important activity that Paul & I undertake as our team is everything.  Many of the cvs we see are awful – they’re too long, the good stuff is hidden away & too hard to see, the cv is generic for any job, there’s nothing in the covering letter that sells the person for this specific opening, the person hasn’t thought about how they would bring value to our company & enrich our existing team, the person hasn’t thought about anything and so on.  I wrote a New Year’s blog related to job seeking which you can read at this link http://bit.ly/h6H077

Think about your network and don’t be afraid to use it. 

In summary:

1.       Don’t panic, stay calm & take stock

2.       Use any “free” resources you’ve been offered

3.       Make a plan

4.       Research the market – approach this like a full time job

5.       Use your network

6.       Carefully target organisations you are interested in; I would do this before signing up with an agency

7.       Brush up on your interview techniques, take a good look at yourself in the mirror & buy a new suit or interview outfit and get a haircut (remember all that stuff about first impressions being based on how you look – regrettable but true)

8.       Don’t give up, keep looking; opportunities do exist out there

9.       Keep an open mind about anything you come across & don’t rule opportunities out too quickly

10.   Keep busy, take up volunteering, catch up on things you’ve been too busy to do, exercise.

Just to finish, some of you might be interested to know that I elected to take voluntary redundancy in 2003.  I was glad to do it but at the time it was uncomfortable as I had always taken the easy career options.  For the following 2 years I worked as a freelance consultant and this moved me out of my previous comfort zone.  It also opened a lot of doors and I met a lot of new people.  The eventual outcome for me was that I completely changed the direction of my career and I have no regrets.  Not a single one.  Remember that you make your own luck and you’re unlikely to find it sitting in the house.

As always interested in your comments and stories – please keep them coming as I love to read them.