Tag Archives: frankie howerd

The Secret

A friend recently asked me what I thought about the book “The Secret” (Rhonda Byrne, Atria Books, 2006, New York) because it was all the rage with his friends. It turns out that the eponymous secret is that we all transmit our thoughts into the universe, where they attract similar thoughts and the whole lot come back to you like a well-flighted boomerang. What follows is that whatever you think you get back, which includes all those negative thoughts as well. So think positive and positive things will happen to you and think negative and well go figure…
This notion is not new and was known to the ancients. For instance Frankie Howerd’s character Dr Francis Bigger opens the movie Carry on Doctor (Gerald Thomas, Talbot Rothwell, 1967) addressing an audience on the power of positive thinking with the Secretesque line “What is mind, no matter, what is matter, never mind. If you believe nothing will happen to you, believe me, nothing will!” After delivering this line, Dr Bigger promptly falls off stage landing on his coccyx…
What is being said here is hardly new, but how useful is it for career development? Like so much of what becomes popular it panders to our strong desire to simplify complex things, indeed to over-simplify the complexity that constitutes our working life. To illustrate, let me give you the recipe for financial success.
First take one idea (two is too complex) that has some plausible grounding in “science”. For instance, there is plenty of evidence that changing a client’s thinking about a situation can lead to improved mental health and better habits. Now lets take this one idea, present some evidence for it, and then illustrate its effectiveness with a range of compelling case studies that will bring to life the potency of the idea. Next let us assert that we have found the answer to all our problems, and all we need to do is simply to change our thinking to solve every conceivable problem we confront.
Better still, we get a win – win because in any situation where things turn out well, we can assert it was because we changed our thinking, and of course if things didn’t turn out so well, it is due to a failure to think properly. It is totally comprehensive, totally unfalsifiable, and totally successful in tapping into our desire for simplicity. Totally laughing all the way to the bank.
What always fascinates me about such gross over-simplifications is that despite the message always being mind-bogglingly simple, only a relative few are apparently aware of the “power” and capable of putting it into practice. How come it doesn’t work like jokes which once told anywhere on the planet are on the lips of all office wags precisely one pico-second later? How come if the ideas are so simple that we can all learn them, that according to CapGemini and Merryl Lynch published in the World Wealth Report (2006) that only 0.13% of the world’s population are US dollar millionaires? It seems that those living in Africa are particularly susceptible to negative thinking, because they only have 0.0015% of the world’s millionaires.
I wonder what happens if two people in a company want to get promoted to the same position, do they both get positive stuff happening to them? Do they end up job sharing the coveted position? What if two people wanted to have exactly the opposite event occur – you want to keep your job and the boss wants to sack you? Do you get sacked and reinstated or what?
Acting and thinking positively is no bad thing (actually I should express that positively as “a good thing”). However some humility about the limits of our ability to control or even predict outcomes would also be a good thing. It was Einstein who said on the 10th June 1933 in a lecture at Oxford “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”. Well actually he really said “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience” which is essentially the same. I just simplified it. See how hard it is to resist simplification?

I like strangling animals, golf and ….

I like strangling animals, golf and ….

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 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!

Jim Bright is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU National and a Partner at Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy.