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I’m also Covid collateral.

Remember 2019? It was late that year when I took the Melbourne-based role of General Manager for Slade Group and the Interchange Bench. I’d come fresh off an extended break, including giving myself the time to do the Camino De Santiago Trail, to find some ‘me time’ for reflection after 25 years working full time, living in Perth and raising a family of three girls, now young women.

At that stage I had every intention of travelling regularly back to Perth where my young adult children live. That was pre-Covid, when people travelled freely within Australia, often part of any national role.  Our old world @work seems like an alternate universe, with remote working, remote meetings and WFH all part of the 2021 nomenclature.  

With Melbourne and Sydney both in ongoing lockdowns, and continuing border restrictions in place between States, it became very difficult to catch up in person with colleagues, clients and candidates. While I certainly missed those professional relationship building opportunities, on a personal level the relationships I cherish with family and friends suffered the most. While as an organisation, Slade pivoted to a hybrid working model and adapted well to the online environment, it’s a whole other ball game to be separated for long periods from your loved ones.

Imagine having to factor in two weeks of quarantine for a one weekend flying visit! And that’s ONLY if very lucky in the timing to even be granted a travel pass.

From the get-go my dream job had challenges and achievements I had never imagined. Early in 2020, having just begun working on business improvements, we caught a whiff of a new virus, and then in March COVID-19 hit us hard. The important thing at that point was to ensure we minimised costs with a staffing level that was sustainable. The Board and senior management were vital in this journey. We all worked hard, which was very rewarding, developing a strong team focus that saw us through some really tough times. Fortunately, a well-established company with 50+ years in business, a diverse temporary and permanent client portfolio (including essential workers) and risk spread across commercial and government contracts held us in good stead for the remainder of the hardest years on record. Thank you also to the powers that be in Canberra for JobKeeper which kept us going through the darkest months.

But I was unable to make easy trips back and forth to Perth see ‘my girls’.

When the market improved, our brands’ strength really shone. We saw the benefit flow through job orders, whilst also attracting quality consulting talent. Covid fluctuations aside, our attention to building longstanding client and candidate relationships meant we were there for employers when the market for talent opened up again. The culture at Slade Group is mature and results oriented. The people are great to work with – diligent, smart, and they value themselves and each other. And through the tough Covid year(s) now we also had fun. Behind the scenes I had the support of Maria Cenic, our wonderful GM of Finance and Shared Services, together with her incredibly dedicated team, and my senior colleagues and a Board who are forward thinking and growth oriented. 

And now at the end of my Melbourne Camino Trail, I’ve reflected and dug deep to make the right decision: I have decided to return to Perth because in the end, without close family and friends there’s a gaping hole in my heart which just can’t be filled by the joy and satisfaction of work. Melbourne, I loved every minute!

And so, for the future record when someone reads Samantha Cotgrave, Reason for Leaving: Covid.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Did you fall into recruitment?

If we don’t see ourselves as Professional Services Consultants, then why should our clients?

I finished my tertiary study as an Economics Graduate with many options for a career, yet can’t imagine any other role could have given me the sense of purpose and satisfaction that my 20-year career as a recruiter and industry leader has given me. 

As a professional recruitment consultant, I use my IQ, EQ, deep questioning and listening skills and develop a sound knowledge of my sector.

I must understand the perspectives, and work in the best interests, of both my clients and candidates.

My interpersonal, negotiation and influencing skills are utilised through all parts of the job.

I must apply my analytical skills to address problems and partner with my clients to find an effective solution. 

I must use my knowledge of the market and the needs and drivers of the talent within it to truly consult.

I need to offer different solutions, have a Plan B (and C and beyond) and recognise that no two people or companies are the same. 

This is a tough gig requiring insight, creativity and originality to consistently deliver results. 

As a recruiter, I do not ‘sell’ a tangible product. I work with people, on both sides of the process; the client and the candidates.

Human beings are far more complex than any product. Unlike widgets, candidates don’t stay on the shelf whilst I negotiate a deal for them; I can’t audit a set of numbers, rely on physics, contract law, design principles of any other empirical facts.

I can’t manufacture another candidate to be just like the last candidate I ‘supplied’ to my client and we certainly can’t re-engineer a person (nor should we want to), if they don’t quite ‘fit’.

High performing people are still the critical determinant of workplace success. I clearly remember the words from a speaker at a conference I attended about 15 years ago; ‘By 2020, Executive Search and Selection will be ranked as one of the Top 20 jobs.’ Why? Because to secure high performing talent is the mission of every high performing organisation.

What we do may not be ‘rocket-science’, but sometimes it seems like it’s more difficult than getting a person to the moon.

