5 Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Freelancer

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Beome a FreelancerMany people we talk to dream of becoming a consultant or freelancer in their specialist line of work. There are countless things to consider before making the leap into the freelance world with many who’ve already achieved success providing advice for free – just Google becoming a freelancer to see what I mean. But what are the first steps to success?

Freelancing is a great option for many people wanting to escape the grind of a regular full-time job, but it isn’t for everyone. This month we take a look at the basic things to consider before quitting your secure job to work for yourself. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

Question # 1: Why do I want to become a freelancer? It is important to understand your underlying reasons to determine if this is the right decision. If you’re doing it because you hate your job or boss, you want to work less hours or earn more money – it’s probably not the right decision. While, it’s ok to have long term goals of working less, earning more and not having to answer to anyone, in the short term this is rarely the case. You need to be very good at what you do and be passionate about doing that for others on a day to day basis in order to succeed as a freelancer – if that’s you, then read on.

Question # 2: What am I going to offer my clients? You’re great at what you do and know a tonne about your area or industry but pretty much anything can be outsourced to someone these days. That means, what you do may be the same as what many others do. Do you really have enough expertise to instil confidence that clients will pay you for that know-how? If you think you do, decide what you will offer and create a brand/identity that sets you apart from your competition. Make sure you can clearly articulate your offer and how it stands out. It might be important at this point to narrow your focus rather than broaden it. Being a specialist limits your target market, but it also makes you more attractive to a specific set of prospects. Being a ‘Jack of all Trades’ is often not the most effective road to success.

Question # 3: Am I willing to do everything? Many freelancers make the mistake of thinking because they are great at what they do, they will have a great business. This is often not the case. You need to be prepared to get your hands dirty and handle every aspect of your business including the mundane and parts that may be way outside your comfort zone such as finances, marketing, prospecting, sales and administration. You need to be an expert in your area BUT you also need to wear many hats if your business is going to thrive. Down the track you may choose to outsource some or all of these areas, but in the beginning you will probably need to work hard and do it all while building your client base.

Question # 4: Is now the right time financially? Many people think freelance work is going to provide instant financial rewards with a freelancer’s hourly rate looking much more attractive (on paper) than a full-time employee’s. Keep in mind you will spend many more hours on your business than anyone is willing to pay. Your clients pay for a service, but the time it takes you to sell to them and generally run your business may not be billable. Many factors come into determining how much extra (unbillable) time you spend on each project, however be realistic about how long it might take you to earn your desired salary and ensure you have the means to support yourself until then. Alternatively, you could start small while still working in paid employment – but don’t compromise either job for the other with half hearted efforts.

Question # 5: Am I motivated enough? With no boss to hold you accountable, you need to do what you said you’d do, when you said you’d do it. Your clients (and your income) will depend on it because usually freelancers don’t get paid until they deliver, or at least until part of the project is completed. This is a difficult adjustment for many people. Understand you will need to be more mindful of budgeting and you will also need to ensure a constant flow of work to maintain cash flow. Depending on your personality, this may or may not be an issue, but if you’re not highly motivated, your income will most certainly suffer.

In today’s technically advanced world, the opportunities for freelancers are endless. Most people choose it to provide more flexibility and freedom in their life. But it doesn’t come easy. Be prepared to work hard and understand you most likely won’t achieve overnight success. You’ll need to allow some time to build your client base.

Would you like help from a Career Advisor to determine whether or not freelancing is the future for you? If so, please click here to view our Career Counselling Services.

Education Vs. Experience – 5 Tips For Your Situation

Article by Belinda Fuller

Education Vs ExperienceDo you have qualifications coming out of your ears but not much experience in the field where you are seeking work? Or, conversely, do you have years of experience and proven success but no formal qualifications. We talk to people every day that fall firmly into one or the other of these camps.

