Category Archives: Music and movies

music, movies and careers

An Amusing example of the Butterfly effect (non linearity) in Chaos Theory of Careers – link now works!

In the Chaos Theory of Careers, non-linearity refers to that fact that sometimes very small acts can lead to huge responses down the line, or the opposite, that sometimes very large acts lead to little or no difference later. Edward Lorenz the father of Chaos said famously at a Scientific meeting on Meteorology in 1972 “If a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, does it cause a tornado in Texas” this became known as the butterfly effect.

thanks to Karel Wearne who shared this with me…

Strangling Animals? Golf? What your hobbies say about you…

Paul Simon began “have a good time” with “yesterday it was my birthday…”. Well that was in the 1970s and you couldn’t get your LED watches to work properly, the batteries kept running out.

So we can forgive Mr Simon for being a day late with his birthday…probably waiting for Arty’s card to arrive. Anywhere where was I, yes, well, um, today it is my birthday, and I am still far younger than I look. I thought my age would one day catch up with my looks, but I have to take my hat off to my looks, they are doing a creditable impression of a 1970s kenyan long distance olympic runner – miles ahead of the pack before collapsing in an undignified heap shortly before being passed by the whole field – story of my life… How where was I? Yes,…well… everyone needs a hobby don’t they? They say that idle hands end up in front of the magistrate, or at least that was what my probation officer said, or was it my psychiatrist, I can’t remember… I am getting old you see. Anyway enough of channelling Frankie Howerd and on with the piece for today…no don’t, I thought of it too!! It’s on hobbies…enjoy. I will be in Melbourne when this gets published, I wonder if Jimmy Watson’s wine bar is open tonight…

If you want to get shortlisted for your next job, can I suggest that you take up Touch Football? However if you like camping or waterskiing, do not bother applying. These odd sounding recommendations come from some work that myself and a colleague in the recruitment industry, Kate Day undertook looking at the different hobbies that candidates had listed on their resumes and whether or not they were subsequently shortlisted for the job. We looked at a total of 999 candidate resumes that were submitted to a recruitment company for a variety of different jobs. Around 50% of the resumes listed hobbies, but it appears that there are differences across industry sectors in the tendency to include hobby information. For instance, Sales people obviously love their hobbies with 57% listing them on their resumes. In contrast only 32% of the Human Resource people those listed hobbies. Maybe the sales types have more spare time, or perhaps the Human resource people follow their own guidelines and stick only to the job relevant information.

A total of 159 different hobbies were listed across the resumes. The top ten most frequently listed were: 1st reading, 2nd travelling, 3rd Golf, 4th Tennis, 5th Swimming, 6th listening to, music,7th family ,8th rugby, 9th snowsking, = 10th fishing and going to the gym. Some of the least frequent included collecting cigarette cards, washing the car, tap dancing and keeping reptiles.

When it comes to getting shortlisted not all hobbies are equal. The ten best hobbies that were associated with resumes that got shortlisted were: Touch football, Squash, Cricket, Cooking, Wine, Rugby, Motor racing, Tennis, Socialising and Biking. When these hobbies were included, the chances of being shortlisted was increased by between 24% and 147%.

The worst ten hobbies to include turned out to be (from least worst to worst): Golf, Walking, listening to music, theatre, movies, art/craft, bushwalking, entertaining, camping and water skiing. Including those suckers on your resume was associated with a reduced chance of being shortlisted by between 28% and 73%.

So perhaps Monty Python were right and golf (along with strangling animals) is not that popular around here. Before the Camping Water Skiers Association of Australia confront me with a tent pole or “goofy feet”, I should point out that the survey although reasonably big may not be totally representative.

Interestingly, the desirable hobbies were on average slightly more likely to be included on resumes generally (average ranking 21) compared to the undesirable hobbies (average ranking 28). However, the most commonly listed hobbies such as reading and travelling were associated with only negligible impacts on shortlisting (+1% and -3% respectively). In other words, you are probably wasting your time listing these hobbies.

What are hobbies for? Are they an escape from the stresses of our day jobs, a coping mechanism to provide the rewards that our work cannot give us? Alternatively are they a dry run for a future radical career change, a try before you buy, or are they a means to an end? The answer is probably all of the above, and there is no straight answer to whether you should turn your hobby into work. For some it is likely to be a dream come true, and for others, it is a sure fire recipe to turn your escape into drudgery. As for whether you should include them on the resume or not, we found that overall including hobbies made no difference to your chances of getting shortlisted, but if you do include hobbies, some seem to be more popular for whatever reason than others.

