Category Archives: Career

How to get ahead by upskilling yourself

Having and maintaining a career has changed when compared to what it was 15 years ago. You no longer get jobs for life, promotions that are based on your position or static work tasks year in and year out. Nowadays, the workplace is more flexible than what it was and employers value workers who take control of their careers and have a willingness to learn.

This places a major emphasis on personal upskilling, one of the common workplace buzzwords used. Upskilling involves anything from day-to-day learning on the job or going back to a learning institution and selecting from an array of short courses relevant to your job. If you want to get ahead, you need to do it yourself through upskilling. Career complacency is no longer acceptable in the workplace and could result in one becoming obsolete and unemployable in future.

The good news is that in South Africa, most companies are required by law to contribute an amount each month on behalf of each employee towards the Skills Levy, as prescribed by the Skills Development Levies Act. This entitles companies to apply for partial reimbursement for skills development done to benefit its staff, which ultimately benefits the business.

However, not all businesses are required to contribute towards the Skills Levy, but this shouldn’t deter a worker from finding ways to upskill themselves. When considering a particular course or skills development activity, it requires proper research and a bit of deep thought. Not only should you think what the prospective skills you will acquire can do for yourself, but what value it can add to your current place of employment.

Whether or not your employer contributes to the Skills Levy, it is vital to sell the value you are able to add to the company when seeking their assistance in some form. When an employer sees the effort made to upskill yourself, they will be more likely to support you in some way whether it be financially or in the form of time off to focus on your studies.

There are a number of things to consider when deciding on how to upskill yourself. For example, when considering a particular course of study, factors such as the sacrificing of of holiday time, family time, financial costs, added pressure of exams and assignments all need to be weighed up in order to reach a decision.

Furthermore, upskilling involves regular career planning sessions in which you map out where you want to go and how you intend on getting there. All it takes is a few hours a week. During this time you need to uncover what makes you happy in your job, what you are unhappy with at that moment, what changes do you need to make to your career for you to be happy and then what sacrifices are you willing to make.

In addition, the tips below will aid your attempt in upskilling yourself:

  1. Prepare to allocate time to your career plan. You need time to research, network and simply to think about what you want. Work that time into your week.
  2. Network. Talk to people both in career areas that interest you and also people who have done courses that might suit you.
  3. If you find a course that interests you, use your allocated time to go in and meet the director of that course. Going back to education is a big commitment. You need to really do your research and make sure the course is for you.
  4. Decide what level of course you are willing to do. For example, a short course or degree. Much of this will come down to your confidence and the time you’re prepared to commit.
  5. Consider the finances. If you can’t afford a full course, is there an option to do a module instead? Is there a short course that you can build on later?
  6. Make sure you have an eye on the bigger picture regarding your career. Know where the course you intend to do fits into your overall career plan.

Etiquette for International Business People

In our globalised world, we often find ourselves needing to do business with people who live on the other side of the world. However, every culture has their own way of doing things. What’s acceptable in your home country might be offensive elsewhere. And a simple misunderstanding can damage a perfectly fine business relationship.

Here are some basic guidelines on social interaction in a multi-national business context.

Cultural awareness

There’s no universal set of business etiquette rules that can be applied around the world. Every nation will have its own set of rules and standard practices, so it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the particular culture of the people you’ll be doing business with.

Make the effort to find out what’s going on in their home. That way, you won’t appear ignorant and insensitive. For instance, if you understand the concept of “face” in many Asian cultures, you will know the implications it has for business conduct. Never “lose face” in front of contacts if you want to be respected, and avoid causing your Asian contacts to “lose face”.

Take cues

When doing business in another country, take your cue from your overseas colleagues. This is especially true for where to draw the line with personal space. In some cultures, men might be very unreserved in their affection with one another, so it would be normal to greet business associates with a hug. However, in that same culture it might be highly improper for a male associate to greet a female contact in the same way.

If you’re not sure how to act, hang back, observe your environment closely, and check what the locals do.

Time zones and language barriers

Aside from the cultural differences you’ll encounter, there are the more obvious differences of language and time. It’s important that where you can, you make allowances for these differences. Want to send a brochure or report to colleagues in China? Remember that not everyone speak English, so provide a Mandarin translation. Need to make a phone call to Hong Kong? Check the local time first.

Be tolerant

There’s always going to be something that will seem like a strange way to go about conducting business to you. For instance, Germans are well-known for their punctuality. But in many African and South American countries, on the other hand, scheduled appointments are often treated like a general guideline rather than an absolute rule.

In occasions like this it is vitally important that you be patient and adaptable. Be tolerant and non-judgemental towards everything that is new and different.

 

Finding Your Own Leadership Style as a Manager

Definitions abound for what exactly a leader is. Thing is, there are many different kinds of leaders. A leader doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who is loud and authoritative, or someone who can spontaneously come up with passionate motivational speeches.

And while some people are natural born leaders, this doesn’t mean that not everyone can step into a position of leadership. So if you have your eye on a managerial role, but worry that you won’t be a good leader, don’t worry. You just need to find a style of leadership that suits you. Here are some common leadership styles -. Which ones suit your personality?

The charismatic leader – Some people lead through sheer force of their magnetic personalities. By simply being themselves, people are naturally drawn to them and want to follow them. Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King – these are some of the most famous examples of charismatic leaders.

A holistic leader – You realise that an employee is a person with many different aspects. You don’t just push to make your team perform, but take an interest in their lives in general. You don’t just want a productive workplace, but a healthy environment where people can really flourish. People look up to you and respect you for this. And at the end of the day, this approach gets results because you bring out the best in people.

