Wednesday, 17 May 2017

What to do if you’re not happy in your job – is it too late to change your path?

It's been calculated that many of us will spend around 10 years of our lives working. This is a long time to spend doing something that doesn’t make you happy or bring you some form of satisfaction.

Changing your career path when you’re younger is a relatively straight forward process – many options lie within your grasp if you can put the time and effort in. The older you get, the more likely it is that you have commitments that make changing direction more difficult. You’re also competing with people who are younger and often cheaper!

There are many reasons why employers might favour the younger generation. And while unemployment in the over 50s is rising, there is some hope for people looking to change direction through apprenticeships.

Changing your career path as you get older may be more challenging, but it is possible. We’ve got some tips to help you in your search for a more fulfilling work-life.

Be age appropriate

Sometimes age and experience can work in your favour. There are many roles where age may be on your side, so don’t get stuck into thinking that you can only look at roles that you have always done – instead, be open to consider positions and options that you may have discounted when you were younger. Examples include sales positions and customer service, where experience and self-confidence can really help to drive performance. Think about what your age might line up with in the eyes of other people, this may spark ideas that you had not previously considered.

Be clear about what you want to get away from

Many people claim that they don’t like where they work, but unless you take the time and trouble to detail exactly what it is you don’t like, chances are you could end up in the same situation again, months or years down the line.  If you’re currently working with figures but yearn to be outside more, for example. Or, perhaps you like working with figures but don’t like the culture of the organisation you work for. If you’re not honest with yourself about what you don’t like – how will you find something that you do?

Once you know what you want, it’s time to lay the foundations that will get you there

  • Step back and get a perspective – be realistic about your skills and your talents, be clear about what you have got to offer a new employer and remember that many of your skills will be transferable, so you needn’t be chained to the same industry or organisation type, if you don’t want to be. If it helps, get someone else to look at your CV and provide honest feedback – we are often far too self-critical.
  • Let go of old thinking and behaviours – a new job is a new start and a chance to present your very best version of yourself to your new employer. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got so you must be prepared to work on yourself too!
  • Say yes – don’t be afraid to take the first step towards your end vision. If someone offers you a chance or an opportunity – take it – even if you don’t think you’re qualified. They may see something in you that you haven’t, yet!
  • Explore and scope it out – do your research. Gather all the information you can about where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.
  • Outline a plan of action - some opportunities will take longer than others to realise, especially if you need to retrain. Set out specific steps and goals that will break down your journey and help keep you motivated as you take steps towards the changes you wish to make.

Allow yourself to grow

Recent research published in the International Coaching Psychology Review explored the subjective experiences of high functioning professionals who had experienced 'executive derailment' - a term given to describe ending a career due to organisational restructuring, overwhelming demands and workloads, or workplace bullying. The researchers concluded that a positive psychological and growth-oriented mindset could be helpful in enabling personal change following such an event.

Re-evaluating yourself and your skills and asking yourself honestly what skills you have, what you could do and what you would like to do can really help open your life up to fulfilling your dreams. If you need help and support identifying your goals and how to reach them, a psychological coach can help. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Procrastination – why do we do it? – and how to stop.

It’s easy to find things to do in this digital age – the temptation to spend hours on our phones and tablets is great and we could be easily distracted away from doing other things, especially those jobs / activities we’re not really looking forward to!

New research suggests we lose more than 55 days a year through procrastinating – that’s nearly two months, every year!

What type of procrastinator are you?

The article also describes the three main types of procrastinators: those who wait until the last minute for the adrenaline rush; the people who don’t like to make decisions and so put things off until someone else jumps in and saves them from having to; and the 'avoiders’ – who over analyse what other people think of them and are overly concerned with failure (or success). By doing nothing, their accomplishments (or lack of them) can be put down to lack of effort, rather than ability.

That all sounds harmless enough and indeed suggests that procrastination comes down to our personality. However, there's a different train of thought which suggests procrastination could actually be as a result of an underlying issue or condition, such as hyperactivity, anxiety or a lack of self-confidence. Click here to read more about this.

If you find yourself predisposed to procrastination, the first thing to do is to make sure that it is not as a result of one of these underlying issues. If it is, don’t worry – you are not alone and help is at hand. There are lots of self-help resources freely available, as well as professional help should you need it.

If you’ve established that your procrastination habits are down to personality and habit however, we’ve got a couple of tips to help you get stuff done!

