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Does Amazon hate the people that work there? Lessons for choosing your future employer carefully!

UCL Careers24 August 2015

On 15th August, the New York Times published a damning story about the way Amazon treats its employees throughout their organisation.

Amazon Cat - Creative Commons/Stephen Woods/Flickr.comAmazon Cat – Creative Commons/Stephen Woods/Flickr.com

 

Here are a few of the practices that ex-employees expose in the article:
–       In order to find the “right” way to do things you are encouraged to openly challenge your colleagues. It creates a combative environment.
–       An expectation that you will work late and on weekends and take part in conference calls on holiday.
–       An Anytime Feedback Tool which allows employees to send praise or criticism about any other employee to management.
–       Staff who were sick; women who had children; and a staff member who wanted to reduce their hours to take care of a sick parent were told that these events were interfering with fulfilling their work goals.

There has been A LOT of reaction to this through the week. I am not writing to draw any specific conclusions about Amazon, I will leave that to you. I thought it was a good spring board to suggest some ideas about how to choose the right place to work.

In the interests of balance, I have included 2 links to share the other side of the story. A rebuttal from an existing employee and a memo to staff from the CEO of Amazon, telling staff to email him if they are experiencing “such lack of empathy”.
> https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/amazonians-response-inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-nick-ciubotariu
> http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2015/08/17/amazon-coms-bezos-replies-to-stinging-criticism-on-workplace-policies/

Ideas on how to evaluate a future employer:
– Take time to understand what is important to you, so that you know what to look at when evaluating an organisation.
– Speak to existing employees. Reach out through LinkedIn to see if you have anyone in your network. I find that people are generally very willing to talk.
– Look at sites such as glassdoor.co.uk which often include profiles of employers with comments from people who have worked there.
– One great tip I have seen is to go to the business loctaion on a Monday morning and see what the body language of staff there tells you!
– If you have got an interview, remember that this is still a good time to evaluate an employer. This is the organisation on its best behaviour (or should be) so consider what this tells you about how they might treat you if you get the job.
– Don’t be blinded by the perks that they publicise. What do they expect in return and how does that fit with the level of commitment you feel comfortable offering?
– Ask why the person you are replacing is leaving! You might need to read between the lines here!!
– Get an internship or work experience. Also know as ‘try before you buy’!

Its not all bad news, some employers are testing looking after employees as their route to success.

Netflix recently announced paid (at your full salary level) maternity/paternity leave for the first year of your newborn or adoption. This is in addition to unlimited holiday!

And this CEO took a gigantic paycut (from $1M to $70,000) in order to give his staff a higher minimum wage.

Happy investigating.

Trevor Bibic, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

Can you just ask for an Internship?

UCL Careers20 August 2015

How do you get an internship? Is it as simple as just asking?

I am a big fan of Casey Neistat’s (film maker, tech entrepreneur) YouTube vlogs, and recently he guested on another YouTube show (AskGaryVee). I wanted to share it because it shares some views on careers that I thought you might find interesting. Nothing too fluffy here, just some entrepreneurs telling it how they see it.

Here are their key points – but watch the video for context and further info.

(timestamp 1:38)
If you want an internship – how about just asking for it!
If you want a particular kind of work – try getting involved at whatever scale you can – no matter how small.
(timestamp 5:15)
If you want to be confident – stop caring about what others think!
(timestamp 15:24)
If you want to find your future career – be busy or do something you hate!

Let your fellow students know (in the comments) about any jobs or breaks you have got just by asking.

Good luck!

Trevor Bibic, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers

To video CV or not to video CV

UCL Careers5 February 2014

If you were eagle eyed, you may have spotted an article in the Evening Standard last night that suggested Video CVs (or Me-Vs as they called them) are heading to a recruitment process near you.

It is certainly becoming increasingly common, along with Skype interviews. At the very least it is one way to that might help you stand out from the crowd.

popcorn

Speaking personally, I think this is an interesting development but one which has a number of challenges. I certainly can understand that it can show some personality before meeting a person, and that is valuable. However I fear that not all great candidates are naturals in front of a camera and this might actually introduce attractiveness/performing talent bias which may reduces the effectiveness of the recruitment process. A study in Italy last year showed that (at least in Italy) attractive candidates have a higher success rate for getting interviews!

