Monthly Archives: November 2015

How to find your achievements

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to find your achievementsMost people we talk to significantly underestimate their career achievements in previous roles. As a culture, Australians are modest – we’re taught not to boast from a young age. We do our jobs and do them well, but often don’t think of our day to day role in the context of achieving. However, if you want your resume to get noticed, you need to show value by articulating your achievements well.

In today’s highly competitive job market, recruiters look for achievements. They are most interested in what you did for a company you previously worked for, how well you did it, and the areas where you excelled over and above your day to day ‘duties’. That’s why your resume needs to clearly highlight these achievements so recruiters are keen to talk to you further.

So what can be considered as achievements and how can you identify them? Many people we talk to say “I don’t have any achievements”. Everybody has them, but you need to think about your previous roles and responsibilities in a different way. On your resume, achievements provide evidence of how you contributed to your employer’s success. The most convincing achievements are or course measurable or quantifiable. Things like growth, sales, quality, reductions, gains, customer acquisition/retention etc. (and quantified with measurable benefits that include numbers, percentages, dollars, time etc.).

However, achievements don’t necessarily have to be quantified. This is the most common argument we hear – the fact that a candidate can’t actually articulate an achievement that is quantifiable. Actually, there are various ways to identify accomplishments and they don’t have to be quantified. Sit down and brain storm how you have helped your employer to succeed – in any small way. Think about any task or responsibility you undertake which has an outcome and write them down. In addition, ask yourself the following questions to help other ideas flow:

  • Did you receive any promotions? Especially after a short period – e.g. ‘promoted to Sales Manager after just six months in the Sales Associate role’.
  • Did you receive praise? A pat on the back from your manager or some feedback or a commendation from a customer. Think about recognition you received – for completing projects ahead of schedule, handling an irate customer, suggesting a new / faster way of completing a task, saving money etc.
  • Did you feel particularly good about something? Anything you did that made you feel proud could be considered an achievement. Did you complete or participate in a particularly challenging project? Where you able to turn around a situation with a customer that was previously causing concern? Did you fix or improve a process? Are you known within your department or company for anything in particular? Have you developed considerable knowledge about a particular area so that you’re now considered the ‘go to’ expert?
  • Were you selected for a project? Being selected to participate as a member of a project team, committee or task force is an achievement – no matter how small your role. Focus on the reason why – your knowledge of an area, your specific skills etc.
  • Have you worked with any high profile companies? Can you drop any big company names – e.g. ‘provided consistently high levels of service and support for global industry leaders including XYZ company and ABC company’.
  • Have you made suggestions that were implemented? Even if you weren’t solely responsible for implementing a suggestion, coming up with the idea in the first place could be considered an achievement. This would apply to areas where you may have been able to improve the way something has done, reduce time taken, increase productivity, achieve a better outcome etc.
  • Are you highly accurate? Completing processes for a long period error free or meeting deadlines in an environment that is error prone or susceptible to missed deadlines could be considered an achievement.

Once you have some ideas, turn them into high impact statements – always leading with the benefit that your employer gained. Start your statement using words like improved, increased, transformed, changed, altered, assisted, reorganised, overhauled, developed, built, established etc. If you’re still stuck, ask your manager or colleagues what value you offer and make sure to review your previous performance reports for ideas. The main thing to remember is not to take your achievements for granted – potential employers always see past success as an indicator for future performance so it’s one of the most important areas to get right.

Are you finding it difficult to articulate your achievements? Do you need help brainstorming some ideas that will impress recruiters? If so, our Professional Resume Writers can help! Please see our Resume & CV Writing Services for more information.

Asking intelligent questions in an interview

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to ask intelligent questions in an interviewDo you get tongue tied in interviews when asked ‘do you have any questions?’ Are you worried about asking the ‘wrong’ question? In an interview, you want to make sure you ask questions when given the opportunity – but they need to be well thought out. You want to show that you’d work well in the role and you’re compatible with the company culture.

If you’re afraid of looking foolish by asking the wrong question, read our tips and take the time to prepare prior to your interview. Asking informed, well thought out questions will demonstrate to the interviewer that you are interested in the role and the company – while helping you to gather some information that’s going to be useful in making a decision about whether or not you really want to work there. Asking questions in an interview won’t make you appear rude or arrogant – quite the opposite in fact – it’s the perfect way to show off several of the most important traits that recruiters are looking for. Here are some areas to focus on:

  • The Company: even just a quick Internet search will provide you with enough information about the company to formulate some intelligent questions. This shows interest and preparation and will help you to better understand some of the challenges the company might currently be facing. Questions could be quite general, or focus on a specific area of concern or something currently/recently in the news. Examples: What affect has ‘the recent issue’ had on the company? How does this company differentiate itself from its competitors? What changes do you anticipate in the industry and how will these impact the role?
  • The Role: You want to gain a good insight into the position, the expectations and what you’d be doing on a day to day basis, but you should also try to gain an understanding of where the role is headed and its scope for expansion down the track. Examples: What are the essential capabilities/qualifications/experience to achieve success in this role? What is the company’s vision for this role? What were the strengths/weaknesses of the previous incumbent? Why is this position vacant – has the previous person left/been promoted? Will I have an opportunity to meet those who would be part of my staff/my manager/my team during the interview process? What do you see as the most important performance criteria for this role in the next six months/12 months/2 years?
  • Success Factors: You want to understand how the company measures success and what impact this role has on the company’s overall success. This demonstrates that you are able to think strategically and understand that every role has an impact on the company’s bigger picture. Examples: How do you evaluate success here? How would you describe the company’s culture?
  • The End Result: You will be keen to understand the timeline for the company’s decision making process and you shouldn’t leave without gaining this. Walking out of an interview without this understanding can be very frustrating. Waiting isn’t fun, and not knowing when to follow up a recruiter is hard. You could also offer the best way to contact you and confirm your enthusiasm to progress to the next stage. Examples: What is the company’s timeline for making a decision? What are the next steps that need to be taken before you make your decision about who to offer the role to? When can I expect to hear back from you? Is there anyone else I need to meet with? Is there anyone else that you would recommend I talk to? Is there any other information I can provide?

Many of our clients think of interviews as a chance for recruiters to grill them relentlessly to test their suitability for a role. However the best interviews are two-way streets. Be prepared and ask some of your own well thought-out targeted questions and listen to the interviewer’s responses so you can clarify areas that don’t make sense. By doing this, you will demonstrate just how much of an asset you could be in the role. Make sure not to ask about something that has already been addressed, since this may hinder rather than help your chances.

Do you struggle with formulating intelligent questions to ask in an interview? Would you like assistance deciding what areas to focus on? If so see, please see our Interview Coaching and Interview Training Services.

What’s holding you back from further study?

Article by Belinda Fuller

What's holding you back from further study?Many people we talk to are at a crossroads in their working life. They’ve gone as far as they can, or they’re simply bored with the path they are on. Some have decided that postgraduate study would help them to climb the corporate ladder, but just don’t have the time or money to pursue it. No matter what’s stopping you, there are ways forward if you’re committed.

Most research done on the subject confirms that making the decision to study later in life not only helps reinvigorate your career, but your life as well. While further study might be necessary to achieve a desired career transition or next step, it can also help boost your career in other ways by improving your problem solving skills, inspiring the creative side of your brain, and developing your ability to think innovatively. So what’s holding you back?

  • Confidence: While learning is a lifelong process that many of us embrace, the thought of formally applying your mind to study brings many people out in a cold sweat. Further study can help you uncover skills and qualities that you had all along, or achieve long held personal goals. The fact is, you may feel out of your comfort zone initially, but most people gain huge amounts of confidence once they begin, and undertaking some form of formal study usually does wonders for your self-esteem in the longer term.
  • Mental Capacity: You haven’t studied since high school and don’t think you’ve got what it takes. Research indicates that our brains continue to grow and change in positive ways until we hit our early 30s – the bad news is that after that it does begin to naturally deteriorate. The good news is that research has also proven (time and time again) that by exercising our minds, we can counteract this effect and improve (or even grow) our brain. If you think you don’t have what it takes, think again – start using your brain and your capacity to learn will naturally improve.
  • Time: you’re just too busy. If you have a family, there is the added pressure to spend as much time with them as you can, but the options for study these days are endless. If you’re worried about your workload, you can choose to study one subject at a time, or alternatively many institutions offer a wide range of flexible study modes including internal, external, online, intensive and mixed. This means you can fit your study around your other commitments. If you find at any time you’re not coping, or you encounter some unexpected life event, you can usually take leave and pick up where you left off at a later date.
  • Cost: once you have been working for a while, and especially once you have a family, there may not be any spare cash to spend on further study. It’s important to think here about the long term impact. Short term pain = long term gain. These gains don’t necessarily have to equate to increased pay but could mean an improvement to your lifestyle or happiness by being able to change careers and work in a role that you enjoy. Many courses don’t require payment upfront, although of course, you will have to pay at some stage, so it helps if you can part pay fees as you go. The government offers various programs including: HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP to assist in deferring the upfront cost of further study.
  • Fear of Failure: often people who study later in life enjoy the process far more than when they were younger, but taking that first step can be difficult. Research indicates that mature age students are highly motivated, have better problem-solving skills, are more independent, and better able to articulate original ideas than their younger peers. This all equates to greater success.

So what are you waiting for? The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be finished. Start today and make a difference to your career and life for tomorrow and beyond.

Would you like help deciding whether or not to undertake some further study from a Career Counsellor? Are you unsure about what direction to pursue? If so, please see our Career Advice and Career Counselling Services.