"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." Peter Drucker


09 July 2013

Kayla Conley

Woman and Home Magazine
Riding the waves of Redundancy

My first redundancy occurred in 2001 and subsequent to the collapse  of Lehman Brothers my career has been thrown into disrepair and chaos as I was made redundant in 2009,2010 and also the early part of 2012. The career goals I had are constantly changing and I cannot find a way of sticking to them because my choices have become limited and also my salary.

My situation however is akin to many people who are working in today’s job market. Many of us choose to take the first job and ‘hang in there’ until better comes.  But, does a better job come our way? Sometimes hanging on to something we don’t want, we lose sight of what we really want.
Redundancy appears to always come as a shock even when you know it’s imminent or has a negative connotation attached to it (we are getting rid of you, or you are not good enough)- and it takes a few to knock you, before you feel open and positive to accept it as a turning point in your life and embrace the challenges ahead. It does however, require courage in these current conditions as the jobless amount increases daily and governments are nervous about the Euro Zone Crisis.  

The good thing is, as we let go and say ‘I’ll handle it’ according to Susan Jefferies in ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ we have put acceptance into the frame and when we accept changes and let go, new opportunities arrive. “Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the fear which comes from the feeling of helplessness.”

After careful analysis of my past role I realised the job was not fulfilling and it gave me the opportunity to find and develop an interest in writing.  I wouldn’t have the chance to explore this option had it been a fulfilling role that stretched me, as I wouldn’t look  to see what else I could do. With writing comes self-discipline and also the need to become more expressive and shortly after the course started, I joined Toastmasters. To have the time to carry out both of these interests is absolutely brilliant!
I have borrowed three books from the library, which I hope will steer me in another direction. They are ‘I don’t know what I want but I know it’s not this’, ‘Finding Square Holes and ‘Planning a career change’.
I will let you know what ‘gems’ I have found in these books and whether they have given me my ‘Ah Ha!’ moment in finding a job that makes my soul sing!

Kayla Conley
Colchester Executive Job Club Member

02 April 2013

Big Lottery Fund grant to help you achieve your dream career transition

We are delighted to announce that we have received a grant of £9,860 to help YOU achieve your career aspirations.

The money from the Big Lottery Fund will be spent on six interactive workshops which have been designed to take a holistic approach to employability and career transition. The first is being held on Tuesday, April 23, (see MeetUp) focusing on developing emotional resilience. It will be led by Clare Cracknell and Karen Loring, with whom many of you will be familiar as members of CEJC.

Throughout the day, we want you to consider the road ahead of you, so you can understand and overcome your own personal challenges. We will consider the concept of emotional agility and teach you how to use your strengths to make positive, effective choices in the future.

Other topics to be covered are the importance of self-esteem, how you can focus on being authentic in the workplace and why role playing is important in business.

The other five workshops will be held from May to October with a summer break in August as follows:

2.    Opening minds, widening horizons – 22 May
3.    Becoming your own leader – 11 Jun
4.    Rebranding yourself – 17 Jul
5.    Delivering yourself into the market place – 3 Sep
6.    Creating your opportunity – 23 Oct

So there’s a really wide range of topics to be covered, after which we hope to have raised your levels of employability and help you with an effective career transition. You’re under no obligation to attend all the seminars, although we are sure they will be of huge benefit if you do.

We’re very lucky to have secured the Pavilion at the Colchester and East Essex Cricket Club in Castle Park for these workshops. This is a great venue and offers free car parking, catering facilities and access to Wi-Fi.  As CEJC members, the seminars are free to attend and will include a light lunch and refreshments.
To book, email info@cejc.org.uk or got to the MeetUp facility and book there. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. We look forward to seeing you there!

09 Sept 2012

Summer has finally arrived just in time to turn the leaves from green to the familiar autumnal palette. Who could not though have been inspired by this summer; our athletes, new heroes, one and all, will hopefully leave a legacy of inspiration and ambition not only within our younger generation but all of us. Some may greet the Union Jack flag waving as nationalistic frustration; I saw it as a time of unity, recognition of a nation more at ease with itself, its culture and its strengths, as a self-confessed cynic before the games I was a true convert after.

