Why your career dream may already be dead

By Neil Patrick

We don’t just have a global jobs crisis, we have a career progression logjam…

Today I woke to a BBC Radio 4 news item which reported that CEOs were complaining (again) about talent shortages and their difficulties with attracting and retaining good people.

There was much talk about “talent acquisition”, “agile organisations”, “human assets” and a good deal more management psychobabble. But whilst I yawned at the language, there was no doubting the veracity of the message.

In October 2015, PA Consulting issued a report which attributed this problem to poor use of HR data:

“There is a mismatch between chief executives’ desire to get talent management activities right and their investment in technology; only 3.6% of CEOs and HR directors had a coherent approach for analysing talent-related data”.

Report author Jennifer Cable said: “The say-do gap is huge. It seems that talent management is belief led rather than metric led, but you name me another critical area of competitive advantage where activity is not being backed up with concrete data.”

I would go even further. The problem isn’t just about data and beliefs. It’s about culture and action. Or lack of it. 21st century HR leadership is broken. It no longer serves either employers or employees well. I have nothing against HR people. And I would point out that HR is by no means the only function which has failed to transform fast enough to keep pace with what Jeremy Rifkin calls "The Third Industrial Revolution". Marketing, sales, finance, even IT in large organisations are similarly lagging.

Recently, the Pew Research Center reported that the US middle class was now outnumbered by the poor and upper classes. This is another indication that the traditional career ladder structure has bottlenecked in the middle of society.

This strategic failure is also evidenced by my own mailbox. Almost everyday I get emails from professional people who despite having great qualifications and work experience report that they cannot get interviews, let alone get hired.

If we have lots of skilled people looking for jobs, AND organisations frustrated in their search for good people, how come this problem exists at all?

What on earth is going on?

I am not going to fall into the trap of blaming one party or the other. But organisations have to accept that the old model of recruiting and hiring is failing faster than they’d like to admit.

This isn’t news to some I know. It’s the maturation of trends which have been going on for at least a decade.

The root of the problem isn’t useless job applicants or wicked HR people. The root of the problem is how both employers and jobseekers think about jobs. What they are, who does them, how they do them, how they are managed, how they are rewarded.

The current model of recruitment has not suddenly materialised. It has had decades of refinement, all designed to assess, quantify and rank the suitability of individuals for a particular job. Organisations like processes and procedures. They help them feel in control. And able to defend themselves against potentially hostile regulatory or legal threats.

Recruitment and selection processes and procedures have now inevitably become hard coded into IT systems called applicant tracking systems. Large employers have invested millions in their adoption and deployment. I have written about the consequences of these systems here.

HR teams are not to blame either. But they have become servants of the machine. The catchphrase “Computer says ‘No’” could have been written just for them…

The problem is that the whole recruitment industry and HR profession has been getting better and better at doing what can now be seen to be the wrong things.

They have become experts at creating boxes and then matching the boxes with the people that apparently best fit into them. These boxes specify everything, much of which is irrelevant or at least a distraction. Things like:

  • Hours of work which reflect traditional norms not operational or employees’ needs
  • Cut and paste competencies which are generic and often based on lazy thinking
  • “Acceptable” levels of sickness which assume everyone’s health is the same
  • Holiday entitlements which reward length of service rather than accomplishments and workload
  • Rates of pay pegged to outmoded concepts of seniority and status.

These boxes haven’t really adapted very much to reflect the huge changes which have been going on in the world. They perpetuate some very old ideas about what a job is and how it should be done. These ideas are a legacy of the old command and control structures which originated in business and organisations in the industrial age.

People were increasingly reduced to cogs in a giant machine. This direction of travel has now reached a breaking point where unless an employer is desperate, hardly anyone can match their over-specified expectations.

If we add in instinctive personal biases around gender, age, appearance, race, we start to get a glimpse of just how much the system is broken. Yes, I know such things are illegal, but they are so easily fudged that hardly anyone worries about them.

Meanwhile the very nature of work has massively transformed in many jobs over the last ten years.

Organisations talk a great deal about becoming agile, yet their procedures change really slowly. Many aspire to being disruptive, yet are effectively paralyzed by risk aversion and legacy structures. They seek to be flexible, yet find change difficult. They espouse how they are customer-centric, yet shareholders' interests always trump customers'. They keep on doing the same old thing when it comes to specifying job roles and finding people to put in them.

Jobseekers are rightly and understandably frustrated and incensed by this. The explosion of  digital communication, means anyone who is looking for a new job can find hundreds almost instantly online. The result – organisations are bombarded with on average up to 200 applications per vacancy.

And since humans cannot possibly be expected to accurately assess such a deluge, automation has been adopted to screen, sort and rank resumes and choose candidates. Except these systems are at best only partially effective. In one test carried out by consultants Bersin Associates, a ‘perfect resume’ only scored 43% on the applicant tracking system…

Organisations aspire to respond and adapt to these problems, but very few are making real headway. This is because they are playing around the edges, when what they really need is a complete rethink of how they can reconcile their need for talented people with an admission that the current way of doing things is no longer fit for purpose.

So we see the continuation of cut and paste job descriptions. Of largely discredited psychometric assessments. Of idiotic interview questions and competency ‘tests’. Of overly rigid terms and conditions of employment.

The future won’t be owned by organisations which perpetuate the status quo. It will be owned by those that can grasp the nettle and figure out how they can live by these ideas not merely talk about them.

For millennials, this fragile career environment is one they have grown up with. They’ve never known anything else. For older generations, it’s nothing short of a catastrophe for which few are equipped.

Organisations will eventually transform. They have no choice. The trouble for people seeking jobs and career progression is that this transformation is going to take a very long time. And the trouble for organisations is that this key strategic requirement is so low on their agendas that they are at risk of organisational obsolescence which at best will hamper every aspiration they have, or at worst kill them.

Happy New Year! ;-)

Pity the Twitter Zombies

There are a lot more zombies than trolls lurking online...

This morning I intended to write about the economic situation in Japan. But as sometimes happens, I got distracted by social media. So I am sorry if you are dying to read about the Japanese economy, but I promise I will get back to that asap (stop groaning!).

Yesterday evening I spent an enjoyable couple of hours drinking beer with Katrina Collier of Winning Impression. Katrina is one of a small elite band of people I consider to be true experts on social media for recruitment and HR. If you are in either of these fields, you really should be connected with her. Here’s a link to her website.

As we chatted, both watching our social media feeds at the same time, Katrina was laughing as she observed Twitter trolls tweeting all sorts of hate to her after she retweeted the petition to keep Donald Trump out of Britain.

Katrina’s an Australian and if I know one thing about Aussies, it’s that they are not easily intimidated. When you grow up surrounded by countless species of creatures which are mostly looking for people to kill, I guess this is understandable.

Yet this was also an instructive situation. The more the hate poured in, the more she laughed. And I ventured that this explosion of Twitter troll activity would do her Twitter metrics no harm at all. Algorithms do not care whether we are generating online love or hate. They just count impact.

The trolls were inadvertently boosting Katrina’s online influence scores with every drop of bile they spat at her. She could laugh with good reason.

When the mainstream media is full of stories about cyber-bullying, the popular message is understandably that we must protect the vulnerable from such things.

But if you are big and grown up enough to take such things in your stride, if you are not easily intimidated, trolls and bullies do us no harm at all. In fact they help us for the simple reason that AI cannot yet always distinguish between love and hate.

This little story came full circle this morning as I reviewed my new followers on Twitter.

