Monthly Archives: July 2017

12 ways to amp up your activity levels at work

Article by Belinda Fuller

12 ways to amp up your activity levels at work

The National Heart Foundation of Australia, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and many other leading global health organisations recommend we take 10,000 steps a day to ensure good health. Research certainly indicates the importance of incorporating movement into our day – even small amounts of activity helps us to counteract long periods of sitting, which is linked to all sorts of increased health risks. 

While this is all great in theory – if you’re in a job that’s primarily sedentary or desk based – incorporating movement into your day can be challenging. But with long periods of sitting now proven to increase our risk of all sorts of nasties like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer – we need to make every effort to move our butts throughout the day!

Here are some simple ways to get more active at work:

  1. Walk or ride to work – or part of the way if this isn’t a realistic option. Walking, riding, or even running to work is a great way to get your activity done as part of your regular day. If you catch public transport, you could try getting off a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way, and if you drive, simply park a little further away. It might mean setting your alarm a little earlier, but the small amount of lost sleep will be worth it.
  2. Get up regularly throughout the day – take a small water bottle to work or use a glass and aim to consume a certain amount every day. Getting up to fill your bottle every time it’s empty is a great way to incorporate a little incidental exercise. It also gives your eyes a rest if you’re sitting at a computer and is a great mental boost. Pick the water cooler that’s farthest away from your desk too – not the one that’s closest.
  3. Have standing or walking meetings – we all have to sit through any number of meetings in any given day or week which sometimes stretch on longer than really necessary. Try organising a walking or standing meeting which research has proven can be a great way to increase your efficiency, making sure they don’t drag on unnecessarily, as well as getting you out of your chair. For smaller groups or one-on-ones, a walking meeting can be a great way to get things done while achieving some physical activity. The change of scenery can also encourage increased creativity.
  4. Track your activity – activity trackers are the latest craze in the fitness world – and with good reason. They can be a great incentive to get moving. Wear one and you’ll see how few steps you actually take each day unless you make the effort. Wearing a tracker and then incorporating even just small amounts of walking – around the building or the block a few times a day can do wonders in helping you meet your daily goals. Simply aim to increase your steps or distance a little bit each week.
  5. Dress comfortably – so that you’ll be more likely to be active. Walking to work in heels isn’t an option so put on your walking shoes, and take your dress shoes in a backpack or bag. Better still, leave them at your desk if you can. Likewise, if you have some flats or comfy shoes you quickly change into while at work, you might be keener to take the stairs instead of the lift.
  6. Try a standing desk – many workplaces are offering these desks as an option now and they can be great for improving back pain and posture problems. Research indicates that you use many more muscles and burn more calories standing up than sitting down – so it’s a great option if you can manage it. Don’t think you have to do it all day either – incorporating some periods of working while standing is going to be beneficial.
  7. Stretch – try standing up every 30 minutes or so and stretching your chest and extending your spine to reverse the effects of siting hunched over a desk. I have a stretch band by my desk which I can hook around the door handle and do simple exercises to reverse the issues that hunching over a desk day in and day out causes. But even just interlacing your fingers behind your back and stretching out your chest is helpful.
  8. Visit colleagues instead of emailing – how many times do you email someone with a question or request then wait for their response? If they are in the same office as you, consider walking to their desk and resolving the issue there and then. Not only is the movement good but the social interaction is great for mental well-being.
  9. Take a lunch break and use it to move – it’s important just to have a break with many studies now showing that Australians are not good at taking a break for lunch. It’s beneficial for your creativity and gives you a boost in productivity for the afternoon. However, it’s also a good opportunity to get moving. Instead of eating at your desk or sitting in a common area chatting, take a walk outside for at least part of the time. Even better, grab some co-workers and join a gym, go for a run, or climb some nearby stairs.
  10. Schedule in mini-breaks – a few times a day, put 10-15 minutes into your calendar to take a break. It’s great to do this mid-morning and mid-afternoon, in addition to your lunch break. During these times, try to get away from your desk – if possible take the stairs and get outside – even just for five minutes. Again, the physical benefits are obvious, but the mental and clarity of mind benefits are also there.
  11. Don’t wait idly – turn it into an opportunity to move. If you’re waiting for a meeting to start, the coffee machine, photocopier, or even the bathroom – use it to do some exercises like lunges, squats or calf raises – or simply take a quick walk.
  12. Involve others – getting co-workers involved is also a great motivation. Either formally or informally – organising a small office challenge is a great way, or training for an upcoming fun run or walk event. You could do something as simple as tracking your steps and monitoring who does the most in a day, organising walking groups at lunchtime, or setting an alarm and getting up each hour to have a stretch and a walk. Get an office team together – it’s easier to be more active if you’re doing it as a group. The support will make it more fun and social, while motivating you to actually get up and do it.

