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How the wrong job can affect your mental health – 7 signs to look out for

As the tally of seemingly meaningless statistics scrolled above my head, the reason we were all there became less clear, yet somehow it all made sense to someone crunching the numbers for management.

If you’ve ever worked in a call centre, you’d understand that call times, uptimes, downtimes, pretty much anytime you spend on or off the phone – even going to the toilet – is all logged and scrutinised. At the end of each pod of desks there’ll be an authoritarian figure (hello, team leader) shouting out the numbers like a charioteer whose task is to ensure we’re galloping along on course with the regional average, a flotilla of headset wearing warriors charged with keep our customers happy.

Completing call centre boot camp – a two week training course prior to our actual start date – those numbers were embedded into each individual customer advisor’s head. If we couldn’t reach the targets, there’d be someone to remind us that sometimes quantity is more important than quality. I felt like I was lost in a sea of numbers – that I myself was just a number.

Here are 7 signs to look out for that indicate you might be struggling:

  • Loss of energy or motivation – not being able to self-motivate or lack of determination to reach your goals
  • Irritability or aggression that is abnormal
  • Lack of sleep
  • Changing in eating habits
  • Strain on relationships in and outside of work
  • A lack of self-confidence that occurred in the timeframe you’ve been employed
  • Increase in sensitivity, and a worry that you’re constantly unfulfilling the needs of your manager

After what seemed like an infinity, I decided I’d had enough and I would change this myself, intrinsically thinking of the end goal in all of this – my happiness! My focus then began to steer towards the customer experience, and how having more of an interpersonal approach would benefit the person on both sides of the headset. I exercised the points listed within this article over the course of a few weeks, and found that in within the first few days my stress began to ease and I was able to really get behind what mattered – my work.

When we look back on our careers, there’s often that one job we can pinpoint, which still to this day makes us shudder. One where we felt overlooked, underappreciated or overworked. Maybe you didn’t get along with a particular colleague or manager, or your values weren’t aligned with the culture of the company. Sometimes in the short-term you just have to get on with the job, but grinning and bearing it shouldn’t be at the determent of your longer-term mental health.

Most of us in professional roles can think of times when we felt worn out and just needed to take a break, but did you know that according to the Australian Human Rights Commission around 25% of workers have taken off days due to stress? Studies show that job pressures can play out in various mental illnesses, such as anxiety or depression. The sad reality is many people who experience this feel trapped or unable to leave due to financial circumstances, which can lead to a feeling of further isolation.

Here’s what can you do to help yourself.

Set realistic boundaries – Reasonable KPIs help us to benchmark our performance, but don’t let them consume you to the point where you are at panic stations the entire day. Speak to your manager or a respected colleague about how you can meet your targets.

Ensure you take your full lunch break – You’ll have enough time to read a book, eat proper food and leave your office or desk. You might even consider reducing your screen time (taking a break from your smartphone) to wind down and regenerate for the afternoon.

Get fit – If you’re going to improve your mental health, you’ll need the energy to do it. Go for walk or a jog in the fresh air at lunchtime, before or after work. Participating in sport and fitness activities as a hobby can be a fun way to end the day on a high.

Maintain a positive image of yourself – If you’re good at identifying the negatives, be better at listing the positives! Maybe you have great conversational skills for network, you’re savvy with technology and computer systems or simply always on time. Everyone has good (and bad) qualities – focusing on your strengths will improve your confidence.

Understand that you’re not on your own – This brings me back to the importance of conversation. Talk to your colleagues, your friends outside of work or family, do not suffer in silence. An HR or recruitment consultant can also offer guidance to help you find work that is a good fit with your knowledge, experience and personal interests.

In my experience it’s been little wins each day that have helped me grow by building my self-confidence. Of course I always knew I was more than a number (more easily realised without those numbers literally hovering above head), so if you’ve had similar thoughts reading this, I would love to hear what tips you might have for better mental health.  

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Welcome back to adult conversations

I had a fabulous conversation with a client this week, she was so encouraging, reassuringly telling me that returning to work “is like riding a bike”. To switch your brain back on in a business environment, challenge yourself and test your capabilities is such a liberating and empowering feeling.

