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Why an age-friendly culture matters

Posted on: 20 Nov 2019, admin

The landscape of work has changed massively over the last decade for many reasons, including technological advances, globalization, the so called ‘gig economy.’  But something that hasn’t been as widely documented, perhaps, is the fact that our population is ageing. Projections forecast by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that ‘in 50 years’ time, there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over – a population roughly the size of London.’  You might be wondering how an ageing population affects the workplace. Well, according to the ONS ‘employment rates have doubled for those aged 65 years and over between 1993 and 2018, and increased by almost one-third for those aged 50 to 64 years.’ That’s a huge amount of change to occur in just over two decades.  With this in mind, it’s vital that businesses foster an age-friendly culture that supports every individual regardless of their age. Here are some tips on ways you can make your business more age-friendly.  What does an age-friendly culture look like?  If you have a large number of older employees in your workforce, it’s important you consider their wellbeing, and are continuously looking for ways to improve the environment and ways of working. When it comes to creating an age-friendly work culture, it’s more simple than you think.  Ask yourself the following questions: Is your workplace suitable and inclusive for all ages? (e.g. toilet facilities, desk space, signage etc.)Do you provide equal opportunities to your staff irrespective of age?Do you – and your employees – listen and respond to the voice of older people, and enable people of all ages to actively participate?Is your workplace a friendly, respectful and welcoming place for all ages?Could you do more to promote flexible working so that your older employees could work a shorter week if they wanted to? It’s important you speak to employees and ask them to share their own views and thoughts on the matter. Encourage feedback and you’ll create a more open space that doesn’t shy away from criticism. Your staff will also feel more valued too. How to avoid age discrimination in the workplace Encourage senior employees and managers to talk to their team – and older staff members, in particular – about any areas that could be improved within the business. Approach the subject with open questions, such as: Are we doing enough to accommodate older employees?What could we do differently?How do you rate our facilities? You could also ask them to list three things that could be improved to harness a more inclusive environment. Discuss what changes you can make to accommodate their ideas, and if necessary, create a focus group that meets regularly to track the progress. This encourages transparency within the business and makes senior employees accountable for auctioning change.  

Equal Pay: where are we now?

Posted on: 10 Nov 2019, admin

Last year, we wrote this piece on the gender pay gap, in conjunction with Equal Pay Day. One year on – and curious to know how things have changed – we thought we’d write a follow-up blog to shed light on an issue that affects half the population.   So let’s remind ourselves of what happened back in 2018: In April, 2018, UK businesses submitted salary details for male and female staff across the board. Findings revealed that almost 90% of women worked for companies that paid them less than their male counterparts. You can search the data (by company name), or alternatively, submit your own data here.  A published report by the Fawcett Society revealed that although the gap had closed very slightly since the year 2017, it would take 54 years to reach parity at current rates. The data was the most comprehensive to ever be collected in the country. It revealed the UK’s best and worst-performing employers in both the public and private sector.  One year on... It takes time to close pay gaps, particularly ones that are significant. Gender pay gap started a discussion in the workplace that had previously been ignored or hidden from those affected. Employers have started paying attention and looking at the differences in men and women’s pay within their own organisation, and this can only be positive.  That said, has enough progress been made in the workplace to ensure the pay gap is decreasing? Sam Smethers, CEO of the leading gender equality campaigning party, Fawcett Society, released the following statement in April 2019:  "One year on, it is disappointing, but not surprising, that there are so many employers in the UK with large pay gaps and that these pay gaps aren't being closed. The regulations are not tough enough. It's time for action plans not excuses. Employers need to set out a five year strategy for how they will close their gender pay gaps, monitoring progress and results. Government needs to require employers to publish action plans that we can hold them accountable to, with meaningful sanctions in place for those who do not comply.”  What can employers do to help bridge the gap? While laws have been put in place to try and address the equality issue, the reality is that a higher proportion of women take time out or a career break to have children and raise a family.  There are a huge number of mothers who would like to return to the workplace, but are struggling to do so due to financial constraints. If you’re not lucky enough to have grandparents on standby, paying for childcare can be a huge expense – and there are many women out there for whom returning to work isn’t a viable option. We’ve found this to have a far bigger bearing on pay inequalities than any overt gender pay differences. In order to tap into this huge talent pool, an increasing number of employers are offering flexible working options where possible, allowing mothers to balance a working life with their childcare responsibilities. There are so many ways employers can work to tackle the causes of the pay gap. This may include the following: Encourage shared parental leave (SPL), so women and men have equal access to work opportunities as working parentsOffer childcare vouchers, to lessen the costs of getting support while at workIntroduce more generous leave for fathers that they can afford to takeMake every job flexible by default, unless there is a strong business case not to do so Deal with any outstanding pay discrimination that employers may find. Working towards a fairer, more equal workforce  Whether you have experienced the gender discrimination first hand or not, raising awareness of equality issues is a positive step towards reducing any gaps in the workplace. The primary concern of any employer should be to get the most talented people to the top, irrespective of gender, age, race or sexuality or otherwise. Ascendant Recruitment works with some great employers in Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire so if gender equality is an issue that you’re facing, why not give our team a call and we can see what we can offer you!  MK is on 01908 200270 and Northampton is on 01604 439380. Social posts Twitter  One year has passed since the #GenderPayGap report – the most comprehensive data to ever be collected in the country. But, one year on, and there’s still work to be done. Read our latest blog on the issue here: [insert link] 

