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Sunday, August 31, 2014

How to spot bad career advice!

You don’t know what you’re doing.

You thought you knew what you’re doing. You thought it actually might be somewhat doable to transition into that new job, new field, new whatever you want to do professionally. But all the stuff you’ve been trying for the past three months?

It’s not working. And today, it’s occurring to you: You need career advice.

You, naturally, begin by Googling every variation of “job search,” “best resume writers,” and “top career consultants” that you can possibly drum up. And you find, literally, a zillion options. And a zillion pieces of advice.

Made worse, now that your friends and family members know you’re considering a change, they’ve begun doling out more unsolicited advice than you can possibly digest in one sitting (or 10).

So, how do you tell if the career advice you’re receiving is good? More importantly, how do you steer clear of the ridiculous, reckless, or just plain garbage input as you navigate this challenging period?

If you’re worried that the help you’re getting might be bunk, here are four ways to detect that this might not be the very best advice for you.


1. The Person Giving Advice Has a Vested Interest in Your Decision

Your husband means well. But he may really want you to take the job that gets you out of work at 3:30 so you can pick up the kids. Your mom completely has your back, but she’s always been pretty nervous about everything in life, and may want you to follow a career path that doesn’t seem too risky.

When you ask certain people in your life for advice, always consider if they have a horse in the race, and what that is. And if you suspect the bias may get in the way of solid counsel, consider asking other people for their thoughts. Ideally, people who have no stake in the decision you make.


2. The Advice is Filled With Platitudes

If you seek counsel and the main gist of it goes something like, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” or “Follow your passion,” or “If it’s the right job, it won’t feel like a job at all?” Then you may want to sleuth out a second opinion. Platitudes, clichés, and positive mantras can all be grand if they light a little fire of motivation beneath your rear, but if that’s the crux of the advice? That’s probably not going to get you to the finish line.


3. The Advisor Focuses on Which Type of Paper Stock You Should Use for Your Resume

Run. This person was probably an exceptional career coach back in 1994, but much has changed as digital media has emerged and the world has shifted to online, well, everything. Don’t get me wrong—working with a seasoned advisor doesn’t automatically mean the advice is stale. Not at all. But if you suspect that the person has failed to keep current with how staffing and recruitment works today? You may wish to consider a fresher perspective.


4. The “Expert” Doesn’t Have Much Relevant Background

I’ve got a little secret: There is absolutely no barrier to entry when it comes to launching a career as a “career coach” or “resume writer” or “job search expert.”

That said, you will run into an enormous range of talent in this arena. How do you determine if you should trust the counsel of the so-called expert you’ve discovered on Yelp?

Check out the expert’s bio page or review her LinkedIn profile. What career path has led her to the position she holds today? Do you relate to, trust, and admire that path? If so, great. If no? Reconsider. The right career adviser for one may be the absolute wrong one for another. Trust your gut on this one.



While the sheer volume of career guidance available, both online and through the people you know IRL, can be overwhelming. But, if you decide on a short list of people you’re going to trust and follow as you navigate a career move?

You just may find the input both incredibly helpful and, in the long run, life-changing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

7 Science-Backed Ways to Seem Smarter at Work


By Erinn Bucklan

If you haven’t yet heard of the hot area of psych research called “embodied cognition,” listen up. The first impression you make may have nothing to do with the words that come out of your mouth. Scientists are discovering that our bodies may be making snap judgements and sending messages to our brains before we even speak. From the temperature in a room to the way we’re seated, our physical world can shape what we think and influences our opinions of each other.

Want some groundbreaking ideas on how to capitalize on (or even improve) your image before your next interaction? Read on for the latest insightful research on how you can subtly (but powerfully) manipulate how you’re perceived.


1. If You Want to Seem: Thoughtful

Have you arranged a meeting with a client whose opinion you want to sway? Hit Starbucks first. Handing someone a hot drink that they can hold in their hands can influence their view of you, say researchers. When subjects warmed up their hands with a hot cup of coffee before meeting someone new, they actually had a more caring and thoughtful impression of them.

Need a raise? Bring a hot tea to your boss. Israeli University Business School scientists have found that participants are willing to pay more when they held something warm, too.


2. If You Want to Seem: Powerful

Running a presentation and want attendees to take your findings more seriously? Offer handouts on heavy clipboards, found University of Amsterdam scientists in a study published in Psychological Science. The audience just may think better of you. When subjects held a weighty object in their hands, they made judgements of higher monetary value, were fairer in decision-making, and even gave more thoughtful answers. Said main study author, Nils Jostmann: “These findings suggest that, much as weight makes people invest more physical effort in dealing with concrete objects, it also makes people invest more cognitive effort in dealing with abstract issues.”


