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Bench and the City

A Working Holiday Visa doesn’t have to mean charity mugging other professionals on Collins Street. It can literally turn your world upside down (if you’re from the northern hemisphere, like me). Currently residing in Melbourne – one of the top destinations for Brits on working holidays – I’m originally from Liverpool in the UK. As the newest member of the Interchange Bench team, I am delighted to share my Aussie story (so far) and provide some insight into the seemingly chaotic world of a traveller working in the professional services industry.

Back in early 2018 I was a wide-eyed, fresh-faced, slightly less tanned 20 something who had just touched down, eager to explore what Australia had to offer. Some would say I was living VERY vicariously (using pay pass in any country is just too easy – keeping track of your spending, not so much).

Fast forward two months of living life to the fullest… my finances considerably diminished, I was almost royally f#&$@d! I knew it was time to stop fantasising about never ending holidays and return to the real world, which meant I would have to secure a full time job!

I had previous experience in Healthcare Recruitment and Law in London, so securing a role that would stimulate me, as well as further develop my skills and experiences, seemed like a reasonable expectation. Yet after scanning numerous backpacker pages on Facebook and applying for hundreds of jobs on SEEK, Indeed and various other job boards, I was at a loss as to why I was unsuccessful.

I’d already tried the standard traveller’s juggling act: two hospitality jobs with unsociable hours that were not only underpaying me, but I was travelling the length and breadth of the city just so I could eat and pay my rent. Over the course of 6 months I realised it was very easy to fall into the trap of an unbalanced working lifestyle… and once you’re in it, it can be very hard to get out.

Horror stories abound about the 88 days of regional farm work we travellers do to extend our time here. I appreciate that fruit picking would be an anathema to many city folk, so you may be surprised to know I found it rewarding. The location wasn’t too bad (I worked at a renowned winery in the Margaret River region, just a few hours south of Perth on the beautiful WA coast). My labouring pushed me in ways I didn’t think it would (mentally, not physically, the monotonous nature of the work meant you had a LOT of time to reflect). Battling Mother Nature in the peak of winter for 8 hours wasn’t on my bucket list, but it had to be completed and I’m so happy I did it. During my three month period in Western Australia I met characters from all different walks of life. I spotted kangaroos, explored majestic jewel-caves, surfed for the very first time, took selfies with the smiling quokkas in Rottnest Island (officially the world’s happiest animal, according to the WWF) and even had the sheer luck to see a Great White shark at Busselton (from a safe distance).

With the epiphany that upon my return to Melbourne, I’d solely apply for positions that would offer me fulfilment and career development, I now look back on my first approach to job hunting and understand the errors in my ways. I didn’t have my recruitment head on: my cover letters were generic, the emails I sent to hiring managers were longwinded and I’d left all traces of my personality somewhere back on the road. No wonder I received hardly any responses!

Thankfully things changed when I fell in with a recruitment consultant. Job searching in general is hard work, but much tougher in a foreign country, even when you speak the language (no comments on my accent please). Hand on heart, recruiters are the glue that bind candidates to jobs in the market. They provide insight and guidance regarding career progression, pay rates and much more. But most importantly, working with someone that’s on your side helps alleviate some of the stress that comes with a job search, as well as being a fish out of water in an ocean on the other side of the world.

Things began to change and opportunities arose. With the support of my consultant at the Interchange Bench, I navigated the storm of the Australian job market, and here I am on the other side of the desk, ready to do the same for you.

Have you ever taken a working holiday? I’d love to hear about your experiences as an expat in the world @work.

Look out for more Bench and the City posts on the Interchange Bench blog or follow us on Instagram

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

How everyone can develop resilience: 3 things you can do right now.

Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Or in my words: “Being able to take a hit, and get back up and keep fighting.”

Recently relocating from Sydney to Melbourne, let’s just say I appreciate the differences between the two!  Coming from a retail background, not only did I have to adjust to a different work style in the corporate world, but there were the challenges of moving to a new city, making new friends and starting a new job that anyone who has ever been an ‘expat’ will relate to.

Any major life change can be daunting. While I knew there was a chance my move might not be successful, I also knew that if I didn’t step outside my comfort zone to make the move, then I would never know.

In all aspects of life, we need resilience. It builds strength of character, enhances relationships and most importantly, helps us to be at peace with ourselves.

