Blog Archives

How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

I am always giving my clients tips on how to work online. Here are the key complaints I hear from clients and friends:

  • It’s hard to connect with people
  • It’s hard to keep productive
  • It’s lonely, and
  • There’s a tendency to work too much

 I feel this happens for several reasons:

  • We’re just not that used to it – yet
  • We are trying to work using old routines and models that are better suited for face to face
  • We still have a few issues feeling comfortable in front of a camera, or with technology in general, and
  • For those working from home, this means working from what is/was our personal space. Considering how much of our personal space we want to share on-screen is still something many are struggling with.

But, working online is now the main aspect of white-collar working life. Many office workers who, pre-pandemic, had to commute to work now can work remotely. Even if they go back to the office, you may find it empty, and most of the work you do is still in front of the computer anyway. So for transitional office-based companies, virtual companies, working for yourself, or job hunting, I hope you will find these tips helpful.

I work from home all day, every day. Here are my top tips:

1. Be ruthless with emails

I check them every day, early in the morning and last thing at night. I don’t advise everyone to do this; quite the contrary. I do it because it suits my line of work. It works for me because I have clients globally. I just invite you to consider the following: what email management routine will help you cope with your work? Then apply it daily, and stick to it.

Another email rule is that I don’t answer emails after hours or on the weekend. Many of my clients email me during the weekend because if they are working, this is the time they have to work on their career plans and job search. But I need my break; otherwise, I will burn out. I will still read the emails every morning, even on weekends, because I need to keep an eye on emergencies. If it’s not an emergency, it can wait.

2. GIFs and Emojis are fine

We need to find ways to show emotions when working online. I’ve learned to love to by observing how the millennials and Gen Z use them. I used to think they were childish. But now, I hardly see anyone face to face, and if an emoji will translate my facial expression or emotion and make people smile, then I am a fan. It’s important to be playful and have some fun during work. But keep in mind that you need to know when and who to send them to. Of course, GIFs and emojis are not for every communication. In my case, if you get an emoji from me, it’s because we’re already pals.

3. Videos and voice messages are your friend

I am addicted to Loom, a video messaging platform that has replaced at least half of my written emails. Here is an example: in this video, I am teaching how to disable the “People also viewed” box on LinkedIn. I always recommend that all my clients do this when they’re looking for work.

I copy-paste the link to the Loom video into an email, send it to a client, and this is how I coach between sessions. I also communicate with my family in Australia and overseas with voice messages on WhatsApp. This way, it’s more personal, and I don’t have to look at the screen and type all day. I can record when I’m walking. It’s much more fun for me to receive a voice message from a friend on the other side of the world than read her text.

4. Look good on video

  • Show up on camera as much as possible. There’s nothing worse for a meeting organizer or event speaker when everyone’s camera is off. I also believe it’s better for your career
  • Invest in a camera with clear image and audio. I will link here the camera I use. It sits either on my monitor or on a tripod
  • Have it at your eye-level
  • Ensure you have a background that denotes professionalism
  • Avoid fake and blurry backgrounds: they are suitable for emergencies, for example, if you’re traveling. Another exception is for corporate branding only, such as when you’re holding a public event or conference.

5. Create fun traditions and opportunities working online

I am a fan of a Zoom open-door policy. It’s like the old-fashion open door, but on Zoom, Google meet, or wherever you hold your online video meetings. I also know that some workplaces are trying new traditions such as trivia nights and drinks. And finally, make the most out of your online work environment by posting, sharing ideas, and contributing to others who take the lead and share. Please, everyone, try to give these a go.

6. Have at least two monitors

Having at least two monitors is an essential aspect of working online. It helps with so many different tasks. Drag and drop, presentation view, and working while checking the Slack activity. It ’s the best investment you will ever make.

7. Find time during the week to have real coffee with a colleague or a walking meeting. 

I know that for some people, the comfort of working from home is hard to give up. But it’s really important to maintain connections with colleagues and your professional network. In a few days, I will have a walking meeting with someone I have not seen for over two years. I am happy she reached out and glad that the pandemic has made it ok for us to have a professional conversation while walking on the beach, wearing leggings.

New times, new traditions!

The Job Hunting Podcast

The Job Hunting Podcast
138. How to work online, remain productive, and connect with people

» Click here to listen


This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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Posted in Job Hunting Made Simple, The world @work

A pocket coach for ‘people moments’.

Who hasn’t ever struggled dealing with the real people stuff? The difficult conversations, the underperformance, anxiety, imposter syndrome, hybrid working, juggling family, team dynamics. All of it. How hard is it and how much mental anguish can it consume?

