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Tag: what does a psychologist do

Languishing? Hire a psychologist

What to expect from your psychologist

If you make an appointment to see me, I am going to ask you the toughest questions of all time.  And I am not going to stop until you either run away, or, you tell me this

  • Which ring is you hat in?
  • Who is the critical mass of your believers?

The feisty & the “out-of-it”

In my work as a “work & organizational psychologist”, I work with basically two groups of people.

The feisty & decisive

The first group are feisty, decisive people who have a clear sense of where they’ve thrown their hat. They know what they are about and what they stand for.

People like their energy and gather around them. My job, in the busyness of it all, is to slow them down and get them to look after the critical mass of people around them – not all the time and not every day – but just from time to time.

The hatless, the ringless, the lost

The second group in the world are those who don’t know what they have done with their hat. They might have torn it up and put a little in several rings. They might have forgotten where they left it.

The hatless often masquerade as organized people. In fact, we may recognize them precisely because they accuse the feisty types of leaving their hats lying around!

The truth is they lost their own hat a long time back and they can’t commit to any ring until they remember where they left it! As Paolo Coelho said on Twitter the other day ~ Distrust people who like everything. Distrust people who like nothing.   Particularly distrust people who are indifferent to everything.

Their lives have become sad. They don’t trust themselves to choose a ring and throw in their hat. So no one trusts them. And because no one trusts them, they lose more faith in themselves.  If they know where they left their hat, they will not say.  They feel ashamed.

Trusting oneself, trusting others and being trusted, all three feed each other in a spiral that moves up and down quite quickly.

Tough-minded psychologists help you find your hat!

Tough words? Yes!  When we let people drift, we are not doing them any favours. This is where your tough-minded psychologist comes in.

We begin with you pitching up being prepared to work.  You signal your intent by paying. Nothing like some good money to focus your mind.

Then we get down to work.

Well what are you prepared to commit to? I want to see it.

I am your audience of 1 who won’t let you get away with 2nd best.

And that sets off a positive process. Fortunately, the whole process works as a spiral and it feeds off itself. Once you get going, you won’t need me for a long while.

You do it, not me

But I can’t do it for you. If I do it, you still haven’t committed to anything.  Until your hat, with your name on it, is in the ring for everyone to see, things won’t work for you.

I am your coach and cheer leader

My job is to get you going. To be your cheerleader as you pick a ring that you can cope with. To be there the first time you try. To celebrate with you and to cry with you. Just at the start.

We aren’t feisty or uncommitted in perpetuity

The two groups – the feisty and the uncommitted – don’t have permanent membership. If you have been in either too long, you probably need to get hold of your psychologist.

Just don’t choose a softy. Don’t chose someone who is themselves uncommitted to anything in particular.

Look for 100% commitment from your psychologist

The first thing you look for is whether the psychologist has thrown their hat in your ring. Are they behind you 100%?

If not, don’t waste a penny!  If their hat is not in your ring, nothing they do or say will work. That’s how it goes.

Start watching the hats and the rings. Be upfront and the world is upfront with you.

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You really must be in a positive mood to get the job of your dreams

Downtown Core, Singapore's business centre.
Image via Wikipedia

I am ever so grateful to Daryl Tay who blogged his successful search for a social media job in Singapore.

Now Singapore is a prosperous place.  Daryl has a good degree.   And he is an adventurous outgoing guy who instigated Social Media Breakfast while he was an under-grad.

But Social Media is new industry and Social Media firms aren’t queuing up at University Career Days looking for bright-eyed bushy-tailed students to gopher for them on a two-year graduate program.

So Daryl had to make his own job and I think the contrast between his positive attitude and the unfamiliarity of his task really put into perspective my job as a career coach, and indeed, what you must demand of your career coach.

What you want from your career coach

Your career coach’s job is to get you into a positive frame of mind.

If you are feeling bruised and sore, you cannot think even think straight. You certainly cannot be sufficiently creative to find the job of your dreams in the hurly-burly and confusion in the marketplace.

What Daryl brought home to me, is that it is not good enough for me to tell you the theory. You probably know the theory at least intuitively.

I must get you into a good mood so you can search creatively.

Read on to see if I am on the right track

Mid 2009, Singapore

Daryl Tay, social media evangelist blogged his job search that led to Blue Interactive in Singapore.  Success!  A good agency, new challenges, freedom to blog!  The perfect first job for a newly-minted graduate.

Daryl puts his success down to the generosity of the social media world.  It is a generous world for the most part.  He passed on information about a job to an acquaintance, who reciprocated in due course, without being asked.  He followed up her lead, which led in turn, not to a job, but to ten more “names”.  He followed those up, and got 3-4 interviews, one of which was with Blue.

