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Students – earning less, owing more

Several bad news stories for students have emerged this month.

A report (‘Payback Time’) published by the Sutton Trust in the UK, sets out to analyse the impact of recent changes to student loans and fees.  Under the new regime, under which tuition fees rose to a maximum of £9,000 a year, students will leave university with almost £20,000 more debt on average than under the previous system.

The report concludes that most students will still be paying back their loans into their 40s and 50s.  Many will never clear their debts.  The study uses the example of an ‘average teacher’, who would still be paying back the student loan into their early 50s.

Meanwhile, as the cost of an education increases, the value of a degree is declining.

According to research by The Complete University Guide, over the last five years, the value of a degree has declined by up to a third.  Researches analysed data based on graduate employment and earnings six months after leaving university.   They found that the average starting salary for graduates in professional employment dropped by 11 per cent in real terms between 2007 and 2012.

However, some degree courses, including librarianship and information management, have bucked the trend.

Meanwhile in Sweden there are moves to amend existing student loan guidelines.  The proposed changes would mean that student loans will no longer be written off when graduates reach the age of 67 and that fees for ‘late payment reminder’ letters will double.

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The language of CVs

LinkedIn has used its membership data to analyse the words most frequently used on CVs.

The findings highlight global developments and regional differences.

In top spot the most popular word is ‘responsible’, which is used twice as frequently as any other word.  Other words appearing in the latest global top ten include: Analytical, Creative, Driven, Innovative, Patient and Strategic.

Some words have dropped out of the top ten in the last year.  These include ‘Experimental’, ‘Motivated’ and ‘Multinational’.

The national and regional differences are fascinating.  ‘Sustainable’ only features as a top ten term in the Netherlands.  Only in the UK does ‘Enthusiasm’ feature as a top ten trait.  Passionate is a top ten word in Australia and New Zealand and nowhere else.  ‘Patient’ features in the US top ten but nowhere else in the world.

Library and information recruitment experts at Sue Hill Recruitment have also blogged about overused words and phrases on CVs.  Their advice on avoiding clichés is to think carefully about evidence, proof and meaningless terms such as honest, reliable and enthusiastic.  After all, it’s unlikely an employer will be looking for anyone with the opposite of those qualities!

Acting on the information!

We know we should all find the time to regularly review our social media profiles, and keep our CVs as up to date as possible.

  • Review your profile for LinkedIn’s top ten terms – are you using the words effectively?
  • Provide concrete examples to demonstrate your skills
  • Share examples of your best work
  • Seek out recommendations and endorsements
  • Keep an eye on recruitment expert blogs, particularly those who specialise in your field – they will keep you up to date with recruitment trends.

Something completely different

For fans of the Lego Movie – or simply of Lego – take a look at this ‘Lego CV’ created by someone looking for an internship with an advertising agency. A perfect example of customising the CV to the employer, the role and standing out from the crowd!

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How to succeed in the movie industry

“Be smart, committed, hardworking – and nice”

Pictures of Meryl Streep have been appearing in the London newspapers.  She was in the city filming her latest role as an influential British woman.  This time she is starring as Emmeline Pankhurst in the new movie ‘Suffragette’ about the struggle for women’s suffrage in Great Britain in the early 20th century.  Hopefully the movie will raise awareness amongst young people in particular of the struggle to bring the vote to everyone.

The film is being produced by Alison Owen who has just given the latest Olive Till Memorial lecture at the Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths College, University of London. As she shared her experiences in the film and TV industries, Alison also spoke about how much the industry has changed for women since she began producing music videos in the 1980s.

Just as there are many kinds of managers, so there are many types of film producer.  They can do ‘pretty much nothing’ or ‘pretty much everything’.  The role can include the financial aspects, the team building and/or the creative process itself.  Alison’s preferred way of working is collaborative, working with directors particularly at script stage.  She loves – and looks for – good writing.

