How To Start a Consulting Business

Article by Belinda Fuller

How To Start a Consulting BusinessStarting any business can be daunting but with the use of consultants by more and more companies in Australia, it can be a rewarding and lucrative path. According to the dictionary, Consultants are people who provide expert advice professionally. But being an expert doesn’t guarantee you the work.

As a consultant you need to find your own clients directly, or sub-contract to a larger company that provides the same services as you do. Typically you will need to have multiple clients which means working with a broad range of people and personalities – perhaps with a requirement to suit specific needs of individual clients. So what should you consider before starting?

Legality: Depending on your area of specialisation, there may be certain requirements. These could include certifications, legal or insurance requirements. There are also tax rules around working as a consultant. Research all the legal requirements before you start and engage a lawyer and/or accountant to make sure your business complies with relevant regulations.

Qualifications: Do you need any special qualifications to provide your expert advice? This can be the case in the financial and other regulated industries so find out before you get started. You should also look at industry accreditations or professional memberships as a way of establishing credibility and keeping up to date with what’s going on in your industry.

Lifestyle: Is your lifestyle ready for this change? How organised are you? If you’ve been working in a large organisation, it may be a shock to the system to suddenly be in charge of everything from fixing your email glitches to paying the bills (and making sure the money is coming in). You also don’t get paid for any time off any more – no sick leave, no annual leave and no superannuation. Consider whether your personality and lifestyle can cope with these factors.

Target Market: The best services in the world are no good to anyone if there is no market for them. Work out who is going to pay you for your expertise. Is it individuals, small companies, large organisations, or global corporates? Decide whether the target market that is accessible to you is viable. This might not be a major consideration if your services can be offered online, however if you need to provide a face to face service, this step is vital before you do anything else.

Uniqueness: What is it about your consulting services that will make you stand out? What can you provide your clients that other consultants or organisations cannot? As a consultant, you need to be able to articulate very clearly – both verbally and in writing – why someone would use your services. This includes developing collateral such as websites and brochures as well as deciding on your core offer and messaging.

Company Structure: You may want to start small – with just you in a home-based office. Check your own local laws about operating a business from a domestic location, but think about your structure up front. Are you going to hire staff down the track? If so where will they work and what will they do? Can you hire someone to do the administration work while you provide the specialist expertise or would you rather hire another ‘specialist’?

Networking: Networking is key to success as a small business owner. As a consultant it is even more important. You need to make sure you have a consistent flow of work – for that to happen, you should build and maintain relationships with current and potential clients.

Billing: Decide on your rates and stick to them. Be careful of charging too little because your business won’t be viable longer term, but likewise if you charge too much, you may not attract any clients. Finding the perfect middle ground can be difficult but one way to decide is to research what your competitors are charging and base your decision around being competitive. Make sure you are comparing ‘apples with apples’. Don’t forget to consider your expenses and if you are going to incur any additional expenses during the course of a project, provide your client with an estimate up front so they are prepared. Consider charging prior to commencing the work or in instalments if projects are going to be lengthy. Alternatively, specify time-frames for work completion with the clients so you’re not waiting for months to get paid. Determine all of this before you start so you can explain your terms of business up front to new clients.

Are you thinking about starting a consulting business but not sure where to start? Are you worried your personality may not be suited to consulting?

If you would like personalised help from a Career Coach to evaluate your options, please see our Career Counselling and Coaching Services which can be provided over the phone or in person in locations across Australia.

10 Tips for Work Life Balance

Article by Belinda Fuller

10 Tips for Work Life BalanceWork is an essential part of life that many people feel drained by. If you are not consistently challenged and energised, it may be time to think about a change. If you think you just need more balance in your life, you may be able to achieve it by altering a few simple things.

If you run your own business, you’ll know it provides the flexibility to work your own hours, but often we end up working harder and longer than ever before. Finding a balance between work and life can be challenging and the perfect situation is different for everyone, however with a little effort, it can be done! Here are some general tips to get you started:

TIP # 1 – Decide what’s important to you. Working less doesn’t mean better work life balance for everyone. So long as you are happy with the amount of time you dedicate to each part of your life, you’ve probably achieved your best version of work life balance. Decide on your priorities. What would you like to do more (or less) of? Think about what you need to focus on and try to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t really contribute to that.