That’s pretty good by all accounts. I saw figures somewhere that in the US you should budget for 3-4 “qualified leads” from 100 approaches.  So Daryl did 10x better than average.   A 1000% gain!  Worth paying attention to.

What led to Daryl’s success?

  1. The generous ethos of the social media world.
  2. Singapore is relatively prosperous.
  3. Singaporeans are unusually punctilious in their business dealings. They don’t waste each others time.
  4. Daryl is well known in social media circles as he is an established blogger and hosts Singapore’s Social Media Breakast.
  5. Daryl took a degree in marketing including a semester in Canada.
  6. Daryl is a nice guy.

Yes, all these are true. What is also true is that Daryl did not mind having to make his own job. Nor was he offended by the people who did not respond to his approach. Nor did he seem particularly bothered by interviews that did not lead to jobs.

Has Daryl got a thick skin? I don’t think so. He has always seemed like a sensitive, responsive person to me.

The point is he was in positive frame of mind. So, his mind went automatically to two thoughts:

  1. What could he create?
  2. What worked well and what should he do more of?

Such simple questions but try thinking that way when you are in a negative mood! It is really hard!

Working with a career coach

By the time people come to see me as a work & organizational psychologist, otherwise known as a career coach, they are pretty fed up. The job market is not what they thought and they want me to make it responsive. They want me just to make the bad stuff go away!

The general pattern of career coaching is based on career guidance of old. It has changed a little, but not enough.

We typically go through four steps.

  1. With tests or other means, we figure out who you are.
  2. We match you to opportunities in the world.
  3. We prepare you for interviews.
  4. We celebrate or commiserate with the results.

Straightforward – yes, but wrong.

Positive career coaching

While you are in a bad mood, you see all the problems.  It is nothing to do with being optimistic or pessimistic.  It is a natural reaction and the recalcitrance of the world is very real to you at that point.   So our job is to get you back into a good mood.  Then you will do the rest yourself!

  1. We have to get you thinking about what you do well (most services do that, but it is not enough)
  2. We have to get you exploring the work world and identifying 10 companies whom you think are interesting.
  3. You need to know enough about these companies to approach them.
  4. You need to approach them (preferably working down the list from 6 to 10 so you can make your mistakes on the second half of the list).
  5. It helps to keep your coach on sides to discuss the results. You will decipher the feedback quicker and they’ll help you soak up any disappointment.
  6. Go after your top 5 companies with gusto!

That’s pretty much what Daryl did, but without the recovery from a bad mood at the beginning.

Does positive career coaching work?

I’ve often tried to get people to list these 10 jobs and predictably, they do it when they are in a good mood and they won’t do it when they are in a bad mood.

In a bad mood, they just want to pick up the paper, or go on the internet, and see a list of suitable jobs.

Your coach’s job, my job, is to get you back into a sufficiently positive frame of mind so that you list those 10 companies and work out what you can do with them.

After that you will approach them with a spring in your step, laughter in your voice, and mental agility that will delight even you!

It is not easy.   After all that is what you pay us for.   To get you back into a positive frame of mind.   When you are focusing again on what does work, it all clicks together and suddenly everything happens for you.

This is not positive thinking or wishful thinking, I might add. It is painstaking work listing and acting on what works until the world seems to be full of opportunity again.

To Daryl

So well done Daryl, and thanks.  I knew all this but reading your story brought home to me that it is not career coaching that is important.

It is focusing our minds on what works, regaining the positive mood, and sticking with you during the search to keep you positive.

Your success brought that home to me.  Well done!  A lot of people will take heart from your initiative.

To everyone else

Make sure your coach delivers. It is their job to put up with your bad mood until your recover your sense of humour!

Pay them well and buy them a good meal when you get the job of your dreams.  You’ll be good company by then. 🙂

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Little known secrets about what a work and organizational psychologist will do for you in a recession

My job is to help you find forward momentum

I’m a psychologist. What this means, in short, is that you come to see me when you feel frustrated and it is my job to help you find a way forward.

Clinical psychology, social workers, lawyers & doctors

For some people getting out of a bad situation is complicated.  Quite often they are in extremely difficult circumstances and they need social workers, doctors, lawyers, etc. to help them solve practical problems.

They may also have lived in difficult circumstances for so long that they no longer recognize easy circumstances.  Helping them unravel their view of life and live an easier life is the work of clinical psychologists.

