Work from home productivity hacks

Article by Belinda Fuller

Work from home productivity hacksIf you’re new to remote working, you might be finding it’s harder than you thought it would be. Offices force us to adhere to schedules – start and finish times, meetings that must be attended, colleagues and managers watching what you’re up to. Left to your own devices, you may find a drop in productivity. Here are 11 simple tips to help limit distractions and get more done while working from home:

TIP 1 – Create a routine and stick to it: Maintaining a regular routine of waking up, working, leisure time, exercise, going to bed etc. is even more important when working from home. Establish your working hours and stick to them as much as possible. These might be different to what you do in the office – depending on your employer’s expectations and your other commitments. This is important for productivity and also helpful for anyone who’s home with you because they’ll know when they should leave you alone to work.

TIP 2 – Pretend you’re going to work: The mental association we have with working and our place of work can drive productivity. There is no reason to lose that feeling when working remotely. Simply do all the things you would to prepare to go into the office. That includes setting your alarm, showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, buying your coffee and preparing/buying lunch as you normally would.

TIP 3 – Choose a dedicated workspace: This doesn’t have to be a dedicated office, but it should be an area that mentally prepares you for work. Store and keep everything you need to work there and ideally (if you have the room) make it separate from where you relax or sleep.

TIP 4 – Close email (from time to time): It’s important to stay in close contact with colleagues, especially in teams working across different locations, or when working on complex projects. However, sometimes it helps to close email for a period, to work uninterrupted on the task at hand. Many people find dealing with email a constant struggle so allocate specific times to check it. Ensure your manager or colleagues are aware of your plan, and they know how to reach you if something urgent comes up.

TIP 5 – Turn off notifications: This is a helpful way to avoid technology distractions. Having your phone, computer or smart phone notifying you every time you receive an email, message or social media update constantly interrupts your thoughts and it then takes time to re-focus. This can greatly affect your overall productivity across the day.

TIP 6 – Put your phone away: If it’s important they’ll leave a message. Smartphones have revolutionised how we do many things – but they’re also one of the greatest threats to productivity! Try physically putting your phone away for short periods of time. Switching it to aeroplane or do not disturb mode or turning it off can help, but sometimes having your phone out of sight means it’s also out of mind.

TIP 7 – Focus: Try to focus on one thing at a time. Take advantage of peak energy and use those times to get the ‘hard’ stuff done. Write a to-do list at the end of every day (or first thing in the morning) so you know where your focus needs to be for the day ahead. Planning out your week on a Sunday night is also a great idea; and turning off technology makes a significant contribution to succeeding in this area.

TIP 8 – Set time limits: This is a great productivity hack for large projects or tasks you procrastinate about. Break them into smaller chunks, set time limits, and just get it done. Use a timer set at 30-minute intervals. Start working and focus on one activity for the 30 minutes before taking a short one-minute break to refocus.

TIP 9 – Grab more time: If you’re home schooling or entertaining toddlers that are usually in care, it can be difficult to be productive all day. Try getting up one or two hours earlier. If you’re not a morning person, try smaller increments. Even five minutes a day adds up to more than half an hour after just one week. This will be two and a half hours within a month – sounds simple but it works! Alternatively use naptime to work on important tasks, or tag team with a partner (if possible) to work in shifts.

TIP 10 – Use video conferencing: When teams work remotely, it’s harder to maintain cohesion and collaboration so schedule video meetings as often as you would face-to-face meetings. Ensure you have a good headset and clear background. Be present on every call and respond to messages quickly. If you’re a manager, over-communicate what’s expected and check in regularly to see if team members need support. For some teams, having a morning catch-up where everyone shares their plans for the day can create a great sense of purpose.

TIP 11 – Don’t go stir-crazy: Now that you’re spending most of your time at home, get outside as much as possible for a walk or some exercise. Try catching up with friends and family via FaceTime or WhatsApp. It’s important for our mental health. Work teams could maintain some ‘normal’ socialising by holding a virtual Friday afternoon drinks session, morning tea for someone’s birthday or a lunch via video conferencing. It might feel strange, but it will add some fun to an otherwise difficult time and remind us we’re in this together. Read our recent article about self-care and how important it is for preventing burnout and improving job performance – it’s particularly relevant at this time.

There may be added stresses and pressure in your life making it challenging to stay focused and productive during this time. Go easy on yourself and figure out what works best for you. Implement some (or all) of our tips and you might be surprised at just how much your productivity improves.

To find out more about how we can support people through uncertain times in their career, go to the Katie Roberts website.

How to use your downtime to boost your job search

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to use your down time to boost your job searchWhile we don’t know the exact fallout of the COVID-19 crisis yet, we know that it could be a slow time for the job market. But don’t let that slow you down! Now might be the perfect time to kickstart your job search by getting organised for when things start picking up.

Here are seven things you can do to supercharge your job search.