This is a daily task for me. Every day there are 30 or 40 new followers. Most are what I call “randoms” – people who are following as many people as possible in the hope that a percentage will follow back and artificially make them look more popular than they actually are. I have written about these ‘binge and purgers’ here and what you should do with them (tip…Don’t follow back ;-))

Another friend of mine, the ever clever Matt Ballantine tweeted the other day:

Matt is bang on the money I think. Most people like to feel popular, but many are in reality terrified that engaging in real dialogues on social media could:

  1. Stir up hate – (don’t worry, at least you believe in something) 
  2. Expose them as not being an expert on everything (don’t worry, no-one is) 
  3. Meet people they’d rather not (don’t worry, you can block them) 

As I reviewed my new followers, I looked at the ones who looked genuine and interesting and then looked at who they were talking to and about what.

And this is where most fall down. I don’t expect anyone to spend hours and hours every day chatting on social media. Not if they have any sort of life. But I do expect to see something that shows they are not a zombie.

Time and again, I see tons of tweets, but zero conversations. It’s as if these people would rather stand there talking to themselves than risk the imaginary terror of the things I describe above.

If you like talking to yourself, be my guest. But really what’s the point? If you are doing this you have become a zombie.

We shouldn’t be afraid of trolls. And we should pity zombies.

All of them used to be people, once.

PS. More proof of this trolling backfire emerged this morning when The Daily Telegraph featured Katrina's tweet in its piece about the Donald Trump petition. Nice one Katrina! :


10 things you must know about how to become a consultant

By Neil Patrick

My mailbox is a constant source of inspiration for this blog. And this morning was no exception.

I received a LinkedIn invitation to connect with a chap I knew at university. I was delighted to reconnect after so long, accepted immediately and messaged him to ask what he was up to.

In his message back to me he told me that he would be leaving his employer in a few weeks’ time where he’s been the Managing Director and intended to become a self-employed consultant.

This isn’t an unusual aspiration for senior professionals. After all those years’ experience and rising through the ranks on merit, it’s tempting to think we are well equipped to take on such a career pivot.

I know. I have done it myself. And I learned the hard way that very little of the experience we acquire in a management career actually counts for much when we switch from being an employed executive to a self-employed gun for hire.

But this communication prompted me to think about the things I learned in the process. If you are or are considering becoming a freelance business consultant, these are the 10 things I think matter and which you must address in your plans:

No-one cares what we have achieved in the past. They only care about what we can achieve for them in the future.

Rebranding ourselves as a freelance version of what we were before is a non-starter. Clients don’t value us because of the breadth of our experience and previous seniority. They want one thing (at least initially) and they want an expert at it.

Simply changing our Linkedin profile to show us as a consultant will not get us any attention. We must have a personal media strategy which enables us to be found when people are looking for the skills we have.

What we did five or ten years ago is mostly irrelevant. If we’ve not done exactly what people need in the last few years, that experience is considered pretty much  redundant.

We may think we have transferable skills, but clients do not. Most clients or prospects I have encountered believe that relevant experience of their sector is vital. They may or may not be correct, but few will be persuaded otherwise and they call the shots. So sector specialism is a very wise choice.

We must specialise despite our wide experience. When we have wide business experience, it’s tempting to market ourselves as a jack of all trades. This is fatal – we will be perceived as master of none.

We must be able to solve a problem that is hurting our clients every day. Not a problem we think they have, or the type of work we most want to do; a problem that they know is stopping them achieve their aspirations.

A wide and appropriate network which has goodwill towards us is an essential prerequisite. Just having a website is not enough if no-one ever goes there. The explosion of online content in recent years means that we will never be found by search engines unless we have invested in online content and built social media networks which enable us to be found online. Moreover, the social web and its peer to peer nature means we are judged not so much by what we say about ourselves as by what others have to say about us.

The internet isn’t as clever as we might think. It’s a paradox for sure, but the internet is not yet very good at perceiving fine nuances about people. It’s powered by big data and algorithms. These are good at counting but not so good at interpreting subtle qualitative information. If you or I have 500 LinkedIn connections with really great people who have active goodwill (i.e. they will voluntarily help us) towards us, that’s powerful. If we have 5,000 who couldn’t care less, it’s actually a liability.

We need to have a funnel strategy. Actors and sales people know this well. They accept that one positive result is the normal outcome of perhaps 50 or even 100 auditions or sales calls.

So transitioning from senior executive to consultant is a conundrum. Such a pivot is possible, but it takes time and an effective strategy. Who we were previously and our experience is usually much less valuable than we’d like to think.

I know a ton of other consultants. Some are doing well usually because they have managed to transition from a ‘normal’ job to a freelance/contractor version of the same job. This is not real freelancing in my view – it’s actually a degraded job contract more than anything else.

This isn’t really what I am talking about here. I am talking about those of us who want to create our own true consulting businesses from scratch. Hunting and securing our clients and earning our living based on the success of our work for them.

The harsh reality is that most other consultants I know are finding it extremely difficult to secure good clients, good rates of pay and assignments which last more than a few weeks. The labour on demand model which is becoming the new normal, is making freelancing a very precarious career choice.

Success as a freelance consultant has very little in reality to do with our previous career experience. It has everything to do with our ability to network effectively, build awareness, acquire goodwill. And critically being able to solve a problem that our clients cannot solve themselves. Recognise this and develop a strategy that creates these things and we are half way there.

But half way will not pay the bills. And in my experience this transition takes years not weeks or months. Today I have long standing regular clients that I love working with. They are happy and I am happy. But in almost every case, the initial contact took 3-6 months to evolve into an arrangement whereby the commercials were finalised and the work was underway.

It’s a hard path to follow, but the satisfaction I get from seeing my clients succeed as a result of my involvement makes it more rewarding than anything I have done before.

Better still, because my clients are happy, they recommend me to others and so finding new assignments is never a problem for me.

And I indulge myself in a way I could never do when I had a normal job. Today if I don’t like a prospective client for any reason, I don’t work with them. Period. And that was a luxury of choice I never had before.

I just wish I had known what I know now when I started out.

P.S. Guardian Careers have published some further comments on the subject here. (Although I hope my views are a bit more actionable and insightful!)

Computers are learning to read our minds and why this changes everything

By Neil Patrick

In the digital age everything is reduced to numbers. Big data counts everything that can be counted.

But big data conceals as much as it reveals. Big data scientists argue that their algorithms enable fine judgements to be made across billions of pieces of data. Yet there is idiocy embedded within many algorithms.

Many of us find ourselves enraged by the clumsy ways simplistic counting algorithms determine who gets noticed online and who doesn’t.

This quantitative analysis is the strength of big data and currently its main weakness. But most algorithms cannot count the things that are often most important, i.e. the qualitative aspects. Like value, trust, goodwill, personality.

But this is about to change…

IBM Watson has already built artificial intelligence that does exactly this. It’s called Personality Insights. Follow this link and you can try it out. Just load a thousand or so words of a blog post or something you have written and the programme will analyse and quantify your personality.

I put it to the test with one of my own blog posts. This is what it said about me:

You are inner-directed and skeptical.

You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. And you are calm-seeking: you prefer activities that are quiet, calm, and safe.

You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider independence to guide a large part of what you do: you like to set your own goals to decide how to best achieve them.

I could pick faults with this analysis maybe. But broadly speaking, I was impressed by how well it managed to interpret who I am and how I think.

The Personality Insights programme isn’t the end of the road. It’s the start of it. AI is going to become perfectly capable very soon of understanding the very essence of who we are, how we think and what motivates us.

Imagine the implications of how when sooner rather than later, software such as this is incorporated into social media platforms, into blog platforms, into LinkedIn?