For once we had an audio visual display of what can be achieved when the collective creative forces are in tune with a single predefined objective and goal. Each athlete their coaches and their Clubs acted as pockets of energy that when brought together under a well defined goal achieved a single force for national good.

Who could have believed that the choir at the last night of the proms would accept the audience’s applause and adoration with a ‘Mobot’! We really might be a nation in transition?

In a way this approach reaffirmed my belief in the value of cluster economics; local community solutions tied together by ever growing networks to promote innovation and entrepreneurial growth. Cluster that produce pockets of energy like a chain of battery cells that once connected by a single national goal can achieve the sort of progressive sustainable growth that we need to aspire to, so as to at least give our children and grandchildren real opportunity.

Apart from the Olympics my summer has been focused upon the establishment of a new business as well as the development of our Executive Job Club. I take great solace that we are near to finalising the plan and strategy which was due to be discussed at the re-launch but now has been delayed for a few weeks.

Summer also allowed me a chance for some reading. Peter Senge’s ‘The Necessary Revolution’ was an exceptional read. It is a call to arms for us to work towards a sustainable world and defeat the power of the sceptics. It provided me with appreciation of the space that we occupy within the Worldly confines and how we need to connect with humility and a sense of understanding. Chapter 21 perhaps resonated with me the most in an acknowledgement that we do not have all the answers but that is no reason to stop looking for them. For anyone who knows of Senge’s other excellent book “The Fifth Discipline” they know that he writes with authority, integrity and concern for us all. I leave this blog with a famous inscription from the Confucian sage Zhang Zai’s (1020 – 1077) that Senge places toward the end of his book.

“Westerns Inscription” Zhang Zai

Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother, and even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst.

Therefore that which fills the universe I regard and my body and that which directs the universe I consider my nature.

All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions.

(Senge, P “The necessary REVLUTION”, 2008, p362)


09 May 2012


Ruby Orland Metcalfe - 9Llb 6oz

So this was the reason why today was so special.

 “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson

I know that my future is going to be good because this little person will be in it. No matter how complex the situation,how difficult the decisions we have to make I now have a new point of reference from which to make them.

Life is full of disappointment and regrets but new life is full of opportunity and hope. Everything that I want to achieve now has a new purpose and resolve because it is simply to make her life better and to make her proud. She has energy, determination and a family who wants only the best for her. By the very nature of change we cannot go back but we have an opportunity to refocus on where we want to be and I know exactly where that is.

She will grow up in a safe environment; she will evolve knowing that those inevitable mistakes she will make will go onto to shape the way she is. She will come across the new and seek answers from those around her and she will do this safe in the knowledge that we will not judge but simply support her along this journey.

30 April 2012

I was listening to David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show yesterday and was struck by the admission that he believed the old ways were now caput. This is a stark realisation for a politician but an obvious one to many of us. Still the blunt admission that the system is well and truly broken and that our dependence upon financial services, big government and Keynesian economics is a path that we no longer will be following made my antennae tune in as I waited to hear what exactly the alternative vision was. He spoke of a need to rebalance the economy which he concluded would be painful (hmm!) so one must presume the balancing act will include a return to a more sustainable fiscal position through the hair-shirt of austerity but, unhappily I gleaned little else from the 20 minutes ascribed to his interview.  What is wrong with throwing a few wild cards out there?

What is very clear is that many commentators are starting to present radical ideas as a way to stimulate some creativity on what we should be trying to strive towards. One such article was an essay written by the FT journalist Lucy Kellaway that asks the rather impertinent question “Should job-hogging over-50s all resign?” (www.bbc.co.uk, 2012). For anyone who is a quinquagenarian (50-59) it is a hard question and one akin to euthanasia but from every wild concept comes a strand of truth. Youth unemployment is an issue that is not going to go away just because a few apprenticeships are being created. What drove Lucy to ask this brutal question was a statistic, how real or accurate one cannot tell, but it stated that there would be 1.2 billion young people looking for work and only 300 million jobs to go around. Add to this that we are an ageing demographic and the reality is stark for those who are currently aged 6 or 7 years your employment opportunities are going to be more than tough that is unless we do something brave and one might say dangerous.

