Monthly Archives: June 2014

What to Consider When Making a Sea/Tree Change

Article by Belinda Fuller

iStock_000039589914Small (1)It might seem like a great idea to chuck in the stresses of city living and move to the country or coast for an easier and less stressful lifestyle. The idea of moving out of the city and making major lifestyle changes is a long held dream for many people. It’s fantastic to have dreams, but the reality of such a change can sometimes be tough. Many people’s ideas of getting back to nature and enjoying a quieter life lead them on a journey they didn’t expect.

I personally can think of several occasions when I’ve been on holidays and looked in the real estate window dreaming of a sea change. I consider it briefly, before crashing back to reality – I am a city girl at heart and know that I couldn’t move away from my friends, family and all that it has to offer – at least not right now.

A sea change (or tree change) is a drastic change from a city lifestyle and is really about evaluating what’s important to you then improving your lifestyle to achieve a healthier, less stressful environment. It’s about living life to the full and enjoying a more peaceful or meaningful existence. It doesn’t really matter where you go and is often more about downsizing (your house, your income, your expectations, your workload). Sometimes though, the desired calmer and happier lifestyle doesn’t just happen. Often the stress and anxiety that follows such a major move is more than people expect. If you’re considering such a move, some things to consider include:

1. Why do you want to move? Are you reacting to a stressful situation that could be changed with some effort? A difficult job or relationship or feelings of loneliness may not disappear in a different location. Try to resolve these issues first and then see whether the sea (tree) change still appeals.

2. Will you miss your support network? Friends and family won’t be close to where you move. Since moving is considered to be one of life’s most stressful events,  you may not feel an immediate sense of calm! Most people hate moving – packing, unpacking, moving, finding and establishing a new home, meeting people, making contacts, finding essential services, settling children into school, starting a new job, the list goes on. Will you be able to maintain contact with your family and friends from your new location and will proximity to those established networks be an issue for you?

3. Do you know the area? Many people holiday in an area and think they’d like to live there. Life as a resident is often very different to that of a holiday maker. For starters, at peak times, you might not be able to access services you normally take for granted. Shops will be crowded, doctors booked out, restaurants full, and other services simply unavailable. You should always consider a trial period first – rent out your home if you own it before selling up – and rent in the location you’d like to live. If that’s not possible, try to visit the location at different times throughout the year, so your view of the area isn’t based on the ‘best’ it has to offer.

4. Will you have access to essential services? These are your essential services and differ from person to person, but consider availability of hospitals, transport, schools, tertiary education, doctors, other medical facilities, entertainment, day care, nursing homes, children’s services (pre-school, playgroup, dance class, swim school, sporting groups etc.). Work out what’s important to you and find out what’s available.

5. Can you rent first? If you can, this provides a no risk chance to get to know the area. You could even find out about house sitting but try to give yourself at least 6 to 12 months to settle in because it will take at least this long to get to know the area and some people. A year is a great trial time frame since you’ll experience all the seasons, various holiday periods if it’s a popular holiday destination and all that the town has to offer (good and bad). Talk to local residents during this time about how long they have lived there and what they do to fill their time. Find out what the town has to offer and evaluate whether it suits your needs. This also gives you the added benefit of keeping your own house in the city (if you own) so you have something to come back to if the move doesn’t work out.

6. What work opportunities are available? Many coastal and regional towns offer fantastic job opportunities but many don’t. If you’re considering starting your own business, have you done your research? What jobs are available and is it possible to secure employment before moving? If not, how long can you last before finding a job? These are important considerations so that the stresses of seeking work don’t impact on your happiness and ability to evaluate truly how successful this sea (tree) change is going to be.

Clarify the lifestyle that you’re seeking and work out if the novelty will wear off after a short period. Taking a holiday by the beach is one thing, but living there is another. If you enjoy culture, the arts, theatres, cafes, restaurants and lively bars, then moving to the country may send you mad. Instead of a sense of calm and serenity you might just be bored and frustrated! Any place is completely different when you live there so take that into consideration when planning your move.

Are you considering a sea (tree) change any time soon? Would you like help from a Career Coach to establish a plan to identify your work options once you arrive? If so, see our Career Counselling and Job Search Coaching services.