The currently clumsy counts of likes, followers, shares etc could be supplemented by rich data which permits far more nuanced metrics about us.

The way will be open for platforms to group, sort and rank us in ways that they have never been able to do before.

And the gamers who exploit the clumsy metrics will be put in their rightful place.

But only if the platform owners recognize and seek to rectify the simplistic and unhelpful ways they use big data to judge who is important and who isn't.

We have to hope they use this power for our good and not just theirs.

Why Linkedin best practices are a myth

By Neil Patrick

There’s no universal social media best practice, so stop looking for one

Last weekend over coffee, Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific and I were discussing LinkedIn Pulse. I think it is fair to say Gary has established himself as something of a renegade authority on LinkedIn.

He is an agent provocateur, evangelist, firestarter. He’s also a champion of fairness, a scientist and a driven man. He has an uncanny knack of spotting elephants in rooms that only when he points them out, do the rest of us recognise them.

Dr. Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific

Gary and I have shared values and core beliefs about things like authenticity, trust, collaboration, transparency.

We have also independently evolved entirely different ideas about how we use social media platforms in our day to day businesses.

It’s not that we disagree about much, but rather that we have totally different manifestations of our online presences.

Gary’s online presence mirrors who he is, what he cares about and what he wants to achieve. And so does mine. Neither of us copied any best practice or more prominent thought leader. We each figured out our own strategy that was right for us.

So who is right and who is wrong?

The answer is that we are both right. Because there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution.

But as friends and collaborators, we thought it would be interesting writing some content for each other. Gary has posted about our shared ideas and beliefs here. If you want to get some really authoritative insights into Linkedin, then you'll find much of interest on Gary's blog.

Why it is good that we are different

Gary has a great deal more courage than I in how he has taken on his mission to improve everyone’s user experience of LinkedIn. He ribs me that I am risk averse. I rib him that he plays with fire too much.

The fact is that we are each being true to our own personalities and backgrounds. If I tried to be Gary, I would inevitably be at best a weak impersonation and at worst, come over as a complete fraud. And vice versa.

Why I don’t post on LinkedIn Pulse

I write a lot of blog posts – there are around 400 on this blog alone, not to mention a ton of others scattered all over the web. But you won’t find me posting on LinkedIn Pulse. Gary on the other hand posts on Pulse almost daily. Often with biting critiques of the very platform he is publishing on.

My rationale for not posting on Pulse is this; I believe that LinkedIn like any corporation serves its shareholders first. Second it serves its customers. At best, its members (that’s us) come a very lowly third.

And as Gary has consistently reported, we users are getting an increasingly poor deal as LinkedIn continues in its quest to drive up revenues and profits. Worse, when we publish on Pulse we are providing our labours to LinkedIn for peanuts.

They acquire our content by the bucket load every day. We get an increasingly paltry compensation for our hours of toil. Our work may bring us a few comments and plaudits from our friends. We may trigger the odd new contact who likes what we have said. But this is a very poor ROI in my view.

My mantra is this:

Don’t build your house on rented land. Especially when the landowner has absolutely no vested interest in retaining your goodwill.

How I connect with people without using LinkedIn

We all want to find and build worthwhile professional relationships. This makes LinkedIn the natural platform choice for most of us. And just as Gary has built his following and network through his blog, LinkedIn and Google plus, I have built mine through my blog and Twitter.

I consider LinkedIn “high stakes” social media. The most senior people are rarely on the platform. They are too busy being successful. And most other people don’t want to be pestered by strangers. Either to connect or to read our latest musings, however profound or insightful they may be. People want choice and they want control. I get that. And I respect it.

Send out too many invitations to connect with people you don’t already know and you’ll potentially be classed by LI as a spammer, especially if you trigger a few IDKs (that’s when an invitee responds with the “I don’t know this person” button).

So I never invite connections from someone on LinkedIn I don’t already know from somewhere else. And the result is that I may have a smaller LI network than some, but it’s with people I like and who hopefully like me. This is the foundation for relationships which are meaningful and valuable.

Twitter on the other hand is low stakes. Every day I gain about 30 or 40 new Twitter followers. Most are what I call ‘randoms’ – people whom have absolutely no reason to follow me, because we have nothing in common. Yet within those 30 or 40 will always be 3 or 4 people I do want to get to know better. Many of these people subsequently request to connect with me on LinkedIn because I am nice to them on Twitter – I comment and interact with them. I share and favourite their posts that I like. Everyone is happy.

Why LinkedIn is still immensely valuable to me

A few weeks ago, the CEO of a business in my locality posted on LinkedIn he was looking for a board level marketing consultant. He wasn’t a first degree connection of mine, so despite this being exactly the sort of work I specialize in, I never saw his post. The first I knew about it was when people I was connected to started recommending me.

Within a few hours, four people who knew me well had all put my name forward. And sure enough this led to a meeting and the start of a valuable business relationship.

None of this happened because I had posted on Pulse. It happened because people in my network thought enough of me to put me forward. For all sorts of reasons, they had goodwill towards me.

We win goodwill not by brilliance, but by caring about others

The thing that each of the four people who recommended me for this gig had in common was that in different ways, I had helped every one of them previously with their work. In some cases, it had been advice, or I had previously worked with them. In others, it had been simple friendship and encouragement.

This was no clever strategy on my part. It was no brilliant post which established my authority. It was just people being nice to me, because in the past I had been nice to them.

My approach to social media works for me because it reflects who I am and what I want to accomplish. Not because I have copied anyone else’s strategy. And Gary does the same thing. So we are entirely different but also entirely the same.

Vive la difference!

Nasty Twitter tactics to watch out for

By Neil Patrick

I’m on Twitter daily, so I get to observe in sometimes gory detail how various folk use and abuse it. And lately I've noticed a nasty and cynical tactic getting more prevalent.

It’s the latest incarnation of what I call “binge and purge”.

It’s easy to spot when a Twitter account is doing this. When they follow you, scroll down their time line and you'll see how many people they followed at the same time they followed you. Binge and purgers will typically follow accounts en masse. Several hundred a day. Day after day. I’m sorry to tell you that despite following you, they are not interested in you and what you think or have to say. They just want to get as many people as possible to follow them back.

They have naively concluded that having a zillion followers trumps everything else. Big mistake.

It’s a bit like having a rather lame party or event to organise for 100 people and knowing that few people will really want to come. So you send out 1,000 invitations, because if you only sent 100, only 10 people would actually show up.

If you want to go to a lame party, be my guest.

The binge and purgers’ error is that they see celebrities and famous people as their role models.

As I talked about here, there’s a mass of celebrities and other famous people who follow very few people on Twitter. But because of their high public profile, they don’t actually need to do very much to get a lot of followers on any social media platform. They don’t really engage; they just tweet all about their daily lives. And their followers are essentially engaging in a form of voyeurism. It’s a lucrative formula which is exploited by thousands of gossip and celebrity magazines and websites all over the world.

And whilst I think this is a completed wasted opportunity, I get it. They see it as a low cost and easy way to help keep their face out there.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. They are social media role models for no-one.

But sadly, many ‘normal’ organisations and people who ought to know better, have taken this non-typical and flawed model and assumed that social media success is about having a zillion followers, whilst following as few people as possible. I recently read a post which asserted that unless a Twitter account had 10 followers for every person they followed, it was not worthy of being followed.

This is absolute nonsense.


Because it makes a second flawed assumption that social media is like old media. In other words, a newspaper which has a higher circulation deserves to be paid more for its advertising space than one with a lower circulation. In old media this was more or less true. In social media, it’s also complete nonsense.