A leader who leads by example – You aren’t the type of person who says “Do what I say, not what I do”. You lead by inspiring people by your own conduct. You understand that leadership isn’t an end in itself, but a means to encourage and motivate people to commit their energies, skills and talents to be the most they can be.

The democratic leader – People appreciate your leadership style because you don’t act like it’s not all about your vision. You give everyone the chance to participate and be heard. Even the quiet ones in the corner, because you realise that everyone has value. You create a positive office culture and build a team around you that can work well together.

The take-charge leader – If you’re this kind of leader, you’ve just always been the type of person who in any situation can stand up and take responsibility. You don’t run away when the pressure gets too much; you can make difficult decisions, and you have the initiative to get things done.

The introverted leader – You know that the best leader isn’t necessarily the loudest person in the room, so you don’t fight to be heard. You sit back and let everyone have their say, because you know the importance of listening to others and thinking before speaking. Once all the commotion has died down and everyone has given their two cents, you say what you have to say. And it’s thoughtful, valuable and to the point. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how introverts make great leaders, so you’re in good company.

Being a manager doesn’t automatically make you a leader. Think back to all the managers you’ve worked with. Do you think they were all leaders as well as managers? Probably not. If you want to be a good manager though, it’s important that you learn how to lead. Business management training will certainly help. But remember that it’s also about accepting the type of leadership style that suits you best, without trying to be something you’re not.

 

 

 

Is Your Elevator Pitch Ready?

If you need to prepare a proposal for a meeting, you have the time to sit down and really think about what you want to say. You can do your research, choose your words carefully, and you know you have a certain allotment of time to get your point across coherently and persuasively.

However, what if you happen to run into someone in the elevator who has the power to make or break your dream? Or perhaps it’s at a conference or cocktail party that you’re introduced to someone who is in the position to make things happen. You have less than a minute to pitch on the spot and make an impression.

Go.

Will you know what to say? Will you know how to say it?

Having your elevator pitch ready to go at a moment’s notice is underappreciated. Some people have the gift of the gab to say the right thing at the right time – whether it’s to land a job, bag a sponsorship or outline an idea. But for the rest of us, it takes a little preparation to not let the opportune moment slip through our fingers.

Elevator pitches aren’t just for the elevator, however

While the idea being described here is that you should be able to pitch an idea in chance encounters or casual meetings, elevator pitches work well even for appointments. It’s a good strategy to always be able to sum up your proposal in less than a minute. Remember that companies hear any number of proposals, and the ones that stick out are often the simplest. You make a far bigger impact by distilling your pitch into its essential points because your core message can so easily be diluted with the nonessentials. So it’s always a good idea to be able to summarise your idea into an elevator pitch.

How to write your elevator pitch

Grab your pen and paper and write out your ideal proposal. Make sure that you really capture what the core points of your pitch are. Remember that this isn’t the time to elaborate. What you want to do is pique someone’s interest so that when you hand over a business card, it will be remembered.

Read it out loud and time how long it takes to say. Chances are that it’s more than 30 seconds. Well, that’s pretty much how long you will have. So you have some editing to do.

Distil the most essential points. The more summarised the better. What is the hook of your idea? Concentrate on the most essential point, maybe two, and build around that.

To help you along, ask yourself what your unique selling point is.

Very importantly, keep it conversational. Don’t try to impress your listener with jargon. Even if you are at industry functions, like oil conferences or corporate dinners, your point will be diminished if your listener needs to decode what you’re trying to say. Simple and direct is best.

Dreams can be made in chance encounters, as you’re both making your way to the ground floor. With a little forethought and practice you can pique someone’s interest in only a couple minutes, and in your metaphorical elevator you’ll get to where you what to be.

Careers for second language speakers

While English is the most popular business medium spoken the world over or the second language of choice (known as a lingua franca), being proficient in only one language can have a limiting effect on your career.  Being fluent in a second language could serve you and your work well in a number of career paths, such as these:

Second language teacher

Teaching foreign languages abroad is something great to do while you’re young and just starting out your career.   A teaching degree or even a post graduate diploma combined with being fluent in French or Spanish could open many doors as a second language teacher in countries such as Canada and the US respectively.

Au pair

Working as an au pair is another great way to travel the world or live abroad for a few years. While there are certainly many opportunities to take advantage of as an English-speaking au pair, many clients are not willing to even consider an au pair’s application unless the applicant is fluent in their native tongue.

Cruise ships

Cruise ship careers have really taken off in the last few years. This is an amazing opportunity to travel the world and experience different cultures.  There are possibilities to work on the ships for years and even relocating to a new country.  This cultural experience will only be more enriched by learning the languages of the places you may visit or relocate to.

Interpreter / Translator

Interpreting has become a really lucrative career to pursue. Whether or not you do it full time or part time, you stand to make a lot of money for your work.  Mandarin translation might not seem like a great career path; however you may change your view once you realize that clients are willing to fork out up to 80 dollars per hour for this valuable skill.  Many companies also pay translators per word to translate documents.  Translating from English to a foreign language such as Danish or Arabic may get you up to 19 cents per word.

Writer

The challenge with writing has always been getting your work read by as many people as possible. This is not as easy as it sounds as the majority of all content written today uses the English medium. Amazingly English does not have the most speakers, let alone the most readers in the world. There are approximately 1 billion Mandarin speakers and readers in the world.  Learning to write in Mandarin would immediately open your writing to a huge market that you may never have reached had you only written in English.

Aside from the amazing career opportunities that learning an additional language have, learning a second language will also make your traveling experience easier.  Learning the language of a country such as France is seen as a sign of respect. While French people have a reputation of being somewhat abrasive, they are more than accommodating if you are able to converse with them in their native tongue.