I have sourced some quick guides to help you get started in this brave new world if you want to try something different or your application requires it.

> From Inspiring Interns – an infographic with all you need to know: http://www.inspiringinterns.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-video-cvs

>Another useful resource from Inspiring Interns – a dos and don’ts video (the meat starts at 1:12): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWGOuVdwrbw#t=11

>For a bit of contrast, another quick guide from TotalJobs: http://www.totaljobs.com/careers-advice/cvs-and-applications/how-to-make-a-video-cv

> An online job board with video CVs at its heart. I only encountered them while looking up links for this post, so I don’t know much. But they are certainly intriguing: http://www.videorecruit.com

Some examples:

This is a YouTube interactive CV. It has over 300,000 views which is pretty impressive and the production values are well within the reach of most people!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EzNll1U2N8

Adam Pacitti hit headlines for buying a billboard to ask for a job. He also made a video CV at the same time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGNxic8JG7o

And lastly, one for the innovators out there: Dawn Siff used Vine to create a 6 second CV! https://vine.co/v/b6wxtwrwP7P

Lastly, I just wanted to share the best tip I encountered. Look into your webcam for Skype interviews – don’t make eye contact with the person on the screen! Very easy to get wrong!

Have you found any video CVs that you’d like to share? We’d love to see them!

– Trevor Bibic, Careers Consultant, UCL Careers.

 

Can I buy you a cup of coffee?

UCL Careers8 October 2013

City Business Women Coffee

As a careers consultant it is common to suggest that investigation about the career of interest would be a good idea. One of the absolute best sources of research is people who are already working in your area of interest. In some careers (e.g. academic research, freelance work of any kind), building contacts is absolutely essential.

This suggestion can often met with a look of fear at the thought of approaching a complete stranger for help. So, I wanted to share a few simple tips to make this prospect much easier than you realised. Don’t forget, people like to talk about what they do and offer advice. Networking in various forms is a normal part of the working world.

1)     Offer to buy them a cup of coffee. Just ask for 10 -15 minutes of someone’s time and offer to buy them a coffee. This will really soften the request, it is friendly and will make it seem less like a chore to the recipient. It really does work, and will continue to be useful after you secure employment, where you want to open dialogue with someone that you don’t normally interact with.

2)     Be prepared. Whether you offer to buy a coffee or not, if you have a meeting with someone make sure you have questions ready to ask them. This is critical to getting a good result from the meeting. I have met all too many people who managed to get a meeting and were so excited, that they forgot to prepare any questions and have gotten off to shaky starts!

3)     Make sure you ask open questions. Avoid questions which lead to yes/no questions. Start with What, When, Where, Why, How and you will be in good shape. You’ll learn more and they’ll feel valued. Some ideas:

  1. How did you get into this line of work?
  2. Who is the most successful person at the moment? What do you think they are doing that has led to this?
  3. What is the managing director like? (The values of the person at the top often reflects all the way through the organisation).
  4. How does this organisation promote people?
  5. What do you wish you had known before starting here?

4)     Avoid selling yourself unless you are specifically asked a little about your background. Keep it relatively brief, you don’t want to use up too much of their time. You will make a good impression if you are genuinely there to gather information. If they like you, you can approach them at a later date.

5)     Ask an alumnus. Many alumni are open to being approached about their career experience. Simply log in to https://www.ucl.ac.uk/alumni-community/ with your UCL ID to investigate further.

6)     Exploit your LinkedIn network. I often ask people what they’d say if a friend said “I know someone who’d love to learn about what you do for a living, can you spare them a few minutes?” The answer is almost always yes. Just 100 contacts, who each had a 100 contacts, gives you access to 10,000 possible conversations!! This has to be one of the most powerful uses of LinkedIn.

7)     Share your connection. Don’t forget to let the person you are approaching know if you have something in common. Are you both from UCL, the same LinkedIn group or perhaps you are working on a project in the same field. It will increase the likelihood that they will be interested in meeting you.

And a final top tip from a fellow Careers Consultant: At the end of the conversation, ask if there is anyone that they would suggest would be worth contacting.

Have you ever bought someone a coffee in return for advice of any kind? Or do you have some killer questions to ask? Let us know in the comments below.

– Trevor Bibic, UCL Careers, Careers Consultant

This blog post was originally posted on 8th October 2013.