Why you should consider study advice carefully

Why you should consider study advice carefully

One of the biggest mistakes prospective students can make is to enrol for a qualification based not on a realistic assessment of their personal strengths and interests, but on outdated ideas of what was historically considered the best or most prestigious course of action, an education expert has said.

Felicity Coughlan, a director at The Independent Institute of Education, one of South Africa’s largest private higher education providers, said: “Deciding what you want to study and where, must be based on a thorough analysis of what the job market looks for in employees, which skills will be in high demand in coming years and how they translate into the qualifications and curriculums offered by respected institutions.”

She noted that the time and money students are going to invest in their studies will be substantial, so it should be logical that they investigate their options properly before they decide.

“Yet so many prospective students set themselves up for disappointment and failure because they sign up for something based on perceptions of prestige, rather than prospects of success,” Coughlan said.

“While it might feel good for a while to tell people you are studying to become X at university Y, the reality is that you may come down to earth really quickly if your expectations do not match reality, particularly upon graduation when you may find that employers are searching for work-ready graduates rather than ones only well versed in theory or that there are few job opportunities in your chosen field.”

She said career options have evolved dramatically and substantially over the past decade. She advised that students and their parents should keep that in mind when investigating what to study and where.

“New career paths are opening up, which were not even considered five years ago – for instance digital and social media marketing, game design and development, mobile app development, digital media law as a specialisation, climate change specialisation and so forth.

“Ongoing automation and online platforms continue to change the career options for young people, so both parents and future students should consider this when choosing an institution and qualification.

“It is natural for a learner who performed academically to want to consider entering a field considered a match for their mental prowess, but if that career choice is not a good fit in terms of a person’s passion, personality the potential career opportunities in coming years, we would highly advise a reconsideration of their approach.

Coughlan said parents and guardians must help their children with this important decision with a clear mind, because too often there is still pressure to make the obvious choice, rather than the smart one.

“At the end of the day, you don’t want your child to sit at home with a prestigious qualification but no job. While certain qualifications are somewhat anachronistically still considered elite qualifications, the ones that really boost one’s chances of career success are the ones that develop transferable and travellable skills.”

It is also important to note that the offering at various institutions differ substantially, whether it be at a public or private university.
“All accredited degrees, regardless of whether the institution is public or private, are put through the same accreditation process and are, therefore, equivalent. So, prospective students are really spoilt for choice when the time comes to find the right qualification match. However, instead of just going for what their friends are doing or what they think will confer the most status, they should look for future-facing, work focused-qualifications that will give them the edge and the best chance of success when entering the job market.

“While this may require a mindset change for many, doing the work now to find the best fit for an individual at an institution with the best track record for work-integrated learning and industry alignment is small investment that will ultimately come with big returns.”

Supplied by Meropa Communications
How a ‘magnetic office’ helps attract and retain employees

How a ‘magnetic office’ helps attract and retain employees

For many employees, the physical work environment ranks among one of the top factors that influence their decisions to join a company. With a global war for talent intensifying, the workplace can be a strategic asset that distinguishes an organisation as an exceptional employer. 

Linda Trim, a director at Giant Leap, a workplace design specialist company, said: “As workplaces look to attract the best and brightest, companies are turning to design to help differentiate their work environment, focusing on an increased understanding of what employees really need to make them happy and engaged at work.” 

The magnetic workplace

How can workplace designers create a magnetic workplace that attracts employees? 

“The most important principle is that the office space should make people feel really good,” said Trim. Landscapes, nature views or the introduction of plants in the office strongly influence productivity, because there is a powerful bond between human beings and the natural world referred to as biophilia. Studies have shown that being surrounded by nature improves both physical and mental health. 
Feel-good spaces should also be tactile and have ample daylight. Living walls or biowalls and natural materials bring a sense of the outside into the work environment. 

Office appeal and productivity can also be improved by offering a variety of interior settings that allow employees to choose where they want to work that day based on the mode of work required. 