Self-preservation aside and we all know turkeys do not vote for Christmas, I do believe we have to recognise a few home truths and start to think about ways to change the game plan. If, as Mr. Cameron says, we cannot rely on a return to the past, then we have to start to paint a picture of the future, a future beyond the wonderful expectation of fiscal rectitude. A book that I believe should shape some of our thinking is “The Coming Jobs War” by Jim Clifton Chairman of Gallup. The book is highly US centric and written from the perspective of getting the US to re-establish and underpin its credentials as a World super-power. Saying that many of his ideas have merit for the UK and we should listen. Jim’s premise starts with the statement that ‘everybody’ wants a good job (30 hours a week and solid pay / benefits) but there simply are not enough of these to go around. This is then the new societal goal or as he calls it the “will of the World”.

Where Lucy and Jim possibly see eye to eye is in the creation of job volatility – Lucy implies an indiscriminate finality to the process where as Jim simply calls for all ‘bad’ managers to be sacked but both seek more job movement, more pain and ultimately more energy. What we therefore need is a society where transition and mobility are given the supports that they truly need. How many of us have sat in a work place and felt disengaged, unproductive and out of sorts? How many of us have felt trapped? Take all those people who feel like this and give them the chance to pursue a life changing, energised strategy and you create opportunity. What is killing our workplace is this lack of vibrancy and what limits this are the support systems that we have in place.  

What will save us from a future where the hair-shirt becomes comfortable is not simply innovation but more importantly the creation of an entrepreneurial society (Clifton, 2011) where supports, personal and organisational, are well funded, professional and tuned into exactly what we really need. We cannot and should not fail the younger generation but equally to stand aside would be fundamentally wrong. Experiences are and should be valued, engagement needs to be positive and all of this needs a voice.


23 April 2012


The Value of being a mentor and of being mentored


“You are the tennis ball and I am the racket – your job is to win the match my job is to get you over the net” – my mentor.

Sound advice at the time it was given to me. I was young and had just started a new career in an industry I knew very little about. I had no relevant network and no targeted education but what I did have was an ability to ask questions and learn for myself. I stumbled across my mentor at the tennis club I had joined. He wasn’t from the business I was in, he was a former salesman for a blue chip company but he had something about him that made me feel at ease. He had an armoury of experiences, battle worn but definitely not cynical and he could tell a good story. The traits of the salesman shone through as he focused in on me, what were my goals, my aspirations and some of the fears that held me back. He listened intently; in fact listening was probably the one skill he really knew how to do. Once I was into the flow he would nod to state agreement; make eye contact and smile reassuringly – on the odd occasion he would ask a question or repeat a piece of information to reinforce and make me reflect upon what I had just said.  I didn’t realise it at the time but listening was something that he did very well. He could also ask those sorts of questions that made you go in a loop trying to answer, round and round, but always revealing something new each time. He always loved a metaphor, the tennis ball and racket was of course apt as we were sitting in the bar of the tennis club having just played a normally dismal rubber but he had plenty more and encouraged me to use them as a way of clearing away complexity and getting to the rub of the issue.

I don’t ever remember actually referring to him as ‘my mentor’ – he was just the bloke from the Club who had an ability to make me think in a slightly different way. He could charge my batteries and enliven the spirit but most of all he gave me clarity in a non-judgemental way.

You could say we were friends but that was not really accurate – he was friendly but he was also objective – he spoke to me as an adult not as a kid, full of confidence and a bit blasé, he talked about the next five or ten years and he made me think about tomorrow as well. He presented challenges and challenged me to find my own way through. We only spent half an hour together once a week but those 30 minutes were my water in the well and would set me up for the week ahead.

I lost contact with him once I moved from the area but will always have fond memories of him. To this day I will do something, say something or behave in a way that surprises me, making me wonder if that action or response came from conversations I had had in the distant past with a tennis partner and personal mentor?

I asked him once if he enjoyed our chats and he smiled reassuringly – “better than I enjoy the tennis James – get me another Pimms”.



16 March 2012

This is a very personal Blog to me but I am enraged and incensed because it is about how we are treated when we are unemployed. How banks treat people who are experiencing career transition.  We want to be encouraged and treated with respect and empathy but what in fact we get is this.

