Ngozi Stanley-Obi is a woman that had fought and won many battles; she’s a coach who teaches life’s strategy and how-to deal with the struggles that come with Job loss candidly.
This is a book written not out of the pretense of being a ‘superman’ when the chips are down; it teaches how to find hope in adversity, the place of believing in oneself, the avoidance of habits that plunges into despair and boredom, and the ultimate dependency on God. The copious wisdom are outlined with clarity and they are actionable. She touched the fundamental aspects of working and managing one’s emotion, physique, mental, financial and the spiritual during the experience of a Job loss.
Ngozi she has summarized the pain and the offers of the seed of greatness that comes with a job loss.
Partner, Natavi Consulting.
With thousands of youths graduating from universities each year into the labour market, and competing for the few available jobs, many are have difficulty getting the job they want. Many others before them have job hunted for a long time out of frustration and face difficulties with the interview process.
Here are some commonly asked interview questions and ways to respond.
Tell me about yourself
If you haven’t done any preparation for this interview you are in trouble. This question is so open-ended, and you may head in the wrong direction or go on too long. Some have given responses such as their name, educational background, state of origin, hobbies, etc.
This is often an opening question, so you can stay somewhat general, but keep in mind they will be evaluating what you say against the job qualifications. For instance, if the job is for an accountant with an accounting services fi rm, a good response would be, “I’m an outgoing person and I have a lot of community interests. I really enjoy my profession and feel a sense of satisfaction when I can get to know my clients on a more personal level.
I think it builds trust, which helps me to understand their business problems and offer innovative solutions.” (This response conveys a customer service focus, a willingness to network, and a problem-solving attitude: just the things required for this position.)
Why did you leave your last position?
This answer should be squeaky clean. Even if you hated your last job, you need to fi nd a positive spin. Let’s face it, any criticism will only make them want to dig to see if you were the problem. For instance, if you left because your manager was a glory grabbing egomaniac, rephrase it more positively, “I’m looking for a position that will allow me to contribute more and learn new things.” (After all, isn’t that what your former boss wouldn’t let you do?).
If you lost your job due to a downsizing, it will help if you weren’t the only one who was let go. It’s also critical to be upbeat and not bitter. For instance, “The company was acquired and they were forced to eliminate all the duplicate positions. I’m looking at this as a fresh opportunity to grow my career.”
Why are you interested in this position?
This is where you’d better know your stuff. In fact, it’s similar to the question, “What are your strengths?” because both are asking you to sell yourself. The interviewer is listening to your answer to see if you match the qualifications for the job. Prior to the interview, you should have developed short mini-stories that illustrate past examples about your results in each qualification.
For instance, “The qualifications seem like a very good match to my past experience and interests. For example . . .”The worst answer you can give is a selfish one, such as, “I like the pay” or “I only can work part-time, so the hours are right for my schedule.” Those things may be true but you should be more focused on what you can contribute and how well you’ll fit the job.
What did you dislike about your past jobs?
This one is tricky because you can’t wriggle out of it. If you say, “I liked everything about my old job,” you’ll sound phoney and they’ll probably ask you why you left. It pays to have given this a thought beforehand. If you blurt out something that is a key part of the new position, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot (“The customers were too demanding”). Besides, something you didn’t like in your old job can be much different in a new job.
For a sales position, a reasonable answer could be, “Some customers were very diffi cult to deal with. In spite of everything I would do to help them, there were things beyond my control, so they were still unhappy and that was frustrating.” (The answer conveys that you did everything you could to help and that you want to satisfy customers.)
Where do you want to be in five years?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a far-reaching goal will demonstrate your ambition. This can backfire. For instance, “I want to be a vice president in five years” may: a.) Make you sound naïve b.) Make you sound so ambitious you won’t stay long c.)
Threaten the person who is interviewing you (Even if he or she isn’t the VP, you will be viewed as a potential competitor). Another example would be a person who is interviewing for a sales position but who says, “I’d like to be a sales manager in five years.” The interviewer may think the person doesn’t like to sell, is over qualified, or doesn’t have the right skill set.
Your best bet is to focus on the current position and say something such as, “I realize that my career could go in many different ways. I enjoy the field I’m in and as long as I’m learning new things and expanding my responsibilities, I’ll be happy.”
