B is for… Budgeting

atozofskillsWe normally think of Budgeting in the context of our own personal finances. However, this is an important skill in the workplace as well. Why? because all businesses have a budget.

Budget:

noun: An estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.

verb: Allow or provide for in a budget.

We are more concerned with the verb however, in order to do this, you first need to understand what a Budget is and why it is important to your employer (and why it is important to you). If you are a business owner or in management ‘a budget’ should be a familiar routine and you may already be directly responsible for preparing a budget. However, understanding a budget and how it affects you is important for everyone.

Why is a Budget important?

  • it helps you plan to reach goals and targets (both corporate and personal).
  • it helps manage your cashflow by monitoring your expenses and income.
  • it helps you plan your finances in advance.
  • it helps you prioritise spending.
  • if you charge by the hour it helps you assess your fees.
  • it will help identify wasteful expenditure.
  • it helps allocate funds to specific projects.
  • it helps outline the needs of the business and its departments.
  • it helps plan ahead for future growth.
  • it helps assess funds for investment e.g. in training, in technology, in new staff, in equipment etc.

Action Point: Consider why these are important to you in your current role and how they affect your job. If you are going for a promotion consider why they are important in that role as well.

Whatever your role you need to be able to budget and understand your corporate budget. While you might not use ‘budgeting skills’ practically in your day-to-day job an understanding of where you fit in the circle of life, your ability to incorporate the corporate budget into your business development plan, your ability to be mindful of budgets when working on projects or charging for work (or doing work if you do  fixed fee work) is all part of succeeding at your job.

How can you show you have this skill?

Unless you are in a finance team, accounts or a manager it is unlikely to be a specific requirement of your job.

For the rest of you your ability to budget can be demonstrated while to are giving examples of your other skills such as time-management (ability to complete things on time and on budget), problem-solving, efficiency and improving working processes.

Skill Development Plan: Budgeting

Do you have any responsibility for finances? Think about how you can incorporate some numbers into your routine – whether this is managing your own billing/invoices, preparing a budget for your team, helping to manage your clients finances or offering to assist someone else so you can learn more about the budgeting process.

Action Point: Add TWO specific actions to your career development plan that you can undertake in the next 12 months to boost your knowledge of budgeting and financial management.

If you are struggling to find something to do to help boost this skill – make it personal write your own budget for your personal finances. Make budgeting less scary by learning the terminology.

Action Point: Create a personal Budget

Maintain your Productivity this Summer

The weather has been pretty good for UK weather recently and I have found it getting hot (and humid) in the office. The balmy weather has caused more idle chitchat in the afternoons, the whirling fans and open windows are ruffling papers and people think it is acceptable to wear flip-flops around the office.

How are you coping with the weather? Do you need to boost your productivity?

Below are some tips for maintaining your productivity in this weather:

1. Plan your vacation time

If you plan your summer holiday and book some time off you will spend less time ‘dreaming’ about having a few days off. If you have nothing special planned take a couple of long weekends – have a break and get out and enjoy the sun while it lasts.

2. Start work earlier when it is cooler

If you can work flexible hours or even if you want to be more productive on a regular work schedule – do the important things first thing in the morning and the lighter tasks in the afternoon when you are more likely to be distracted.If you have flexible working hours you have the added bonus of leaving the office earlier to do what you want in the long summer evenings.

3. Drink plenty of fluids (and stick a spare drink in the fridge)

There is nothing worse than getting dehydrated or developing a headache when you have a busy day ahead of you. Drinking plenty of fluids will keep you hydrated and keep you cool. A cool refreshing drink is an extra bonus (for desperate times).

4. Keep a breeze flowing through the office

Whether you dig out the fans or open the window – try to maintain a cooler and more comfortable temperature in the office. Just make sure any loose paper is weighted down and that there are no distractions (road works or lawnmowers) outside.