TIP # 2 – Establish working hours. Set boundaries for yourself and others. If you work from home, try to walk away from your office space at a set time every day. And if you work in an office – try not to take work home unnecessarily. Of course, unplanned events do occur but finishing up at a set time every day to spend planned time with family or friends is a good idea. Likewise, make sure friends and family know not to interrupt you at work unless it’s an emergency. For most people, it would take a big personal emergency to reschedule something important for work. Give your personal time the same respect and try not to ‘reschedule’ it unless absolutely necessary.

TIP # 3 – Switch off your phone, your laptop, and your tablet – anything that’s keeping you connected to work so you can spend time doing whatever it is you would like to do. If you’re spending time with your family or partner this is especially important. We need time to focus on personal relationships. Even if you just switch off for an hour or a meal, try to do this every day. Turning off technology allows us to give people our undivided attention for short periods of time which goes a long way towards improving work life balance.

TIP # 4 – Track Your Time. Not all the time, but try it for just a few days. Tracking how much time is spent on tasks opens our eyes to opportunities for time savings. Then eliminate things that aren’t productive, delegate where you can or consolidate – often we do things without actually thinking about whether it’s 100% necessary.

TIP # 5 – Try to schedule ‘time off’. This includes holidays and weekends. At a minimum you should try to schedule two weeks off each year and try not to work on weekends. This doesn’t mean you need to book an expensive holiday. Some of the best holidays I’ve had have been ‘staycations’. Stay at home and enjoy what your local area has to offer. We often get so caught up in our day to day work that we miss all the fun stuff right under our noses. Time off helps you feel refreshed and recharged and will contribute to you achieving your best levels of productivity.

TIP # 6 – Schedule something enjoyable every day. For me that’s exercise most days. If that’s not for you, schedule something else you enjoy doing. Even if it’s just a quick walk or coffee catch up with a friend or colleague, some gardening, cooking, pottering in your workshop, or reading a book. It could simply be some quiet time to yourself doing nothing – it certainly doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming.

TIP # 7 – Look after yourself. Not eating well, getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated and making sure you get enough exercise are all factors that affect your ability to achieve work life balance. Getting good nutrition and exercise will help you feel happier and achieve higher levels of productivity in the longer term.

TIP # 8 – Don’t sit still. Aim to get up from your desk at least every two hours. Try to do it before your concentration wanes and your attention flags. Get up, have a stretch, grab a glass of water, take a quick walk around the block for some fresh air – just do something that gives you a break from working and clears your head for the next task.

TIP # 9 – Say no! You don’t need to be ‘available’ for work all the time and you don’t have to say YES to everything. Learn to say NO sometimes and feel more in control.

TIP # 10 – Consider a change. If your job is so stressful and draining that you can’t change the way you’re feeling about balance, it might be time to start thinking about a career move.

Studies show that a poor work-life balance can cause stress, unhappiness, and reduced productivity. Implement some (or all) of our tips and start working to live instead of living to work today.

If you would like personalised help from a Career Coach to evaluate alternative career options to achieve a better work life balance, please see our Career Counselling and Coaching Services.

Dress for Success

Article by Belinda Fuller

Dress For SuccessWhat you wear to work varies significantly these days and has changed considerably since the days when females could not wear pants (with mandatory stockings and no bare legs even in the height of summer) and males had to wear a tie and jacket. Many companies even enforced the jacket rule just to leave the building for lunch!

While business attire has certainly relaxed, whether you’re searching for employment or not – paying attention to what you wear is essential. Of course, it’s especially important during an interview, but can also help you get ahead in your current role.

So what are the rules…….. ?

If you’re preparing for an interview, find out what the company’s dress code is – then dress slightly smarter than that to show you’re keen and you’ve made an effort. You don’t however want to appear over dressed and uncomfortable. If you’re going for an interview in a very casual environment and you turn up in a suit and tie, you may not feel comfortable and confident and that could jeopardise your chances. Instead, wear something smart – for example, a smart pair of trousers and open neck shirt (for males) or a smart dress or skirt and top (for females). We don’t recommend wearing denim or t-shirts, and certainly no thongs or runners.