Whether you choose to incorporate one, a few or all of our tips – you will see the benefits – and that includes both physical and mental health improvements.

Are you interested in obtaining some career advice? If so our career advisors are experts in their field and can provide comprehensive Career Coaching. We also have experienced writers who provide professional Resume Writing Services and LinkedIn Profile Writing Services designed for people who want to make employers sit up and take notice.

The skills to develop today to succeed tomorrow

Article by Belinda Fuller

The skills to develop today to succeed tomorrowThe future of work is changing rapidly. Industries are shrinking, jobs are vanishing, and professional skills are evolving faster than ever before. Some experts predict we are on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution with changes marked by mind boggling advances in digital, physical and biological technologies set to revolutionise our future. How can we keep pace with change to ensure future career success?

If you are looking to advance your career, you may have already identified the areas you need to gain more experience; or the knowledge you need to develop in order to progress. With the future set to bring such staggering change and advancements – we’ve identified some of the skills we think will be important for individuals to succeed.

  1. Complex problem-solving skills – in our rapidly changing world, problems are becoming more complex and harder to solve due to incomplete, contradictory or ever-evolving trends, requirements and threats. Problems that we have never seen before are cropping up more often, so people who can think innovatively to identify viable solutions will be in demand.
  2. Critical thinking – this can be defined as the objective analysis of facts to form a judgement. Often the subject is complex and requires analysis or evaluation of vast amounts of information. In today’s ‘information age’, data is available everywhere – with companies collecting huge amounts of data about everything their customers do on a day-to-day basis. Being able to leverage and effectively utilise this information for competitive advantage is a key skill to have.
  3. Creativity & Innovation – 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. Having the ability to think outside the box to achieve success is a top skill to possess.
  4. Collaboration – working well with others and appreciating the input from different team members is essential in today’s work environment. Human interaction in the workplace will become more and more important as computers and robots take over certain tasks. Being able to work together to leverage individual’s strengths while being aware of any weaknesses and adapting to address these will be important.
  5. Leadership – regardless of how much an organisation and its day-to-day operations become ‘automated’, employees will remain at the heart. Being able to develop strong relationships with employees and successfully lead teams to success is important. Listening carefully to understand concerns; identifying ways you can help them become more efficient, effective and enthusiastic; and developing and maintaining strong ongoing professional relationships is key. Good leaders consistently provide support and show their team they are there for them. It is more vital than ever for future leaders to know how to motivate teams, maximise productivity and respond quickly and effectively to needs.
  6. Service orientation – digitisation, technological advancements, and increasing competition means customers will be picky – and rightly so. Customers have the ability to choose who they do business with and the capacity to change as often as they desire. It’s no longer as difficult as it once might have been to switch suppliers or move to a different brand. People who make the customer experience their priority, anticipate what customers need, and design products and solutions to meet those needs, will be in demand.

As our workplaces continue to rapidly evolve, it’s clear that we all need to develop new skills if we’re going to keep up with, and hopefully ahead of, all the changes. Achieving success in your career is an ongoing process and something you can constantly work on. Some of the skills we’ve talked about are ingrained, but more often than not, the skills and traits needed to succeed can be learnt.

These are just some of the many skills we think might be required for future career success. Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to identify areas where you might be able to improve your career? If so, please see our Career Counselling Services.

How to boomerang back to an old employer

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to boomerang back to an old employer

The concept of boomerang employees – or re-hiring ex-employees is not new, but it is on the rise. According to recent research, HR professionals are more open than ever before to re-hiring former employees. In the past, this practice was sometimes frowned upon – even if the employee had left on good terms – but now it’s becoming more and more common – and with good results for both employers and employees.

With this practice on the rise both in Australia and around the world – it’s worth considering as a viable option for your next role. Many companies that had to retrench workers in previous years are starting to increase their capacity again as business continues to improve. There are benefits to both employee and employer, but a few things worth considering.

Maintain Relationships

Firstly, as a boomerang employee, you have to maintain good relationships with your previous company and colleagues. This means ensuring any split is amicable and then making sure you keep in touch with colleagues and bosses (LinkedIn makes this easy). When you leave a job, do so on good terms by remaining professional and positive about your reasons for leaving. Draft a professional letter explaining your reasons and what you plan, then try to provide some positive comments about your experience. For smaller companies, a more personal approach might be better – think about sitting down with fellow team members or colleagues to explain your reasons for leaving. If your company conducts exit interviews, endeavour to remain upbeat – if this isn’t possible keep your answers short and simple.

