Monthly Archives: September 2015

Returning to work after a break

Article by Belinda Fuller

Returning to work after a breakMany people take extended breaks from work these days for a variety of different reasons. Whether you’ve taken time off to start a family, look after an unwell parent, or see the world, returning to work can be exciting but can also often be fraught with anxiety and stress. Whatever your situation, there is sure to be a mix of emotions with the adjustment taking some time to get used to.

The thought of returning to work and the 9 to 5 grind is tough enough without beginning to think about the job search process. Whether you planned your time off or not, there is no ideal approach for everyone. These general tips should help you to think about a personalised approach:

TIP # 1 – Address your barriers – it can be difficult to come across well in an interview if you are worried about returning to work – whether you are thinking about how you will cope with the hours and your young family, the fact that you’ve lost your confidence, or that your skills have become outdated. Whatever it is you are worried about, you need to address it. If you require training or professional help, seek it. Talk to friends or colleagues who have been through a similar situation so negative thoughts can be forgotten prior to any interview.

TIP # 2 – Be honest – we are often asked, “how should I explain the break in my resume?” and our answer is always the same – “be honest without necessarily providing a lot of detail”. If you have an obvious gap in your employment history – you need to explain it. That doesn’t mean creating a job called Domestic Manager and talking up your responsibilities during that time. Running a house and caring for young children is hard, but just say something along the lines of “Parental leave until children reached school age”. Likewise if you travelled, say so, or if you were caring for an ill parent or experienced illness yourself, say so – but briefly. Mention in your cover letter your desire, keenness (and readiness) to get back into your career and focus on the skills and experience you have to offer.

TIP # 3 – Consider a functional resume format – where you focus on skills and achievements rather than a chronological history of specific roles. List skills in detail first, then cumulative career achievements, followed by training, education and professional development, volunteering roles if you’ve held any, and lastly details on the roles you’ve held and dates.

TIP # 4 – Create a volunteer section – make sure to include any volunteer work in your Resume and talk about those roles in the same way you would describe paid employment. This means focusing on achievements – ask yourself how the organisation benefited from your work and include performance metrics if you can. E.g. raising money, organising events, increasing efficiency or effectiveness, or achieving success in other ways. Rather than simply stating you volunteered, talk about what you did and how that contributed to the success of the charity or organisation.

TIP # 5 – Check your image – check your work wardrobe is appropriate for your industry. Find out what is currently acceptable so you don’t feel outdated when going for an interview.

TIP # 6 – Include a customised cover letter – specifically addressing the requirements of the position. Create a strong introduction detailing your qualifications, previous experience and desire to work in the role, with the main part focusing on addressing the specific requirements of the role (what you’ve done/achieved previously); and a convincing closing paragraph summarising your interest in, and relevance for the role. Create a compelling reason for the recruiter to contact you for an interview.

TIP # 7 – Emphasise professional development – think about taking some time to complete some relevant courses that will add to your skills (with currency). Websites such as https://www.mooc-list.com/ offer a variety of free online courses.

TIP # 8 – Stay in touch – lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t lose touch with your industry/profession or your networks. This means taking an interest and reading/researching on a regular basis to remain updated. Likewise, build and maintain your professional networks by keeping in touch with clients, colleagues and superiors as this can be much harder to achieve down the track. Create a LinkedIn profile, join relevant groups, and commit to staying active. Even allocating one hour a week to this task will ensure you are in a much better position when you do decide to return to work, than if you’d cut yourself off completely.

Would you like career advice and assistance planning your return to work? If so, please see our Career Counselling Services.

If you are an employer and would like to assist redundant employees to secure a new role, please see our outplacement services.

Email vs. Cover Letter

Article by Belinda Fuller

EmailWith the majority of applications now submitted via email or online job application systems, what is the difference between an e-note or email and a traditional cover letter? Many of our clients are confused about whether to include both, and how much detail to include on each. This article explores the two approaches and evaluates the most effective use of each.

When clients ask us whether or not they need to include a separate cover letter when applying for a job via email, our answer is ALWAYS YES. Supplying a customised cover letter to accompany your Resume will give you the best opportunity to highlight your unique skills and successes that make you an ideal candidate for the role. The e-note/email should also be included and used as a way to briefly introduce yourself and your motivations for applying.

From an employer’s perspective, sending a short e-note without a customised accompanying cover letter can give the impression that the candidate is lazy and has opted to take a ‘short-cut’ approach. First impressions count, and in a competitive job market, you need to give the recruiter a reason to call you in for an interview – instead of the next candidate with similar qualifications, background and experience.

For email applications, we suggest attaching a cover letter and resume as separate documents. In the case of online applications, use the same approach where you create a separate customised cover letter targeted towards the role you are going for and upload both the Resume and Cover Letter. If the system allows for only one file – add your cover letter in as Page 1 of your Resume document.

When preparing your cover letter – we are not talking about a standard approach. We advise customising the letter for each role – put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and think about why you are right for the role, rather than why the role is right for you. Pay attention to all the details in the job ad or position description if you have one. What does the candidate need to achieve in the role, what are the company’s issues, and how can you help solve them? Provide brief details of scenarios where you’ve had similar successes in the past – and always provide proof of the outcomes you achieved. This should all be done succinctly and clearly.