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Linda (not real name) hadbeen the ideal worker,always willing to take on new projects, work long hours and weekends–until last year. Therewere subtle changes at first. Her demeanor turned from alwayspositive to a growing streak of negativism.
She began to have problems sleeping.
She felt frustrated with a lack of progress within the fi rm, and a growing sense of no longer being a part of the team. She started to use sick days for the first time — some for a nagging number of illnesses, some for “mental-health” days. Luckily for Linda, she had some friends who recognised the problem she was suffering from was job stress.
What is job stress?
Job stress is something we all face as workers, and we all handle it differently. There is no getting around it. But, not all
stress is bad, and learning how to deal with and manage stress, is critical to maximising our job performance, staying safe on the job, and maintaining our physical and mental health. For workers like Linda, infrequent doses of job stress pose little threat and may be effective in increasing motivation and productivity, but too much — and too prolonged — can lead to a downward spiral — both professionally and personally.
Some jobs, by definition, tend to be higher stress. Such jobs include ones that are in dangerous settings (fire, police), that deal with demanding customers (service providers), that have demanding time pressures (healthcare), that have targets marketing), and that have repetitive detailed work (manufacturing). However, stress is not limited to any one particular job or
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, job stress, now more than ever, poses a threat to the health of workers – and the health of organisations.
NIOSH defi nes job stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Stress also occurs when the situation has high demands and the worker has little or no control over it. Job stress can lead to poor health and injury.
Symptoms & warning signs of job stress
While the causes can be something other than job stress, other common symptoms and early warning signs of job stress and burnout include:
Physical problems (headaches, stomach
Causes of job stress
There are two schools of thought on the causes of job stress. According to one theory, differences in individual characteristics, such as personality and coping style, are best at predicting what will stress one person but not another. The focus then becomes on developing prevention strategies that help workers fi nd ways to cope with demanding job conditions.
The other theory proposes that certain working conditions are inherently stress-inducing, such as fear of job loss, excessive workload demands, lack of control or clear direction, poor or dangerous physical working conditions, inflexible work hours, and conflicting job expectations. The focus then becomes on eliminating or reducing those work environments as the way to reducing job stress.
Job strategies for managing stress
While many of the methods of preventing job stress need to be developed and supported by the organisation, there are things that workers can do to help you better manage job stress.
Tips for dealing with job stress
1. Put it in perspective. Jobs are disposable. Your friends, families, and health are not. If your employer expects too much of you, and it’s starting to take its toll on you, start looking for a new job/new employer.
2. Modify your job situation. If you really like your employer, but the job has become too stressful (or too boring), ask about tailoring your job to your skills. And if you got promoted into a more stressful position that you just are not able to handle, ask about a lateral transfer — or even a transfer back to your old job (if that’s what you want).
3. Get time away. If you feel the stress building, take a break. Walk away from the situation, perhaps walking around the block, sitting on a park bench, taking in a little meditative time. Exercise does wonders for the psyche. But even just finding a quiet place and listening to music on your camera, iPod or other device can reduce stress.
4. Fight through the clutter. Taking the time to organise your desk or workspace can help ease the sense of losing control that comes from too much clutter. Keeping a to-do list — and then crossing things off it — also helps.
5. Talk it out. Sometimes the best stress-reducer is simply sharing your stress with someone close to you. The act of talking it out – and getting support and empathy from someone else — is often an excellent way of blowing of steam and reducing stress. Have a support system of trusted people.
6. Cultivate allies at work. Just knowing you have one or more coworkers who are willing to assist you in times of stress will reduce your stress level. Just remember to reciprocate and help them when they are in need.
7. Find humour in the situation. When you – or the people around you — start taking things too seriously, find a way to break through with laughter. Share a joke or funny story.
8. Have realistic expectations. While Nigerians are working longer hours, we can still only fi t so much work into one day. Having unrealistic expectations of what you can accomplish sets you up for failure — and increased stress.
9. Nobody is perfect. If you are one of those types that are obsessed over every detail and micromanage to make sure “everything is perfect,” you need to stop. Change your motto to performing your best, and leave perfection to God.