When Conflict in the Workplace is Good

Article by Belinda Fuller

iStock_000010001437Small (1)Did you know that by always avoiding conflict in the workplace, you could be sabotaging your career? That seems to be the consensus amongst many career experts.

Many managers consider ‘yes’ people to be their biggest killer of productivity, innovation and creativity. While we would never advocate constantly clashing personalities, discontent, resentment and gossip in the workplace – sometimes you are completely justified in challenging the status quo. In fact, often the fact that you do regularly challenge the norm is the driver that helps you get ahead in your career – healthy conflict can spark competition and drive innovation and change. 

So when is conflict a good thing?

  • When it sparks healthy debate – let’s say you don’t agree with something that someone has recommended – if you’re in a position to disagree and you can back up your argument or position – you should go for it. So long as you listen to other people’s ideas first, and consider the pros and cons, you have every right to disagree and present your own ideas. This is what’s considered ‘healthy debate’ and it’s usually good for business.
  • When it prevents major fall outs rather than allowing personal resentments to fester until both parties can’t stand it any longer, properly managed conflict can help individuals manage their personal differences. This means exploring your differences and coming to some kind of resolution before they explode into something more dangerous.
  • When it strengthens collaboration – by challenging people’s thoughts and ideas, we are able to gain valuable insight into why people think and act the way they do. Well-managed disagreement not only helps for the project or situation being discussed, but it can help strengthen working relationships for the future by giving that sense of overcoming adversity. A team that comes through the other side of disunity and disagreement will usually end up more productive, closer and stronger than ever before.
  • When it provides an opportunity to learn – rarely does one individual have all the answers to every question. Likewise in business, no one person can foresee every challenge and issue that the business will face, no one person can establish the right solution to every problem, so conflict can provide a much needed process of elimination in finding the right solution. This process helps us grow and change, while developing new opinions, thoughts and ideas about certain things.

Instead of fearing conflict – embrace it; remember it is a normal part of our working day. Make sure you are respectful of other people’s feelings and thoughts by controlling your emotions or sarcasm and maintain professionalism at all times. Focus on the facts when presenting your argument, recognise and value other people’s contributions and opinions and watch your body language as well as what comes out of your mouth!

5 Tips to Plan Your Return to Work

Article by Belinda Fuller

iStock_000021229640Small (1)Whether you have just finished a short period of maternity leave, or you’re returning from an extended career break, there are many things to consider. Whatever your reasons for taking the break in the first place, you may not be feeling so confident about your return.

When you’ve been out of paid work for a period of time – it’s sometimes difficult to know what to expect. Your industry may have gone through changes or you may feel that your skills have fallen behind. Whatever your reason for the work break, it’s now time to look to the future and take those first steps in getting back into the workforce. Here’s five tips to help you on your way.

1. Decide What Type of Work – Think about how you’d like to return. Would you like to return to work full-time or part-time? Would you consider contract or temporary work to start with? Do you want to work in the same or similar field as before or would you prefer to re-train in a slightly different or completely new area? What work can you do with your current skills? Do you have long term goals of where you’d like to be and are you willing to work towards those – through re-training or starting with an entry-level job? Or are you simply looking for a job at this stage to fulfil some financial and/or working goals?

2. Research the Field – Use the internet to research and read everything you can about your career/field of choice. Find out about any current opportunities and/or constraints, attend seminars/lectures/webinars where relevant, and talk to people already working in the field to hear their thoughts on how you might succeed. Once you have done that, research current jobs on offer using online job search sites, LinkedIn, direct company job boards etc. to better understand the specific skills and expertise you might need to succeed.

3. Develop Your Offer – Once you have decided what you want to do, you need to work out what you have to offer. Assess your values, interests, strengths, weaknesses, achievements, abilities and goals and be clear about your qualifications, skills and experience in the context of the jobs you are applying for. Put your recruiters’ hat on for a minute and think about what you have to offer that might make you stand out from the next candidate. You should also think about areas for development. Time away from paid work can leave you feeling nervous and apprehensive, but try not to think about the negatives at this stage. Don’t worry about looking bad to potential employers for spending time away from the workforce because career breaks are common for many reasons these days. Think about how you’ll overcome your negative thoughts in an interview because it’s hard to be confident if you’re worried about how to explain your break. Whatever the reason for your break, be honest and focus on the positives. You should talk about the skills and knowledge you can offer and how quickly you will be productive. Consider getting some advice from a trained Career Counsellor at this stage because they can help you formulate a response you’re comfortable with.

