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3 surefire ways to stand out in a crowded job market

In the current market where unemployment is at 7.4% and underemployment is at 11.7%, as a recruiter I am constantly speaking with candidates who are looking for new roles.

At the same time, I’m speaking to our existing clients regarding their needs and building new relationships with employers who are already time poor and potentially looking through hundreds of applications.

It’s a tough time to stand out from the crowd. What can you do to help your application be seen?

Below are my top 3 tips to help you stand out, particularly at the very beginning of the application process.

  1. Re-evaluate your resume

A well-presented resume has moved beyond a list of roles and duties; employers want to see specific skills and key achievements and how they have been demonstrated in each role. And good news if you aren’t familiar with clean and simple layout styles, you don’t need to work in graphic design to create a visually appealing document!

If it has been a while since you updated your resume, re-evaluate it through the following lenses:

  • Is it concise?
  • Is it targeted to the job?

DO: Make your resume visually appealing and easy to read. Use short, direct sentences or dot points, and tweak your resume for each job application. Save your resume in a common document format, such as Word or PDF.

DON’T: Don’t exceed three pages as a general rule. Don’t assume the same resume is suitable for every job you apply for. Once you’ve established a career path, we don’t need to know about your high school job at the fish and chip shop.

WHY IT MATTERS: A good resume can be the difference between receiving an initial call or being ruled out as not suitable. Make sure that your resume accurately describes your professional skills and experience, and showcases how you tick all (or most) of the boxes for a successful applicant.

  1. Be prepared, know the job

When you apply for a role, be prepared to receive a call from the recruiter or the hiring manager. It’s frustrating on both sides speaking with a candidate who does not remember what the role is or even applying for the position!

When applying for multiple positions, write a list, set-up a spreadsheet or find another way of keeping track of those jobs and the organisations you have submitted your application to (some job boards facilitate this). More importantly, keep a record of why you applied.

Once you submit an application, add it to your list and jot down three things you liked about the role that made you want to apply. That way, when you receive a call, you will have a cheat sheet to jog your memory.

DO: Keep a record of the roles you apply for and what you liked about the role. Be prepared for a call and refer to your notes about why you’re suitable and why you want the job.

DON’T: Don’t try to wing it and hope for the best. If you’ve kept notes, you won’t be caught off guard by questions such as, “Why did you apply for this role?” or “What will you bring to this role?”

WHY IT MATTERS: This is your opportunity to really impress a hiring manager or recruiter with your level of preparation, to convey yourself as a candidate who is keen, on-the-ball and knows what they want!

  1. Communicate well – answer your phone

Even though we’re now accustomed to text messages or communicating via social apps, the first point of contact from a prospective employer will often be a phone call.

It is good manners if you don’t know who the caller is to greet them and to identify yourself when you pick up the call: “Hello, this is Hayley” or “Good afternoon, Hayley speaking” would suffice. This way the caller knows that they are (or aren’t!) speaking to the right person, and it provides them an opening to introduce themselves and the reason for their call.

If you don’t normally use voicemail, consider setting one up while you are applying for jobs. It should tell the caller who they are leaving a message for and invite them to leave their name, contact number and the reason for their call. If you already have a voicemail set up, review your message to check that it meets these criteria and that the recording is clear and easy to understand, without any background noise.

DO: Treat your phone like a business phone – answer politely, greet the caller and identify yourself, set up your voicemail message with a brief instructional message in your own voice.

DON’T: Don’t wait for the caller to speak first or answer an unknown number in a casual or rude way. It’s preferable not to use voice to text messaging services or other automated voicemail services that limit a caller’s ability to leave you a detailed message. Please don’t make a joke out of your voicemail – it won’t be funny if an important caller hangs up!

WHY IT MATTERS: This is your opportunity to make a good first impression and position yourself with a personal brand for being a good communicator. Simply being friendly and polite can set you apart from other applicants.

What are you doing to stand out from the crowd? What are some of the strategies that have worked well for you?

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Take a break… and focus on your own learning and future career

…as the fourth revolution of work builds, teachers are well placed to lead learning.”

All employers, by virtue of offering work opportunities and the potential to build careers, deal in the futures of their employees. For teachers and others working in the education sector, it takes great skill, time and energy to help students navigate their learning and life. It is by its very nature a generous act, to continually focus on others to build their capacity, efficacy and future.

For teachers, the term breaks are ideal to recharge and relax, to practice a little self-preservation and to prioritise personal needs.