Because social media is about relationships and people, not old school advertising. It’s active not passive. It’s real time not scheduled. It is collaborative. And it is not, repeat NOT about me, me, me. It’s about US, US ,US.

It’s not an advertising vehicle.

It’s a place where we can grow our networks of friends, learn from each other, get feedback from our customers, share information, build communities, watch our rivals, help our friends and best of all sometimes just chew the fat…together.

Binge and purgers neither desire nor find any of this. Because they are on an ego trip.

Goodwill not reach is the measure of online influence - unless you are using social media in completely the wrong way. And you do not acquire goodwill by dumping your followers within a day or two of them following you back. It just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

It’s the industrialisation of social media. A cynical and exploitative attitude where connections (that’s you and me) are viewed as raw material. And this mechanical approach kills the very thing every genuine decent person or organisation wants; real relationships, based on trust and mutual goodwill.

I can only see this cynical, exploitative and idiotic trend continuing. But all is not lost. Just keep an eye in your new followers for a few days and watch which ones have quickly unfollowed you. There’s your proof they are a binge and purger. Dump them immediately.

And don’t get sucked in to the mythology that you can’t be awesome unless you have a zillion followers.

Why you shouldn’t follow famous people on social media

By Neil Patrick

I observed an interesting thing this morning on Twitter. I found myself looking at a few verified Twitter accounts. In case you don't know, these are the profiles with a little blue dot on them and a white tick inside it.

Apparently Twitter allocate these at their discretion to the accounts of well known people so that we know that this is their real Twitter account not a faker or imposter trying to hijack their fame.

Actually you don’t have to be especially famous to get this. If you’re a broadcaster, actor, newspaper journalist, sports personality, you’ll probably have one.

But the little white tick is not a quality or merit badge. It just tells us that the person is well known and they are who they say they are.

It doesn’t mean they are worth following on social media.

A famous person yesterday (possibly)

When I looked at a dozen or so of these accounts, I spotted a few things they all had in common:
  • They have many, many more followers than people they follow. This tells me they are not interested in what anyone else has to say. It doesn’t tell us that they are actually saying anything worthwhile. 
  • They rarely share or comment on anyone else’s tweets. In other words, they are not interested in anyone else or engaging with others. 
  • Their tweets are all about the boring details of what they are doing and/or how fabulous their life is. Hello? We don’t care (except for the minority of stalking obsessives that is) 

When I look at the people on social media who I follow and am interested in, almost none of them are verified accounts. They may have less than a hundred followers or several hundred thousand. But these are the truly fabulous people. The people who provide us with things that are interesting, valuable and helpful.

These people understand that we must give to receive. That no-one cares about the details of their day to day lives. That social media, just like real life is a two way street.

These people enrich my life every day. When they engage with me, they make me feel good. They inform and challenge me. They show me that they care about others more than themselves. That’s why I like them and that’s why I follow them.

Whether their Twitter profile has a little white tick or not.

The Best Advice I Received for Blogging on LinkedIn Pulse

By Karthik Rajan

The month was August, the year 2014. I saw a small icon show up on my LinkedIn profile. It was an icon for a pen – an icon that gave me the gateway to pepper the digital space. When I decided to take the plunge, I shared with my mother that I planned to blog. She gave it a quick thought and said, “Son, one advice – do not advise.”

The assuredness of her voice on the phone threw me out of balance. I asked her, “Can you elaborate more?” She added with a smile, ”No matter which part of the world and irrespective of language, when given a pen and paper, people have a proclivity to become authority figures on do this and do not do this.” She added, “Just share your experiences, trigger the reader's curiosity and let the audience draw their own conclusions, respect them as individuals and they will in turn respect you.”

Her advice made me think. How much do I remember from instructional classroom work vs. the stories outside of it? The childhood shenanigans and bonding with friends and family seem to be the memories without expiry date. On the other hand, concepts taught came a distant second. Reflecting on my own experience reference points, I saw myself nodding in agreement with her advice. Many of us think, few do. On this activity, I decided to act. The best way to describe it is through William Wordsworth’s words - “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” 


My experiences in the last 9 months gave me some things to ponder.

What I learnt about easy reads vs. disciplined moments

Many blogs are easy reads, packed with content like top 10 lists (listicles as my friend Dustin McKissen affectionately calls them). They have an ability to reach large audiences, but what about recall rates in the long term? On the other hand, sharing experiences – it takes a disciplined moment to get hooked on, a little while to make inferences but the memories are valuable. Emotional writing laced with context, is worthwhile in the long run. Without realizing, I was picking sides on the long-term metric (KPI) for thoughts on the digital space: Blending in to be forgotten or standing out to be remembered.

What I learnt about the commonalities between leadership and blogging

Leaders are endowed with power to take, but great leaders eschew the trappings of position but enhance the might of relationships. As a blog writer, we do stand on stage near a lectern, as scary as it may seem, just like leaders we have a choice to be pedestrian or great. It is very tempting to lecture (there is a time and a place for that) but it takes conscious choice to do the less obvious – reflect back the power of importance bestowed upon the blogger by the reader.

In a few meaningful words

My Mother’s timing of advice was impeccable; it did help me orient my blogs. The outpouring of responses from you all has been fantastic. A heartfelt thank you for the reads, likes and more importantly the comments, emails and phone calls. Just the learning from those conversations are a few blog posts. More importantly, I have learnt a lot about you. There are many bonds I have built. I really appreciate the relationships and memories.

Sharing experience, before your first blog

For those of you on the cusp of that very first blog, I understand the fear of the trolls, the unknown and many more knots in your stomach. The reality is that there is an army of souls- nudging you with words of encouragement, leaning in with thoughtful commentary that will expand your horizons and sharing with you their most precious - time.

If my experience is anything to go by, I am inspired to share - Just do it. When you take that plunge, I look forward to reading your first blog. Just let me know.

Ed: This post is reproduced with the full consent of the author. I'd like to thank  Karthik for his kindness in allowing me to share it here.

Why we shouldn’t pay to listen to gurus

By Neil Patrick

Yes I know what the title of my blog is.

I am not an expert, thought leader, influencer, innovator, disrupter or hacker. I am just a bloke in Cardiff with a blog where I record and share my thoughts about the world of work and business.

Understandably though, a few folk have challenged me because of the title of this blog and my Twitter handle. I’m okay with that. And my answer is this:

Richard Branson isn’t a Virgin. Probably.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about why I think paying to hear a few minutes of anyone's opinions and ideas is not something they should charge for or we should pay for.

Yet this idea has spawned a huge industry which at least at the edges has become devoid of value.

It was my mailbox which led me to write this post. In my emails today was yet another “invitation”. It was a big local business event being advertised with numerous “expert” speakers who in exchange for some of my money would apparently inspire, inform and motivate me to become a success. By attending, I could be transformed!


Now I am the first to admit I don’t know everything. I never did and never will. And the experience, ideas and knowledge of others is something I place great value on. So I network widely AND closely. I read a great deal. I write almost as much. I consume quite a few TEDx talks. I receive and try to answer numerous emails and messages every day. I have often very long discussions with people all around the world via Skype. I get involved in LinkedIn discussions. I try and help others in any way I can.

Hopefully we all benefit. If someone wants my opinion on something, they can have it. For free.

I don’t work for anyone for free. But if you want a few minutes of my time or even a couple of hours and I think I can help, I will. You’re more than welcome. No charge.

I often do talks at business schools, forums and conferences. And these are nearly always completely unpaid. It’s my investment in my profile and reputation not my cashcow.

Yet I believe that a 30 minute chat with someone delivers more value to us both than if we listen to each other’s conference spiels. Whilst any one of us can get insight and inspiration from learning about someone else’s experience, I think it is fairly unlikely we will get it from a business conference speech.