  1. Research your options: Review job ads on sites such as Seek and LinkedIn. Seeing what is out there now will help you tailor your approach and perhaps you’ll identify new areas of interest. Play around with search options using different titles, industries and keywords. Open your search out to other locations or industries. While you may not find exactly what you’re looking for, some positions will be a close match. Read relevant ads to understand requirements. This will help you decide what’s important to include in your application and determine if you have any major skills gaps that you need to think about how to address.
  2. Get organised: Use your downtime to establish automated job searches, identify relevant recruiters, update your application materials (see tip 4 for more on this) and enhance your online presence. Having these things in place will help you stand out from other candidates when it’s time to apply. For tips on developing a structured job search strategy that helps you connect with recruiters and employers, read our previous article, ‘Winning Job Search Strategies’ and start planning.
  3. Understand the hidden job market: Many available jobs are never advertised, so accessing the hidden job market is an important piece of the puzzle. The key here is building your networks. Establish connections via LinkedIn with recruiters and others in your industry – create a standard pitch that explains why you want to connect and what you can offer. Start building your profile through LinkedIn Groups and contribute to discussions. Write a list of companies you’d like to work for, visit their careers pages and follow them on social media.
  4. Update your application materials: This includes your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile. Our career advice blog is packed with tips on writing a great resume that will get you noticed. We also recommend writing a customised cover letter for every job you apply for, which addresses as many job requirements as possible. Use this time to prepare generic cover letters and/or paragraphs that can be modified to suit specific roles. Many recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates, so optimise your profile with keywords, so you can be found. Include a current professional photo and try to complete every section. Use your headline to grab attention with career-focused keywords that capture your value. Don’t waste your Summary (About section) – use it to highlight your key skills, experience and strengths, and create a picture of who you are and what you have to offer.
  5. Prepare for interviews: Many job seekers make the mistake of not preparing for the interview. Use your downtime to brainstorm potential questions and think about examples that demonstrate how you have handled different work situations. Having a bank of examples to draw on will increase your confidence and improve your performance. To help you formulate your examples, read our article about using the STAR approach. You can also find numerous articles on preparing for an interview, as well as our ‘How to answer’ series, which looks at common interview questions.
  6. Build your network: Connecting with existing and new contacts is a powerful way to uncover work opportunities. While now might not be the best time to reach out to everyone, you can use the time to plan how you could grow your network when it feels right. For example, you might draft emails that can be sent later, write a list of people to call, learn how to use LinkedIn more effectively and research face-to-face and online networking groups you could join.
  7. Assess your social media: Many recruiters and employers research candidate’s social media pages as part of their screening, so ensure your privacy settings are appropriate. Also ensure your feed content won’t hurt your chances of securing an interview if viewed by a recruiter.

There is no doubt we will experience changes to the Australian job market because of COVID-19. Despite the uncertainty around what job opportunities may be available in the future, it is important to understand the skills you have built in past jobs and how this experience equips you to work in a range of different jobs you may not have previously considered. Take advantage of the quieter time to get organised and develop a winning job search strategy, so you’ll be ready to go when the time comes!

Do you need help developing a standout resume, detailed job search strategy or professional LinkedIn profile? Perhaps you’d like to work on your interview skills? See our Resume Writing, Job Search Coaching and Interview Training services to find out more.

Leverage your transferable skills to find a new job

Article by Belinda Fuller

Leverage your transferable skills to find a new jobIf you’re like many candidates, the first thing you think about when applying for a new role is education and experience. However, this is often not the most important area. Many times, the skills you have acquired outside your area of expertise can provide the key to achieving your new role.

Regardless of your experience, identifying and clearly articulating your transferable skills to a potential employer is important. Transferable  skills can be referred to as ‘soft’ skills and are essential for many roles – particularly if you are changing direction or careers.

These skills matter because they help you make a smoother transition to a new role. They make you a valuable and contributing employee from your very first day in the role.

How can they be acquired? Transferable skills are acquired by everyone from birth throughout the course of general life – they are developed through day-to-day interactions with family, formal schooling, university education, social interaction, sporting activities, work activities, and workplace interactions.

How do you identify them? Think about your areas of strength and weakness or use a formal self-assessment tool. Enlisting the help of a colleague or superior can help or alternatively try an online assessment tool – simply google ‘transferable skills assessment’. Your formal annual performance review process is also a great tool. You simply identify a list of skills and check off those you feel you possess.

What are they? The areas to think about are broad, but generally your skills will fall into some key areas:

  • People – communication, interpersonal/influencing, delegating, diplomacy, coaching/mentoring, leadership, presentation, tact and empathy, collaboration, customer service, negotiation, and listening.
  • Analytical – problem solving, research, data analysis, risk management, financial analysis, and budgeting.
  • Organisational skills – time management, prioritisation, resource management, project coordination, efficiency, and productivity.
  • Creativity & commercial acumen – the ability to solve problems with creative but viable solutions, thinking outside the box, adapting to changing environments/market situations and company strategy. These are huge assets in today’s competitive world.