4. Put Together Your Job Search Material – Prepare a killer Resume that makes you feel confident. Make sure it is up-to-date, clear, concise and tailored towards the roles you are seeking. Research current Resume trends, ask a friend who knows about recruitment to help, or enlist the services of an experienced Career Consultant. Re-package your current skills to suit the roles you are applying for. Think about participating in training if you need to up skill. Write a customised cover letter for each role you apply for. Update (or create) your LinkedIn profile and achieve as many connections as you can. For inspiration, visit our Career Advice Blog for a broad range of articles on job search strategies, LinkedIn, Resume Writing, Selection Criteria preparation and Career Counselling.

5. Get the Word Out – Start applying for positions, tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work (and what you’re looking for). Update your LinkedIn profile to announce the fact you are seeking new opportunities and don’t overlook contract positions which could turn into a longer term role. Think about volunteer work, or internships if you have very little experience in the area you’d like to work – this may help you achieve the experience (and contacts) you need to succeed.

It’s important to set yourself some short, medium and longer terms goals since you may not achieve your ideal or ‘dream’ job straight off the bat. Understanding that you might need to work in a lower paid or less than ideal position initially to gain some experience will help you survive. If this is the case, you should aim to quickly gain the experience, training and skills required to move on to the next level. For more information on job search strategies, visit our Blog.

Would you would like assistance from a Career Coach to help you prepare to return to the workforce? Have you been applying for roles but don’t feel you’re achieving the success you deserve. If so, please see our Job Search Coaching Services.

5 Skills to Advance Your Career

Article by Belinda Fuller

5 Skills to Advance Your CareerIf you are looking to advance to a leadership or management position any time soon, you may have already identified the areas where you need to gain more experience; or the knowledge you need to develop in order to progress.The skills associated with success in leadership roles are often not closely aligned to the technical knowledge or hard skill sets associated with particular careers or industries. The skills needed to succeed as a leader are sometimes referred to as soft skills which relate to the way in which we interact with and treat others, or the way we react to different situations. Some of the best managers don’t necessarily have the best industry or technical knowledge related to the organisation they are working for. We’ve identified five key skills needed to succeed in senior roles.

1.    Communication: Knowing exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is not enough – you need to be able to clearly and concisely articulate what you need from your team. Communication happens everywhere in leadership roles – with your employees or team members, with senior colleagues and with customers. This skill doesn’t just include talking and writing, it also includes listening which is one of the single most important traits a manager can have. The ability to stop talking and listen is vital for success. Listening to your customers and employees will give you invaluable insight into what’s really going on at the grass roots – and a better chance at fixing anything that might be broken before it’s too late.

2.    Interpersonal: Being able to develop strong relationships, especially with your employees is important. Listen carefully to understand any concerns – is there anything standing in their way? What can you do to help them become more efficient, effective and enthusiastic? Developing relationships is one thing, maintaining them is another. Good leaders are consistent in their support and show their team that they are always there for them. Likewise with customers, partners and other external stakeholders, take an interest in their opinions and listen to their concerns. Seek their advice (if it’s relevant) to let them know they’re valued. How you interact with people has a significant impact on their perception of you as a leader.

3.    Creative Thinking & Innovation: While the ability to think strategically and clearly express your organisation’s vision and engage employees to achieve business goals is essential, being able to think creatively is just as important. Competition is fierce today across most industries, budgets are tight and doing things the way they’ve always been done probably won’t cut it any longer. Leader’s need to be visionaries with the ability to think outside the box in order to achieve success.

4.    Accountability & Problem Solving: Taking responsibility for your own and your team’s performance and decisions is important. There’s no one else to blame if customers or share holders are unhappy. While an individual or team may be responsible for causing a specific issue, the buck really does stop with the leader. Being aware of any issues, following up and taking steps to identify viable solutions is what makes a good leader stand out. Likewise, recognising success and giving praise where it is due makes you accountable for your success.

