Category Archives for "Career development"

Overwhelmed at Work
Feb 04

6 ways to use your time more effectively at work

By Felicity Dwyer | Career development , Motivation , Productivity

It is common to feel overstretched or even overwhelmed at work. Our culture often seems to value busyness and expects us to be always switched on. If this affects you, there are steps that you can take to regain control of your time.

It is vital to keep your values and priorities in mind, and either find space for them in your life as it is, or find a way to change jobs or careers so that you can do more of what you love everyday.

Here are six strategies that I have used successfully to overcome overwhelm and be more effective at work.

One main focus

Try to keep to one main focus or objective each day – decide on the most important thing to get done, and fit other tasks around that. If this seems unrealistic, choose a focus for the morning and one for the afternoon. This doesn’t mean you throw away your to-do list. But if you give absolute priority to one objective each day, you’ll go home with a sense of achievement, and probably find you get a lot of other things done too.

Group similar tasks together

I try to allow a solid hour or two at a time for more complex tasks such as writing blogs or proposals, because it takes less energy doing it that way that picking up on odd bits here and there. This works well for phone calls too. Experiment with different patterns. If you have a blog or report to write, does it work better for you to spend a solid two hours on it. Or does it suit you better to start with a rough draft and then come back to it later in the day or week or work on it in small bursts.

Follow your energy as much as you can

If your energy levels are low, then it can make sense to switch to basic admin tasks, if you are feeling energised and creative then tap into that as much as you can. But don’t let low energy be an excuse for delaying an important piece of work. If you are struggling to get started then…

Chunk it down

If you have a big and possibly daunting task, then break it down into a series of small ones. Keep breaking down a task until you have an action that you can do now. Even if it’s the first action is just looking up a phone number, or a quick piece of internet research, or sending an email, or even just scheduling the next step into your diary – DO something to make a start.

Sorting your emailsHave a system for emails

Keep on top of emails. Once I’ve opened an email I either delete it, move it to a suitable folder for future reference, action it now, or flag it for future action.

If you get a lot of email newsletters you can use software like to collate and organise them for you. If you find yourself regularly deleting the same newsletters before opening them, it’s time to unsubscribe.

Tidy up to get unstuck

When I feel stuck or unmotivated at work, I tidy my office. I find it easier to think with a tidy space, and it provides a sense of satisfaction that can then motivate me to tackle my other tasks. Nigel Risner has said that space management is even more important than time management. This makes sense as working in a mess slows you down and brings your energy levels down. But one person’s idea of tidy is another person’s clutter – you will know what works for you. For me, it’s about having a clear desk, and organising my project work in tidy piles or magazine folders.

I’d love to hear your tips, please share in the comments box below.

Reflecting on work
Dec 23

4 questions to help you reflect on and celebrate your work

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

This time of year is one for reflection and celebration. It offers a natural pause point, and is a good time to reflect on your career and review the past year.

It’s natural to think about the future and to set goals as we go forward into the new year. But before we forge ahead with goal setting, it is valuable to take time to appreciate and learn from what has gone before.

Appreciative questions

In reflecting on this year, you might like to ask yourself these questions:

What am I grateful for in my work?

What achievements would I like to celebrate?

What have I learned this year?

What would I like to take forward into 2015?

These questions provide a positive base for assessing where you are now, and from which to move forward. The next step is to think about what you would like to be different next year, and what goals you would like to set yourself for the coming twelve months.

I’d love to hear your answers to one or more of these questions, please share in the comments box below.

Sharing success

In thinking about my year, I feel grateful to have discovered a coaching niche where I both find the work itself incredibly interesting, and which has a positive impact on the lives of my wonderful clients, along with opportunities to celebrate their success.

This lovely email arrived on my last full working day of the year. One of my career coaching clients had just been offered a fantastic new job, and wrote…

“I’m massively excited about the role and think it offers me a chance to really develop my experience in a number of areas, while also just being genuinely exciting in and of itself! …without your help and support I don’t think I would have been able to identify so clearly what the right kind of next step would be for me at this point in my career, or even that the time was right to move on. I also just love the poetry of having had the interview the day after my last coaching session!”

Joy in work

There is joy to be found when we discover the work that is right for us, and which feels both interesting and worthwhile.

I wish you joy, success and fulfilment at work.

Career Strengths
Nov 04

A strong way to find your ideal career

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

What are you good at? I mean REALLY good at?

