My mental health journey: 1 year in

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Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

A year ago this month, I decided to start taking my mental health seriously. I’ve always paid close attention to how my body is feeling, I can’t say the same for my mind.

‘Mental health’ is a hot topic at the moment with people more aware than ever about the importance of talking about their feelings. The last 12 months have been about discovery, understanding and acceptance. A lot of which has been really uncomfortable but necessary to move forward and get to a healthier point.

Why?

I began to recognise a growing frustration with certain parts of my life a couple of years ago. This mainly stemmed from work and never feeling settled with what I was doing. This soon spiralled from ‘is this it?’ to feelings of anger and resentment.

I reached a point where destructive and negative feelings had consumed me. They left me a frustrated and angry person. I was caught in a never-ending cycle of overthinking, anxiety and fault-finding, berating myself for things that I had said and done (or not).

I started to look at my feelings in a new light but didn’t have any answers for how to deal with them. My go-to was to suppress, tell myself that I shouldn’t be angry. Partly because I was trying to get myself emotionally back on track but I’d also worry about how people would view me if I expressed these feelings.

I’d use various techniques to calm myself down like breathing slowly and counting to 10. None of it worked long term.

Where to begin?

Internalising things wasn’t getting me anywhere so I decided to do the exact opposite. I started talking. To friends, family, strangers and a professional. This didn’t come naturally and I still cringe a little at the thought of it.

What’s ‘wrong’ with me?

Through a lot of talking, I came to the realisation that I’m carrying this huge sense of self-burden on my shoulders. I have this incessant need to justify my worth, prove to people that I’m good enough. When things are out of my control, I try to fight it.

I’d go into new jobs (and I’ve had a few) with a negative mindset, convincing myself that the only way to prove my worth was to work long hours. No matter what I did, I could always do better. I’d push and push myself and 12 months in, I was burnt out. I had nothing more to give. It was easier to quit than to take a step back and admit weakness.

I wasn’t accepting what was going on around me and how that made me feel. If there was one word in my vocabulary that was most frequently used it was ‘should’. I should work late to catch up, I should be out training, I should not get annoyed when things don’t go my way. This was how I had conditioned myself to demonstrate worth. I wasn’t seeing things for what they were, what I had done and achieved. Instead, I was pushing to reach a level I believed I needed to be at for people to give me recognition.

This isn’t a healthy mindset. I was always going to end up feeling disappointed, frustrated and bitter.

Accepting & Understanding

The main thing I take forward every day is that feelings are totally natural. I had to stop beating myself about how I felt. It was time to take back control (but not like Brexit). I make a conscious effort to accept intense feelings but remind myself that I have the choice of what I do next. Dwelling on situations is sometimes useful but now I know it’s more important to realise that events and emotions have a place….in the past. I try to understand where my thoughts come from and work through them (journalling is a great way to detail how you feel).

Consider the good things

It was also time to appreciate the good things I’ve achieved. It’s so easy to just focus on what’s next in life. Taking time to stop and reflect was an important step. I’d always focus on the ‘bad’ but never the ‘good’. It was time to give myself a break. It didn’t come naturally but I’ve stuck at it and can take some satisfaction from things I’ve achieved.

This is a process

I’m proud of the progress I’ve made over the last year but this is just the beginning, I’m not even 1% there. I feel calmer and more content yet I still have many moments of worry and anxiety. The difference now is that I’m better equipped to identify and accept them and decide what to do next.

Feelings and emotions are a temporary state, you’re always in a state of flux as they come and go. We all crave certainty in our lives but the truth is that we can’t always be in a constant state.

It takes daily work. I set aside time for personal development and it’s often the best time of the week.

I would encourage you to do the same. The first thing you can do is start talking. That’s where it began and I’m amazed most weeks about how I can work through situations that used to seem totally hopeless. If you’re experiencing this, you can do the same, just don’t do it alone.

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**There are some fantastic charities and organisations that can help you take these first few steps:

Mind, Mental Health Charity

Time to Change

Heads Together

NHS — Counselling

Our unhealthy obsession with work

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Photo by Bethany Legg on Unsplash

Mental health is a topic I have started to pay a lot closer attention to.

With work, comes pressure and expectation. Thankfully, these days it’s less about being ‘seen’ to work hard, and more about what you can achieve and how you go about doing that.