Ensuring a Good Fit

Before making any decision to re-join an ex-employer, consider the reasons why you left and investigate whether they still exist. Likewise, make sure the things you loved about the role and/or company still exist. If you left to grow your skills in other areas, study or travel – your new skills will be attractive to a former employer. Not only do you know the company, but now you have an added level of competency they can leverage.

Sell Yourself

If you are approaching a former employer about returning back, be sure to have a goal in mind and then be honest with them about what it is you’d like. Try to communicate your new skills, competencies and experiences and how that would help the company in the future. They may not have something open currently, however if you articulate your new skills and/or direction they can keep you in mind for future roles – perhaps thinking of you in broader professional terms than how they saw you previously. If you’re after a more senior level role than the one you left, articulate the reasons why you think you’d be successful by incorporating examples of relevant accomplishments you’ve made in the role(s) since you left.

Remain Professional

While the whole process of being employed at a previous employer may be far less formal than if you were a new employee, don’t become complacent. Remain professional and focused and be prepared to go through the same selection process as others. The questions you get asked may be a little different and focus around your reasons for wanting to re-join, any new skills you will bring and how they’re relevant, what immediate benefits you might achieve for the company, and your thoughts on what will stop you from leaving again.

Becoming a boomerang employee has plenty of benefits for both the company and the employee. Employers benefit from someone who knows the business, culture and processes and this is a huge saving – both in time and the cost of getting someone up to speed. For employees, the knowledge and contacts you have puts you in a great place to ‘hit the ground running’ and achieve some quick wins in your new role.

Are you considering returning to an ex-employer? Would you like help from one of our professional resume writers to prepare a winning Resume that clearly articulates your value? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services. Perhaps you’ve secured some interest and would like help preparing for the interview? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.

4 career lessons I learnt from my mum

Article by Belinda Fuller

Four career lessons I learnt from my mumDespite my mum never telling me that life was like a box of chocolates, I love this analogy because life really is a colourful mix of great and not so great that when put together is hopefully more good than bad! My mum always tried to focus on the positives and she continually reinforced four key messages that I think are great career lessons for anyone.

I didn’t always think my mum was wise, especially as a teenager! As a mum myself now, I often wonder if the guidance and support I’m providing my children is enough. It got me thinking about the lessons I’d learnt as a child and young person and how they influenced my career decisions later in life.

  1. Never look back: “The only time you should look back is to see how far you’ve come”. Dwelling on the ‘what could have been’ is no good for anyone and definitely a career killer. Focus on the future and what can be, rather than worrying about what you should have or could have done in the past. Commit to making some changes today that will impact on your future success.
  2. Always try your best: Every day, across almost every aspect of our lives, we have the option of ‘doing our best’ or being satisfied with something less. Regardless of the result, my mum was always more concerned about whether I’d tried my best. There will always be an excuse as to why you shouldn’t or didn’t give something your best effort, but when it comes to your career – it really does matter. If you’re not doing your best, then you’re operating at a lower level, you’re compromising your standards and you’re setting yourself up for consistent achievement of a lower level performance. So give it your all – with 100% effort (and no lies to yourself about the fact that you tried your best when really you didn’t), not giving up after just one attempt, and seeking help where you need it.
  3. Learn from your mistakes: Mistakes are made to teach us. We make mistakes every day, some that matter and some that don’t. The fact is, most mistakes are great learning opportunities – especially when it comes to your career. Mistakes can:
    • Help us determine what works and what doesn’t
    • Clarify what’s important in our life
    • Teach us how to tell the truth (by being honest about our failures)
    • Increase our capacity to change and grow
    • Help us take responsibility for our actions rather than shifting blame
    • Identify the need not to over-commit
    • Make us understand the importance of focus to achieve success.

So embrace your mistakes, and turn them into a learning opportunity – just try not to make the same mistake twice!

  1. Happiness is a journey: It’s not a destination that once reached is put aside. In philosophy, happiness translates from the Greek concept of eudaimonia, and refers to ‘the good life’, or flourishing, rather than simply an emotion. In psychology, happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being with positive or pleasant emotions. People often think they’ll be happy when they “lose the weight, get the job, are in a relationship, buy the car etc…” but this is often not the case. The fact is, happiness is a choice with different people approaching the same situations with vastly different attitudes. If you approach your situation with positivity, you will be happier. See our article Choosing to be happy at work for tips on workplace happiness.

There are many other life lessons that can be translated to career success – you can’t please everyone, money doesn’t buy happiness, you don’t always get what you want, there’s no shame in not knowing the answer, your health is more important than anything, and the list goes on. What did you learn growing up which has influenced your career success?

