Dear Ted

The questions come from my mentees, and were first pulished on LinkedIn. Feel free to comment on them if you like. And if you have a question then send me a note!


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Recently I’ve spent quite a bit of time with senior HR people and it’s interesting that all have suffered this at some point, and all have had at least one panic attack, or similar. All said that the intensity of work had increased in the past ten years, driven mostly by mobile systems featuring not just text, email and social media, but also a range of project apps or workgroups which all add to their workload


There is no universal solution, you need to find your own, but the best ones I’ve heard so far include

  • not looking at work stuff for at least the 2 hours before you sleep
  • setting the expectation with colleagues that work hours are….
  • having a pad of paper and a pen by your bed; write down stuff and leave it for the next day (it somehow clears the brain)
  • talk to peers, share the issues
  • delegate whole tasks, not bits, and trust your team to deliver
  • let colleagues know when you have a full plate, explain that you will get back to them in 5 days (remember the plumber does this, only handles emergencies in the meantime?) 


Whoever you ask will give different advice. I’ve heard some very strong lines in the past such as “never date someone at work”, through to “sure, shall I have a look at his file for you!”.  


The circumstances do play a part. In a large organisation where you’re in different divisions, it can be similar to working in different companies. Whereas in a small office of ten people. or in the same department of a big division it can be quite awkward. 


So part of the answer will also depend on how maturely the relationship develops, assuming it gets off the ground at all!


The type of business might also impact, and indeed it’s policies. There are some high security places where relationships are banned (although that is difficult to police) for fear of compromise or accidental bedside whispers.


But my view is quite simple; it’s hard enough to find someone you want to date in this world, let alone someone who you might want to become your partner, life is too short (YOLO), so go for it, especially since you said “really”!  


And if you ask him out and all goes well, and there is a potential conflict (eg you’re also his HR person), then tell your line manager straight away ….. it only makes things worse if you delay. People trying to hide office relationships invariably fail, hence the advice to get it out in the open early ….. that way you can be yourself and avoid awkward moments


This can also apply to sickness/paternity/maternity or other extended leave or even a secondment away


Preparation is key, don't just turn up on the day without considering some or all of the following:


* a chat to the HR team, to get their advice and support and to ensure you have what they need (eg a doctors note confirming you are fit for work and what, if any restrictions are needed)

* a chat with your line manager.... best if this can be near (but not at) your place a work a week or so before you return. You can plan your reentry and how to make sure its successful * on the day itself maybe ask someone to meet you outside and walk in with you, that way you can clear security easily if your pass doesn't work and they will take the strain off having to stop and chat to everyone on the way to your desk!

* take in some cakes or biscuits and give everyone an excuse to sit and say hi to you over a cuppa, maybe all together to save repeating yourself

* don't try to catch up on everything on Day One! Just sorting out IT systems and saying hi will wear you out


please add your ideas in the comments below, all these questions come from my mentees

I get a lot of people asking me to review their cv and very few have an interests or hobbies section.... which is a shame, because when company recruiters are making selection decisions they need something to differentiate between candidates


For less experienced people this can be key, eg new graduates joining the market place and facing lots of competition. 


As a recruiter I'm looking for that something extra and if I see that you have done some voluntary work, played representative sports, cared for a parent, worked abroad in your holidays, or simply love reading or cinema it starts to give me a feel for the other side of your life ..... don't forget that I have to think about whether I want you in my team or not, as well as the more obvious question of whether you can do the job or not!


So do yes!  But don't make things up, and if you say you do something, be ready to talk about it at an interview!


Dear Ted is a series based on questions asked of me by my mentees.  Please ask with a PM or comment below

This has to be your choice, but I was lucky enough to attend a talk given by Lord Brown, arranged by Suki Sandhu, a few years ago.  He made it very clear that he now wished that he had come out years ago. 


He explained that he had to spend so much time and energy hiding the fact that he was gay, that he had been a lot less productive in his working career than he could have been.