In response to this dilemma a bunch of very smart (Australian) people have created People Spot. Take a look!

In our field of work, Slade Group is introduced to a large array of HR Tech, but to date haven’t come across an application like this one – an available on-the-spot solution, a business coach in your pocket kind of idea.

We’ve found it has a super user-friendly layout, is easy to understand and follow, and can help anyone in the workplace navigate ‘people moments’.  

We’ve tested it and are sure of its broad relevance: the new graduate employee, frontline customer services workers, mid-level leaders learning how to performance manage, specialists juggling home schooling and remote teams, and the high-flying C-suite exec – with access to further education, travel and individualised support. We all need quick, easy answers to help navigate all those tricky people moments.

The people behind People Spot are Colin Beattie, leading business coach, David Kennedy who returned to Melbourne after working with Apple in Silicon Valley, and psychologist Nerissa Beattie. They’ve all actively wanted to create a solution to help people better navigate the often messy moments of human interaction.

They needed backing and support and brought in some trusted names from Australia’s largest businesses, from finance to tech: Nigel Dalton former CTO from REA Group, Nat Feehan Chief Customer & Commercial Officer for Estimate One, along with Kate Temby former Goldman Sachs Managing Director and now Partner at Affirmative Investment Management.

It launched earlier this year and we’re hoping The People Spot might help us all! They’re excited that it’s struck a chord with us and have offered an exclusive offer to readers of The Slade Report, use our discount code SLADE10 at thepeoplespot.com to save 10% on any order. 

What have been your hardest People Moments in your world @work?

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Posted in The world @work

The fundamental aspects of culture that schools must address to attract more teachers

A 40 per cent reduction in graduates going into teaching, coupled with the fact that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, means there are far more fundamental cultural and societal issues at play, particularly in regards to teachers in Secondary schools.

Recent financial inducements as part of the Federal election campaign to attract more graduates into school teaching are no doubt welcome. Teachers have never been paid sufficiently and certainly not in relation to the importance and value they have towards a society’s future.

Quality teaching and quality schools add immeasurably not only to economic success, but so importantly to social harmony and a society’s progress.

In Australia, the value of teachers has never been properly valued and respected. Now, more than ever, that needs to be rectified. To advance teaching as a profession, the voice of educators and school leaders needs to be heard and respected loud and clear.

However, the greatest reward and energy quality teachers get from teaching lies in seeing and participating in the learning by their students: seeing them grow and develop in their learning and understanding, and rejoicing in helping guide those students towards exciting futures.

So, apart from the importance of societal recognition of the value of teaching, the culture within schools (like any organisation) is integral to a renewed sense of value and reward within the profession – particularly given the added pressures associated with the past two and a half years of the pandemic.

Here are four fundamental aspects of culture that I believe schools must address in the current candidate short environment:

  1. Wellbeing and support: Is the culture within the school one that provides strong wellbeing and support for teachers? Is it one that recognises the demands of the profession and puts in place wellbeing measures that are customised to the needs of individual teachers?
  2. Student care: Is there a culture within a school where each teacher feels able to support the wellbeing needs of their students, needs that were already considerable pre-pandemic and seem to have grown exponentially in recent times?
  3. Learning and development: Is there a learning culture within the school that listens to the voice of educators and other staff and provides relevant, personalised professional learning that empowers staff in their fundamental purpose – to enhance the learning by their students?
  4. Coaching and mentoring: Is there a culture of coaching and mentoring within a school so that all teachers, from relatively inexperienced to those more experienced, believe their growth and development as professionals is enhanced by collectively and collaborating working with others?

Peter Drucker was famously quoted as saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He didn’t mean strategy was unimportant, rather that an empowering culture was critical to organisational success. Strong culture in an educational environment needs great strategy, but the latter won’t work without reflection and action on key measures to support teacher wellbeing and growth.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Education, Slade Executive, The world @work

The U30s are different.

Covid delayed a lot of Under 30s’ plans for the exhilarating two year stint living and working abroad, but with borders re-open, they’re busting out in big numbers again.

Before moving to London this month from Melbourne, 27 year old Kirsty had two very attractive offers from two UK consulting firms. Both sizeable, reputable organisations, the choice for Kirsty in assessing their job offers wasn’t so much about the role or the salary. For Kirsty it came down to their respective answer to one question: “What are your WFH/WFO arrangements?”