Understanding how your work fits into the bigger picture or broader company strategy is also important.

But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve identified your skills, you need to prove them and articulate the ‘how’. It’s not enough to just say ‘I’m a great communicator’ you need to prove why you are a great communicator with examples. We always recommend overview and key capabilities sections in your resume to highlight some of these transferable skills together with an explanation of ‘how’ the skills were acquired. Likewise, in an interview, be prepared to articulate where you gained your skills with specific examples that demonstrate how they have contributed to past successes.

Would you like help identifying and articulating your transferable skills? Does your Resume need updating with proof on how you obtained these transferable skills? If you would like assistance with your job applications and job search, please see our Resume Writing and Job Search Coaching Services.

Working from home? Stay sane with our top tips

Article by Belinda Fuller

 

Working from home? Stay sane with our top tipsThe COVID-19 pandemic is causing disruption and uncertainty for people and businesses all over the world, and many companies have rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies. For many workers, this is a completely new experience – but it may well become the norm for the foreseeable future.

If your employer has unexpectedly shut down or you’re working from home for the first time, you may be finding it hard to get into a new routine that works for you. Here at Katie Roberts Career Consulting, many of our consultants are work-from-home veterans, and we know what it takes to remain productive. Here we share our top tips to help you adapt.

Tip 1: Create a dedicated space. Your work space doesn’t have to be a dedicated office, but it should be an area that mentally prepares you for work. That might be a separate room, a desk in a corner of the living room or a laptop at the kitchen table. Ideally, it should be a place that’s separate from where you relax. But if you’re productive with a laptop on the lounge, then go for it. You may have to improvise, and it might take some trial and error to figure out what’s best.

Tip 2: Set yourself up with the right tech. Hopefully your work has done this for you. As a minimum, you’ll probably need a laptop, a headset/microphone and a good internet connection, as well as the required apps to communicate with colleagues. Popular ones include Slack, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Calendar and Google Hangouts. There are also plenty of online productivity tools out there that are designed to keep you productive, organised and accountable.

Tip 3: Get dressed. Working in your PJs from bed might be tempting but we don’t recommend it! While you can definitely embrace the opportunity to wear clothes that are more on the comfy side, getting dressed will help you get into the right mindset, and act as a signal that it’s time to start working.

Tip 4: Stick to a routine. Maintaining a regular routine of waking up, working, leisure time, exercise, TV-watching, going to bed etc. is even more important when you’re working from home and/or in isolation. Give yourself set working hours (the same as you do in the office) and use the time you spent commuting for exercise or spending with loved ones. This is important for your productivity and it’s also helpful for anyone who’s home with you, because they’ll know when they should leave you alone to work.

Tip 5: Ramp up your communication. When teams work remotely, it’s harder to maintain a sense of cohesion and collaboration. So be present on every call or video conference and respond to messages quickly. Schedule video meetings as often as you would schedule face-to-face meetings. If you’re a manager, over-communicate what’s expected and check in regularly to see if team members need support. Make sure they know they can call you to chat through any problems. For some teams, having a morning meeting where everyone shares their plans for the day can create a great sense of purpose.

In this unprecedented situation, no one knows how long they’ll be working from home, which can create new problems. Parents may need to balance work with childcare if schools close. This makes communication (and understanding) from managers a vital part of successful remote working.

Tip 6: Don’t be tempted to sneak off. Trust is one of the most important aspects of remote working. If you need to go somewhere outside of your normal break times, let your boss or teammates know, just like you would at the office. This helps keep you accountable and productive, and maintains a sense of teamwork.

Tip 7: Over-prepare for video meetings. Jump on the link a little early. If you leave it to the last minute, you will invariably experience some kind of technical issue that makes you late. You should also take a few minutes before the scheduled call to limit any distractions, check that your background is appropriate and make sure you have water/coffee/tea/snacks nearby if it’s going to be a lengthy one.

Tip 8: Embrace the solitude. Take advantage of this time alone to focus. Many people find they’re much more productive at home, away from the distractions an office brings – chatty co-workers, the kitchen, meetings, office politics, people in general! Even the commuter stress is eliminated. But be sure to find a balance – sometimes the lack of distractions means you can forget to take breaks. It can be helpful to set reminders to stretch or walk around every hour or so.

Tip 9: Don’t do the housework. If you’re going to try to do chores while you’re working from home, be realistic about what you can do. Taking out the garbage or checking the mail is a great chance for a quick break, but it’s probably not practical to try conquering the family laundry or vacuuming the entire house while you’re on a deadline. And try to avoid using housework as a procrastination method!