Building a wardrobe of smart clothes can be expensive. If you’re new to the office environment, you can start from scratch and build your wardrobe with classic basics that will last for years to come. If you’ve got budget constraints and can’t afford to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, just start small and begin to build a wardrobe that will make you feel great.

  • Focus on classic basics and stick to colours that will not go out of fashion.
  • Consider price vs quality – in some cases price determines quality however there are many chain stores that offer great quality pieces at lower prices. Do some research on brands you like and subscribe to their emails – that way you’ll be first to hear about sales. Care for your clothes – dry clean or hand wash when required – read labels and follow the instructions.
  • Spruce up your basics with a few fashion items each season – scarves, jewellery, a colourful top for women; or ties and less expensive shirts for men.
  • Make sure your clothes fit well. No matter how expensive clothes are, if they don’t fit they can look cheap. If necessary, invest in alterations to make all the difference.
  • Avoid man-made fibres – again check labels and where possible, opt for natural fabrics such as wool, cotton, linen, and silk – avoid polyester which will wear quicker and may look cheap to start with.
  • Choose clothing that coordinates and can be worn in different seasons. This doesn’t mean sticking to all black or one solid colour, but try to select pieces (especially the more expensive basics) that coordinate. The website ‘Pinterest’ is great for inspirational ideas on wardrobe basics that mix and match to make several outfits.

It’s not just your clothes that need attention, there are other things you can do to ensure you look professional and well put together.

Some suggestions for women include:

  • Moderate shoes, not 15cm spike heels
  • Limited jewellery – stick to smaller, more conservative pieces
  • Neat, professional hair
  • A little make-up & light perfume
  • Manicured nails

And for men:

  • Dark socks
  • Professional shoes that are clean and polished
  • Limited jewellery
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Not too much aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails

Whether you’re looking for a new role, or just hoping to get ahead, a little bit of effort goes a long way. That may mean dressing a little more conservatively than when you’re heading out for a night on the town. Regardless of whether you are dressing for a job interview or you already have a job, appearances can help you get ahead. Employers may think less of you if you consistently dress inappropriately and first impressions are very important in an interview.

Is it Ever Too Late to Change Careers?

Article by Belinda Fuller

We recently posted a graphic on Facebook which showed some highly successful people who made it big after they hit 40. People like the founders of McDonalds, Coca Cola and KFC (in fact – these three were all in their 50s). It really hit home. While there are millions of entrepreneurs out there in their teens and 20s, it prompted us to ponder this question.

Clients often seek our advice on whether or not they are too old to change careers.  As a generation, we are living longer with better health and higher levels of vitality than ever before, so what age for change is really too old?

The answer to that question is different for everyone. It depends on many factors which can only be evaluated by each individual. Everyone has different levels of risk tolerance and adaptability to change and for many a major career change is just too challenging. But for others, there may not be any real reason to wait any longer.

Since the opportunities for study these days are endless, there may no longer be the barriers previously experienced in gaining qualifications needed for a new career path. Just about any qualification you need is available via part-time, full-time, online, distance or on campus options, or in varying combinations of them all. Different budget levels can also be catered for with payment choices designed to suit just about any situation. Changing your career later in life may be easier than you think.

We meet many people in our day to day work who change careers much later than might be considered ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ with most of them thriving. Being able to handle the physical demands of a new career can appear daunting to some – with many people believing their energy levels won’t cope. But we believe the opposite is true – when you’re doing something you truly enjoy, your energy levels will naturally be higher because passion fuels energy and drive.

In addition, the benefit of life experience cannot be underestimated. This means many late career changers enjoy immediate success with the wisdom and experience they have gained over the years. Many soft skills such as being able to get along with different personalities, negotiating mutually agreeable outcomes and knowing how to get the best out of people, identifying and dealing with issues, dealing with procrastination, and generally taking advantage of the networks built over a full working life will all contribute to success.