How banks humiliate you - a valuable lesson for our time

When I was earning I took out a mortgage with HSBC to buy my
family home. The mortgage represented about 44% loan to value cover; being a
prudent person I chose a capital repayment mortgage over a short repayment term
thus limiting the overall interest but increasing my monthly repayments. I was
earning good money and had sort as well as obtained assurances that my
employment prospects were sound prior to signing the contracts.

As with these things business turned down with consequences
of additional change which led to my redundancy.

The first thing I did was to start to work to change my
finances around beginning with a request to the bank to transition me from the
heavily weighted capital repayment mortgage to an interest rate only product.
Since HSBC had adequate cover on the debt the only part they should be
concerned about was securing their interest margin. The fact that I had been a
long standing customer of theirs, who had used, paid for and promoted their
services, I thought our request a mere formality. It was plainly common sense,
no additional risk for the bank, they already had leant me the money so why put
the customer through the stress of arguing about something that was a
slam-dunk! Clearly the idea that we should pay capital off a mortgage was plainly
dumb when the capital was coming directly out of savings. I was sure that my
personal account manager would sign the papers and the transition would be done
by the weekend.

What a huge mistake, why was I so stupid as to think that this
apparent prudence was in fact irresponsible behaviour. Had I chosen at the time
of the original loan to have an interest only product instead I could have leveraged
myself to the gills for the same repayment amount by taking on a debt that
would never, contractually, been about ever being repaid.

The battle with the bank has been fought at a time when I
have been trying to rebuild my life after my redundancy. Their attitude, which
has been wrapped in platitudes and false sympathy, has brought us to a place
which now leaves us probably with no other option but to sell our home at a
time when selling really is not an option. We could have easily covered the
interest rate only repayments but the intensive capital repayment ones, once
the savings go, will have no chance of being met. They hide behind a cloak of
regulatory disapproval yet will they never acknowledge that this is simply a
commercial decision and not something that a regulator would stand against.

HSBC appear to have thrown me a life line in such a way that
the rope connected to the lifeboat only appears to be attached. As I write this
my stomach churns and the anger swells. They have offered me six months sabbatical
from the capital aspect of the mortgage but after that six months the
repayments will rise as they seek to recover the capital amount that I am now
behind on. Not only that they will call me in three months to make sure that I
am not overspending on clothes or being irresponsible. I truly do not know what
to say. Here I am someone who has worked hard all his life, is now working hard
to establish a support group to help people through the process of career
transition but is considered to be a potentially irresponsible person who is
need of monitoring. Have I ever felt this low as I do now? I feel as though I
should be wearing a tag as I go into M&S, one that omits an alarm to HSBC
should I inadvertently approach the non-sale items.

This bank purports to be “responsive” and able to “act quickly to
ensure we meet and exceed our customers’ ever-changing expectations”
my expectations were never met in fact I do not think they ever tried to meet

The moral to this story is simply this – choose only to
follow a path of irresponsibility for that path leads to reward whilst the
other way, prudent and sensible, leads only to punishment and humiliation.


Networking without a job is a very different skill set to networking whilst
in employment. Your career is a great way of cementing your conversations; it
gives you confidence and automatically demonstrates your value. If you are
unemployed you have to be able to not only handle the "So what do you
do?" question but also to actually use it to your advantage.
Normal networking events will often have an
introduction process, listen attentively then remember those who appeared
interesting either through their industry, job or even their approach. When it
is the free-for-all, work your way to the person who you believe you may have
empathy with.
When it gets to your turn to say a few words in the
public forum it is far easier if you have or can create a role. Volunteering is
a great way of filling your life by doing something of value. It is a
conversational piece and puts people at ease.

One aspect which we are hoping to build out at the Club is a mentorship
program where the skills of our members can be used in the development of
skills of another. For the mentor and mentee this relationship will hopefully
bring out real benefits in helping both parties face up to and deal with
change. We are therefore seeking to formalise ties with receptive external
groups and will then look to our own members so that we can share this benefit.
As soon as possible turn your attention to the personyou are talking to.

Make eye contact and smile as this break any tension.
Networking needs to be authentic
and natural and for that you need to be relaxed within your own skin.

Try and illicit some of idea of what interests the
person you are talking to, what are they here for or want? Is there common
ground, something that you share if you can find it the result will be an
automatic reduction in tension with the result people just relax into each other?