Tip 10: Produce results. It’s a common misconception that working from home is not the same as working in an office. Because in many ways it is. It’s normal to feel more relaxed when you’re at home, but if you don’t work, you won’t have a job. That means you need to be productive no matter where you are. The best way to prove your productivity is by producing results – the same results in the same time-frame that you’d produce in the office (assuming this is viable in your line of work).

Tip 11: Stay connected. Try to catch up with friends and family via Facetime or WhatsApp. It’s important for our mental health. You might take a walk (if it’s still ok) or do some exercise on the balcony or in the backyard. Work teams could maintain some ‘normal’ socialising by holding a virtual Friday afternoon drinks session, morning tea for someone’s birthday or a lunch via video conferencing programs such as Zoom. It might feel strange, but these are strange times. And it will add some fun to an otherwise difficult time and remind us that we’re all in this together. Read our recent article about self-care and how important it is for preventing burnout and improving job performance – it’s particularly relevant at this time.

Even with all these tips, the enforced and sudden nature of what’s happening right now may leave you feeling uneasy. These are stressful times, so go easy on yourself and take time to figure out what works best for you. The more effort you put into this, the easier you’ll find your remote working stint.

To find out more about how we can support people through uncertain times in their career, go to the Katie Roberts website.

10 steps to a LinkedIn profile that boosts your job search

Article by Belinda Fuller

10 steps to a LinkedIn profile that boosts your job searchHaving an up-to-date, professional LinkedIn profile that captures your value and gets people’s attention is a vital tool in your job search kit. Even if you’re not currently looking for a job, there are many benefits to keeping it updated. But it can be easy to ignore your LinkedIn profile, or to know where to start when it comes to updating and optimising it.

Writing your LinkedIn profile is quite different from writing your resume. The content in your profile should be more general, as it needs to cater for a broader audience. It also needs to project your personality, while your resume is more a record of your past work and is usually tailored to specific roles.

Here we share our 10 steps to creating an attention-grabbing LinkedIn profile – including tips and tricks that many people don’t know about or simply don’t use.

Step 1: Create a headline for success. Your headline is the most important part of your LinkedIn profile. It’s a vital place to include relevant, career-focused keywords, and it shows up in key LinkedIn locations including search results, connection invitations, employee listings, company pages and messages. Don’t just use your current job title as your headline – make it something that summarises who you are as a professional and captures your value. But don’t get too creative – it still needs to be something searchable that will help people who are looking for the services or skills you provide to find you.

Step 2: Upload a professional-looking photo. According to LinkedIn, profiles with photos are far more likely to receive views and connection requests than those without. Your photograph is a visual representation of who you are to the world of LinkedIn. Having a blurry or inappropriate photo, or no photo at all, will influence whether someone decides to reach out to you. Your best bet is to use a professional head shot – although that’s not always necessary. Read our article on how to achieve a professional headshot without using a photographer.

Step 3: Customise your URL. By default, most users have a URL that’s some combination of their first and last name plus a string of random numbers or letters. But many people don’t realise that you can actually customise it. Customising your LinkedIn URL makes it easier for people to find you by searching for your name. Otherwise, they’re left sifting through the (sometimes many) users with similar names. You want to ideally shorten your URL to your first and last names, but if that’s taken, aim for a memorable combination of your full name and/or initials.

Step 4: Write a standout summary section. Some people skip this, but it’s important to make your summary the focal point of your profile. This section gives you an opportunity to shine and to differentiate yourself from other professionals. Your summary should capture your unique value, expertise and skills, and include:

  • A brief overview of who you are as a professional
  • What you can offer in terms of experience, expertise and skills
  • Any relevant (and impressive) career accomplishments
  • A list of your specialities, including as many keywords as possible.

LinkedIn also allows users to include images, videos and slideshow presentations in the summary section. So instead of just talking about your work, you could include examples or show yourself in action.

Step 5: Keep your work experience comprehensive but concise. Resist the temptation to cut and paste your resume into the experience section of your LinkedIn profile. Instead, try to create a concise, high-level picture of your skills and talents. Descriptions of each role should be shorter than your resume, so include only your most important responsibilities and achievements. We recommend including your employment details from at least the past 10 years (if relevant). This provides more opportunity to use keywords and to connect with past colleagues, managers, clients, partners and suppliers.

Step 6: Include past and current education. You should list all your qualifications in the education section. This includes study you’re currently undertaking with an estimated completion date. Completing this section in as much detail as possible can demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning, which is important to many employers. It also creates opportunities to connect with former classmates, teachers and alumni groups. Include other courses or training completed under the relevant ‘Courses’ and ‘Certifications and Licences’ sections.

Step 7: Highlight your accomplishments. Have you won an award? Do you speak multiple languages? Have you written something that was published or presented at a conference? Do you volunteer for any charity or not-for-profit organisations? Adding these additional accomplishments is a great way to showcase your unique skills and stand out from the crowd.

