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How to turn your work-ability into your biggest asset

My husband Ray and I are your typical Aussie mum and dad property investors; our three children are also young investors (in their 30s).

Back in the 1980s, getting a deposit together to purchase a house was arguably as difficult as it is today. My husband and I started saving on our engagement. Our parents were of humble means – certainly not in a position to help out. There were no maternity/paternity leave entitlements, no child care facilities and we relied on one income for many years after we settled into our home.

The Government at the time attempted to solve the problem of housing affordability by providing a first home buyers grant (a means tested cash bonus to assist with the purchase). Although our individual salaries were not particularly high, when combined, Ray and I were not entitled to the grant.

So we worked five jobs between us. When our peers were out dancing at bachelors and spinsters balls, we were the ones working in hospitality, serving them food and drinks. They were driving around in new cars. We drove second hand cars and once we bought a new one, we owned it for 10 years before buying a new one. Our peers were travelling around the world and going to rock concerts. I regret to say I never attended a rock concert. I remember the only musical I went to see was Jesus Christ Superstar.

Economists are always predicting a drop in the property market and investing means accepting some risk. When we decided to buy an investment property, our parents, friends and family, actually tried to talk us out of it! Don’t do it, it’s too risky, you can’t afford the loan repayments… What if you lose your job, what if you fall pregnant or what if there is another GFC, or a war?

Harry Triguboff, Australian billionaire real estate property developer was interviewed on 60 Minutes recently. He said, “Ordinary mum and dad investors are battlers and not millionaires.” In my experience this rings true. Aussie mum and dad investors contribute to rental availability in the market. It stands to reason that the more investors there are, the more rentals there will be available, which assists with rental affordability.

On the same program Tim Gurner, a young property investor turned successful developer, was also interviewed. Interestingly he recommended exactly what we have practiced. Go without the luxuries, work hard and have a goal. While it has been muted that he received a leg up with a deposit from his family, parents can assist in other ways, such a guaranteeing a loan or providing a deposit bond.

When we criticise the lifestyle choices of millennials, are we simply being critical of young people? My children started in the property market as teenagers. We did not provide them with any funding whatsoever. We set the example; they took the risk, budgeted hard and were devoted to their jobs.

The conversation should be about choices, not criticism. Taking a year off and travelling the world on a working holiday… well good on you, you’re only a year behind in savings, and possibly a few steps behind (or ahead) in your career. The occasional smashed avocado and a latte over breakfast won’t destroy your life savings either. Going to university will put your savings back several years and adds a HECS to your financial commitments in most cases, but you’re positioning yourself to catch up as your career advances.

A request under FOI revealed that over the past eight months (August 2016 to February 2017) in NSW alone foreign investors paid a staggering $76.6M in stamp duty to the state government, compared with Australian and dual nationals who paid almost $3.8M. While it’s obviously a great tax revenue stream, the disparity in the figures are symptomatic of local investors losing in their bids to secure property.

Doing something about housing affordability is problematic. Should we make it easier for young Australians by offering investment grants, allowing first home buyers to use their superannuation for a deposit, or further limit foreign ownership of Australian real estate? All of these ideas are debatable, with potential for unintended consequences. Certainly providing better information on budgeting, saving and investing would help educate the next generation of buyers. At present the real winners in the property market are the banks, property developers, fund managers, real estate agents and the state governments who all benefit from high prices.

My generation, the baby boomers, are often held up as a scapegoat for the affordability crisis. In my family we envisage there will be no government pension by the time we retire, so we are providing for ourselves through our property investments. Despite the media focus on negative gearing, its tax advantage doesn’t benefit us significantly. Here are some final considerations that are often overlooked when making a property investment:

  1. Work hard, taking on an extra job when required can make a difference
  2. New APRA rules mean a 20% deposit is required for an investment loan
  3. Banking institutions charge higher rates for property investors (and even higher interest rates for self-managed super funds)
  4. Factor in the significant cost of stamp duty (paid to the state government on purchasing)
  5. Understand the ongoing body corporate fees (if investing in an apartment, unit or development with shared common property)
  6. Budget for maintenance costs
  7. Negative gearing only applies to tax paid on expenses involved in holding your property
  8. Factor in capital gains tax when selling

At some level we are all working for a secure future. What have you done in your world @work to set yourself up for the future?

