Blog Archives

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

Money can’t buy you happiness, but flexible working can.

Flexibility now ranks top amongst what’s important to employees (even more than pay), but what does it mean in practice?

Flexible working arrangements can come in many forms. For some people being flexible will mean compressing a five day week into four days; for others it will just be having a long lunch break to fit in a gym session. For many it is just being trusted to get the job done in the timeframe required, no matter where or when you do so. Trust people to do their job and more often than not, they will repay by putting in greater effort whilst working.

For employers, the tangible benefits of workplace flexibility include: reduction in absenteeism, increase in employee morale, higher engagement, greater commitment and improved retention. In fact over 55% of millennials are expected to stay more than five years when given more flexibility at work [Deloitte Millennials Survey]. However there are downsides to promoting some aspects of flexibility, such as working from home. When people are not present in the office it can impact the social aspect of working face-to-face in a team. Despite our connected business world, working remotely online can lead to disconnection or even loneliness. Roles that require regular open and collaborative communication can also be frustrated by flexible working.  A lot of managers report finding it hard to adapt to managing people who they can’t see, which means we still need to work on addressing those concerns.

On the upside, allowing employees to work flexibly can have a massive impact on people’s health. Stress is well-known to be one of the biggest causes of illness, leading to a number of other physical health related problems. For those of us who never seem to have personal time, flexible working hours reduce the stress caused by other pressures in life, allowing us to adapt our schedules to accommodate commitments such as family, sports activities, other hobbies and interests or just get a few chores done. It further relieves pressure on transport infrastructure, saving commuting time, which has environmental and health benefits for those travelling as well.

A major downside to flexible working is that it doesn’t suit everyone, nor every job. Flexible working doesn’t work for people who can’t motivate themselves; some people need supervision to get on with the job. With flexibility comes responsibility, so while there’s no harm in putting on a load of washing while you work, other distractions (your phone, social media, online shopping, what’s going on outside…) are still present. Some managers are still beholden to presenteeism, so if you’re not seen, you may be overlooked to contribute on interesting projects or miss out on career development opportunities.

I understand that flexible working isn’t for everyone and some jobs just aren’t that flexible. But I do think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and more people should be given flexible working opportunities. Would anyone begrudge that spending a few more hours each week with their families and friends, enjoying hobbies, reading, exercising and travelling wouldn’t have a positive impact on their professional life? To varying degrees it’s already happening in some industries. It’s up to us to make it work.

 

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Posted in Slade Executive, 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 Slade Education

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 Slade Executive, The world @work

Work ethic and the M word

Over the years as an HR professional I have seen several generations at work. Putting people in boxes goes against the grain with me – most workers defy categorisation, let me tell you!

So when people start talking about Boomers and Xers, Ys and Zs (or broadly Millennials, if you’re trying to capture those at the end of the alphabet) as clearly defined cohorts, I’m naturally suspicious. We’ve been battling the unfair assumption that those new to the workforce expect the world or don’t seem to be aware they have to earn their stripes for millennia. I have always been someone to give credit where credit is due, so I wanted to share a couple of feel-good stories to counter those stereotypes.

The chicken or the egg

Life for graduates is certainly not easy. With the number of students in higher education in Australia on the up and up, more and more are graduating, and those with similar qualifications are often finding themselves vying for the same positions. Many companies prefer to hire someone with experience, but how do you get experience if no one is willing to give you a job to get it? Sometimes it takes a little bit of creative thinking, so I’m always happy when I see graduates really taking ownership of their careers by thinking about different ways they can gain experience.

Recently I was speaking to a graduate who was desperately trying to find work to get started in their career. Like many others, they were having trouble getting a foot in the door. What about volunteering? they asked me. What a great idea! I said. Because I work with a number of Not-for-Profit organisations, I was even able to find them volunteer work in their field of expertise (IT). This graduate is now gaining valuable on-the-job experience in their field while giving back to the community. And who knows, in recruitment we often see candidates in temporary roles offered a permanent position.

Going the extra mile, or the long commute

A former colleague of mine asked me if they could introduce me to a talented HR graduate, even if it was just for a coffee and a chat. I was more than willing to do this, as you never know who you could meet. I found her to be a bright and ambitious candidate, willing to try anything to get a break. While she was impressive, I didn’t have any suitable positions I could help her with at the time.

As is often the case, a few weeks later I was speaking to a client who needed HR administration support. I arranged an interview for the candidate. The outcome – she was offered a job with the company. It sounds easy and perhaps a bit too good to be true, but when I informed the candidate that one of the details about the role was that it would be over an hour drive each way, she did not flinch. I admire that dedication. She has stuck with the company despite a long commute, which has obviously paid off – she loves her new job!

