What is resilience? And why it’s not just ‘manning up’!

I wanted to share my thoughts on #Resilience – I’ve heard the word mentioned a lot and it’s taken me a while to get my head around what I feel resilience means – if you are interested in my thoughts – read on:

The Oxford Dictionary describes resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness”.

Many of us have grown up witnessing first-hand the very British trait of having a stiff upper lip! Often being told to ‘Not let things to get us down’, ‘pull ourselves together’ and to ‘just get on with things’! You might assume that these skills might help a person recover and get over problems quickly. However, the opposite is true for many of us.

I’ve learnt that resilience most definitely isn’t being told or telling yourself to “Man Up” – my experience has shown me it is more about habit. Habits take on average 66 days to form and this is why it can be difficult to change your ways. Some people are lucky in that they don’t form these bad habits and have something I would term “natural resilience”.

I have so far successfully used Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to reduce my stress level/s and it has shown me that my mind had formed bad habits in the past – basically shortcuts to thinking such as “Something bad is about to happen”, “Fearing the worst” etc – if you do this a heck of a lot through the day, it is very tiring! 

By writing down my stresses and working them out I am gradually re-training my mind to practise some better habits – so rather than instantly thinking negative, I am able to think about the stress and then break it down to various elements that CBT teaches you.  I am not yet at the stage that this is a habit (Only about 40 days in) but the affects I have felt are fantastic.  If you don’t feel yourself, feel stressed and aren’t sure what is wrong, do get some professional advice and if you try CBT or Mindfulness – remember to consciously work on it for at least 66 days – this is what resilience feels like!

I have also used Strengthscope (https://redtigerconsulting.co.uk/significant-seven-strengths/) to understand my strengths to try and work out what stresses me – this has also been very useful.  One example is that because I have strong Empathy and Compassion and I am Results Focussed I can feel real emotion and understanding for people who are struggling with stress (Hence this post). What I need to do is not take too much responsibility on – just start to signpost people to the professional help they need.

Do you think you’re resilient? Or do you have some negative thinking patterns that you could do with addressing? I really can highly recommend CBT as it has already really helped me.

Finally, it’s not a quick fix, it’s something you need to work at and probably revisit throughout your life. We should all invest more time into our health and wellbeing and I’m definitely seeing the benefits in doing so. Contact me today to discuss our coaching options on paul@redtigerconsulting.co.uk

Lockdown 2.0 feels worse than Lockdown 1.0 but what can you do about it (Top 5 Tips)?

Eight months ago (at the time of writing this) we were at the very beginning of the pandemic and the widespread disruption that COVID-19 brought with it.  This blog looks at the differences between Lockdown 1.0 and Lockdown 2.0 and what you can do to build resilience.  Back in Lockdown 1.0 (LD1) we had hope, we had the summer ahead and personally I had miles of cycling in my legs.  Cycling was great, no cars on the roads, fantastic weather, and a Mallorca triathlon in October for me to train for (I still had hope back then that the triathlon would take place). 

We had the Houseparty App novelty, the summers evenings, people were on Furlough and getting paid to do nothing (Some with salaries topped back up by the company so they were effectively on fully-paid holiday).  Some had the challenge of working whilst managing home schooling, cancellations of various holidays, and business really struggling due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.  That was Lockdown 1.0, bad for some, not for others, the novelty did wear off and rules were then relaxed for the summer.

Roll forward eight months and we are just coming out of Lockdown 2.0 (LD2).  “Lockdown Fatigue” is now mentioned a lot, we are social creatures, and I for one crave heading down my local bar on a Friday evening; how one can take life’s simple pleasures for granted!  I think we can mostly agree that Lockdown 2.0 is what one could mildly describe as a “struggle”.  Winter is here now so the nights are darker, all the news we see (apart from advances on vaccinations) seems to be constantly negative.  School “bubbles” keep isolating and causing disruption, the government seems to flip-flop on rules, and quite frankly everyone is getting fed up with COVID.  For many (myself included) it is/can be a mental struggle.  There is now a very different spiritual environment in LD2, and as social animals we are all getting very tired of social restrictions. 

How do we manage our way through this?  At Red Tiger Coaching there are many ways we can help you, so do get in touch if you would like to explore the careers coaching options we offer.  Here are five tips that I suggest to help you (and our coaching can expand on this) towards what I am calling “The Spring of Hope” (When a Vaccine should be rolling out and restriction measures should be lifting)!

