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When I was a Temp

I often ask friends and colleagues about their part-time jobs during their school and university years. Those experiences, what jobs they did and how they were trained, have in one or another, often led them to where they are today.

I myself worked at McDonald’s – on the front counter and in customer service at the drive-thru window. If you know me, I’m sure you can picture me in a navy blue visor and striped shirt with the golden arches logo. My dear old Dad was so proud! I’m not shy to say I was pretty good at the job. I was awarded Drive-Thru Employee of the Month twice and Employee of the Month – May 1988.

Working at McDonald’s was such great training. I learned procedures, discipline and responsibility. Sure, I was selling Big Macs, but even mopping the floor – there was a process for that – you had to do it the McDonald’s way. It was a fast-paced and structured environment, a great start to working life. My pay packet was also good incentive. I remember working out what shifts I could do to get the best hourly rates so I could buy a fabulous outfit, shoes or put a full tank of petrol in my car.

But what I liked the most about the job was the customers. I came across all sorts – from kids with their fed-up parents, to fast-food regulars and the party goers at 1am who threw pickles on the ceiling in the dining room – I can recall many encounters!

I expect it’s dealing with people in all their diversity that led me to recruitment. I still find them entertaining, to say the least. What’s really inspiring when working with temporary candidates is that sense of satisfaction – the feeling you’ve been able to fulfil someone’s needs when you get them working on one assignment, which leads to the next and the next…

Working with temporary candidates and coordinating temp jobs day-to-day makes me think about all the different types of work people do when they need flexible employment or are just starting out in their careers. It’s fascinating to learn about some of the more unusual opportunities.

Do you have a casual work story that you’d like to share?

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

6 blogging brainstorming ideas

Recently my colleague said she wanted to write a blog, but she had no ideas for a topic, how she would structure her thoughts and where to even start?

Blogging gets people talking. When we write about what interests us and what we know, we share our thoughts and invite others to engage in the conversation. Social networks are built on two-way communication, so blogging can actively encourage an exchange of ideas.

So how do you write a blog and how do you come up with material that is interesting?

Here are 6 strategies to get you started and help you succeed.

  1. If you are an avid reader, that’s great, pick a topic that interests you! Books, magazines, news articles, discussion groups… in print or online, you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
  2. If you watch current affairs, there’s plenty of material. Take notes and track comments on Twitter.
  3. Never let a good idea pass you by in the middle of the night. I have a notebook and pencil on my bedside table for those lightbulb moments.
  4. Listen to what your customers (clients and candidates for me) are saying, problem solve the issues, then share.
  5. Look at the stats on what other people are writing about. Google Analytics research is excellent for what’s trending, as well as niche topics.
  6. Share your experiences. People love authentic stories.

Encourage people to comment and always respond to the comments (positive and negative) you receive. You may start a thread that leads to another idea for your next blog from those responses.

While I’m giving away ideas, here’s some I’ve already put on my list:

  • How to be a confident public speaker
  • What is it that engages an audience?
  • All about my community
  • What inspires me about technology
  • Are you brave enough to say what needs to be said?
  • What makes a good conversation?
  • Books I want to write
  • What I am passionate about
  • How do I get my big idea funded?

After thinking and deliberating over my blog topic for many days, things have taken shape. OK, now for the blog…

Well, I’m done here, so will have to wait until next time to tackle one of the topics above, but I challenge you to write on any of those topics as well.

If you do write a blog, please comment on this article to let me know. I’d love to hear your point of view.

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Humpty Dumpty and the empty swimming pool

Sometimes life throws you curve balls in the most unexpected ways; curve balls that may change how you see the world, show you what you’re made of, or give you a little bit of both. Let me put some context around that.

Five weeks ago, we were having our swimming pool cleaned ready for summer. The pool was emptied, scrubbed and ready to be refilled. I was doing some maintenance around the side of the pool, so to move from one section to the next, I made a small jump onto the edge at the deep end. This proved to be a very stupid decision, I overbalanced and found myself falling into the empty pool.

As I was falling two and a half metres (it’s a very deep pool), I remember a ridiculous number of thoughts going through my mind… this might hurt a bit, but I’ll be fine… I can undo this… what is going to happen, will I get lucky and just have a few bruises, what can I do to minimise the impact? …and funnily, will I need to take Monday off work?

As I landed, I heard some nasty crunches and whilst the pain wasn’t obvious initially (thank goodness for adrenalin), I knew that things weren’t good. My feet were telling me that I couldn’t move. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, I landed in the chemicals that had just been put in for the pool to be refilled. So here I was, all busted up face down in chlorine, lying on the concrete.

I managed to commando drag myself far enough away from the chemicals to be able to breathe and I called for my husband who was, justifiably, in equal measure distressed and annoyed (“What are you doing down there, what the ‘bleep’ have you done?”). Strangely calm, I explained what had happened and asked him to call an ambulance.

Fast forward through the five hours that it took for the ambulance, fire brigade and police to arrive, get me out of the pool, take me to hospital, the x-rays, checks for chemical burns – I was in a pretty bad way. Hypothermic (it was very cold) with a completely shattered left heel and a fractured right heel, my body had gone into shock, which rendered me non-responsive to those around me.