How to be resilient and manage stress at work

Posted on: 06 Nov 2019, admin

In 2018, a study by the Mental Health Foundation revealed that 74% of people [in the UK] have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. Stress is one of the most common mental health issues we face today, and it affects both our home lives and working lives in equal measure. Today kicks off International Stress Awareness Week (4–8th November), and the theme this year is ‘Resilience: the power to succeed!’  Resilience is very much a workplace matter. It’s a learned skill that’s required at every level –  from junior positions to the executive roles – and in every sector. It’s often falsely understood as an innate trait we either have or don’t have, but this is not the case.  The good news is, there are strategies we can adopt to improve our resilience and ability to ‘bounce back’. Here are some tips on building personal resilience and managing stress at work. Build your own personal resilience More often than not, resilience is about agility – the ability to be flexible and open to change. It’s harder for some than others, especially those who like routine and being in control. But the reality is, things happen in life – and the workplace – that are completely out of our control.  Every day people are experiencing set-backs at work, so how do we overcome these and move on to the next opportunity? Here are a few ways you can build your own resilience:  Physical resilience – stay hydrated, eat healthily, sleep and set limits for using technology. Make sure you’re work space is set up correctly, for example with correct lighting and your desk and chair are at the right height to support your backMind-set – our ‘failures’ in life are necessary for growth. Try and reframe any set-back in work as an opportunity to try something else and explore new avenues   It may be worth referencing the work of Carol Dweck who wrote a great book called the “Growth Mindset” - find it on Amazon.Social relationships – nurture these and lean on friends and family for support. It’s friendships that get you through the tougher times – never underestimate the importance of human connection Manage stress at work We’ve all experienced varying degrees of stress at work. Whether it’s struggling to manage your workload and respond to all your emails, or the threat of redundancy after a dramatic restructure. Some of us manage stress well, whereas others need to work at it.  The workplace is an ideal place for people to build resilience and manage stress. Here are a few ways you can learn to combat stress more effectively.  Communicate – this is key. We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and it’s true. Talk to your line manager if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need support. Alternatively, go out for lunch with a colleague and talk through any issues you have. Sometimes it just helps to offload and get a different perspective on the matter. Prioritise – If you’ve got a huge to-do list that just keeps growing, take 20 minutes and go through each item using the red, amber, green system. Highlight any urgent task that needs dealing with that day ‘red’, and subsequent tasks that are less urgent, ‘amber’, and ‘green’. Be realistic – there are only so many hours in the day. It’s better to do the job properly, than juggle multiple jobs at a time and end up with a job half-done. A great book for you is “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.Set boundaries – If you’re feeling overwhelmed with an overwhelming workload, it might be that some of the responsibilities and jobs you’ve been allocated, are not in your remit. This is called ‘work creep’. Refer to your job spec, or if you no longer have it, request it from your manager or HR. Cross-reference any responsibilities against the work you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, and raise any inconsistencies with your line manager.   If you’re interested in a new role then Ascendant Recruitment can help you!  Give our MK team a call on 01908 200270 or our Northampton team on 01604 439380 and we will see what we’ve got to suit your skills and expertise!