It only takes a minute

For many, the one minute rule is a simple - yet extremely successful - way to stop putting things off. The idea behind it is this: if the task before you can be completed in a minute – do it. If it can’t, then take that minute to schedule it for a later time.

When we say schedule, we mean write down when and where you will complete the task. If you do this, you’re far more likely to actually complete the task as we are predisposed to respond to deadlines – even self-imposed ones – more than we are to completing open ended tasks.

If your minute allows, share this schedule with someone else – a friend, a family member, a work colleague. This might mean emailing or texting someone your statement of intent (e.g. I will make sure that I get the list to you by Wednesday at 5pm…), as once you have informed someone else of your deadline, you are much more likely to complete the task within the timescales you’ve specified.

Do remember though, life is not all about getting stuff done. We are all allowed to take some ‘down time’ and if surfing on your tablet is how you choose to relax that’s a matter of personal choice. Difficulties only arise when we find ourselves procrastinating to the extent that we no longer have the desire to do anything else. That’s when it’s time to do something about it.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Workplace stress – How to manage your stress levels in a pressured job.

There’s no denying that people are feeling much more pressure in the workplace than ever have before. Headcount reductions mean that businesses often need to achieve more with fewer staff and this can increase the stress placed on workers.

A 2013 study in America  found that more than one-third of working Americans reported experiencing chronic work stress and more than double that number believed their employer provided inadequate support for employees to help them manage stress in the workplace. There is evidence to suggest that the figures would be similar in this country too.

This month is stress awareness month, so we’ve pulled together some tips, advice and guidance to help you manage your stress while in the workplace – or to manage your return to work after a period of stress-related illness.

When it comes to feeling stressed at work – try these three simple tips to help you regain control of your emotions, become more centered and think rationally, so that your stresses don’t get the better of you.

Don’t react – act!

When we’re under undue stress we start to make emotional decisions, rather than rational ones. If you feel that this could be an issue for you, make a conscious decision not to react to and be influenced by the stressors around you. Write things down so it’s easier to explore things rationally and definitely don’t make any rash decisions when backed into a corner. Buy some time, and move to step 2…


If you feel things are getting on top of you, don’t be afraid to take stock – and breathe! It takes only a minute or two of deep, mindful thinking to bring a clarity to your thoughts and a calmer response mechanism. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Switch off once in a while

There are so many different pulls on our time during the working day, that it takes a strong person not to feel overwhelmed. We never switch off – emails, mobile phones, multiple screens – they even follow us home. Make a conscious effort to have an hour at work each day when you are able to concentrate wholly on the tasks in hand, without the interruptions. Feeling like you’ve accomplished something during your working day is a great way of reducing stress.

Returning to work

Going back to a stressful work environment can be daunting for anyone – whether you’ve been off for a few weeks annual leave or a little longer, due to illness.

The health and safety executive are a great source of advice for people looking to return to work after a long period of absence and there is lots of support that employees can request to make their transition back to work as stress-free as possible. We’ve also pulled together some tips designed to help:

Set boundaries

The lines between work and home can easily get blurred. When you return to work it’s important that you are clear about the need to switch off. Make a deal with yourself not to check email in the evening – if that’s not as easy as it sounds, leave your phone in the car overnight or switch it off as soon as the working day is over.

Relax and recharge

Build time into each day that is just for you. Take up a new hobby, spend time doing something you enjoy, switch off completely. The more you have to look forward to outside of work, the less likely you are to spend time disecting what you’re going through at work and thus, the less stress you’ll feel under.

Share the load

Talking to people really does help you keep your workplace stresses in perspective. Very often stress is borne from a tendency to overthink scenarios and situations – we go over and over things in our minds only for them to start to feel insurmountable. By talking about what we’re experiencing and the challenges we’re facing – whether it’s to colleagues, management or even your friends and family – what we’re essentially doing is keeping things in perspective so that it’s easier for us to manage.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The psychology of meetings – are you getting the most out of yours?

According to psychology today, up to three-quarters or more of a senior manager’s day may be taken up with meetings. There’s no denying that meetings are an integral part of many workplaces, the question is how we approach these meetings and make them a positive, productive element of our working day – rather than a waste of time and effort?

The above link gives some useful insight into the psychology of meetings and we’ve developed some simple tips to make sure you give your best in meetings to get the most out of them.