Key lessons from a successful producer

  • Be courteous – Alison read every script submitted to her and responded – this is what got her noticed early on in her career
  • Understand what elements you enjoy about your job – taking a project from A-Z is what interests Alison, so these are the projects she looks for
  • She loves the creative, collaborative aspects of her role, especially at script stage
  • Be passionate, emotional AND practical.  She is looking for her own visceral, emotional response to a project.  She wants to see women’s lives reflected on screen.  But projects have to ‘work’ in other ways
  • She measures the success of her projects three ways:
    • Did the project succeed financially?
    • Was it an artistic success?
    • Did the project achieve what she set out to do?
  • You can recover from the worst of events.
    • In 2004, changes to UK tax regulations meant pulling the plug very late on a project called Tulip Fever.  200 people were made redundant.  Alison wrote about the project at the time in a national newspaper.   The film is ‘back on’.

Alison’s CV

Her works include The Other Boleyn Girl, the Oscar-nominated Elizabeth, Shaun of the Dead and Saving Mr Banks as well as television series including Case Histories and Dancing on the Edge.  For a full filmography, see IMDB.

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How to be happy – love, friendship and altruism

The Grant Study is a 75-year longitudinal study of Harvard graduates (1939-1944) and ‘disadvantaged’ youths growing up in Boston (1940-1945).  All white American men, the subjects were followed for 68 years.  One of the Harvard graduates was John F Kennedy.

Subjects were evaluated at least every two years using questionnaires, medical records and personal interviews.  Data was gathered about their mental and physical health, career enjoyment and their relationships.

For 40 years, George Vaillant has led the study and written books on the findings. Despite the mass of data and analysis accumulated, Vaillant sums up the key to happiness “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

  • What goes right is more important than what goes wrong
  • A happy childhood is preferable but an unhappy one can be overcome
  • The ability to achieve [emotional] intimacy is the strongest predictor of health and happiness in old age
  • Participants did manage to change over time; many found love and happiness for the first time later in life

Happiness at work

According to new research from Glassdoor, you could also choose to work in one of the happiest workplaces:  Twitter, Facebook and Google score well in the happy workplace charts.

And finally, if you’re a librarian don’t read articles such as this which define librarianship as a dead end job and imply we’d all be a lot better off if we became nutritionists….

Additional source: Huffington Post

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Women at work – quotas, booth babes and clones

Two of Germany’s political parties have reached a policy compromise supporting the ‘Frauenquote’ – a move to regulate the representation of women on the boards of large companies.

The policy would require companies listed on the German stock exchange to have at least 30% women on their boards.  It would also require large firms to publish their plans to ensure more women land top executive roles.

Similar quota policies already exist in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain.

In a blog post on Harvard Business Review, Joan Williams, author of What works for women at work, looks at a recent Gallup poll about people’s attitudes to female bosses.  On the surface, things are looking up.  Of course you would expect more people today to prefer a woman boss – or to have no gender preference – than did 60 years ago.   However, she then highlights a number of research projects which examine the ongoing negative gender dynamics in the workplace.

No matter what your view of the existence – and the need for – quotas, when you read the disheartening comments made in response to a blog post about the use of ‘booth babes’ at an IT exhibition you can’t help but feel that there is still much progress to be made.

Meanwhile a report on the makeup of Swedish boards (by the Albright Foundation) found a distinct lack of diversity.  Most were full of people similar to each other in gender, skills experience or contact networks.  An Albright report from earlier this year shows that there were more board members called Johan in Sweden than there were women board members!

Additional source: The Guardian.  Thanks to @pennyrleach for the booth babe story.

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Developing professional networks – what social network analysis teaches us

Social network analysis has been used to measure the impact of the DREaM project which set out to nurture a network of researchers.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) explores social relationships and their implications.  As a research methodology, it is employed by a range of subject specialists, and is much favoured by knowledge management practitioners seeking to explore the ‘human’ aspects of knowledge mobilisation.

A new article by Louise Cooke and Hazel Hall* explores the applicability and value of Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a means of investigating the development of researcher networks. The authors believe that their study provides transferable lessons about SNA as a tool as well as the interventions that can encourage speedy development of social infrastructure in new networks, which are applicable across professional groups.

After a discussion about the development of SNA as a research tool and its previous use in the context of library and information science (LIS), the article reports on a case study based on the Developing Research Excellence and Methods (DREaM) project.