The debate as to whether education or experience is more important when searching for a new role often rears its head when working with clients. The discussion becomes even more passionate in tighter job markets. Whilst it is great to have both – if you don’t, there are ways to optimise your situation:

1.  Highlight What Matters: whether you are a recent graduate with very little practical experience or a 20+ year experienced manager with no formal qualifications, relevant expertise matters to recruiters. Try to draw out what you’ve done in the context of ‘success’. Look at the achievements you’ve made in previous roles (or personally) and relate these back to the requirements for the role. For someone with oodles of work experience this might be easy – but make sure you highlight ‘relevant’ experience and substantiate it with examples and successes. If you’re a graduate or have little practical experience in the area you’re applying, highlight your expertise as it relates to the specific job requirements. This could include areas where you excelled during your studies; or soft skills such as team work, flexibility, confidence and a positive attitude. And don’t forget to consider part-time or volunteer work, as well as group and other projects you completed while studying.

2.  What if I Have No Work Experience? In many fields, qualifications are an essential pre-requisite – if you want to be a doctor you need to study first! However, with most areas, it’s great if you can do some kind of work while you study. Otherwise there isn’t much (other than academic achievements) to differentiate you from the next person with the same qualification. Even part time work that has no relationship to the area you are now seeking work in can count for experience and will certainly give you the chance to discuss transferrable and ‘soft’ skills. If, however, you are a recent graduate with very little work experience, highlight your academic achievements and think about the skills you developed while studying or even during school (think about sporting and other extracurricular activities).

3.  What if I Don’t Have any Formal Qualification? While qualifications are essential for many jobs, for some, experience may well count for more. I have several close friends in very senior sales roles who don’t have any formal qualifications. They have worked all over the world, working their way up from sales representative to senior executive roles today. This means they have a lot of expert knowledge in their area and they can demonstrate success. Again this comes back to highlighting what matters to the recruiter. They want to know what’s in it for them. Ask yourself what you can offer that the next candidate can’t. Think about your successes in the context of the role you’re going for and put yourself in the recruiter’s position – why do they need you in this role?

4.  Identify Your Transferrable Skills: everyone has transferrable skills whether you’ve studied and not worked or worked and not studied. If you need to have certain knowledge or skill sets that are learnt during study then demonstrate how you have that. If you have the degree but no experience, think about all the transferrable skills you learnt while studying. Again, look at group assignments and discussions you participated in.

5.  Think About Studying:  if you have no formal qualifications and feel that this is holding you back, you could always consider enrolling in a course. There are so many courses on offer out there – it doesn’t have to be a university degree. Do your research first and speak to people in the industry or area you’re seeking work in. That way you’ll get expert advice as to the types of courses and qualifications that will be most respected.

Today, it is important to have a good mix of both with employers often looking for unique individuals with diverse skill sets that will add significant value to their organisation. However, there are ways to maximise your personal situation.

Are you struggling to demonstrate how you can add value to roles even though you know you could? Would you like help maximising your experience and qualifications to give yourself a better chance at your dream job? If so, please see our Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria Writing or Career Counselling Services.

How to Find a Job on LinkedIn

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Find a Job on LinkedInLinkedIn recently announced it had crossed the 50 million member threshold across the Asia Pacific region with more than 5 million members in Australia. That’s a big percentage of our population – yet we still get asked on a daily basis what LinkedIn is really all about. Would you like to make better use of LinkedIn to find a new role or boost your personal brand and/or career profile? With LinkedIn recently crossing that 50 million member mark within the Asia-Pacific region, it is becoming more important to better understand how you can use it to better your chances of securing your dream job.

1.  Get Noticed: your profile should be optimised with content in as many sections as possible. Even if you don’t voluntarily supply recruiters with your LinkedIn profile URL (which you should), most will search for and find it. It has been proven that information found online has a big influence on hiring decisions and LinkedIn is the perfect place to help you stand out from other candidates. At a minimum, include a strong headline that showcases who you are, a high quality keyword optimised summary, together with a detailed list of work experience which includes achievements and successes, courses, and any other relevant information. Make sure to personalise your profile and inject some personality because that is what will differentiate you. And contrary to what we advise for resumes, always include a current, professional photo (head shot only and preferably taken against a plain background).