For the e-note, our advice is to keep it very brief and reference the attached Resume and Cover Letter for context and detail. Use it as a way to provide a quick introduction. Don’t leave the subject line blank – use it to clearly reference the job title and specific job number if available. While we recommend keeping the content very brief in the email, we also strongly encourage professionalism and proper writing style. Use some letter writing etiquette – ‘Dear’ and ‘Regards’ will suffice, with your name and full contact details at the bottom. Avoid any abbreviations, ‘text talk’, overly familiar language, and emoticons.

In summary, there aren’t many cases where we would recommend sending only an e-note. Even in job ads that haven’t requested a Cover Letter – we always recommend sending one. Doing so creates a much more concise (targeted) picture of who you are and the value you can bring to the role. Our anecdotal evidence suggests that candidates who include a customised cover letter with their application are more likely to achieve an interview.

Are you confused about the different content in an e-note and Cover Letter? Would you like assistance from a Professional Resume Writer to prepare a winning Cover Letter targeted towards a specific role for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria Writing Services.

6 Work-life balance tips

Article by Belinda Fuller


Work lfe balance tips
Many people admit to working countless more hours each week than they used to. This extra time working takes a toll on your health, wellbeing, and overall happiness with daily struggles to balance the demands of work, family and social time. And with new technology allowing us to be connected 24/7, it’s becoming more difficult to find that balance between work and life.

When job seekers were asked what they were looking for in a new role as part of a leading recruitment firm’s (Hudson) 2015 Hiring Report, work-life balance took precedence as the top priority for the first time in years. Participant responses included all the usual things such as higher salary, cultural fit, career progression/training, better benefits, alignment with company values and a better title – but 70% of respondents named work-life balance as their number one priority. Responses were equal from males and females and spread across all age groups.

Hudson believes this signals a dramatic shift in Australia’s working culture. We agree, and believe that many companies will need to become much better at offering more flexible arrangements for employees to achieve their desired work-life balance, however everyone has different needs and expectations regarding that balance.

So how, in today’s culture of ‘constantly on’ do we manage that elusive mix of work and life? Your main priority should be working out what you need and understanding that you do have some control. With flexibility already available and options for working in vastly different ways to what has previously been the norm, we are no longer tied to the 9 to 5 employee for life culture. The premise of working smarter not harder is truly becoming a reality for many people. Try these tips.

TIP # 1 – Prioritise Your Needs to work out what balance means to you, then communicate your needs to your superiors, colleagues etc. If you can’t or don’t want to be available at certain times, let people know and get their support.

TIP # 2 – Use Technology to your advantage and switch it off during some periods to focus on friends and family. Make use of technology to work from home if you can on a regular basis – especially if your work involves periods of writing or research where you need to focus or work quietly for long stretches. The time you save in commuting, not to mention the productivity that you achieve during those periods alone, will make you so much more effective.

TIP # 3 – Focus on the important stuff, and learn time management skills (try the Pomodoro technique). Work out what’s important to you right now and focus on those tasks. Track how you spend your time and work out where you could save time by working faster, delegating or eliminating.

TIP # 4 – Introduce Structure, Processes and Systems around things you do all the time at work. This applies to your personal and home life too. You may have no idea how simple it is to automate or speed up repetitive tasks (or even just outsource them). Think about the tasks you perform regularly and work out how to automate or simplify them.

TIP # 5 – Work Smarter – just because you work 12-hour days doesn’t mean you are more productive. Of course, there are going to be times when you need to work longer hours to complete something urgent, but if you’re working long hours all the time, something is not right. If you believe that hours worked equates to productivity you need to rethink – by eliminating unnecessary emails, meetings and other distractions you could be amazed at how much extra time you gain.

TIP # 6 – Don’t over commit – this should be obvious, but is an area that many people find hard to follow. You don’t have to say yes to everything – social and work. Use a calendar to arrange your appointments and commitments – include appointments, meetings time to actually work on projects, plus personal and family commitments as well as exercise. I’m a big fan of planning out my week, making sure I have time to fit in all the work I’ve committed to and factoring in some time for me and my family as well as dealing with the day to day mundane activities that need attending to. At the start of each week, review your schedule to ensure you have some down time factored in. If you don’t – try to make sure it happens, and if it can’t for that week – make it a priority for the next week. Planning your week and ensuring you have some down time in your calendar sets you up for success and enables you to deal with the inevitable emergencies that come up.

Work-life balance is becoming more important to more and more people. Achieving and maintaining it is not a one off process – it’s a lifelong pursuit. As your life stage changes, so too will your needs. Aspire to what you need and work to achieve it, but remember to review it from time to time to make sure it’s still working for you.

Are you struggling to achieve the balance you desire in your life right now? Would you like help from a Career Advisor to work out if your career goals and aspirations are in alignment with your work-life balance goals? If so see, please see our Career Counselling Services.