The Definitive Guide to Job Hunting

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market in the 21st Century

Posts Tagged ‘Recruitment philosophy

Guide to #Job hunting: 5 Mistakes hiring companies make

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hiring-mistakes-300x225Over the past 24 years in recruitment, I have probably seen the best and worst of hiring strategies and recruitment errors. In the past, companies got away with making crucial errors in their recruitment processes or hiring decisions because the market was soft and it was easy to rectify the mistake (usually a miss-hire) by finding a replacement. But as the jobs market becomes more and more competitive this is no longer possible, and the cost in time and pain of miss-hiring is no longer that easy to overcome.

If you are a candidate seeking another job, then being aware of these pitfalls will assist you in judging whether you are in a process that will succeed or fail. There is a far better chance of getting a stable, long-term new job if you can identify selection processes that are not going to be prone to hiring errors.

These are the main pitfalls:

1. Lack of a clear objective

Often, hiring companies aren’t specific enough about the duties, skills, and competencies they need.  Concocting “wish lists” of super-human attributes, combined with unrealistically low pay scales relative to expectations of the experience needed, will create havoc in a talent search. Hazy, ambiguous descriptions along with generalities like “good written and oral communication skills” don’t help either. It is much easier to hit a clearly defined target. This does of course mean going back to the basics of developing a job and person specification, but the longer term benefits are real and calculable.

2. Having an unrealistic idea of what kind of candidates might be available and the money it may take to hire them.

There is no such thing as the perfect candidate, and waiting for one is as unrealistic as searching for one. The only way to become realistic about what the market might bear is to research it, especially in this economic climate as it changes so rapidly. Know what and who is available and the commensurate earnings expected and then plan accordingly. The number of quality candidates active in the market is drastically lower than it was even last year. My clients are often shocked that the salaries locked in by inflexible pay structures won’t allow them to hire the quality or experience they wish for. The rules of supply and demand are in play here: Good skills and experience have become a commodity and this is driving up salaries, whilst also limiting the candidate pool. I’m not saying throw all caution to the wind. I am saying be prepared to negotiate to attract the best talent, or be satisfied with the second choice.

3. The confused objectives of too many or inappropriate decision makers 

Studies have shown that once the number of people in the interviewing and hiring process exceeds three, the probability of a bad hire is greater. The reason so many people are usually involved in the interviewing and hiring process is that organisations, naturally, want to spread the risk of decision-making. But better hiring decisions would probably be made if only a small number of people (In my view, 2 is optimum) manage the process objectively.

But having the wrong people in the decision making process is equally risky. Most managers will claim that hiring good people is the second or third most important function they have, right behind making a profit. So why delegate screening or interviewing of candidates to subordinates who have no real understanding of the organisation’s needs, or subordinates with hidden agendas? If hiring is one of a manager’s most important functions, he or she should take the time and make the effort to do the whole job from start to finish. How can they afford not to?

4. Processes that take too long.

It used to take about 30 days to fill a vacant position. Now it takes between 90 and 120!  And even longer for more senior or complex roles. When the hiring process takes too long, good candidates are lost to more decisive companies, it refelcts badly on the hiring company’s brand, and it gets harder and harder to fill the vacancy. The “shelf life” of quality candidates is increasingly short – This has now become a competition! Maintaining the momentum with candidates (Especially after the first interview, when only the one or two “choice” candidates remain) is crucial to keep them motivated about the process. If things take too long to progress, they simply lose interest and wander off to find other employers who respond more rapidly. Slick, quick process impress candidates and make them feel worthy of a job in the organisation. Slow processes that crawl at a snail’s pace, laden with red tape, puts calibre candidates off and might be a crucial element should they have to decide between two job offers.
5. Poor interviewing techniques.

Preparing a list of questions to ask every candidate, recording the answers, and comparing the responses (Quickly) equate to efficient and objective recruitment. Sadly, this rarely happens.

It is often down to a lack of experience on the itnerviewer’s behalf. After all, its not something they do every day. “Tell me about yourself” is the first question down the wrong road. Most interviewers start with random questions to “get to know the candidate” and never recover. They make copious notes, and then three weeks later try to compare the candidates about whom they remember very little.