5.    Teamwork: The ability to work well with others, collaborating and appreciating the input from different team members is essential. Encouraging team members to follow you and work together will result in higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Again, asking for input from team members where relevant will make people feel valued and important.

Being a leader is about sharing your enthusiasm and passion for your brand to achieve company success. Like most roles, achieving success is often an ongoing process and one that can constantly be improved upon. Strong leaders are sometimes born, but more often than not the skills and traits needed to succeed can be learnt.

These are just some of the many skills good leaders need to possess. Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to help you identify whether you have what it takes to become a leader? Perhaps you’re already in a leadership or management role and would like to improve your skill set. If so, please see our Career Counselling services.

How to Tailor Your Job Application in 5 Simple Steps

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Tailor Your Job Application in 5 Simple StepsIf you feel like you’re sending off rafts of applications with little success, it might be time to change your approach. Tailoring your application is an important stage in the job search process for many reasons – but it becomes more so in a competitive job market like the one we’re experiencing at the moment. It may mean the difference between your Resume ending up in the YES or NO pile so what are you waiting for?

We often tell our clients that job applications are like sales proposals and any good sales person knows they need to be tailored to achieve success. While we usually recommend writing a customised cover letter for each role you are applying for, tailoring the entire application is often something candidates relegate to the ‘too hard’ basket. The process of tailoring your Resume can sound time consuming, but we challenge you to put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and ask yourself ‘What’s in it for me?’ Your job application should immediately highlight you as someone who can add value in the role.

Before we even begin to tailor, we are assuming that you have a killer resume in place already – a document that highlights who you are, identifies your key skills, and shows the value you have added in previous roles. If you don’t already have that, then focus on this step first – see our previous article How to Write a Resume – Top 10 Tips to get started. Then, follow these five simple steps to tailor it each time you apply:

1.    Do Your Research: The first step is research. Read the job ad and identify exactly what they are looking for. Highlight skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If the company is advertising directly, have a look at their website, Google the company name and find out if any current company or industry events might impact the job. Writing just one sentence that references your knowledge of a current situation could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.

2.    Customise Your Career Profile: We always recommend including a good strong career profile in your Resume. The profile should introduce you and highlight what you will bring to the role. It should clearly demonstrate your skills and past experience and highlight how they add value to an organisation. Most people see this section as fairly standard; however by customising the content to address specific individual job requirements, you’ll put yourself a step ahead. Make it enthusiastic, passionate, easy to understand, concise and engaging – and clearly demonstrate to the recruiter ‘What’s in it for me?’ in the context of the job you’re applying for.

3.    Change Your Key Skills: Once you know the recruiter’s main priorities in terms of what they’re looking for, you can customise your content to meet those needs. In its simplest form, this means re-ordering your ‘key skills’. Get more involved by rewording those key skills and customising them to suit the job. Think about what the job is asking for and how you can demonstrate that skill by some past experience or success.

4.    Write a Customised Cover Letter: We can’t stress enough how important this step is. Writing a customised cover letter is the simplest way for your application to stand out from others. Think about it for a second – if a recruiter receives 100 or so applications, how do you think they’re going to choose which ones to actually read in detail? Research has proven that you literally have seconds to make a good first impression. Preparing a cover letter that highlights your key skills, experiences and past achievements that are highly relevant to the role you are applying for increases your chances significantly of ‘getting noticed’.

5.    Change the Order of Your Job History: This is not something we recommend doing unless absolutely necessary because the Resume can become confusing. However, where we may recommend doing this is if you have highly relevant experience in your past work history, with the recent roles not at all relevant. In this case, you should make a new section called “Relevant Employment History” then list the relevant roles. Move your other more recent role descriptions to a section called “Other Employment History”. This means that the recruiter will see your ‘relevant experience’ first but the title of the section will give some insight into why that experience is not recent.

Taking the time to tailor your application might seem time consuming, but if it means the difference between success and failure, it’s worth it! We talk to so many candidates who are seemingly perfect for roles, but aren’t achieving interviews. After tweaking their applications, they are amazed at the success they can achieve.

Are you struggling to achieve interviews? Do you feel your application lacks relevance to the roles you are applying for? If you would like assistance from a professional Resume Writer to help you customise your job application, please see our Resume Writing and Job Search Coaching services.