There are plenty of other do's and don'ts but the
primary skill is being able to read a situation, knowing when to expand the
conversation and knowing when to let the person move on.

03 Feb 2012

Just as we look to be facing yet another quarter of negative
growth prompting yet another round of QE in the pipeline, the US springs the
fifth set of better than expected jobs data into the works. Here at the CEJC we
are always looking to the US for signs across the Ocean because all we see in
Europe is a sea of negativity. There are though glimmers of hope among all of
this in the shape of a rescue plan for Greece. Politicians may manage to save
the day by bring down the cost of European funding but is it a long term
solution to the issues at the heart of the problem or indeed the social costs
that we see daily?

So turning to the US we know that with unemployment at a rate
of 8.3% the country needs to create jobs like it has never done before; Obama
needs those jobs if he is going to be re-elected but most of all we need those
jobs because jobs translate to confidence and confidence is the milk of future

This was the week when Facebook made paper billionaires
out of many and the three letters of IPO entered into vocabulary of popular
culture. It was also the week when Sir Fred became simply Fred prompting many
(though not me) to question the validity of such action. It has been a week
that has seen the equity markets continue to surge higher as optimism is
grasped and held onto. So despite the turmoil, the uncertainty and the erratic
nature of this news we can still hang onto the optimism that the creation of
243,000 US jobs can bring.

30 Jan 2012

The current European economic crisis is failing to abate and
if anything it appears to be gaining some new traction with a sudden rise in
Portugal’s bond yields as default talk heightens. When you read that over 5
million people are unemployed in Spain (22.87%) you can’t help but wonder how
this is all going to end. It is though extremely important that despite all of
this negativity we remain resilient and motivated to focus on the opportunities
that are hidden behind this.

I know that it is extraordinarily hard to do this and at
times we feel battered and bruised by all that is going on around us, but stay
focused we must. Try setting yourself some goals for the short and medium term –
included here are three goals that I have set myself, objectives that
will guide my actions and keep me positively focused on seeking new

Goal one: - To see my LinkedIn network grow to 250 contacts by
the end of September through attending a number of selected networking events
across NE Essex and Suffolk.

Goal two: - To have grown the membership of the CEJC to 150
people (currently 54) by the end of 2012 through the creation of a business
plan with a stated marketing plan.

Goal three: -  By the end of 2012 to have accumulated 90 more points from my OU work that will count
towards yet another milestone on the way to securing my degree.

These are just three short and medium term objectives that
hopefully by stating them here will reinforce my ability to stick to them. Try
it, write them down and then publish them for as has been said before – making a
statement of intent public is one step closer to making it come true.

10 Jan 2012

The Four Steps to better Collaboration

Upon reflection one aspect of personal development that I
have missed since being out of work is collaboration. Working with and benefiting
from interaction with others whether they are individuals, groups and even our
competitors. Joint problem solving techniques satisfy our fundamental need for
social interaction.

Whether it is a proven fact or not I always felt that
collaboration was the pinnacle of sharing a common ideal formed by the spirit
of the enterprise.

When we started the CEJC I knew that isolation was something
that needed to be overcome but what I now realise is that the removal of
isolation alone is not enough we need to strive to create a state of
collaborative working. A support group based upon egalitarian foundations that
recognised the common value of each member.

Part of the delivery of the Club must be to foster this very
important skill; a core part of mentoring, collaboration is about peer
interaction, group working and mutual support. There are though pitfalls in
that we create dependencies that infer obligations which if not delivered will
lead to mistrust and scepticism. Collaboration may well foster the impression
that every aspect of the Club will be run by consensus, limiting our
effectiveness and no one need to accept accountability but by recognising these
pitfalls we can overcome them and install safeguards.

As a feature of the CEJC’s culture collaboration and the
fostering of interdependencies must a be a primary aim of the organisation but
we can only do that if the membership seeks it and can see the possible rewards
that this openness can create.

By following these four steps to better collaboration we can
help cement this as part of the Club’s culture.

1)  At every meeting we will each introduce
ourselves to foster familiarity and understanding

2)  We will always set aside time for discourse and

3)  We will always welcome and actively encourage our
members to support each other through communication and empathy.

4) The Club’s leadership will always promote
teamwork as a means to foster positivity and raise each other’s self-esteem.