Mind over matter

Mindfulness is about training the mind to think about things differently. We are all creatures of habit and our working day is defined by a range of routines, tasks and practices. It doesn’t take much for these routines to change and this can leave us feeling unbalanced. If you feel the meetings you are asked to attend are mainly unproductive, take the initiative to ensure you’re at your best and present. Some simple mindfulness tips for meetings include writing with your non-dominant hand, sitting in a different seat than usual, or offering to chair the meeting / take the minutes, rather than be a passive participant.

Prepare to plan

Chairing or attending meetings on the hoof is a sure fire way to waste your time – and everyone else’s! If you know you have a meeting coming up, make it your business to plan well ahead and have a clear objective – what do you want to get out of the meeting? When are your expectations of others? If you have called the meeting, take the time to also plan what you want others to get out of it and the role you want them to play. How will you encourage collaboration and interaction? How will you work with others to set measureable goals? What processes can you put in place to make sure all actions are followed up on?

Essential etiquette

Do you know what a good meeting looks like? Before you begin, make sure you have an idea of how you want things to go from a logistics perspective. Try some visualisation techniques – imagine that the meeting goes well – how do people look around the table? How do you feel? There’s a good round-up in this helpful Business Insider article. It also helps to go through the ground rules of your meeting with participants before you begin, so people know exactly what is expected of them.

For more information about how to get the most out of your meetings, this article in Psychology Today looks at a special tool designed to improve the quality of meetings and increasing active participation. They identified two interesting patterns evident in the most productive meetings:

  1. People take turns in an equal way and everyone is encouraged to give their ideas.
  2. Periods of chattiness and side conversations serve to validate the ideas and build consensus. 

So, there you have it. With a bit of time and planning, you can make all your meetings matter.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Daylight savings - what will do with that extra hour of daylight?

It’s that time of year we all look forward to – the clocks go forward an hour this weekend and spring is in the air.

Studies show that the more daylight we’re exposed to, the more active we are – and the better we sleep at night. The question is what are you going to do with your extra hour of daylight? And, what difference is it going to make to your life?

We’ve compiled some suggestions to get the most out of your – longer – day, helping you to feel happier and more fulfilled.

Get off to a positive start (20 mins)

A good morning routine helps to set us up for the day, so starting the day as we mean to go on is a great way of making the most of your extra hour of daylight. Understand what works best for you in a morning then make it happen. Write out a schedule and have a plan of what you want to achieve during each day. This insight into the morning routines of successful people makes pretty inspiring reading.

Take 5 (5 mins)

Build some time into your daily routine to take in your surroundings and be thankful for the beautiful nature around us. Just five minutes is long enough to practise some mindful thinking, which will have a positive impact on the rest of your day. For more information about mindful thinking, you can read this previous blog post.

Catch some rays (10 mins)

Vitamin D is essential for human health. It increases the metabolism and the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Sunlight is what the body needs to produce Vitamin D in the skin – so plan some time into your schedule and use some of your extra hour to get a daily dose of the sunshine vitamin. To find out more about the benefits of Vitamin D, why not read this article?

Get moving (15 mins)

Try to do more of what you love outdoors. Take a walk – use local parks to get more active. The great news about exercising outside is that it’s free and the preparation time is minimal; you don’t need any equipment and you’re less likely to get bored with the routine. This study outlines the benefits of outdoor exercise on not only our physical wellbeing, but our mental health too.

It may only be an hour, but we guarantee that these extra 60 minutes will be enough to boost your mood and leave you feeling more positive and productive. So, use it wisely – take a big breath in of the fresh spring air and leave the ‘sluggishness’ of winter behind you.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Networking matters – how to leave a good impression

We often hear the saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. While this is true, it does imply that once we’ve made an initial connection with someone, we’re home and dry. Yes, the foundations of good business relationships can be laid on first meeting, however keeping these connections alive through networking is an ongoing process – rather than a one-off event.

As with all relationships, business associations need to be nurtured and fed regularly if they are to flourish. The alternative is that we only connect with people when we need them for something and our work colleagues will soon get wise to this!

That aside, if we view networking as simply something we do when have a specific outcome in mind, it can become a more daunting task. Much better to embrace networking as part of our working life than think of it as a means to an end.

It’s good practice to build networking activities into your weekly work schedule, when you’re not looking to gain anything – this way you can focus on what you can do for others, rather than on what you expect from them.