Work & organizational psychologists

Most people who come to see me are not in a bad situation.  They are at one of the normal turning points in life where they have to make a decision and they do not have sufficient information.  These turning points are often frustrating and scary, but they are essentially about questions like which organization should I join?  Or, how do I improve my status and my income?  Psychologists like me work less like clinical psychologists, who work with what is in your head, more like social workers, doctors and lawyers.  We help you understand and manage the external world, and in particular the world of organizations and work.

Indeed, we are quite often work for organizations rather than individuals and when we do, we are architects of systems.  We design selection systems.  We design disciplinary codes.  We design bonus systems.  HR systems are just formalized ways of making a lot of personal decisions about what we are doing and where we are going.  When we design the systems well, we give people an easy framework to make their own decisions well.  And we also strengthen the organization, by providing a place where we live and work comfortably and easily.

Work & organizational psychologists ask a lot of questions about work & business

To design good systems, we need to know a lot about jobs and business.  Of course, we don’t know as much as the people who run the business and who have worked in it all their lives.  Businesses and technologies change fast too.  So we are less in the business of knowing, and more in the business of asking questions.

Learning about the financial crisis

I started writing this post this morning after I read a post from the redoubtable Alice Cook, who provides a graph showing that financial debt has grown disproportionately to consumer and corporate debt in the UK.  I knew that generally but didn’t have a graph at my finger tips.  So thank you.  I like to have data stored away neatly.

Personal action during the financial crisis

I am amazed, though, that anyone is amazed by these figures.  Like many people, I feel that the managerial classes in the UK have a lot to answer for.  They should have known these figures intimately and acted accordingly.

The trouble is that blaming others is pretty useless as a psychological technique.  Professionals & business leaders may be to blame.  We might be right to hold them in contempt.  And personally, I wouldn’t feel unhappy if they were prosecuted.  But blaming others doesn’t help us feel better, and more importantly, it doesn’t help use get things right.  So I’ll leave that to others.

As a psychologist, what I have to say is this.

Until we are all a lot better informed, we will simply lurch from one crisis to another

Listed below are the bare bones of an information system that I am used to having at my disposal.

  • Trends in our industry
  • Current economic figures supplied monthly by our bank
  • People around me who read the figures
  • Key figures pertaining to our industry
  • Data on databases so that computer savvy people (including youngsters) can play with data and ask questions
  • Key figures that show the strength and resilience of our business
  • Key figures readily available so computer savvy people can play with them and ask questions

It is true I have not seen this information being made freely available to employees since I have arrived in the UK but I’ve lived elsewhere where a key player in the provision of information to people in business has been, ironically, British-listed banks.

If we want to get out of the biggest mess since the great Depression, we are going to have to do something. And to do something, we have to begin.  The first steps I will tell you, being a psychologist, is to ask questions.

Some easy no-cost first steps that individuals and small business owners should take

You have a computer and internet?  So let’s go.  If you haven’t already done it, it’s time to set up your own economic intelligence system.

FIVE steps will do it.  Set up folders on your email, feeds reader, bookmarkers and hard drive,  and a page on your blog.

1. Google Alerts.  Set up Google Alerts for your industry.

I have alerts for UK jobs and UK GDP and use a ‘rule’ to send them straight to my “intelligence” folder in email.  I read them once a week or when I need a break from other tasks.

2.  As you find useful blogs, subscribe in your feeds reader.

I scan these at my leisure and make a point of reading The Economist on Thursday evenings.

3. Bookmark articles you might want to come back to.

One big folder works better than many little ones.  Bookmarks saves you Google-time when you want to re-call something.

4.  Save useful graphs, data and pictures on your hard drive for the presentation you will make later!

5. Blog from time to time to organize your thoughts.

Then make an index of useful posts on a separate page where your readers can find all your writings on the future of your industry and local economy.

So will being economically-savvy help?

Keeping an eye on the economy does not stop other people from being foolish, of course.  And it can also make you feel panicky when you see a trend that no one else seems to care about.

I find that understanding the economy is like knowing the motorway ahead is congested.  I have created choice for myself.  I can keep driving and join the throngs inching along and losing their tempers.  Or I can pull off, and take a longer route through the back roads.

Neither may be a great outcome and it is also possible to put far too much effort into deciding the best alternative.  But I prefer a leisurely drive down the back roads enjoying the country view than boiling with frustration on an ugly motorway.

And I quite happy to leave behind badly run organizations for a business venture that is smaller and more likely to be here tomorrow.

Follow the good money

If you haven’t already done so, begin.  Spend a few hours a week following the economic data.  It gets easier.

And if we all do it, we won’t be routed by unscrupulous managers, at least for a while.