In my spare time, I play a small part in helping to run a community for recruiters, called DBR. I was talking to one of my friends in the community recently about the pressures of work and trying to achieve a good work-life balance. Something they said really stuck with me:

I got back from holiday and was like “omg I need to work late every night to make up for going away”

It stuck with me for a couple of reasons 1) I’ve been there myself 2) That level of worry and stress is not good.

So how do we stop work from becoming an unhealthy obsession, even an addiction?

Physical and Mental Health

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Me and my bro shortly after completing the 2014 London Marathon

At the moment, I’m training for the London Marathon. It will be my third London Marathon and my sixth overall. I’ve learnt a heck of a lot about how my body works and my limits, both physically and mentally. When you train too much, you’re tired and injuries soon follow. You’re forced to rest up and recover. You literally don’t have a choice.

 

When it comes to work, it’s not always that easy (or obvious). I’ve been seriously guilty of letting it run my life. Mondays to Fridays were off limits for social events as I’d be totally consumed by wanting to solve every work nag that was on my mind. Whilst 10pm is bedtime for some, I’d still be sat there working myself into a frenzy about what I hadn’t yet done ahead of the next day. It was unhealthy and, frankly, made me really unhappy. I didn’t recognise myself, was short-tempered and generally not a great person to be around.

Then last year, I heard some shocking news about a former colleague. It stopped me in my tracks. I was compelled me to take a closer look at my own mental health. More specifically where I draw the line between work and pleasure. Whilst I’m still quite an obsessive person, I’ve learnt both by myself and through the help of others that taking care of yourself is more important (and leads to better results anyway). It’s taught me that rest and recovery from intensive spells of work are just as important as when training.

How can you strike a balance?

The majority of things you do at work are important but not everything is urgent. When you’re there work hard, really hard but ruthlessly prioritise what actually needs to be now and what can actually wait for the next 12+ hours until you’re back the next day.

Here are a few practical tips to help switch off from work:

  • Snooze Slack notifications
  • Android users — separate ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’ profiles on your phone. (Or if you’re like me, just turn your work phone off when you get home)
  • Set office hours on your calendar so that colleagues know when scheduling meetings

We all have a responsibility to not only talk about our mental health but also to live by what we say, both for ourselves, our colleagues & friends. There will always be occasions when we need to work longer hours or get stressed out — we’re human after all. These, however, should be the exception rather than the norm and I challenge you all to think about how you can make that a reality.

First and foremost, look after yourself and look after each other. If you don’t look after yourself before and during a marathon, you’ll hit what is known as ‘The Wall’. From experience, it’s not a great place to be in.

Why wouldn’t you take work-life balance as seriously?

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I’m running the London Marathon in support of Mind, the mental health charity. If you would like to support this great charity please follow this link to my fundraising page — https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/kristian-bright

Interviews – How to deal with rejection

We’ve recently started to measure the candidate experience in our interview process. We’re early on in this process, but it’s proving interesting reading so far (see below). This survey is sent out to everybody that has an on-site interview at Lost My Name. It’s purpose to is to provide a platform to share feedback once the dust has settled post-interviews. As you’ll see from the graph below, we’re scoring OK, not great but not bad. There are certainly numerous ways that we can and will improve:

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I don’t ever expect to achieve full marks on these scores because a lot of people haven’t proceeded to the next interview stage either as a result of our decision making process or their own. However, it does give us an indication of how and where we can improve.

Looking at the results and comments, it really hit home to me the range of emotions that a candidate goes through.

Firstly, rejection is not a nice feeling. When you’ve had your heart set on a job, told family and friends and built up the excitement, it makes it all the more difficult to take. So what is the best way to respond and turn that rejection into a positive learning experience?

