Monday 11 April 2016


Every time you've been for an interview you’re selling yourself. You're selling your skills, experience, attitude and your looks (sometimes). See yourself as a product. What are you selling? You aren't just going in there to discuss your career, you're there to see how YOU can help THEM

It's not about how many years experience you have or your education background. While that is all important. Its ultimately not what gets you the job. There are many, many, many people out there with some version of your experience and qualification. Just think about how many people graduated last year in your field.

So, in order to make you memorable in your interview, what do you need to do? SELL!

How are you a product? Let's see here... I am going to compare you and your career to a simple mass produced product - Excuse the brashness of that statement (I know you aren't a mass produced product!) Ask yourself these questions: (I will use environmental practitioners as an example). Remember this takes considerable preparation before your interview.

What is my title (Product name): 'Environmentalist' or more aptly named: Environmental Practitioner

What are my features (Product Features): I have a Masters Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Johannesburg. I have seven years experience in the environmental field. My experience includes infrastructure project, mining, commercial and Capital projects. (This is the part where they ask you about your experience with reference to specific projects)

What advantages to I have over the other candidates? (Advantages of the Product): This is the advantage your potential employer will gain from all of your features (discussed above). How will your Masters degree be an advantage. Explain this to the interviewer. Help them to see the link. You can say something like  "I have a Master degree in Environmental Science, which means I have a good idea how to conduct research and write detailed reports." or you could say "I've worked on mining and infrastructure as well as Capital projects, which means that I am comfortable with large projects and working with big teams of experienced professionals." Showing the interviewer the link here is important because a good salesperson never assumes that their prospect will come to a conclusion on their own. BUT they also don’t imply that their prospect is ignorant or stupid. It's all about CLEAR communication.

What benefits could you offer the company? (Product Benefits): Here you bring in the benefits that your advantages would have for the company. So the advantage of being comfortable working on large scale projects with big professional teams will provide the benefit that you can keep calm under pressure and maintain quality of work no matter how large the responsibility or how intimidating the team or project scale. Other benefits could also include being able to perform under pressure with teams of people from different backgrounds and being able to communicate with everyone in your team from all places in the a hierarchy.
What is your Grabber? The most important part of the interview is the questions you ask. Not the answers you give. Many people think the opposite is true. The interviewer wants to know that you have given critical thought to their company and the work they do. So once you have satisfied all of their answers and allowed them to feel as though they can trust you. You hit them with questions. Always bring the questions back to you benefits and advantages. For instance, "As you know I have worked on large scale projects, will there be opportunity for me to contribute to something of a similar scale?" OR "As I am very comfortable with report writing and research, how much of it will I be doing and would I be supervising any staff in this task?" These types of questions, give the impression that you are thinking about the job in terms of what you can offer as well as trying to understand the needs of the company. This is a very powerful approach in an interview, because you allow the potential employer to talk about their concerns and challenges and it also gives you an opportunity to see where any skills that have not yet been discussed can be of service to the interviewer.

Now, this might all sound like manipulation. I know in your scientific brain you're saying: "Why should I trick them into hiring me? That sounds fake and they will see right through me. I don't know how to sell anything, I'm not a salesperson, I'm a scientist/engineer!"
Yes... I do understand how you feel. I was once where you are. But I must reassure you that it's not manipulation in any way. You are simply making a wonderfully persuasive flow diagram in the mind of the interviewer. All you are doing is linking important points in the flow diagram that represents your product (The Professional You) for them to see it more clearly in relation to what they need. You're just making it easier for them to make a decision. Of course you must not lie because that is not sales, it's dishonesty.