A recruiter once told me, you should do a lot with your life to ensure that you have something to put on your resume. Maybe we should just aim to do a lot with our lives and not worry about putting it on the resume!

Carole King Tapestry – Albums that speak volumes about careers and life

Carole King Tapestry – Albums that speak volumes about careers and life.

I am always out of step.  I was a huge Elton John Fan, just when his career dipped in the early 1980s and David Bowie was uber cool.   Now a couple of months ago a friend introduced me to the delights of Billy Joel’s Songs from the Attic, recorded during my early 1980s Elton phase, but comprised of songs composed in the early 1970s, I will review that in career terms in another post, but I want to turn to my favourite period, the early 1970s for a classic album that I discovered only a few months ago – Carole King’s Tapestry.  As I said I am always out of step.

It opens with I feel the earth move – which opens like a lovely V8 1970s muscle car. A big bass line to go with earth moving, skies tumbling, and a lovely career word – mellow. The song also talks of our limits of control and our impulsive reactions – good chaos notions.  Have you achieved total mellowness in your career? This was something to aspire to in the late 1960s and early 70s.  I declare a campaign to bring back mellow in the career counseling lexicon – a feeling of quiet contentment, reflective happiness and a lack of anxiety – something many of my clients would like to achieve.

So far away (doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore) – this for me reminds me of the transient nature of work, and the incessant travel involved and the transient relationships one develops.  Carole sings “if I could only work out this life my way” – how often have we felt this or heard this from our clients.   A song about closing our mind to the loneliness of travel – essentially change and how we manage it and maintain stability of relationships and place.

Its too late – a song about depression at the inevitability of change as people grow apart despite their best efforts to hold things together – the notion of slow shift or drift that can leave us feeling disenfranchised, lost and despairing.  “I feel like a fool” – a line reflecting that feeling that there must have been something more that I could have done – a plaintiff attempt at trying to rationalise the limitations on what we can control.

Home Again – “Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to make it home again it is so far and out of site, I really need someone to talk to” .  The powerful notion of home, being grounded, being with the familiar, in a trusting place with trusting and understanding people – a call for reassurance and the certainties that home represents in the midst of constant change and travel.  It reminds me of the importance of establishing a “home” for people in transition, that amidst change and chance, people need a sense of order, that chaos has both order and change – all change and no order is too much for anyone to deal with.

Beautiful “you’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart and then people are going to treat you better, you are going to find that you are beautiful (yes you are) as you feel”.  I love the optimism of this song, if the injunction is a little too strident!  It captures the essential importance of persistence and the importance of optimism and giving.  Uplifting.  Indeed it captures some of the more important things that we as counselors are trying to achieve.

Way over yonder “…is a place that I know, where I can find shelter, from a hunger and cold, …that’s where I’m bound”.  Another song about home, security, a safe place, a happier place.  It is a song about aspiration, self-improvement, about the benefits of being able to stand proudly in “true piece of mind”.  For me this can seen as occupational daydreams, thinking optimistically about what things will be like if all goes well.

You’ve got a friend – “when you are down and troubled and you need some living care, and nothing, nothing is going right, close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there, to brighten up even your darkest night, you just call out my name and I you know wherever I am I’ll come running to see you again, Winter, Spring Summer or Fall, all you have to do is call”  –  Well I could cynically say this sounds like the advertising speil of a telephone counseling service!  Less cynically, at face value, I just love the sense of service, connection and reaching out that this song expresses.  Given recent UK surveys have suggested a startling number of 30 and 40 somethings feel lonely, disconnected and unhappy in their work, maybe we need to give more time to the notion of loneliness and work’s contribution to it.

Where you lead – “I would go to the ends of the earth.. where you lead I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to, if you need me to be with you…”  Again this could be the stalkers refrain, but again it is a song about support and connectedness.  It is making the statement that I will compromise, and that what I thought I wanted and what it turns out makes me happy are different things.

Will you love me tomorrow – A gentle song about insecurity, again a refrain about the inevitability of change – is this a transient thing or something longer lasting. It reflects the caution that wisdom dictates from bitter experience of having our commitment dishonored.

Smackwater Jack – A cautionary tale of a frustrated man who takes it out on others with his shotman “you cant talk to a man when he don’t want to understand”   – this is the line that resonates with me, thinking about some of those uncooperative or even gung ho clients, who really do not want to be there, or only want to be with you as long as you agree and validate all their ideas, which may not be appropriate.  We have to find ways of taking the shotgun from them, to disarm them before we can make any progress.