It’s never too late to change careers to do something you love. I recently found out that one of my favourite resources when writing – the Thesaurus – was first published when its author was 73! Although an accomplished doctor, lecturer and inventor, it was Peter Roget’s dictionary of synonyms that made his name. Since it was first published in 1852, it has never been out of print.

If you’re yearning for a change, do some research to find out what you can achieve. Even if you have lifestyle, family and/or budget concerns, you might be surprised at what is possible.

Are you thinking about a changing careers but not sure where to start? Do you think it’s too late in your life to consider a change? There are several articles on career change on our blog which can be viewed by clicking here. One particularly relevant article is our post entitled – Want to Change Careers? Here is a Step by Step Plan.

If you would like personalised help from a Career Coach to evaluate your options, please see our Career Counselling and Coaching Services which can be provided over the phone or in person in locations across Australia.

How to Handle Office Politics

Article by Belinda Fuller

Some people love it and some people despise it – no matter what your feelings on office politics are, playing the political game is often seen as crucial to long term career success. Simply understanding how things work politically around your office and observing your behaviour and that of your co-workers can help you to get ahead. Learning how power and influence is managed within your company will help you survive and thrive in today’s highly competitive job market. And while the words ‘office politics’ often carry negative connotations – it is not necessarily always the case. It can be a positive experience as well – it’s all about opportunities to further your career. Here are a few tips.

1. Know your value and make sure others do too – let people know about your achievements and successes. In order to thrive and win the political game, you need to be able to demonstrate specialist expertise and the value you bring to an organisation. Let others know what you have achieved but be careful not to come across as brash – and never take too much credit for teamwork you participated in. Always make sure your team mates are given credit also.

2. Get to know your colleagues – it’s important to understand the people you work for (and with). If you understand people’s personal motivations and aspirations, you will be able to get along with them better, as well as being able to better meet their needs. This takes time and effort to listen and observe behaviour. Most people just want to be heard, so if you can invest some time in listening, you will start to be rewarded.

3. Understand where the power lies – it is not necessarily always the most senior person who wields the most power. Influencers come in many forms and those with authority and power often don’t use it as well as they should. Take some time to work out where the power is – look at individuals who are highly respected, those that mentor others, or the people who really are the brains behind high profile projects and successes.

4. Become a confidante – once you know who wields the power, you need to start developing relationships with them or the people around them. Again this takes time, so be a patient listener. Think outside of the box to offer creative responses or advice when asked and you will become a trusted confidante in no time at all.

5. Be nice – learn when, where and who to speak to. Assume that anything you say to anyone may be repeated. If what you say reaches the wrong ears the outcome could be disastrous. It goes without saying really, but never pass on gossip or spread rumours and always rise above personal conflicts – just don’t get involved. Maintain your professionalism and always act with the organisation’s best interests at heart.

6. Be positive – avoid complaining and whinging. Stand up for your opinions by all means, but when voicing an opinion or objection, be careful to present it from the organisation’s perspective – don’t make it personal. Don’t agree (or disagree) with negative people or questionable opinions – always maintain your integrity and professionalism.

Positive or negative – politics are a fact of life. By ignoring what’s going on around you, you risk not achieving the success you deserve. Learning to use the power of politics positively will help you get the best out of your career.

For more tips on managing your career visit our Career Advice Blog by clicking here. If you would like career advice from a professional Career Coach, please see our Career Coaching services.

Job Applications That Get You Noticed

Article by Belinda Fuller

What really makes a recruiter stand up and take notice? In today’s job market, it is common for recruiters to receive upwards of 100 applications for one role, so what are they doing to cull those applications? How does that process affect how you should prepare your application?

There are many ways to make sure you get noticed in a job application. Despite what many people think, the best way is not with colourful graphics, complex formatting and an enticing head shot on the front page. Today’s job market is tough and there are simply more people with the right skills and experience applying for the same jobs. So how can you ensure you give yourself the best possible chance at getting noticed? Here’s our TOP 8 TIPS:

TIP # 1: Call the recruiter: many job ads include a contact so call them to find out exactly what they are looking for. Ask if there is anything in particular they are expecting or looking for in an ideal application or any specialist experience they would find useful. Then use that information to tailor your application.