Step 8: Ensure your skill endorsements are appropriate. Endorsements can be a great way to show off your key skills. The secret to making them work for you is to keep them updated. As you transition between jobs, develop new skills or take on new responsibilities, drop outdated skills from your profile and add the new ones you want to be known for.

Step 9: Keep your contact details current. Add your email address, blog, Twitter handle or other details to the contact information section of your profile. You’d be surprised how many people leave this out! But it’s important if you’re actively seeking new opportunities.

Step 10: Join relevant groups. LinkedIn groups are a great resource and can really help with your job search. By joining groups relevant to your profession or industry, you can show that you’re engaged in your field. But more importantly, you’ll instantly be connected to relevant people and discussions.

Creating a LinkedIn profile that reflects your value and gets people’s attention can be challenging. You might not even know where to start. Our team of professionals are here to help with LinkedIn profile writing and resume writing.

How to bounce back from redundancy

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to bounce back from redundancyIf you’re going through a redundancy or have in the past, you’ll understand the enormity of change it can cast on your life. In today’s business climate, redundancies are common and usually out of our control. As technology evolves and workplaces change, restructures occur and redundancies become inevitable. Then there are national and global events that no one can prepare for.

Being made redundant is generally a stressful time, with the loss of income and uncertainty about your next steps. But it can also give you a chance to pause and reassess your career path. It can be the catalyst for positive career change and ultimately take you down an exciting new road.

Read on for our tips on how to bounce back.

  1. Don’t panic! Resist the urge to spring into action immediately. Take some time to regroup and reflect on your new direction. Remember, you’re not alone – many people go through a redundancy at some stage. In fact, there was a 45% increase in redundancies from 2017 to 2019, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. And it doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on you, since many companies have downsized or restructured in recent years, and there are often circumstances beyond your control.
  2. Reassess your career path. This is an opportunity to evaluate your career path and goals. Make the most of the time you have now to set a new course for the future. Look back on your career to assess previous roles and reflect on what you enjoyed. Consider different factors for your next role – for example, market sector, location, company size, organisation structure, responsibilities, salary and benefits. This can help you pinpoint your preferred path. And once you start searching for a new role, this information could provide a perfect recruiter brief, helping recruiters to understand what’s important to you and where you want your career to head.
  3. Consider studying or retraining. If you’re interested in a change of career, research the skills needed to make that change. Look at online and face-to-face courses and get a clear idea of what’s needed to move into your chosen area.
  4. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile. When you’re ready to kickstart your job search, your first task should be to update your resume, LinkedIn profile and other relevant profiles. Nearly every industry uses LinkedIn to research candidates, so make sure your LinkedIn profile is more than a storage place for career contacts – it should be an evolving record of your professional life that helps market you as a great candidate. Make sure your work experience is up to date, your profile picture is current and your contact details are displayed. You can also set your profile to ‘Looking for a job’ which makes it easier for prospective employers to find you. Once your LinkedIn profile is up to date, you can align your resume with it, adding more detailed information about your responsibilities and achievements. Having your resume ready to go means you can take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
  5. Start your job search. After preparing your LinkedIn profile and resume, it’s a good idea to brush up on your job application and interview skills. You should also register with relevant recruitment agencies and set up automated job searches on Seek and LinkedIn. If there are specific companies you’d like to work for, visit the careers sections on their websites and send them your resume. Or you could try connecting with current key employees on LinkedIn.
  6. Reach out to your networks. Leverage your network of connections by letting them know you’re looking for a new opportunity. Email them, call them, organise a coffee catch-up – you never know where it may lead. Taking advantage of your network can be key to securing your next position.
  7. Maintain a positive routine. Your mental well being can take a hit when going through a redundancy, even if it’s voluntary. Work provides a huge amount of structure to your life, so when you no longer have that, it’s important to create positive routines for yourself. This will help you maintain a healthy body and mind and a professional presence. Do things that make you feel good such as exercising, eating well and catching up with friends and family where possible. Redundancy doesn’t last forever, so staying positive and focusing on your well being alongside planning your next career move will help you progress in the right direction.
  8. Stay open-minded. The job market constantly shifts, salaries fluctuate and competition can be fierce. While it might not seem ideal initially, being open to compromise when it comes to your next role or salary can help you find the right opportunity. It won’t always be as simple as walking into a similar role in a different company or jumping straight into your dream job. Use your redundancy as a chance to assess different types of roles that might be a good fit. Think laterally, considering your transferable skills and what you enjoy most. Your next role may not always be what you expect – but it could be your best yet!

Finding your way forward after a redundancy can feel overwhelming. If you’ve lost your job, you’re considering changing careers or you’re unsure of your next step, our Career Counsellors can provide guidance and clarity. Our team of professionals can also assist with LinkedIn profile writing, resume writing and interview training and coaching.