Are you interested in obtaining some career advice? If so our career advisors are experts in their field. If you would like some direction, please see our Career Guidance Counselling or MBTI personality profiling.

Time saving tips for busy people

Article by Belinda Fuller

Time saving tips for busy peopleIf you’ve recently returned to work after time off caring for young ones, you’ll know what a juggle the whole children, work, home thing can be. Throw in some study and it’s an even bigger battle. Perhaps your children are older, you’re caring for elderly parents, or you might be a single parent with too much on your plate. There are lots of great time saving tips to help you cope.

Too much to do, with too little time is an all too common complaint. For most people, life is busy enough without making it even harder by cramming too much into the day. A big part of feeling more organised and saving time day to day is to simply de-clutter your life. That means taking stock of what you’re trying to achieve and working out whether it is actually necessary. Here’s some of our tips to save time while you’re working it out:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff: With more than 25 million copies in print, the philosophy outlined by Richard Carlson in his bestselling book ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ has touched many people. His views on putting things in perspective is great advice for parents navigating the day to day hustle with children. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we need to let things go. I try as a parent to ‘pick my battles’. With children, there is often something to argue about, to say no to, to discipline about, or nag on, so pick your battles carefully, and just choose to let some things go – otherwise you may end up spending your whole life in a negative cycle.
  • Limit choices: This is especially important for young children where problems can arise if they’re given too many choices (which you can’t or simply don’t want to fulfil). Children can take ages to think about and decide on what they want if offered too many alternatives. By all means offer them a choice but limit it to just two. The same applies to adults – the fact is we spend a lot of time making decisions which could be avoided. A simple example is my weekday breakfast. I rotate three options every week – some weeks choosing the same every day and others rotating them. The important part here is that I have three tried and tested options that I enjoy, are healthy and keep me satisfied till lunch time. I still have a choice but I don’t spend any time thinking about what I’m going to have. This strategy can be applied across many more aspects of our lives.
  • Plan your day: Preferably this should be done the night before – work out who needs to be where at what time, pack bags, get lunches ready, put clothes and shoes out, get breakfast items out, write ‘to do lists’ – whatever it takes to help you get out the door in the morning. My experience is that children are SLOOOWWWW in the morning. If they have a little routine they can follow with only a few expectations, everyone will be calmer and things will run more efficiently. At first, it can seem overwhelming to be doing this planning at the end of a busy day when you just want to sit down, relax or go to bed! Dedicate just five minutes to doing whatever you can get done and once you start you will be surprised at how quickly and easily it can all be done. You’ll save way more time in the morning than it took to actually prepare the evening before and it will be worth it!
  • Plan your shopping: Keep an ongoing shopping list – when you run out of things, add it to the list so you don’t have to think about it when it comes time to shop. I recently downloaded an app called ‘Our Groceries’ and it’s a lifesaver. It allows you to share your list with others and whenever something runs out you simply add it to the list straight away. When it comes time to shop, your list is ready to go and you don’t buy unnecessary items. No more calls from my husband on the way home from work asking if we need anything from the supermarket and no more complaints from the teenagers about running out of things.
  • Plan your meals: This is a big time saver with many other benefits including better quality, healthier options, at a lower cost. The effort involved can seem daunting, but even just planning the accompanying parts of yours and/or your children’s lunches on a Sunday is a big time saver – putting aside some fruit, and getting other food like snacks out and wrapping or individually prepping them so they are ready to go straight in the lunch box saves so much time in a busy morning. Likewise evening meal planning is essential, so you’re not tempted to grab takeaway at the end of a busy day. There are lots of great online resources and Apps to help – here’s a few of my favourites: For recipes, try Clean & Green or Taste. For meal planning and recipe organisation, try Plan to Eat or a subscription service like Hello Fresh, which provides all the ingredients and recipes for simple, healthy meals that you cook yourself.
  • Diarise everything: Buy a big family planner or diary and block out daily commitments and activities for everyone. This allows you to see at a glance what your day looks like and how much time you’ve got to work with. It also helps you recognise if you really are trying to cram too much into your week and where you might be able to cut down.
  • Focus: I used to be a big fan of multi-tasking and pride myself on keeping multiple balls in the air! However, it’s been proven time and time again that this concept makes life more difficult. Try focusing on one thing at a time, and you will see significant improvements to your productivity. The only time this may be an exception is where you might be able to combine an activity that requires no active thought (such as travelling on public transport or as a passenger with someone else) with a simple task like reading or listening to a podcast.
  • Track your time: Spend a day or a week recording what you do each day – then eliminate anything that isn’t productive, delegate or outsource where you can, and consolidate similar tasks – often we do things out of habit that may not be 100% necessary.
  • Stick to routines: This is especially important for babies and young children but issues inevitably arise so be flexible. Following set routines most of the time ensures higher productivity. If you have tasks that have to be completed every day, or most days, try to complete them at the same time each day.
  • Put things away: Teach your children to do the same. How much time do you spend looking for things? I have a friend who gathers up items around the house once a week and puts them in a washing basket – at the end of the day whatever hasn’t been claimed (and put away) is thrown away. Brutal, but it works!
  • Say no: Over-committing is one of the biggest time wasters – both socially and in work situations. Know that it’s OK to not say yes to everything and set realistic deadlines so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Take advantage of energy: Schedule complex tasks at times when your energy levels are at their best, and save the routine tasks for low-energy times.