TIP # 2: Focus: understand who you are and what you have to offer and focus your content around those core themes. As a Resume writer I am often asked to write a ‘general’ Resume because clients want something they can use across various roles and industries. Unfortunately this approach just does not cut it. Apart from the fact there is increasing competition in the marketplace, by generalising your experience and skills you could come across as a ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none’. Employers look for value and they need experts who can quickly hit the ground running and add immediate benefit.

TIP # 3: Use keywords: many recruiters use software or online systems to make an initial cull of applications and this software works in different ways depending on what it is and how it’s implemented. Regardless if automated systems are used or not to cull applications – it is important to include keywords in your application. By mirroring the content found in the job ad or position description, you increase your chances of getting noticed and being perceived as an ‘ideal’ candidate. Sometimes, all it takes is changing your language like using ‘client’ instead of ‘customer’; and using key industry buzz words to demonstrate your knowledge.

TIP # 4: Write a customised cover letter: you should do this for EVERY job you apply for. Go through the job ad and/or position description with a fine tooth comb and highlight all your relevant experience, skills, qualifications, and specific expertise. If possible, think outside the box to identify successes you’ve had or skills you possess that might make you stand out. For example if you’ve worked in a similar role or industry – perhaps identify a key issue or challenge the industry is currently facing. Maybe you’ve implemented a similar project and have some specialist knowledge – if so, say so and indicate the level of success you achieved and how that is relevant to the recruiter.

TIP # 5: Tailor your Resume: Yes, that’s right – and again EVERY time! This might be as simple as re-ordering some points or de-emphasising/emphasising certain aspects of your job history, but tailoring your resume is just as important as writing a customised cover letter. The recruiter needs to immediately identify with you as being an ideal candidate and you won’t achieve that with generic content. This comes back to focus, but you can brand yourself as the ideal candidate by showcasing relevant experiences and successes and using the same language as the recruiting company.

TIP # 6: Address your cover letter: address your letter to the individual mentioned in the job ad and make reference to the conversation you had if you made an initial call (see TIP # 1). With LinkedIn and other online information sources, it isn’t hard to find out someone’s correct name, title and company address. Take a few minutes to source this information and address your cover letter professionally.

TIP # 7: Include all relevant details in the cover letter: after your address, open with a bold heading stating the job title, where the job was advertised, and the reference number if applicable. This makes it easy for the recruiter to identify exactly what job you’re applying for and allocate your application to the relevant area for assessment.

TIP # 8: Follow up: this is especially so if you have spoken with the recruiter prior to submitting your application but equally relevant if you haven’t. Leaving a brief voicemail or sending a short email is both appropriate and admirable because it shows commitment and interest. Briefly highlight how you match the job description and reiterate your desire for an interview.

Taking a little time to customise the content in your application can reap big rewards when it comes to the job application process so don’t underestimate the value in doing this.

Would you like assistance from a professional Resume Writer to create a job application that gets you noticed? Do you feel your application lacks relevance to the roles you are applying for? If you would like assistance with writing a winning job application, please see our Resume Writing and Job Search Coaching Services.

What to Consider When Making a Sea/Tree Change

Article by Belinda Fuller

iStock_000039589914Small (1)It might seem like a great idea to chuck in the stresses of city living and move to the country or coast for an easier and less stressful lifestyle. The idea of moving out of the city and making major lifestyle changes is a long held dream for many people. It’s fantastic to have dreams, but the reality of such a change can sometimes be tough. Many people’s ideas of getting back to nature and enjoying a quieter life lead them on a journey they didn’t expect.

I personally can think of several occasions when I’ve been on holidays and looked in the real estate window dreaming of a sea change. I consider it briefly, before crashing back to reality – I am a city girl at heart and know that I couldn’t move away from my friends, family and all that it has to offer – at least not right now.