Celebrating Parenting Week

Posted on: 21 Oct 2019, admin

It’s Parent’s Week (21–25th October), so we thought we’d focus on issues that affect working parents today, and offer tips on how to utilise any benefits you have in the workplace. Parents have an incredibly special role to play within our society. Why? Because not only do they provide unconditional love, care and support on a daily basis – which in itself is a selfless act, and pretty damn cool – they are raising our future generation.  But when it comes to working parents, the real challenge comes with juggling work commitments with parental responsibilities. Here we offer some advice to working parents, from knowing your rights as an employee to finding a work-life balance and overcoming the guilt.  Social events Finding that work-life balance can be especially challenging with a family. For many working parents, it’s difficult to find time to factor in social events with colleagues, especially if they happen to fall outside of working hours.   If this is becoming a problem, and it’s having an impact on your relationships at work, then why not suggest a lunch or coffee break and try to make time to speak to your colleagues during the working day. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone – there will be many others in a similar position that understand and relate.  Flexible working All employees have the legal right to request flexible working. For many, the flexible learning set-up allows them to better manage the daily responsibilities of being a parent. If this is something that interests you, then speak to your line manager or HR team to discuss your options. Know your rights Talk to your employer and find out what your parental rights are. Employers should be supportive and allow an amount of flexibility (within reason). Most are working parents themselves, so they should understand the challenges parents face when it comes to balancing parental responsibilities with the demands of work. How to reduce guilt while at work Guilt can be incredibly stressful, particularly when you have meetings, deadlines and projects to focus on. It’s especially hard for those who have just started work following maternity leave. It’s important to know that you’re not alone, and feelings of guilt are common and completely normal.  There are so many ways to manage this – read our blog: Five tips for reducing the guilt of being a working mum for more information. Self care: hints and tips These days, people are adopting various strategies when it comes to reducing stress and practicing self-care. We are told to look after ourselves, eat well, exercise regularly, meditate, the list goes on. But what if you’re a parent with children to wash, dress and feed? You’re not alone. In fact, there are a number of useful tips on self-care methods for parents that are both practical and achievable. These include the following: Arrange for childcare and schedule 1 hour per week (or more, if the budget allows!) for a coffee and chat with a close friend.Take a brisk walk in the park and listen to a podcast. This is a great way to get exercise, fresh air and engage in an interesting debate or topic of choice.Call a friend, parent or loved one.Keep a journal and write for a few minutes each night – it’s a lovely way to unwind and clear your mind for a good night’s sleep. Please don’t forget the benefits of using an agency - we can help you with your CV, interview preparation and get the best salary! Get in touch with our team today on 01908 200270 or 01604 439380.