I would love to know your views and opinions on this and
welcome any feedback or discourse.

03 Jan 2012

A Happy New Year to everyone.

Over the festivities I managed to do some reading and came across a piece of work by Malcolm Small on
the TAEN website entitled “Understanding the Older Entrepreneur”. Commissioned
by The International Longevity Centre the report is an excellent piece of
research about what are the key drivers to this growing and vital demographic.

It certainly made me think that what we are witnessing is a potential revolution in our working practices
as extended working age, poor savings and extremely low (negative when inflation adjusted)
annuity rates are forcing more and more of us into becoming older
entrepreneurs.  Add to this a housing market which requires the inevitable intervention and stimulus from the bank of Mum and Dad and we have a real need to create longevity of earnings.

The Executive Job Club is in a fantastic position to engage with people looking to follow this route. It has
the potential to be a formidable network, granting access to numerous skills
and experiences, the chance to meet people who are driven, adaptable and
extremely articulate in their demands. In fact everything you really need to
develop as an entrepreneur.

I would recommend the reading of the report especially for anyone who through the catalyst of career change might look to pursue the entrepreneurial path.


13 Dec 2011

There are some real benefits from taking the time to sit
down and prepare a time management strategy. The one thing that I have noticed
about being unemployed is that you need to keep a tab on time; you need a
structure to your day.

Think back to how it was when you were fully occupied; the
days were punctuated with events that acted as markers. It is so easy to stop
the routine and replace it with the ill discipline of a free format life. I
knew that if I followed that path I would be in dangerous water. So from the
onset I set myself the challenge of defining my working hours and adhering to
them. I set the alarm in the morning and turn it off at weekends; I take time
for lunch and punctuate my day with the occasional breaks.  I have to have a pattern, a zone for the activities
that make up the treadmill of unemployment. Job searches and social media profile
changes all create an air of activity and all are vital tools to getting

It doesn’t matter how many hours you actually work but work
you must do.

I was never a great one for time management and as such I
didn’t ever truly realise as much from my time as I could. The disciplines of a
well organised process bizarrely bear fruit when you are unemployed because now
more than ever you need that structure. It is not just a case of finding things
to do it is about finding the right things to do. An unused skill is like a
dull knife, it may look the part but when you come to use it, the effect is
poor and the risks are higher. My advice to you is schedule your day, give it a
start and end and make sure that what fills it is practical and relevant to
using and developing skills. Relate this to your partner, tell them why it is
important that you treat this as work and ask them to respect that time but in
return dedicate time to each other. Being out of work has that benefit, treat
it as such because you need as much positive energy around you as you can

03 Dec 2011

Welcome news from across the seas.

We spend much of our time and effort studying the words of
or our so called leaders with respect to Europe and the debt crisis. Our lives
appear framed by what is happening in Brussels, dependent upon whether Merkel and
Sarkozy allow Cameron a place at the table or not.

Although vital as Europe is to us we shouldn’t ignore what
is happening in the US. On Friday we had the release of the latest employment
data. For once some good news was delivered in the form of a fall in the
unemployment rate from 9% to 8.6% and acknowledgement that the US had created
120,000 jobs in November and 72,000 in October, higher than was first suggested.
It wasn’t clear how the news should be taken since part of the improvement was
more a case of workforce decline but regardless of that it is a positive piece
of the picture. It can lead to higher GDP and a pick-up in consumption. It is
one small brick in the confidence wall that is so lacking in many people’s

Anything that shows either stability or possibility is a
welcome piece of information and we should grasp it and hold onto it to dissipate
some of the constant gloom.

I was also listening to “Any Questions” this PM as I was
hanging the outdoor Christmas lights on my olive tree only to be absorbed by
the words of Bonnie Greer, the American-British playwright. She spoke with a
real honesty and the need for an acceptance that ‘no-one really knows what is
or will happen’. She derided the lack of leadership and an absence of vision.
She spoke so well and eloquently encapsulated the need, as she put it, for not
only an economic growth strategy but also a “growth strategy in spirit as well”.
Her criticisms were clear, cuts and austerity are painful enough but unless
accompanied with clarity of vision they are even harder to swallow.

I think she got the loudest of applause of the show for her comments as well as

from me as I cursed yet another bulb gone!