Here in the UK, we have just finished the pains of the political party conference season. During this, I watched David Cameron deliver his speech to the Conservative party conference, to rapturous applause.

Depending on your politics, and media preferences, Dave’s speech was either a triumph or a catastrophe. His carefully scripted words may have thrilled or appalled you.

But they almost certainly didn’t transform you or your future. They didn’t make you a better person than you were before you heard his speech. He didn’t learn anything about you and you learned little more about him. Neither of you increased your goodwill towards each other.

Conference speeches are an extension of the cult of personality which is why politicians love them and take them so seriously.

Critically they are one way communication. The speaker speaks and the audience listens – if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, they heckle. If you are very unlucky, they may as the HR boss of Air France discovered this week, rip the shirt from your back.

But rarely does the communication of valuable know-how happen via the medium of a conference speech.

This is understandable because as any smart person in business knows, it’s more or less impossible to share valuable ideas in depth with any audience, unless that audience shares a common set of problems and the communication vehicle is a two way dialogue.

Unless the speaker knows exactly what your problems are and exactly how they can be solved, it is frankly impossible and unrealistic for anything of true value to every member of the audience to be communicated.

And the bigger and more diverse a conference audience is, the more likely it is that this communication breakdown will occur.

You simply cannot communicate transformations for people through the vehicle of a conference speech. Because you cannot possibly know what each person’s unique needs really are.

This is why I will continue to network closely. Continue to have meaningful conversations with people. Continue to try and help people any way I can. And continue to engage with people with no money changing hands.

And it’s why I will not be buying a ticket for this conference or probably any other soon.

I have more important people to spend my time with. Like you.

Is social media a bubble and what does that mean for us?

By Neil Patrick

I love social media. But I’m worried it's becoming a bubble. Over the last couple of years, it’s been displaying some typical features of bubble-like behaviour.

We’re witnessing endless expansion of the main platforms. A rush of investor cash into ‘the next Facebook’. Irrational IPO valuations. A sense that we must get in or miss out. The rise of exploiters and gamification. Rising quantity but falling quality of content. And an ever rising number of scammers, fakers and fraudsters.

Gary Sharpe posted his take on this phenomenon the other day:

The evils of the social media scene have made the networks places of corruption, vice and crime. The levels of fraud, returns-on-incompetence, digital de-reputation, self-servicing, rip offs, anti-knowledge, time wasting, money-down-the-draining, preying on the weak/naive/desperate, copy-cats, liars, cheats and ill-informers has reached epic proportions.

Gary never minces his words!

I track stock market sentiments about social media platforms and there’s some definite nervousness showing especially around Twitter:

Only one platform, Facebook has managed to deliver the sort of revenue growth that investors expect to see. All the other platforms are struggling to meet this key objective.

Another of my respected online friends, Jesse Colombo, Forbes columnist, analyst, and bubble expert had this to say about LinkedIn way back in 2012: 

The general public, in my view, still has irrationally high hopes for the commercial success of social media companies and LinkedIn, one of the last vestiges of the social media dream, is expected by many to carry the torch for the sector going forward. These irrationally high hopes can certainly be seen in LinkedIn's astronomical 1,000 P/E ratio (source), which is far too rich even when taking into consideration the company's healthy expected 5-yearearnings growth rate of 64.69%. Richly-valued growth stocks, such as LinkedIn, have a strong tendency of plunging if there is even a slight disappointment in revenue and earnings growth.

Jesse’s cautiousness about Linkedin has proved to be well founded. Just look at the stock value since he wrote this in 2012:

Now I am assuming that you are neither an investor, nor a shareholder in social media.

But you are probably a user.

And if your use of social media has any sort of connection to your business or career this stuff matters.

So this post is about my take on what I see ahead and what we as users should do about it to protect our vested interests.

The outlook

First I see some consolidation ahead as undercapitalised platforms get acquired by others who see potential synergies arising from such acquisitions. The struggling share valuations make such acquisitions more and more likely. The worst case scenario is an event triggering total collapse of investor confidence in the sector. If you think that’s unlikely, think Lehman Brothers.

The implications

Weak revenue and profit growth is the principal reason for growing investor disillusionment with social media firms. This means that we can fully expect to see a steady rise in things we as users mostly don’t like – limited free access, more paid-for elements, more demands for personal data to access content and apps, more intrusive advertising, higher quantities of junk content.

More intrusive data capture

All data has value. And when you're a social media platform owner you have bucketloads of it. Better still you acquire it more or less for free. And you can secure pretty much unlimited rights over what you do with it - provided you describe these rights within a long and legally dense set of user terms and conditions which no-one ever reads, yet still clicks the “I agree” button.

More noise

We are already at saturation point. The sheer volume of content pumped daily into my social media channels is completely beyond my capacity to consume any but a truly tiny fraction of it. All our capacities to consume media are finite. But the supply is rising exponentially. The only possible mathematical outcome is a continual fall in the overall level of media consumption as a share of what’s produced. In other words, if you produce online content, you can only expect your overall consumption levels to fall in future.

What to do about it

So against this backdrop, there seem to me to be several sensible actions to take if any of your career or business interests are connected with social media:

Build real communities that share your beliefs

Having a million Facebook likes, a hundred thousand Twitter followers and 10,000 Linkedin connections, is going to become less and less valuable, unless they are a truly connected audience that has active goodwill towards you.

Earn your goodwill by being kind to your online friends

Goodwill isn’t created by people being so amazed at your profile stats, that they are wowed into following or liking you. Goodwill is created by showing people you care about them.

Focus on quality over quantity

The exponential growth of content and the finite capacity of people to consume it, means that content quality will become increasingly important.

Build trust

We don’t create trust by slick presentation, or shouting about how great we are, or bludgeoning people into submission with sales messages. We create trust by our actions that show we care about the people we are connected with. And by being willing to help them, whilst asking for nothing in return.

Own your own media

Social media platform owners have all recognised that crowdsourced content is a fabulous (free) source of assets for their businesses. By putting our work onto Facebook or Linkedin, we are surrendering our ownership of that media and placing our fate in their hands. And if you have any sort of online content, it’s essential that you own its domain. In other words “Don’t build your house on rented land.”

I’m not saying don’t post on Linkedin or Facebook, I’m just saying that if that’s all you do you cannot realistically expect to see value growth from these activities in future. The only sensible decision is not to have all your eggs in someone else’s basket(s).

Expect change - permanently

It’s easy to forget that social media has already had a string of casualties in its brief period of existence. Remember MySpace? Friends Reunited?

I believe that social media platforms have lifecycles. But because the pace of tech change is now so rapid and mature platforms so slow to change (Facebook is apparently working on introducing a ‘major innovation’ - a dislike button), I think there will be more casualties sooner than we might think.

When we try and predict the future, we are almost certain to be wrong. But I hope these observations are at least helpful in framing your own expectations and actions in the coming months and years.

I would love to hear your reactions to these forecasts!

The Perils of Facebookisation

My good friend Dr Gary Sharpe at Blue Dog Scientific coined a term the other day in a conversation with me.

It was “Facebookisation”.

He didn’t need to explain what he meant. It’s the spread of trivial, egotistical, self-obsessive social media content creeping out of Facebook and into other and often mainstream media.

It’s the idea that we are all celebrities and should try and emulate them.

Except, most celebrities are hardly good role models at least in social media.

At first, I gave it little thought. It was a nice term though and I mentally filed it away for future use.