How to best support staff with dyslexia

Posted on: 14 Oct 2019, admin

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week. Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects 10% of the population. That means that one in ten of us are dyslexic – a huge figure, so it’s about time we started talking about it.  Although it’s classed as a disability, people with dyslexia are often good problem-solvers, can understand complex situations and tend to think laterally. There are so many strengths that can have a positive impact in the workplace (and beyond!) – and this should be celebrated.  What is dyslexia? Most employers will have staff with dyslexia, whether diagnosed or not. It’s important to be able to identify any signs, but to also support staff where support is needed. People with dyslexia have trouble reading accurately and fluently, and may also have trouble with reading comprehension, spelling, and writing.  So how does this impact day-to-day tasks? Consider all the jobs that involve reading, spelling and writing. We’ve listed some common ones for you:  Reading – Presentations, staff meetings, emails, CVs, job applications  Spelling and Writing – Emails, press releases, job descriptions, social media posts When you list all of the tasks you do on a daily basis, you realise just how many include reading and writing.  What can I do to help? As an employer, there are a number of things you can do to support staff with dyslexia so they’re able to achieve their full potential, and have a fulfilling career.   You should adjust the needs according to the employee, for example, how severe their dyslexia is and the job role itself. It’s important to note: an employee does not need to have had a diagnostic assessment in order to receive reasonable adjustments from the business. These may include the following: Workplace Needs Assessment – carried out by a dyslexia specialist, to determine the appropriate support required for the individualDifferent methods of communication – replace written communication with verbal where possible, even if it’s picking up the phone and leaving a voicemailAllow extra time – if there’s an assignment that requires a quick turnaround or deadline, give the individual extra time to read and complete the taskMeetings – use visual aids such as PowerPoint, reduce the amount of text, and where possible, use diagrams and images instead. Try coloured text, or highlight key areas that require special attentionAssistive technologies – if your budget allows it, invest in assistive technologies such as a screen-reader, scanning pen and mind-mapping software – all have proven to be effective tools and can be a real game-changer for some individuals.Be font smart – Good fonts for people with dyslexia include Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana and Computer Modern Uni- code, whereas Arial Italics should be avoided at all costs, as it decreases readability. What common strengths do dyslexic people share? There’s a lot of negative language around disabilities in general, so it’s time we started to change that! It’s important to remember that there are positives to thinking differently – if we were all the same, how dull would the world – and our workplaces – be?! So, with that in mind, here are some of the common strengths that dyslexic people share. They are ‘Picture Thinkers’: enabling more ideas, solutions and opportunitiesSharper peripheral vision and good spatial awarenessEntrepreneurially-minded Highly creative and tend to excel in visual and creative fields  Nobody should be held back from fulfilling their potential at work, whatever the circumstances may be. For further information, please visit The British Dyslexia Association.  For permanent, temporary and part-time roles, get in touch with our consultants at Ascendant Recruitment. If you’re looking for your first role or looking to change roles, we can help you. 

Celebrating National Work Life Week

Posted on: 10 Oct 2019, admin

National Work Life Week (7–11th October) is an opportunity for employers to focus on wellbeing at work and look at ways they can better improve their employees’ work-life balance.  We’re incredibly passionate about flexible working, and always strive to create an environment that supports working parents and those who require flexible hours to accommodate various requirements and commitments.  An extremely important part of employee wellness is ensuring that stress levels are managed effectively within the work environment. This should be an ongoing task for all team members, managers, coordinators and directors in the workplace.  From a business perspective, we all want our employees to be working at their best, most productive performance levels. When any staff members take time off work, this can have a negative impact on the business. That’s why it’s always best to create a supportive work culture that is receptive and strives to meet its staff needs.   So, as a quick summary – here are 4 things your business can incorporate throughout the year, to ensure your employees’ wellbeing and happiness remains a priority. #1 Flexible working opportunities – to help your employees achieve a better work-life balance #2 Social activities – such as away days, pub lunches and family picnics  #3 Wellbeing in the office – offer subsidised yoga classes, massages, or ask employees to participate in a Step Count Challenge  #4 Engage and listen – ensure each and every employee has the opportunity to voice concerns or issues with their manager. This may be in the form of a 1-2-1 meeting or perhaps an online forum on your intranet. By effectively managing stress in the workplace, and supporting flexible working, every member of staff can enjoy increased productivity and a happier environment.   For permanent, temporary and part-time roles, get in touch with our consultants at Ascendant Recruitment.

