Cringey Job Titles?

by Sarah Lockett on January 6, 2021

Here are some job titles on LinkedIn – these are the first 10-ish words under your actual name: “building bridges to what’s possible”, “savvy, connected dealmaker”, “high-energy individual looking to make an impact”, “We have over 25+ years of expertise”, “attended X college”, “bringing the world together through play”, “an enthusiastic and focused manager”….etc.

Now, I am not having a go at these people personally, but my problem is: I don’t know what they do. Are they a journalist, an IT professional, an HR person, a caterer, a construction foreman? If I email and say, great, I’d like you to make an impact on my business and they say, well, we’re a cleaning company (and I need my accounts doing) then we’ve got nowhere.

Sarah Lockett at Moneymagpie relaunch party 2011
Sarah Lockett at a moneymagpie.com event

I am exaggerating, but don’t make it difficult for people to be interested in you. Don’t make them do the work. Don’t make them have to spend time looking you up to find out what you actually do.

Also, as an aside, if you have to put “savvy”, “enthusiastic” or high-energy” I’d be worried they’re compensating for not being those things. Or conversely, they’re so manically high-energy they feel thay have to put it on their profile to avoid you getting a shock on their first day working for you, when they’re bouncing off the walls!

Now, not everyone has a neat job title such as: accountant, butcher, baker, candlestick maker etc. Some of us do a few different things and just putting “consultant” sounds too vague – and even dodgy. So we want to encompass everything we do in our job title/description. I understand this, but perhaps there’s a happy medium?

Incidentally, the same goes for websites. Often on their homepage there’s just some inspirational photo (of green fields, happy smiling communities etc) and a motto such as “Inspiring the future”. Ooh that makes my blood boil! I instantly backspace and change the Google settings to “News” to see what journalists have said about them. Then I get “software company x…” or “financial services company y” and then we know where we are. (I always wonder if the actual company is seething because they don’t want to think of themselves as just a technology company, or whatever). But hey, if I ring up and say, I need help with marketing – and actually they make payroll software – then again, we are stuck. Best to be clear, I think.

Also I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old bag, but it bears repeating: don’t make people work to give you work. They don’t want to have to research you, to spend time discovering what your specialisms and abilities are. Make it easy for them. I once got some work because someone just Googled “TV News Presenter London”. Boom, I got the gig. And it was kosher. And I got paid.

But if you want to call yourself, “Changing the world one interaction at a time”, or “Connecting Everything All The Time”, don’t let me stop you! Sometimes we don’t want to be limited by a label. Dream big! But don’t be surprised if people are confused, decide to pass, or don’t call you.

Grade 4 singing – a business skill?

by Sarah Lockett on November 26, 2020

I have just passed my Grade 4 singing exam and added it to my LinkedIn profile! Am I mad? Will I get teased/roasted mercilessly? Well, I did a bit more than just pass – I got 84% and a “merit” – that’s 3 points off a ‘distinction’! Plus, it took a LOT of work, about 9 months of lessons, every week, no weeks off, practising for a couple of hours a week (much to my family’s annoyance) and I really had to screw up my courage to go in and take the exam.

If people put their triathlons and ‘Tough Mudders’ on LinkedIn – which also take a lot of training, grit and determination, then why can’t I put my achievement on? It sort of relates to part of my work, but not one that I publicise on LinkedIn. I do acting jobs when I can – I enjoy it, it’s a bit more than a hobby and I get paid.

People also put volunteering on LinkedIn – it shows personality, values and character, and tells potential clients a bit more about you. We know that your social media doesn’t have to be rigidly on-message and corporate, so long as it fits with your brand/what you’re selling. For example, if you’re a Vegan Cookbook Writer, don’t post pix of you scarfing down steaks? Or if you’re campaigning for Black Lives Matter, don’t post photos of you on a White Supremacist march etc.

Anyway, part of my job as a broadcast news journalist/event moderator is performance. As I was saying to a Media Training client the other day, it’s all about performance when you are on zoom calls etc. Don’t slump with one elbow propping yourself up in an, “I don’t care, I am exhausted, you’re all boring, I’m boring,” posture, if you want people to take you seriously as a go-getting, enthusiastic, energetic problem-solver.