  1. Let it out – I’m not advocating a public display of outrage, but you need to release the anger/disappointment/frustration of missing out on that job that you really wanted. How?
    • Write it down – how you’re feeling. How did you find the experience of interviewing? What you liked and didn’t like? Why you think you missed out on the role after all? How did it make you feel to be told that isn’t right for you?
    • Talk to people – no doubt in the coming hours, days or even weeks you’ll speak to those close to you, recruiters, acquaintances and the topic will come up. You’re likely to receive the standard ‘it’s their loss’ or ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or even ‘you should be proud for getting so far’….let’s face it, none of this really makes you feel any better does it? Find those that you trust and are willing to listen and talk through it, I promise you’ll feel better about it.
  2. Give it time – I’ve been rejected for roles in the past, ones that I’d invested significant time in preparing for…it didn’t work out and that sucks. The initial feelings of being gutted, then annoyed, then slightly bitter are all part of the process. However, like with any feeling, they pass. My biggest advice is to not jump straight to the next thing, take some time to consider options and let the dust settle.
  3. What did you learn? This is where you can turn a negative into a positive, share this experience with the company that you interviewed with. How you felt you were treated, what you enjoyed about the process. At Lost My Name, candidates can do this with the above mentioned method. Any company that is vested in improving its interview process and delivering a great candidate experience will be glad of the feedback.
  4. Future interviews – consider the feedback you received from the company. What did you do well, where did you fall short? Leverage this and take it forward to your next interview. You’ll be more confident in yourself. If there is one thing that I value extremely highly from an interviewee, it’s someone who can talk through a difficult time/situation and show key learnings from it. Successes tell you so much about a person, failures give a real insight into character, resilience and courage. Some of the qualities that we value so dearly in our teams.

You may or may not agree with the advice given above and that’s fine. Everyone is different and will deal with awkward and difficult situations differently. What I hope you will agree on is that a negative can be turned into a positive and the initial pain and frustration can quickly transform into a feeling of personal growth and maturity.
I’d love to hear other people’s views and comments on this subject as it’s one often ignored when we thinking about hiring and interviewing.

Are we becoming a bunch of recruitment robots?

2015. Recruitment tools – we have plenty. Too many? Maybe.

There was a time (before my era, mind) when recruitment was about a few simple things… people, getting to know these people, building a network and connecting this network with opportunities at your company (clients if on the agency side). Over simplified? Yes. Is this simplistic view compatible with modern recruitment?

Today’s market, particularly in the world of technology, sees the candidate in the driving seat. As recruiters, our task of finding and attracting some of the best talent that our employers demand is harder than ever. This has of course led to the rise of what I call ‘The (Recruitment) Tool Army’!

‘Recruitment is broken’ they say? Fear not; let’s build a host of products that will solve everything! Buy this and your life will change forever.

I’d like to think that as recruiters, we’re not all so gullible, or are we?

I’m not going to waffle on about what tools are good and what aren’t. There’s too much debate on that subject already and there are too many tools to cover. My gripe is with some of my fellow recruiters. As part of my job I speak to a lot of candidates, I also speak to a fair few recruiters. Some truly excellent ones. These are the ones who really get what is required and actually execute on it by trying things that others can’t or won’t.

There are unfortunately others who have forgotten what this job is actually all about. Recruiters use tools and moan when they don’t instantly solve their problems. Why would you rely on it to take your place in recruitment?

Have we lost sight of what’s really important?

I think we have to an extent. Professional and successful people want to surround themselves with smart people, they form communities of like minded people. Why? Because they continually want to learn. We, as recruiters, need to follow suit. Developers have communities, so do doctors, mathematicians, marketers. There’s no excuse not to.

So what should we do about it?

Go back to basics and have a desire to learn. When I think about recruitment and what it should involve there are certain things that come to mind:

  • Relationship-building
  • Hard work
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Respect
  • Good Timing

Think about how you would want to be approached and consider the mindset of a candidate. In the context of someone’s career they only interact with recruiters for a very small portion of that. Go to great lengths to ensure that it’s a good experience. Through showing somebody respect and that you’ve bothered to try and understand what they do you’re far more likely to get their trust. If you show you care and want what’s best for them how could somebody not appreciate it?

Learning – build a community with fellow recruiters. Some have really great advice and experience that they are only too happy to share. The London startup community is one place where this is happening. A group of recruiters are doing more to learn from each other and more importantly give honest feedback (through events).

The ‘War on Talent’ is not just one of skills shortages and competition. For recruiters, it’s also about reclaiming ground. Tools are there to complement us, not do our jobs for us. Be prepared, transparent, go to events (if you’re brave enough, speak at them – it’s worth it!) meet your candidates and get to know them.

