The Secrets To Happiness

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“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions” according to the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, the French are “suffering from existential gloom”[i]  and are, on average, an unhappy and dissatisfied population (graph below). Happiness in the workplace is essential for high productivity and a good working atmosphere. Many people expect a change of job, location or friends to dramatically change their quality of life without looking into their own faults.  Review your outlook on life, professional relationships, spending habits and physical health in order to increase your happiness and fulfilment in life and the workplace.

 

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Attitude

 

If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job. Optimism in the workplace creates a more comfortable and content environment. View your glass as half full rather than half empty and appreciate what you have in order to avoid negativity.

It is important to feel comfortable in yourself at work. Embrace your own personality and opinions rather than shying away. Build your confidence and self esteem to have a voice that people listen to. Admiration from friends and co-workers will follow along with higher self-respect and happiness.

Complement your confidence and positivity with a smile. According to a recent study[ii], smiling more throughout the day can increase levels of happiness. Furthermore, you will seem more approachable and friendly to co-workers which is essential.

 

Relationships

 

Good relationships at work create a happy environment. Happy people spend significantly more time talking to others in general whereas unhappy people spend much more time alone[iii]. This is because the body “is designed to feel happier when engaged in social interactions”[iv].  Try to find a common ground with colleagues and share interests. With good relationships at the office, you won’t depend on the work itself for a sense of meaning. You’ll find meaning in interactions with the people you care about to elate your mood.

 

Money

Does money buy happiness? Of course it is essential to ensure you have food on the table and a roof over your head, however after these priorities are taken care of it is not how much money you earn but it is what you do with it that makes us happy. Spending money on other people has a more direct impact on happiness than spending money on yourself[v]. Donate money and time to worthy causes rather than selfish luxuries and begin to feel better in yourself.

 

Health

Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, thanks to the various brain chemicals that are released that amplify feelings of happiness and relaxation[vi]. A mere 20 minutes of exercise, three days each week will increase your happiness by 10 to 20 percent after six months[vii]. Try walking to work or going for a walk at lunch time to fit in a daily dose. Top this up with a healthy diet and plenty of sleep to give your body and brain the energy it needs to be healthy and happy. If you are middle-aged, aim to get at least eight hours of sleep per night; the young and elderly should try and have nine to eleven hours of sleep per night.[viii]

 

Conclusion

Don’t put your happiness in someone else’s hands and try to make the changes yourself to increase your quality of life and happiness at work. Priorities may need to be altered to become an even happier person and it may not be an easy decision. However, if you are not the happiest you could be it is essential to make an active effort to change your lifestyle. Remember that happiness is a journey and not a destination[ix] so there is no time to waste.

 

 

 

 

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/24/french-taught-to-be-gloomy

[ii] http://greatist.com/happiness/reduce-anxiety

[iii] http://trueslant.com/wrayherbert/2010/03/01/the-perils-of-small-talk/

[iv] https://www.uniiverse.com/neuroscience

[v] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/319/5870/1687.short

[vi] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

[vii] http://www.davidweedmark.com/archives/facts-about-happiness/

[viii]  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/AN01487

[ix] Ben Sweetland

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The Interview… Where First Impressions Are Everything

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33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether a candidate will get the job[1].  With this limited time frame to make a lasting impression it is essential that you get it right! Most of the key ingredients are obvious however there are some essential “Dos” and “Don’ts” that are often forgotten by candidates:-

 

Physical Appearance

Albeit obvious, candidates should present themselves as neat, tidy, and well-groomed to give a positive image to the employer. It is always better to overdress than under dress as candidates risk showing they are not taking the interview seriously. Cleavage, short skirts and untucked shirts do not give the professional impression that should be conveyed. Moreover, well-fitted clothes are a must because if a candidate is constantly readjusting their outfit they may seem fidgety.