10. Maintain a positive attitude (and avoid those without one). Negativism sucks the energy and motivation out of any situation, so avoid it whenever possible. Instead, develop a positive attitude — and learn to reward yourself for little accomplishments (even if no one else does).
Your health is everything. You need to take care of yourself, and no job, customer, or boss is worth putting yourself at risk. Find a way out through one or more of our tips. Take control of your situation — and fi x it — and you will have better mental and physical health, as well as better relationships with the people around you.
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“Greed is one of the most socially acceptable sins in our fallen culture. Greed is very much a part of our world. Think of it. If an individual starts a business, pounds his employees mercilessly, undermines his competitors deceitfully, overcharges his customers regularly, but makes a fortune in the process, what do we call him? – A SUCCESS!” – Rv. Fr. Dr. Tony Mario Ozele.
Since inception about one year ago, this page has been and will continue to be committed to promoting sound business practices and success anchored on heavenly principles. As Christians, our business lives must be impacted by our faith and believes in the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Most unfortunately, in our world today, many believe that honesty is a recipe for failure.
This warped orientation breeds inordinate ambition to grab wealth at all cost, reflecting in all or most of the habits captured in Fr. Ozele’s words above.
Little wonder then that our pharmacy shops are stocked with fake and adulterated drugs. We buy substandard electronics and electrical products, fake auto spare parts from our markets.
The labor force is subjected to abusive labour practices. The national economy bleeds from round-tripping in foreign currency and other economic and financial crimes perpetrated by business enterprises for the purpose of gaining unduly from the illicit trades.
These illegal activities cost precious lives, worsen the state of the national economy, impairs the country’s ability to attract foreign equity and foreign direct investments, among other consequences.
Our effort on this page is to show that really and truly, we can succeed by doing the right things, and upholding justice, truthfulness, equity and fairness.In today’s global economy, to run a successful business, entrepreneurs must be prepared to embrace honesty, sincerity and faithfulness. By business success here, we refer to those businesses that experience higher than
normal growth and profitability rates, and who are capable of managing the growth and profitability on a sustainable
long term basis.
According to Kelly Cutler, CEO Marcel Media (Chicago USA), “there is no secret recipe for guaranteed longevity in the business world. It takes a ton of hard work, a commitment to a strategic plan and a team of hard-working employees to make your dream a reality.
But perhaps the biggest ingredient for future relevancy is the design and institution of a progressive company culture”.
Company culture is the sum total of human behavior within an organization and the meaning that people attach to such behavior. In summary, Company culture defines, and identifies the personality of the firm. It is a configuration of the habits, characters, beliefs and collective values and principles of organizational members.
It is a product of factors such as history, product, market, technology, strategy, types of employee and management style. Organizational culture has a strong influence on the way people and groups interact with each other, with customers, competition, the market, society, law and order as well as every stakeholder. A good culture will therefore enhance perception in the market, and thereby promote business success.
Now, one key point I wish to make here is that what matters in all these is the perception, not what the company has crafted in various documents within it as shared values. It is unfortunate to note that although many companies craft very beautiful organization cultures and values as part of their mission, vision and value statements; these are not entrenched in the firm.
Do not be fooled. One of the easiest things to do in business is to craft a beautiful mission and value statement. It is usually
more difficult and tasking to practice them. Most often, little or no effort is made to track and monitor compliance with these principles in the way the company conducts itself. Even the leadership of these companies engages in business practices that run counter to their documented organizationally accepted business character, just for the purpose of making illicit supper profits.
(Mt.7:20; James4:17) Discipline, professionalism, team work, honesty and integrity are business principles and characters that
any serious minded Christian business leader should deploy and entrench as organizational culture. A business that is clearly identified as absolutely professional, honest and with the highest sense of integrity will command respect, enduring patronage and loyalty from customers. It is a fact that organizations that have effectively developed a clear core vision and purpose around these principles, and who communicate them clearly to their employees, customers and partners are more likely to
experience higher levels of success. The catch is on communication, enforcement and monitoring.