Show understanding and a willingness to learn and people will respect you. Use this as a base and build from there. Utilise the tools you have to make things a little easier. Don’t become the ‘tool’ who blames everything else when they don’t succeed.

Company Culture – All or Nothing

Culture is how organisations ‘do things’ ” – Robert Katanga. Today it’s used to attract candidates and build an employer brand.

We place huge weight behind our career moves based on things like work environment, the people as well as career development and salary.

Companies strive to get this right – some throw huge resources behind it, you may even see a ‘Chief Culture Officer’ in place (usually a sign that the culture is so bad they’ve had to employ someone to try to sort it out).

So what is Company Culture?

I recently attended an event on this very subject – Culturevist. People there from a wide range of professions – Lawyers, Recruiters, Customer Success, Marketing, Communications etc. All gathered together discussing culture in the workplace– success stories, failures, people seeking help. People there because they care about the environment they work in.

This, for me, shows that culture represents the values and behaviours of employees that make up a company. As an employer can you really answer questions like – Are you an employer/part of a company that really does care about employees? Do you just want them to perform well at work or go that step further and really get behind a positive ‘work-life’ balance?

All or Nothing?

What did Culturevist teach me about Company Culture?

  • It’s a collective effort– a movement driven from the top downwards. Driving culture from the bottom up is admirable but the will of employees can count for little if those at the top don’t truly believe in it.
  • You can’t just create a culture– you have to show a process towards making it work.
  • How? –Being transparent, listening and then acting on what you’ve heard. Having an identity, values and living and breathing them!
  • Develop it – Through listening to your employees you identify issues earlier and take necessary action

We want to believe in a company, its products and its people. Essentially we want to be part of a story where we can make a difference.

Working in an environment that allows you to do this is the first step. Great benefits may help in attracting you but they won’t buy long-term loyalty. It’s the sense of control and community that we all crave. Make someone feel part of a team and in control of their own destiny and you’ll find that you’ll have an engaged, inspired and happy workforce.

….but before you get too comfortable. This is an ‘All or Nothing’ game and one that needs to be continually worked at. Companies evolve and so will your culture.

Referrals – leveraging your team’s network

Hiring is tough.

Your company wants the best available talent, you want to deliver it but so does everyone else. I was recently listening to a podcast on Startup Recruiting involving Qubit’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Matthew Bradburn. Matt went into detail to discuss one key part of a talent acquisition strategy – utilising employee referrals. People want to work with the best so they will be forthcoming in highlighting people they believe to be great. Sound obvious?

Obtaining referrals from employees

Whilst employee referrals should not be relied upon as the primary source of candidates, they can provide quality, passive candidates that can bring skills and experience not available on the market.

The key question here is ‘how to obtain referrals from employees?’ This can be particularly difficult to get right, as any recruitment function will be met with a number of issues from employees reluctant to refer skilled professionals. Reasons can include:

  • Fear a poor referral reflecting badly on their judgment
  • Lack of an incentivised referral program
  • Unwillingness to refer passive candidates
  • Trust in their recruitment department offering a good candidate experience

Poor referral?

Employees should not be fearful of referring candidates. The majority of referrals are for people who pretty much have the required skills to do the job at hand. From experience, contacts are also referred as the employee sees that person as a good ‘team fit’ and would add to the current team moral and working style.

So, in the event that a candidate is referred and does not quite make the cut, it should not be viewed negatively. A rejection does not mean that the candidate was a bad one; it simply means that they may not be quite right for that role in the organisation at that time.

Lack of an incentivised referral program

I’d like to explore this in more detail in future blogs so I won’t elaborate too much at this stage. Safe to say that there are arguments for and against an incentivised referral program. An incentivised scheme could yield a greater number of referrals. But could it also lead to a decrease in quality?

Unwillingness to refer passive candidates

This is an interesting one. I asked one of my colleagues the other day if they knew of suitable candidates that they could recommend/refer. The response from one was ‘yes, but they aren’t looking’. I found this slightly puzzling.

Of course employees should not pass on referrals without thought or consideration for that person. On the other hand, it’s the role of the recruiter to seek out passive candidates and introduce opportunities to them. Suppose I was to find the said candidate during a search. Am I not to contact as one of our employees knew that they weren’t looking? Absolutely not. In this case, why would an employee not disclose the name of a potential candidate so that dialogue can be opened, even if for future reference?

