Your career workout for #testingtimes

Great! If you are reading this, it means you’ve completed the first postcard challenge.

We are all going through extremely testing times. Work is fluid, merging into home life. Some of us find ourselves looking for new ways to fill up the time we’ve recovered from no longer commuting, others face the challenge of even less time to spare, either because they play a role in their organization’s COVID response (more work!) or having to balance work with looking after children at home; or in some cases, both.

There is flurry of articles on how to deal with working from home and about looking after your mental and physical health while keeping the trains of work and home life running. Some of the ones we’ve enjoyed are at the end of this blog.

However, we have declared this space to be COVID-free space. Our mission is to bring you a little bit of joy and inspiration, while continuing to grow your career as a strategic adviser. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably signed up to our postcard #testingtimes campaign and so your challenge is to try to put one of these suggestions into action in the next two weeks. If you’ve not signed up: email us your physical address for the next few weeks. It’s not too late to join the game.

Here’s three ideas that might help you flex your strategic muscles.

  • 1. Play outside your sandbox – To jump from being a technical expert (in comms, legal, human resources, or other functions) you have to leap into a wider body of knowledge, to understand how other professions see business. This is the time to open up your mind to new fields with the strategic intent of improving how you perform in your own.
  • 2. Learn to look at things differently- The world was already volatile before COVID, now we need to be even more flexible. But to a hammer all problems look like nails. So how do you step away from the hammer? Try approaching a familiar situation from a new perspective. 
  • 3. Nurture your boundaries – Healthy boundaries – permeable, flexible ones, are the key to a healthy life and a healthy career. Limits are good. Know what yours are, only then can you decide which limits to push. 

But how?, you might ask. Keeping our promise to be fun, without further ado, we present the #testingtimes bingo: a quick reference guide to keep growing your career without leaving home.

Tip If you have more time than usual If you have less time than usual
Play outside your sandbox
  1. Sign up for a free online course in something unrelated to your field (Accounting and Design Thinking come to mind).
  2. Follow the news, stock price and commentary of a sector you are not involved with. Fashion? Aviation? The Arts? (Stephen  is a member of the Royal Academy in London: you can sign up to regular emails here.)
  3. A couple of years ago, Casilda did a creativity course at the Tate Modern. Here’s a new idea.
  1. Call up someone (a friend, a new colleague) who works on a different area and just take 10 minutes to ask what their regular day is like. 
  2. Follow a company outside your sector on social media or on the digital newspaper of your choice. 
  3. Talk to your children about what you do, pay attention to their questions. They are very revealing of what’s important.
Look at things differently
  1. Try doing “opposition research” on your organisation. If you were an NGO, what issues would you raise?
  2. Now do “opposition research” on yourself, how would you turn your weaknesses into strengths?
  3. Read an interview with Karl Rove and David Axelrod on opposition research. 
  1. Get a friend or your partner to give you feedback on a piece of work they’ve never seen before. Don’t explain, just listen. 
  2. Listen to an episode of Cautionary Tales by Tim Harford
  3. When/if you are out for your daily exercise: think about the first car you see and create an imaginary biography for it.
Nurture your boundaries
  1. Understand what healthy boundaries look like. We like Brene Brown’s advice
  2. Try setting a schedule put your phone on “flight mode” no interruptions for an hour or two a day. 
  1. Block a 30-minute pause time in your calendar a day. Just for you.
  2. Try saying no to at least one non-essential request. Read our tips on how to say no. 
  3. Unsubscribe from redundant mailing lists.
  4. Turn your phone off for an hour. Go on, I dare you.
Three of the many, many resources for working from home and mental health

The next instalment of our #testingtimes campaign will come in two weeks. 

The World Cup is over, the career lessons are here to stay.

As promised, here’s part 2 of the career archetypes we found watching the FIFA Men’s World Cup. In part 1, we focused on the archetypes the national teams helped us identify. Where you a Germany, a England or a Mexico?

In this edition, we will look at some of the personalities we met throughout the tournament and extract some career lessons from their participation. So, without further ado here are the five career lessons we learned watching the World Cup:

Be a cry baby, at your peril by Neymar

You can be a high performer, even an overachiever, but that is not enough to secure your place among the stars. Your reputation is also built on your behaviour and how you react to failure is key. Sure, if something doesn’t go the way you planned go ahead and throw a tantrum. Even roll in the grass for a bit, just don’t be surprised when the world looks elsewhere for a leader.
See: How Neymar’s diving stole the world cup

Dress the part, be the part by Gareth Southgate

The England coach did not only prove that you can take a young inexperienced squad and make them winners, you can also build a personal brand with consistency and class. The waistcoat was a masterstroke. Even John Cleese called him the ultimate example of a gentleman! So, take the time to think about your personal style and how it goes or clashes with your personal brand. See: Football, not rugby, is now the gentleman’s game

Props show your power by Vladimir Putin

In Moscow when it rains it pours and Vlad made sure he was the first one with an umbrella. While his peers (Macron and Grabar-Kitarovic) got soaked, Putin managed to show them up by simply managing to stay dry. So make sure your team likes you enough to keep you dry. See: Vladimir Putin gets umbrella as he hands out World Cup medals… while world leaders next to him get soaked

Go the extra mile, at the right moment by Yuri Cortez

Yuri who? You probably don’t know his name but if you watched the Croatia-England semi-final you saw him get run over by a celebratory Croatian team after the Mario Mandžukić’s goal. At a time when he could understandably have shielded his body and camera, the experienced photojournalist got to work. The lesson: rise to the challenge at the right time and you will make your mark.
See: Photographer proves a good shot after getting squashed by Croatia players

Act like a leader, become a leader by Didier Deschamps

Didier’s transformation from the ‘water-carrier’ as Eric Cantona called him to the leader of the world champions is an inspiration to all aspiring career people. He was an excellent player, a defender with leadership qualities who knew how to support the team stars. Fast forward twenty years and you can see a textbook example of how to move from being part of a high-performing team (France 1998) to leading a high-performing team (2018). His success story is full of talent and grit and an inspiration to all career people.
See: Why was Didier Deschamps nicknamed ‘The Water-carrier’ and when did he win the World Cup as France captain?

What are your takeaways from the month-long football world cup? These lessons combine fun and learning so they are very much archetypical in nature. However, if you object to any of our characterizations we welcome your feedback and even the chance for some rhetorical footie – here or on Twitter where @CarmenSpinoza11 is always up for a challenging match.