Top 10 tips for writing a powerful cover letter

Article by Belinda Fuller

Top 10 tips for writing a powerful cover letter What’s the best way to get your application noticed when an employer has a mountain of them to review? Step one: write a great cover letter. A smart, well-written cover letter helps you demonstrate your skills, experience and value to the company and shows them why you’d be a great fit. Some job ads will ask for a cover letter, but even if it’s not requested, it’s well worth including.

Writing the perfect cover letter can be tricky, and there’s a lot of confusion about what it should include. At a high level, a cover letter should engage the reader and make them excited to read your resume. It should demonstrate that you have the ability and skills to do the job, so it’s important to target your letter to the role you’re applying for.

Here are 10 quick and easy tips for writing a cover letter that will impress.

  1. Choose the right type of letter: Your style of cover letter will depend on whether you are responding to a job advertisement, uploading or sending your letter with a resume, enquiring about potential job openings, mentioning a referral or sending a cold introduction. Think about the purpose of your letter and tailor it accordingly.
  2. Keep it short and simple: A cover letter is more likely to keep the reader’s attention if it is short and concise. Generally aim for one page, and if your letter goes over, remove some text and decrease the margin size, rather than reducing the font size. A small font is harder to read. Use clear, direct language, avoid long sentences and use bullet points where relevant to visually break up chunks of text and highlight important content.
  3. Research the employer: Tailoring your letter so it’s relevant to the company and position you’re applying for shows that you’ve done your research. Employers and recruiters can tell when a generic cover letter has been used for several job applications. Customise your letter to the company and role and it’s more likely to be noticed and read thoroughly.
  4. Highlight your skills and experience: Read through the job advertisement and select two or three of the required skills, abilities or experiences that you have. In your letter, provide brief examples of times you have demonstrated those skills. This is also an opportunity to include keywords from the job listing, which is especially important if you are submitting your application electronically.
  5. Focus on the positives: Highlight the skills and experience you have and explain how they make you a great fit for the job. If you lack a required skill or qualification, there’s generally no need to mention it. However, your cover letter does give you an opportunity to explain any obvious gaps in your employment history (within the past year or so), such as being made redundant, taking time out to spend with family, travelling or studying. If you decide to mention this in your cover letter, do it very briefly, then finish by highlighting your skills and abilities.
  6. Identify a contact person: Adding a personal touch is really important and shows you’re interested in the role. If the job ad doesn’t specify a contact name, you can check the company website, research on LinkedIn or phone them to ask who you should address your application to. If you have any contacts at the organisation who referred you or are willing to put in a good word for you, mention their name in the first paragraph of your letter. This is a great way to get the attention of the employer or recruiter. Just make sure you check with your contact in advance.
  7. Be yourself: Your cover letter needs to be professional. But this doesn’t mean you have to use awkwardly formal language and completely omit your personality. You want to come across as polite and professional, but not fake, so don’t use language that feels uncomfortable or cliched. And include a little of your personality, to help differentiate your application from the rest.
  8. Think beyond your resume: Your cover letter shouldn’t be just another version of your resume. Instead, it should provide evidence of what you will bring to the company. Highlighting the examples mentioned in tip 4 above will help make your cover letter different from your resume. Your cover letter is also a place for slightly more personal content than your resume, and it’s an opportunity to explain why you’re excited about the role.
  9. Format and edit your letter properly: Your cover letter needs to look polished. If you are sending a physical letter, include your contact details and address the letter with the date and employer’s contact information at the top. If you’re sending your letter as an email, your format will be a bit different – it’s a good idea to include your name and the job title in the subject line. Regardless of format, read through your letter carefully to check for spelling and grammar errors, and consider having someone else do a final check for you.
  10. Follow the instructions: The easier you make things for a recruiter, the more likely they are to read your application. Read the instructions carefully and be sure to send your documents in the correct format, include all information requested, and let the receiver know how they can contact you to schedule an interview.

Searching for a job can be overwhelming. Our team of professionals are here to help with Resume Writing services and Career Counselling. Our consultants can write a customised cover letter for you that highlights your unique value and boosts your chances of getting the job you want.

 

7 ways to balance work and study

Article by Belinda Fuller

7 ways to balance work and studyWorking while studying means you can keep paying the bills, while gaining the skills to advance or change your career. But this combination can feel overwhelming. Read on for our tips on balancing work and study while staying motivated to get it all done.