As a newly minted return-to-work-er, my typical day starts the night before. Preparation is key in our house. Day care bags packed, husband’s shirts ironed (truth is he does his own, with encouragement) and deciding what to wearing the night before. It’s certainly more of a military operation, no time for fashion shows at 6.30am!

With my own family – a wonderful supportive husband and two bright and amazing little girls, each with their own shining personalities, it’s time for me to set a strong example for my girls – they are my motivation and my “WHY”. We have to work hard for things in life, value ourselves, find the right employer, be strong, and be happy! There is something to be said for an army of working Mums with a whole different set of priorities; we’re a force you don’t want to mess with.

Husband and girls packed off for the day, it’s time to inhale my coffee and toast, and race to the station to begin my day. Starting a new job and joining a new company and team is nerve racking, but exciting and exhilarating all the same. This time I really feel I have landed on my feet. The Interchange Bench and Slade Group have been so welcoming, supportive and encouraging. I really do believe it is essential to find the right work family, to really change your perspective on going to work. No fear…more excitement, less anxiety…more motivation, less solo…more collaboration, a real ambition to create something better.

Eat your heart out Dolly Parton…“Working 9 to 5”… everybody needs a theme tune right? Nothing could be truer of the last few weeks to get me pumped and ready to go back to work.

In my recent experience of looking for the right role I have been seriously surprised in the shift that employers are taking to secure the right talent. Of particular surprise is that I need to work part time, and most employers have been flexible with negotiating days and hours worked. It just shows that it’s important to ask these questions and think outside the box. If anything there is a stronger focus on temporary, contract and part time roles. At the Interchange Bench we really “get it”; we appreciate that people have lives, drop offs, pick-ups, concerts, parents evenings… Just because you have different hours or less days, it doesn’t make you less of an employee, you have negotiated and agreed those terms, own it… but the onus is on you to deliver!

Now let me help you. Are you looking for a temporary or contractor as an addition to your team, or maybe you’re a professional seeking a contract role? We would love to hear from you. Call the Interchange Bench on 03 9235 5103 or me, Jen Schembri on 03 9235 5152.

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Why you should listen to podcasts and why we’re a sponsor.

What is it about podcasts that have captured our collective earbuds? Have you noticed how at some point the watercooler chat moved from TV’s Better Call Saul to the LA Times’ Dirty John podcast? Perhaps it’s because podcasts are the better versions of the internet, screen, radio and TV that they’re experiencing the highest growth of all media. The latest figures (ABC 2017) show that 89% of us are aware of podcasts and 30% of us listened to at least one in the last month. And if we’re anything like the US, annual audiences are growing at a double digit rate.

We’re proud to make a shout out for our own sponsorship of the highly engaging Don’t Shoot the Messenger podcast.  The Interchange Bench, which specialises in temporary and contract talent for all reasons and seasons sees Don’t Shoot the Messenger as the perfect podcast partner.  Quite apart from the tremendous content, it has an AB demographic: an audience of professionals and hiring decision-makers, many of whom will consider professional contract roles at some stage in their careers.

Caroline Wilson and Corrie Perkin, the co-hosts of Don’t Shoot the Messenger, talk about everything from footy to politics, dubious characters, food, films and books, family and business are all covered in an hour, and seemingly, not much is off limits.

We could have pursued a partnership with a related HR, leadership and recruitment podcast but we’re firmly in the ‘Love Work, Love Life’ camp and believe life outside the office, the lecture theatre or operating theatre, the building site or science lab is just as important for a balanced life. (And this month, especially outside the chambers of Parliament House!)

Of course if you are interested in HR and Hiring podcasts, give these a shot: Engaging Leader, hosted by Jesse Lahey; The Go-Giver, hosted by Bob Burg; Leadership and Loyalty, hosted by Dov Baron; HR Happy Hour by Steve Boese and Trish McFarlane.  We think they’re great.

So back to the original question – why the shift to podcasts?

You may have your own reasons, here are five reasons why they’re a 21st Century thing:

We’re commuters: Walking, public transport or cars are all conducive to podcast listening.

We choose: 1000 topics, 1000 interests. Just like having the State Library on your iPhone.

Production quality:  Beautifully crafted stories, sophisticated discussions and documentaries.

Independent media: Consolidation and decimation of some media has been matched by the growth of the intelligent green shoot podcast.