A sea change (or tree change) is a drastic change from a city lifestyle and is really about evaluating what’s important to you then improving your lifestyle to achieve a healthier, less stressful environment. It’s about living life to the full and enjoying a more peaceful or meaningful existence. It doesn’t really matter where you go and is often more about downsizing (your house, your income, your expectations, your workload). Sometimes though, the desired calmer and happier lifestyle doesn’t just happen. Often the stress and anxiety that follows such a major move is more than people expect. If you’re considering such a move, some things to consider include:

1. Why do you want to move? Are you reacting to a stressful situation that could be changed with some effort? A difficult job or relationship or feelings of loneliness may not disappear in a different location. Try to resolve these issues first and then see whether the sea (tree) change still appeals.

2. Will you miss your support network? Friends and family won’t be close to where you move. Since moving is considered to be one of life’s most stressful events,  you may not feel an immediate sense of calm! Most people hate moving – packing, unpacking, moving, finding and establishing a new home, meeting people, making contacts, finding essential services, settling children into school, starting a new job, the list goes on. Will you be able to maintain contact with your family and friends from your new location and will proximity to those established networks be an issue for you?

3. Do you know the area? Many people holiday in an area and think they’d like to live there. Life as a resident is often very different to that of a holiday maker. For starters, at peak times, you might not be able to access services you normally take for granted. Shops will be crowded, doctors booked out, restaurants full, and other services simply unavailable. You should always consider a trial period first – rent out your home if you own it before selling up – and rent in the location you’d like to live. If that’s not possible, try to visit the location at different times throughout the year, so your view of the area isn’t based on the ‘best’ it has to offer.

4. Will you have access to essential services? These are your essential services and differ from person to person, but consider availability of hospitals, transport, schools, tertiary education, doctors, other medical facilities, entertainment, day care, nursing homes, children’s services (pre-school, playgroup, dance class, swim school, sporting groups etc.). Work out what’s important to you and find out what’s available.

5. Can you rent first? If you can, this provides a no risk chance to get to know the area. You could even find out about house sitting but try to give yourself at least 6 to 12 months to settle in because it will take at least this long to get to know the area and some people. A year is a great trial time frame since you’ll experience all the seasons, various holiday periods if it’s a popular holiday destination and all that the town has to offer (good and bad). Talk to local residents during this time about how long they have lived there and what they do to fill their time. Find out what the town has to offer and evaluate whether it suits your needs. This also gives you the added benefit of keeping your own house in the city (if you own) so you have something to come back to if the move doesn’t work out.

6. What work opportunities are available? Many coastal and regional towns offer fantastic job opportunities but many don’t. If you’re considering starting your own business, have you done your research? What jobs are available and is it possible to secure employment before moving? If not, how long can you last before finding a job? These are important considerations so that the stresses of seeking work don’t impact on your happiness and ability to evaluate truly how successful this sea (tree) change is going to be.

Clarify the lifestyle that you’re seeking and work out if the novelty will wear off after a short period. Taking a holiday by the beach is one thing, but living there is another. If you enjoy culture, the arts, theatres, cafes, restaurants and lively bars, then moving to the country may send you mad. Instead of a sense of calm and serenity you might just be bored and frustrated! Any place is completely different when you live there so take that into consideration when planning your move.

Are you considering a sea (tree) change any time soon? Would you like help from a Career Coach to establish a plan to identify your work options once you arrive? If so, see our Career Counselling and Job Search Coaching services.

When Conflict in the Workplace is Good

Article by Belinda Fuller

iStock_000010001437Small (1)Did you know that by always avoiding conflict in the workplace, you could be sabotaging your career? That seems to be the consensus amongst many career experts.

Many managers consider ‘yes’ people to be their biggest killer of productivity, innovation and creativity. While we would never advocate constantly clashing personalities, discontent, resentment and gossip in the workplace – sometimes you are completely justified in challenging the status quo. In fact, often the fact that you do regularly challenge the norm is the driver that helps you get ahead in your career – healthy conflict can spark competition and drive innovation and change. 

So when is conflict a good thing?

