Obelisk In Action Women in Law

En Garde! An Unexpected Lesson

You, like me, may not immediately think that there are many obvious parallels to be drawn between fencing and work life, however on our recent team retreat fencing expert Pricille Lapoutge certainly surprised us with her insight into how it is possible to apply lessons from fencing to our daily work.

Perhaps my surprise can be put down to my own misconception of fencing. Having originally thought it to be an extremely aggressive sport, I very quickly learned that, while aggression can help, it’s much more effective to be intelligent, decisive, strategic and disciplined. It was amazing how many aspects of fencing (and, more specifically, the way in which we dealt with an alien activity which marries strategy with physical exertion) echo how we might behave in a new working situation.

We were very quickly kitted up in fencing gear and, after a very brief tutorial on the basics, were put straight into action. It was only later than it became clear that this was an observation exercise for our instructor, who wanted to watch and analyse how we would respond to a new activity with few instructions – learning on the job, as it were. After our first few attempts at sparring, Pricille sat us down and asked us how we felt. What was particularly interesting was not only the advice our coach imparted on us, but also how each team member had a different reaction to being thrown in at the deep end:

‘I’m running away’

As Pricille said, fencing is a conversation. If you’re running away, you’re avoiding the situation and not saying what you need to say – you don’t need permission to be assertive, and it is important to be able to take control.

‘I don’t have enough technical information to be effective’

The lesson to be learnt from fencing here is that, when feeling unconfident and under-informed, it is crucial that you collect information before engaging, and be proactive in getting the information right so that you feel confident when you act.

‘I’m at a disadvantage, so this feels unfair’

Pricille advised us that no one is responsible for our own feelings, and that rather than immediately perceiving a negative and making yourself an excuse, it is important to see what advantages you have over others and use those to your advantage, turning a negative into a positive.

‘I feeling responsible for how my opponent might feel’

Again, it is important take responsibility for what you say or do, and to remember that you are not responsible for other people’s feelings that you can’t control, and equally you shouldn’t expect anyone to be responsible for yours.

‘I’m not making the right decisions’

In fencing as in your career, it is important to take your time to observe what’s happening: you may need to distance yourself and take time to react appropriately and make a plan

Our feelings and Pricille’s responses felt very much tailored to the specific situation but, applying her advice more broadly, it is possible to see the parallels between fencing and work life which we had not anticipated. Fencing provided us with an insight into the team dynamic, and gave us a deeper understanding of how individuals all respond differently to the same situation. This is an invaluable insight to have. So, next time you’re trying your hand at a new activity (or even something at which you are a seasoned pro) consider the problems you face and how you overcome then, and see which of these lessons can be applied to your career – I think you may well be surprised.

Family & Work

How to stand out at group assessments

What’s the most effective way of selecting the right employee to join your team when you’ve been inundated with great applications? If this is a question you’ve ever asked yourself, chances are you’ve mulled over the merits of the group assessment day. And, if you’re seeking employment, chances are you’ll be facing a group interview sometime soon.

Group assessment days are becoming a popular alternative for employers who need to interview multiple candidates and want to make the most of the hours available to dedicate to recruitment. They allow the assessor to focus on group interaction, the individuals’ ability to lead and show initiative, and how they would practically fit into the workplace.

Whilst there might be a temptation to treat such days as an informal assessment, it is worth noting that it is just as important to impress at these events as it is in a one-on-one interview, and all the more important to stand out. So, what can you do to ensure you make the right impression?

1 Relax and be yourself

When you’re being observed it’s natural to feel a little uneasy, but try your best to be yourself. Letting your personality shine through is an important aspect of any assessment. Don’t do yourself an injustice by appearing rigid and unapproachable through nerves.

2 Be positive

A positive and proactive approach is non-negotiable. You’re likely to be thrown into an unusual group exercise and it’s important you get involved. It’s a given but being negative about the task and not contributing are always viewed rather dimly.

1 Know the assessment criteria

Wherever your assessment takes place there will always be a set criteria which you are being marked against. If you don’t know what the criteria is make sure you ask. It’s best to do your research in advance rather than falling short on the day.

2 Time keeping

It is likely any set task you do will be under timed conditions. Be sure to read and understand the instructions fully before starting and then manage your time, working out how long you anticipate you’ll need to complete each section. Common failings in assessments are usually down to the candidate running out of time on the set exercises.

3 Network

Talk to the other candidates and think of them as your team mates for the day. You’ll probably be working together at some point during the assessment and even beyond the assessment day itself the other candidates can be a source of useful information and provide a great support network.

4 Be Professional

Treat the assessment event in much the same way as your would approach an interview, consider what you are going to wear on the day and how you will present yourself.

5 Focus on the task in hand

Don’t become preoccupied if you haven’t performed well on one task, there will typically be multiple tasks to complete and you will be assessed on your overall performance. Make sure you put your full focus into each task independently of the others to get the best results.

Keep these tips in mind for your next assessment day, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of success. And, if you’re attending an Obelisk Support assessment day, remember we like our lawyers to be H.A.P.P.I.E.R – that’s Helpful, Authentic, Professional, Positive, Innovative, Elastic and Responsive.