3. If You Want to Seem: Trustworthy

Your scruples may come down to how you sit, found a series of business school studies conducted by researchers from Columbia, Harvard, Berkeley, Northwestern, and MIT. The studies explored the nature of dishonesty. Their results were surprising: How you sit at your desk just may influence your judgement. Subjects who sat at vast desks were more likely to cheat on tasks than those in smaller (think: cubicle-sized) workspaces. In another example, those who sat in wide, open chairs were more likely to act recklessly than those in smaller, tighter quarters.

The study authors conclude that your unconscious posture has a lot more to do with your thought process about boundaries than previously thought.


4. If You Want to Seem: Competent

Never underestimate the effect your pearly whites have on the perception of your job performance. Giving genuine smiles around the office can affect how colleagues judge your work, suggests recent Penn State research. When you smile often, you convey a friendliness that goes a long way toward a good first impression, found the scientists. Subjects who grinned more were given a higher rating of competence compared to those who remained tight-lipped while going about their work.


5. If You Want to Seem: Dependable

According to Harvard University psychologists, dolling ourselves up, ladies, can boost our professional reputation in subconscious ways. When male and female participants were asked to rate faces with and without colorful cosmetics, the application of such extras as lipstick and eyeshadow made the women’s faces appear more dependable, trustworthy, and friendly. (Sigh.)

While it may not be a surprise that making yourself appear more attractive, or put together, would correlate with more positive perceptions, the authors also found that this effect held true even when the amount of makeup changed. It didn’t matter if the makeup was natural, moderate, or even made a “glamorous” impression. Women were still given high marks for business acumen when they stepped up their cosmetics. This is not to say that we should all be running out to buy eye shadow (we hope)—but a little cosmetic effort seems to go a long way.


6. If You Want to Seem: Influential

Turn up the heat in your office when you want to sway others to think your way, found Chinese business school research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Subjects were more likely to go along with others’ opinions when rooms were set to the temperature of 77 degrees F than a cooler 61 degrees F. “Ambient temperature is another factor that influences the perceived validity of others’ opinions,” wrote study authors.

In fact, this conformity, and blind trust of others viewpoints, even applied to financial decisions. Those sitting in warmer rooms more likely went along with the rest when deciding whether to buy or sell stocks. The authors hypothesize that warm weather gives us a “warm and fuzzy” feeling about peers so we trust their points of view more readily.


7. If You Want to Seem: Knowledgeable

Move from the conference room to the comfy confines of your couch, say scientists, if you are about to do some negotiations. The study authors created a series of studies that found a relationship between touch and perception.

In one, participants were asked to rate an employee’s performance while handling either a hard surface of wood or a soft textile. Those who were in contact with the wood gave the employee a poorer grade than those near the softer fabric. In another test, the subjects were in contact with either a rough surface or, again, a softer one. This time, too, the subjects handling the rougher object were considered more adversarial than those in kinder, gentler physical environs. You’ll never look at a meeting across a hardwood desk the same way again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach

How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
By Leo Babauta

Let’s say you’re feeling unmotivated, unsure of yourself, aimless, can’t find your passion, directionless, not clear on what your purpose in life is.

You’re in good company — most people are in the same boat.

Now, there about a million things online telling you how to find your passion in life, and that’s a good thing. It’s a search worth undergoing.

I’m not going to give you a fool-proof method, or a 5-step method, nor share my passion manifesto with you today.

I’m going to give you a one-step method.

However, that one step is a doozy.
The One Step to Finding Your Purpose

It’s simply this: learn to get outside your personal bubble.

Your personal bubble is the small world you live in (we all have one), where you are the center of the universe. You are concerned with your wellbeing, with not wanting to look bad, with succeeding in life, with your personal pleasure (good food, good music, good sex, etc.).

This is the bubble we all live in most of the time, and people who say they don’t are trying to prove something.

When someone tells you you look fat, this only hurts because you’re in your personal bubble. You take that statement (a colleague who says you look fat) and believe that it’s about you, and feel the pain or embarrassment of how the statement affects you. It matters a lot, because in your bubble, what matters most is how everything affects you personally.

I’m the same way, and so is everyone else.

