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August 2012
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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Don’t Despair: Why Your Planned Career Path isn’t the “Be All and End All”

Posted by: Alex Linley, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight

 

With A-level results just around the corner, and Scottish Highers results released yesterday, there’s a big, pervasive myth that we need to dispel:

 

It isn’t the end of the world if you didn’t get the grades you need. In fact, it might just be the best thing that ever happened to you.

 

I didn’t make the grade when I applied to Oxford University while doing my A-levels. In fact, I didn’t even want to go to university at that point, but I reached an agreement with my dad (who hadn’t gone to university, and so was desperate for me to do so), that I would go for one year and see how I got on…

 

So, off I duly went to the University of Leeds to start a four-year Russian and Philosophy degree, with the first year being entirely Russian to bring us all up to A-level standard in that year. And guess what – after one year, just as agreed – I left (albeit with a 2:1 and a Fail in Phonetics), because I didn’t want to be there.

 

Many adventures later (having worked in Moscow, run my own business, and stacked books in a book warehouse), I decided that I was ready to go to university – and so Leicester it was, this time to read Psychology. Warwick followed Leicester as I did my PhD before going back to Leicester as a Lecturer, which even then was just the prelude to starting Capp.

 

Could I have predicted any of this at the tender age of 17 years when I was making my university choices and completing my A-levels? Not a chance! In fact, as I often say to my children when they ask about careers – “My job didn’t even exist when I was at school – I invented it.

 

The upshot of this is that I don’t believe that anyone should be constrained by the career path they might have in mind at 17, 18, 19 years – or indeed any age – because there is always so much that can and will happen, that we just can’t predict. As a result, I say to my children, “Do what you enjoy and what you’re good at, work hard (always work hard), and then see what opportunities you can create...”

 

And contrary to the received wisdom, this is actually how careers develop for many of us, as Herminia Ibarra shows in her excellent book.

 

So if you, your son or daughter, or a young person you are helping, find that things didn’t quite work out as planned with your A-level results, don’t despair!

 

It could well be that you are just taking the path that so many of us take, the one that is emergent (and I think exciting), rather than the one that is prescribed and carefully planned.

 

After all, this indirect path that makes the most of what we have, rather than lamenting what we don’t have, is so often the route to an even better future than we imagined.

 

Has this indirect career path been your experience through life? Share your learnings with others through using the Comment function on The Capp Blog below.

 

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Launching School Leavers’ Fortnight on The Capp Blog

Posted by: Alex Linley & Nicky Garcea, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight

 

With Scottish Highers results published today, and A-level results looming for many in England and Wales on Thursday 16 August, we are launching “School Leavers’ Fortnight” for the the next two weeks on The Capp Blog.

 

Throughout this period, we will share with you a series of blogs that cover topics including how students can differentiate themselves on application forms and at interviews, insights from the mind of the interviewer, how young people can use their strengths to enhance their employability, and what advice you can give as a parent, teacher or careers adviser to young people making key decisions at this point in their lives.

 

We know from the myriad statistics and reports being published that a university degree might not always be the best option for everyone, and that more and more people are turning to apprenticeships or moving directly into the world of work. Supporting this trend, many large graduate employers are questioning whether graduate schemes are the right talent feeder pool for them, or whether they would do better to work at attracting and recruiting junior talent from further down the feeder pool – straight after A-levels, through apprenticeships, or via work placement schemes.

 

It has been assumed for a long time that universities were the natural sift for the talented to progress, but increasingly this view is being questioned. With rising university fees, ever higher levels of student debt, reduced degree class differentiation, and tightening graduate employment opportunities, both potential employees and graduate employers themselves are asking if there is a better way.

 

We are witnessing profound social change in the transition of young people to adulthood and the world of work. As with any major change, this creates risks but also huge opportunities. There is real cachet awaiting the organisations capable of reaching out to this emerging junior talent pool and finding the right ways to attract, select, recruit, develop and retain them through their early career years and beyond.

