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What working on a super yacht taught me about navigating a new career

In late 2009 my husband Brett and I made a big decision: we wanted a sea change. Literally, we were going to live and work on a yacht. I was a well-established Senior Consultant at Slade Group and Brett was running a successful commercial photography business. Back in those relatively carefree pre-covid times when world travel was a tantalising possibility, taking an extended working holiday abroad seemed entirely reasonable. So, we packed in our jobs, packed up our lives and headed over to Europe to join the luxury Super Yacht industry.

Prior to our departure, we embarked on a journey of intense short-courses, obtaining the necessary ‘tickets’ to permit entrée into this elusive and poorly understood (pre Below-Deck TV,) industry. We downsized dramatically, selling nearly all of our possessions including our cars, rented out our home and re-homed our pets… What could possibly go wrong?

Brett had been a life-long yachtie, so his sailing skills would be invaluable in helping secure our first, breakthrough roles. Plus, I felt my solid recruitment experience, having worked over 10 years collectively with Slade Group, would be a significant advantage navigating the hiring journey. Finally, with some savvy packaging, I thought we could market ourselves as a ‘professional couple’ to the numerous Crew agencies as a winning formula.

This was the first time in a decade that I had found myself on the candidate-side of the recruitment process. Donning the latest nautical attire, with our business cards freshly printed and CVs that we’d worked and re-worked, we marched into Antibes, the mega-yacht parking lot in the South of France, full of confidence.

Attempting a career change into a completely new industry, in a foreign country and one that is well known for its love of anyone who doesn’t speak French (not) was a bold move.

We strode into our first face-to-face interview with one of yachting’s most respected recruiters.

“Are you two serious?…. Firstly, you’re married. Secondly, you’re too old. Thirdly, you’re overqualified, but under-experienced. And lastly, we are in the deep-end of the global financial crisis… Go home!”

Clearly this agent didn’t realise how far we had travelled for the interview.

All jokes aside, sadly this was every bit the sentiment we experienced from most ‘professional’ recruiters in Antibes.  Their not-so-subtle rejection of our qualifications, experience, substantial investment in our goals and passion to achieve them, was confronting. It would be an untruth if I said I hadn’t wondered whether we had made a giant mistake. This blanket response was providing every bit of motivation to hop back on a plane and return home, however we simply had not factored failure into the equation, and giving up was never on our radar.

Looking for an upside and some welcome rehydration, we targeted a select few bars where the yacht crews drink and mingle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these bars are full of Aussies and Kiwis. Expats make-up the large majority of all crew across the world, due to our strong work ethic, reputation for being easy going and the lack of red tape our passports afford.

Whilst bar-networking and sharing our experiences, I came to the sharp realisation that the industry at the time was highly unregulated. Those attributes deemed undesirable by recruitment agencies, were seen in a very different light when we spoke to captains and owners’ representatives. Amongst the right audience, we were seen as committed, mature and reliable. A huge shift in attitude towards us, which was refreshing.

Inset image: Super yacht

On good advice, we relocated to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, the sailing-yacht capital of the world. Within weeks a yacht owner offered us a seasonal contract with an immediate start. Our life-aboard-yachts had finally begun.

What transpired beyond our initial foray into yachting was not always smooth sailing. For long-term success in this industry, you must be open-minded and a team player. Consider the reality of living constantly within 100ft of each other, often in a confined space. Then add the challenge of multi-national crew, physically demanding work and long hours. Being away from friends and family year-round is hard, not to mention the hazards that only mother nature can conjure.

Working on super-yachts was one of the most incredible journeys of my life. We spent six amazing years working for a wonderful Belgian family, sailing the oceans of the globe, taking in the highlights of the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and the Pacific.

Reflecting on my experience as a candidate highlights the importance of researching your target market, establishing an industry network, having the courage to follow your dreams and the ambition and perseverance to make it happen. I am grateful to have been welcomed back into an industry I love and to work alongside management with a team that recognises the transferability of my skills, values both my formal and informal education and allows me the opportunity to apply the many meaningful life-lessons I have learnt over the last 20+ years.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

Step by step: returning to the office with confidence.

That thought bubble ‘returning to the office’ pops up, and a thousand worrisome considerations rush through my mind.  Questions such as: Will I be safe travelling on public transport? Am I not only risking my own health, but the health of my colleagues, just by turning up in person? Is our ‘COVID-19 Safe Plan’ as well considered as its title suggests? And on those thoughts loop in my overwrought mind…

These questions are not unique to me, my co-workers or our contingent workforce. They are also front of mind for many Melbournians who are being gently coaxed or otherwise cajoled to return to their physical office spaces. Some employers are well prepared, having had staff off-site for close to two years, while others are still scrambling to work out the best way to ease employees back into offices. Whether traditional offices will even be required, now that remote and hybrid working is well established thanks to multiple lockdowns, is also a valid question.