A structured, disciplined interview technique that is applied to every candidate in exactly the same manner is the only real way to compare candidates. It is so simple and yet so seldom practiced.  Tight, controlled interview processes with rigid structures applied fairly across all candidates, in a short space of time, deliver the best results. It might be worth bringing an experienced interviewer into the process and to rather observe than conducting the interview personally – This is a real and practised technique that delivers results when a decision maker lacks confidence or experience to interview.

Help for ex-#Unipart #Automotive staff. Definitive Guide to #Job Hunting: Understanding social media

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I'm onlineJust about everyone is using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to network – both for personal and professional reasons. Are you ready for companies and recruiters to find you on all these social media sites? If not, you should be.

Companies and recruitment agencies are increasingly using social recruiting to source candidates for employment, as well as to investigate applicants they are considering hiring. It’s important to be aware of how companies are using social media to recruit, so you can use employers’ recruiting tactics to your advantage and position yourself to be discovered by companies seeking candidates.

Romany Thresher is the MD of Direct Assist, a company that provides Social Media assistance for business owners and busy consultants who need help increasing their online visibility. She says:
“I believe social media is creating an equal opportunities and business without borders market.  We are no longer limited to the confines of our cities and countries.  If you are struggling to find work because of your location, background, or lack of job opportunities you can find work online using social media.  The top 10 demand jobs in 2014 did not exist in 2004.  Early adopters of the new communications medium will stand out from the crowd of people who are still looking for jobs using old methods.

Living in a virtual world almost 24/7 I see a trend taking place where the best positions, business and career opportunities are being taken by those who are connected and building their network. Invariably, someone will know someone who needs what you have to offer.”

But remember, even if you’re only using these sites for personal networking, it doesn’t prevent your employer or prospective employers from checking out what you post.

An inappropriate post on a networking site could knock you out of contention for a new job, or even cost you the job you already have. Every single tweet you post can be found on Google and they can come back to haunt you.

What Not to Do When Using Social Media

  • Don’t embarrass yourself.
  • Be aware that people are reading everything you post.
  • Don’t say anything about your boss online that you wouldn’t say to him or her in person.
  • Don’t take a chance of hurting your career.
  • Don’t do it on your bosses time if you are lucky enough to be in employment

Positioning Yourself for Social Media Success

So what can you do to use social media to boost your career and enhance your prospects of finding a job? How can job seekers capitalize on what companies are doing?

Social recruiting is a new endeavor for many companies and they are still experimenting with what works from a recruiting perspective, and what doesn’t. That means there are no hard and fast rules on how to connect and position yourself to be found, but there are tactics you can use to make the right connections with people in your industry and career field.

It’s important to communicate with connections in your industry, even when you don’t need them. Starting when you already need a job is really too late. Take some time, every day, to connect with who you know and who you don’t know – yet. However, don’t just connect with random people. Identify those with whom you have something in common: education,  industry, experience, professional associations, etc.

Networking Before You Need To

Build your network well in advance of when you need it. Talk to your connections on Twitter or the other networking sites. Join Groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, post and join discussions. Be engaged and proactive in your communications. By building a network in advance, you won’t have to scramble if you unexpectedly lose your job or decide it’s time to move on.

The contacts you make online will help you transition from technology to person-to-person communications. For example, a relevant tweet can lead to an @reply (a reply in response to your post) or a DM (direct message) from a hiring manager.

Use your online connections to connect with ‘real people’ online. These human connections will serve you well in the long run and help you get a foot in the door at companies of interest.

Growing Your Network

Are you active on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook? How broad is the base of contacts you’ve made?  All those contacts ) are there if I need them, and you can help them, as well.

Take it one step at a time – and one contact at a time – and you’ll be able to build your own career network. It won’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t have to. Work on your network when time permits, remembering that your network might be key to getting your next job.

Then be sure to use your network wisely and carefully, thinking carefully about what you post, so you’re using it to help, not hinder, your job search.

My Easter message

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EasterEaster has always been a time of reflection for me.

Where I grew up in South Africa, Easter falls in the early autumn. It starts getting cooler, the nights draw in and mothers start cooking vegetable soup. It’s a time for slowing down, for taking respite and for re-calibrating.

Here in the UK, Easter is a time of re-awakening. It’s early spring, the daffodils and crocuses bloom and everything is springing back to life after the winter. We all rejoice in British Summer Time!

Of course, we all know that Easter is not really about hopping bunnies and chocolate, Easter bonnets and chocolate, and more chocolate on top of the chocolate we already ate.