Then this morning I saw a Huffington Post newsfeed that Michelle Mone, new Tory peer, successful entrepreneur and founder of Ultimo had recieved a Twitter backlash for "bragging" that she’d been given a ministerial car and driver whilst on an assignment in connection with her unpaid work for the government. (she’s working pro bono on the DWP’s work on stimulating entrepreneurialism).

Apparently, Michelle or more likely her media team, quickly took the tweet down and tweeted this in her defence:

At a time when Jeremy Corbyn’s authentic voice and humble, consultative, non-ego-centric approach is drawing millions of supporters especially amongst the young, we have to question whether the “Look how rich and successful I am” approach to personal branding is really valid in the 21st century.

I suspect this approach just inflames the rage of those who rightly or wrongly feel that ‘the system’ has dumped them on the scrap heap. Does presenting ourselves and showing people how wealthy and successful we are really enable them to achieve amazing things with their own lives?

I'd argue it does not because the faulty premise is that all any of us need to succeed is motivation. And because that is free, we can all access it from within ourselves.

But the real barriers to success are not insufficient motivation. They are things like education, access to resources, contacts, creativity, innovation and know how. Without these things, no amount of self-belief and aspiration will deliver success.

The other key requirement is personal credibility.

Humility, empathy and modesty are in my opinion at the heart of personal credibility. Bragging, narcissism and displays of wealth, influence and success are not.

Even if they are presented with a big grin and 'motivational' message.

Why this blog sucks…without you!

By Neil Patrick

I am writing this post three years after starting this blog in September 2012.

In conjunction with Twitter, it has connected me with countless amazing people around the world. Even though I have never met most of you face to face, many of you have become friends, collaborators and even clients.

Thank you all for your support, encouragement, generosity, contributions, ideas, criticisms, and kindness. Without this, I would have given up long ago.

Anniversaries are the natural time when we reflect on what has passed and what lies ahead. I had absolutely no idea what would happen when I started this blog. I just knew the world of work was transforming so fast that many people were at risk of having their careers and later lives wrecked while they were busily going about their jobs. And untangling what was going on was both a mystery and a fascination for me. But most of all I wanted to try to do my bit to help people avoid these dangers.

As the daily traffic here grows to over a thousand hits a day I would tentatively venture to say that this blog has been a minor success.

But it still sucks quite a bit. And one reason is that I have failed to get enough of you to share your views.

Every day when I go to the comments to moderate them, I usually find the same junk. Here are a few examples:

So what? It’s just spam after all. And the appalling grammar is quite hilarious - so thank you for amusing me so much spam people! But I know that some very good blogs have closed down because of this deluge. My filters thankfully block most of it for me. And what’s left I just delete when I have finished laughing my head off.

But as I have explored more and more aspects of the 21st century world of work, the more I learn, the less I realize I know.

I am also acutely aware that many people who read this blog know far more about some of these topics than I do. At the very least, we all have experiences which would illustrate or refute the views I record here. None of us can know everything.

So I have a humble plea. Please help me make it better.

When I read other writers’ posts I often find the comments even more interesting and informative than the original article. And I want that to be the case here too.

I am not after your money. Just your minds!

I think blogs should be catalysts for debate, not soapboxes.

I want this blog to become a community, not my personal podium. Please comment and tell me what you think. I am just as happy to be contradicted or proved wrong as applauded.

There is no advertising on this blog and I make no money from it. And I want it to stay that way.

So please get involved and help me make this blog a better place for all of us.

Thank you.

Is your career a liability in disguise?

By Neil Patrick

This week, the shocking revelations about Volkswagen's emission testing fraud and the consequent collapse of its share price prompted me to think about balance sheets. Not corporate ones, but career ones.

We all have a career balance sheet. Do you really know the condition of yours?

Initial estimates suggest that Volkswagen could be liable for around $18bn of fines from its emission test cheating. Investor sentiment has tanked and around $30bn was wiped off its share price value within two days of the scandal becoming public knowledge.

In an instant, Volkswagen's balance sheet has been trashed. The reputation of perhaps one of the most trusted brands in the world lies in tatters. Yet I'd argue that Volkswagen could have seen this coming, they were just not paying enough attention to things that accountants never measure or show on a balance sheet. Things like culture, values and reputation.

I know that many people glaze over when accountancy language is used, but stick with me. This post isn’t about accountancy. It’s about something much more important to most of us. Our careers.

Most of us think about our jobs and finances from a profit and loss perspective. In other words, if our income exceeds our outgoings, we feel like we are doing well. And vice versa.

We rarely think about the balance sheets of our careers. That is, our career assets and liabilities.

But for 21st century career survival, a balance sheet perspective is now vital.

So what has changed?

In short everything. What the VW story illustrates is how even the most successful organisations can group think their way into catastrophe. The financial collapse of 2008 was the same situation. The dot-com bust of 1997-2000 was too.

These collapses were all based on fundamentally flawed balance sheets. Put another way, the assets were overvalued and the liabilities were undervalued.

Individuals are no different. But employers rarely consider their employees to be true assets. The hard truth is they are viewed as a cost from which employers seek to extract the most value they can. And I am sure I am not the only one who frowns with suspicion every time I hear a CEO say ‘Our employees are our most valuable asset’.

So employers typically adopt a profit and loss perspective when they think about their people. Investments in their people assets are rarely made for the long-term benefit of the individual, they are made with a view to the short term ROI for the organisation. In other words the things which impact their profit and loss not their balance sheet.

This was more or less fine in the 20th century, when we could reasonably expect to have a long and rewarding career with perhaps just two or three employers over the course of a 40 year career. But as average job tenure continues to fall, as skills become redundant ever faster and as individuals leverage increasingly tight incomes through borrowing, the nature of critical career assets has fundamentally changed.

What is a career balance sheet?

Of course it is statement of your career assets minus your liabilities. And the remaining balance is what I call career equity.

We cannot assign strict monetary valuations to these things, so accountants will doubtless lose interest at this point. But we can weigh up the balance between our assets and liabilities. And make a fair judgement about whether they are rising or falling.

These assets and liabilities are quite different to what most people imagine

Because they think about us from a profit and loss viewpoint, our employers encourage us to do the same. This can be fatal. See where the group think risk is?

Conventional thinking dictates we think of our career assets as things like skills, qualifications, experience, salary level. But they also include our creativity, our ability to adapt, our leadership skills, our communication skills, our professional network, our reputation, the amount of goodwill our network has towards us.

There’s a ton of stuff which is immensely valuable to us individually but which our employers will view at best as of secondary importance to us getting our jobs done well.

Conventional ideas about liabilities would cite things like poor employer references, short job tenure, periods of unemployment, haphazard career moves. In the 21st century, career liabilities include student debt, health problems, limited professional networks, obsolete skills, immobility, limited digital know how.

Employers do not measure or manage these things for us

They don’t. Because they see little immediate value to themselves in them. The paradox is that getting an outstanding appraisal, being promoted, earning big bonuses actually encourages an illusionary perception that we are doing well. We might be if we take a purely profit and loss view. But if we take a balance sheet view we almost certainly are not. If all our time and energies are directed at pushing things up on our career P&L, then we are doing very little to directly invest in our career balance sheet. And that’s the bit that matters to us most. A weak balance sheet or one which measures the wrong things makes us vulnerable.

So it’s quite possible to have a booming career P&L and a weakening balance sheet. And a weak balance sheet can be fatal whether it’s an investment, a corporation or our career. And because the performance measures and rewards that employers typically use encourage more of the same behaviours, we can find ourselves sleepwalking into career balance sheet erosion or even career bankruptcy.

As long as employers persist with a short term P&L perspective on employee value, employees run the risk of their career balance sheets being weakened.