We’ve developed some tips for building authentic networking connections that always leave a good impression

It’s not all about you

Make sure the focus is on others, not yourself. When building new relationships it’s easy to slip back into our comfort zone and talk about things we know most about – in many cases, that means talking about ourselves! The best way to excel at networking is to turn the tables and make sure that we always keeps others at the core of the conversation. By all means, share your views when asked, but make a real effort to include others in discussion through asking questions and bringing people in to give their perspectives too.

Listen more than you talk

We are given two ears and one mouth for a reason, and the rule of thumb when networking is to listen for twice as long as you spend talking. Relationships are about give and take, so make sure you give others the time and space to express themselves before sharing what’s on your mind. Active listening skills, such as keeping eye contact with others, and interjecting with questions or verbal cues – such as ‘mmm’ or a nod of the head, show that you are paying attention.

Stay in the room

Value the time that you spend networking with others. Be present in the conversations, turn your phone to silent and don’t look around the room, or down at your watch, unless absolutely necessary. People will very quickly pick up on your body language and your non-verbal cues, as much as they will the words that come out of your mouth.

Be a name dropper

When talking to new people make an extra special effort to use their name, to show that you’re paying attention and are making a personal connection with them. This serves two purposes: people respond better to those who address them by name, they’re more likely to remember you and it’ll make them feel good; it also means you're more likely to remember their name again in the future. There’s nothing worse than meeting up with a new contact, only to struggle with their name. If you find this a problem, this article may help.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to get the most out of your networking experiences, why not read this blog from the guardian newspaper?  It describes a three-pronged approach to networking - the ARE strategy. It stands for anchor (finding common ground), reveal (share interesting information about yourselves with others) and encourage (getting others to join in the conversation).

Remember, mutually beneficial business relationships are not built overnight. We need to put the same time and energy into nurturing our connections at work as we do those in our home-life. Put other people first and your networking efforts will soon pay dividends.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Building self esteem – in yourself and your work colleagues

Maybe following the influx of cards and chocolates earlier this week your self-esteem has already soared to a record high, but if that’s not the case, now is the time to do something about it!

Self-esteem is about feeling confident in yourself and your own abilities. In the workplace it’s easy to sometimes feel unappreciated or daunted by the tasks you need to fulfil. But it needn’t be that way.

Mind, the mental health charity, has compiled a comprehensive list of things we can do to boost our self-esteem – some of the actions we need to do for ourselves but several of them translate perfectly into the workplace.


Successfully overcoming challenges is a great way to boost your self-esteem, so don’t be afraid to set yourself stretching tasks – you can do it! And when you, do you’ll feel amazing. If you're lacking in the confidence to achieve things by yourself, why not set a challenge that involves you and your work colleagues? Knowing that you've done something well together is a great way to build confidence in your own ability, and that of your work colleagues. Team building exercises, brainstorms and away days are all great ways to improve self-esteem and build better teams.


Self-esteem is all about confidence. Confidence is built when we have the courage to assert ourselves. The work environment is a great place for feeling assertive. It is familiar to us, the people we work with know us and what we are capable of, plus we're surrounded by people who, mostly, want the same the things we do. Assertiveness is not about being aggressive or bossy, it’s the happy medium between being belligerent and passive. It’s about being clear about what you want and what you don’t want. In the workplace, assertiveness is about acknowledging the contributions that your team members make – while ensuring that your suggestions are equally recognised.

Read First Psychology's advice page on Assertiveness >


Self-esteem is given a boost when we feel we have a strong support network – this gives us the courage to try, as we know someone has our back if we don’t quite make it. If your current workplace doesn’t have the support network you need, why not create one? Supportive work environments encourage people to take ownership and responsibility, safe in the knowledge that any mistakes made are learning experiences, rather than a reflection of their abilities.


No-one likes negativity, but when your self-esteem is already low, it's easy to find the negatives when they’re not even there! However, change has to start within yourself. Negativity breeds negativity so that first step to a more positive work environment – and one in which your self-esteem can soar – is by being positive. Take time out of your working day to find – and note down – the positive things that have happened. Encourage your colleagues to do the same and aim to create a positive work environment where people are encouraged to shine. Then watch what it does to your team's self-esteem.

Building self-esteem takes time, but by making the smallest changes today you can make big strides to developing a more confident, more authentic you. And that will feel great. What’s more is that confidence is catching. Start with yourself and see how it rubs off on your colleagues.