One said, “We’re super flexible, we all work when and where we want, at home or in the office.” The other said, “We offer some flexibility, but most of us are in the office most days.” Kirsty jumped at the opportunity to work in an office where she’d get to work with and know her colleagues In Real Life. Who would have seen that wheel turning? Not me! As Kirsty said, “Why would I want to live in some dodgy affordable share house and work from my bedroom all day? I want to get out and meet people, and at work is the obvious place where that happens.”

Those at mid and later stage careers can likely look back on their first decade in the workforce as one which was fast, fun and challenging. We didn’t have too many responsibilities outside of work, and family life, if that lay ahead, was still a foreign country. Who didn’t collect a handful of friends they made at work in their 20s? And perhaps you’re one of the two in five people who have had relationships with people they met through work? Pretty hard to have a drink over Zoom on Friday night and kick on.

Leadership is hard, and this is another example of the nuanced decision making that is required in policy planning and employee centred decision making. A 27 year old is very different to a 47 year old, and we can’t assume their workstyle needs are the same!

Good luck managing through another year of challenging decision making.

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Posted in The world @work

Why candidates have become a rare commodity

No doubt you’ve heard, Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to 4% – the lowest since 2008 – and is predicted to fall even lower. SEEK recently confirmed that they are experiencing an all time high in available jobs, coupled with the lowest candidate availability since 2012. Furthermore, the recruitment website confirmed a 40% increase in jobs Australia wide, with an 80% increase in Victoria alone!

In our post-covid capital cities, let alone regional centres, candidates have become a rare commodity. A unique series of events, including continuing Covid outbreaks and mutations, lockdowns, border closures, travel restrictions, lack of migrants, students and working holiday travellers, has combined to create a perfect storm.  And there is no shortage of jobs. I will take this opportunity to send a shout out to all the human resources, hiring managers and recruiters who have displayed continued resilience after everything the last two years has thrown at us. We’ve taken yet another deep breath, dived deeper into the diminishing candidate pool, and continued to successfully place top performing talent – but it is TOUGH!

Engaging candidates (whether passive, engaged, open to a conversation etc.) is actually more than just contacting potential hires. I’m sure those of us on the recruiting frontlines have experienced the highs and lows of candidates: no-shows at interviews, ghosting, withdrawals at the last minute, accepting another role that seemingly came out of the blue, unrealistic salary demands (not so unrealistic as it turns out, when the push for higher remuneration is being met elsewhere)… I could go on! In addition to this, working from home, hybrid work and flexible working arrangements are now arguably the most import factor in determining whether a candidate is even interested in a new role.

In today’s market, understanding the motivation behind an individual’s career move is more important than ever. Whilst salary, work-life balance, career management, professional development, interesting projects and meaningful work are not particularly new concepts, taking the time to explore a candidate’s motivators is somewhat novel. It may surprise some of you to read that I have found the only way forward with candidates is to genuinely service and interact with them. Yes, it’s a return to our old school ways: over communicate, don’t make assumptions, close the conversation loop, gain commitment and follow the process.

If I had a dollar for every candidate that was genuinely shocked when they were called to advise they had been unsuccessful, were given valid feedback on why they didn’t get through an interview, or had a pep talk to prepare them for an interview with the hiring organisation…  

While it may seem candidate loyalty has wavered since the days where employers held all the cards, could it be that we all had a part in driving them away from us because we stopped genuinely caring? It’s food for thought.

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Breaking the Bias: 5 things I’ve learned as a female leader

It’s rewarding to see other women succeed. I started my career in my mid 20s with a large multinational, led mainly by men who excelled in micro-management… they scrutinised all of our activities, imposed onerous activity reports and even questioned sick days. On results, my team were successful, but I didn’t aspire to their version of a manager – managing that way wasn’t my style. I left feeling burnt out, with a feeling management wasn’t for me.

As it turned out, every director I worked with subsequent to that early experience recognised my potential and encouraged me to go back into management. I’m glad I listened.

While challenging, management can also be incredibly rewarding, but the rewards begin when you start to think of yourself as a leader. The path to leadership was not smooth. I made mistakes – and learned from every single one of them! Most importantly, I learned that to be a leader, I also had to support and develop my team. I got a real kick out of giving them the tools (skills, experience and mentoring) to succeed and move on to the next stage of their career.

As a recruiter and team leader, I am in the unique position to be able to influence candidates and colleagues in their career choices, as well as to provide guidance to organisations on making unbiased hiring choices. I’ve encouraged both women and men to apply for opportunities that they may not ordinarily be considered for. For example, I placed a highly successful female Head of IT with a leading insurance company and recruited an amazing male executive assistant. I’ve coached businesses on the benefits of offering flexibility in their workplace: could a role be offered remotely, part-time or as a job-share arrangement to maximise the talent they attract?