2.  Get Engaged: Once you’ve addressed the basics, aim to add sections on a regular basis – look at your ‘profile strength meter’ and try to achieve (and maintain) an ‘all-star’ profile. Join groups, follow companies that interest you, use LinkedIn to research companies or people that you might be interviewing with, comment on articles, post interesting links yourself. The more engaged you are, the more value you will achieve from LinkedIn.

3.  Get in The Know: Understand how recruiters are using LinkedIn’s Talent Services, which include LinkedIn Recruiter enabling recruiters to search the membership base in a targeted way and LinkedIn Jobs where companies post job ads to automatically target relevant candidates.

While LinkedIn will regularly send you a list of advertised jobs you might be interested in, you should also make a habit of visiting the ‘Jobs Section’ to identify suitable vacancies. To do this, simply click on ‘Jobs’ in the menu at the top of your profile. You’ll then be able to search for specific titles, keywords or companies that interest you, and view a list of ‘jobs you may be interested in’. Keeping your content current and defining your specific skills and expertise well will help ensure roles are more accurately targeted towards your experience and skillset.

4.  Get Connected: Build your network by sending invitations to connect to anyone you know and trust. You can also send introductions through one of your direct connections which will help you to connect with other members who might be two or three degrees away from you. In addition, InMails are available for purchase. These are private messages you can send to members with whom you are not currently connected. You should also ask for recommendations from previous managers, clients and colleagues.

5.  Get the Word Out: We don’t usually advise sending out a blanket message to everyone in your network, but being selective about advising your network that you are seeking work is important. If possible, you could consider updating your headline or summary or even post an update stating that you are ‘seeking new opportunities’. You never know who might see that and realise you are the perfect candidate for a role they are trying to fill.

6.  Consider Upgrading to a Jobseeker Premium Account: If you’d like access to premium tools, tutorials and tips, the ability to contact key decision makers in your industry, the ability to become a ‘featured applicant’, and access to exclusive groups then you might also consider becoming a Jobseeker Premium member. For more information about that solution, you’ll need to research whether it’s relevant by clicking on ‘Upgrade’ within your LinkedIn profile.

The more complete your LinkedIn Profile, the more jobs LinkedIn will be able to suggest to you. This is a two-fold exercise, because obviously the more complete your profile, the more relevant and appealing it will also be to potential recruiters actively viewing your profile, so focus your attention here first, then start to explore the other ways you can tap into jobs within your LinkedIn network.

Are you confused about the value that LinkedIn can offer during the job search process? Not sure where to start? If so, a LinkedIn Profile Writer can help! For more information, please see our LinkedIn Writing or Coaching Services, or check out our Job Search Coaching Service.

Is Your Voicemail Greeting Hindering Your Job Chances?

Article by Belinda Fuller

Is Your Voicemail Message Hindering Your Job ChancesFirst impressions do count. Even though the old adage ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ is true, in business situations, the fact is that you will be judged on your voicemail greeting. How much influence do you think it has on a potential employer’s decision to interview you? None? Some? A lot? I’m willing to bet it’s a lot more than many people think.

Your job application could be spot on, your experience and background even more perfect, but if a potential employer is put off by your voicemail greeting, your chances of securing an interview can be significantly diminished. Have you ever called someone and cringed at their greeting? I call numerous people for professional purposes on a daily basis and often need to leave voicemail messages. I am constantly amazed at how unprofessional many people’s greetings sound. Some of the messages I’ve heard include:

