Today is Go Home On Time Day, as part of National Work Life Week in the UK. Which begs the question, why do we need to be urged to go home on time? And why do we need just a day a year to do that? Why do we feel we need an excuse?
Your company probably isn’t paying you to work past your contracted hours, so why stay? For many of us there just happens to be an accepted work culture that if you leave at 5pm you are somehow slacking off or not a ‘team player’ (read: someone who is willing to sacrifice their time outside work to put in some extra work time to win favour with colleagues or their boss). Colleagues without families moan that those with kids are knocking off ‘early’, when the reality is that most are hammering away at their smartphones and firing off emails into the evening or after the kids have gone to bed to ‘catch up’. When did work expand to fill our home time too?
I’ve worked in Japan, and there the culture is very much you do not leave before your boss, and even when you do leave your should vehemently apologise. And most people are beavering away (or trying very hard to make it look like they are) way into the evening or night. Is that the way we’re going in the UK? Do we just resign ourselves to the long hours culture, even if that means we’re madly underpaid when you look at pay by the hour?
Surely the ones who are out the door at 5pm are just more organised to have finished what they need to do for the day. Or at least that should be the ideal we all aspire to. We would all be much more productive with more rest time anyway, and if we didn’t spend hours after 5pm still checking up on work emails and trying very hard to make it look like we’re still at work.
Rather than 1 day a year, I long for the time when we can all down tools at the right time for us without any sense of guilt that we’re letting the side down. When we can acknowledge that yes, we do have lives and families and pursuits outside of work time. And that work and life in general would be much better if we could strike a better balance between the two.
You’ve heard it before – companies looking for new hires with the ‘right fit’. The whole recruitment process designed to find the ‘right’ sort of person who will align themselves to what the organisation is all about. Or at the very least the interviewer’s idea of someone who will not cause too much trouble or rock the boat once ‘on board’.
[Although I would argue that the employee who is going to rock the boat a bit is sometimes exactly the kind of person the organisation needs. But more of that in another post…]
Recognising that companies will more often than not want to play it safe when it comes to recruiting new staff (especially in times of scarce resources), where does this leave a job hunter? Particularly if you’re changing careers or moving to a different industry, where do you draw the line between emphasising your ‘fit’ with the organisation, but also the skills and experience you can bring which mark you out as different from the rest?
- Read what the organisation says about itself (website, social media etc), and above all look at the language used – challenge is better received when it’s spoken in the language of the organisation, so you need to be able to sound like one of them and using their words will be more persuasive. Looking at what they say about themselves as an organisation will also inform you if it matches with your own thinking and way of working.
- Emphasise your achievements more than your personal credentials. They can’t argue with facts if you have evidence to back up what you’re saying. Do your homework on yourself and always provide evidence of skills and achievements you’re claiming to possess. Do not simply rely on where you went to university, or previous career experience to open doors.
- You need to come across as a ‘team player’ as good working relationships are important. At the end of the day, surely the hiring manager is going to pick the candidate they would prefer working with the most? Collect examples of good feedback you’ve been given: from formal perfomance reviews, or informally from colleagues. Quote those examples! Don’t be shy about letting the recruiter know what others say about you if they’re singing your praises.
- Ask insightful questions. Let them know that you know about the challenges they face and how you are willing and able to work to meet those. Of course, to do this you need to do a fair bit of research on the company, their market situation, what else is going on in their industry.
In the end, it’s still so important to come across during a recruitment process, whether via an application form or CV, or in person in an interview, as one of ‘them’. Organisations are usually looking for the ‘known quantity’ as bringing someone new in can be a risky enterprise. Doing your homework on them can put you in a strong position to come across as one of them during the recruitment. And while your doing your homework, if you get the feeling that they’re not the right fit for you, then keep going in your job search until you find the right fit for you.