  • When it sparks healthy debate – let’s say you don’t agree with something that someone has recommended – if you’re in a position to disagree and you can back up your argument or position – you should go for it. So long as you listen to other people’s ideas first, and consider the pros and cons, you have every right to disagree and present your own ideas. This is what’s considered ‘healthy debate’ and it’s usually good for business.
  • When it prevents major fall outs rather than allowing personal resentments to fester until both parties can’t stand it any longer, properly managed conflict can help individuals manage their personal differences. This means exploring your differences and coming to some kind of resolution before they explode into something more dangerous.
  • When it strengthens collaboration – by challenging people’s thoughts and ideas, we are able to gain valuable insight into why people think and act the way they do. Well-managed disagreement not only helps for the project or situation being discussed, but it can help strengthen working relationships for the future by giving that sense of overcoming adversity. A team that comes through the other side of disunity and disagreement will usually end up more productive, closer and stronger than ever before.
  • When it provides an opportunity to learn – rarely does one individual have all the answers to every question. Likewise in business, no one person can foresee every challenge and issue that the business will face, no one person can establish the right solution to every problem, so conflict can provide a much needed process of elimination in finding the right solution. This process helps us grow and change, while developing new opinions, thoughts and ideas about certain things.

Instead of fearing conflict – embrace it; remember it is a normal part of our working day. Make sure you are respectful of other people’s feelings and thoughts by controlling your emotions or sarcasm and maintain professionalism at all times. Focus on the facts when presenting your argument, recognise and value other people’s contributions and opinions and watch your body language as well as what comes out of your mouth!

5 Tips to Plan Your Return to Work

Article by Belinda Fuller

iStock_000021229640Small (1)Whether you have just finished a short period of maternity leave, or you’re returning from an extended career break, there are many things to consider. Whatever your reasons for taking the break in the first place, you may not be feeling so confident about your return.

When you’ve been out of paid work for a period of time – it’s sometimes difficult to know what to expect. Your industry may have gone through changes or you may feel that your skills have fallen behind. Whatever your reason for the work break, it’s now time to look to the future and take those first steps in getting back into the workforce. Here’s five tips to help you on your way.

1. Decide What Type of Work – Think about how you’d like to return. Would you like to return to work full-time or part-time? Would you consider contract or temporary work to start with? Do you want to work in the same or similar field as before or would you prefer to re-train in a slightly different or completely new area? What work can you do with your current skills? Do you have long term goals of where you’d like to be and are you willing to work towards those – through re-training or starting with an entry-level job? Or are you simply looking for a job at this stage to fulfil some financial and/or working goals?

2. Research the Field – Use the internet to research and read everything you can about your career/field of choice. Find out about any current opportunities and/or constraints, attend seminars/lectures/webinars where relevant, and talk to people already working in the field to hear their thoughts on how you might succeed. Once you have done that, research current jobs on offer using online job search sites, LinkedIn, direct company job boards etc. to better understand the specific skills and expertise you might need to succeed.

3. Develop Your Offer – Once you have decided what you want to do, you need to work out what you have to offer. Assess your values, interests, strengths, weaknesses, achievements, abilities and goals and be clear about your qualifications, skills and experience in the context of the jobs you are applying for. Put your recruiters’ hat on for a minute and think about what you have to offer that might make you stand out from the next candidate. You should also think about areas for development. Time away from paid work can leave you feeling nervous and apprehensive, but try not to think about the negatives at this stage. Don’t worry about looking bad to potential employers for spending time away from the workforce because career breaks are common for many reasons these days. Think about how you’ll overcome your negative thoughts in an interview because it’s hard to be confident if you’re worried about how to explain your break. Whatever the reason for your break, be honest and focus on the positives. You should talk about the skills and knowledge you can offer and how quickly you will be productive. Consider getting some advice from a trained Career Counsellor at this stage because they can help you formulate a response you’re comfortable with.

4. Put Together Your Job Search Material – Prepare a killer Resume that makes you feel confident. Make sure it is up-to-date, clear, concise and tailored towards the roles you are seeking. Research current Resume trends, ask a friend who knows about recruitment to help, or enlist the services of an experienced Career Consultant. Re-package your current skills to suit the roles you are applying for. Think about participating in training if you need to up skill. Write a customised cover letter for each role you apply for. Update (or create) your LinkedIn profile and achieve as many connections as you can. For inspiration, visit our Career Advice Blog for a broad range of articles on job search strategies, LinkedIn, Resume Writing, Selection Criteria preparation and Career Counselling.