And the singing relates to that: I tackled something as a Lockdown activity that I had always wanted to try. I stuck at it, got over my nerves/self-consciousness, persisted and triumphed. And if you think learning 3 classical pieces in Italian, German (both of which I don’t speak) and Russian (which I do) is easy, then bring it on! I’d like to see anyone else’s efforts 🙂

And now it’s onwards to Grade 5…

Teamwork – my thoughts

by Sarah Lockett on November 24, 2020

Christmas came early for me in October when I took part in a TV ad for the sustainable accessories company FromBelo. Here’s a Behind-The-Scenes pic, plus the YouTube link.

FromBelo Xmas2020 ad shoot
FromBelo Xmas2020 ad shoot

The shoot reminded me of the need for teamwork in TV. When I started out as a BBC local radio reporter, I researched, arranged, taped and edited the interviews, wrote the script, recorded the script in a studio (on reel-to-reel tape!), edited the tape, packaged it up and left it overnight for the morning producers to play in to the breakfast show. It was all me, from the moment the idea was allocated to me by the programme producer.

In TV, I soon realised it was very much a team effort. I couldn’t create graphics, edit video, light a studio/location, record sound properly, operate a camera, run a sat-truck, or any of the other gazillion things that need to be done to make a TV news programme. I had to do my bit BUT rely on a lot of other people to do their bit – all experts in their field, all dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on their little piece of the puzzle.

So, I thought I’d say a few words about teamwork. Now, it’s good to be able to do a lot of different things, to be an all-rounder. But equally, the older I get, I know I am very good at some things, reasonably passable at others, and only just functional at others. So it’s better to get other people to do those bits – for my stress-levels and the client’s finished result. So, what does it take to work effectively as a team? Received wisdom seems to say: 7 things.

Communication: when you’re working in a team, it stands to reason that you’re not all doing the same thing; you may not even know/understand precisely what the others are doing. You’re doing your bit, and they’re doing… something else! You can’t oversee, minute-by-minute, everything they’re doing. So you need to communicate effectively. Who’s doing what? Who’s in charge of what? Who’s struggling? Who needs help? Just a text or a WhatsApp will let everyone know where you are. On a recent job, my team and I couldn’t communicate for the first few days. Our mobile phones were taken off us. Some of us had landlines, some of us didn’t. We had to walk several hundred yards to find the rest of the team to ask simple questions. It was not good. Eventually we created a system (begged a landline phone, ordered a 20-metre extension cord from Amazon, took breaks to go down and access our mobiles etc). Eventually we could communicate and collaborate. Phew.

Leadership – this is something I am perhaps not great at – I’m too nice! Which may come as a surprise to some of the people I work with – I’ve recently been told I was a hard taskmaster and brusque – surely not! Maybe they were just snowflakes?! Anyway, a team needs a leader, and one of their tasks is to set manageable goals for the other members, keep them on track to achieve those goals, and stretch them to achieve things they maybe thought they couldn’t. I tend to play safe because I want to submit a product that is on-time and finished. This goes back to my early days working in broadcast news. It’s no good having something fantastic that’s 10 seconds too late! When the bongs go, you have to read your headlines, no matter what. But when we have a bit more time to play with, it’s good for me to be stretched/stressed, to get a better product out. And I need a leader to tell me I can do it!

Time Management – We all know colleagues who, when asked how long something will take, reply, “It’ll take as long as it takes!” Funny! But the rest of the teams needs something a bit more definite than that. So, part of teamwork is meeting the deadlines you’ve been set – or set yourself – or keeping the boss informed IN GOOD TIME if it’s not going to make.

Problem-solving: on a recent job, my team had a lot of logistical challenges outside of our control, which meant we had to reverse-engineer our processes to fit into those limitations. My colleague told me the phrase, “You can only p*ss with the c**k you’ve got”. So, we only had certain materials, people and technology at our disposal and we had to “cut our coat according to our cloth,” to use a slightly more erudite expression. But it did mean we came up with new ways of working, new internal deadlines, new restrictions that we imposed on ourselves – and we had to resist calls from the client to do more. It was absolutely not possible considering the restrictions we were working under! You’ve got to be harsh, firm but fair. And problem-solve so that you can at least deliver something.

Listening: (see Communication) In a team, yes you need to concentrate on your bit, your “deliverables”, but in addition to this: do listen, hear and absorb the others’ points of view, issues and problems – to help find a solution, or at least know why they’re struggling.