Easter has it’s own meaning for everyone. For me, it’s about being grateful and taking time to contemplate how generous life is with it’s gifts. I seem to be getting a lot more philosophic as I get older. And I like it that way! It has improved my quality of life immensely.

So my Easter wish for you and yours is that you may have the luxury of making space for a bit of gratitude. (And of course, chocolate!)

I am grateful for so many good things – Physical, professional, emotional, spiritual, both business-wise and personal. The list will go on forever! So instead of boring you witless, I would simply like to wish everyone a truly blessed Easter.

 

A view from my new Apprentice

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SJ

To help me with all the admin and resourcing work generated by the Parts Alliance and my other brilliant clients, I really needed some help! I had a choice between finding an experienced person, or helping a young person into work.

I decided to go for the latter option, and I am very pleased that I did! Welcome on board Sarah-Jane Palazzo. I really look forward to working with you, and imparting at least some of the experience I have gained over the last quarter of a century.

I will let Sarah-Jane tell you herself how she is getting on. Hopefully, you will understand why I selected her to join me!

“On the 1st April I started working for CR Associates as a Recruitment Assistant. I was desperately unhappy in my previous employment, and was thrilled to receive a job offer from Cathy.

I do not have the most lucrative CV, nor the most experience in recruitment. However I was fortunate enough to meet Cathy, who saw what skills I do have and the potential I have to progress to a high level.

I’d applied for similar roles before and it’s taken me a while to finally land the job I want. The best factor in my new role is the potential to grow: In 3 months time I see myself in full apprenticeship training, hopefully placing candidates into motor factor branches, and being completely comfortable with all the tasks my role requires. In 1 year I see myself being a fully qualified Recruitment Consultant for CR Associates and creating the building blocks to leave my mark on the recruitment industry.

I have only just completed my first week at CRA and have already learnt so much: I have learnt what makes a good CV, the difference between a good candidate and a GREAT candidate, I have learnt that being kind and helpful goes such a long way and most importantly… How Cathy likes her tea!

Enjoying your job makes you feel good about yourself, it makes you feel important and needed. The difference I have noticed in myself is astonishing: I’m eating healthier, I’m taking more pride in my appearance, and apparently I’m ‘glowing’!

I have an amazing job, and an amazing boss. I am very aware that I have been incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity. However, I know that I would not have been given this opportunity if I was not confident, enthusiastic and determined. So I urge those reading this, if you don’t feel that way about your current job: Take a risk! Strive to be the best you can be! If I can do it, you can do it too!”

To all our special people, on Valentine’s Day

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A special message to all the lovely clients, candidates, followers and contacts that make my working life great!

If Valentines Day did not exist,
No flowers, gifts or cards,
We'd search to find another way
To send you our regards.
                         
We must communicate to you
Appreciation and respect,
Hoping our heartfelt message
Has a warm and good effect.
  
But Valentine's Day is here again,
So we send this poem to say:
You're extraordinary, special, rare;
Happy Valentine's Day!

5 interview questions asked by great candidates

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Panel interviewI have organised thousands of job interviews for candidates during my career. If only I had a penny for each time a good candidate ruined a job interview by asking the wrong questions – or worse, not even asking any at all!

The problem is that most candidates don’t seem to prepare for the inevitable interview question: “Do you have anything to ask us?”

Great candidates ask questions because they’re evaluating the interviewer and the company– and whether they really want the job. How you ask these questions may make or break the outcome of your interview.

Here are five questions great candidates ask:

1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don’t want to spend weeks or months “getting to know the organization.” They want to make a difference–right away. And they want to show the interviewer that they have thought about how they will achieve this.

2. What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. Maybe top performers work longer hours. Maybe creativity is more important than methodology. Maybe constantly landing new customers in new markets is more important than building long-term customer relationships. Maybe it’s a willingness to spend the same amount of time educating an entry-level customer as helping an enthusiast who wants high-end equipment.

Great candidates ask this because they want to know if they fit, and if they do fit, what will make them a top performer.

3. What are a few things that really drive results for the company?

Employees are investments, and every employee should generate a positive return on his or her salary. (Otherwise why are they on the payroll?) In every job some activities make a bigger difference than others. Great candidates want to know what truly makes a difference. They know that by helping the company succeed,  they succeed as well.