I’ve had a month in hospital, have had my left heel surgically rebuilt, had to learn how to put weight on a broken right heel and practically relearned how to move. For someone who does everything at high pace, having to consciously assess the impact of every movement to minimise the risk of falling again has been incredibly challenging!

It’s been tough, my injuries were serious and it will be up to a year before I can walk normally. However, I’m also fortunate to have been cared for by some incredibly talented medical professionals and an exceptional support network.

I have had some very difficult days where the pain had me not wanting to move, where I’ve relived the accident over and over, which at times causes extreme anxiety. The tiredness has had me emotional and easily distressed. It’s been hard, but going back to the beginning of this story, I have a very different perspective on life.

Considering my every movement has helped me consider the impact of my actions on those around me. I no longer have the expectation that other people value the same qualities in my workplace as I do. Those small things that once irked me in the office don’t seem so important – I realise nothing should be taken for granted.

I’m still determined, focused and strong-willed, because these attributes have helped motivate me to push through and to get back to work. My job is important to me and while there is definitely an element similar to the people on the WorkSafe ads, my head and hands are fine, but for a few months my world @work means adjusting to a different physical set-up while my body gets back to full capacity.

There’s been no epiphany, just a subtle recognition of what really matters. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, I would urge you to take the time to focus on what is truly important. How do you want those around you to perceive you, even remember you? You never know when you’re going to be faced with your own version of an empty swimming pool.

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Posted in Professional Support

FRAGILE: Handle with care

In the world @work it’s easy to forget that people can have all sorts of other stuff going on in their life that makes them more or less vulnerable. Whether it’s financial strain, stress from their past or current workplace, contending with being made redundant or failing to make initial headway with job applications, there are myriad reasons why people might not cope well with a job interview.

A couple of times recently I’ve interviewed candidates who had good resumes and phone screened well, but at interview it was clear that all was not well in their world. Despite the usual nerves, there were some concerning signs that included being anxious, insecure and defensive; they were clearly people who were in desperate need of work.

These are always tricky situations that call on our professionalism, emotional intelligence and compassion.

As recruiters or hiring managers we spend a lot of time interviewing and we are generally very comfortable with the conversations we have with candidates. Before gathering information about their background, skills and work experience, we aim to put people at ease with some small talk and outline what it is we want to discuss. Sometimes it can feel like speed dating. Even when done well, it can feel a little invasive.

I’m sure I am not alone when I admit that I have struggled with my own job applications at various times in my career. You know how it goes, the contact person was elusive, the interview didn’t run smoothly or I brought a negative work experience to the table that didn’t add value to the discussion. I too have been frustrated because I thought my age or some time out of the workforce was a barrier to making progress. All of those emotions are best left outside the door when we apply for jobs.

Most times a skilled interviewer will put people at ease, overcome their interview anxiety and uncover the value they can bring to an employer. On those occasions when we can’t help a candidate further, we’re guided by respect for the person and our primary objective – to find the right person for the job.

Let’s be mindful that when hiring we are in a position to help or harm and everyone – every one – deserves respect. Take a few minutes to listen to Sting and Stevie Wonder perform Fragile in this video, which prompted me to pause and reflect.

How have you handled a fragile situation in a business context? What did you learn from the experience?

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Just because you are a character, doesn’t mean that you have character.

I don’t know whether I’m just getting a bit long in the recruitment tooth or not, but the question of character has been playing on my mind lately. I know so many people in business who are characters – they’re funny, engaging, witty, great to have a drink with and are endlessly entertaining. What I’m not seeing a lot of is genuine character – by that I mean characteristics that people admire and look up to – strength of character.

I value honesty and authenticity in people and I try to create an environment in my team where people can demonstrate their character, not to just be a character.

I had a candidate recently who lied to me about the roles that she was looking at. It made me reflect on my own behaviour and to consider whether I had created enough rapport with her that she felt that she could talk to me about what she was looking at. It’s important to me to always look at what I do that contributes to a situation – either positive or negative. The truth was, there was nothing that I could do, the candidate just didn’t have the strength of character to be honest and to tell the truth. Sadly, I’ve seen so much of it over the past few years, just a complete lack of integrity and even more disturbing, a win at all cost mentality, regardless of the consequences and it’s just awful.

Strength of character is standing up for yourself even when you know that you may be unpopular, it’s telling the truth when lying may be a more lucrative solution in the short term and it’s telling someone how you feel when they may not like what they hear. The best people I know in business have character in spades, they’re strong characters who are memorable for their convictions and for the way that they stand tall against opposition. Some are characters, and some are not, but the genuine character underneath always shines through.

Are you someone who is a character or do you have character? Will your colleagues, clients or prospective clients and employees remember you for your qualities and attributes, that you push back or question something because it’s the right thing to do, that you try to do the right thing no matter what, or will they remember you as ‘quite the character’?

I know what I’ve seen work well, it’s tenacity and strength and courage, and I’d love to see more of it in business because I see quite enough characters on the TV.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse, 23 June 2014. Thanks to The Wolf and Mr Tarantino for providing the inspiration for this post.

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work