A disciplined organization is a compliance driven company. Business discipline refers to the ability to stick to the rules of the game. It is the tendency to avoid the temptation to cut corners. It means the ability to make choices that will help grow the business in the long term, rather than taking advantage of the short term. It is about keeping your word, doing that which you promise to do. A disciplined business will not knowingly and willfully mislead its clients into believe it can provide value which it knows it lacks the capacity to provide. Disciplined companies will always clarify expectations where they perceive ambiguities.
A responsible business organization creates internal structures that enables it to obey all relevant laws guiding the business, comply with contracts and agreements (written and unwritten) with clients and customers. Obedience to the law is a fundamental principle of God, and business men and women are not exempted from this.
Lisa Mooney, an Expert in workplace discipline, writing on the subject “importance of discipline in an organization” lists the promotion of behavior, efficiency, a peaceful environment, fairness, and safety as the key rewards for businesses (large and small) that promote a culture of discipline.
A disciplined environment helps both management and staff to be at their best. There are standards of appropriate behavior to which every member of staff and management should adhere. Such an environment promotes a culture of leadership by example. Such knowledge encourages appropriate actions and conducts which are essential in small companies. Level of operational efficiency in such organizations is usually high. Staff members discipline themselves in working in a timely manner to produce quality output.
This leads to higher productivity, cost containment and sustainable profitability. Peace permeates organizations that promote a culture of discipline and organizations that don’t are predominantly impulsive, erratic and uncertain. A disciplined organization usually creates disciplined people. A company that does not cheat its clients, suppliers and government, will hardly experience internal frauds. This is true because people must always reap that which they sow.
If you sow discipline, you will never reap corruption. (Galatians 6.7) Professionalism speaks to the need for your business to be ethical in all its conduct. You must be known and seen to be professional in the way you conduct your business from the sourcing of raw materials, the production process, marketing and business communication, human capital management and relationship with government, shareholders and other stakeholders. Professional organizations are transparent, and entrench strong corporate governance procedures in their management process.
In the words of Sherrie Scott, a professional work place establishes boundaries between what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, encourages improvement in performance, maintains accountability, promotes respect, and minimizes conflicts. Conflict of interest is one of the most critical issues in organizational behavior. Where employees act in ways detrimental to the interest of the firm simply because they have other interests to protect, the company suffers loss of revenue, customer dissatisfaction, and in some cases breach of laws and regulations. Remember you cannot serve two masters (Mat.6:24).
Team spirit is one of the fruits of a disciplined and professionally managed enterprise. The reason is not far-fetched. Because the company is fair to everyone; customers, employees, suppliers and all stakeholders, we have said earlier that peace permeates
the organizational environment. So people work together for the same purpose, customer satisfaction. If you keep improving customer experience, if you consistently meet or exceed customer expectation, your company will certain win larger market share, and this translates to better and more sustainable cash fl ow and profits.
Teamwork is essential and inevitable if your company must achieve this. From production to marketing and sales, all teams must work in harmony. A business is like an orchestra. To produce the required harmony, everybody must be on the same key. A house divide against itself cannot stand firmly (Mark 3:25; Mat. 12:25) Honest business practices inspire respect for the company both from within and outside the firm.
Honesty builds foundations of trust and respect for a business within its ecosystem – competitors, staff, customers, creditors,
suppliers, investors and government.
It brings to life the core mission and objectives of the fi rm and enforces attention to them. An honest business does not issue advertisements that promote false claims about the value propositions of your business. To read more, click here to get a copy of NCR magazine.
Rt. Rev. Msgr. (Dr.) John Kanebi Asuquo Aniagwu is Vicar General, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Episcopal Vicar Ikeja Region and Parish Priest of St Leo’s Catholic Church Ikeja. In this chat with Nigerian Catholic Reporter, he talks on the problem of unemployment, the power sector, job creation and poor funding of education in Nigeria. He also counseled Christians on how to vote in credible leaders into offices and how to cope in a distressed economy.
What would be your recommendation to Christians in the face of the present economic crunch in the country?
Christians should keep on praying to God that He would turn our situation around and that the economy would improve. We should also pray that the managers of our economy will do the right things with our resources by channeling resources where they would benefit the masses more. Specifically more attention should be paid to job creation to ensuring that people are gainfully employed.