  1. Get in the Right Mindset – Some people naturally have this, others do not.  If you don’t, then here is your priority area to work on.  Techniques to improve your mindset are wide and varied but things I have found work are:
  • Mindfulness – just 10 minutes meditation a day over a sustained (say 8 weeks) period really does work at helping to quieten the mind and help you to relax (and sleep) and also to think clearer
  • Try to focus on the positives – this is hard with all the negative news but if this affects you then start to limit your news exposure, try to think of one positive thing each day no matter how small We all know there will be an end to this situation so think forwards to that point if you can.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to – this again is a challenge as holidays, eating at a restaurant or meeting your mates aren’t possible at the moment.  But think and grasp hold of what is possible – order a nice takeaway, plan some exercise (more on this below).
  1. Exercise
    This is very much linked to point 1 but as we know exercise has many benefits, I for one really feel the endorphins after a good evening run. If you are not into exercise this can be a difficult hurdle but one that with resolve can reap many benefits. I suggest giving yourself an exercise goal – for example couch to 5km run may be a good start?

    I’d also suggest booking yourself on a summer 5 or 10k race – once committed this can make you focus and you can do you training now (weather is a negative but it will help force you out). It can take an average of 66 days to form a habit so try and focus on a few months of running 3 days a week to begin with and don’t increase your distance by any more than 10% per week. You will then find that you realise the benefits of running not only from the health side and endorphins but also the sense of achievement. If you really can’t see yourself running, there are loads of other forms of exercise; a daily walk for instance can be really beneficial to mood. Yoga and other less weight bearing activities can also help.
  2. Use time and space to think about your career
    This is especially important if you are on Furlough (Hence you will have more time). Even if you are not on Furlough you will probably also have more time (There’s not a lot else we can all do). Time is the golden ticket so you need to try and think more about what you enjoy at work, what are the prospects in your current role, what can you do differently at work in certain situations?
    At Red Tiger Coaching we can help with the whole process of working out your strengths. Analyse your strengths and development systems to give you your significant 7 strengths, and then activate a few 1:1 sessions to review the results and start to explore and discuss areas for development or change.
  3. Plan
    With all the uncertainty still out there, this can be very difficult and most of us have got out of the planning mindset. We are creatures of habit and in an unstable world planning can help to give some normality back to our lives. We often have and feel like there is too much to do, and do not know where to start. This is where a coach can help as not only a sounding board but also a “monkey on your shoulder” to keep you in line with any actions you agree to and then eventually to help you make progress in your life.
    We can all get into a habit of running on autopilot, accepting everything as it is, and not challenging ourselves. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Which I have referred to in a few blogs prior to this one) shows that the top 2 segments (Esteem and Self Actualisation) can often be neglected in our lives as they naturally slip down our priority order. Having a career coach will make sure that these needs are supplemented and will help you to plan how to make sure you improve your Esteem and also will help you to strive towards maximising your full potential.
    Click here to read ‘Getting out of your Comfort Zone’ which examines our basic needs as humans and how we can really push ourselves to higher levels by challenging ourselves to get out of that comfort zone!
  4. Learn something new
    I have seen many examples of when people have been furloughed, felt comfortable with the time off and not thought about the fact that their role is at risk, only to have been made redundant. All I would say to people now (and I said it through LD1 and LD2) is that you should use the time to try and learn a new skill. I learnt Alteryx during LD1 and devised a training course on it for beginners. If I hadn’t done this, looking back I would definitely feel disappointed that I hadn’t achieved something. I also managed to cycle 70 miles in one go which is the longest cycle I have ever done.
    Having a careers coach can help you to think around areas for development and then also make sure you implement a plan to cover those areas, making sure it happens. In an uncertain economy, having additional skills will make you naturally more of an asset either to your existing employer or to a future employer. Use your time well and prioritise what you should learn and then plan how you should learn that skill.

In conclusion, most of society is naturally hitting lockdown fatigue and until we reach more normality (most likely Summer 2021), we all need to try and do things to build up resilience. Start with the five areas that I suggest above and see how you get on. If even just one area of this blog resonates with you, why not get in touch with Red Tiger Coaching and book a free initial chat to see what coaching can do for you? If you take that leap of faith, I guarantee you will not regret it.

Email Steve on steve@redtigerconsulting.co.uk or phone 07979 756257.

