This week we are talking to Zoe Gruhn, executive coach and leadership development expert with over 30 years’ experience in developing senior leaders and politicians in both the private and public sectors.
1. What key piece of advice would you give to someone feeling ‘stuck’ in their present job and wanting to change career path?
First of all, you need to understand what exactly is driving you to change your career path. Is it your personal circumstances that make you feel a change in direction is in order? Or perhaps you have worked for your organisation for too long and now need a different challenge.
Once you have determined your main reasons for wanting to change path, you should aim to flush out your knowledge, skills, experiences and achievements that match closely your new career aspirations. If you are pursuing a completely different career direction, you would want to understand the details of the new role and try to talk to people who are already working in that area to learn from their experiences.
2. In your experience, what are the main ways that career coaching can help people to succeed in their professional life?
Career coaching can help in a number of ways. It can sharpen your self-awareness, highlight your professional strengths and weaknesses and the unique value you can bring to a role. It can help job candidates understand in more detail what kinds of work they actually enjoy – through Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors methodology for instance. Furthermore, career coaching can assit you with conquering psychometric tests. Plus, working with someone with wide knowledge of your target sectors and recruitment practices within them is an added advantage.
3. What are the main differences in leadership style that you have noticed between senior managers in the public and private sectors in the UK?
Generally speaking, leadership styles in public and private sectors have a lot of similarities. However, I would say that managers in the private sector in the UK tend to be less averse to risk taking than those in the public sector. They also tend to be more agile as they are faced with less bureaucracy than in the public sector.
More senior public service leaders are much more cautious and not prone to taking risks as they are under a lot of scrutiny, being responsible to a large number of stakeholders. Leaders in the private sector focus heavily on profitability, processes and targets, whilst their counterparts in the public sector put heavy emphasis on procurement and project management.
4. What are the three most important characteristics that you look for in a candidate when you are recruiting at your organisation?
It depends on the particular role, but for leadership and development positions, I look for capacity to adapt and respond quickly, knowledge of team management and psychology, experience in leading and facilitation. I would also stress the importance of analytical skills and creativity.
5. What are the most common mistakes that people make in writing CVs and cover letters?
Too long, too detailed, failure to emphasise specific results and achievements relevant to the position in question. Another common mistake is sending out CVs and cover letters not tailored to a particular job.
6. What are some of the best ways to prepare for a competency-based interview for a job in the public sector?
Specific competencies required for a position are normally spelt out in the job description so you should study them carefully before your interview. Understanding the level of importance of each competency to an employer is crucial and you should then examine your own career and select specific examples that can demonstrate that you are at the higher end of that competence.