Small ear piercings are acceptable as long as each ear is not too overcrowded and nose piercings can occasionally look smart on the right person. Any large piercings or other facial piercings should be avoided. All visible tattoos should be covered by clothing, hair or jewellery.

Personal hygiene is fundamental and a trait that a good candidate never lacks. Avoid having greasy hair or any dandruff before the interview. Hair should be tidy and away from the face to appear more open.  Smells such as ‘BO’ or cigarettes will immediately put off any employer as a malodorous employee will be unpleasant to work with. It is crucial to wear clean clothes and avoid smoking before an interview. Perfume and aftershave are always a good idea; just be careful it is not too overpowering.

This also applies to breath. The interviewer does not want to know what you had for lunch. Avoid garlic, onions and strong spices. Brush your teeth beforehand and have a strong breath mint of necessary. That said; do not chew gum in the interview as it looks completely unprofessional.

 

Body Language

Wearing a nice smile is crucial for a good first impression. It tells people that you’re an outgoing and intelligent person worth getting to know and conveys confidence and professionalism. Moreover, maintain eye contact with the interviewer when in conversation. A blank stare is a look people naturally adapt when they are trying to distance themselves, which is what a candidate should avoid.

The all-important handshake is a skill that not everyone has mastered. Make sure the handshake is firm and lasts no more than two shakes and should be accompanied by an introduction or expression of gratitude. If seated, always stand up to shake hands and if prone to sweaty hands, keep a handkerchief in a pocket or bag in order to discreetly wipe them beforehand.

 

Communication

Verbally greeting anyone at an interview is important to show respect and politeness. “Bonjour, Madame” or “Good morning” is sufficient and avoid less formal greetings like “ça va?” or “hi”. The most common way to address someone in France is by saying ‘Madame’ or ‘Monsieur’ and never use ‘Mademoiselle’ in the business world.

Most importantly, in France, it is essential to vousvoyer everyone you speak to at an interview. For English speakers this does not come naturally however it is ingrained into French language and culture and is considered extremely rude if the two are confused. Therefore, avoid at all costs referring to anyone as “tu” to maintain the boundaries between personal and professional and avoid offending anyone. 

A candidate’s tone of voice determines 38% of first impressions[2]. Some try to appear confident but overstep the mark with a loud tone of arrogance. On the other hand, a candidate trying to seem respectful and quiet may appear monotone and boring. Talking with a smile changes the tone of voice from monotone to cheery and will always be perceived well.

 

Conclusion

By paying attention to these small details to ensure good presentation, body language and communication skills, you can be sure to put yourself in the best possible light. The key is to play it safe and prepare beforehand, be polite and respectful with a smile to show confidence and gratitude for the opportunity. Remember, you have to make a good first impression to deserve a second.

 

Is Honesty The Best Policy?

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Have you ever lied in an interview or at work? The answer is probably. Basic human instinct is survival… therefore, exaggerating, omitting and embellishing the truth are often used to cut ahead of the rest in order to get hired or promoted. In an ideal world in which career progression were easy, honesty would of course be the best policy. But with youth unemployment at 22.8%[i] in France and promotions harder to come by, how much do you need to lie to survive in the recruitment process or is honesty really the best policy?

 

The CV

 

The first impression an employer gets from a candidate is their CV… it’s sink or swim!  It is not surprising that 53% of CVs contain falsehoods to survive this stage[ii].  These falsehoods may consist of made-up experiences or skills and even stretching dates of employment, resulting in a more employable and impressive candidate. But beware… whitewashing the truth on your CV rather than merely embroidering it is becoming more dangerous. There has been a recent rise in pre-employment screenings caused by the high demand for jobs; now candidates that have lied are being found out in the first round.