  • “Hi. You know the drill.” This sounds unprofessional and lazy. I do know the drill, but I would prefer you to identify yourself so that I know I’ve called the right number.
  • “Please leave a short 10 second message for conversion to text.” This can create anxiety in the caller as they try desperately to squeeze their message into 10 seconds! Inevitably the caller is cut off and forced to call back or send a text message with more details.
  •  “Hi this is (name). I don’t check voicemail regularly so don’t leave a message. Please send me a text message or email me and I’ll get back to you.” Really? If I wanted to send you an email I would have sent you an email and as for sending a text message, isn’t it the same device? I’m recruiting and I’m calling to speak to people. If they’re not available, I’m leaving a message so they can call me back. If I was a recruiter and faced this message – I might just move on to the next candidate.
  • “Hello … hello? … hello? … Just Kidding, leave me a message and I’ll call you back soon.” I don’t think this one needs any explanation. If you are 12, this one might be ok, but any older, you need to ditch it and start over.
  • “Thanks for calling, leave a message.” This is OK, however, again you really need to identify yourself, so the caller is sure they have the right person.

There are many other no no’s when it comes to voicemail greetings – some of which include:

  • Going into great detail about why you didn’t pick up the phone. We are all really busy and we know you probably are too – however we don’t need to know what you might be up to while we’re trying to call you. Just let us leave a message and then call back as soon as you are available.
  • No greeting – i.e. the automated “The number you have reached is not available. Leave a message.” This comes across as lazy – if you haven’t gotten around to setting up your voicemail, recruiters may question your level of proactivity and ability to undertake the role.
  • Greetings with excessive background noise – especially loud music or voices that sound like you’re at a party.
  • No option to even leave a voicemail message – this one is annoying. Recruiters have limited time and very often have lots of options in terms of applicants. If there is no facility to even leave a voice message, it may be possible that they don’t get around to calling you back.

Your voicemail could be the first contact a potential employer has with you so you should ensure it sounds professional and lets the caller know that you will call them back. Write down your greeting before recording it because it’s much easier to read something than to ad lib it. A greeting like this is brief but works well:

“Hi, this is (name). Unfortunately I’m unable to take your call right now. Please leave a detailed message at the tone along with your name and phone number. I‘ll return your call as soon as I can. Thank you.”

The main criteria should be that your greeting is clear, succinct and professional sounding. Don’t um or ah (that’s where writing it down helps) and make sure you identify yourself and the fact that the caller should leave a message and you will return their call.

Are you applying for jobs and not hearing back? Do you think you need to change your voicemail greeting? If you would like assistance with your job applications and job search, please see our Resume Writing and Job Search Coaching Services.

How to Sell Yourself in a Job Application

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Sell Yourself in a Job ApplicationSelling yourself and your expertise effectively is an important part of the overall job search process. Whether it’s in your initial communications (Resume, Selection Criteria and/or Cover Letter), or during the interview process, articulating and communicating your unique value will help get you noticed. This month, we look at some strategies to assist you in selling yourself to a potential employer.

We often tell our clients that job applications are like sales proposals. For many people not working in traditional sales or marketing focused careers, this can sound daunting. However, with a little bit of effort it isn’t that difficult. We often tell our clients to put themselves in the shoes of the recruiter. Take a good look at your application and ask yourself (as the recruiter) ‘What’s in it for me?’ Your job application should immediately highlight you as someone who can add value in the role.

To help understand the concept, let’s follow six fundamental sales steps:

1.  Introduce Yourself – in any sales situation, you need to introduce yourself, give a reason why you’re there and explain why what you’re selling will benefit the buyer. Same goes for your job application. Start with a good strong introduction or ‘Career Profile’ that demonstrates your skills and past experience and how that will add value. This section is usually fairly standard, however consider customising the content to address any specific individual job requirements. Similar to any sales situation, make sure your introduction is enthusiastic, passionate, easy to understand, concise and engaging – and clearly demonstrates ‘What’s in it for me?’

2.  Ask the Buyer What They Want – any good sales person will tell you the key to success is finding (and addressing) the buyer’s ‘pain points’. This means researching their issues and giving them what they need to address those issues. Same goes for your job application. Study the job ad and/or job description in detail and make a list of all the key points. At this point, it can often help to study other similar job ads. If a contact person is listed, call them – ask questions to uncover the pain points and ask them outright what they are looking for.