Step 1: It’s psychological

The return-to-work dilemma may seem, at the outset, a genuine physiological concern. However, I’m willing to stand up and say the issue isn’t partly physiological; it’s in fact completely psychological.

A logical person would say: I trusted science enough to receive my full vaccination, countless peer reviewed studies show the positive effectives of vaccinations, their protection can almost certainly keep most generally healthy adults out of ICU or from experiencing severe symptoms.

Therefore, it is logical that returning to an environment where the risk of contracting COVID-19 may be only slightly higher than in your own home is not enough to harbour serious fears.

Step 2: Start with baby steps

Looking at the psychology of how we form habits, we corporate types need to recreate the daily habits and routines that we were accustomed to prior to the pandemic. Hence the ‘baby steps’ approach that some businesses have adopted.

Start with one day, a week, then two, then three and so on. On the days that you are not in the office, try to follow the same habits anyway; those morning routine keeps our minds prepared to physically go into the office and accept that process – remember when they told us that at the start of the pandemic?  It’s also great to schedule work with colleagues and arrange days where you can be in the office at the same time to support each other as you readapt to the ‘old normal’.

Step 3: It’s a matter of consistency – every day will become easier.

Many of us have experienced anxiety for the first time as a result of the pandemic. Being amongst others again can be overwhelming after months of relative solitude. For some, the very idea of stepping foot on a crowded train may deter you from even attempting to step outside your front door. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone. Most organisations have Employee Assistance or other support programs (EAP) which can help you find your own path back to normality. Beyondblue has a number of useful articles and provides live one-on-one counselling to help support your mental health journey back into the office (links to resources below).

I believe it is healthy for us all to return to our workplaces at our own pace. Life is full of risks and COVID-19 is another in the long list we live with every day. I’m looking forward to a bit of banter with my colleagues when we all return to the office. I’m excited about meeting clients in person, visiting the organisations we work with on-site and interviewing candidates face-to-face, instead of via Zoom. 

What are you most looking forward to when restrictions ease in your city?

RESOURCES

Beyond Blue
Strategies for transitioning back into the workplace after coronavirus

Think Mental Health
Returning to your workplace

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Three words that you might just want to hear: The power of positive language.

What three words best describe you?

Summing yourself up succinctly is no easy feat. Trying to identify yourself with your own words can be difficult at first, but being able to master this challenge can also be a really useful tool in life.

Our lives are never stagnant. Our taste in clothes, food and entertainment evolve continually, and so too can our personality.  As someone who has experienced significant changes over recent years, I believe the ability to re-assess myself has been imperative to my development.

With that in mind, try this simple exercise to see what three positive words could do for you.

Word #1A word to describe you as a person

Write down the word that comes into your head first, but don’t be afraid to write a list. This is not a word about how you’re currently feeling, the idea is about coming up with words that best describe you – quirky, energetic, trustworthy, loyal… Which one resonates the most?

Word #2A word to describe you at work

Are you introverted, engaging, hardworking, analytical, technical, creative, authentic, entrepreneurial? Which of these qualities are you most proud of? How would your leaders describe you?

Word #3A word to describe why people like to be around you

If you asked your family and friends to describe you, what would they say? (Disclaimer: it’s not necessary to ask them for the purpose of this exercise; you may need a thick skin if you do!) Think about times when someone has expressed gratitude or offered you a compliment – that’s the word.

Now that you have your three words, you have the ability to sell yourself. They’re the basis of your personal branding, your motto or your mantra. Reflect on them when you’re standing in line, waiting for a train, or even heading to an interview. While the concept of an ‘elevator pitch’ can sound clichéd, it’s great to have a few good words to say about yourself whenever the opportunity presents itself.

As you put this into practice, you will discover the power of positive language. It may evolve into an internal dialogue that leads to coaching yourself with positive self-talk. It may even be a conscious effort to replace any negativity you encounter with the words you have chosen; the more you focus on those positive words, the less you will worry about what other people think.

This simple exercise has more power than you will likely give it credit for. I challenge you to believe in your words and I’d love to hear about the positive impact they make on your attitude to life, to yourself and others.

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Posted in Education, 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