Article by Janavi Da Silva (Msc)
Associate Partner

Project Managers: 3 Ways to Motivate your Project Team

So, you're a Project Manager. You deal with deadlines, teams, sometimes difficult team members, budgets, planning, execution, checking!
Firstly, this is not some how-to or technique'd approach to Project Management. I am not interested in the tools that Project Managers use or the techniques to systematise project management outcomes. This is a look at the soft skills necessary to get people on your side of the table. Same side of the table = project success.
How do you get the most out of your project team with the least resistance? You obviously want the most streamlined approach to successfully completing your project to your (and your clients) satisfaction.
Managing a project can be taxing at times. Especially when you look at that giant Gantt chart looming over your desk or board room table. Let's chat about how to move into a place where you smoothly get results.
  1. 80-20 Rule for Getting Results
At university I had a friend who never studied, he partied hard and always seemed relaxed about classes and semester tests. Even though his marks were always in the top 15% of the class (in the sciences). His motto was "Minimum input - Maximum Output". We all envied him for his natural ability to get things done well with minimal effort. He seemed to operate on about 10% of his available brain power, but get the best results every time!
Years later, I now understand what he was doing! He applied the Pareto Principle to everything he did.  Now, you might be thinking, "oh, another article about the 80-20 rule - BORING". Well, not actually. I think this might surprise you...
How does the Pareto Principle (80-20 rule) apply to motivating your team to get into action?  I'll tell you how.
Now, don't take my word for it... try this out for yourself. I'm all about experiential learning.
Anyway, here's how it works. You just need to simplify your approach. Think about the actions you can take to wittle away the 80% of what you are doing with your team that are not working. You can apply the "Stop.Start.Continue" assessment to your project management inputs. This way your most valuable and important inputs will maximise your output. This is how you apply the assessment to your work:
Ask yourself what you should stop doing with your team. Like, stop sending daily follow up emails. These may distract and stress team members. Then ask yourself what you should start doing? Possibly, start asking for public (witnessed by other team members) commitments by team members to desired outcomes. To create accountability. And lastly, what should you continue to do? This might be to continue to check on progress and provide praise or support where needed. In this way, you can cut away unnecessary inputs and maximise the outputs.
2. Communicate in Terms of the Highest Values of your Team Members
Even though your job is to manage a project, it's important to remember that you are not a task master, dishing out tasks and demanding results. To be truly effective, you should be there to influence the decisions and behaviour of your team relative to the project at hand. It's about influence, not dictatorship.
People respond positively to positive reinforcement. Now, I'm not telling you to be a People Pleaser, Mr Nice PM. No. You just need to tailor your message to your audience. Meaning, if you're dealing with an architect who is responsible for the next as-built drawing for the project to move forward OR a data manager  finalising a CRM tool, make sure that your message to them speaks to what they value most.
In the case of the architect, try to find out what it is that they are doing. Ask them about their process and what they think is their most valuable input. Find out what other projects they are working on that excites or inspires them. You might find that the as-built for your project is delayed because they are more enthused about a social architecture project that helps disadvantaged communities. Once you have this information, find the links between your project and the one they find most inspiring.
3. Create Accountability in Your Project Team
Studies have shown that the delineation of responsibilities is more effective when the person delegating tasks gets buy-in from the person responsible for that task, even in the smallest form. The buy-in usually creates a sense of accountability, as team members confirm their involvement, instead of being directed to carry out a task. How do you do this?
You can do this by asking questions. Questions are the best way to get anything moving forward. In my mind, there are primary questions to get real buy-in and then secondary questions to confirm a request. A primary questions allows for the other person to demonstrate authority in their chosen field, to provide a professional opinion or to feel as though they are being consulted with on an important matter. It shows them that you take them seriously as a part of the team. Secondary questions confirm your trust in their opinion and their ability to see a task through. You are allowing them to give their thoughts on the matter and then to confirm accountability for their authority on the subject. Let's try them together...
Primary Question: " Do you agree that this is our number one priority?" "How do you think we can tackle this from your perspective?" Secondary Question: "Can you give us an outcome by next week Tuesday based on what we have just discussed?"
Do you see how, we first acknowledged their authority, thereby imposing accountability on their answers and then confirmed their competence to achieve the desired outcome. They feel valued as professionals and feel as though they are being given a voice, but because of this, they are more accountable to the team because you've linked their ability to perform to their authority in their field of specialisation. It's a win-win. Your influence is driven by their buy-in to what you need for the project.
I'm sure that what I have described does sound like a very tedious thing to have to do for most of you. But if you want to influence with power and poise, you will have to slow it down and manage your team by enhancing your soft skills. Anyway, there can be no team without co-operation.
Please note that I am speaking from experience, everything I say is based on what has worked for me. I like to think of myself as astutely tuned into how people respond within a team environment and how to maximise their contribution to a team. But I don't claim to know everything, either. So, if something else works for you, I'd be very happy to hear about it in the comments. We're all here to learn.

Article by Janavi Da Silva (Msc)
Associate Partner