Another area that requires the urgent attention of the managers of our economy is the power sector. Electricity is a key factor to development. If we have steady power supply, a lot of people can be self-employed. They can create their own businesses, production will increase, and industries will grow and employ more people.
It is quite unfortunate that a lot of parents are out of jobs today. Many of them cry to us here every day for all manner of assistance especially in the areas of provision of school fees for their children and wards, payment of house rent; sometimes for things as basic as feeding, which is heart wrenching. We cannot do much as a Church. We do not have the type of resources that are available to government to be able to help these people. We do the little we can, but I must confess that we can only do very little.
One would wish that governments at all levels would channel our resources towards meeting the needs of the people in the two areas that I have mentioned – power and employment.
What is your advice to the youths?
Youths cannot do anything when there are no opportunities for them. There are very limited opportunities for them to get employment, or to gain admission to higher institutions. We can only plead with them not to react in negative ways by going into crime.
In a situation like this when opportunities for young people are severely limited, the temptation for them to go into crime is very strong. It is very easy for some unscrupulous people to recruit them into fraudulent practices or into more criminal practices like armed robbery, kidnapping and even cultism.
For the ladies they could be swayed into prostitution. Our youths should do all they can to resist the temptation. They should stick to the straight and narrow path until it should please God to improve the conditions of living for everyone. They should not use their skills in the faces of the challenges they are facing to deviate into criminal activities. They should continue to resist all temptations and look up to the Lord.
But like I said, it behooves on those who are in charge of the economy of our nation to create an environment where the youths can be gainfully employed. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. If our young people are not gainfully employed it can be very difficult to get them to stay on the straight and narrow path.
The truth of the matter is that the opportunities for young people to be gainfully employed are very limited. Some go as far as obtaining Master’s and Doctorate degrees and yet there are no employment opportunities for them. This is unlike in our days when there were employment opportunities for us even before we finished school.
What is your advice for those who run our educational institutions?
Good education is necessary for the development of people and nations. Government owes the duty of providing basic education to the people. UNESCO has even provided that for any nation to develop, it must as a matter of routine commit at least 26% of its annual budget to education. Nigeria is not meeting this commitment and therefore education is suffering.
If leaders and rulers can devote more resources to education then there will be better education in the country especially for the poor ones who cannot afford private education. People who can afford private education either in Nigeria or abroad have no problem but it is the masses who cannot afford private education that are having problems. As a result, they attend schools that are poorly equipped and poorly staffed. The result is that when they come out they are not educated. They are actually illiterates.
It is for those in authority to commit adequate fund to education. The nation can afford good public schools that are properly equipped and employ the right staff.
How should Christians react in the face of this kind of challenges?
Christians should pray that God will intervene in our affairs by giving us the right kind of leadership, as we pray in the Catholic Church – “leaders who care for us and who would lead us in the path of peace, prosperity and progress.” Nigeria has never been blessed with such leaders. As Christians we should go on praying that God would give us such leaders in the immediate future, not in the distant future. As Christians, our greatest weapon is prayer.
During elections, Christians should go out and vote massively to see whether they can elect credible leaders. The sad thing here is that in Nigeria so far, our votes have never been allowed to count. If they are going to give us free and fair election we should go out and vote according to our conscience – for leaders that can really help solve our nation’s problems, forgetting ethnicity, language and even religion.
If we have a broad minded person contesting for Presidency that we believe will not be a religious bigot, I wouldn’t mind voting for him even if he is not a Christian. But if it is someone that I see may want to favour Islam over Christianity, I will not vote for him.
The year 2015 has been predicted to be a difficult year. The reasons for this negative prediction are not far-fetched. International oil price has dropped below $50/barrel. Oil is the main driver of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP measures the size of the economy.
The revenue base of the Nation is highly skewed towards oil revenue. Little wonder then that the current southward trend in international oil prices impact negatively on the economy. A downturn in the economy definitely affects general consumption and purchasing power. This will impact aggregate demand.
Therefore, businesses will normally witness slowdown in sales and profitability in a period of recession like this.
When the going gets tough, it is said that the tough also gets going. The key to attracting and retaining quality customers in and out of recession remains great customer service. Passion for excellent customer service should be at the Centre of your business strategy this year.