Article image: Have fun

If you are a teacher or another professional who constantly ‘gives to others’, putting a plan in place for your own future can be overlooked; a break can be more than relaxing – it can be a time to think about where your career is going, to set goals, speak to others and to think about what else you may need to learn to progress within schools or beyond.

In various articles on the Future of Work, ‘learning’ per se is at the centre of the skills and aptitude required to navigate the fourth revolution, and to enjoy a thriving career. This places teachers at the centre of the revolution. Teachers have highly transferable skills in planning, curating, managing and assessing learning. The industry of learning has always spread well beyond the school gates, but the industry globally is growing at an unprecedented rate. More than just formal institutions for learning, ‘the industry of learning’ increasingly includes significant roles such as learning designers in work settings.

Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce recently published a National Survey Report, Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s workforce for the digital future. The report highlighted 38% of workers prefer to learn in the work setting. Heather McGowan, future of work strategist, suggests that we now work to learn.

As the fourth revolution of work builds, teachers are well placed to lead learning, from early learning centres to corporate boardrooms.

Before you lead others in their learning or work, you need to be strategic, and clear about your own learning and career plan. Our world @work represents so much of our time and energy, and yet career progression is often left to happenstance.

So, while you’re relaxing or setting off on an adventure, remember to put aside a little time to think about your own future of work.

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Posted in Education, The world @work

Don’t call me maybe, call me now!!!

It’s out there on social, online, for the whole world to see, but surprisingly only a handful of people call my direct phone number. If only they knew how much difference a phone call can make!

“Hey, I just met you…”

I recently placed a candidate in his first professional job, and it’s a fantastic role with a promising career. Having only just completed his studies, with no industry experience, you can imagine the challenge for him to get a foot in the door in the corporate sector, where graduates are competing with experienced candidates, as well as each other, at this time of year.

“…and this is crazy”

Applying for a graduate position in Food Science when you’ve studied Finance is daring. If this guy had simply responded to the role I had advertised, his application probably wouldn’t have stood out amongst others that were a closer to match to the ideal educational background and technical knowledge for that position.

But he went a step further, introducing himself via email with a note to follow-up on his application. No stalking required, I’m like a real estate agent – my email address (and photograph) is all over our website, LinkedIn, below this article – you get the picture. People aren’t hard to track down these days. I responded by thanking him for the contact and letting him know that I would be reviewing his application within the next few days.

“But here’s my number, so call me maybe.”

A couple of days later, this same candidate did in fact call me; his phone manners, his attitude, his energy, were remarkable. Unfortunately he hadn’t progressed to interview for the graduate job he applied for – it’s disappointing for me too when a candidate with good potential is unsuccessful. Nevertheless he politely thanked me for my time and asked me to keep him in mind if anything else suitable should come up.

I did. And a couple of weeks later, when I was considering suitable applicants for another graduate job with a different organisation, I thought of him immediately. Why did I remember of him? Not for his resume, even though I had thoroughly screened it. It was the phone call.

Long story short… the candidate was successful, started work last month, loves his new job and the company I placed him with agrees he has a promising career.

So my advice, when you see a phone number on a job add, take the opportunity to stand out and grab the phone. Introduce yourself with enthusiasm and energy and most importantly have a smart question to ask. Maybe that’s not so crazy, after all.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

Experience – your gift to give.

A couple of times lately, younger professional women have come to seek my advice on some situations they’ve found themselves in in their work life… Anything from discussing appropriate work wear, or how to handle a tough conversation with a client or colleague, correct ways to entertain clients and how to be confident. And believe it or not, just plain feeling comfortable ‘being themselves’ in a business setting rather than ‘being an exemplar businesswoman’.

It got me thinking about the times when I went to my more experienced peers seeking advice (and I still do), and the positive impact of those conversations on me and how they shaped my career decisions.

The truth is, I feel really honoured to be a person that other women trust. Whether it’s to discuss a situation and seek my advice (somewhere along the track I may have experienced something similar or I am familiar with the circumstances) or to see how I would handle a situation. I help them make up their own mind about how to tackle it, and in most instances they just need a sounding board.

Experience in business, and the confidence that you gain as you encounter different situations, comes with time. Dealing with those difficult meetings, standing your ground on a decision, knowing when to negotiate and even knowing when to walk away from a deal, all come with time.

As a recruiter, I see many candidates who are starting out in their career and have aspirations of taking over the world – their enthusiasm for their work is palpable!  It’s something I find quite inspiring and probably something that makes me enjoy working with people daily.