 

As we will explore throughout the blogs of School Leavers’ Fortnight, helping young people to recognise, develop and make the most of their strengths is critical in enabling them to be their best at work. Through helping young people to discover what they do best and love to do, we can help them discover the careers that will give them success and fulfilment for years to come.

 

We hope you enjoy the blogs of School Leavers’ Fortnight over the next two weeks. Share them with your colleagues, share them with other parents, share them with young people and school leavers themselves.

 

It’s time to start thinking afresh about what school leaver career paths can look like.

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The Technology Hub that is Birmingham

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

A great article by Mike Butcher on the TechCrunch blog celebrates the emergence of Birmingham as an emerging technology and enterprise hub, driven in large part by the efforts of Mark Hales and his Oxygen Accelerator.

 

Being familiar with the transformation that Birmingham City Council have been working towards for so long, it is great to see that Birmingham is starting to get the recognition it deserves.

 

Could this be the “Clarion Call of the Coders”, marking economic regeneration and development of the West Midlands heartland hand-in-hand with the “March of the Makers”?

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New MSc Applied Positive Psychology – Bucks New University

Posted by: Alex Linley

 

In May this year I was honoured to give the keynote address, “Learning to Learn through Positive Psychology”, to the Psychology Dissertation Conference at Bucks New University.

 

I’m now delighted to let readers of The Capp Blog know that Bucks New University are launching their brand new MSc Applied Positive Psychology in September this year, which runs part time over 10 weekends, for two years.

 

Applications are now open. I highly recommend the course to anybody who is exploring how they can take their applications of positive psychology to the next level.

 

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Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – May 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

In her May update, Avirupa shares with us the horrendous heat challenges in Kolkata during the month, but also a great opportunity that she was able to create for the Women’s Sewing Co-operative in Shiriti slum:

 

“This month has been by far the cruellest of summer in the last 25 years. Temperatures have soared to maximum of 40 degrees C (i.e. 104 degree F) and refuses to budge for weeks. This is 5 notches higher than normal. Everyday the newspapers are bearing stories of lives lost due to heat stroke. So far 25 deaths have been reported in the state of West Bengal alone, out of which 7 people dropped dead in the streets of Kolkata.

 

It hasn’t rained in months. Met office has not been able to give any hope for monsoon even in the 1st week of June. What is making lives unbearable is the humidity quotient which is about 70% on an average. This means sweat is draining out precious body fluid, thus everyone is suffering from dehydration.

 

Life at Shiriti is worse due to frequent power cuts, scarcity of water, as there are not enough public running water taps in the locality. Plus most of the roofs are made up of tin or asbestos, which gets heated up abnormally during the day. We could not conduct more than two meetings this month because of this unbearable weather condition. A heat wave warning is announced, and repeated announcements are made in media, asking residents to remain indoors between 10a.m. to 4p.m.

 

We had to put our plan to transfer materials on hold, as none of the boys can be found during day, and in the evenings the women are too busy to meet. However, a new opportunity has suddenly landed with us from unexpected quarters. I am involved in the costume department of an upcoming Bengali feature film, and for that I had, in my capacity to allot some of the costumes to be tailored and embroidered.

 

Instantly I thought this would be a fantastic chance to offer some work to the Shiriti women’s group. To this effect, on 17th May, I took 3 Kurtas to the women and explained what needs to be done as per the designer’s requirement. When they learnt it is for a film, naturally everyone was very excited. Mousumi junior, who happened to be present wanted to know the name of the actor who’ll wear the kurtas. We had a laugh over it.

 

Sharmila Mousumi got busy deciding on responsibility chart. Arpita wanted to buy the materials. The shooting is to start from June 11th. So deadline was fixed at 1st June. On May 24th when we assembled I found one kurta was ready. The second needed finishing touch and the group was yet to start on the third. By 1st June two kurtas were completed, the women complained of the heat and power cuts for the delay of the third. Finally on 6th I got the third.