Just do it! No matter how busy you are, you can create more time in your day with conscious effort. It might take some hard decisions but making a commitment to implement some (or all) of these tips is a great start.

If you have been struggling to find time to get your career on track, our Career Advisors can help! For more information, please see our Career Coaching and Job Search Coaching Services.

Choosing to be happy at work

Article by Belinda Fuller

Choosing to be happy at work

What makes people happy at work varies significantly from person to person. Since we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, being unhappy doesn’t just affect our work – it usually affects all aspects of our life. Whilst it’s well-known that recognition, reward, and positivity go a long way to ensuring employees are happy, there are many other influencing factors.

Countless studies are conducted to try to discover the secret to happy employees. Most companies recognise the benefits that come from achieving a positive workplace with happy employees. Apparently almost every business metric that can be measured (e.g. productivity, profitability, customer satisfaction, absenteeism, safety etc.) can be directly impacted by employee happiness. While many companies are great at ensuring this, there are factors you can control yourself. Here are some tips to help you choose to be happy at work:

  1. Limit stress: Easier said than done in many cases, but stress is not conducive to happiness. Many jobs have stressful elements, which is fine in the short-term but can be damaging to both physical and emotional health if it becomes long-term. To limit stress, you need to be open – talk to your supervisor about what’s causing it; take time out by switching off from work and recharging; learn some relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness; and develop healthy responses to combat the stress such as exercise, hobbies, reading, time with family, and getting enough sleep.
  2. Exercise: Including any kind of physical activity in your day can improve your mood and productivity. While regular bouts of longer physical activity are essential for health, studies have shown that including even just a small amount of physical activity in your day can help. If you are feeling overwhelmed, often just a short stroll outside in the fresh air can help lift your focus, productivity and mood.
  3. Do more of what you love: You want to be happy in your work so avoiding what you don’t like doing will help to a point, BUT you need to be doing more of what you love! Identify aspects of your job you love, and skills and interests that inspire you. Think about how you can be even better at what you do. Approach your manager with suggestions on how you might be able to incorporate more of these aspects into your day to day work.
  4. Be organised: Arrive a little early so the start of your day is relaxed. Plan your day and only make commitments you can meet. A common cause of unhappiness at work is missed deadlines, causing unnecessary stress. By planning your workload, checking your diary, and making daily ‘to do’ lists, you’ll be less likely to miss deadlines. And try to factor in some time for breaks – they’ll re-energise and invigorate you and help you feel more positive. For some great time saving tips, see our article on Time saving tips for busy people.
  5. Ask for feedback: Happy employees know what their contribution means. If you don’t receive feedback, ask for it. You can’t change what you don’t know and chances are you know how you’re performing – you just need some acknowledgement – it’s proven as a strong driver of happiness.
  6. Continue to learn: Take responsibility for continuing personal and professional development. If your company supports you by paying for courses and allowing study time, take advantage of it. If they don’t – do it anyway – you are the one with the most to gain from continuing to develop professionally so make investing in training a priority.
  7. Know what’s going on: Seek the information you need to do your job well. Some companies are great at communicating company information, while others aren’t so good. If your company is one of the latter then develop your own networks and use them to find out what you need to know.
  8. Make plans: If all else fails, it may be time to start planning a career move. There’s nothing like planning your exit to make you smile. But don’t compromise your future by slacking off. If you come across as happy and committed, you’ll be more likely to receive a positive reference when the time comes.

Remember, you are responsible for your own destiny. Our number one tip is to avoid any negativity. Choose to be happy rather than down and instead of dwelling on the things you can’t change, focus on what you can change. Find colleagues you like spending time with and don’t get involved in negative conversations. Greet everyone with a smile and you’ll be surprised at how many will be returned.

Are you feeling unhappy at work? Would you like career advice and assistance with planning your next move? If so, please see our Career Counselling Services.