DREaM was established in 2011 to create, and support the development of, a network of LIS researchers, connecting them in new ways and improving the quality and impact of LIS research. It is this case study that will be of most interest to LIS practitioners.

What does the ‘before’ and ‘after’ data from the case study tell us about how strong professional networks can be nurtured?

Key findings

  • ‘before’ data shows that members of this participant network were not highly connected or aware of each other’s expertise: existing networks were highly centralised around a small number of academic librarians and researchers
  • ‘after’ data shows a demonstrable increase in expertise awareness and interaction; participants had increased their number of network ties; the network became more ‘even’ with less dependence on a small number of densely networked actors; academic librarians in particular moved towards the centre of the network

What was it about the way the DREaM project was designed that helped develop the network?

The authors suggest that the combination of workshops, social events, networking opportunities, the development of an online community and the effective use of social media tools:

  • Reduced the isolation of participants
  • Helped participants exchange ideas and broaden their knowledge base
  • Provided opportunities for participants to exchange sources of information and references

A range of event amplification techniques (live-blogging/tweeting; delegate reviews; session recordings and many more) also helped those unable to attend events in person, to participate in the network remotely.

This inclusive, boundary-spanning approach helped the participants double their awareness of each other’s expertise and almost double their levels of social interaction.


*Cooke, L. & Hall, H. (2013). Facets of DREaM: a Social Network Analysis exploring network development in the UK LIS research community. Journal of Documentation, 69(6), 786-806.

Further information about the article (Hazel Hall’s blog).  You can download the full text of the article from Emerald (subscription-based service).  You can download the full-text of the article manuscript at no charge here.   Further information on the DREaM project can be found here.

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Digital skills for life: OECD survey

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has published the initial results of its worldwide survey of adults’ skills.  The report focuses on the literacy, numeracy and ‘key information processing competencies’ of 166,000 adults in 24 countries*.

The digital skills of the participants were tested on laptops using simulations of databases, emails, word processing and websites.  The report confirms that those with lower skills are likely to be left behind, not just in the job market but also in their ability to access services and participate in society.

The highest performing countries overall were Finland and Japan – in both of these countries 20% of the participants performed at the highest level. The skills they demonstrated included the ability to perform multi-step operations to integrate, interpret, or synthesise information from complex or lengthy texts, make complex inferences and interpret or evaluate subtle claims or arguments.

The importance of building skills outside formal education

One of the key messages in the report is the importance of a lifelong learning approach to skills development. Participation in adult learning helps to develop and maintain literacy and numeracy skills.  In countries with higher participation levels in adult education, adults demonstrate higher literacy and numeracy skills overall.  Levels of participation in adult education are highest in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden (over 60%).

The OECD hopes that the findings will help policy makers assess the performance of education, training and social policies in developing the skills needed in the workforce – and society in general.

The report comes with some interactive charts where you can compare countries against other and against the OECD average. You can also view the findings by age of participants and education and occupation.  You can access the skills report here.

*Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA.

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Generational diversity – strategies for the ageing workforce

The number of people in the UK employed over the age of 65 has reached the one million mark.

The demographics of the ageing population are astonishing.  Today, the median age (where half the population is older; half younger) of the world population is 28.  By 2050 the median age in Europe will be 47 and 22% of the world population will be over 60.

A report by organisational development experts Talentsmoothie explores the implications of the ageing population for businesses.

‘A new career stage’

In the UK, the number of working pensioners increased by 85% between 1993 and 2011.  Employees now have the right to work beyond statutory retirement age – many of them want to do so, or are forced to do so by economic circumstance.  This ‘extended career’ stage is currently not being managed by employers and the report calls for organisations to focus on proactively managing this career stage – beginning well before statutory retirement age.  65% of organisations participating in the research said they were ‘reactive’ rather than proactive when it comes to discussing retirement with employees.

Similarly, employees are often not keen to raise the issue, fearing that raising their concerns will ‘rock the boat’ and trigger redundancy.

Skills gaps

Over the next ten years, the UK (and many other countries) will experience skills shortages.  Research from a number of sources, including CIPD and McKinsey, predicts skills gaps and a shortage of school- and college-leavers to fill vacancies.