An awareness of your strengths will help you to find or develop the right career path for you.

What are strengths

Strengths are ways of being and behaving that come easily to you, that tend to energise you, and that you enjoy. According to some theorists, strengths are a combination of your talents and skills.

Talents are innate. You will probably have displayed them from an early age, in different contexts.

Skills are learned competencies. They are things that you can do; that you have practiced and become good at, to a greater or lesser degree.

The power point is where the two overlap. As we go through life we develop a range of specialist and transferable skills that help us in our working lives, and allow us to take on increasingly challenging roles. But it is when we develop skills in our areas of natural strength that we can really shine. The right job or career for you is one where you can draw on your strengths most of the time. Not only will this make your working life more enjoyable, but will offer you greater potential for excellence and advancement.

So for example your skill-set might include research skills and writing skills, but what really energises you is when you combine this with a talent for engaging with others. As a result, a real strength might be working collaboratively to come up with creative ideas and concepts and then pull these together into a strategic plan.

How to identify your strengths

You might not always recognise your natural strengths as such, because they come so naturally to you. For example, do you find it easy to understanding how other people are feeling and to imagine yourself in their shoes? Do you thrive on taking charge of a situation and align others with the direction that you want to take. Are you naturally energised by competition and the chance to “win”? Do you find it easy to build and maintain deep relationships?

To identify your strengths, start by asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • What activities make me feel energised?
  • How do I naturally behave when I’m under pressure?
  • What have I always yearned to do?
  • What makes me feel good?

And ask others that you know, personally or professionally, to give their views too.

Your strengths and your career

When you honour your innate talents, and add in the life experience, knowledge and learned skills that make you unique, finding the right career path becomes a lot easier.

If you would like to find out more, the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 describes a robust strengths model based on extensive research from the Gallop organisation. And the book includes an access code for an online diagnostic, to identify your top 5 strengths.

And if you would value some impartial support with finding your career path, find out how  I can help.

Image courtesy of Colleen McMahon/Flickr

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Networking for career development
Aug 14

Networking for career success

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Networking , Small Business

Meeting people face to face is one of the best ways to extend your network of professional relationships, and to find career and business opportunities. This is true even in this online era, and you will find online and offline networking complement each other powerfully.

Where to go to expand your network

There are lots of places where you can meet professional contacts. Try formal networking groups, informal events which combine socialising with opportunities to meet new people, conferences in areas of professional interest, training courses and seminars.

Set targets to help build networking confidence

If you are new to networking, it can be a bit daunting at first, to put it mildly. When I was first asked to attend events and conferences on behalf of my organisation, I didn’t find it particularly easy.  To help, I would set myself targets such as having two conversations with people I hadn’t met before, or making sure that I found and spoke to at least one person whom I’d identified in advance as being a good contact.  Then once I’d achieved my target I would tend to head for the door, usually quite exhilarated and glad I’d done it, but also somewhat relieved that it was over.

It gets easier with practice

Fast forward 15 years or so, and I feel quite differently about going to networking events. I get excited about the idea of meeting new people, look forward to the connections, insights and opportunities that might come up, and am happy to go up to people and initiate a conversation.  In fact I enjoy it so much that I now lead a networking group. So what changed?  Essentially a combination of practice, of reflection afterwards, and of coming up with strategies to make the process easier, more enjoyable and also more effective in terms of following up.

Stay in touch

Because meeting people is just the starting point, and the way you stay in touch and build connections and relationships is what will develop your network into something of real value. If you join a network with the attitude of “how can I help other people”, you will find it far more effective than if you only focus on what you want. So it’s good idea to get into the networking habit, even if you are not actively looking for a new job or career. It will allow you to approach the whole thing in a more relaxed way, gain confidence and connections, and then when you do need some help, you will have plenty of people to ask.

Networking tips video

Here are five of my top networking tips for small businesses and career changes.  I hope you enjoy this short video, and would love to hear your networking tips in the comments box below.


Creative thinking for career change
Jul 28

“But I’m not creative” – think again!

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Creativity

Career change and development is a creative process. It draws on your ability to take your experience, skills, strengths, interests and achievements and use them to forge a new way forward.

You may already be comfortable with thinking of yourself as creative. Or you may be thinking “but I’m not a creative person”. In which case, my message would be “think again”. Imagination and innovation is our birthright, and is what has made us so successful as a species.