  1. Make your study meaningful: There’s nothing more motivating than studying a topic you are really passionate about. Whether you’re wanting to advance or change your career, make sure you choose a course that’s meaningful and worthwhile. This will help you stay focused from day one.
  2. Establish a dedicated study space: There are so many things to do at home, from watching TV to cleaning the floors, it’s easy to get distracted. You need a quiet space where you can hide away and focus solely on your studies. Whether it’s a whole room or a corner in your bedroom, fill your study space with inspiration, such as quotes and images that remind you of your goals. Keep all of your study materials in this space, so you don’t waste time searching for things.
  3. Get creative to carve out more study time: There are many ways you can schedule study into your day around work. If you catch public transport to work, consider doing some study on your commute. If you drive to and from work, audiobooks could be a good option. If you’re able to find a quiet space at work or in a nearby park, try to squeeze in an hour of study at lunch. For parents juggling children, you might be able to study while waiting to pick them up from their endless after-school activities. Think creatively to find those opportunities outside of traditional study time.
  4. Set a study goal: Know what you’d like to achieve in each study session and use your allocated time to work towards that goal. Prioritise your tasks and start bigger assignments in plenty of time. To keep our brains performing at their peak, some experts recommend studying for 50 minutes, then taking a 10-minute break. Having short study sessions every day, or every few days, ensures the material remains fresh in your mind, and gives you time in between to digest what you are learning.
  5. Delegate household tasks: It can be challenging to focus on study when you get home from work and have to cook dinner, do the washing and tidy the house! So delegate what you can to your partner, children or flatmates. Sharing the load should create more time to study after work or in the evenings. If you find it difficult to delegate, set yourself a time limit to complete what needs to be done, so you have time left for study.
  6. Keep healthy: When we’re busy, it’s easy to stop exercising and eat more fast food, but at these times it’s more essential than ever to stay healthy. To make sure you can stay on top of your work and study, stick to a healthy eating plan and get some exercise each day. Exercise boosts the chemicals in our brains that help us deal with stress. It also releases endorphins, which make us happy and reduce anxiety. Cardiovascular workouts can even help create new brain cells and improve overall brain performance!
  7. Reward yourself: It’s important to reward yourself when you meet your study goals. This keeps you motivated and gives you something to look forward to. So take yourself out for breakfast, go for a bush walk or buy that shirt you’ve been eyeing off. You deserve it!

Are you considering studying, but you’re not sure what the best courses or qualifications are to help you change or advance your career? Our Career Counselling services can help set you on the right path.

The future of work: the tools you use are changing

Article by Belinda Fuller

The future of work: the tools you use are changingYou’ve probably heard it before: the future of work is changing. And dramatic shifts are underway. Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work recently released a report that delves into the most important trends set to change (or already changing) what you do and how you do it, whatever your job.

This month, we look at some of the ‘tools of work’ and how they’re changing – and what that could mean for you.

  1. From thumb to voice: We’ve been tapping keys, clicking our mouse and scrolling for decades. With the rise of smartphones, this changed to thumbs typing and swiping. As devices got smarter, touchscreen interfaces were in cars, restaurants and banks. Thanks to our phone addictions, sore thumbs and ‘text neck’ are now a fact of life. Our vision is declining and our posture more hunched. The hand–eye coordination required to use touchscreens prevents us from doing other things while using them – all driving the need for a new approach. We already have voice-activated devices that listen to us and do things without us touching or even looking at them (Suri, Alexa, Echo, and Google Home) and voice processing technology is getting better every day. Fully shifting to a screen-less, touchless future might return our attention to things that matter most and help us do things like driving more safely. But what does a world of always-on microphones sound like – and how will we maintain privacy?
  2. From microscopes to datascopes: Microscopes changed medicine forever, letting doctors see, at a cellular level, what was truly causing problems. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a “datascope” that is helping to create solutions previously unimaginable. But AI isn’t just a tool that replaces people doing the tasks or completing the processes they do day-to-day; it’s also a way to increase the overall scale of the process. AI will help us better understand the vast amounts of information we now collect. That means that people won’t just be “automated away” from their jobs – AI could allow them to do things they’ve never been able to do before, opening up exciting new opportunities for business growth and employment.
  3. From 4G to 5G: 1G phones let us talk to each other on the move, 2G phones meant we could send messages, 3G gave us mobile internet and 4G made it all a whole lot faster. We use 4G networks to stream music, listen to podcasts, watch live TV while commuting and FaceTime our colleagues – all unthinkable a decade ago. The next stage is 5G. It’ll be 100 times faster than our current 4G phones. Beyond the exceptional consumer experience, the benefits for businesses are huge. Real-time interactions and simultaneous processing will run with no lag whatsoever. Data transmission will happen instantaneously, and you won’t just see your colleague on a screen; you’ll be sitting next to their avatar in a shared virtual office, watching them speak. You could control a robot on a factory floor as you sit on the other side of the country; or you could be a farmer commandeering a fleet of drones soaring over fields, using sensors on the ground to sort, pick, feed and water each individual plant. 5G will revolutionise how work gets done.
  4. From active to ambient: When was the last time you opened a computer manual? A generation ago, a shiny new piece of tech came with a War and Peace–length ring binder. Manuals have all but disappeared, replaced by DIY YouTube videos. But lots of tech that claims to be idiot-proof is still complicated. Roughly 90% of a laptop’s functionality is not used by the average person. Cars are full of tech that’s mostly never used. Apps, platforms, systems and websites infiltrate every hour of our waking day. It’s exhausting trying to figure out what we want from the gazillions of possibilities and understanding how everything works is a full-time job. Now a new approach is emerging: smart products and services tuned to our needs.