Just remember this. It’s almost guaranteed that your employer doesn’t see you as an asset (despite their nice words to the contrary). They see you as a cost.

Provided your value to them exceeds your cost, generally, they will be happy and reward you. But those rewards mostly appear on your P&L, not your balance sheet.

If you really want to grow your career balance sheet instead of your P&L, it’s time to think very differently and that's probably not in the way your employer wants.

Could a robot do your job?

The endless rise of tech is one of what I call the “six pillars of job destruction”. The others are globalization, demographics, monetary and fiscal policy, educational lag and digital communications.

These subjects have been central to this blog for the last three years. And at times, it felt like I was a voice in the wilderness.

So imagine my delight last night when none other than the BBC’s prestigious programme Panorama, broadcast a 30 minute prime time documentary titled “Could a Robot Do My Job?”

Better still, a couple of my primary research sources, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT and the authors of “The Second Machine Age” were the star guests.

The programme set out exactly how and why technology is killing jobs. It also illustrated how technology creates new jobs.

But here’s the rub. The jobs created by tech are totally different to the ones destroyed by it. Which means those who lose their jobs as a result of technology are largely unable to switch.

That’s not the most critical point though. That’s the fact that the pace of technological advance is endlessly accelerating. The programme explained quite clearly how the pace of technological advances in the last five years has astonished even those who work in technology. In case you want to know why, it’s because human learning is linear (1,2,3,4,5 etc), whereas computer tech advances exponentially (2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc.)

If as individuals we are struggling to keep up, then pause for a moment to consider the pace at which our educational systems change. I know from my time in the academic world that our educational institutions evolve very slowly. The smallest time unit of educational schedule planning is a year. Courses are designed and implemented over 2-3 year time frames. Core texts are often over 5 years old.

Critically, this is why humans will lose the race. Worse, there are few feasible solutions available. There is a new breed of young tech entrepreneurs and specialists (mostly in their late teens and twenties) and these young people will likely ride these waves of disruption with ease. But for just about everyone else, the worst is yet to come…

For what it is worth, my take on this is that the critical career assets we can acquire are:

  • Clear understanding of how technology is impacting our career field
  • The rapid acquisition of skills which are in keeping with these developments
  • The building of global personal professional networks
  • Positioning ourselves ahead of the change
  • And last but not least, career choices which are most likely to be most resilient to the threat of tech - these are jobs which involve large amounts of non-repetitive tasks, human interaction, creativity and manual dexterity.
None of these will provide complete protection, but they will give your career the best possible change of surviving the tech tsunami.

The dark side of work hard, play hard attitudes

By Neil Patrick

There’s an enduring notion that a “work hard, play hard” culture is a good thing. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard that description bandied around by employers. It’s presented almost as a badge of honour.

But somewhere along the way, a basically positive notion has become corrupted. The idea that we should enjoy work is fine. The idea that we should have great and enjoyable relationships with our colleagues is fine. If we can work and play together, we all benefit.

But there’s a dark side to this because in realty, drinking is the default substitute for play. The dominant forms of social interaction in the west almost universally involve alcohol consumption. Don’t get me wrong. I like a drink. I regularly enjoy a beer and chat with my friends and business contacts.

But as more and more professionals find themselves working harder, the natural compensatory reaction is to play harder. And that often means drinking harder.

When I looked at the available data, a troubling picture emerged. The people that we often place our greatest trust in also have some of the highest rates of alcoholism. I’m talking about doctors, dentists, lawyers, senior executives.

In the UK, doctors are three times more likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver than the general population. Experts are calling for urgent action to tackle the "significant challenge" of rising levels of alcoholism and substance abuse among professionals.

Health professionals have issued calls for the UK government to help the burgeoning mass of professionals who are functioning alcoholics.

Research suggests 15-24% of lawyers will suffer from alcoholism during their careers, while the British Medical Association estimates that one in 15 healthcare professionals will develop an addiction problem.

If you ask the man in the street what an alcoholic is, they'll generally say a down and out, but 96% of people with addictions are employed and working most of the time.

Within my own circles, I have professional friends who have developed liver cirrhosis from alcohol abuse. And it’s not funny. They have become like ghosts of the people they used to be. Frankly they have become not just unemployable, but more or less incapable of doing any sort of work.

Had this health damage been caused by hazardous physical working environments, their employers would have been sued. I'd argue that these people are victims of culturally hazardous working environments. Critically, I know that their excessive drinking wasn’t caused by their joie de vivre; it was mostly a reaction to stress at work and drinking as a routine part of their work.

It’s high time employers think long and hard about what they really mean when they brag about their work hard, play hard culture.

Why social selling is not advertising

By Neil Patrick

I have a slide which I use in almost every social media presentation I give. It’s this:

I am looking forward to the day that I can ditch this from my slide deck. That’s the day when everyone has learned that social media isn’t a sales platform.

But I fear that this slide is going to remain in use for a long time to come.

I’m not about to say that social media is a waste of our time and money. It’s not. Far from it. It just should never be used to try and sell people things. It’s a great way to build goodwill, to share information, to get noticed, to have our say and to build communities.

Why isn’t that enough guys?

I get huge value from social media. Because of it, I make great and valuable connections with amazing people all over the world. These wonderful people help me out on a daily basis. And I try to do my bit to help them out in return. Am I going to abuse those relationships by telling them I’ve got a great offer for them? Hell no. I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick.

It helps me get my voice heard. It saves me a shedload of money on marketing. Google adwords at £1.80 a click? No thanks.

Social media keeps me up to date on who is talking about things I’m interested in. It allows me to easily follow the thoughts and ideas of people I look up to. It allows people to connect with me and tell me what they think.

Almost every day social media brings me astonishing opportunities that I’d never have if all I did was use it to try and flog stuff to people.

Social media gets me clients and business all the time. But that's not because I advertise, it's because they come to like and trust me. They choose if and when they want to do business with me. I don't presume that they will want to. Or pretend that I can second guess when they will want to.

That’s a pretty amazing heap of valuable benefits I think. Am I going to chuck it all away by naff advertising to people? NO WAY.

So please sales people please stop abusing the goodwill of the people you want to be your friends online.

'Nuff said.

Why you will fail to have a great career (Part 2)

By Neil Patrick

My earlier post with this title got a lot of hits when I tweeted it the other day.

A few days ago I also set out some thoughts here on why it’s a myth that the young are technologically superior to their parents. And I mentioned the H word, “hipsters”. Deliberately actually, as at the time I was reading the pre-publication version of a new book by my friend and author George Verdolaga.

George has insightfully and engagingly set out how our society creates two basic types of attitudes and behaviours. George has labelled these groups “Mavericks” and “Hipsters”.

I enjoyed the book so much that I volunteered to write about it on this blog to help George reach more people who might benefit from, or be interested in it. It’s called “The Maverick Effect – How to be a daring innovator and effective change maker”.

My wife read it also and despite being a very different personality to myself she loved it too!

If you’d like to obtain a copy, it’s available now at Amazon here.

The book was written for anyone who has ever felt excluded, discounted, discriminated against, ridiculed, or bullied.

Within its covers is an explanation of so many aspects of society, attitudes and behaviours that I think it will be of interest to a very wide audience. Moreover it provides valuable help for anyone struggling to overcome prejudice, discrimination or alienation.

More than that, if you are or know someone who is experiencing such agonies, the book actually describes how this state of affairs can be turned into a catalyst for such people to not just overcome these traumas, but to achieve really amazing things with their lives.

After I’d read it, I was delighted to interview George about the book and the ideas within it. Here’s the transcript.