5. Wear lighter clothing

Sometimes it can be hard to wear professional clothing and still remain cool. I usually wear light colours and dresses or short-sleeved shirts that I can pop a jacket over if a client drops in. If you are lucky you may even have a more relaxed summer dress code.

6. Take a Short Walk (or Don’t)

For some people taking a walk outside can work wonders for their productivity a few minutes of some extra sunrays can be extremely satisfying. Other people prefer not to go outdoors at all as it is the exposure to the sun that makes their productivity go out the window. Work out which one you are and adapt your behaviour accordingly.

What are you doing to help maintain your productivity levels this summer?

A is for… Adaptablity

atozofskills

In the current climate it is more important than ever to show that you are adaptable.

Adaptability: capable of adapting or being adapted.

Employers want applicants to show that they can:

  • adapt to changing circumstances
  • take on board new ideas and concepts
  • adapt and develop a role and do what is required
  • rise to the challenge of dealing with the unfamiliar

Some people are naturally adaptable and thrive in situations which are unexpected and new. However, for a lot of us this is not the case.

For example, I am a “planner” I work to a to-do list and detest interruptions. However, I am adaptable because I have learned how to manage these changes and interruptions in a positive way. The key ability here is to be able to make the changes work for you and fit them into your way of working.

How can you show you have this skill?

Unfortunately you cannot simply say something like “I am flexible in the way I work and I adapt well to change in circumstances”.

You need to be able to give and example (or several). The obvious examples are working abroad, working in multiple locations, on secondment or working from home. These are big obvious examples where no explanation is necessary as to why this shows that you are adaptable. But you can also use smaller “change” situations, like the upgrading of computer software if answered correctly.

BUT Make it a good story.

If you are asked to specifically show that you are adaptable and can’t use an obvious answer you should tell a good story by remembering to talk about the following:

1. Paint the Picture: describe the situation and context

2. Identify what the problem or aim is.

3. Describe what you did in this situation.

4. Explain the outcome / result and draw attention to what you achieved.

Action Point: write a few examples to keep in your career journal.

Consider what are you aiming to show when answering this question and telling this story. These questions can be a way to show that you can:

  • make change work for you – handle it and utilise it
  • adapt to change and new ways of working quickly and easily
  • make suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of change
  • learn new methods, techniques
  • shift your priorities to deal with the demands of an unexpected situation
  • bounce back from setbacks and maintain a positive attitude

Skill Development Plan: adaptability

Experience is really your only teacher with this skill, you cannot artificially practice it or force it.

Instead your focus should be on identifying situations in your work history (or current job) where you have been adaptable and keep a note of these in your career journal.

You should also take the opportunity to consider how you could handle such situations better and assess what complimentary skills you might need to work on. Examples of such skills include: Time Management, prioritisation, problem solving and taking the initiative.

Time Management: Prioritisation

Last week I wrote about using paired analysis to help prioritise items on your to-do list. Using this method you compare items on your to do list and decide which is the most important. This is a great method but you also have to be consistent when determining what is more important for it to have real value.

What values or criteria should be used when assessing importance? There are 3 CORE drivers within task prioritisation:

  • Time
  • Importance
  • Value

You should consider the answer to the following questions to help PRIORITISE your tasks effectively:

Time

Consider:

  • How long will this task take? Do you have the time available now?
  • When does the task have to be done by? Is it a soft or hard deadline?
  • Do you have to set aside the time to do it?

Action: either do it now or set aside some time and mark it in your diary.

Importance

Consider:

  • How important it is to get this task done? Who else is this task important to? (Consider the overall effect).
  • Is the task my responsibility or should someone else be doing it?
  • What other tasks or outcomes are dependent on this task getting done?

Value

Consider:

  • How valuable is this task to me? (Consider your goals, aspirations and personal needs)
  • How valuable is this task in monetary terms?
  • How might I be able to use this task to drive other financially viable projects/incentives?

Action: Evaluate how the task fits in with your career development plan (and your corporate goals).

If you are struggling with your prioritisation use these questions to help you evaluate what should take priority.