Smart things ‘just know’ how we want them to work. These responsive, intuitive technologies are called ‘ambient technologies’, and they blend into the background to drive productivity at work. A future workspace with ambient technology could see co-working spaces that adjust to personal preferences for light, air and productivity. Imagine elevators that automatically take you to the right floor and a hot desk that’s automatically configured just the way you like it.

These personalised, intuitive technologies will free us from the more addictive nature of the apps that rule our lives. We’ll no longer need to figure stuff out — stuff will figure us out.

Work is changing and the way we do our job tomorrow will undoubtedly be different from how we do it today. From technology to business models to demographics, there are many trends shaping the future of work. Are you ready for it?

Worried you don’t have the skills needed for changes happening in your industry? Do you want to improve your future with a new career or job? Our Career Counselling and Coaching Services can help. Or perhaps you’re ready to take the next step and need help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy? To find out more, read about our services.

10 tips to survive work after the holidays

Article by Belinda Fuller

10 tips to survive work after the holidaysEveryone looks forward to a break over the summer, but returning to work can make you feel like you need another holiday! In fact, research shows that getting back into our routine after a break can lead to sluggishness and demotivation.

So here are 10 tips for keeping that post-holiday serenity going a little while longer and making your return to work more positive.

  1. Make a list of projects before you leave: When you’re away from the office for an extended period, it’s easy to forget details, so a clear reference point will be a blessing when you return. Make a list of every project you’re working on and where you’re at. Then make a short list of the most important tasks to tackle on your return. This is also a great opportunity to edit your to-do list. If something has been on your agenda for six months and you haven’t found time to do it, it may be time to delegate or delete.
  2. Plan your first day and week: Before you leave, review your calendar and map out what your first day back might look like. Write a to-do list, leave notes to yourself about meetings or deadlines, and prepare any materials you might need first thing. This will help you feel in control when you arrive back, and may even get you excited for the weeks and months ahead.
  3. Give yourself a buffer day: Try to have a day off between returning from holiday and going back to work. It may seem like a waste, but it lets you return to a normal routine with minimal pressure. You can use the extra day for catching up on washing, grocery shopping, meal planning and generally getting organised. None of which is glamorous, but it can make your return to work smoother.
  4. Return to work later in the week: Starting work on a Wednesday or Thursday will allow you to ease back in with a weekend just around the corner! This can really help you beat those post-holiday blues. It gives you a few days to catch up and see what’s coming up, so you can start your first full week feeling on top of things.
  5. Start earlier than usual: There are a few good reasons for starting early on your first day back. Leaving home earlier will help you avoid the anxiety that may come with commuting, and if you drive to work, you may beat the traffic (which is even more satisfying when you’re dealing with post-holiday blues). It may also give you some quiet time in the office. It can be overwhelming to have tasks or questions thrown at you the minute you walk in the door. Arriving early allows you to grab a coffee, tidy your desk and get everything in order first.
  6. Start with small, simple tasks: If you’re struggling to get motivated on your first day, get a jumpstart by tackling one small (but still important) task on your to-do list. There’s nothing as invigorating as ticking something off your list.
  7. Tackle emails by importance: If there’s one thing that will burst your holiday bubble, it’s looking at your email backlog. This can be overwhelming but there are a few helpful strategies for handling it. Set up filters by sender and/or subject to ensure you don’t miss important emails. A quick scan of the remaining emails should be enough to help you delete the bulk of them and process the rest chronologically, by conversation or other sort criteria. Inbox overwhelm avoided!
  8. Look after yourself: Tuning your mind and body back into work mode can be tiring. Don’t make it more difficult by adding challenging exercise routines or dramatic diet changes. Even if you feel you overindulged during the break, resist the urge to sign up for boot camp right away. Ease back in with yoga, swimming or other light exercise. And no matter how much work you have on, try to leave the office on time. Going on holidays shouldn’t mean extra hours as punishment!
  9. Set new goals: Whether you’re returning to work in the new year or coming back at another time of year, setting new goals is a great way to prevent boredom. Identify an area in your job that you’d like to change or improve, and restart work knowing you have a challenge ahead of you.
  10. Plan another holiday: It always helps to have something non-work related to look forward to! So if your schedule permits, plan your next break. Whether it’s a holiday to a new destination or simply some relaxing time at home, having your next break planned will give your energy and mood a boost.

It’s normal to feel a little unmotivated when you return to work after a break. But if going back to work triggers depression or anxiety for you, it might be time to think about a change in job or career. Our career counselling or resume writing services could be just what you need.

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