Long form:  There’s been a shift from the 10 second sound grab, to a demand for deep dive discussions into topics of interest.

Listen to Don’t Shoot the Messenger now or subscribe through Apple Podcasts and let us know what you think!

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Myriad differences, multiple benefits: Embracing multiculturalism in the workplace

What an eye opening experience moving from Albania – an Eastern European country where 97% of the population were native born Albanians, to Toronto – one of the most multicultural cities in the world, where over 180 languages are spoken…

It was a move that exposed me to people of myriad different cultural backgrounds, which is how I came to understand the importance of multiculturalism in school, work and the wider community.

Bringing together a diverse group of people who may have different values, beliefs, traditions and family backgrounds can be challenging. However, there are many, often reported, positive benefits to multiculturalism in the world @work. Respected advisor to the Australian Government Josef Assaf AO says, “Cultural diversity confers social and economic dividends; it creates jobs and generates profits and, equally importantly, it promotes artistic exchange and connects us with the rest of the world.”[1]

Here are five reasons why I think multiculturalism is important in the workplace:

  1. Multiculturalism expands your cultural awareness
    Working alongside people from a variety of cultural backgrounds can expand your cultural awareness. Once you expand your horizon, you will improve your knowledge about the world beyond your own borders. You’ll no longer think that all of Eastern Europe is the same, or that everyone there eats potatoes! Your desire to learn and expand your knowledge about different cultures will not be solely restricted to traveling with Lonely Planet; it can be satisfied with daily chats with your colleague from Slovenia or Singapore at lunch time.
  2. Multiculturalism builds respect and better understanding of cultural differences
    Diversity in the work environment can contribute to development and positive experiences as it can lead to increased conversations. Communications and conversations that emerge throughout the organisation lead to respect among employees who have a better understanding and appreciation of their co-workers, the viewpoints they bring to the team, and appropriate interactions.
  3. Multiculturalism improves customer service
    In recruitment, our clients and candidates come from all walks of life. I am a strong believer that having a multicultural workforce shows an inclusive face to the public. Clients and candidates have confidence in someone who ‘speaks their language’. Whether that is a native speaker or simply an understanding that specific holidays, customs or familial commitments impact us at work, even a small business can demonstrate its ability to engage with global talent in the market.
  4. Multiculturalism improves your problem solving skills
    Different cultures have different ways of approaching problems. In a workplace with a diverse cultural backgrounds, people approach situations with their own unique perspectives. A variety of viewpoints brings together a wide array of ideas that enhance the capability of the team.
  5. Did someone say food?
    Last but not least, when working in a multicultural workplace, you’re likely to see a variety of edible treats, which hopefully your colleagues are willing to share. Speaking from experience, I can say that I didn’t mind all the compliments I received about my Russian salad.

What are some of the benefits you have seen from embracing multiculturalism in your workplace?

 

[1] Diversity in the Workplace, Joseph Assaf, Department of Social Services, 16 May 2018

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My three biggest career regrets

If you were to look at most people’s career trajectory, it generally rises over time, but zoom in a little and you’ll probably see some dips or a drop along the way. The upside to those dips is that a set-back in life can be a fantastic opportunity for learning and growth. In hindsight, you may even come to see that the valuable learning opportunities provided by the drop gave you the tools you needed to achieve something amazing, or the confidence to try something out of the box that really paid off.

Here are my three biggest career regrets to date, and the lessons I learnt from each of them.

  1. Look after yourself. I turned down a phone interview for an incredible sounding job with an arts organisation in Hobart because I didn’t think I could sneak out of work for the call. It was in my early days in the workforce and I just didn’t understand that you need to look after yourself when job hunting is at play. Of course I always advocate leaving on good terms when you do move on, but I didn’t realise in that scenario that I needed be less passive if I was ever going to get another job.

Lesson: Nobody is going to look out for you in the same way that you will look out for yourself. You need to be your strongest advocate and do whatever is in your power to make things happen. 

  1. Never under-prepare for interviews. I have done this on a couple of occasions, by underestimating the advantage of interview preparation in helping you to successfully win a role. I went in full of boundless enthusiasm and thought that would carry me through to success (and, to be fair, that has often been enough). I hadn’t really done any research on the role or the company, and I certainly hadn’t done any preparation in terms of practising typical interview questions, in order to get a feel for what my key strengths were and why I thought I would be a good fit for the role.

