Do you exist?

Research by ExecuNet indicated that 83 percent of recruiters looked online to verify information that they had found on a resume. Based on that, 43 percent eliminated a candidate.

Furthermore 16 percent of corporate recruiters and 20 percent of search firm professionals identify their strongest candidates online.

While the research doesn’t show a trend, it is clear that this wasn’t the case five years ago when social networking, blogs and online recruitment weren’t as large as they are today.

70 percent of executive recruiters said that if they found positive information on a candidate online then their recruitment prospects improve.

What this means is that if you don’t exist online then you are becoming more marginalized by the day as people looking to employ your full time or consulting services do background checks by typing your name into Google.

If you haven’t already, type your name into a search engine and see what comes up. Would you employ you?

Source: ExecuNet

Learning to fly

What a fascinating week I have had. I recently bought a VLA (very light aircraft) with some friends and I’ve had to do a conversion so that I can fly the new type of aircraft – the Czech built Jora UA2 Special.

On Thursday this week, I had planned to fly with a friend of mine Jamie who is in the process of getting his pilots licence before doing my conversion in the afternoon. We hired a Cessna 152 from Stellenbosch Flying Club. We headed out off runway 19 and turned to the north heading for Fisantekraal airfield.

We did a couple of circuits and watching Jamie getting his head around what was going on in the cockpit while lining up for final approach was interesting for me. It took me back to when I learned to fly in the early 90’s. At the time I couldn’t get my head around the number of things going on in the cockpit as I struggled to line up all three planes and walk away from my landings.

I remember everything happening so quickly and how I struggled to coordinate my actions. I would be left of the runway and as I adjusted my flight path to correct that, I would find myself having dropped too low. When I adjusted my altitude, I would find myself right of the runway and so it continued. Very frustrating and left me with feelings of total inadequacy.

Flying with Jamie, made me feel quite proud of what I had achieved over the years, as I was able to effortlessly make corrections as I brought the plane in to land. I mentioned to James that it was a bit like driving a car. Once you get to the point when you don’t need to consciously think about what you need to do then you have arrived. Little did I know what was in store for me later in the day.

We landed back at Stellenbosch in time for some breakfast and then I was meeting up with my partner Phil to fly in our new Jora in preparation for me to do the conversion a few hours later. Sitting in the Jora, as with moving to any new plane, felt quite different.

The cockpit is open at the top to give a full overhead view, flying with a stick instead of yoke, breaks on the stick instead of the rudder pedals, throttle next to the door instead of the middle, everything was different. What it did was send me all the way back to the beginning in terms of my flying.

When it came to the landings, it felt like everything had sped up again, I couldn’t coordinate the various inputs and I felt like a complete novice. It was a humbling and wonderful learning experience for me. It really emphasized the Conscious Competence Learning Model which states that we go through 4 stages of learning:

1. Unconscious Incompetence – we don’t know what we don’t know
2. Conscious Incompetence – we know what we don’t know
3. Conscious Competence – we can function by being conscious
4. Unconscious Competence – we can do things on auto pilot (pun)

The things I notice that are different between Conscious Competence and Unconscious Competence are that everything slows down and there is a sense of time and space. Perhaps it is that the unconscious is taking care of a lot of what needs to be done, leaving the conscious with more time.

The cycle was a lot quicker because I have the base knowledge to fly one type of plane and I am converting my knowledge rather than starting from scratch. It was interesting to experience feeling incompetent in an environment where I had previously felt so competent – on the same day.

What have you learnt recently and where you could apply the Conscious Competence Learning Model?

Defined by my work

The paragraph below from Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes really struck me.

From Maria’s diary after she slept with a man as a prostitute for the first time:

I remember everything, although not the moment when I made the decision. Oddly enough, I have no sense of guilt. I used to think of girls who went to bed with men for money as people who had no other choice, and now I see that it isn’t like that. I could have said “yes” or “no”; no one was forcing me to accept anything.

I walk about the streets and look at all the people, and I wonder if they chose their lives? Or were they, like me, chosen by fate? The housewife who dreamed of becoming a model, the banker who wanted to be a musician, the dentist who felt he should write a book and devote himself to literature, the girl who would have loved to be a TC star, but found herself instead working at the checkout in a supermarket.

I don’t feel in the least bit sorry for myself. I am still not a victim, because I could have left that restaurant with my dignity intact and my purse empty. I could have given that man sitting opposite me a lesson in morality or tried to make him see that before him sat a princess who should be wooed not bought. I could have responded in all kinds of ways, but – like most people – I let fate choose which route I should take.

Writing about Maria, a young woman who moves from Brazil to Switzerland in order to make money and later becomes a prostitute is a fascinating exploration of life and work. Based on a real person, Coelho’s ability to make the story come alive while dealing with issues that are real in the world is stunning.

The story of Maria takes us on a journey into a side of life that is not often spoken about for fear of breaking conservative norms and taboo’s. It draws parallels between the challenges that Maria comes up against as a prostitute and how similar they are to all of our lives.

In the paragraph above, she reflects on how people choose their careers, or not, and how many people live out lives where they believe they don’t have a choice.

Her conclusion that we all have a choice is exciting because it opens up possibility. As an executive coach I always like possibility and shy away from limiting assumptions. Of course we can all choose what we do. If we don’t then who chooses for us?

My experience though, is that this is easier to hypothesize about than to live.

It is particularly poignant for me because of the relationship that I have had with “work”. I struggled for many years to define myself from within the work that I had chosen. I consistently found myself boxed in and limited.

I didn’t like all the labels associated with my work. As I’ve heard many an accountant say “I’m not just an accountant” or more positively, “I’m much more than just an accountant” and I can really relate to this. My box was “technology”. Having learned to program computers at age 13, I was always the computer guy. There is nothing harder for me than feeling that I am boxed in and categorized, somehow losing my individualism.

Last April I decided to take a sabbatical and to “retire” from formal work. There are a number of factors that lead to this and I’ve been fortunate that I am able to do this.

There were a number of reasons for me to take the decision to retire and one of them was a desire not to be defined by my work. I wanted to use the opportunity to figure out who I really was, rather than be someone who does a job. It’s always easier to figure out a job than a person.

I went through a period where when people asked what I did, I told them I had retired. Interestingly enough, I found that the label “retired” could just as easily have been banker, accountant or technologist.

The moment I get associated with a label then along with the label come a whole lot of assumptions about who I am as a person. Some I agree with and some I don’t. Who associates me with a label though and why? Do I prompt them and give them clues about which label they should associate with me?

I’ve found that when I say I have my own business and work with fascinating clients doing executive coaching, lecturing strategy at the University of Cape Town, consult to some of the of countries largest companies and on top of that, get to spend quality time with my kids, most people respond positively saying that it sounds like I’m enjoying myself.

If I say that I have my finger in a number of pies and I’m still deciding what I’m going to do with my life, run around fetching kids from school many people get a worried look on their face and try to help me to decide.

Both realities are true and I can frame it either way.

Interesting isn’t it?

Semi-retired is what I enjoy being best though. It gives me the latitude to be…  well semi-retired. I do some work but really only the work that I want to do. I’m fortunate to be in this position and feel thankful most days.

I do believe that we mostly define ourselves and if I can let go of the labels that I feel confine me, then I will no longer be confined. By shifting my own perception other people will follow suite and I will be who I want to be rather than how others define me.

What about you? How do you define yourself and how do people respond?

Eleven Minutes is available from Kalahari and Amazon