Collaboration: You can learn from those colleagues/team-members who are doing something slightly different from you (when you eventually get some downtime – you can’t work at a million-miles-an-hour indefinitely). Hopefully, on each project, you’ll get some time to learn, talk and acquire new skills. This makes you a better team-member in the long run.

Critical Thinking: what is critical thinking? Criticising?! No. It’s basically about not necessarily following the herd : thinking around a problem to find a solution, listening to all members of the team because someone unexpected may come up with something brilliant. On the other hand, the leader is the leader: it’s their train set, so ultimately – what they say goes.

So, I hope I’m a good team player, not too much of a diva, and don’t try to micro-manage my colleagues too much. I do my bit, demand only moderate praise/adoration, and dole out accolades when they’re due. If I’ve worked with you recently, you’re all wonderful!

I’ve been working for minimum wage. Why?

by Sarah Lockett on October 29, 2020

The National Living Wage is £8.72/hour – this is the government’s minimum wage for people aged over 25. I have recently been working for £87.20 for 10 hours (minus a 10% commission for the agent who got me the work) so you see I’ve actually been working for less than the minimum. Why is this? And what was the experience like?

Now, it’s not just a question of working for less money. Sometimes I work for NO money (eg I recently interviewed @CherieBlair on stage in front of 300 people, for the charity @Kisharon – it was a lot of fun, they gave me a fancy brunch and a lovely bouquet, but I didn’t ask for any actual pay). And I was happy to do it.

But this week, I was working on a Bollywood movie as an extra. It was a low budget movie, and Bollywood are known for paying less than the UK union rates (which are agreed every few years with the performance union FAA (Film Artistes’ Association, a sub-division of BECTU – the Media and Entertainment Union) and PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television – the trade association representing the commercial interests of UK independent television, film, digital, children’s and animation media companies).

So, you know you’ll be low-paid when you sign on for a Bollywood movie. And it’s not just the low pay that has resulted in me making the decision that – I’ll never be going back. Does that make me a huge snowflake? When I list the negatives, it does make me sound like a pampered princess. Oh, there was no tea or coffee all day. We were kept in an unheated room for 11 hours (it was 9°C outside). Our start time was 0530am but we were only paid from 8am (whaaaaat?!) Our finish time was 5pm (in their opinion) but we were only released to go home at 830pm. The crew got breakfast but we (having started at 0530, and I got up at 0420) got no food till “breakfast” at 1245pm. Lunch was at 1.45pm (an hour later). Some extras were asked to go and BUY additional items of costume by the next day etc etc.

So I decided, after the revelation that we wouldn’t be paid for all the hours we’d done, that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have a confrontation – I was nice, I was pleasant (although other extras complained loudly/walked off set) – I won’t be doing it again.

Other extras were cheerful, unbothered, accepting, and will be going back for more. Why? Well, obviously some people have no choice – perhaps this is the only kind of work they can get, or it fits around other aspects of their lives (perhaps caring responsibilities). But it doesn’t make it OK.

One thing that the production company could have done – aside from fixing all the ‘Health and Safety’/Acceptable Conditions of Work aspects of the job – would be: to keep us informed. They had a producer/fixer assigned to looking after the extras (so he’s already being paid to be there). He could have apologised for the lack of facilities, explained the delays/problems and worked to make things better for us. Instead he fobbed us off with vague words, “There will be food coming later, we don’t know what time we will finish” etc. To be fair to him, he didn’t know what was happening because they didn’t have walkie-talkies (as most Western productions do).

In fact, there’s a laundry list of things the production company should have done (I have just seen that the minimum acceptable temperature in a workplace is 16°C) but that’s a whole other subject. As we were driven back to London in the dark, I looked at the 4 other extras in the minibus: variously sleeping, scrolling through the blueish glow of their phones, staring out of the window (this was all time that we weren’t being paid for, the agent’s argument being that it was “travelling time” – that they were “saving us the cost of the petrol”. Hmmm.

I am just glad that I don’t have to do this type of work, in poor conditions, cold, unfed. I was glad I have other skills that are highly prized in society and well paid. Although we weren’t digging ditches, selling our kidneys, or trapped in modern slavery, it wasn’t a good experience, and after 3 days on 3 different Bollywood movies, I’m out.