23 Nov 2011

When I lost my job in April of last year I decided that I
needed to do a number of things. First on the agenda was a personal makeover
not that I could afford Gok Wan to re-style me, this make over was to take the
James Cracknell of old and give him a new brand. In my search for inspiration I
came across an HBR Blog written in the November of 2010 by Dorie Clark, the
title of which was “How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand”. I was under no
illusion that the road to reinvention would not only be arduous it would also
be fraught with danger, likely to take me down the wrong path but at the same
time it would be an essential journey for someone tired of the industry from
whence they came.

I had no formal marketing background bar some copy writing,
brochure production and sales work I did for a tour operator in the late 70’s. The
majority of my skills lay in portfolio management and financial analytics, the
process of brand development was always in another person’s domain. I just
hoped that my rebranding would be slightly more meaningful than that of the
humble Marathon bar into Snickers.

Dorie Clark’s strategy was a five step approach and it laid
out the foundations for what I believed I needed to do. I will use Dorie’s own
headings as she wrote them; the content is then specific to my own experience.

1. What’s your destination? I believe the
hardest of all questions because we are more likely to know what we don’t want
than what we do; at least that was my take on it. It takes a lot of soul
searching, specifically after a 25 year career in one industry, to start to
think about a new direction but it was an essential part my process. Any good
strategy has to start with an idea of where we want to be but equally an
acceptance that flexibility and adaptability should not be mistaken for a
random walk. Let your mind go on a journey, close your eyes and imagine a
place, a point in time from where you can look back on something that you have
achieved, let that be the destination on your ticket. It is a start and no one says you can’t get off at stops on the

2. Leverage Your Points of Difference. We
all have skills and experiences that for many of us have lain dormant, unused
and unloved, now is the time to start thinking about them. These, according to
Dorie, make up your Unique Selling Points (USP) since no one else has identical
skills backed up with identical experiences. We are unique and as such
independently valuable. I was encouraged to broaden my search from just looking
at my career to thinking about those skills I gained through parenting (mentorship),
through tragic events that make you empathise with others as well as how I
dealt with upheaval and change. It was about taking what I had; working to
develop them so that I could ‘leverage’ what made me an individual.

3. Develop a Narrative. Dorie uses an
example of a journalist who writes financial articles who wants to be a
restaurant critic. In my case I have to develop a narrative that takes me from
financial markets expert to social enterprise entrepreneur. My narrative is
about the collapse of one industry spurning an opportunity to create sustainable
business models in another. What does being an investment banker have to do
with social enterprise? Well they are both businesses and as such they both
need processes, markets to operate in and needs to fulfil. The narrative is
about taking who you are and developing the story that impels others to listen.

4. Reintroduce Yourself. For the last 25
years my life revolved around a train journey that took me away from my home.
Until I lost my job I didn’t realise how isolated I actually was. I had no
local network, very few contacts existed bar neighbours and a few commuter
buddies. This had the advantage that reintroduction was in fact purely 'an
introduction' but an essential aspect of my rebranding. The CEJC has broadened
my network immeasurably. The club has immediately helped me establish
connectivity with like minded individuals making the process of reintroduction
less of a concern but more reliant on developing a purposeful narrative.  I am sure for you it will be different but
equally important that the reintroduction of your new brand is accompanied with
a strategy to re-educate friends, family and former colleagues.

5.Prove Your Worth. After all this rebranding I now had to demonstrate that I could
deliver. Let us not forget that I am a work in progress, far from complete my
brand is developing all the time, new skills are being added, lines developed, repackaged and made relevant to a particular job sector. Obviously I am still in need of a paid position but I believe this constant search for improvement can only enhance my value to a prospective employer. The CEJC is a vehicle that has helped me develop many different skills and one that I am enormously proud of being a part of. It is though an indication that a former investment banker can actually deliver something of
value, a novel and worthwhile idea in itself.

This path is obviously not for everyone it is though
something that I found of immense help for me. At a time when I lost my structure through
redundancy my rebranding gave me back some lost purpose. Even if it proves not
to be foolproof it was an important means for me to obtain some much needed

For that I thank Dorie Clark (http://www.dorieclark.com) for the insight
and process.