To be effective, the business strategy must be communicated to every member of staff, internalized and shared by all and sundry from the man at the gate to the Managing Director.
The first step towards guaranteeing great customer service that exceeds customers’ expectation is team spirit. If all departments and staff do not work with each other as one team pursuing the same goal, it will be difficult to achieve harmony in how customers are treated. Production/operations departments and Sales and marketing department must share same attitude and behavior towards the customers.
While businesses must strive to offer the best products and services than the market/competition, ability to deliver such promises must be ascertained. It is better to under promise and over deliver, than to over promise and under delivered. Consistency in quality service implies that businesses always keep their words.
Effective customer services demands investment in people and machines. There should be no cutting corners if you truly want to consistently deliver quality to your clients. Just like individuals should improve their talents if they want to succeed, businesses must sharpen themselves by the use of technology to improve on service delivery.
An upgrade of your production infrastructure may be necessary to meet the current taste of your clients. Training staff to use the new technology to improve service efficiency is imperative. In addition, staff must be trained on good customer service and engagement. In today’s world, the use of social media as the fastest means of customer engagement cannot be over-emphasized.
How you communicate through social media should concern you as a business owner. The company can easily suffer reputational damage if unwholesome messages are released through such platforms using the company’s identity. Facebook is one platform that you must be careful about.
As a businessman, you must appreciate the true value of a customer, which Andrew Reid says goes beyond their wallets. Customers are willing to provide attention, data and opinion that will go a long way to drive quality customer service if the business will understand the true value of the customer.
How do you deal with customer Com¬plaints? Do you just consider such customers as troublesome ones? Do you investigate their complaints and quickly get back to them? Truth is; it is only customers that love you that will complain about poor services. Others will simply take a walk. Research has shown that one dis-satisfied customer will certain cost you eight others.
Customer preferences and tastes are dynamic. This must be closely monitored and responded to. The market and the entire business environment change with time. You must offer the type of product and service that is consistent with today’s demand. Otherwise, your offering will be out of tune with today’s realities.
Richard Branson (founder of Virgin group) says “if you wish to win in business, make sure the customer wins also”. You must ask the question about what customers’ needs your product/service are meeting? How do these products/services serve the customers’ needs? Branson says if you get into business only to make money, you won’t. But if you try to make a difference, you will find success.
Business success reflects in sales volume and profitability – sustainable ones at that. What the foregoing means is that you must not set profit target as an end in themselves. The mantra should be to “seek first to offer consistent and reliable customer service, and every other thing shall be added on to you”.
You have got to build sustainable relationships if you are to attract the greater share of customers’ value. There are two surest ways of doing this: Be personal and customize your services according to key customers’ needs and preferences.
Some businesses treat customers as mere nominal phenomena. They forget that customers are not just data as delivered by CRM vendors, but humans with both social and psychological features. Time is gone when we think that one-size-fits-all service models still work. There is need for personalized services. Bespoke services are the in-thing if you want to make a difference in the market place.
Most people make the mistake of focusing only on financial gains in every encounter with customers. Experts advise that in pitching for any sales contract or customer acquisition exercise, focus more on what the client stands to gain by buying your product or service, rather than beclouding your mind with the inordinate quest for profit.
In the bid to secure sales and profitability, most sales people fail to even under¬stand what the client’s pain-point is. This is a sure way to deliver the wrong solution. But if you pay attention to the major reason why the client is looking for a new service provider or product, you will gain insight into how best to serve the new client.
Just as no idea is a virgin, every new customer you have has been someone else’s customer before you. A satisfied customer will not only guarantee repeat buys, but will also give you referrals to friends and associates, thereby maximizing the life-time-value of such a customer.
This year, can you measure the sales and profits from existing customers? Remember we said in our last edition of this column that whatever goal that you set must be measured. Setting goals on customer satisfaction is crucial this year 2015, and the best way to measure this should be sales from existing customers, which includes repeat buys. You also need to track the value of referrals from existing customers.
NB: Mark Oguh, a Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria and a Financial Management Expert wrote in from St. Anthony’s Parish, Gbaja, Surulere, Lagos. Contact mark.oguh@ gmail.com
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