The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

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Archive for December 2013

New Year’s Resolutions: Are you still sticking to yours?

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Do you write down goals and resolutions at the start of a new year? Do you know what you want to achieve? Are there things you would like to change or do differently in the new year?

So now, one week into 2014, how are you managing to stick to your plans?

I’m not just talking losing 2 stone or giving up smoking here!

Those are the kind of resolutions that typically get broken within the first 2 weeks of the new year. They are made on the spur of the moment, following 5 extra helpings of Christmas pudding or smoking the box of cigars from Auntie Mary in Cuba all in one go. These resolutions are driven by our situation rather than our intent. They are aimed at the present. That muffin top is there NOW, and we want rid of it NOW! Clearly, it’s not going to disappear NOW because it took several weeks of overeating to get there in the first place. So we get bored because NOW doesn’t happen quickly enough, and because the time/cost benefit in achieving the resolution is not important enough to us.

Instead, I want to talk about the bigger resolutions. Those that are mindful that, if we want to effect change, we have to pace ourselves and be careful with how we decide on what we want to achieve.

I am talking about the life changing stuff: Resolutions like “I want to be a better parent” or “My eating habits have to change”. Or what about “I want to change my career”.

These are pretty large objectives! They are also broad, non-specific and unstructured. Think about the time/cost benefit in achieving small resolutions, and how we fail sadly in maintaining the momentum. With these more challenging resolutions, the cost is also measured in many other ways: There may have to be self-acceptance, mindset change, behaviour alterations, painful personal admissions before one can even start to think about the end outcomes.

I believe that a solid reality check is the best way to test commitment before setting out making wild and unachievable resolutions. I use the 5 W’s to help me:

1. First, understand WHY
What is the driving force behind my desire to achieve this particular thing? Is it internal (my own personal needs or desires are driving me) or external (my environment, partner, situation is forcing me). Can you see the difference? Doing something because we really want to achieve them is different to being forced into things. If you have not bought into your own objective fully, you will not be committed to achieving it.

2. Secondly, consider WHO ELSE is involved
Does your objective impact other people? For example, being a better parent infers that there are children involved. How do they feel about your goal? Is it worth asking them what their thoughts are? The same goes for resolutions like career changes or learning instruments which will require input from other people – “enablers”. What do they need in order to enable you to achieve your objectives? Enablers can become disablers if there are conflicting expectations.

3. Then, think about WHAT tools you require
Ask any tradesman and they will tell you that the quality of the tools dictate the quality of the final job. It is very likely that you are not immediately equipped to achieve your resolutions. After all, if you knew how to do these things they wouldn’t be resolutions because you would be doing them already. You may have to learn new skills to make that career change. Changing your eating habits might require joining a self-help group. Becoming a better parent might require a parenting course. Big changes don’t just happen by themselves. In order to achieve change we have to be prepared to apply ourselves, using the right tools, in pursuit of our goals. If you are not prepared to find or invest in the right tools then you are unlikely to achieve your objectives.

4. By WHEN do you want to achieve this?
Life changes and evolves all the time. Trying to stick a time slot on life is like putting a sticky label on a crocodile. Think about that one for a moment. Is your hand / arm still intact? Time is relative to input vs perception. Before you know it, your time limit would have come and gone before you even started. Or you may find that unexpectedly, things fall into place overnight. My point is: Be realistic and objective. For example, bad eating habits take years (life times?) to establish. Changing bad habits can take years too. Finding a new job to kick off your career change can take a lot longer than you hoped. You may never become the parent you hope to be because your children keep growing up. Or you may just walk into your dream job when you least expect it, and things immediately change. Of course, it is important to set time scales on goals if we want to maintain momentum and keep motoring. All I’m saying is that being prepared to change your timing expectations, if needed, will help you keep motivated. Constantly recalibrate and be open to unexpected developments as they may throw you right off course.

5. WHERE will you do this?
Location, location, location. You may need to relocate to find that job. Getting to the best nutritionist might mean travelling 30 miles. Better parenting might mean taking your children on a holiday or retreat to create opportunities to communicate. You may need to make changes in your home to accommodate your resolution. There may be practical considerations that could involve cost. Are you going to be in the right place to do what you have to do to stick to your resolution? If not, what is the likelihood of sticking to it?

6. Finally, add in HOW MUCH?
Will there be a financial cost, and can you afford it? More importantly, work out what the personal cost is likely to be. It’s easy to calculate monetary impact but when things are going to be challenging or difficult, the personal cost involved is the more harrowing one. To change eating habits will mean coping with hunger and possibly, digestive issues that may be unpleasant. Better parenting might require you to challenge your own behaviour or upbringing and that might be emotional and upsetting. Changing career might require you to acknowledge your own limitations and you may become frustrated. Do you want this goal enough to carry the personal cost?


If you can write down specific answers to all these questions in relation to your resolution and still feel excited by it, then you are committed to the goal. If you feel daunted in any way, then rethink your goal and break it into smaller, more digestible chunks.

If you are committed to any goal, you will achieve it. So what is stopping you? Make changes as you need to and go for it in 2014!

Written by Cathy Richardson

December 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm

2014 – Out with the old, in with the new! And a Happy New Year too

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I love new beginnings, don’t you? Waking up on 1st January every new year almost feels like walking outside after a heavy thunderstorm – Everything is fresh, new, clean and ready to start again.