To build and maintain a career in this industry, I’ve had to have a genuine interest in the long-term success of the people I am working with; my colleagues, my clients and my candidates.  

The best recruiters make it look easy. Underneath it there is a huge amount of skill and effort and when the deadlines roll in it can become stressful very quickly.

As our understanding of human psychology, workplace culture and performance have evolved, so have the challenges and skills of a recruiter evolved.

As a naïve graduate I couldn’t possibly know how my career would turn out.

I’m grateful that it’s turned out the way it has, even in the face of what the COVID-19 shock has delivered to recruitment, and the workforce, in 2020.

I don’t know what’s ahead in the next few months, or years, but I am confident that everything I have learned from my career as a recruiter has given me the best possible chance to thrive and to help my colleagues, clients and candidates thrive as well.

Bring it on. 

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Diggers. Shining a light on our current hardship.

My grandfather was a Digger – a Navigator for the RAAF in WW2 in New Guinea and the Coral Sea. He saw the best and worst in men, fighting on both sides. He rarely spoke of it, but when I was nine years old, he took our whole family on a trip, by boat, to deepen our understanding of, and honour, our history.

We started our journey of remembrance in Rabaul in PNG and finished, after layovers in Singapore and Hong Kong, at the Nagasaki Peace Park in Japan. My grandfather held no malice; he held no grudge; rather he believed that every man, on whichever side he was fighting, loved his country, was making sacrifices for his nation, and its future, and by the doctrine of that culture. 

No history class or book I’ve read since has left such a deep impression on my spirit.

As I reflect on the sacrifices our Anzacs made, I hope that we can take inspiration from their spirit as we navigate the challenge our society faces today. The sense of mateship, helping others and working together to achieve a common goal are values that continue to inspire us.

During this time of uncertainty in the face of COVID-19, we can take heart that the collective measures of our individual actions are making a significant difference to our mortality rates. It is a difficult time, and everyone is experiencing different levels of hardship; whether it be by loss of income, loneliness, family ructions, failed businesses, unimaginable financial hardship, increased anxiety or health challenges. This pandemic is taking a toll on societies around the world, and yet there are great examples of people being united like never before; unexpected acts of human kindness, people coming together to help where they can, and the arts, music and comedy lifting our spirits. This is no time for malice or resentment.

This weekend we are provided with an opportunity to reflect on our Diggers and the sacrifices they made to contribute to Australia’s future. To those who fought for us, we will remember you.

I, along with many other Australians, will be proudly participating in Light up the Dawn on Saturday to remember all those who have served and sacrificed. It is also wonderful to see what other members of our community are doing to show their thanks during this time of isolation. Charles Cameron, the CEO of our industry association, the RCSA, is spending Saturday taking the Last Post to the people of Euroa; his unique way of celebrating the ANZAC spirit and remembering those who have served. 

#LightUpTheDawn #AnzacDay2020 #lestweforget #ANZACspirit

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

From little things… Easter, a time for renewal

It was while waiting to cross at the lights on Spring Street last week, standing (suitably) apart from a couple on my walk home, when I overheard one say, “Things will really get bad when Bunnings closes.”

I wanted to step closer and join that conversation. Unable to, I’m thinking aloud, privileged to share with you my own Bunnings – to Easter – to renewal – to growth story.

Whatever circumstance you find yourself in this Easter; overworked, underworked or out of work, my hope is that we can use these four days to pause, to see them as an opportunity to consider new beginnings.

In the Northern Hemisphere, from where many of our ancestors originated, Easter was a Spring celebration – a time for renewal and new life. They planted in Spring, partied hard after the back-breaking work, prayed for a good season of growth, welcomed spring rains and looked forward to a bountiful harvest in five to six months.

Which brings me back to my Spring Street eavesdropping moment. The things we work on now give us a sense of accomplishment, and hope for the future. How much would we miss Bunnings if its doors had to close at this time – painting, repairing, refreshing our homes, feeding our soil, new plantings for our pots or plots and gardens.

In the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in temperate and cool climate regions, we go into Autumn and look towards winter. We have more thinking and planning time, but also seek out the plants that will grow into a bountiful harvest as we come through into Spring. We can clean out and clean up our homes and nurture personal relationships. None of it need cost a cent, but we can look back and be proud to have turned ‘the worst of times’ into ‘the best of times’. We can indulge in personal passions (so long as they don’t involve travel), sharpen our skills and improve on every day…

The theme of ‘Renewal’ marked the Pagan’s Springtime celebrations in the Northern Hemisphere. Every faith has its festivities and I’m wishing you all a Northern Hemisphere-like Easter this year, a time for renewal.

I’d love to hear what you will plant, nurture and begin to grow this Easter.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work