Why you should add Alteryx to your bag of tricks…

I wrote this blog just as we launched our Alteryx for Beginners training course; aimed at explaining what Alteryx is and why you should look to add it to your skill set.  In the past I have used a mixture of applications and languages to manipulate data including (but not limited to) MS Excel, MS Access, SQL, SED, AWK, GREP, MapInfo Professional and QGIS.  All these skills have given me a great grounding in the areas of data manipulation and analysis.

What is Alteryx?

When we speak to junior data analysis candidates, 80% of the time they don’t know what Alteryx is – so what is it?  Alteryx is a tool that simplifies and speeds up your prepping, blending, and analysing of data.  From my many years of experience as an analyst I feel that the biggest barrier to doing analysis is that business systems are often not designed with analysis in mind. Analysis tends to be is an after-thought and therefore data cleansing routines are almost always needed. 

Take my experience of working for a major bingo operator. I was often tasked with using the membership database to investigate and analyse bingo club catchment areas.  Data would invariably need cleaning, so I would use SQL scripts to get postcodes into the correct format to join to mapping data in the GIS.  SQL is a great language and there will always be a need for it, but having used Alteryx now, the speed at which you can create processes versus writing lines of SQL code is so much quicker and simpler.  I have examples like this in every analytical job I have done.

Alteryx has numerous “Tools” (We cover 24 in our training course) which basically connect data flows together via “Anchors” between tools.  You save these connections of tools as “Workflows” which are easy to pick up and edit/run (Either if you have designed them or a colleague has).  The biggest learning anyone new to Alteryx requires is to try and identify what tool you require to do a particular piece of data cleaning/joining/analysis.

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

My Favourite Alteryx Tool

I am still discovering new tools in Alteryx, but my favourite tool so far is the Join Tool.  To this day when I am using SQL I would have to google/refer to notes on how to do Left and Right joins of data/tables (I am a bit out of practice to be honest).  The join tool in Alteryx is simple to use as it has 2 input and 3 output anchors, giving all elements of a join output.  Firstly, it gives a “J” output which is all records that join in between the 2 tables (Assume 2 tables, one is “L” [for left] the other is “R” [for right]).  Then it gives an “L” output which is essentially all the records in table “L” that do not match to table “R”.  Lastly it gives an “R” output which gives the remaining records in table “R” that do not match to table “L”.

Why Alteryx?

Alteryx is the fastest growing analytics software company, showing 65% revenue growth from FY2018 to FY2019.  As recruiters in analytical roles it is one of the most requested skillsets from our clients.  If you are a GIS Analyst like me, you will be pleased to know that there are spatial tools within Alteryx so spatial queries and analysis can be achieved.

When I worked for BT I was on a team of pricing analysts who automated a pricing tool to cost and price up international connections to the BT Global Network.  As part of that production team (5 of us) we spent about 8 weeks writing SQL code to automate the importing of data from MS Excel and then formatting and calculating pricing (Based on distance from location to BT network).  If we had used Alteryx (It didn’t exist then) I am pretty sure we could have written the same process in a quarter of the time (which would have freed us all up to do the more value-add and fun analysis).

Also – the way workflows are put together is realty intuitive.  How many times have you done some data analysis/cleaning in something like Excel or SQL and had to spend time working out what each step does?  Well, with Alteryx it is easy to see what a workflow is doing and also to re-run all or some elements of it.

Downsides

The major feedback we have from clients of ours is the price of Alteryx per seat.  This makes it prohibitive in many cases and therefore also difficult for anyone to build up skills in this software.  On the plus side, students can get a 12 months free licence.  If you are a student, I would very much recommend you get a copy and ideally use it in an analysis project or final year dissertation.  Alteryx also offer a free 4-week trial, so in the event that you don’t currently have the software you can activate your free trial and enrol on our introductory course.

Don’t delay, book yourself on our course!

In summary, Alteryx is a great tool that negates the need for coding and provides simple to use functions and tools to do most bits of data manipulation and blending that you would need to do with a variety of data sources for your analysis.  To find out more – why not get in touch and come on our Alteryx for Beginners training course – you will at least come away with a good flavour of what Alteryx is capable of!

Click here to download the Alteryx for Beginners training course brochure and Course Dates and Price list. https://tinyurl.com/yxpt2lde

Email me on paul@redtigerconsulting.co.uk or phone 07918 653877 to book your place.

PS. We also have discounts available for booking multiple places, students, graduates and job seekers.

Getting out of your comfort zone

I started this blog pre-lockdown and since then both Steve’s Kilimanjaro and my Mallorca triathlon have been cancelled due to COVID-19. I thought it was still worth publishing anyway (As both Steve and I hope to do these events in 2021).