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A salute to my early career

Rather than following my friends to University when I left school, I took an alternative route into the workforce by joining the New Zealand Army – not exactly the most obvious career choice for a female with a short and slim build who grew up as a ballet dancer!

This time 19 years ago I had just completed my three months basic training with the NZ Army and had started my trade training as an Administration Clerk. With Anzac Day occurring this week I reflected on how my experiences within the Defence Force have shaped and contributed to my career and the person I am today.

What initially attracted me to the Defence Force were the recruitment officers who attended our career days at high school. The thought of being part of a well-known organisation who promoted the benefits of a variety of career options excited me… I wanted to do that! This is also where my passion for recruitment started.

Joining the Army as a nearly 18 year old taught me many fundamental work habits that are still with me today:

  1. Timing is everything. It’s called 5 minutes place of parade. You cannot be late in the Army, and in fact if you are not 5 minutes early, then you are late as well. In my work life I am very rarely late for a meeting. It has been drilled into me that whether you are an attendee or the meeting organiser, it’s your duty to commit to the appointment you have made and show courtesy to the others who are giving up their time to attend. I have become a great timekeeper and loyal to appointments.
  1. Presenting yourself well. Although there are no uniform checks in the civilian world, it is still important that you present yourself well in business. In the Army you are taught how to iron your shirts right down to putting creases in your PT shorts. Ironing wasn’t my forte (and still isn’t, so let’s say there are no creases in my shorts). One thing that has stuck with me is when I am wearing shirt and pants, I still check to make sure my buttons are in line with my pants zip.
  1. Ongoing training. Training is part of Army life; you are always upskilling and attending courses as part of your soldier and trade development. Self-development, whether it be for work, upskilling or personal enhancement, is important to keep yourself relevant in the changing workforce where nothing stays the same.

While these days I’m recruiting executives, I would still recommend the Defence Force for the many different career options they offer. It is not all about being a front line soldier; you are able to learn a trade and complete a university degree while working. I made friends for life – it’s an experience I will never forget.

How did your first job shape you? What still resonates with you from your early career?

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Posted in Slade Executive

Cure the Sunday afternoon blues

“It generally started about 3pm on Sunday afternoon, irrespective of rain, hail or shine and the activity or people I was with at that time. I’d start thinking of the next day and my shoulders would instantly tense up, I’d start snapping at my kids and/or wife and increasingly become more taciturn and grumpy as the day progressed. This would happen every Sunday and started to have a real impact on my quality of life, family relationships, and started to limit the activities I would do Sunday afternoon and evenings.”

Sound familiar? It’s an unfortunately common situation for highly pressured executives. A candidate once shared this personal story with me, which fortunately became a wake-up call to consider a career change.

I recognise that it’s rare to find individuals who bound out of bed on Monday mornings – naturally most people would prefer to be at leisure than go to work. Of course our level of motivation varies with the demands of our role, our clients or customers, and our employer. However, despite the inevitable peaks and troughs that can affect your job enjoyment, intense and sustained angst about work is not normal. Left unchecked, it can lead to long-term damage to our health, including stress, pressure on relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and a reduced work/life balance.

On the surface this individual seemed to be in the ideal work situation: he was in a key leadership position within a successful global blue chip organisation, earning an impressive wage, on a fast-track path to further success and growth – but it was just not right for him.

I appreciate that it’s not a simple matter to change jobs. Financial considerations, geographical location, time available to job seek, or your personal situation can be constraints.  If this sounds like you, consider these alternative strategies:

  • Speak up. Have an honest discussion with your manager and/or HR about revisiting the aspects of your job that cause you angst. Do these need to be delegated or shared with others in the team? Is your workload achievable within the resources and parameters provided? Do you need further training and mentoring to help you perform your job?
  • A sideways step could be an option if you like your company, but the role or your direct manager is not a good fit. Is there any opportunity to move to another role or division within the company?
  • If your employer and/or company culture does not align, but you enjoy your role, network across your industry through LinkedIn, industry forums and seminars, even former colleagues who have left to join competitors. Make yourself known throughout the sector, whilst maintaining your professionalism and remaining discreet about your intentions. This could lead to a direct approach to you to consider a job should an appropriate role arise.
  • Consider investing in additional training and/or studies that will further your professional development and enhance your employability to other organisations. This is particularly relevant if you are looking to pursue a field outside your current area of expertise. It also serves to demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and continuous development.
  • Have a confidential discussion with a recruitment firm who specialise in your sector/job of choice. Whilst this should be implicit, emphasise the need for the recruiter to respect your confidentiality and ensure your resume is only sent out to prospective employers with your approval.