Lesson: You can never be over prepared. You won’t know exactly which questions you’ll be asked in an interview, but if you have spent some time contemplating the proffered role from several different angles, and how it may relate to your skills and experience, then you’ll be well placed to answer any questions on the fly that you hadn’t expected.

  1. Think carefully before turning down a job. I had just started university and in my search for work, I submitted my resume to a nearby chocolate factory (yes, really) because I had heard from a friend that if you worked there you could eat as much chocolate as you wanted. They called me up, but I had too many contact hours at uni, so I wasn’t able to take the job. It was almost twenty years ago, but to be honest, I am still heartbroken over it!

Lesson: If you have a dream/goal/vision, then chase it with every particle of your body. Perhaps I could have gone part-time, or considered dropping out of uni altogether. In any case I should have done WHATEVER it took to get that job and fulfil my dream to eat all the chocolate I wanted.

What are some of your career regrets? What lessons have you learned?

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When Temp is the Word: 5 points for a positive experience

Temp.

I often hear the word uttered in a mildly objectionable tone – and I get it, there’s some horror stories out there… I’ve heard plenty about snaky recruiters slithering their way through businesses, tarnishing the profession one careless placement at a time. They’ve done a great job of making the temporary contracting process completely exasperating for businesses and candidates alike.

Hiring a temporary resource should never be a case of simply finding someone with a pulse to fill a chair and hoping for the best. Thankfully, most of us aren’t like that. As a recruiter who cares about the talented people and the organisations I represent, let me tell you our Temps can save your butt in times of need.

Here are five things to look for when it comes to temporary recruitment to ensure it’s a positive and productive experience:

  1. Find a fantastic recruitment business partner. It’s like any relationship, if your significant other/life partner/hairdresser doesn’t take the time to get to know you, understand you and respond to your needs, you wouldn’t stick around, right? (Hair flick and walk away). Your relationship with your recruiter should be no different. So do your homework, find a provider who actually listens to you, asks the relevant questions, and understands your business and your people.
  2. Trust is everything, so be honest with your recruiter. Talk about your company culture (the real and ideal). Be upfront about your management style. Let them know the reasons behind recent staff turnover or changes to the team. A major dislike of PowerPoint? We understand, the more information the better! With this knowledge we can find a candidate with the relevant skills and experience required for the job, as well as someone who shares your company values.
  3. Go steady. Once you find a great recruiter, don’t be a commitment-phobe. Partnering with a single agency will streamline your recruitment process. Repeating your brief to multiple providers is time consuming. It’s also inefficient when you receive duplicate candidate resumes. So, put your time into making your business relationship work with someone who works well with you. Not only will you receive a more tailored approach from your recruiter, you will enable them to focus on your organisation.
  4. Keep it real. Sometimes we just have to face the facts and as much as we would all love to find the perfect unicorn/human hybrid temporary resource, available to commence tomorrow on a part time basis with relevant industry experience, with the ability to play the ukulele and work their way around Adobe Photoshop at an advanced level, unfortunately this may not always be possible. So, be open to options, let your recruiter come up with short-term and long term solutions to help fill your current gaps.
  5. Temps are people We take pride in our flexible, adaptable and switched-on temporary and contract talent. Please remember to treat them with the same respect as your permanent employees; we want them to feel comfortable in your work environment. And you never know, we often place permanent employees through a temp assignment!

There is no greater feeling in this role than matching a temporary candidate with a workplace, finding out that they are absolutely nailing it and sitting back like a proud parent, and watching their working relationship blossom.

Find a recruitment partner that you trust and communicate with them. Be straight with them and don’t be afraid to work together to achieve a resourcing solution that really works for you – not just a person with a pulse!

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Spoiler Alert. You can’t always get what you want.

We’re again experiencing a real shortage of capable talent at every professional level and if I could tag this post with ‘High Importance’ I would. For those who weren’t around, or who have already forgotten what it was like nearly a decade ago, here’s a story and some hot tips.