4. What do employees do in their spare time?

Happy employees like what they do, and they like the people they work with. This is a difficult question for an interviewer to answer. Unless the company is really small, all any interviewer can do is speak in generalities. But this candidate wants to make sure they have a reasonable chance of fitting in, and that is a very important quality.

5. How do you plan to deal with…?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends, etc. And well-informed candidates will be aware of all the risk factors. They hope for growth and advancement. If they do eventually leave, they want it to be on their terms and not because the company was forced out of business.

For example: I’m interviewing for a position at your bike shop. Another shop is opening less than a mile away: How do you plan to deal with the new competitor? Or you run a poultry farm: What will you do to deal with rising feed costs?

A great candidate doesn’t just want to know what the prospective employer thinks; they want to know what the prospective employer plans to do – and how they will fit into those plans.

Asking questions like these will help you stand out from the crowd, proving your real interest in the job and the company. Hopefully, the answers will also give you a pretty good idea of whether the role and company is right for you or not.

Definitive Guide to Job Hunting: Get your CV spotted online

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I'm onlineDo you have a “One size fits all” CV?

Writing a CV with a specific job in mind, is relatively easy because it can be targeted. Getting your CV ready for online is quite another story.

The fact is that using your standard CV for all purposes is not the best way to get found by recruitment agencies or employers online. And the entire jobs market is online, if you see what I mean!

There is a specific reason for this. Registering your CV with an online jobs board, or sending your CV to an employer or recruitment consultancy has one particular element in common: A database.

1. How does it work?

An electronic database is an effective way of managing and storing vast amounts of data, in this case thousands of CV’s. Think of it as a huge storage facility into which all the electronic data is poured en masse, identified only by little tags of data that will help the database administrator dig the information out again when it’s needed. These little tags are key words or phrases.

When a recruiter wants to find a list of potentially suitable CV’s for a job, the databases are searched through using key words or phrases that will pull out suitable CV’s from the huge numbers stored in the database.

This isn’t dissimilar to a Google search: The jobs boards will categorise search results in order of suitability that is usually based on the numbers of times the key words appear in the CV. The more frequently the word appears, the higher up it is rated in the search criteria.

Of course, other search criteria also apply: Geographic location, salary range, qualifications, temporary or permanent, etc. but key words, in my view, is the most important way to find well-matched candidates. There are usually boxes to tick for these general search areas and this is automatically searchable.

When you apply to an agency directly, the likelihood your CV being stored on yet another database is very high and even though it might be additionally coded in this way, the agency will still need to know what your background is. You don’t always get the opportunity to discuss this first.

For this reason, writing a personalised CV for a database is not appropriate. There is in fact very little human interface until your CV is read AFTER it has been found on the database.

Obviously, if you are looking for a job it is important for your CV to rate very highly in database searches. The more “hits” you get, the better your chance of being successfully matched to a job and proceeding through the recruitment process.

2. Think like a Recruiter

As a recruiter it is to my advantage to find the best possible candidates for the job I am trying to fill through searching the databases. But without some really creative thinking on my part it is often very difficult to dig them out. I am always surprised how few candidates actually mention obvious information like the industries they work in, or the products they work with, on their CV’s.

With the databases jammed full of CV’s of any kind, getting your own to the top of the pile is really important. Sometimes stating what you might think is the obvious, makes the difference between being overlooked or not.

Recruiters get thousands of CV’s in every search. Improve your chances of being spotted by imagining you are explaining what you do to someone who has no idea of what you do. Write all the descriptive words down, and use them in your CV. Remember, a non-intelligent electronic system is going to be matching on these words. Then, they will be cross-examined with human intelligence. When I look at hundreds of CV’s, it is much easier if its obvious that the CV represents a basic fit, rather than having to dig too deep too quickly.

Most recruiters will use the first trawl to draw up a long list to investigate deeper the second time around. This is usually done quickly, perhaps by a quick scan only. You might be excluded during this scan, even if you do match the job, if your CV makes it difficult to find and process the information.