Recruiters are bound to say that moving roles and “getting out of your comfort zone” is a good thing to do as we would love people to move roles. More frequent job changes obviously means more money for recruiters, but I am honestly writing this without my recruiter hat on and backing this theory up with evidence as you will read below.

The idea of the ‘comfort zone’ goes back to a classic experiment in psychology. Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of ‘relative comfort’ created a steady level of performance.  In order to maximise performance we need a state of relative anxiety—a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called “Optimal Anxiety”, and it’s just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.

I have also referred to this in other blogs but Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also helps to show how we as humans benefit from getting out of our comfort zone and the top two elements of the hierarchy are covered by this.

Esteem – proving (to yourself) that you can do something that you may not have done before can give you a real feeling of achievement. If you surround yourself with good friends and family, the status and recognition that comes with it is also very rewarding.

Self-actualisation – if you have an element of desire to be the most that one can be then you will also find a challenge helps towards this and find it very rewarding.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of basic needs!

For this blog I will take my recruiter hat off and cover some personal experiences of getting out of your comfort zone (Some career and some non-career examples).

Leaving BT 

I could write a separate blog on this but here is my summary. Having worked at GMAP and then GeoBusiness Solutions I then spent 14 years at BT. I did change roles “fairly often” at BT but in hindsight I should have moved more often (and possibly earlier out of BT). Don’t get me wrong, my time at BT was great (until a few of the later years where I took the wrong career move) but now having been four years out of BT I do not look back.

When I left BT in July 2016, it was a big leap of faith. I was moving from a role that I could almost have had for life (nothing is certain, but BT was pretty much as safe as they come in terms of jobs) to starting a new business in a new area for me. Looking back at my experience, initially I leapt beyond “Optimal Anxiety” due to other pressures. Starting a new career and business and also trying to help care for my mother who had a rapid form of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed away in February 2019.

Coronavirus aside, and with Steve helping me full time on the recruitment for the last year, I feel I am now in the “Optimal Anxiety” space, and this feels great. It’s hard to get that balance and it doesn’t always mean moving roles, but I can really feel a shift in my happiness and work satisfaction within this phase!

Kilimanjaro 

In September 2020 Steve will be embarking on a 8-day trip up Mount Kilimanjaro. Cartilage and ACL injuries from football have taken their toll on Steve’s knees (they hurt more when he walks down-hill) but Steve is now pushing ahead with building up to this challenge.

From my point of view on this trip, the challenge is 2-fold. Firstly, it is about getting the fitness to be able to walk for several hours up-hill (This will involve some challenging climbs in the UK with Snowdon, Scafell, Helvellyn etc lined up). Secondly, and perhaps most challenging and one you cannot fully prepare for, is that of coping with the altitude. Kilimanjaro is 6,000 metres high and at that level your blood saturation (Oxygen content in your blood) decreases to nearly 80%. The plan on this trip is to gradually increase the altitude to allow for the climbers to acclimatise to that level.

The reasons Steve is doing this are 5-fold

  1. Heading towards the big 5-0 and needing to set a big goal for himself.
  2. Wanting a physical challenge (that can accommodate his dodgy knees).
  3. Wanting to test his mental strength – as it’s certainly a case of mind over matter.
  4. Raising some money for causes that are close to him
  5. Mindfulness – Spending 8 days away from the usual stresses of life and not being in a digitally connected world (bit back to nature really)

Even though the Kilimanjaro trip is postponed, Steve is still focused on training and has set a September 2020 date of walking some of the Lake Districts highest hills in mountains to keep focus so he is ready for 2021.

Triathlon

Finally, on to my challenge this year – in October 2021 I will be competing in the Peguera (Mallorca) Triathlon. This will be a 1.9km open-water Swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run (In that order). To date I have done the last of these three disciplines/distances in isolation, but have never done the first two (The most I have swam in one go is 600m and the most I have cycled is 65km), let alone two or three of these one after the other.

I have run three marathons to date and I remember thinking after doing my first 10km race, that I could never ever run a marathon. I then entered a half marathon and started the training by increasing my distance each week by no more than 10%. I got up to 11 miles in training and then did my first half marathon in 1hr 42 minutes. That step up gave me the confidence to try a marathon and so I embarked on training and again increments of 10% each week up to 20 mile training runs. I find with running once you get to a certain level and go through the training it then becomes a habit. I ran my first marathon in 4hrs 20 mins. Gutted that I didn’t get under four hours, I tried again and came in at 3hrs 58 minutes – what a relief! My third marathon I finished in 3hrs 50 minutes and have felt a great sense of achievement at pushing myself, and have also given myself confidence and belief in my ability and potential fitness levels.