“For example, in the morning, workers could gather in a cafe style area for coffee and informal interaction. In the afternoon, they can move to a gathering place designed for teamwork or to a privacy ‘hive’ for focused work,” said Trim. 

Magnetic workplaces support the unique roles, work styles and personalities of each individual. They provide a range of space types, furnishings and multi-functional common areas that draw people in and keep them wanting to come back to the office.

Coming challenge for design 

Telecommuting offers employees an alternative to working in a traditional office. This trend, combined with the number of hours people now spend online, means that individuals are interacting in vastly different ways than they once were. 
Remote work is likely to become the norm. The designing challenge, therefore, is to create a space that attracts employees back to the office. 

“A magnetic workplace will be defined as one that is so appealing that employees who might otherwise work remotely from home or in a coffee shop, choose to come and spend their day at work,” she said. 

There are already examples of this in co-working spaces that blur the lines between office and social venue. 

“Knowing that our future workplaces present a greater emphasis on virtual communication, workplace designers will be challenged to create physical spaces that encourage face-to-face interaction and speak to our innate need for human connection. 

“Many view the workplace as a second home, so employees will be drawn to magnetic workplaces offering comfortable environments where they can work, socialise and simply be themselves,” Trim concluded. 

Linda Trim is a director at Giant Leap, a workplace design specialist company.

Perennials: the secret weapon every company needs

Perennials: the secret weapon every company needs

Perennials, the evergreen group that remains curious and relevant despite their advancing age, is a generation that is energetic, switched on and most importantly, employable.

Perennials were born between 1930 and 1950, and some would say that they incorporate the best of the “boomer” traits (such as being hard-working and value-based) and those of millennials (for example curious and tech-savvy). 

Perennials, unlike younger generations, tend to focus on a company’s values and will often be more loyal to a business that matches their own. While a millennial will jump from company to company to satisfy intellectual curiosity, a perennial may stick around longer because they just like the people they work with. 

Also, perennials pride themselves on being savvy. From pop culture through to the latest gadgets, you will be hard-pressed to find the purported knowledge gap between perennials and millennials.

Perennials are challenging the myth of old age. The idea that we all have a sell-by date is quickly becoming an old-fashioned notion. A recent article in MIT Technology Review shone the spotlight on the fact that the idea of old age and the body running out of vitality is a piece of 19th century science that has long since been debunked. While there may be some physical deterioration as we age, modern humans tend to stay quite healthy well into their twilight years.

Historically, when corporate masters wanted to crack the whip, they found that getting rid of their older employees created a surge of productivity – inducing fear down the line. To justify these retirements, the idea of the aged, and therefore useless worker was introduced.
 But times have changed. The digital age has brought with it instant access to information, communication, productivity tools and a host of other benefits that are useful for both young and old. 

The older generation is adopting and using these technologies with a degree of ease that is both surprising and helping to keep them relevant in the workplace. For example, in the Netherlands, at least 75% of perennials are active on Facebook.

Recently, the advertising industry has also been shifting away from staff complements entirely made up of younger minds. The industry is undergoing massive changes and the experience that an older staff member brings to the table has become invaluable.

But it isn’t all good news. The older generation is facing many challenges in their re-entry to the workplace. In many countries, the number of newly retired people trying to return to the workplace has grown, with some countries reporting a 20% increase in older job seekers. Many of these job seekers are struggling to find employment for one reason alone – ageism. 

If you leave your age out of your CV, you are more likely to get an interview. In a world that glamourises youth, it has become difficult to demonstrate your value past a certain age. In South Africa, ageism is illegal. It still happens, but fortunately unions and/or the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration will gladly represent an older worker should they feel discriminated against.

Another challenge is that Silicon Valley is full of 25-year-olds solving problems for other 25-year-olds. Notice how technology aimed at the youth is slick, black and sexy, while technology aimed at the aged is beige and bulky? While most perennials make adopting new workplace technologies a priority, they often find that features they would find useful are just not present, simply because they are left out of the tech development cycle. 