On International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality, I’m sharing five things I’ve learned as a female leader:

1. Understand the importance of being a leader.

How you show up, how you communicate and how you lead, has a direct impact on your team. I looked up to successful female leaders and learned how they operate (especially when I was working in male-dominated environments), but of course you can learn from men too. Take from them what you like and leave what you don’t, but ensure to make it you own.

2. If you are not a man, don’t try to be one.

Early in my career, I thought you had to be tough and demand respect like my managers at the time (mostly men), but I was wrong. Research has shown that women in leadership not only positively contribute to an organisation’s profitability, but also bring imaginative problem-solving skills and a high level of empathy – an essential attribute for a successful leader. Take pride in your diversity, whether it’s from a female or another perspective. By being yourself, and allowing your colleagues to be themselves, you will create a productive, stable and happy team.

3. If you are underestimated, use it to your advantage.

I’ve typically worked in male dominated environments, often been the youngest in the room and consequently, have been underestimated. When that happens, don’t take it personally. Even when doing your job to the best of your ability, you may not always find opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge or use your full skillset. Make an ally of those who can see your worth, pick the right moment, engage the stakeholders and you’re sure to impress when it counts.

4. A few words about instinct and inclusion.

It is not called ‘female intuition’ for nothing, but you don’t have to be a woman to listen to your gut when it’s trying to tell you something. There have been times when I’ve not listened to my inner voice in the past and I’ve lived to regret it. However, ‘gut feel’ can also lead to bias in recruitment, which is why we use a merit-based process that has been quality assured and is independently audited. Even blind shortlists (removal of candidate names) are prone to unconscious bias and AI is capable of learned bias. When building teams it helps to maintain an awareness of diversity and inclusion across candidates from under-represented backgrounds, such as people with disabilities, Indigenous people, people from Non-English speaking backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and diverse age groups, as well as gender diversity.

5. Flexibility in the workplace is the new norm.

Pre-covid, as a mum, I felt like I was expected to work like I didn’t have a child. Flexible working has evolved significantly over the past 2-3 years to include working from home, working remotely, part-time executive roles and created better opportunities for women who may have otherwise put their careers on hold. Flexible environments also benefit both parents, single mothers (and fathers) and carers.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on what it means to be a woman in business. We still face inequality, but we’ve also come a long way. As a woman in a leadership position, I believe it is really important to encourage the next generation of women to go into management roles. And that’s a responsibility we all need to take on.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Interchange Bench, The world @work

Impostor Syndrome and Fear of Success: Renata Bernarde in conversation with Michelle Redfern

In this episode of The Job Hunting Podcast, Renata Bernarde is interviewed by Michelle Redfern, the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing research and advisory services on workplace gender equality, inclusion, and diversity. Michelle is co-host of A Career That Soars – a platform for women to grow as leaders, the founder of women’s network Women Who Get It and the co-founder of CDW, Culturally Diverse Women. This episode was originally recorded for Michelle’s podcast, Lead to Soar, a podcast for career-women looking to advance inside an organisation.

Below is an extract from the transcript of the podcast:

Renata: “When women reach out to me, sometimes they are referred to by a recruiter or a headhunter who has called them and said, I have this opportunity for you. And they’re like… You know, there’s this CFO position. And they want me to apply. And then they think about it… and think, oh, I just had two kids, and I don’t feel like I can take on more responsibility… If somebody has identified you as a leader, it’s because you probably already have skills; they probably have already seen you perform those leadership skills needed at the top. And you’re saying no to that. Why?”

Michelle: “We have so many women mired in middle management. And they’re not breaking through. Now, there are a whole bunch of factors. Of course, that’s my workaround, fixing systems and bias and barriers and things like that. But also, for women, this is a two-way street. Get out of your damn way to figure out who can help you silence or quiet (at least for some time) that voice in your head that says, Not good enough, Not ready yet, This will be too hard, whatever… take a risk and seek the payoffs that go with leading at that level… more resources, being less vulnerable, more pay.”

The Job Hunting Podcast

The Job Hunting Podcast
121.Impostor syndrome and fear of success:
A conversation with Michelle Redfern.

» Click here to listen

To coincide with International Women’s Day this year, Renata has compiled a selection of The Job Hunting Podcast episodes celebrating women’s careers. In this playlist, you will find great interviews with leaders, experts, and recruiters who share what they’ve learned and offer inspiration, tips, and recommendations for listeners.

IWD 2022 Playlist: Celebrating Women

This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Interchange Bench

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