Sometimes we confuse being creative with being artistic. Artists use their skill in a particular art-form to express their original ideas, often in a very visible way, but creativity is found in many fields of work: science and business, to name but two.

Imagine yourself as creative

The very act of thinking of yourself as a creative person can help free you to come up with ideas. According to Jack Foster, author of How to Get Ideas: “You act like the kind of person you imagine yourself to be. It’s as simple as that.”

Once you accept that you have the potential for creativity, then it can be helpful to think of it as a three-stage process.  You may find that one part of process comes more easily to you than others, and by separating them out you can make sure to spend time on each stage.

But before you start, you need to know what you are trying to achieve. It may be to come up with some ideas for a new career path, or design a winning presentation for an interview. You may want to identify options for starting a business  or find ways to spend more time with your friends and family. You may want ideas for making money… or spending less money… or for housing yourself without a big mortgage…

Stage 1 Generate creative ideas

The first stage is come up with ideas. The trick here is to come up with as many ideas as you can and not to evaluate them too early on. There are many ways that you can solve a problem and ideas often come from cross fertilization, from applying knowledge in one sphere to a challenge in another. For example the University of Surrey is working on medical robots, drawing on ideas from nature. The way an octopus can squeeze its body through a tiny space is providing inspiration for robots that can access hard to reach parts of the human body and perform operations that would be difficult for a surgeon to do directly.

Idea generation works well if you do it in a focused way, generating as many ideas as you can, and then take a break – work on something else, go for a walk, or sleep on it.  This allows the subconscious mind to continue working.

Idea generation is great done with a partner or in a group and there are many techniques that can help, for example:

What would they do?

Put yourself into the shoes of another person, it may your hero or mentor, someone successful in a particular field, or someone with strong views and opinions, maybe even ones you disagree with.


Ask, “When my career (finances/family life etc.) is how I would like it to be, that’s  like what?” This question can help you to find a metaphor for what you want, and that in turn can help you generate ideas. If you would like your career to be like a pleasant river cruise, that will lead you to very different ideas than an exciting white water ride? If you can find a metaphor that fits, then this can spark a lot of associations and ideas, out of which you may find a nugget of gold.

Stage 2 Evaluate your creative ideas

The next stage is to analyse and evaluate your ideas.  Only a small number may be workable, and so you will need to be selective.  Creativity consists of a process of expanding and then contracting options. First you expand and come up with as many ideas as you can.  You then go through the pros and cons, narrowing them down, considering which ideas are feasible and which are likely to have the most impact.  As part of this process, you may need to undertake research to help you make informed decisions, or you may decide to loop back and generate more ideas at this point, building on the thinking that you have done before.

Then choose the best idea (s) to take forward.

Stage 3 Take action to move forward in your career and life

The third stage is implementation.  The most fantastic ideas in the world will come to nothing if you don’t do something with them.  Once you’ve made a decision you need to apply some solid planning techniques so that you can effect real change in your life and work. Decide what you want to achieve, by when, and plan the specific actions you need to take to get there. Then decide on your first action. Now DO IT.

What helps you to be creative?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments box below.

Need some help with moving your career forward? I can offer you a creative career coaching programme, and an initial conversation with me is always free of charge. Find out more about how I can help.

Flexible worker balancing files
Jul 02

A more flexible career

By Felicity Dwyer | Career development , Motivation

Want to make changes in your working life, but can’t afford to leave your job? Your life may just have become easier.

From 30 June 2014, the right to request flexible working has been extended. This right used to be enjoyed by parents and carers, but is now available to anyone who has 26 weeks’ continuous employment with their employer. This could help you if you want to work towards a long term career change whilst staying in your current job, or just want a different work-life blend.

What is flexible working?

According the CIPD, it is “a type of working arrangement which gives some degree of flexibility on how long, where when and what times employees work.”

This can take a variety of forms, here are just a few examples:

  • part-time work, whether that be for a few hours each day, or one or more days a week
  • flexitime, where you can choose when your working day starts and finishes (within agreed parameters, for example there may be core hours when you need to be at work)
  • compressed hours, for example completing contracted full-time hours over four days instead of five
  • working from home for some of the week
  • a career break or sabbatical

Flexible working can open up opportunities that may not be available in a standard 9-5. You could spend a day a week studying towards a qualification or new career, spend more time on a hobby, or even start a part-time business. In the final example, you will need to be sure there isn’t a conflict of interest with your day job.