An employee should not feel burdened as to whether their referral is looking for a new role or not. Chances are that if they’re suitable the recruiter will identify them anyway so why not pair up? Have a joint business approach in referring passive people so the recruiter is aware of whom they are and the internal relationship before reaching out to them.

Trust in recruiter giving a good candidate experience

Ever referred someone and recruitment never contacted them? Or they did but then they heard nothing back for weeks? Having to take that awkward phone call from your referral, chasing up their application has no doubt happened to employees previously and it puts them off referring people they know again. Understanding and listening to employee’s experiences and explaining the referrals process will help you to build their trust and put their mind at ease that you will offer a prompt candidate experience for anyone they refer.

How to obtain referrals

We’ve looked at the reasons why referrals are great and why employees may be apprehensive about supposedly putting their ‘neck on the line’ by recommending a candidate.

From a recruiter’s perspective, we should try to make this process as simple and as transparent as possible. Remove the formality of a recommendation. Pose questions like ‘who are the best people you have worked with’ rather than ‘are you able to recommend somebody for this role?’ Follow up with questions like ‘what made that person a great colleague?’ and ‘how did they approach their work’. This opens up the conversation and encourages employees to discuss what they feel makes a great candidate.

As mentioned in previous blogs, empowering employees to play a part in the hiring process is something that any rapidly growing company should adopt. Why can’t referrals play as key a part as interviewing in this?

If done right, referrals can provide a great additional source of quality candidates. The key is striking that balance with current employees and creating an enthusiasm around hiring. Every employee wants to feel that his or her voice and opinion is being heard. This is a great way to get them involved and play an active part in growing your company!

Sales Candidates – What are you missing?

Sell me this pen? Really?!

How many times have you been asked that question in an interview? Too many would be my guess. It’s awkward, outdated and pretty useless.

Sales as a profession is constantly evolving, companies are embracing new methods and techniques to structure their sales process and bring out the best in their teams…even adopting agile methodologies like Scrum, commonly used in software development.

In the field of sales recruitment, competition is fierce. In a buoyant market companies will rapidly scale teams. Some candidates will thrive where as others will be left behind. So what can you do to boost your profile and take the next step in your career?

The key is in the preparation, which I have noted below:

The CV

Like it or not, your CV plays a part in getting you that initial interview. According to some research, recruiters spend on average between 5-7 seconds scanning a CV. So why not make your CV as clear and concise as possible? Showcase your skills and experience in a few direct points:

  • Role and product/service sold
  • Revenue generated – per annum, quarter, month (how ever your sales cycle works)
  • Average deal size
  • Average deal length
  • Major achievements

The amount of CVs I see without even half of these points is quite remarkable. This is your career; you’ve worked hard for these achievements so why not highlight them? Even if you have had a tough year you can articulate the challenges and successes briefly and clearly.

Build your network

Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Build your brand, reach out to potential employers and start developing relationships. The best opportunities will come from your network so start reaching out now!

Do your research

When preparing for an interview, go into detail. Are you fully confident that you can answer questions posed and explain the product that you could be selling? Break it down into a few key areas:

  • Sales Cycle – Do you currently manage all of the sales cycle? How do you generate leads? How many deals have you closed? How do develop and manage your sales pipeline?
  • Revenue – Know your figures, the total and breakdown
  • Product knowledge – Be confident that you know the companies products and are able to explain their offering. Why not go a step further and consider these products/services and their place in the market – Who are the main competitors? What are the USP’s of that product/service?
  • Failures –everyone  Why not embrace it? Detail accounts or sales you’ve lost. Don’t be afraid; rather take the opportunity to show what you have learnt from it. Demonstrating that level of self-awareness will help you throughout your career!

This isn’t the complete list of how to secure that next step in your sales career. However from my experience of interviewing and hiring these candidates this will give you a solid foundation. Too much time is wasted in the waffle of explaining your role, be concise, highlight your skills and achievements and be prepared to explain the methods you chose to reach the end result. Explaining the method is just as important as detailing your achievements!

Finally, show that you are passionate about your career in sales…oh and don’t forget to close, it’s an interview and you’re a sales person after all!