Whilst it might be a work in progress, you will find that the simple act of taking control of your work situation can improve your outlook and with this perspective, allow you to enjoy your whole weekend.

As for the candidate mentioned previously? After taking a leap of faith, he did change jobs and has continued to progress his career with another organisation better suited to his style. He has also joined that rare group of individuals who look forward to Mondays.

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Hashtag fear less

We ALL fear change and that’s OK, says Marty Wilson. I was recently lucky enough to hear Marty speak at Mental Health in the Workplace, part of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce People in Business series. He gave an inspiring talk on change and the fear that comes along with it. It’s a theme that often comes up in the workplace when you are faced with organisational change or are considering a career change, but what I couldn’t help think is how do we learn to embrace change and see it for the good that it can be?

As if we were linked via telepathy, Marty turned to me (I am sure at this point he was speaking DIRECTLY to me) and provided some answers to the questions I was contemplating.

First he looked at the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word life:

The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change [my bold] preceding death.

Did you see what I saw? Yep, you guessed it. Continual change is a part of Life.

At this point I was thinking to myself, I’m good with change… right? I realised, not only was Marty talking to me (directly to me, again), he was talking about me. Yep, I’m not afraid to put my hand up and say, “My name is Candice and I FEAR change!”

Recognising your fears are part of the solution, Marty gave me a few tips on how to deal with them:

  1. Life is change
  2. Trust your instincts
  3. Be grateful for tough times
  4. Take more risks
  5. Make more mistakes
  6. Lighten-up

Marty followed-up with this gem:

“Imagine if you could choose to become someone who welcomes change and disruption as a normal and exciting part of business and life.” – Marty Wilson

So here’s what am I going to do: I’m going to stop imagining and start changing, change and innovation will now be my middle names. I am going to let go of the past and take a fresh approach, to work and life in general.

If I’m going to tackle the elephant in the room in my workplace, it’s our database. It’s a pretty large elephant, lives in the cloud, has a few wrinkles… I’m sure most offices have a database/system/process/technology elephant lurking about. It’s that shiny new technology that will help us to work smarter, not harder, but often feels like it’s programmed the other way around. So from now on, in my role as Operations Manager, I’m going to focus on what the technology can do for us, not what it can’t do (although a few magic tricks wouldn’t go astray).

Applying #FearLess in a broader sense, I am going to embrace all of the curve balls life throws at me, which are by dictionary definition, part and parcel with change. I am going to fear less about the doing and dive right into change. I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but that’s OK. I started last week by changing my commute from the 75 to the 48 tram. Big mistake, constantly overcrowded, can never get on, changing back today… Yep, I am all about the change now!

What changes are you going to make?

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6 blogging brainstorming ideas

Recently my colleague said she wanted to write a blog, but she had no ideas for a topic, how she would structure her thoughts and where to even start?

Blogging gets people talking. When we write about what interests us and what we know, we share our thoughts and invite others to engage in the conversation. Social networks are built on two-way communication, so blogging can actively encourage an exchange of ideas.

So how do you write a blog and how do you come up with material that is interesting?

Here are 6 strategies to get you started and help you succeed.

  1. If you are an avid reader, that’s great, pick a topic that interests you! Books, magazines, news articles, discussion groups… in print or online, you’ll find plenty of inspiration.
  2. If you watch current affairs, there’s plenty of material. Take notes and track comments on Twitter.
  3. Never let a good idea pass you by in the middle of the night. I have a notebook and pencil on my bedside table for those lightbulb moments.
  4. Listen to what your customers (clients and candidates for me) are saying, problem solve the issues, then share.
  5. Look at the stats on what other people are writing about. Google Analytics research is excellent for what’s trending, as well as niche topics.
  6. Share your experiences. People love authentic stories.