 

The Interview

 

The second impression that an employer gets in the recruitment stage comes from the interview. Candidates will primarily be asked about their CV and if they have not been honest they risk getting caught in their own web of lies and botching their interview.  Some questions, however, may require the candidate to exclude information and facts. Common interview advice is to avoid any negativity towards previous jobs. If asked “Why did you leave your previous job?” an honest reply such as “because I hated my boss…” is not an appropriate answer. Omission of the truth can often be essential in order to keep within the professional boundaries of an interview and to ensure a good impression is made.

 

The Workplace

 

Once in the workplace, careful attention must be paid. Lies are regularly used as a safety net to avoid punishment having made an error. Excuses such as “My alarm clock didn’t go off this morning” should be left in the playground as an apology is more effective in these menial cases. In more serious cases lying to cover up fatal errors or to put yourself ahead of anyone else is more treacherous. This can result in chronic lies causing paranoia and insecurities within the workplace until the truth eventually comes out. In fact, 15% of employees in today’s businesses have been caught lying while at work[iii]. Once found out as a liar the employee’s relationships and reputation will be permanently damaged and they risk losing their job.

Most bosses will be appreciative when told the truth rather than a cover up. Honesty is viewed as courageous whereas dishonesty is cowardice. Statistically, employees who told fewer lies had better relationships and smoother interactions within the workplace[iv]. An honest employee’s credibility and integrity speaks for itself, giving that person increased opportunities since the honest employee has proven themselves.  Furthermore, the peace of mind associated with a moral outlook in the office will result in higher productivity and happiness.

The Answer

In conclusion, there is far more to lose than gain from lying. When applying for a job it is understandable to want to present yourself in the most flattering light, especially in the current market. However, honesty is also highly valued and appreciated in the workplace and can be counted on as the best policy. The advice to give would be: Do not have a reason to be dishonest in the first place. Prove yourself to be a great candidate and employee on your own merit rather than lie and risk your reputation and job.

 

 Alternatively, lie your way to the top… just don’t get caught!

The Value of The French Language

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English is the most widespread language in the world and is more widely spoken and written than any other language. As English is now considered the “universal language”, does bilingualism in French have any value in the recruitment process?  The answer is yes.

Being bilingual in French leads to more benefits than just raw human dialogue. It opens a new world of communication skills that are essential in the work place. As the world becomes a seemingly smaller place, the influence of the French language is becoming wider in tandem with the internet and new markets. For candidates in the job market, a grasp of the French language might be what it takes to shine out from the rest as its value is ever increasing.

As the world becomes more socially, economically and technologically connected, competence in languages such as French is increasingly important.  There are a total of around 355 million French speakers worldwide including new markets that are considered economically important in the near future. The French speaking market is eminent and drives up the demand for French speakers in the job market.

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The French language is also opening new doors for international companies that were not considered valuable in the past. Half of the top-10 fastest growing countries in Africa have French as an official language and we can thus expect Africa to be an increasing focus of global trade and international relations.

Moreover, French is the third most used language on the internet ahead of Spanish. The internet has enabled entirely new forms of communication, research and business in recent years and is now considered a ‘basic need’. Bilingual candidates have goldmines of information at their fingertips that would otherwise be inaccessible to those relying on English.

Good communication skills are valued by many employers as “the most important of all life skills” and the candidate who can deal with a customer in their own language will without doubt have an edge. With the graduate job market crowded and a poor economic climate, bilingual communication skills are bordering on essential.  The recipe for successful communication skills is to understand the culture of the country you are doing business with which comes from being bilingual.

A grasp of the culture gives an understanding of acceptable behaviour and ethical differences that should be recognised for any real communication to take place. Miscommunications may have a serious impact on the success of the negotiation process. Whether it is following instructions or perceiving the motives of a client, it is essential in a working environment.

No one can deny the importance of the English language on an international scale however this does not reduce the value of French.  With the expanding Francophone sphere of influence combined with the necessary communication skills that accompany fluency, bilingual candidates shine out ahead of the rest.  The French language is therefore invaluable during the recruitment process and is becoming even more important with global development. Set yourself apart from the rest and learn French.