A positive work ethic means different things to different people. The next time you hear someone go off on a negative my generation vs your generation rant, don’t be afraid to challenge their perception. I’d love to hear about some of the creative approaches you have seen from jobseekers and employers to meeting current challenges in the world @work.

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Posted in Slade Executive

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

References – pathways to gold

What’s been debated, outsourced, digitalised and recorded… but in the end come full circle?

Yes, the answer is those essential in depth candidate Reference Checks that have stood the test of time.

Talking with my colleagues and clients, we all agree they form part of the recruitment process that demands more than a nod and a tick for due diligence. Thorough reference checking is due diligence and meets some tick the box compliance needs, but more than that, it’s a gold plated step on the path to finding out more about a candidate, such as areas for development once on-boarded with your organisation.

Here are my 3 ‘Insider Tips’ as a seasoned ‘Referencer’:

  1. Asking for references from your candidate
    Do it at the start of the recruitment process – it will give you an indication of how serious the candidate is about the position. At interview I cross-check to verify the referee names and ensure that those provided are direct managers – if not, I’ll ask why.  If a candidate is hesitant to provide referee details, it could be a red flag. Without referees there’s also a high possibility the candidate will withdraw from the process.
  2. Ask for the referees you want, not the friendliest manager/colleague they want to give
    Don’t settle just for first named referees as candidates tend to provide referees who they know will say good things about them. Obtaining in-depth information is important and can be challenging so make sure you ask to reference them with their last manager, not their last ‘friend’ at work.

  3.  Conducting the reference check
    Ideally I conduct reference checks over the phone or even face-to-face. At Slade we give referees the opportunity to provide detailed information, as opposed to collecting graded responses (yes, no, good, ok etc. don’t tell us very much). It’s important the referee isn’t rushed and is able to talk about the candidate at length. This conversation often takes 15 – 30minutes and you’ll be looking to confirm and complement the information gleaned from earlier candidate interviews.

References are an ideal time to get clarification on any question marks about a candidate. In addition to standard reference questions about past performance, we gather insight into how best to induct the new employee into the organisation, as well as key areas of focus when managing the new hire.

I’ll ask follow-up and probing questions to uncover the full story, counter any bias, and provide all the information to make the best hiring decision possible.

References are a gift, not a bore!

What have you learned from reference checking? Have you changed your approach to references recently?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Call out for a call back!

Something I learned a number of years ago… always follow through with what you say you are going to do in business. Close out the deal, finish the process, you get the drift. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. If something is going to stop you from delivering on your promise, then face up to it, and come up with a solution.

In recruitment, sometimes we hear people say that recruiters don’t call them back when they have applied for a job. I understand this happens, and I’d like to think our processes are strong enough at Slade Group, that it is not a frequent occurrence with our candidates.

Whether it be an email to say that, unfortunately, you have been unsuccessful with your online application or a phone call to provide feedback after you have interviewed with a prospective employer, it’s the least we can do to be honest with candidates. It’s also the least we want to give – we often provide career advice, referrals to other employment opportunities and build lasting relationships with candidates who in turn become clients over the years. Slade Group is also an ISO 9001 Quality Accredited executive recruitment firm, our reputation with our customers (both clients and candidates) is on the line, so we really do want to get back to you.

For good measure, I always ask every candidate I have met to ensure that they keep in touch with me as well, within a timeframe we have agreed.

It makes sense in business (in fact any relationship) that you’re likely to be more successful if you endeavour to build rapport with the people you are dealing with. For a candidate, the recruitment process typically means taking a big step in their career. For the organisations we represent, there is an element of risk to taking on a new employee and we do our utmost to ensure the candidate we refer is the right fit.

So it’s a little puzzling when, well into negotiations with a candidate, I have put forward a great offer from the company I am representing and then there is… silence, crickets! You begin to wonder what has happened?

Giving the elusive candidate the benefit of the doubt (maybe they are sick or maybe they are caught up in a meeting?) it’s OK to excuse a couple of hours. However, if the candidate is a person who is usually on top of returning calls it can certainly be disconcerting.

Recruitment can be like dating, sitting around waiting for someone to call you… after a while you get the drift, and you know they aren’t going to call. You have most likely experienced it or may have even done it yourself. (Why don’t they call???)

If you are dealing with a recruiter who has put you forward for a role and being a highly sought after talented individual, you receive an offer, I encourage you to act with integrity and finish the process. Talk to your consultant about why you have reservations about taking the role. A good recruiter will listen, see if there is something they can do to help, and if not you can still walk away. Leave a good impression, be professional, finish the process. Regardless of the outcome. It’s polite, courteous and the very least you could do.

 

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Posted in Slade Executive