Some other problems caused by this personal bubble:

    In our bubble, we’re concerned with our pleasure and comfort, and try not to be uncomfortable. This is why we don’t exercise, why we don’t only eat healthy food.
    This fear of being uncomfortable is also why we get anxious at the thought of meeting strangers. It hampers our social lives, our love lives.
    Because we don’t want to look bad, we are afraid of failing. So we don’t tackle tough things.
    We procrastinate because of this fear of failing, this fear of discomfort.
    When someone does or says something, we relate that event with how it affect us, and this can cause anger or pain or irritation.
    We expect people to try to give us what we want, and when they don’t, we get frustrated or angry.

Actually, pretty much all our problems are caused by this bubble.

Including the difficulty in finding our life purpose. But more on that in a minute — I ask for your patience here, because this is important.
What Happens When We Get Out of the Bubble

If we can learn to get outside this personal bubble, and see things from a less self-centered approach, we can see some amazing things:

    When someone says or does something, it’s not really about us — it’s about pain or fear or confusion they’re feeling, or a desire they have. Not us.
    When we have an urge for temporary pleasure (TV, social media, junk food, porn), we can see that this urge is a simple passing physical sensation, and not the center of the universe.
    We can start to see that our personal desires are actually pretty trivial, and that there’s more to life than trying to meet our pleasures and shy from our discomfort. There’s more than our little fears. Including: the pain and suffering of other people, and compassion for them. Compassion for all living beings. Wanting to make the world better.
    We can tie our daily actions, like learning about how our minds and bodies and habits work, or getting healthy, or creating something, not only to our personal satisfaction and success (trivial things) but to how they help others, how they make the lives of others better, how they might lessen the suffering of others.

We become less self-centered, and begin to have a wider view. Everything changes, from letting go of fear and anger and procrastination, to changing our habits and finding work that matters.

How does this relate to finding our life purpose? Let’s explore that.
The Wider View, and Our Life Purpose

Once we get out of the bubble, and see things with a wider view, we can start a journey along a path like this:

    We can start to see the needs of others, and feel for their suffering.
    We then work to make their lives better, and lessen their suffering.
    Even if we aren’t good at that, we can learn skills that help us to be better at it. It’s the intention that matters.
    As we go about our daily work, we can tie our actions to this greater purpose. Learning to program or become healthy (for example) isn’t just for our betterment, but for the betterment of others, even in a small way. This gives us motivation on a moment-to-moment basis. When we lose motivation, we need to get back out of our bubble, shed our concern for our discomfort and fears, and tie ourselves to a bigger purpose.

In this path, it doesn’t matter what specific actions you take or skills you learn to make people’s lives better. What career you choose is not important — what matters is the bigger purpose. You can always change your career and learn new skills later, as you learn other ways to fulfill this purpose. You’ll learn over time.

What matters is becoming bigger than yourself. Once you do, you learn that you have a purpose in life.
How to Get Out of the Bubble

Sounds great, but getting outside this personal bubble isn’t as easy as just saying, “Let it be so.” It takes work.

First, you must see when you’re stuck in the bubble. Whenever you’re angry, frustrated, irritated, fearful, anxious, procrastinating, feeling hurt, wishing people would be different … you’re in the bubble. These are signs. You are at the center of your universe, and everything is relating to you and your feelings. When you can’t stick to habits, or have a hard time with a diet, you’re in the bubble. Your momentary pleasure is what matters in this bubble. Outside the bubble, they’re just little events (sensations of desire, urges) that can be let go of.

Second, when you notice that you’re in the bubble, expand your mind and heart. See the bigger picture. Feel what others must be feeling. Try to understand rather than condemning. See how little and petty your concerns and fears have been. Realize that if others treat you badly, it’s not about you, but about their suffering.

Third, wish others well. Genuinely want their happiness, just as you want your own happiness. See their suffering and wish for it to end or lessen.

Fourth, see how you can help. How can you lessen the suffering of others? Sometimes it’s just by paying attention, just listening. Other times you just need to be there, just lend a hand. You don’t need to go around solving everyone’s problems — they probably don’t want that. Just be there for them. And see if you can make people’s lives better — create something to make them smile. Make one little part of their world — a cup of tea, an article of clothing you’ve sewn — be a little space of goodness.

Repeat this process multiple times a day, and you’ll get better at it.

You’ll learn to be bigger than yourself. You’ll learn that the life we’ve been given is a gift, and we must make the most of it, and not waste a second. You’ll learn that there is nothing more fulfilling than making the lives of others a little better.

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