3. Optimise key words and phrases

Using the above ideas, you should have a good idea of what to include, but the following words MUST appear in your CV:

  • The industry you work in. Don’t just tick the box on the registration screen, mention the words in your CV. Be specific and if there is more than one descriptive word, use them all.
  • The products you work with. Do you design engines? Do you sell guitars? Do you service front end loaders? These are all key search criteria – The words that must appear in your CV.
  • Jargon, acronyms and technical words. This is particularly important for technical jobs, or jobs in industries like Automotive, Aerospace or IT / Telecoms where acronyms abound. In automotive, words like JIT, QMS, FEAD, etc have become part of the vernacular and that is what recruiters might use to search.
  • Job titles. Especially if there is more than one descriptor for what you do, make sure you cover the bases. For example Sales can encompass Business Development, Key Account Management, Telesales, etc. that all describe a variation on the same theme. Make sure these appear in your CV in such a way that they describe very specifically what you do or want to do.
  • Specialist areas. For the same reasons as above, the more your specialist areas appear in your CV the better your chances of standing out from the crowd.
  • Brief company details. In a very short paragraph, describe the industry, product, methods and systems to optimise key words whilst also explaining to someone who is not familiar with the company exactly what the organisation did, and in turn cast light on where you fit into the context.
  • Systems and processes, especially if they are widely used or have specific names. For example, a system like SAP is very widely used and this might be a search word. If it’s not mentioned, the assumption would be that you don’t have the experience.

4. Less is not more

Sometimes it is not possible to squash all your skills and experience into the confines of 2 pages. Especially if you are a specialist or senior manager, I believe that making a CV too short might be to your disadvantage if it is stored on a database.

Write what you have to, but use bullet points to shorten the text and make it easy to find the information. Put your best attributes at the top of your CV, where it can be read first. Use figures and data to prove your abilities rather than just statements. Numbers in a CV is attractive, especially in commercial or sales jobs, as it provides a measure for your efficiency.

However, no Recruiter wants to read War and Peace so if the CV is too long, its likely not to achieve your objectives for you.

5. It must still make sense

Never forget that sooner or later, your CV will be read by a human being again. Optimising the search words is a means to this end, and the electronic search is the hurdle you have to cross in order to achieve this objective.

Don’t just list the key words. Use them to describe, concisely and intelligently, what you did and how you did it.

These tips should help you write a CV that is online friendly. Good luck!

 

Is big really better?

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JigsawRecently, I have followed a lengthy discussion on LinkedIn about whether it is really worthwhile entrusting your livelihood to a Recruitment Consultant when you are looking for a new job. Dare I say, the overall consensus was rather negative. The overriding opinion is that Recruiters are sales people first, and this means that job applicants are simply a means to an end. There is a lot of disgruntlement about service levels, and how applicants are treated.

Of course, this perspective might be different from the recruiting client’s side. They pay the bill so naturally, that is where the recruiter’s affinities will lie. But no doubt, even here it is not that difficult to uncover a real dissatisfaction in service levels, delivery of expectations and value for money.

There is a real drive for volume in the recruitment industry – KPI’s relate to sales calls, number of new vacancies, number of CV submissions, etc. This relates directly to turnover through the traditional sales funnel effect: High numbers put in at the top result in more results coming out at the bottom. The larger the business, the higher the overheads, leading to  needing even more CV’s and vacancies to keep the funnel sufficiently full.

The economics that apply are no different to a manufacturing company selling boxes for example. The more turnover they need, the more units have to be produced, the more raw material is required, the higher the production costs, the more units must be sold. It’s an ongoing cycle. The difference is that boxes don’t have feelings, families, and futures like human job seekers.

The credit crunch of 2009 has dramatically changed the face of recruitment in the UK, with the high levels of unemployment and fewer jobs available protracting the industry and creating more competition. That has not really changed now, in 2014. In addition, an approach in larger corporates to drive costs down by commoditising recruitment through purchasing has somewhat removed the human aspect from the their recruitment processes. At the same time, many recruitment SME’s have established themselves in the market, with experienced consultants either being made redundant due to the downturn, or simply getting fed up of the treadmill and seeking a better work / life balance.

I think (hope!) that this will have a knock on effect on service levels. Independent recruiters work for themselves, so ownership of service delivery and relationships will be crucial to their success. This is in stark contrast to commoditised, dehumanised recruitment processes.

There will be, by default, a far more personalised approach in the business relationship, the fees are likely to be a lot more flexible and delivery probably of a higher standard. Of course there will still be the ones who sell very hard to simply get “bums on seats” in return for fees. But in my experience, there is a far higher degree of business consultancy  and commitment in an SME because to the self-employed recruiter, every opportunity is a luxury not to be wasted.

There is still the perception, especially in larger corporate companies, that the larger recruitment brands represent stability and best practice. I would challenge this paradigm.