3.  Show Your Value – if a buyer can’t see the value in a product or service, they simply won’t buy it. Same goes for your job application. If you don’t give the recruiter what they want, you won’t succeed. Your application needs to demonstrate to the recruiter how you are going to add value. This process is simple once you know their pain points because you can clearly demonstrate how you have the best solution. Again, customisation is important so spend time ensuring the content in your documents targets and addresses as many of the requirements as you can. Use past successes and achievements to show how you’ve ‘added value’ in the past.

4.  Present Your Offer – successful sales proposals are clear and concise with relevant content that doesn’t ramble and is presented in a visually appealing way – using white space, headings and bullet points to highlight and present information so it’s easy to digest. Same goes for your job application. While we never recommend highly formatted resumes with tables and pictures, we do use some fabulous templates that really cut through. Never under-estimate the value of information that is easy to read and well formatted.

5.  Provide a Call to Action – any basic sales training will tell you that this is often the most common mistake poor sales people make. Not actually asking for the sale. The buyer needs guidance and they need to know that you want their sale. Same goes for your job application. Make sure you tell the recruiter that you are keen to talk further about the value you can add. This means asking for an interview and providing contact details (phone and email) that are clearly visible on all parts of your application. It also means answering your phone to unidentified numbers and providing a voicemail facility. Making it easy for the recruiter to contact you is a key part of the process.

6.  Stop and Listen – an important part of any sales conversation is listening to the buyer. This last point relates specifically to the interview if you’re successful in progressing to that stage. Communication is key, however if you don’t listen to your buyer, you don’t get the opportunity to present your offer in the best possible way to meet their needs. Same goes for an interview. Listen to the recruiter and answer their questions as best you can. Also ask questions to demonstrate you are keen. We have written several articles relating to succeeding in interviews that you can read here.

Success in sales is based on giving the buyer what they need. Likewise, when you’re searching for a new job – do some research, know your customer, and give them what they need in order to achieve success.

Are you a natural sales person? Or do you, like many people, find it hard to sell your skills and expertise effectively? Would you like some assistance from a professional Resume Writer to develop a job application that clearly and honestly articulates the value you could bring in a role? If so, please see our Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria Writing services here.

New Year, New You

Article by Belinda Fuller

New Year New YouIt’s hard to believe that we are already one month into the New Year. How are you going with your new year’s resolutions? Did you make any career related resolutions or goals for 2014? If you are planning to secure a new job this year, have you started strategising? With unemployment set to rise even further this year, a structured approach will help you achieve your goals.

If you are anything like me, the New Year always represents new starts. I clean out my pantry, tidy my office, cull my wardrobe, think about new projects I’d like to work on, ramp up my exercise, and generally spring clean my life to start the year afresh. I think most people start to feel jaded towards the end of the year and if you were lucky enough to have a break over the Christmas/New Year period without too much running around, you may have been thinking about making some changes in your career for 2014.

If so, you need to start planning in order to make that happen. In the November newsletter, we provided six tips to take charge of your career in 2014 (you can read that article here) so this month we’d like to focus on the ‘change’ and ‘research’ parts of those tips. Making resolutions is a great first step, however now you need to strategise to ensure you achieve success. Follow these 3 simple steps to get started:

1.    Ask Yourself Why You Want to Change Jobs? – start by making a list of all the pros and cons of your current role and write them all down. Writing it down really helps. As a chronic list writer my entire life (anything and everything goes on a list), surprisingly, I was never an advocate of writing down my goals, or strategising in written format when trying to solve a problem. However in recent years, I have done a complete about face. Writing down what’s in your mind really does help clarify and further develop it. Often, when you undertake this exercise, you actually find that there are more pros than cons. Perhaps you have been focusing on the negatives, when in fact there are more positives that you should be enjoying. Or perhaps it just confirms what you originally thought – that there are in fact more negatives! Either way, this process helps you move forward with your goal.