Tapestry – “an everlasting vision of the ever changing view…impossible to hold…he moved with some uncertainty as if he didn’t know” If this isn’t a song about complexity and chaos I do not know what is.  Change, uncertainty, complexity, chance events, limitations, it is all here!

(You make me feel) like a natural woman – “I used to feel uninspired and when I knew I had to face another day, lord it made me feel so tired” – I beautiful song about completion, an optimistic song about sudden and unexpected change transforming a person – the Chaos Theory idea of the Phase Shift.

I know it is a risk to over analyse anything, let alone a work of art the Tapestry represents, but rather for me it is an inspiration  see Beyond Personal Mastery ® model for more details (

There are lot of ideas in this album that apply to our lives and careers and in there I can see a lot of messages about change, complexity, phase shifts and much more besides.  Ultimately I love the optimistic note of much of it, as well as the wisdom and recognition of limitations and uncertainty.  All in all, some useful ideas for being “mellow”. What do you think?

Career improvisation

Making it up as you go along is probably one of the most effective success strategies you can implement. The trouble is that patrons of the predictable try to brainwash lesser mortals like you and me with their grand narratives (tall stories) about how anyone can achieve complete control of their lives. These narratives are eagerly devoured by those wanting quick and simple solutions and those who feel the cold chill of accountability for past and future action in their roles.
Making it up as you go along is an anathema to the controllers and quick-fix folks, and those who employ this strategy consciously often have to conceal it with a cloak of plausibly logical actions whereas many use it without being completely aware of it and suppress it under a cloak post-hoc rationalisation. Making it up as you go along is seen as somehow illegitimate, shallow, ill-considered, reckless even. Merchants of mediocrity will try to sell you their flow diagrams and 7 point plans. They will encourage the use of pros and cons lists, planning tasks and simple formulas for success. They push the view that if the plan cannot be articulated in every detail, it has not been “thought through” or is the product of a fuzzy and unsound mind. We all love and draw confidence from a well-thought out plan.
With colleagues Robert Pryor and Tony Borg, we have developed a butterfly model of career development. Imagine a race track in the shape of a figure of 8 on its side that you are continuously driving around like a race track. Each journey around the circuit never exactly repeats any other. Do this for long enough and what results begins to resemble a butterfly and hence the name of the model. Imagine now that the left-hand circle on the track represents all your planned behaviour and the right hand circle of the track represents all the unplanned behaviour.
What it demonstrates is that career development is a continually developing series of planned actions which are impacted by unplanned events which in turn lead to revisions or new plans, which in turn are impacted by the unexpected and so on. The model is slightly more complex because you can circle around for periods in either the planned bit of the circuit or the unplanned bit, and then move unexpectedly into the other realm. This explains why in life we can experience periods of relative calm and predictability, and others that seem to be never ending turbulence. Overall, the point is that there is an ongoing and inevitable relationship between the predictable and the unpredictable, between pattern and surprise and between composition and improvisation.
Making it up as you go along is often called improvisation. Improvisation implies there is a structure around which you can improvise. Improvising without any framework at all simply results in a self-indulgent blast of white noise that achieves nothing other than to alienate all who witness it. There is a saying in jazz circles “improvisation is composition speeded up, and composition is improvisation slowed down.” It implies that improvisation ultimately has rules and structure, but these are loose or fuzzy enough for creativity to be invited in.
Often in jazz, the musicians establish the structure of the piece (“the head”) and then the musicians improvise around that. It is not a bad way of thinking about yourself or your organisation as a beautiful complex composition around which you can improvise.
Why is it some people seem to be able to make it up as they go along, whereas others struggle or are scared of this approach? Part of the answer lies in the concept of life purpose. Those who have a clear sense of life purpose will intuitively act in ways that keeps intact their sense of purpose, and hence purpose becomes the force that drives, directs and limits action. In a sense knowing your purpose is a bit like being able to recognise your essential tune (or core business for an organisation) – it provides the structure and sets the boundaries for improvisation. Purpose is not about goal setting, purpose defines what can become a goal, goals do not define what can become your purpose.
Getting a sense of the bigger pattern, the linkages, the limitations and the opportunities will help to inspire confidence to improvise and will also increase the likelihood that the improvisations are bold, original and creative. In other words successful.