How to prevent back pain in the workplace

Posted on: 09 Oct 2019, admin

This week is Back Pain Week, so we thought we’d focus on an issue that affects millions, and provide some useful tips that can be employed at work.  A huge number of UK office workers spend between four to nine hours sat at their desk each day… that’s a long time to spend in one position! For those of us with sedentary jobs that require little to no movement, it’s easy to get lost in the endless stream of emails, meetings and conference calls, and neglect our own physical wellbeing in the process. However, it’s vital that we find time in our busy schedules to look after ourselves, exercise and, well, breathe. If you have questions surrounding your workspace and want to know what you can do to prevent back pain, look no further.  So, reader, have your notepad at the ready, relax your shoulders and uncross your legs: here are 5 preventative measures that can be taken to mitigate the risks of back pain. You’re welcome! #1 Ergonomic workstation   It may seem obvious, but the positioning of your desk, chair and computer is vital when it comes to preventing back pain. Follow these steps to ensure you’re supporting your back properly:  Make sure your chair allows your back to rest against a lumbar support.Your mouse should be close to your keyboard, so you’re not having to overreach or move your shoulder to much. Your monitor should be about 2–3 inches above eye level. Make sure your torso is about an arm’s length away from the screen. #2 Sit properly Keep your head straight (as much as possible) and shoulders relaxed. If you work with a laptop, consider using a stand, to avoid slouching. Similarly, check the font size on the screen is big enough so you’re not leaning in and squinting. Most of us hold tension in our shoulders when we’re stressed or anxious. Try some simple shoulder rolls and move your head slowly from side to side, to relax the muscles.  Self-massage is a great way to release any tension. Start at the top of your neck just beneath your hairline, and use your middle and forefingers to massage downwards in a circular motion.  #3 Avoid twisting your spine and crossing your legs Many of us have a habit of crossing our legs, which can lead to joint issues, knee pain and lower back problems. While sitting down, try and keep both feet flat on the floor to relieve tension and maintain good alignment in the spine.  When you speak with colleagues who sit on either side of your workspace, try to avoid twisting your spine or neck. Instead, turn your whole body so you’re facing them completely. It may seem odd at first, but it’ll become second-nature in no time. #4 Go for a walk    I know, you’ve probably heard it so many times before, but exercise – and walking – really is good for you. It’s unhealthy to be sat in the same position all day long.  Our bodies need movement, whether that’s a simple walk around the office, a brisk stroll in the park or a lunchtime run, it all contributes to improving overall wellbeing and health. It’s also a great stress-buster! #5 And breathe... Sounds obvious, right? The truth is, most of us forget to breathe regularly and this can impact the core muscles which support the lower back.  Try some breathing exercises to refocus and get back into a regular breathing pattern. Here are five exercises you can do at your desk.  If employers would like more information on wellbeing, and how to best support staff, there are a number of trusted sources such as The CIPD report on Health and Wellbeing at Work.  Looking for work? Register with us today and we can help you on your path to a new job – simply call 01908 200270 or 01604 439380.