Always keen to innovate, we started Final5 as a shortlisting service in 2005; employers could brief us on a role, detail the five critical SKEs (skill, knowledge and experience) and receive a shortlist of five people in around 5 days. Five was the magical number. And it worked beautifully for around 5 years; that was until we couldn’t find 5 people who fit in five days. We couldn’t even find them in 50 days.

Embarrassingly we had to change our Terms of Business to say an acceptable shortlist from Final5 would comprise a Final 3+! And ultimately we changed our name to NextHire. Those were the years of critical shortages of capable talent. The term ‘War for Talent’ was in every second article we read.

Peeps, we think those days are back and we all have to respond accordingly.

Six Recruitment Tips for 2018.

  1. Different numbers

It may take 2x longer that than you expected to source high performers and you may only interview ½ as many candidates as you expected.

  1. Be clear up front

What are the critical capabilities and skills? What are the absolute ‘must haves’ vs what can be taught and learned?

  1. Don’t target 100% skills fit

Skills can always be learned and even better, your new hire will be trained in the latest best practice rather than relying on what they learned 10 years ago, or picked up by osmosis. It’s as true for a Claims Clerk as it is for a CFO.

  1. Do target culture and values

Improving self-awareness is hard to achieve once we’re adults. Spend time making sure the person will fit the organisation. If they’re smart and have an aptitude for learning they’ll quickly meet their accountabilities.

  1. Follow your instinct and act fast

You’ll know when you meet a good candidate. And so will everyone else she’s interviewing with. Don’t wait until you’ve met five more candidates before you make your decision. By then she’ll have three offers on the table and as you weren’t that interested early on…

  1. For specific expertise don’t overlook contractors

A Spot Market does exist for skilled employees – but it’s an interim/temporary solution rather than permanent. Our spot market is via interchangebench.com.au which has candidates with specific skill sets for fixed periods of time across most roles and industries.

How are you managing the talent shortage in your world@work?

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3 non-business books that will improve your confidence at work

The other day I was having a conversation with someone about confidence in the workplace. I mentioned a book that I read a number of years ago on the subject which really changed the way I think about confidence, and gave me an armful of useful tools that I found incredibly helpful. This got me thinking about other books I recommend people read, so I’ve put together my top three work-and business-related books. These are not your run-of-the-mill, dry, ‘serious’ reads. They are not even books you would find in the business section of a bookshop. But they are books that are worth reading because they provide wonderful insights into the world @work, and how we can perform as our best selves at work.

The Confidence GapThe Confidence Gap, Russ Harris
Written by psychologist Russ Harris, The Confidence Gap is the perfect book for anyone who feels they are being held back by a lack of confidence.  Harris has written an approachable, easy-to-read book that explores how a lack of confidence can affect many areas of a person’s life, and looks at real, clear suggestions to work through it. It’s not an easy book to read in the sense that if you really want to make changes in this area you will have to have some tough, honest conversations with yourself. But it is easy in the sense that it is written in clear language, and breaks down complex concepts into easily understandable stories and ideas.

QuietQuiet, Susan Cain
This book explains what introverts are, how they tick, and what the pitfalls of introvert/extrovert interactions can be. I would recommend this books for introverts, extroverts and anyone who isn’t sure where they fall on the spectrum (but would like to figure this out). Cain looks at how the business world, especially in America, has for almost a century, celebrated extroverts and build a system that favours their personalities and mode of working. Cain argues that because this system is not designed for introverts, it is difficult and often tiring for them to navigate. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible for an introvert to not merely navigate, but to thrive in a world of extroverts. Cain provides tools and techniques for introverts negotiating the extroverted world of business, and for introverts and extroverts to figure out how best they can work together.

Unfinished BusinessUnfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter
This book is (in my opinion) a sort of unofficial sequel to Lean In, the blockbuster work memoir written by Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg in 2013. It’s a look at how work-life balance is something worth striving for, but that the make-up of that balance may change over time. Slaughter says that it’s important to ‘lean in’ at times, but that it is just as important and necessary to be able to lean out at times too. She advocates for a world where we can accept a promotion and work like the devil for a couple of years, then dial things back for another couple of years, perhaps  to care for family members, or pursue study. Slaughter writes passionately and persuasively for her vision of a flexible and changing attitude to work over our lifetimes.

What are your top reads for personal and professional development?

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