 

The quality of the kurtas were very high. The film unit gave hearty compliments to the women, which I later conveyed to them. They were delighted to get a job which was fun and were hopeful to get other such works in future. This project lifted their spirit and gave them hope for the future through the sewing co-operative.”

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Update from The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – April 2012

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley

 

With our April update from Shiriti slum in Kolkata, Avirupa tells us about how the women of the Sewing Co-operative negotiated for the chest in which they could keep the valuables of the Sewing Co-operative safe:

 

 “April marks the end of the Bengali calendar. Throughout Chaitra, the last month of the year, the shops traditionally offer huge discount, known popularly as “Chaitra Sale”. We decided to take advantage of this. So in the first Thursday of April, Sharmila, Arpita and I ventured out in the local market on foot to buy the chest. Mousumi could not accompany us being down with fever. Our effort paid fruit. After scanning different shops we were easily able to get the chest @ Rs.300, instead of Rs.500 as anticipated. This was our moment of victory. So we decided to celebrate with ice lollies, from roadside.

 

We had a wonderful fun time, which brought out the witty side of Arpita. While haggling about price, we were inquiring about the durability of the chest, when Arpita quipped that the chest looked like it will outlive the shop owner (who incidentally was a chirpy old man). We took turns to carry the heavy chest on our way back. This time we took an autorickshaw to Shiriti. The women decided to inaugurate the chest on poila boishakh, the Bengali New Year day, since it is considered auspicious. The chest was temporarily kept in Arpita’s custody.

 

On the next week Arpita and Sharmila decorated the chest with regilious symbols with vermillion mark to offer a small puja, before we start transferring our belongings. Poila Boishakh being a traditional holiday, women of the house go for spring cleaning, children wear new clothes, special meals are cooked, and the day is generally utilized by spending quality time with family and friends. So we did not organise any meeting that day, just exchanged greetings and left early as the women had to attend to their respective homes.

 

On the third week we encountered another problem. The boys in the club were reluctant to part with keys of their cupboard as the secretary was not present, and money collected as donation for a football match was kept inside. Our materials and registers are kept in the cupboard, so we could not transfer them that day. We then brain stormed how we can avoid such a situation, finally it was agreed that by April we will transfer all out material and documents from their cupboard, and we will keep everything in the chest, which will be kept locked.

 

The group settled on the decision that one key will remain with me, while the other will alternate among members. The chest however has to be kept within the club. So we looked for a safe place inside. We found that there is a built in cement shelf high up the wall, which is empty. That became the place of choice. We were happy to resolve the problem, in this way we can minimize our interface with the boys, and it will be less bothersome on their part to hand over the keys every time.

 

The carpentry work though needed more time. Firstly we did a rough budgeting. We had in the collective fund (generated by the sale of bags to CAPP) about Rs.800, out of which Rs. 300 was used to buy the chest. We have about Rs.500 to make the wooden boxes for machine cover. This is not enough, so Mousumi suggested that we start selling our petticoats to interested customers, including members of the group, without waiting for an exhibition.

 

Since petticoats were in high demand and in fact a lot of local women have expressed their interest to buy those, we indeed have a ready market. This was a very practical proposal and everybody voted for the motion. Thus we now have a financial plan ready to fund our “ensuring sewing machine safety” project.

 

This is what I call a classic example of strength-based sustainable development!”

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The 21 Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising

Posted by: Alex Linley and Nicky Garcea

 

Business Insider have just released their ranking of the 21 Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising: 2012.

 

We salute the Business Insider team, not least because “When we compiled our list of the most important people in mobile advertising – the Mobile Power List 2012 – it contained one depressing anomaly: They were all men.”

 

To address this, they got to work to identify the female power brokers of the mobile advertising space, now released.

 

Mobile has overtaken desktop as the means by which most people access the internet – especially in the rapidly-growing internet powerhouses of India, China and Africa. Combine this with the increasing numbers of women who are becoming ever more important economic decision makers and consumer purchasers, and you can see why it’s critical that we have female perspectives on what works, and why, for women.

 

Good on you, Business Insider, for leading the charge to celebrate female technology talent.

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