How to get a job when you have no relevant experience

Posted on: 30 Sep 2019, admin

Job-hunting can be a daunting task for many reasons. It takes up a lot of time, and can be challenging juggling with home life and a full-time job.  It requires a lot of patience and persistence, and these days, it’s not as simple as updating your CV and filling out the application form – we also have our professional networks to update, such as LinkedIn, to ensure any relevant experience and key competencies are presented.  But what about those of us who don’t have the relevant experience? If you’re considering a career change, chances are there are a few skill gaps that need to be addressed. Here are our 5 top tips for job seekers considering a career change.  1: Temporary work Temporary employment is when you work for a company for an agreed amount of time, sometimes from six-weeks to six months (although sometimes more or sometimes less). Regardless of how long the placement lasts, it’s a great way to add experience to your CV and to try out a company or an industry without having to give too much commitment. This work is normally paid, and occasionally, it can lead to a permanent role.  2: Internships  This is another great way to add experience to your CV. Internships demonstrate your work ethic to an employer, which increases your employability. There are thousands of roles available within the third sector, but you can also contact companies you’re interested in and enquire about their internship programmes. This allows you to gain industry-specific insight which is really beneficial in the long run. Not all internships are paid, however. Be realistic and don’t commit to one if you can’t cover travel expenses and living costs during the agreed period.   3: Apprenticeships Apprenticeships combine work and study by mixing on-the-job training with classroom learning. Employers who are looking for apprentices understand that you will not have experience in the field and are usually happy to train you. By the end of an apprenticeship, you’ll have received invaluable experience and a certificate! Side note: if you’re over the age of 25 and you’re worried about finding apprenticeships don’t worry, adult apprenticeships do exist.  4: Focus on what you DO have Experience is very important, but so is your personality and overall attitude to work. Can you draw on life experience, to demonstrate the skills a company is looking for? You could show an employer that you’re motivated and proactive through any hobbies you have, such as athletics or learning a language, for example. These demonstrate commitment, too. If you add examples such as these to your CV – an employer will see your drive and may give you a chance.  5: Find experience you didn’t know you had We want to stress here that everything you say in your CV or cover letter must be correct. That being said, have a think about your previous jobs and find links between the experience you have and the experience they require. For example, if you’ve helped organise meetings and/or answered phone calls at some point, this is administration experience and if you’re going for an admin role, use this!  We hope this has helped, remember at Ascendant Recruitment we’re always available to help you in your search. Contact either our Milton Keynes or Northampton office if you need any help with getting back into the job market.

Work experience: the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted on: 24 Sep 2019, admin

In today’s job market  – where there are usually hundreds of applicants for a single role – having something like work experience or an internship on your CV can give you a real edge.  As an applicant you need to find ways to stand out and cut through the noise. Recruiters will sift through hundreds – sometimes thousands –  of CVs and applications for every vacancy, so it’s your job to demonstrate why you are different to everyone else, and the reasons you should be considered for an interview. Internships, work experience and volunteering all offer insight into the career and industry you could ultimately pursue. They can be a great introduction to the world of work and having experience demonstrates a level of commitment, motivation and drive.  Sadly, in some cases, these routes can be exploitative. It’s important you agree the terms of your contract in writing before you commit to any role, even if it’s voluntary and unpaid. This will help safeguard against any tasks you didn’t sign up for.  Here are the 5 things you should consider when applying for work experience and internships: Establish and agree tasks before you commitEmployers have been known to deliberately use interns for menial tasks that require little to no skill or imagination, such as cleaning, organising, tea making and running errands. Of course, such tasks are fine in moderation, but if there’s no variety and you’re not learning anything as a result, then you can’t help but wonder: what is the point? To ensure you benefit from the work experience, communicate your expectations (ideally via email so there’s a papertrail), and explain your skill-set and passions so they make practical and effective use of your time.Money, money, moneySome internships and placements offer a (usually small) salary, and others don’t. If you’re applying for an unpaid position, make sure you can cover all the necessary expenses before committing. Such expenses include travel, lunch and any work social activities. Be realistic, if you’re applying for an internship in London, and live in Milton Keynes, can you afford travel expenses? If you get to interview stage, or if the company has informally agreed to take you on, then ask them to provide the terms of employment in writing. There’s no harm in asking if they’ll cover travel expenses either. Finally, if it’s unpaid, make sure it’s worth your time, effort and money in the first place. Ask plenty of questions about the type of work you’ll be doing before signing on the dotted line. Make a plan or ‘to do’ list and stick to itBefore starting your placement, ask yourself the following questions:- What skills do I want to gain?- What skills can I offer the company?- Where do my interests lie? - What challenges am I likely to face? - How can I overcome these challenges?Think about the areas you wish to work in. If it’s a company you admire and are familiar with, then make a rough plan outlining what it is you want to achieve and establish an end goal. If the end goal is to be offered full-time employment, then find out who it is you’d need to approach to discuss further opportunities. Utilise your existing contacts and network If you’re considering work experience but not sure where to begin, consider the contacts you already have. Perhaps there’s a family member who works for a particular company, or maybe you follow someone – or a business – on Twitter or Instagram, and could reach out that way. Be productive – make a list of people to contact and work your way down. Networking, (fuelled by LinkedIn), plays an important role in almost every business in the modern world. There’s no substitute for making face-to-face contact with those who might be able to help shape your future career. Finally, if you’re struggling to find the right opportunities locally, and there are more internship opportunities in London, for example, then reach out to contacts that live in London. You never know, perhaps there’s a friend or family member you could stay with during the placement. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – Oscar WildeMight sound cheesy, but it’s true. In a work environment, it’s always tempting to try to fit in with the culture and personalities that exist within the company. You may just be an intern, but this doesn’t mean you should be valued any less. Use it as an opportunity to be heard and seen. It’s important you make a valid contribution as much as is appropriate. You never know, if you make a good enough impression, you might be offered a job by the end of it!For permanent, temporary and part-time roles, get in touch with our consultants at Ascendant Recruitment.

