More Adders than Ladders

Restructuring, redeployment, redundancy have become all too familiar to those in the public sector. Employment has become a game of snakes and ladders. Restructuring may mean applying for your own job all be it with a different title. Redeployment may involve a sideways move, a loss of status and a move to the back of the promotion queue. Redundancy isn't the end of your career but it's been estimated it takes two years in a new job to get back to where you were on the career ladder. It can seem that there are more Adders than Ladders.

What you need is to throw a six 
1. Relevant experience
2. Transferable skills
3. Corporate thinking
4. Professional values
5. Political awareness
6. Positive attitude

Relevant experience

You need to spell it out because those reading your application form and sitting on the interview panel may not immediately see how your experience working in the library service equips you for this job. So explain how your work with, the mother and toddlers group, the weekly advice sessions, the monthly councillors’ surgery, the home work club, the links with the local schools developed your customer care skills.  

Community engagement, how you encouraged teenagers and balanced their demands with those of older people.

 Equal opportunities, how you promoted literacy and numeracy work with people who have a learning disability.

 Community Cohesion, how you meditated between the local Muslim community and the gay rights group over the displaying of material.

 I moved from managing a specialist social work team to a management post in a Housing Association you don’t need to know a lot about housing you do need to know about working with vulnerable people. Stressing customer care, my experience of dealing with complaints and various consultation processes I had been involved in were more relevant than knowledge of housing legislation and I soon got use to referring to people as tenants or residents rather than service users or clients.

Transferable skills

Managing people, managing budgets, managing complex information, managing buildings and equipment these are transferable skills. The size of the budget may be different, the number of people may be different, the equipment may be different and the subject of the information may be different but the principles and skills involved will be the same. However if you haven't convince yourself of this how do you expect to convince an interviewer?

Corporate thinking

Once upon a time each department had its own HR, Finance and IT section, possibly its own communications staff  and may be its own policy staff all that has been rationalised or outsource now in the name of efficiency. But it was also intended to signal the end of each department (Education, Housing, Social Services, Environment) doing their own thing or thinking and working in silos. The mantra is one organisation, one mission and one set of objectives it important to reflect this whether is discussions about redeploying staff, making budget cuts or participating in corporate working groups.

Professional values

Every one claims to be passionate about the work. Don't be like everyone but do say what you stand for. Your particular professional background gave you a set of values, what are they and how do they influence your work and how do you resolve a conflict between these values and some of the things you have been required to do in your work? My professional background is social work which promotes fairness, dignity and respect, this influences the way I manage people. It has not stopped me making people redundant or cutting budgets but it does mean I think people have a right to be informed of the reasoning behind decisions and openness about the process of decision making.

Political awareness

These are difficult times services are being reduced, staff made redundant, libraries, museums and sport centres closed services outsourced unpopular proposals will lead to protests, campaigns in the media and lobbying from MPs. If you work in a political environment you need to be aware that politicians where many hats they support building an industrial incinerator to reduce landfill but lead the campaign not to have it located in their ward. They vote for the cuts and closures but support the campaign to keep their local library open. This is because with their party hat on they support the policy but with their constituency hat on they represent local opposition to its implementation. There is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical in this it is just the nature of the role.

Positive attitude

You may feel the restructuring has you applying for your own job, that the redeployment process makes you jump through unnecessary hoops, you may feel bruised from a painful redundancy but who would you appoint someone who is cynical and unmotivated or someone with a positive attitude?

Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House



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