Recruitment experts answer your top career questions

What should I do if I want to change sectors in the industry?
Firstly, look at your motivation for making the move. Is it a genuine desire or merely an idea that the grass is greener?

Secondly, research is vital, so look carefully at the new sector and, specifically, your desired role. Is the new sector buoyant, is there a shortage of skilled people who want to do the right job, are there any compulsory qualifications you need? Talk to people working in the sector, surf the internet, speak to specialist recruiters. This may put you off or stiffen your resolve.

Armed with this information, understand fully the skills you will need to be successful and write them down. Then list your own skills, being honest, as any future employer will be. Compare the two and see how much common ground there is.

Technical skills
Finally, pay attention to where the gaps are. Looking outside your work experience may provide some more matches, for example, an interest in amateur dramatics can transfer well into a training or sales environment.

Can you do anything about the technical gap, as a potential employer will be impressed if you are already trying to gain technical skills by researching background material. Admitting you have areas of weakness and showing you are addressing them can remove some objections.

Accept that you will probably have to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term prospects. This could mean a salary drop or a change in status until you have proved yourself.

Most of all, be prepared to convince people you can and want to do this role. Our industry is still reasonably traditional and managers usually resist doing something out of the ordinary. Using a specialist recruiter can help but, as with most things, it depends on how badly you want it.
Answered by Reed Insurance Selection

I have just been promoted to team leader - should I change my behaviour towards team members?
Communication is the key. You must realise that now you are neither one of the troops nor senior management. You are in "no man's land". Your boss will expect you to manage the troops and improve their productivity and effectiveness. Your team will be wary of what type of manager you will be. Some in the team may even be jealous that you got the promotion and not them. (This is very often the person who congratulates you most.)

Meet each person on a one-to-one basis and openly discuss your intentions, seek their business input and ask for their concerns. Explain what your boss expects of you.

Describe the management style you will adopt, what standard of behaviour and work performance you are expecting. Say that your relationship at work may change, although you hope in a positive way. Be pleasant and assertive (not aggressive).

If challenged at the outset, do not be frightened to flex your muscles, but do not go over the top. Never use your title to invoke authority. Be a leader, set a team target and a team reward for achieving it, that is, if the backlog of 1,000 files is cleared by 1 June 2002, the whole team will go out for an all-expenses paid meal (agree the reward with your boss).

Turn your job into that of project manager, break your goals into mini-goals, get the team involved, get everyone coming up with ideas and be the team coach and cheerleader. Do not try to manage and control; enthuse, excite and inspire instead.

To be taken seriously by your team you must set yourself high personal standards. You must lead by example; your standards set the tone for the team. Your behaviour must clearly communicate "team leader".
Answered by Hays Inter-Selection

What rights do I have as a parent?
Women who do not qualify for the new extended rights of additional maternity leave can still qualify for parental leave if they have completed one year's service with their employer. Some parental leave can also be taken straight after maternity leave.

The right to parental leave applies to both male and female employees.

Employees who have completed one year's service with their employer and whose child is born or adopted will be entitled to 13 weeks' unpaid parental leave to care for their child. (A part-time worker's entitlement is pro rata.) On 10 January, parental leave was extended from 13 to 18 weeks for parents of disabled children.

The right also applies to mothers and fathers who have obtained formal parental responsibility for a child under the Children Act.

The right to take a maximum of 13 weeks' parental leave applies up to the child's fifth birthday, (or five years after placement, in the case of adoption). However, for parents of disabled children, the right lasts up to the child's 18th birthday. (The 13 weeks entitlement is per child.)

The employee has a right to return to the same job if they take a period of only four weeks or less off, but if they take more than four weeks they have the right to return to a similar job, if not the same job.

The government has left it up to employers and employees to decide in each workplace how parental leave will work. If they cannot agree, or it is not dealt with in the contract of employment then the fall-back scheme under the maternity and parental leave regulations 1999 will apply. This states:

1. Parental leave should be taken in blocks or multiples of one week, except in the case of parents of disabled children, who can take their leave a day at a time.

2. The employee should give 21 days' notice to the employer before taking parental leave.

3. Only a maximum of four weeks' leave in any one year can be taken.

4. An employer can postpone an employee's right to take parental leave for up to six months where the employer's business would not be able to cope (for example, because too many employees want to take parental leave at the same time or because the employment is seasonal). However, an employer cannot postpone an employee's right to take parental leave if it is taken immediately after a child is born or placed with a family for adoption.

5. An employee must produce evidence of their responsibility for the child, the child's date of birth or adoption date or the child's entitlement to disability living allowance, if requested by the employer.

If an employee is prevented from taking parental leave or is dismissed or victimised for taking parental leave they can take their case to an employment tribunal.
Answered by

How do I prepare for an evaluation and request a pay rise?
You are right to want to prepare - you need to go in to the session with a clear sense of how your efforts are accomplishing the organisation's goals, and be prepared to insert that evidence into the conversation wherever appropriate. Use some good listening skills here - make little "deposits" into the flow of the conversation; don't just "dump" all at once.

Don't set yourself up for disappointment by expecting too much. Be clear and logical, and be sure to practise with a tape recorder and another person playing the boss. Have the other person be cantankerous and ask why you want a raise at all. It will seem silly while you are doing it, but you will be glad for the practice in the end.
Answered by

What is the best way to prepare for an interview?
The hardest part of securing any position is the interview. You only have one chance to impress and, without suitable preparation, you are bound to fail.

This is a guide to what you should think about before you embark on a new career.

Find out as much as you can about the company and the position offered:

  • Seek information about the company either from their website or other literature

  • Obtain a detailed job description so that you have a clear understanding of the responsibilities and duties

  • Match your skills against those required in the job specification; this will enable you to play on your strengths during the interview process.

    Obtain information on the structure of the interview:

  • Find out about the interview process, such as whom you will be seeing and their position within the organisation

  • Ask if you will be required to take any tests or complete an application form so you are prepared for this.

    Handling difficult questions:

  • Have answers prepared for the following frequently asked questions:

    What are your strengths and weaknesses?

    Why did you apply for this job?

    Where do you see yourself in five years?

    Why do you want to work for us?

    What are your major achievements?

    Give me an example of when you have excelled in a difficult situation and how you dealt with it?

    Be realistic with your answers

    Things to think about:

  • Find out where the office is and ensure you arrive ten minutes before your interview time

  • Be confident when you introduce yourself - give a firm handshake and warm smile, as first impressions do count

  • Never say you are looking to change jobs because you wish to increase your salary; always give a positive reason

  • Most importantly, enjoy your interview and let your personality shine through.
    Answered by Outlook for Jobs

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