Staying positive and motivated while you’re job-hunting

Posted on: 13 Sep 2019, admin

Friday 13th September 2019 is Positive Thinking Day so we thought we’d share some positive affirmations and tips for those who are job hunting. Here are some ways you can stay positive and motivated during a period of transition. 1. Get creative! For the visual learners among us, sometimes having something tangible and visually appealing makes all the difference. If you’re feeling uninspired and have no idea what it is you want to do career-wise, then try creating a mood board.  Start by listing some categories e.g. companies you’d love to work for; skills you possess; things you care about; skills you’d like to acquire etc., and then build it from there. Add colour, images, photographs, inspirational quotes, pieces of text and anything that embodies your passions, personality and interests.  Top tip: Try connecting pieces of information that relate to each other with string or with a pen. You never know, you might have your dream job mapped out by the end of it! 2. Effective time-keeping     We get it: job-hunting can feel like a total chore. We’re all guilty of procrastinating and filling our day with various tasks – cooking, cleaning, walking the dog – in order to avoid the one thing we should be doing. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management system that encourages users to break their day into 25-minute chunks (or tasks), separated by 5-minute breaks. It’s been proven to increase productivity as it gives users a sense of urgency, in the same way an exam or test forces you to work.  Top tip: Use an egg timer or hourglass while you work, and allow yourself a break once the sand has slipped through. 3. Get some exercise This is so incredibly important when it comes to taking care of your mental health and staying positive. If you feel stressed, anxious or in a muddle with something, the best thing you can do it take a break and get some fresh air.  Top tip: Many authors take to walking when they feel stuck with a plot point or narrative arc, it can really loosen the mind and is an effective problem-solving method. Why not give it a try! 4. Stay social and network It’s tempting to shut yourself away from the outside world, but that can have a negative effect on your mind and self-esteem too. Stay social and attend networking events – there are plenty that are free and it’s a good opportunity to meet industry professionals. It’s always good to go with questions in mind, and a sales pitch for yourself. Research the companies or individuals beforehand, and find out whether they’re currently hiring.  Top tip: If you have a particular company or role in mind, then consider your existing network (friends, family, ex-colleagues) who might have a similar background or contacts in the industry. Reach out and introduce yourself on LinkedIn or via email – ask if they’re available for a coffee or chat, and make your intentions clear, e.g you’d like to discuss job opportunities or gain industry advice.  5. Speak to a local career advisor  If you’re struggling with job hunting and feel stressed and overwhelmed, you might want to speak to a local career advisor to discuss your options. Contact the National Careers Service for advice on entering the workforce and finding the right job for you.  If you want to discuss your career options, please give the Ascendant Recruitment team a call on 01908 200270 for our MK office or 01604 439380 for Northampton.