NP: So George, what’s The Maverick Effect basically about?

GV: It’s a book that’s designed to teach people how to develop the confidence necessary to be a winner in life and at work

NP: How did you come to write the book?

GV: I decided to write it when I finally came to realize that the challenges that I was going through were not designed to keep me down but to give me the strength & resilience to overcome life’s obstacles and achieve whatever I’d set out to do. And then when I saw the earlier lives of famous people (which I’d written about it my book) they all went through the same kind of difficulties I did and that’s precisely what enabled them to achieve the level of success that they attained. They had the hunger for success and that’s really the key differentiator between people who are successful and people who aren’t.

NP: How can we tell if we are a maverick or a hipster?

You’re a hipster if you’re careful not to rock the boat and like to just go with the flow. Popularity and being on-trend is important to you. Mavericks on the other hand tend to be disliked or misunderstood and they sometimes have these ideas that are considered “strange” or “totally out there”. They don’t have a compelling urge to be followers. They have strong personalities that may turn people off initially but at the same time they do have a magnetism that draws others to them, even if it may be for the wrong reasons, mostly because they’re passionate about their ideas no matter how radical these may be. You’re a maverick if you’re not afraid of rejection or scorn and don’t mind being regarded as an outsider. Mavericks can be hard-headed and stubborn but they also know with absolute certainty that one day they’ll be proven right.

NP: Is our category pre-determined by personality and genes, or are we free to choose it?

GV: People definitely have a natural personality but that can be influenced by upbringing and life experiences. In other words, we may each have a natural disposition but that can be tempered by what we learn and what we see around us. So choice plays a big part in our life outcomes. It’s not just about personality, in other words.

NP: Do you have a sense of what proportion of people fit might into each category? Are there differences by age, location, gender etc?

GV: I would say that between 90% - 95% of the population are hipsters that just choose to go with the flow and not disrupt the status quo and 5% - 10% of the general population are visionaries that lead the other 90% - 95% who are only too willing to follow them. There is no difference between age, location or gender as Mavericks tend to come from different parts of the world.

NP: How does this phenomenon manifest in the workplace?

GV: Most people tend to fall in line and go hipster. The few that don’t and become outspoken get quickly labelled as trouble-makers. Some of them are in fact misfits but a few really are mavericks. They’re meant to either rise up the company ladder or most likely start their own companies. Mavericks are usually outspoken and don’t follow rules very well as they like to make up their own. Companies are usually hidebound places that are tough to change from within so mavericks either have to leave or learn how to dance (so to speak) until they eventually get their way.

That’s why in my book, I show mavericks how to walk two worlds, the one they see in their heads (the future) and the one they have to currently live in. For mavericks to really influence the world and get their way, they have to win the respect and admiration of the hipsters (who will end up joining their cause and eventually promoting them so they can make that “I- found-them-first” boast) so they have to be just a little bit subversive enough to be sexy (ex. think jazz or rock and roll when these were new and readily embraced by teenagers wanting to rebel against their parents’ tastes) enough to draw attention to themselves but also mainstream enough to be able to attract a followership. It’s a fine line that one has to walk.

NP: Your argument is that mavericks eventually change the world, but that hipsters perpetuate the status quo is convincing. Yet doesn’t this imply that the greatest short term rewards are from running with the pack?

GV: Yes, you’ll definitely be rewarded in the short term by running with the pack but you’ll be forever invisible. Geniuses aren’t discovered because they did their best to blend in and not rock the boat. They become celebrated because they dared to challenge existing truths (ex. ‘the world is not flat - it’s round’) or dominant groups. You can certainly escape being bullied or ridiculed by shape-shifting to fit in. But you’ll most likely be average the rest of your life. Being a powerful and influential maverick requires hard training, much like military boot camp. If you don’t pay the price and go thru this tough apprenticeship, then your brilliance won’t shine through. You’ll be like a raw diamond… nothing but pure undeveloped potential.

NP: What advice about jobs and work choices would you give to A) mavericks and B) hipsters?

GV: Mavericks would make great inventors, pioneers, explorers, scientists, engineers and inventors. They like to create things from scratch and go to uncharted territories. Hipsters would make great museum curators, newspaper reporters, TV news anchors, editors, film critics, trend forecasters, salespeople and marketers. They like to look at other people’s work and then deconstruct, critique or promote this.

NP: You mention that businesses which are most successful are genuinely different. But doesn’t this also mean that they have a higher failure risk simply because they are in uncharted waters?

GV: Businesses that are innovative are able to minimize their failure rate by testing products before they launch these to market. If companies don’t test and simply launch new products they will experience failure more often that’s for sure. But you don’t have to be a pioneering company to experience failure. You can be a copycat business and still fail. Being first has nothing to do with failing. Not testing your product or service – and not being attuned to what your target market wants – has more to do with failure than being first to market or simply being different. People like different. But there’s a way to do different that ensures success.

NP: Companies want to retain and grow their talent; how can your ideas help them do this?

GV: Feedback is important. I think that few people can work effectively in a vacuum. Training is also important. When the economy (or a company) is in a downturn this is usually the first thing (training) that gets thrown out the window. Bringing in outside speakers/trainers who can see the forest for the trees is often a great idea for bringing fresh ideas into a company that may be getting stale or too set in their ways. And leadership training implies not following the herd but leading it. So when everyone else is cutting their training budgets and slashing costs, you’re doing the opposite and investing more and more in your people in order to build loyalty.

NP: Thank you George! I’d just like to add that the book is a really great and easy read. And I know from experience that writing plainly is much, much harder than it sounds!

GV: Thank you Neil, it’s much easier when you are doing something you love.

I’d like to thank George for providing me with the advance copy of the book and for taking the time to answer my questions about it. Totally recommended reading!


If you wish, you can connect with George here:

Website : www.georgeverdolaga.com
Linkedin: https://ca.linkedin.com/pub/george-verdolaga/1/956/582
Twitter: https://twitter.com/georgeverdolaga

George Verdolaga is a prolific author and speaker. His two biggest passions are teaching and helping people to get out of their own way so that they can reach their personal, career, or business objectives as quickly and painlessly as possible.

George was the president of the Westdrive Educational Foundation (WEFI) and served as the administrator and program advisor for both the elementary and pre-school departments for ten years. He continued his involvement in education by volunteering as a grade three Teacher at the parish religious education program (PREP) of St. Andrew’s Parish in Vancouver’s East Side community for ten years, with his wife Maita. Both of them are also active members in their local church.

In 1999, George established Flowform Design Group, a residential interior design company. When the recession of 2008 hit the global economy, he saw many people get laid off and attempt to get back on their feet by blanketing the entire city with their resumes and receiving no callbacks. As a result, George created the ‘Sitting Pretty’ Home Study Course, based on his experience of successfully finding work in places like Manila, Milan, New York, and Vancouver in as little as eleven days by talking directly to decision-makers who had the power to hire him on the spot.

After the 2008 recession, many twenty- to thirty-year company veterans found themselves out of work and unable to land a new job. As a result, George wrote The Contractor Lifestyle to show careerists how they can have jobs for life by adopting an entrepreneurial mindset while they work for other people. More recently, he created The Job Farmer where he shares the most effective way to find work—or get business clients—by “farming” rather than “hunting”. George wrote his third book, The Maverick Effect, to show potential innovators and change-makers that their earlier hardships prepare them for the leadership role that they will assume later on in life.

George has been president of various business associations and has sat on the boards of several non-profit boards including the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF). He currently serves as a mentor at the Multicultural Helping House Society and AIESEC UBC which is an international business organization for university students.