The fact is perennials are a great addition to any workplace. The reality is that the concept of old age is fading away and society has to catch up fast. We have seen that in countries with more established economies, such as Japan, older people far outnumber the youth. 
With that in mind, it is in our best interest to start working on legislation, processes and technologies that will facilitate our older workers while we reap the benefits of their innate loyalty and experience.

The perennial in a business is a secret weapon. There is so much we can learn from a generation that has made their mistakes. History often repeats itself for those who choose to ignore the benefits of engaging with, and learning from, those who have been there.

Supplied by Lingo on behalf of SiSebenza.

Taking down the walls of age discrimination

Taking down the walls of age discrimination

Megan Greenwell, a columnist for The New York Times answers two workplace questions about how to deal with age discrimination in the work space.

Q from “London”: I am an advertising creative who has been unemployed for more than six months. I’m having difficulty finding a full-time position because being in my ’50s and I fear that I’ve been thrown out with the trash in favour of new blood.

No matter how I tailor my job applications, cover letters and CV with clever approaches, I can’t get my foot in the door, only compliments on my videos or LinkedIn connections.
I’ve sent solicited and unsolicited applications to more than 100 companies, but no luck. Some of this could be because I haven’t recently won any major industry awards, which carries weight in this competitive industry, or maybe the positions are genuinely filled.
I can’t hide my experience, nor can I turn back the clock. Time and money are now running out. 

Q from “New York”: People need to stop prefacing workplace conversations with older people with terms like “Hon”, “Dear”, or “Sweetie”. Ageism is real and despicable. It is becoming more and more prevalent.

Those of us who are still in the workforce particularly loathe those terms. At 66, I am in excellent health. I dress well, walk fast to my workplace and pride myself on every compliment. 
Yet too many professionals presume I am hard of hearing, frail, forgetful or otherwise impaired, to the point where they address me as one would a small child. Could it be the silver bob?
Of course I have email. And yes, I actually would prefer text, and yes, I am going to swirl around you fast enough on my sneaker-clad feet to make you spin if you do not stop texting and crawling along the road. 

A: I know I’m supposed to be the expert here and behave professionally, but I have never called anyone “Sweetie” and aspire to both a chic silver bob and your level of pithy and acerbic writing.
I have a solid archive of questions about age discrimination and few good answers. It is a huge issue and it is absurdly difficult to fight, truly a terrible combination for an advice columnist.

New York, you’re surely right that you’re being patronised for your age and London, you’re surely right that your age unfairly plays into how your job applications are evaluated. 

The problem, as I learnt when I turned to an outside expert for guidance, is that age discrimination is difficult to prove, by design. 
A 2009 Supreme Court decision endorsed a higher standard for showing that advanced age is the cause of different treatment in the workplace than the threshold for other types of discrimination. 

As a society, and I include the judiciary, we seem to view age discrimination as less serious and less wrong than other forms of discrimination because an employer has a right to run their business the way they want,” says Laurie McCann, a senior attorney.
London, you’re in the toughest possible position because you can’t say for sure that any company discriminated against you, just that the pattern seems clear. 

“Hiring discrimination is the most difficult to prove because you rarely have any evidence,” McCann said. “You don’t know who got hired instead of you, you don’t have the comparison of if they’re younger or less qualified.”

So what is an older person who still has bills to pay supposed to do? 

Even seemingly small changes can help. McCann’s advice is to keep up with trends in CV writing. For example, opening with a career objective is outdated, she said. 

Emphasise your technological skills to the point of overkill; develop a social media presence. Leave graduation dates and other giveaways out of your CV so you don’t make it easy for employers to reject you. 

Some online hiring platforms won’t allow you to move through the system without including those dates, but avoid them whenever possible. 

Everyone can take a lesson from New York. Fight back when someone makes prejudicial assumptions or treats you unfairly at work.
Frustratingly, none of these practical strategies address the deeper societal issue. “We haven’t made many inroads in fighting those stereotypes (that older workers) are not flexible, that they’re stuck in their ways,” said McCann. 