2.    Find the Ideal Job – sounds difficult right but bear with me. This is meant to be a simple exercise and something I ask all my clients to do. I get them to show me their perfect job. Many people simply cannot articulate this when asked. If you are not sure which career path to take, you may need to seek the advice of a qualified Career Counsellor. However, if you have a good idea where your strengths lie, simply jump online and start researching. Go to Seek, MyCareer or any one of the industry specific job search sites and look for your perfect job. Ideally, you’ll want to find more than one. Don’t worry about geography at this stage, just find that perfect role. Study the ads and/or job descriptions and write down all the key skills, experience, education, qualifications and training that is required. Highlight where you are lacking at the moment.

3.    Make a Plan – based on your research, you should now be able to write a list of areas where you are lacking. This forms the basis of your ‘things to do to get to where you need to be’. At this stage, it may seem daunting, but again just stay with me, by writing down all the areas you are lacking and identifying what you need to do to develop that skill or area of expertise, you will be starting to develop your plan. The path to developing new skills and expertise could be as easy as taking on new responsibilities and tasks in your current role to starting some form of study. It also includes other tasks such as completing short courses, networking both inside and outside of your company, offering to help a colleague with a project, or doing some volunteer work.

By taking action today to start to develop your plan, you are ensuring your path to a new you.

Did you make some career focused New Year’s resolutions? Do you have a plan to help you achieve those goals or would you like help making your career dreams a reality? If so, please see our Career Consulting, Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria Writing services here.

Understanding Personality Assessments

Article by Belinda Fuller

Understanding Personality Assessments - MBTI AssessmentAs one of the most widely used personality assessments in the world, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment tool is based on more than 50 years research. Through a series of questions, the MBTI tool assesses individual personality preferences and assigns one of 16 different personality types based on four scales which can be helpful in guiding training, personal development and career choices.

Just how can the knowledge of your personality type help with your career development? By taking the MBTI assessment, your personality preferences are assessed based on the theory that everyone has a primary mode of operation within four major categories:

1. Energy Flow – where you are either Extraverted (energised by the outside world of people, activity and things) or Introverted (energised by the inner world of thoughts, feelings and reflections).

2. How we gather information – where you are either Sensing (focused on information gathered through the five senses) or Intuitive (you look for patterns, meanings and possibilities in the information you receive).

3. Decision Making – where you either have a preference for Thinking (making decisions based on objective facts and principles) or Feeling (making decisions based on personal values and feelings).

4. Basic day-to-day lifestyle preferences – where you are either Judging (preferring a more planned and structured lifestyle) or Perceiving (preferring a more flexible and spontaneous lifestyle).

We all use one mode of operation within each category more easily, naturally and frequently than the other so we are categorised as “preferring” that function. The combination of our four preferences then defines our personality type. Through these combinations, there are 16 different personality categories.

Armed with the information, you can learn a lot about your natural strengths and weaknesses; as well as understanding your personality type’s preferred work tasks, ideal work environment, leadership style, learning style, communication method, and problem solving approach. Through identifying the areas that you value, you can start to develop strategies that may lead to improving your overall job satisfaction. By understanding your defined personality type, you can also start to analyse the most and least popular career choices for that type and hopefully pick a career that will reward and fulfil you well into the future.

While personality profiling via the MBTI tool or other assessment tools should not be used as the only guide to your perfect job, it can help. However, as with all theories, there are exceptions! Some people don’t fall strictly into one specific category; and as we develop, grow and have exposure to a range of situations, we learn to function outside of our ‘natural’ tendencies.

By taking the MBTI assessment, you can gain an insight into the careers that your personality type is most suited to, as well as looking at your current skills, qualifications and areas of expertise and matching those to some potential areas of interest. If nothing else, a better understanding of your personality may just contribute to helping you increase your job satisfaction in your current role.