I think those of us with experiences over time have a responsibility to guide and mentor others who are starting their professional life or making a change in their career. When the going gets tough and someone less experienced doesn’t know how to handle a situation, it’s up to us to listen. We should take time out to talk with them about how to handle that situation, so that once resolved, they can add it to their collection of experiences, to one day pass on with their experience gained with time.

Are you part of a mentoring program or have you benefited from being mentored at any stage of your career? What advice would you give to other professionals who are just starting out or are new to the industry in your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Perception versus reality

Making the decision to change direction mid-career is not easy.

I spent over a decade in the construction industry, first as a draftsperson, later as a market analyst, working in both Australia and the UK. While for a time the data nerd/maths geek in me enjoyed analysing the dynamics of supply and demand on materials and labour costs across the industry, I found I was becoming more interested in the people and organisations bringing projects to market.

After months of deliberation (and procrastination), I realised further study was the only viable option to take me where I wanted to go in the long-term. I enrolled in a postgraduate Diploma of Psychology with the intention of pursuing it through to a Masters.

Earlier this year, with the majority of my first degree completed, I made the move back home to Melbourne from London. Looking for a role that would leverage my industry knowledge and complement my ongoing studies, an opportunity presented itself… enter Slade Group.

My preconception of the recruitment industry was of pushy twenty-somethings cold-calling businesses in a frantic effort to meet daily sales quotas. Presumably little thought was given to understanding candidates’ personalities and motivations, nor the cultures of the businesses recruiters represented. It seemed to me the odds of landing on a considered, collaborative process, let alone matching the right candidate with the right role, were similar to spinning zero in roulette.

After carefully researching the role, I admit I still had a degree of trepidation when I decided to take on a consulting role. My perception of recruiters had changed, but the reality once I was in the job was even further from those first thoughts.

So, what’s it really like being a recruiter?

Sure, as with all professional services, business development is part of the process of managing a client portfolio. However, calling potential hiring managers with the intent to set-up a face to face discussion is not a pointless numbers game; meeting with employer clients allows us to develop a deeper understanding of their organisation, its vision and mission, and the type of people who are suited to the culture. Typically I have found employers appreciate a consultative approach – the depth of my inquiry to gain a sound understanding of their needs is authentic.

I’ve worked with great companies who are involved in some exciting projects, particularly during the current construction and infrastructure boom in Victoria. And I’ve connected with some highly talented people who will remain in my professional network.

As I return to full-time study to complete the last chapter of the qualifications I mentioned earlier, I’ll be able to apply the practical knowledge I’ve gained in the recruitment business. When it’s my time as a hiring manager, I’ll have a greater appreciation for the tangible benefits that top talent are seeking in a prospective employer (flexibility, a positive culture, development opportunities…). I will also be attuned to some of the prerequisites that can ease frustrations on both side – a well thought through job description, clear strategic hiring objectives and a thorough briefing from the organisation.

What have you learned through experience that has changed your perception about an industry or a particular role?

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Six ways to improve your workplace confidence

The word confidence has been on the forefront of my mind lately. Whether you are conscious of if it or not, confidence is an incredibly powerful feeling/belief that significantly impacts the way you carry yourself throughout life. Working in recruitment, confidence plays a vital role in how successful I am as a Consultant. I am lucky enough to work within an incredibly supportive team at Slade Group, who have given me the space to develop my confidence so I can perform at my highest potential.

Here are six ways to immensely improve your confidence in the workplace:

  1. Positive self-talk is key! Your thought process will dictate the way you act and therefore determine how others will treat you. If you practice positively reframing negative thoughts on a daily basis, you will eventually reprogram you thoughts to be more positive.
  1. Stop caring so much about what others think. It is human nature to desire validation from others, however it is not always required to succeed. When your headspace is not preoccupied stressing about the judgement of others, you have more room to channel your energy in productive ways.
  1. Competency = Confidence, it’s a simple equation. As a Recruitment Consultant, it is important that I maintain a well-rounded knowledge so I can make educated decisions and be a valid source of information for my candidates and clients. Put the time and effort into understanding what is going on around you! Remember to ask the right questions, pick up the Financial Review, and take notice of politics!
  1. Take care of yourself. There are many benefits involved when living a healthy life, including an increase in your confidence! Maslow made a timeless point, so it is no coincidence we constantly hear about “healthy eating, sleep patterns and exercise”. I certainly perform better at work when I make a healthy dinner and stick to my bedtime.
  1. Practice your Power Poses. Stand with your feet apart and hands on hips, pretend you are a super hero and feel the confidence surge throughout your entire body. Now I know this sounds silly but it works. Oprah does it… need I say more?
  1. Be authentic. Take the pressure off, don’t feel like you need to act a certain way. People who accept who they are, happen to be the most confident.