Another talk by a business woman, not unlike you, gave me cheer.  She said that when she came out all she had was love and support, and then new opportunities opened up….. something which I witnessed myself at Glaxo years ago when the climate was still quite hostile.


I can link you to some experienced HR people who are gay and lesbian who might be willing to mentor you….


All questions to Dear Ted are welcomed, albeit most come from my mentoring sessions it’s interesting that I’m now getting unsolicited extra questions, bring it on!


  1. Contract: Some employers include valid clauses which forbid you to work for anyone else, so start with a read of your contract.  I say valid because they have the right to protect their IP and business interests.  Even if a clause exists then it is still worth asking, since an enlightened boss may well see it as beneficial to your development
  2. Culture: In the academic world it’s often encouraged, so the answer may depend on where you work
  3. How much?: for an approximate day rate take your pay and divide by 150, that or more and you’re doing well!
  4. Small world: always tell, you never know who knows who and it may well get back to your boss anyway
  5. Tax: keep very good records and remember to declare additional earnings (but not legitimate expenses) to HMRC when you do your tax return (other income section)

Some perspective is needed. 


On very rare occasions, like a merger or major restructuring, it may well be sensible to re-set your dates and your employer should willingly cover your postponement costs BUT I said RARE!


Being blunt: sadly I know of too many people who are (literally) no longer alive today because they didn't take the need to have a holiday seriously, or allowed their work to build up to such a level that they could never take their eye off their phone.


You have to remember that there are bigger things in life than work.  And you will find this out the day they no longer need you, or the day you are hospitalised!!! 


If your work levels start to build, you owe it to yourself and your family to start to seriously prioritise and do a great job of a smaller number of things, maybe saying "I'm not going to be able to deal with this in the next few weeks because...".  If they really need it doing NOW, then another route will open up!  It's all about being honest, no-one else knows what your workload is, you have to tell them!


And if you get no support then take the hint and look elsewhere asap.


Last night I helped XX find a solution, PM me or comment below.

The real trick is to see if you can turn an interview into more of a conversation, so that you ask questions as you go along.  This isn't always easy, especially when there is a panel interview. 


The main thing is to remember that an interview has to be a two way process.  You need to decide whether you want to work at the place that is interviewing you as much as they have to decide if you fit their needs.  So what matters most to you, personally?


If it is your own development at this stage: then finding out about how they will support you with training courses, getting involved in, or running projects might be a key area to ask about.


If you have specific flexibility needs then ask about their attitude to working from home or taking time off and working extra hours at other times, or about their use of mobile technology. 


At this stage asking lots of questions about pay and benefits should be low on your list, they can come later once they are making an offer.


And finally if there is something that your are uncomfortable about then ask!  Isn't it better to rule yourself out now rather than three months into the new job????

There is no simple answer to this.  After years of school and then college exams some people need a break and go and find themselves on a world tour, others get straight down to applying for every job going and some look at further education in the form of diplomas, MAs or PhDs.


Only you can make the call.  PGCE is one of a lot of options for further education after a degree.  Its designed to lead to teaching.  Are you sure that's something you could be passionate about?  Maybe ask around friends and see if you can sit in with a teacher at a school and see it from their perspective? 


Whilst going through the application process, think about trying out some other jobs, anything you do will give you valuable experience of some kind - and give valuable additional weight to your cv, so that it differentiates you from others.  Volunteering is a great way to add and give something back, for example. 

In nearly all cases the answer is yes.  Being honest with your employer and not surprising them usually pays dividends.


Why?  Because you're giving them a chance to make plans, possibly to recruit, maybe to train someone, possibly to tell you about a promotion just around the corner.... and you increase the likelihood that they will offer to provide a reference and/or the chance of a job when you return.


In a very small number of cases your boss will be a pain, cut you out of events and be a bit churlish ... well that probably explains why you're leaving!   But if you've worked there a couple of years they cant fire you, you're only telling them of your intention.... you only resign when everything is in place (eg you have your VISA!).


Now go and enjoy yourself!