Giving a recruitment SME an opportunity to prove it’s worth keeps the economy moving and creates diversity in a market that is in danger of getting bogged down by corporate giants. The potential benefits to gain totally exceed the risk factors.

And it will find more spaces on shelves for “boxes” at better fees!

Guide to Job Hunting – New Year, New You, New Job?!

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New Year

At the start of every new year, we all make resolutions of those things we would like to do or change during the next year. It’s a bit like spring cleaning: Sweeping out the tired old year to allow the new year to bring in a fresh outlook, new challenges, and renewed energies.

Often, finding a new job is at the top of our list.

But is it wise to simply just cast yourself into the job market, without being aware of what exactly it is you want to change?

Without actually understanding and being clear on why you are looking to leave your current job, you may not recognise what it is what you are looking for in a new employer.

Does money matter?

Better compensation is very rarely the true reason for people to leave jobs.  In most cases, it is only a symptom of a more complex issue. We need to work in a place that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts in order to feel valued, respected and secure.  Through the recession, your employer may not have been able to provide the pay increases you were able to achieve in the past.But often, people will stay employed in jobs that are underpaid because the other elements are provided for sufficiently for money not to be an overwhelming issue.

Where is the crunch?

Before you decide to leave, consider the following statements about your job and employer:

  • I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
  • I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
  • My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
  • I receive the necessary training to do my job capably.
  • I can see the end results of my work.
  • I receive regular feedback on my performance.
  • Competition is constructive, and colleagues are not pitted against each other to perform.
  • The communication channels are clear and open. I know how to address problems, and I’m confident that they will be addressed fairly and objectively.
  • I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.

Yes or no?

The above details the most common reasons, through research by Forbes magazine, of why people leave their jobs. They should give you a pretty good idea of where your niggles lie. If you can’t argue with any of them, make sure you have a clear reason for moving. Possibly, your issue might be sorted out without taking that serious final step.

However, if you do find areas that you are not comfortable with, then make sure you research any potential new employer to make sure you don’t walk into exactly the same situation again.

Happy new year!

Once you have cleared this with yourself, and you understand your own expectations, good luck! The jobs market is dynamic at the moment, and hiring in 2014 is set to be competitive, especially for candidates in scarce skill areas. Find a good Recruitment Consultant who can give you industry and career advice, and who will support your endeavour.

Everyone deserves to be fulfilled in their working life. Go for it!

Happy Christmas everyone!

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Cath13If you haven’t noticed, its Christmas! 2013 has sped past in a blur and barely have we recovered from the events of last New Year’s Eve when Christmas seems to have crept up on us again.

At Christmas, I sometimes get a bit philosophical. Maybe it has to do with most of my family spending their Christmas on a hot beach in South Africa. Maybe it has to do with my own children growing up. This means that our Christmas is changing to accommodate different geographic locations, evolving relationships and generally, life and its changes. Maybe it has to do with all the yoga I do so regularly – Perhaps I am turning into a philosopher through head stands! All that blood in one’s head must have some eventual impact!

Whatever the reason for my philosophical turn: This year, I feel immensely grateful about Christmas. I am grateful for health, for people who love and care for me, and for finding out that life can be totally brilliant when you least expect it. I am grateful for so much that listing them here will be impossible.

Sometimes, we forget about the little things. Christmas can be so “BIG” that we overlook the really important little things while we try to live up to expectations. Those expectations are totally imposed on ourselves by ourselves. And then, when everything is over and the wrapping paper disposed of, we are left empty and disappointed because nothing can ever live up to those unrealistic expectations.

This year, I am taking Christmas easily. I am enjoying the twinkling of lights and the off-key sound of the choir at the carol concert. I am loving my Christmas jumper. I am enjoying the reactions of my loved ones to gifts that are, for a change, thougthful and useful, rather than expensive and impressive. I am taking time to taste the mulled wine, to feel “Jingle Bell Rock” tickling my toes, to enjoy every bite of rich celebration food. I will worry about the thousands of extra calories next year!

For this, I am most deeply grateful: Discovering that being mindful of the little things, make the big things so much easier.

And this is my Christmas wish for everyone I know: That you may be blessed with the time to enjoy, to be jolly, and to make the best of this festive season without judging or false expectations. Just have a simply wonderful, blessed and joyful Christmas!

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