The report describes older employees as a ‘hidden talent pool’.  In the UK organisations such as DIY chain B&Q and building society Nationwide have made a positive effort to employ and keep older workers on board.  The benefits they have reported include reduced employee turnover, improved customer service and increased profitability.  In Japan, Toyota is addressing the ‘knowledge drain’ of retired employees by re-recruiting them to work part-time.

Generational diversity

The oldest Gen-Z youngsters are already 18!  As they begin to join the workforce we will have an increase in the number of ‘five-generation’ workplaces.  Employers need to understand the generational diversity of their customer base and their workforce.  They need to develop policies and working environments that maximise the benefits of multi-generational organisations.

And all of us should overcome our fears of discussing ‘the R-word’ – retirement!

Dealing with mission impossible – a publishing case study

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) disseminates scientific information in the interdisciplinary fields of geophysics.  With over 60,000 members worldwide, the AGU publishes books, research journals, newspapers and other scientific periodicals.

In 2012 the AGU announced a publishing partnership with Wiley.  And in September 2012 Freddie Quek, Director of Engineering for Wiley, was given four months to integrate the AGU content onto a single Wiley platform.  He shared his story of coping with this ‘mission impossible’ with delegates at the Association of Subscription Agents conference in London.


By 2nd January 2013

  • Start revenue earning
  • Ensure systems ready to support entire content chain
  • Ensure system works in a familiar way for all AGU customers
  • Give AGU customers access to all licensed content


  • 17 systems to check
  • Non-standard content formats (one publication had no page numbers; one journal had seven parts – three of which had sub-parts)
  • Over 700 special sections of content
  • What to do about unique identifiers; new ISSNs required
  • Unknown unknowns!
  • Ensuring discoverability
  • Development to start before all requirement were clear

What worked

  • Creation of a 60 day plan
  • Number one priority across the organisation – 52 people on the team
  • Sense of commitment, urgency and importance of the project
  • Rapid decision making at all levels
  • Team effort by everyone and a can-do attitude
  • Strong business lead and close cooperation

Lessons learned

  • Focus on people over process
  • Embrace the challenge
  • Break some rules
  • Be brave
  • Use your best people

Many of us will be asked to take on ‘impossible missions’ at work.  Freddie’s best advice?  Deal with it!

Do the right thing: workplace trends in 2013

Business solutions expert Sodexo has released its 2013 report on key trends affecting the workplace.  The report combines insight from clients, academia, trade organisations, social media monitoring, literature reviews and surveys.  Physical resources and facilities, people and technology all combine to impact the effectiveness of the workplace and effective management of all three can improve performance and productivity.  The report identifies 12 key workplace trends, including:

  • Thriving in the cloud
  • The development of 21st century mentoring
  • New recruitment models
  • The importance of inclusion

A new era of recruitment – facilitated by social media

There have been radical changes in the way organisations engage with prospective employees in the last five years.  A recent study found that 92% of US companies use social media in their recruitment efforts.  70% of employers report having successfully hired a candidate through social media (up from 58% in 2010).  Social media also creates a two-way conversation between employers and potential employees, who can gain a more complete picture of their potential employer using ratings sites and other similar services.

Flexible workplaces – ‘Integration 2.0’

The needs of the 21st century workforce are more complex and dynamic.  Progressive organisations are looking to provide dynamic life/work ‘ecosystems’ that provide flexible work options and contribute to the effectiveness – and wellbeing – of the workforce.  An example is in the development of more social space in workplaces and more multipurpose spaces that can flex to meet different demands.

Do the right thing – the importance of values

The report notes that 35% of the US workforce claims to have been bullied at work – and emphasises how this can prevent people from excelling at work – hurting the bottom line of organisations as well as having damaging psychological effects on staff.

86% of millennials entering the workforce now say they would consider leaving an employer whose values fell short of their expectations.  The report states that all four generations in the workforce see corporate social responsibility as a potential motivating factor at work.

Harvard Business Review has also been discussing the importance of corporate social responsibility and its impact on profitability and sustainability.  Author Eric McNulty sees the role of business leaders as to be clear in setting and communicating their purpose and their values and being clear about how their business model can ensure financial viability.  This clarity is essential if ‘its leaders and followers are to know what is the right thing to do’.