Tuesday, April 11, 2006


'Dead' lines

Yesterday an Executive Director asked students to prepare a presentation on aspects of his organisation. For early next week. Very early. From my corner of the room, I could see the turmoil on all the students’ faces: the opportunity (of the presentation) versus

-difficulty getting computer/internet access
-family commitments
-other work demands!
-holiday time (so well deserved right now, after WoW training sessions)

One brave person spoke for all the others: “Actually, could we have more time? We have holidays...”

Deadlines, when you’re trying to gain access into an organisation, can’t be negotiated. When you don’t have an established reputation, or when they don’t know you, employers make a very easy jump to some very damaging conclusions when prospective interns/employees try to shift things to suit themselves:

-“he’s not keen”
-“ah, so that’s his work ethic: holidays come first!”
-“she doesn’t really want this job”
-“that kind of attitude won’t fit in here.”

If you’re an intern, or an entry-level employee, you are going to have to make some personal compromises in areas like these.

Actually, this isn’t only true for interns. I know a married couple who have worked together for the last 30 years. They create databases, she designs and he delivers. They got a great contract. She designed – and he had to install it, right in the middle of an extraordinary, wonderful camping holiday to Mozambique that they had planned with extended family. She went. He worked.

They complained bitterly - to friends only, of course. He did the work professionally and only mentioned the fact that he had missed his holiday in passing, once, to the company CEO. The story ends with the contract ending successfully. Lots of subsequent work.

Oh - and the CEO gave them a gift. He painted the couple holidaying together in Mozambique. Framed it, and also gave them a fully paid weekend to Mozambique, in their own time.

Not that we can expect the same for our commitment to our work. But maybe we should re-think the degree to which we are prepared to compromise and commit. Maybe we should think differently about things like workplace ‘dead’- lines, because when you’ve handed in a piece of work, or when you sit down right after you have given a presentation, you have created the potential for exciting, life-changing things to start happening. Maybe that’s how workplace deadlines are different to deadlines for academic work.

So when you’re offered a deadline (perhaps as part of an interview process) that has you in a corner, grab it with enthusiasm and energy, even while your heart sinks. Late nights, red-eyes, working under pressure will pay off in the end.

On the subject of what to do and what not to do in an interview: here’s a fun article, a collection of weird stories from employers – the worst experiences they ever had with a candidate in an interview or in the hiring process.

Lesley Emanuel

Yup. Spot-on, Lesley.

The thing about being an intern, or, even, being in the first five years of a career, is that you've got to MAKE your opportunities.

That's why I've been very hard on many of you for your blogs, and the lack of initiative you've mostly all shown.

We've got an email discussion forum. But I'm not seeing any discussion. I've set you BASIC tasks, namely to put links on every one of your blog posts, to link your colleagues' blogs to your own, to post something new every day, to put your opinion in your posts, to switch anonymous posting on, to edit the links section, etcetera.

Some of you are succeeding on SOME of those fronts. One or two of you are succeeding on MOST of those fronts. But there are WAY TOO MANY of you who are failing on ALL of those fronts.

It's just not good enough. If I were looking to employ any of you, I would have a very narrow group to choose from.

I'm sorry if this appears harsh.

Ask yourself: 'Is my effort good enough to be employed?'

Blogging isn't really the issue. It's what's behind your TAKE-UP of blogging as a task. And it's not A SINGLE TASK. It's a complex set of interwoven tasks. The kinds of tasks you'll face in the working world.

If I asked you guys to take responsibility for a corporate blog, I would be VERY dubious about the outcome. I know that I would have to check it with a fine-tooth comb. I know that I would NOT be happy letting you loose on my corporate identity.

But this is not correct. I SHOULD be able to. You're all HYPER-INTELLIGENT, ULTRA WELL-EDUCATED. Why can you not follow instructions? Why can you not take the initiative? Why are you self-mutilating your chances at fast-tracking your careers???

This stuff doesn't make sense to me.

Debate this with me please. In this comments forum. If you don't, you simply show a lack of professionalism to the tasks you've been set.

So... your thoughts? Your defences??

And the fact that you're a student is not a good enough answer. You're all adults. And you're all capable. So why aren't you surging??????!!!

Blue skies
Hi Roy,
I am sorry to tell you that the predicted 80-20% works at its best!
I am ashamed to say so, but if the 20% can keep it high that would be great!


Thanks Cyrille and Roy.

I'm just hoping that people are READING this team blog. Just knowing that would be heartening.

All the best,
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