As the old year draws to an end and the new year gets ready to kick off, I just know that 2014 is going to be a very interesting year!

I am delighted to anounce the relaunch of CR Associates in January 2014. There will be a new website, a fresh approach to recruitment, new services for our clients and most of all, a lot of new opportunities for candidates wishing to make improvements to their careers.

But before we get there, I want to wish every person an outstanding start to 2014. May it continue to be a brilliantly prosperous, happy and rewarding year in all respects.

Written by Cathy Richardson

December 31, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Recruitment

Guide to Job Hunting – Is it time to revamp your CV?

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According to a study released by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend an average of only six seconds reviewing an individual CV before making a judgement on its suitability.

So when did you last spend a bit of time on getting your CV into perfect shape for your dream job? If a recruiter looks at it for a mere 6 seconds before making a decision on whether you have the skills they want or not, your CV has to be pretty good in today’s competitive jobs environment!

TheLadders used a scientific technique called “eye tracking” that analyzed how long 30 professional recruiters reviewed candidate profiles and resumes, and what those recruiters focused on.

“They’re looking for job hoppers, minimum education requirements and a candidate’s steady career progression,” says Will Evans, TheLadders’ head of user experience and the man behind the study. “It’s a snap decision.”

So if you’re a job-seeker, it’s incredibly important to make those few seconds count. Below are 5 tips from Evans for each precious second a recruiter spends with your CV.

1. Don’t be Creative

This is not the time to get fancy. You want potential employers to get the most information from your CV as quickly as possible. Your CV should follow a standard format that is simple and easy to read. “Recruiters develop this mental model that allows them to extract the most important bits,” says Evans. So make sure these six items are easily digestible: your name, your current title and company, your previous title and company, your previous position start and end dates, your current position start and end dates, and education.

2. Put Your Expertise and Skills at the Top

These are the things that you’ll ultimately be bringing to any new employer, so make sure they’re near the top where a recruiter can easily see them. Use action verbs when describing your accomplishments and back it up with quantitative data when you can. For example, say that you increased sales by 30%, or that decisions you made led to a 150% decrease in operational costs. This is the area where you should feel free to go in-depth.

3. Don’t Make it Too Long

Include as much as you can without making it seem cluttered. Telegram style and bullet points work – Focus on your most recent experience and the past 10 years, because that is most relevant. Put all the important bits on the first page. What follows later will only be read if the initial screening ticks all the boxes.

4. Ditch the Photos

“If you only have six seconds, you don’t want them distracted,” Evans says. So get rid of any photos you may have attached to your CV, and don’t try any video gimmicks. It’ll come off as, well, a gimmick. “You don’t want people focused on your face and not your skills,” he says.

5. Don’t Focus on Your Personal Achievements

It’s great that you’ve played the tuba since high school but don’t spend too much time playing up your more personal info. Unless its directly relevant to your job, it’s not important enough to be on your CV.

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!

The beauty of a Beginner’s Mind

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The other day, my Toastmaster’s club was invited to  the local Scouts group, to introduce them to public speaking.

It was a daunting prospect!  The idea of getting a rowdy group of 8 to 14-year olds to make speeches was very much out of my own comfort zone! My audiences are usually a lot older, a lot more reserved and a lot more experienced. At the best of times, speaking in front of a load of people you don’t know can be a scary experience for most people. How would this younger audience respond?

But as I am the President of Camberley Speakers, I thought it best to keep my reservations to myself, and to hope for the best. We had a task to fulfill, and we had to support the cause, after all. I could see that the other experienced Toasties harboured similar fears, especially when the boys (And one girl!) started rough housing before the event. There was a lot of unspent energy in that room!

But this ended up being one of my most uplifting Toastmasters experiences to date. We showed them three prepared speeches and three evaluations, all delivered expertly by experienced Toastmasters and appropriately selected for the audience. Then, we asked them to get involved with the impromptu speaking section of the meeting. The boys (And one girl) of the First Aldershot Scouts Group engaged with the topics as though they delivered impromptu speeches on a daily basis. They were witty, they were quick, their humour was appropriate, they were exceedlingly well-behaved and respectful. And above all, they were not scared or frightened to have a go.

The gusto and exuberance with which they played, laughed, spoke, listened, responded and reacted created an uplifting and joyful experience for all of us there. The fun and excitement was contagious, and impossible not to respond to.

Driving back home after giving them all certificates and sharing a nice cup of tea, I marvelled at how their innocent approach to something they have never done before, made such light work of it. As adults, we have a tendency to overthink things. We worry and stress ourselves with questions about “What if” and “What about”. Children just get on and do things, without worrying too much about the outcome. As long as they can rely on the responsiblity of adults to make a safe and secure environment for the activity, I believe most kids will have a go at most things.

The one lesson I took from that evening was how cultivating such a fresh and untainted approach to life’s challenges, will make life so much easier for us adults.

In the words of Shunryu Suzuki (Author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind): “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” 

As we speed towards the end of 2013, my intention is certainly to use the opportuity of a New Year to take a fresh view on my own life and goals. I aim to discard my old hackneyed spectacles in return for an innocent and fresh pair of eyes. I want the excitement of newness to permeate my life, and to make everything I do full of hopeful anticipation.

In my mind, I want to be a beginner still – Ready to learn and grow and develop even more. What an amazing opportunity!

What will you do with a beginner’s mind?


Written by Cathy Richardson

December 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Recruitment

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