I hope reading this article gave you a big CONFIDENCE BOOST!

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

My three biggest career regrets

If you were to look at most people’s career trajectory, it generally rises over time, but zoom in a little and you’ll probably see some dips or a drop along the way. The upside to those dips is that a set-back in life can be a fantastic opportunity for learning and growth. In hindsight, you may even come to see that the valuable learning opportunities provided by the drop gave you the tools you needed to achieve something amazing, or the confidence to try something out of the box that really paid off.

Here are my three biggest career regrets to date, and the lessons I learnt from each of them.

  1. Look after yourself. I turned down a phone interview for an incredible sounding job with an arts organisation in Hobart because I didn’t think I could sneak out of work for the call. It was in my early days in the workforce and I just didn’t understand that you need to look after yourself when job hunting is at play. Of course I always advocate leaving on good terms when you do move on, but I didn’t realise in that scenario that I needed be less passive if I was ever going to get another job.

Lesson: Nobody is going to look out for you in the same way that you will look out for yourself. You need to be your strongest advocate and do whatever is in your power to make things happen. 

  1. Never under-prepare for interviews. I have done this on a couple of occasions, by underestimating the advantage of interview preparation in helping you to successfully win a role. I went in full of boundless enthusiasm and thought that would carry me through to success (and, to be fair, that has often been enough). I hadn’t really done any research on the role or the company, and I certainly hadn’t done any preparation in terms of practising typical interview questions, in order to get a feel for what my key strengths were and why I thought I would be a good fit for the role.

Lesson: You can never be over prepared. You won’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked in an interview, but if you have spent some time contemplating the proffered role from several different angles, and how it may relate to your skills and experience, then you’ll be well placed to answer any questions on the fly that you hadn’t expected.

  1. Think carefully before turning down a job. I had just started university and in my search for work, I submitted my resume to a nearby chocolate factory (yes, really) because I had heard from a friend that if you worked there you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted. They called me up, but I had too many contact hours at uni, so I wasn’t able to take the job. It was almost twenty years ago, but to be honest, I am still heartbroken over it!

Lesson: If you have a dream/goal/vision, then chase it with every particle of your body. Perhaps I could have gone part-time, or considered dropping out of uni altogether. In any case I should have done WHATEVER it took to get that job and fulfil my dream to eat all the chocolate I wanted.

What are some of your career regrets? What lessons have you learned?

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

‘Bitty Learning’ overtakes MBAs as the new Career Cache.

Why would The Wall Street Journal report that MBA applications across the world are down three years running? Isn’t an MBA a sure ticket to a high paying and interesting career?

At Slade Group we’re very interested in labour market trends and skills matches, but it’s been a long time since we’ve heard the phrase ‘an MBA would be highly desirable’ as a criteria for hiring.

There seem to be three indicators for the decline in the attraction of MBAs:

  1. Follow the money
  2. Currency of skills
  3. ‘Value Added Ratio’

Follow the money: The money’s left Wall Street, Collins St, Pitt St etc and is headed for wherever the Technology sector lives. While MBAs are useful in the tech sector, software engineers, mathematicians, systems engineers, machine learning skills are in more demand.

Currency of skills: Big jobs data tells a rich global story. At the recent Nous Group forum, Burning Glass Technologies’ Matthew Sigelman, joined the data dots to build the picture for skills, education and employment.

Skills are the unit of currency and they’re on the move. Traditional degrees can now carry less weight than relevant skills based learning like Lean Six Sigma or PMP Certification.

The big question raised at the Nous forum was how do we, as individuals, employers and governments reskill more often, and take charge of our future? Read more here.

Value Added Ratio: MBAs cost a great deal so when the ‘added value ratio’ doesn’t add up for someone who failed or nailed their GMAT, the attraction to an MBA course also declines. In lockstep, huge hikes in course costs have matched flat lining and declining salaries for MBA graduates. From 4:1 first year salary to course cost to a 1.8:1 ratio, the MBA flavor has soured.

The fact is that an MBA can now be worth less than the sum of its bitty parts.  It all trends towards upskilling for in-demand expertise throughout our careers as a pathway for growth and success. In response universities are finally starting to unbundle their degrees and allow for macro and micro learning programmes.

We’re in the middle of interesting times!

What is your experience in your world of learning @work?

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Posted in The world @work