Monthly Archives: January 2017

6 things to do before starting a business

Article by Belinda Fuller

6 things to do before starting a businessAs career consultants, we often see clients who’d like to work for themselves. Starting a business can be exciting, but it can also be daunting and confusing. There are so many things to consider and a variety of ways to go about it. Have you thought about the different options? You could start an online or physical business, buy an existing business or franchise, freelance, consult, or contract.

If you’re ready to escape the 9 to 5 grind (and beyond) and map your own future with a business of your own, you might be wondering where to start. The truth is, working for yourself is not for everyone. To ensure success, there is a lot of up front preparation involved before you take the leap. Here’s some things you should consider when starting your own business:

  1. Decide on your why: Starting a business usually involves hard work, long hours, and significantly raised stress levels. Often the freedom and flexibility you desire just isn’t possible in the start-up business phase – particularly if you have added financial pressures where you’re having to work in another job while making the transition. By working out why you’re doing this and what you need to do to make your business work, you’ll be more prepared for the effort involved in making it work.
  2. Decide on the structure: Viable business structures vary from state to state and country to country, and obviously there are tax and other legal implications for different approaches. We advise talking to an expert to find out what’s best for you. Regardless of your structure, you will probably need a registered business name, a dedicated bank account or credit card, and a website and/or some kind of online presence. Comprehensive professional legal advice is usually essential for any professional business.
  3. Do your research: Research your competitors, costs involved, target market, customer needs, your offer, and how you’ll get that offer to market. Businesses need an intimate understanding of their customer needs and pain points, together with an understanding of what’s already available in the market in order to ensure their offer is aimed directly at those requirements.
  4. Establish your finance: Good financial management is critical to ongoing business success. When just starting out, you’ll need to work out how much funding you need initially, and ongoing, where you can get it, and how you will manage it. There are many different sources to consider which could include: personal savings, a loan from a family member or friend, a loan from a bank or other financial institution, financial lease, venture capital investment, and government grant/funding. Don’t forget to factor in all your living expenses and a little ‘fat’ for the inevitable lean times that most small start-ups experience.
  5. Understand your obligations: Again this could involve hiring an expert, or at the very least conducting some fairly in-depth research of your own. Before starting a business there are a raft of obligations you need to understand covering areas such as business registrations, registration of your domain name, intellectual property and/or trademark protection, necessary licences or permits depending on your industry, accounting and taxation obligations, legal requirements, considerations of corporate governance, insurance, and any employee contractual or other considerations.
  6. Network: Whether you’re starting a business from scratch, buying a business or franchise, working as a sole trader, operating a retail store, providing services online or something in between, networking is essential to ensure your long-term success. By developing strong business networks, you will be able to keep up to date on industry and local information, promote your business through new contacts, and learn key skills from other businesses. Research relevant physical events, identify potential referrers or partners, and leverage online networking (LinkedIn in particular). Connecting with like-minded business people to learn from them is also important, and you could even consider seeking out an appropriate mentor to guide you through the initial business set up stages.

Starting a business can be stressful, but it’s also an exciting time that can also be lots of fun. Conducting comprehensive research before starting out, and being super prepared for all the curve balls that will inevitably come your way, is one of the best predictors of success.

Are you unsure if you have what it takes to start your own business? Are you interested in obtaining some career advice? If you would like some direction in deciding whether this is the right future for you, please see our Career Coaching Services.

 

Best ways to use your gap year

Article by Belinda Fuller

Best Ways To Use Your GAP YearWhere traditionally taking a gap year has been largely the domain of other cultures, Australians are now embracing it in ever increasing numbers. If you’re not really sure what you would like to do at the end of Year 12 or you don’t get into the course you were keen to complete, it might be a good idea to take a gap year. But it’s important not to be idle.

Taking a gap year means taking 12 months off between finishing high school and starting further study or training. Many Australian students are now deciding to defer their university offer for a year, or simply take a year off to gain more clarity around what they’d like to do.

This trend has led to a new industry. If you do a web search for ”gap year Australia”, nearly 8 million results pop up, with new programs being constantly developed covering everything from backpacking and holidaying in Australia and internationally, to working abroad opportunities, adventure tours, volunteering in remote communities locally and overseas, and even jobs with the military.

If you’re not sure what to do at the end of Year 12, you might like to consider taking a gap year. It can be a great idea for many reasons, some of which include:

  • If you’re not really sure what you want to do for a career
  • If you just want to take a break from studying
  • If you’re keen to travel and see more of Australia or the world
  • If you didn’t get into the specific course you were hoping for
  • If you want to gain skills and experience in the area you’d like to study – a ‘try before you buy’ approach to ascertain whether you’re really going to like it
  • If you want to make some money before undertaking further study

If you do decide to take a gap year, it’s important to give it some purpose and structure. There are plenty of things you could do, including undertaking activities that might support your job prospects down the track, or gaining some experience in the area that you would like to study. Here are some ideas:

  • Get a job: Working gives you valuable life skills and experience. Even if the job isn’t within the specific area you’d like to study in the future, a combination of formal study and some work experience is often more appealing to potential future recruiters. Of course, work experience in the area that you’re looking to study is better, so if there aren’t any opportunities for paid employment without previous training – investigate volunteer or unpaid work experience opportunities as well.
  • Travel: If you’ve saved up enough money, you could travel overseas or take a trip within Australia. To get the most out of your trip, and fund it at the same time, you could spend some time working while being a tourist. A UK based organisation that is currently catering to the rising demand of people taking gap years and wanting to participate in adventure travel is Real Gap Experience – with experiences ranging in length from two weeks to two years. Real Gap Experience have sent over 50,000 people on adventures to over 35 countries. Opportunities include volunteer work, paid work experience, teaching abroad or simply travelling around the world.
  • Volunteer: Volunteering is another great way to learn new skills while making a contribution to the community. There are many different volunteering options – including those overseas or within remote or outback areas of Australia. Check out the Seek Volunteer site which was created to provide an effective meeting place in Australia to connect volunteers with opportunities. There are currently around 700 organisations registered with several thousands of jobs covering a diverse range of locations, causes and areas of focus.
  • Go on a student exchange: Many countries offer recent school leavers the chance to attend school and live with a host family. These opportunities provide a unique experience where you’re not a tourist or guest – you live like a local with your host family and become immersed in the culture as a member of the local community while learning a new language (if applicable) and gaining valuable international experience. There are countless overseas study programs that can be undertaken. Student Exchange is an Australian organisation focused on helping students navigate the myriad of options and choices.
  • Make the most of it: Finally, a gap year can be a way to experience things you never have before, or wouldn’t as a student in Australia. Whether you take the opportunity to have a study break, or use it as a time to develop skills to support your future studies and/or job prospects, it can be a memorable and valuable time, and contribute significantly to your longer term career aspirations.

Do you think you’d like to take a gap year? Are you unsure which career path to take or which course to study? If so our Career Advisors are experts in their field. If you would like some direction, please see our Career Coaching Services.

9 effective networking tips – even if you’re an introvert

Article by Belinda Fuller

9 Effective Networking Tips - Even If You’re An Introvert Research suggests that a huge proportion of jobs are now found through networking alone with many jobs never even advertised. This can make it difficult if you’re an introvert since the prospect of making small talk with a roomful of potential ‘contacts’ can be very daunting. If you find it hard to establish rapport with new people, we’ve discovered some sure-fire tips to help you handle it.

Small talk doesn’t come easy to many people and it can be a huge effort to establish rapport with people you’ve never met before. I was fairly shy when I was younger and I really struggled to open up to strangers. As a marketing communications manager for a global IT firm, I was expected to attend many functions for work and this was often intimidating for me. I learnt little tricks to help me navigate this essential ‘social’ part of my career and here’s a few I thought I’d share:

TIP # 1 – Prepare: If you get nervous talking to new people, research who’s going to be there and have some questions or topics pre-prepared. If it’s a networking event, you can talk about their career or yours – questions like ‘How did you get started?’, ‘What do you like best about what you do?’, ‘Why do you attend networking events?’, and ‘What other networking events do you attend?’ are all great starting points.

TIP # 2 – Realise you’re not alone: Think about how others feel and recognise that you won’t be the only person feeling this way. Remember that many other people are also not fond of networking events so just start a conversation – you might be helping someone else to feel more comfortable! ‘Have you been to this event before?’ is a good opening line.

TIP # 3 – Listen: Once you start a conversation, try to remain present. Ask lots of questions and listen to what the other person is saying. Don’t let nerves get the better of you by constantly worrying about what you’re going to say next. Practice your listening skills and be interested in what the other person is saying. This will drive further questions and contributions from you and hopefully you can have a mutually enjoyable exchange!

TIP # 4 – Smile and keep your body language positive: Don’t hide with your arms crossed in the corner. If you’re looking more casual and giving off positive vibes somebody might just walk up to you and initiate a conversation. This won’t happen if you’re not looking approachable.

TIP # 5 – Leverage social media: Introverts often communicate better in written format, so taking advantage of social media, email and other online forums is a great natural fit. You can use this strength to your advantage after any physical networking opportunities since many people never even take the opportunity to follow up. Sending a brief post-event email or LinkedIn connection request is a quick and easy way to cement your new contact.

TIP # 6 – Focus on quality not quantity: Don’t focus on how many people you talk to, but rather the quality of the conversations you do have. If you make one quality connection at an event, that’s better than talking to ten different people and making no connections. And forcing yourself to speak to lots of different people will put you under even more pressure whereas giving yourself permission to do much less takes the pressure off.

TIP # 7 – Learn to brag: Kidding……. kind of. You need to be vocal about your accomplishments, however this can be hard if you’re not that kind of person. Try thinking about your achievements and accomplishments as little mini stories you can tell about what you’re good at. Think about the things and projects you’ve worked on that make you feel good, and that you’re excited and/or passionate about. It will be easier to talk about these with strangers and it will feel more natural talking up your achievements.

TIP # 8 – Challenge yourself to a time limit: If you’re at a physical networking event that you really don’t want to be at, set yourself a time limit. This could be 30 to 45 minutes which really isn’t very long. Grab yourself a drink and something to eat and put some of the tips from above into action. You’ll be amazed at how quickly that time goes – who knows, once that time is up, you might even feel like staying longer!

TIP # 9 – Follow up: Since introverts are often good at written communications – this part is easy! Many people are terrible at follow up so just by dropping an email or sending a LinkedIn connection request (always with a short customised message reminding your contact who you are) means you’ll be ahead of the game in no time.

Some experts suggest that as many as 80% of jobs are not being advertised, but we find most people are still spending the majority of their job search effort looking for advertised roles. While networking will certainly help you to find a job and advance your career, it’s not just about that. Finding new clients, building new business relationships, and identifying partner opportunities are all benefits that will also result from networking. So what are you waiting for?

Do you cringe at the thought of networking? Would you like to learn new networking strategies designed to increase your job opportunities? If so, please see our Job Search Coaching Services and Career Counselling Services.