5. Get the Word Out – Start applying for positions, tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work (and what you’re looking for). Update your LinkedIn profile to announce the fact you are seeking new opportunities and don’t overlook contract positions which could turn into a longer term role. Think about volunteer work, or internships if you have very little experience in the area you’d like to work – this may help you achieve the experience (and contacts) you need to succeed.

It’s important to set yourself some short, medium and longer terms goals since you may not achieve your ideal or ‘dream’ job straight off the bat. Understanding that you might need to work in a lower paid or less than ideal position initially to gain some experience will help you survive. If this is the case, you should aim to quickly gain the experience, training and skills required to move on to the next level. For more information on job search strategies, visit our Blog.

Would you would like assistance from a Career Coach to help you prepare to return to the workforce? Have you been applying for roles but don’t feel you’re achieving the success you deserve. If so, please see our Job Search Coaching Services.

5 Skills to Advance Your Career

Article by Belinda Fuller

5 Skills to Advance Your CareerIf you are looking to advance to a leadership or management position any time soon, you may have already identified the areas where you need to gain more experience; or the knowledge you need to develop in order to progress.The skills associated with success in leadership roles are often not closely aligned to the technical knowledge or hard skill sets associated with particular careers or industries. The skills needed to succeed as a leader are sometimes referred to as soft skills which relate to the way in which we interact with and treat others, or the way we react to different situations. Some of the best managers don’t necessarily have the best industry or technical knowledge related to the organisation they are working for. We’ve identified five key skills needed to succeed in senior roles.

1.    Communication: Knowing exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is not enough – you need to be able to clearly and concisely articulate what you need from your team. Communication happens everywhere in leadership roles – with your employees or team members, with senior colleagues and with customers. This skill doesn’t just include talking and writing, it also includes listening which is one of the single most important traits a manager can have. The ability to stop talking and listen is vital for success. Listening to your customers and employees will give you invaluable insight into what’s really going on at the grass roots – and a better chance at fixing anything that might be broken before it’s too late.

2.    Interpersonal: Being able to develop strong relationships, especially with your employees is important. Listen carefully to understand any concerns – is there anything standing in their way? What can you do to help them become more efficient, effective and enthusiastic? Developing relationships is one thing, maintaining them is another. Good leaders are consistent in their support and show their team that they are always there for them. Likewise with customers, partners and other external stakeholders, take an interest in their opinions and listen to their concerns. Seek their advice (if it’s relevant) to let them know they’re valued. How you interact with people has a significant impact on their perception of you as a leader.

3.    Creative Thinking & Innovation: While the ability to think strategically and clearly express your organisation’s vision and engage employees to achieve business goals is essential, being able to think creatively is just as important. 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. Leader’s need to be visionaries with the ability to think outside the box in order to achieve success.

4.    Accountability & Problem Solving: Taking responsibility for your own and your team’s performance and decisions is important. There’s no one else to blame if customers or share holders are unhappy. While an individual or team may be responsible for causing a specific issue, the buck really does stop with the leader. Being aware of any issues, following up and taking steps to identify viable solutions is what makes a good leader stand out. Likewise, recognising success and giving praise where it is due makes you accountable for your success.

5.    Teamwork: The ability to work well with others, collaborating and appreciating the input from different team members is essential. Encouraging team members to follow you and work together will result in higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Again, asking for input from team members where relevant will make people feel valued and important.

Being a leader is about sharing your enthusiasm and passion for your brand to achieve company success. Like most roles, achieving success is often an ongoing process and one that can constantly be improved upon. Strong leaders are sometimes born, but more often than not the skills and traits needed to succeed can be learnt.

These are just some of the many skills good leaders need to possess. Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to help you identify whether you have what it takes to become a leader? Perhaps you’re already in a leadership or management role and would like to improve your skill set. If so, please see our Career Counselling services.

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