Back to the triathlon and my biggest challenge to begin with is the swim – currently two lengths of front crawl and I am done! So I have been taking swimming lessons and 16 weeks in, I can now swim about 15 lengths without stopping. It’s been a real slog as some weeks I feel like I have made progress, and then other weeks I feel like I have taken a step backwards. What I have felt in this process is a real sense of achievement. I do feel as we get older we do like our comfort zones, but rising to a challenge like this has helped give me a real sense of accomplishment with even more to come. I know I have the ability to further improve all three disciplines and viewing and reviewing my Strava from time to time helps to back this up.

Conclusion

Getting out of your comfort zone isn’t just about changing jobs! It is all about trying to find the right balance in your life and a level of stress in your work and non-work elements that keep you motivated and give you higher self-esteem.

Rather than change jobs, it can also be taking on more responsibility or learning new skills. Rather than work related it can be learning a new skill or increasing your exercise for example. We all need an element of self-esteem so anything that can help towards that will help keep your life well balanced and help you maintain that happiness!

I’d love to hear your views on this concept of pushing your boundaries. Do you do this in your work and personal life? What are you doing this year to get our of your comfort zone?

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Maslows Hierarchy of needs: The Chronic Traveller saved to Self-care and self-love on Pinterest

Graduate focus – stand out from the crowd

This blog is aimed at providing students and recent graduates advice on their career.

Looking back from what has been a rapid 22 years since I graduated, I was very fortunate to do a degree course that provided modules that really interested me, but also gave me experience in the sector I gained my first role in; I joined GMAP as a Market Analyst in September 1997.

My degree in Geography and Management studies solidified my interest in GIS and spatial analysis and helped me to focus on a more narrow interest in its use within retail and marketing. This led to my first role at GMAP as a Market Analyst, working with Ford motor company, producing spatial interaction models to help them decide where to locate their dealerships.

Don’t panic! There is plenty of time to find the right job for you

Many students today do not know what career they want to go into and there are a mix of those who are balancing the final year of study and looking for roles versus those who are fully focused on their final year of study. It’s easy for me to say, and it depends on your circumstances, but my overriding advice is don’t panic! And if you are feeling a bit lost, Red Tiger Talent offer consultations with students to help them in their careers.

Timing is not that important 

A lot of students get fixated on getting a role that starts in the summer they graduate and depending on plans, this can feel like the ideal scenario. At Red Tiger Talent we get graduate roles coming up throughout the year, and sometimes you are even better placed beyond September, as there is still supply but the demand is lower.

Invest time in your CV 

The next two sections are linked to this section in that you firstly need some good content for your CV. A CV update is usually bottom of your list of priorities, it’s hard to move up your list but it really is time well invested. Also be careful where you get advice – the more people you ask the more advice you will get. The main advice I would give is to try to make sure, for any role you go for, that within 30 seconds of reading your CV the person would like to interview you. Tailor your CV to each role so that you tick 80% of the capabilities and experience boxes they are looking for.

Try and get work experience 

Depending on timing and the course you are on, it is well worth exploring whether you can do a year in industry. Failing that, see if there are modules to allow industrial experience or take your own initiative to get some relevant work experience. There is definitely a very high percentage of students that end up with a 1st class honours after a year in industry as they often learn so much that helps kick-start their final year.

Pick a good dissertation 

This is hard if you still don’t know what you want to do, but if you do know, try and pick a dissertation that will give you some good experience in the careers area you want to go into. I did my dissertation on the use of GIS in an estate agents, which gave me plenty to speak about during my 1st interview at GMAP.

Learn new skills 

You may have limited time but try and pick up some new skills. At Red Tiger Consulting we provide Microsoft Excel Training to students. but also look into free software such as QGIS. You can get a free 2 week copy of Alteryx, which is a very fast-growing piece of software that lots of our clients are using. Also try and give the level of skills you have in each and do not lie about it as you could get found out in an interview or tested on your skills!

It’s a daunting prospect, mixing degree completion with career aspirations, but at Red Tiger Talent we are more than happy to help. If you would like to talk about a career in Location Planning, GIS, Consumer Insight, Property Research or Business Intelligence then please do get in touch.

Author: Paul Halsall

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