In my last salaried job, I was able to work flexi-time and this was a real benefit. It allowed me to avoid the worst of the rush hour and get to work feeling more relaxed and productive than I would have been otherwise. I have also worked part-time in the past, allowing me time to study.

How to request flexible working

Requests must be made in writing and must include: the date of your application, the change you are seeking, and when you would like it to come into effect. You need to consider the effect of the change on your employer and your opinion on how any such effect might be dealt with. You also need to state that it is a statutory request, and if and when you have made a previous application for flexible working. You are only allowed to make one request in any 12 month period.

In considering the effect of the change on your employer, you may want to demonstrate how it might help you to maintain or improve your performance at work. For example working from home can be really effective if you have a concentrated piece of work such as report to write. Research has shown that multi tasking is inefficient, and some home working can both increase productivity for your employer, and save you time and money on travelling to work that day.

Employers have a duty to consider a request in a reasonable manner and if they refuse, then this needs to be for a business reason.

Clearly some jobs lend themselves more easily to flexible working than others, and you might want to take this factor into account when you are job seeking.

Find out more

For research on multi tasking, see this summary from the American Psychological Association

For information on how to request flexible working, the ACAS website has advice and guidance.

You might also enjoy my article on portfolio careers

flower garden metaphor portfolio career
Jun 19

The joy of a portfolio career

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development

Sometimes, looking for that dream job can feel all or nothing. What can I do that ticks all the boxes, gives me satisfaction, uses my skills, brings in the money that I need? The answer may not be found in one job at all. Instead the key to job satisfaction may be found by doing more than one job. This way of working is sometimes known as a portfolio career.

Benefits of portfolio working

At its best a portfolio career is about choosing to do more than one job, as a way of providing interest, using a wide range of skills. It can provide more satisfaction than one job, and in the current climate can even provide more security, as you are not dependent on just one employer. In the 1980s, Charles Handy advanced the idea of “portfolio workers”, who performed a variety of jobs for different employers. Over thirty years on, this way of working has become much more prevalent, and a preferred way of working for many. Particularly so as many of the benefits of full time employment, such as pension rights, have been eroded.

Mixing employment with self-employment

You might have a mix of part-time employment and freelance work in your portfolio. Or you might be self employed, with a variety of different income streams. According to Karen Gaskell, one of the reasons for having a portfolio career is variety: “It’s like a beautiful garden, with lots of different flowers growing”. Karen’s portfolio “garden” includes her work as a distributor for Utility Warehouse, a FTSE 100 supplier of energy, telecoms and discounts on groceries. She is passionate about this job which involves building relationships with customers, and also managing a team of distributors. Karen also spends two days a week running a daycare centre for elderly people. This gives her satisfaction in organising events that she can see make an immediate difference to people’s lives.

An advantage of running a business and having a salaried job is that you have a baseline income to smooth out the ups and downs that can come with self-employment, but allow you to also run your own business, which potentially can offer much greater financial rewards. Whereas some people’s portfolio will include employment, other people will be self employed, but with more than one way of earning a living.

Complementary strands of work

Dr Mike Clayton is a prolific author, with 12 business books under his belt. Mike loves writing, but it’s only part of his working life. He balances writing with a career as a seminar presenter and speaker. He also delivers project management training as an associate for other companies. Although Mike has a varied portfolio, all his activities are linked in that they are about supporting people and organisations to work more effectively. As someone with a keen intellectual interest in research, the work he does for his writing feeds into his seminars and training, and the activities complement each other. As Mike says: “If I only did one thing, then I would regret not doing the others. It means that I can do different things, all of which I enjoy. I don’t mean that you can do everything you might like to, as I think it’s important to keep focused. But it does mean that you don’t need to limit yourself to doing the same thing every day.”

Is this right for you?

This working style may not interest you so much if you are motivated by the idea of climbing a corporate ladder. Having said that, people who have had a successful corporate career sometimes move into portfolio work in the final phase of working life, offering consultancy, serving as non-executive directors, and often combining this with some unpaid or voluntary work, perhaps as a charity trustee or by mentoring others.

Is a portfolio career right for you? It may be if you have a wide skill-set combined with specialist knowledge, and are self-motivated and confident enough to get out and sell yourself. It requires a certain degree of independence and self-reliance, and in return can offer variety and interest.


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