Dorie Clark (2010). How to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. 22 Nov 2010. HBR Blog
[online]. [Accessed 22 Nov 2011]. Available from:


17 Nov 2011

The recent unemployment numbers confirmed our worst fears as youth unemployment
rose above the 1 million mark and the total advanced to 2.62 million. You can
argue until you are blue in the face as to the validity of the youth number but
even if you remove the student population it is still paints a poor picture of
a contracting and brutal job’s market.

The post data response was for more direct Government assistance for the
16-24 year olds. There is an inevitable political need to do something now but
this sticking plaster approach can only stem the bleeding not stop the knife being
applied in the first place. This self-harming through fiscal retrenchment was a
response by this Government to their anxiety that the UK would face a similar
fate to that of Greece or Italy. A perfectly reasonable expectation all things
considered. The fear was it would lead  investors to run a mile from a country facing
the prospect of a rapid and brutal reassessment of its ability to settle its
debts. Bond prices would slump, funding costs would hurriedly rise heaping
additional pressure on our ability to pay; the vicious debt spiral of rising
costs leading to more austerity and the chance of an inevitable downgrade
leading to further upward pressure on debt servicing costs would be played out
against a background of crisis, political and economic. The current approach sees
us trade the stability in of our credit rating (lower funding costs) for a
gradual but sustained rise in our unemployment rate to 8.3%, a large and devastating
portion of who are the 16-24 year olds, our children.

The paradox is that this hair-shirt approach will likely undermine our ability
to pay these debts but at least in the short term it has bought us the time to
develop our thinking, the chance to be creative whilst applying the tourniquet to
slow the flow of blood as we try to heal the wound.  At least that is the Government’s case but we
are hearing little in the way of open debate about what is really needed. Fundamental
change is being resisted because it is likely to require the most unpalatable
of dissections, revealing much of the excesses that have paved the way to this
current junction. It is likely to lead to questions about our shared values and
the managed decline of our self-sufficiency and industry.

All of this has a rather depressing degree on inevitability to it.

Our children deserve better than this. We need to use our collective wisdom
to generate a way out of this mess, for us to shine the torch on a different
path, ultimately one that is yet not fully appreciated or understood.

So how do we create an energetic and vibrant economy at a time when
everything is so uncertain?

Banking reform, for now, has been focused upon shoring up these monoliths of
commerce from inflicting yet another bout of failure upon us. In doing so the
purse strings have been tightened at a time when businesses across our land are
under pressure to adapt but denied the time to do so by reticent bankers. Banks
now take the moral high-ground over lending practices citing regulatory
constraints for a failure to lend to the weakest business, a perversity of
their power, power that has been bestowed upon them by the very people they now
seek to penalise.

Banks are culpable agents to this crisis yet appear to be recipients of
corporal punishment only to be administered once the rule book has been
positioned down the back of their pants. Their pain is negligible, their
excesses for the most part unrestrained and their recompense limited, they
laugh behind our backs. Let them bear the brunt of the burden further, let them
be mandated to accept more of the responsibility for the growth levels in our
economy. Not just through absolute lending but by showing greater flexibility
to listen and respond to their clients wishes.

Our demographic are often asset rich but sometimes income poor. We have
capital tied up in pensions, houses and long term savings but to access these
assets now would generate penalties and capital erosion. We are the age group
who have the opportunity to bring a new vibrancy to the economy, to utilise
these dormant assets to create new business and invest in our children’s
future. Yes some will fail but that is what an entrepreneurial economy is all
about, accepting that failure will happen but so long as the intentions are
genuine and aspirations remain to learn from our experiences we are duty bound
to cushion that failure as much as we can.

Capitalism is in need of an overhaul – a refocusing upon what it truly means
to be in business. Entrepreneurs now need to be equally focussed upon profits
to deliver sustainable enterprises focused on improving the lives of many and
not just the few. Banking reform needs to be brave enough to stimulate a fresh
wave of entrepreneurial wealth creation based not off unrestrained lending but
off partnership and shared commitment. Surely this is the only way to create
the sustainable jobs we owe our children?

James Cracknell

The views expressed are my own. They are
not the views of the CEJC, its’ executive or members just simply my reaction to
the greatest threat that our society faces that of rising unemployment across the land.