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Weekend fun: 21st century job titles

Traditional loom work by a woman in Konya, Turkey
Image via Wikipedia

Yours sincerely
Jack Maddock
P.I.G

Printed Information Gatekeeper or what we latterly knew as Editor.

Does your job title fit the work you do?

Or does your job title sound as if HR picked it from the Bullshit Job Generator.  Human Data Orchestrator, perhaps?  Lol!

And what title might you suggest for my colleague who is a network engineer (computers) and makes a healthy living connecting shopkeepers and restaurants with London markets, the old fashioned way?  Well, to me he is a supply chain something or other.  I can see it all fits together.

It obviously all fits together but we just don’t have the right vocabulary for jobs like his which are interesting and integrated but I suppose not “functional”, using that word in the theoretical sense.

I’ve been looking around for good job titles.  Here are common ones.

  1. Chief something office – often Chief Inspiration or Happiness Officer
  2. Metaverse Evangelist
  3. Knowledge Concierge
  4. Knowlege Valet (being a concierge in training)
  5. Instigator
  6. Brand Champion

Inpired by the resurgence of Concierge, I looked around for lists of jobs from days gone by.

They are an interesting read if only to find out the origins of British names.   It is quite extraordianary, thought how specific these jobs were.  Jobs today are much broader.

What job title fits what I do?

I’m a work psychologist, sometimes known as an industrial psychologist, or occupational psychologist or organizational psychologist.  Which of these old titles fits my work?

I liked “chapper” on the Scottish list. This poor fellow’s job was to wake up the baker before sunrise!

I hate alarm clocks but putting that quirk aside, hmm, this is what I do for a living!

I alert people to opportunity and get them moving even when they feel like staying put!

I could also be a piecer – the child that fixed broken threads on a loom.  I do a lot of that but not so much for the sake of weaving but as way of alerting people to opportunity.  Fix this thread, then  . . .

How would you describe the work you do?

Does your job title do it for you?  Or do you need a new way of describing your work?

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Work psychology: 2008 AD

Do you know what work psychologists do?

Thirty-one years ago, I decided to study psychology.  And for 28 years, I have practiced as a work psychologist.  Can you imagine my surprise when some readers said this blog was their first encounter with my esteemed trade?  So what do we do?

What do we do all day?

I love being a work psychologist and I think it is important for you to know I go to my ‘office’ every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to the people I will meet during the course of the day.   Most of our lives are spent ‘on the road’.  We usually work at our clients’ factories and offices, and we need strong arms to carry around briefcases laden with confidential papers.  When you see us, we are likely to be taking part in some HR exercise – recruitment, selection, or team-building, say.  When you don’t see us, we will be reconciling paperwork, doing computer work, or talking to senior managers about the direction of the company, and ways to organize, lead, up skill, confront challenges, and look after each other.

Why do clients hire us?

We deal with the pulse of the organization.  Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy their work as much as we do.  There is fascination in what we do, but little mystery.  Our understanding of how organizations work has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 100 years.  The last ten years have been particularly interesting as the limits of old ‘mechanical’ organizations have been reached and we’ve begun to embrace the fluidity and flexibility of the internet.

The psychologist’s role is to bring to the party up-to-date information about the way work practices are changing around the world, hands-on experience of changes in other companies, and deep commitment to supporting you as you think through changes in the immediate and foreseeable future.

What is special about what we do?

Just looking at us work is not sufficient to see the value we add.  You can see us talking to people – lots of people do that!  You see the briefcases – a prop?

The key to what psychologists do is deep training and ongoing exposure to work situations around the world.  When we talk with you, we are not asking whether we like you.  Nor, are we are asking about things we want.

Our interest is in accurately understanding your motivation and your circumstances, reflecting them against the changing world of business and work, and helping you work through the mix of emotions you feel as you cast your story in terms of today’s economic conditions – globalization, credit crunch, and new technologies.

This is a complicated process.  Even in the simplest business, we have on the one hand the things we want, and one the other, ‘what’s out there’.  And that gap in knowledge is not all we cope with.  When we really want something, we feel fear and trepidation.  Our job is to stay with you while you work through your anxiety and take the first step towards what will ultimately be success and very deep satisfaction.

Psychologists understand this process, see it is normal, and are there to help steer you through all three questions: you, your opportunities, your emotions.

When we work in most modern businesses, 5, 10, 15, 10 000, 100 000 of us are going through the same process.  When I decide, for example, to pursue my story in certain ways, my actions change your circumstances.   The key to good organization is that the give-and-take between us as we follow our own dreams strengthens us individuals and as a group.  Therein, the discussions we hold with senior managers.

Some case studies next?  Do let me know if I have made it any clearer what we do for a living!

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