Are you interested in understanding your personality type? If so, please see our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Assessment service.

Success vs. Happiness in Your Career

Article by Belinda Fuller

Success vs Happiness

In today’s frantic world, happiness is something that everyone craves. You only have to look at the books currently available on achieving and maintaining happiness to agree that there are many writers out there making money (and maybe achieving the success they crave) by helping others in the pursuit of happiness.

So what is happiness? The definition of happiness is basically the quality or state of being happy – i.e. bliss, contentment, pleasure or satisfaction. Put in simple terms, happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good. Why is it that some people are just naturally happy with their jobs and their lives while others aren’t? Happiness is more a state of mind with studies consistently indicating that happiness doesn’t have much to do with materialistic achievements or what we might consider traditional ‘success’. That means the more money we earn and the higher status we achieve won’t necessarily make us happy – not rocket science. But what will make us happier in our careers?

Studies also reveal that happiness has a lot more to do with your outlook on life and the quality of your day to day relationships. While nobody (at least nobody I know) is 100% happy all of the time, some people are consistently more content or fulfilled than others – happy with what they have and happy to pursue what they want. This means that if you are feeling like you’re in a dead end career and you don’t get on with your colleagues, your happiness will most likely be affected in a negative way.

To increase your levels of happiness, you don’t need more ‘success’, you need to be more positive. My husband uses the ‘glass half full’ analogy all the time and I love it – is your glass ‘half full’ or ‘half empty’? If you constantly approach things with a ‘glass half empty’ attitude, try to turn this around and look at things in a more positive light because happiness really is about being more content and appreciating things for what they are.

Achieving happiness at work doesn’t mean quitting your job and pursuing an entirely new career. You need to be realistic about your future and start planning to work towards achieving more success and/or happiness. I wrote an article earlier this year on How to be Happy at Work. In it, I mentioned the importance of taking responsibility for your own destiny. You are the one that can make a difference and only you can control how you feel about your work. If you’re feeling unhappy at work, there are many things you can do to feel more positive – in that article, I provided 8 tips to get you started.

We also know that the happiest employees are those that feel their contribution is making a difference, however sometimes your contribution goes unnoticed and feelings of resentment and lack of fulfilment come into play. If you’re in this situation, you need to ask for feedback. Some companies are great at recognising ‘success’ and others not so much. Chances are you know you’re achieving success, but you just want acknowledgement – ask for it and if you’re not getting what you need from your employer, now might be the perfect time to start planning for change.

The important thing to remember is that success does not always drive happiness. Happiness is, in a lot of ways, more about your state of mind. If you’re not happy in your job, you need to work out the reasons why and then make plans to change that. Don’t be afraid of change and don’t ever feel like you’re destined for a lifetime in a career that makes you miserable.

Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to find your ideal career so you can enjoy every day rather than spending all week counting down the days until the weekend? Life is too short to stay in a job you hate! For more information, please see our Career Guidance and Career Coaching services.

How to Handle Behavioural Interview Questions

Article by Belinda Fuller

When using behavioural interview questions, the interviewer will usually identify core behaviours they’d like to see in a candidate. Obviously these behaviours are based on the position and the requirements of the specific role they are recruiting for and will vary accordingly.

There is absolutely no need to be scared of these types of questions – in fact quite the opposite – behavioural questions provide you with the ideal opportunity to showcase why you’d be perfect in the role. It’s important to remember that the recruiter will be looking for specific examples that demonstrate how you behaved in certain situations – not hypothetical answers on how you think you’d respond or behave.

You need to think back to previous roles and detail real-life examples from your work. To prepare for these types of interviews, you should first ascertain the competencies you think the employer might be looking for. This is where research is important. You can search for similar jobs online, read job ads and more detailed job descriptions, talk to the recruiter and ask their advice, and speak to trusted colleagues or superiors in your network. Most companies will be looking for some common skills that you can prepare for as standard, then you’ll want to consider what other competencies they’ll need that relate specifically to the role. Common competencies could include communication, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, and a proactive/innovative approach.