Monique Slade from Springfox and The Resilience Institute shared her personal experience with our team in a training session this week. Speaking about her role model for resilience, Monique told us about her mother, who at the age of 50, unexpectedly lost her husband to illness. With young kids and no financial security, she found herself at a crossroad. Instead of spiralling downwards into distress, she chose to master the stressful situation, engage her emotions and spirit into action. It was a lesson in resilience for herself, and for her children.

Hearing Monique’s story was extremely empowering. It made me realise that we all make choices. While life rarely goes the way we planned it, we choose our mindset, have control of our actions and can model the person we want to be.

As for me, going from being a Sydneysider to a Melburnian wasn’t all smooth sailing.  There are some noticeable cultural differences (Melbourne cafes, pretty hard to beat – Sydney, you got the weather) and comparing a corporate culture to a retail environment – so many processes and procedures to learn, but so little stock!

Here are three take outs from our resilience training that have helped me, which you can use right now:

  1. Give yourself credit – You have the resources within you to be more resilient. Think about the times in your personal or professional life where you may have struggled, survived and bounced back.
  2. Stop ruminating – Focus on the here and now. Don’t let your mind drift into worrying about the past or the future. Learn mindfulness or focusing techniques to train your brain to stop creating its own stress.
  3. Take a deep breath – I volunteered to be hooked up to a heart rate monitor at our training session to see how a few deep breaths could lower my stress level. Breathing is now part of my morning routine.

Taking risks to strive for the things we want in life helps us to recognise our achievements. Don’t get hung up on What if? Just give it a go. I now know that I am capable of great things. Whatever life throws at me, I’m a little bit more prepared to deal with it. I am resilient.

How have you learned to overcome adversity and become more resilient in the world @work? What are some of the strategies you use to maintain your grace and control?

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Posted in Slade Education, The world @work

It’s not just about bringing croissants to morning tea!

Going back to see my family in France recently caused me to reflect on Australian multiculturalism. Did you realise that in Australia one in four of us was born overseas?

I was born in Bar-le-Duc, a small town in France to a French mother and Moroccan father. My fiancé is German born Russian, and we live (soon to be married) in Melbourne, Australia.

I have always been fascinated and sometimes challenged by different cultures. From a very young age, I developed an instinctive ability to adapt to other cultures. Spending my summer breaks at my grandma’s in Morocco, I was not the little French girl anymore – In my heart I deeply felt like a Moroccan girl. It has not only been adapting to another language, I even feel the tone of my voice and my facial expressions changing in different cultural situations.

However, when you move to a new country, you take it to the next level… Sometimes you find yourself completely lost, and not only in translation!

Allow me to share a memorable story from my time as a stewardess on a beautiful catamaran in The Kimberley. Freshly arrived from France, I decided to take up the challenge of working as a crew member in a team of seven. As the only woman! The challenge was real for many different reasons, but the language barrier created some hilarious situations.

There we were, on the first night on the boat and these deckhands start sharing stories about “Old Mate”. What followed was every night, when we were hanging out in the galley to do the dishes and share a beer, I would hear them mentioning their Old Mate again and again. After nearly a week, tired of being the only one who didn’t know this guy, I got the courage to finally ask, who is this Old Mate that everyone knows? In case you’re not familiar with the colloquialism, using Old Mate in place of the subject’s name in an anecdote assumes that the listener can identify them within the context – or not. Sometimes Old Mate’s a generic person who is irrelevant to the point of the story.

When I first started working in a professional environment, I thought I was doing a great job by arousing interest, soliciting for business and suggesting to clients they seduce candidates without realising the literal translation of those words and their cultural implications!

People are curious by nature, so when they notice my accent in person or on the phone it’s often a great conversation starter. I still make the occasional faux pas, but I’ve learnt how to own it by making it my point difference, whether I’m networking or socialising.

Cultural competence, in brief, is the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures. In today’s workplaces, cultural diversity is part of everyday life. If I were to think about why embracing – actually I’d say celebrating – cultural diversity matters, I would put it in the following terms: Capturing unique talent; Boosting innovation; Encouraging productivity.

Of course your attitude towards cultural differences depends on your world view, but I would highly recommend investing in developing your cross-cultural skills… which is not just about bringing croissants to morning tea.

Given Australia’s multicultural society, how do you make the most of the different cultures in your world @work? What’s different about you that works to your advantage?

 

Interested in French style? Join me for Slade Chats with ‘French Chic’ Caroline Vosse – FrenChicTouch blogger, public speaker and entrepreneur at 6pm on Wednesday 13 June 2018. Click here  for details.

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Posted in Slade Business Support, The world @work