Neither of you can solve that problem on your own, so find some allies. London, start canvassing acquaintances in your field and age cohort about how they got their jobs, and whether their companies are hiring. Consider forming a support group that lobbies for change. 
Volunteer to coach and mentor others in your industry. That will expand your network, provide another impressive line for your CV and show that you still have some irreplaceable skills.

While you have no obligation to keep things in perspective when you’re trying to find a job, try to remember that the youth are not the enemy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put them in their place when they suggest you aren’t fluent in emoji, New York, but they’re frustrated by being patronised and passed over, too. 

McCann has a 22-year-old daughter who’s looking for a job, and she says she’s been struck by how similar her experience is to those of the age discrimination plaintiffs. 

We can only burn down the system if we all work together.

Megan Greenwell is the editor of Wired.com.

Why some managers still frown on flexible working

Why some managers still frown on flexible working

A more flexible company culture sounds tempting, but some business owners fear it is too good to be true. Regus, one of the pioneers in
flexible workspaces, addresses some of the concerns of entrepreneurs.

Far too often, we’re inundated with lifestyle gurus and influencers that claim to have discovered the secret to balancing work and life or
the silver bullet solution to running a business from their laptop as they sip a beer by the pool.

Increasingly, we’re losing faith in the validity of these claims, dismissing them as social media hype rather than a viable option for 99% of the global population.

But there is, of course, a happy medium. Finding tangible ways to introduce a flexible working culture into your business is a step in the
right direction towards a better work-life balance for you and your team. But flexible working can get tarnished with the same “unrealistic”
brush as the hype bandits, which often puts business leaders off the idea.

In essence, flexible working is about taking a more intuitive approach to our working lives. It encompasses remote working, the
option of flexible hours or part-time roles, and/or renting flexible office space, which offers a more bespoke way of leasing workspace,
compared to the “one-size-fits-all” conventional office space.

Flexible working is already growing in momentum.

IWG, of which Regus is an operation brand, found that 50% of global employees now work outside of their main offices for at least
two-and-a- half days a week. An increasing number of companies around the world are introducing flexible working policies into their
operations. According to the 2019 Global Workspace Survey from IWG, 62% of businesses interviewed now have one.

So, what’s stopping everyone from making the leap from commuting, the nine-to-five working day and the traditional office space to
something more flexible?

Overall, there seem to be three main areas for concern.

The first overarching reason some business leaders hesitate to adopt a more flexible working culture is the fear that it will affect productivity negatively. If employees work remotely, how likely is it that they’ll be less productive?

Will they slack off if they’re given the choice to work extra hours?

IWG’s findings revealed that it is quite the opposite. In the 2019 Global Workspace survey, 85% of respondents confirmed that
productivity increased as a result of greater flexibility. By hiring talented employees, building trust and empowering them to work in a way
that allows them to better manage their lives, makes them more able to get their jobs done effectively. 

Flexibility is a two-way street.

Teams feel encouraged to work hard when they’re respected enough to manage their own workload and time. Another reason many business leaders turn away from flexible working has to do with infrastructure. What if the remote server isn’t secure enough to prevent company data from being hacked? What if moving into a flex space proves too noisy and distracting for the team?

In terms of cybersecurity, the help of an IT specialist will minimise the risk of a hacking incident. Flex space brands offer private
interview rooms and exclusive office space to guarantee privacy and quiet time, as well as the benefits of a staffed reception and cleaning and maintenance taken care of.

Plus, when a change of scene is desired, the social spaces are still there. Either way, the leading flex space brands typically offer more design-centric, newer and more inspiring office spaces than their conventional office counterparts.

Finally, business leaders resist opting for flexible working, and flex space specifically, because of the fear that it will cost more

But, the flex space model is built around efficiency, using no more time, space, resources or money than you need to run your
business. Scale up or down as demand dictates and enjoy the luxury of a shorter lease over the traditional 10-year contract.

With a range of packages to choose from, businesses can select what makes the most sense for them and adjust accordingly as
their company’s situation changes.

Supplied by GoContentLab on behalf of Regus.

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