The best way to prepare for behavioural interview questions is by using the STAR technique. I’ve written articles before about how to prepare STAR responses – click here for detailed information. Briefly, thinking about examples in the context of STAR helps you formulate clear and concise responses to behavioural interview questions.

STAR stands for:

  • Situation – What was the circumstance, situation or setting you found yourself in?
  • Task – What was your role?
  • Action – What did you do and how did you do it?
  • Result – What did you achieve? What was the outcome and, if possible, how does it relate to the position you are applying for?

Once you have decided which examples to use for each identified competency, you simply write down your dot points next to each of the STAR points then formulate a response that you feel comfortable talking through. Don’t scrimp on detail – talk the recruiter through from start to finish but make sure you are concise and specific – and don’t ramble. You can use examples where the outcome wasn’t ideal so long as you explain how you learnt from it for next time.

The most important predictor of success with behavioural based interviews is preparation and practice. The more you think about and practice how to tell your story – the more concise you will be during the interview. Practice your responses so they flow – tell the recruiter some interesting stories about your real-life competencies and they’ll be more likely to consider you as a viable candidate. Have you been involved in a behavioural based interview? How did you go? How did you prepare?

Would you like to understand more about how to prepare for behavioural based interviews? Perhaps you’d like to put together specific responses that suit your experience and the roles you are seeking, as well as participating in a mock interview. If so, click here for our interview training services.

Not Sure What to do When You Leave School?

Article by Belinda Fuller

When our career counsellors meet with school leavers or younger students thinking about what they might want to do once they leave school, there is often much confusion and many questions around study options and pathways. School leavers can feel significant pressure to make the right decision about further education and training, but sometimes taking an alternative path first is a viable option.

There are many avenues that school leavers can pursue. Some of these include:

  • Continuing with further education through University
  • Studying one of the thousands of courses offered through TAFE, private RTOs (Registered Training Organisations), or Community Training Providers
  • Securing an Australian Apprenticeship
  • Finding employment
  • Participating in community or volunteer work
  • Taking a break to travel
  • Starting your own business
  • Or a combination of these options

Choosing what you want to do with your life should be based on what you’re interested in and what you enjoy doing. You probably have a pretty good idea by now about what you’re good at academically and where your other strengths lie, so pursuing options that follow these strengths is ideal. However, don’t stress if your career options don’t appear obvious, or you feel like what you enjoy doing may not be attainable as a long term career.

It could be helpful at this point to complete an online career assessment, undertake some research on one of the many useful career sites, or participate in a career counselling session with a qualified practitioner who can help you identify your passions and make some viable choices regarding career options.

Some interesting online resources for school leavers include:

http://www.myfuture.edu.au/ – a national, online career exploration and information system that can help you identify different career options by analysing your skills, interests, values and aspirations.

http://www.jobguide.deewr.gov.au – a site describing 1500+ occupations which can provide a great starting point for making career decisions.

http://www.myuniversity.gov.au/ – a broad range of information about Australian universities and other higher education providers.

http://www.education.gov.au/career-bullseye-posters – this site helps you look at subjects you like at school and what careers might be of interest.

One important point to remember if you are considering going to University straight from school – you may need to check the course requirements to make sure you meet the prerequisites. Ideally, this is best done in Year 10, before you pick your Year 11 and 12 subjects.

It is important to do something when you leave school – both for your self-esteem and also to show future employers that you are proactive and innovative. If you really have no idea what you want to do with your life, choose something to do, but don’t base your decision on what your friends are doing or what you feel pressured to do. There are many resources out there to help you identify what you might be good at, and most importantly, what you would enjoy – seek them out and take advantage.

Are you feeling lost? Would you like career advice and assistance from a Career Coach to work out viable career options? If so, please see our range of Career Counselling services.

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