Encourage people to comment and always respond to the comments (positive and negative) you receive. You may start a thread that leads to another idea for your next blog from those responses.

While I’m giving away ideas, here’s some I’ve already put on my list:

  • How to be a confident public speaker
  • What is it that engages an audience?
  • All about my community
  • What inspires me about technology
  • Are you brave enough to say what needs to be said?
  • What makes a good conversation?
  • Books I want to write
  • What I am passionate about
  • How do I get my big idea funded?

After thinking and deliberating over my blog topic for many days, things have taken shape. OK, now for the blog…

Well, I’m done here, so will have to wait until next time to tackle one of the topics above, but I challenge you to write on any of those topics as well.

If you do write a blog, please comment on this article to let me know. I’d love to hear your point of view.

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Email tsunami: 7 steps to repel the tidal wave

Here’s the thing. We have a prehistoric brain living in a digital age. Our brains are hardwired to be distracted.

Wendy Cole, the iMaster of Productivity in the Age of Distraction, tells us what we can do to overcome email distractions and the lure to multitask. Here are seven killer ways to stay out of your inbox:

  1. Turn off new message alerts. Turning off new message alerts in your email program is the first step to minimising email distractions. If you do nothing else, do this!
  1. Completely close your email program. If your task at hand doesn’t require you to review emails, tasks or calendar – remove all of these distractions by closing your email program. Whilst you are at it, turn your mobile to flight mode, or at least turn it to silent and keep it out of sight.
  1. Work offline. You can still compose and send emails while working in offline mode, however you’ll only receive new mail when you hit the send-receive button. I always turn to offline mode when I process my emails – that way you can empty your inbox before new emails arrive.
  1. Use a to-do list that is NOT your inbox. Don’t leave emails in your inbox as prompts to get things done. Not only are tasks highly difficult to prioritise using this method, the surrounding clutter can be very distracting. If you use Outlook then use its Tasks feature as your to-do list.
  1. OHIO. The ‘only handle it once’ (OHIO) discipline creates the habit of reading each email once and immediately organising what needs to be done with it. The 4Ds of decision making (delete, do it now, delegate or defer) provides a great framework for processing emails.
  1. Process emails at specific times of the day. The optimum daily number of times to process your emails is dependent on the nature of your work, but four times per day works well for most people. Try scheduling this in the morning, just before lunch, mid-afternoon and before finishing for the day.
  1. Keep a log. Email is addictive! Keeping a log to see just how much time I spent looking at my inbox gave me the data to prove that when I checked my email less often and more intentionally, I saved time.

From an evolutionary perspective, being distracted by subtle sights and sounds in our periphery served us well; 10,000 years ago when we were collecting berries in the Savannah, it was imperative to notice the rustles in the bushes, alerting us to a potential threat.

But did you know that once distracted, it can take between 15-25 minutes to return our thinking to where it was before we were interrupted? In the modern working environment your email inbox is one of the most inefficient communication channels because it is distracting, decreases productivity and encourages multitasking. And, once our chain of thought is broken, we are more likely to seek further distraction, such as opening another email and the cycle of being distracted continues…

While our brains are still processing distractions in the same way as our ancient ancestors, now instead of a rustle in the bushes, the distractions are the pings, dings and popups associated with email alerts. Noticing the distractions is no longer saving our lives: it’s breaking our focus, leading to multitasking and creating increased inefficiencies.

To make matters worse, email (like text messages, chat apps and all forms of electronic communication) has an addictive element. Brain scans show that dopamine is released when we notice a new message. Because of the dopamine, our brains actively want to seek out new messages. This explains why when we notice a new email or smartphone alert, we lose focus from the work we were doing and open that new message.

Try the 7 steps to a better email management and find a whole new way of managing your day.

What steps have you implemented to be more productive and less distracted in your world @work?

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A healthy me means a healthy you!

Seriously, without being twee, it’s true. I admit I live a pretty healthy lifestyle: I lift weights, I eat chicken breast, love vegetables, and drink my three litres of water per day. So, when our leadership team sat down to discuss how to better look after our teams, I wasn’t there to preach. The aim wasn’t to run a boot camp and drink protein shakes every day.

How often do we feel almost at one with our desks? Working long hours we’re often tempted by quick fixes: morning coffees that seem to multiply through the day, fast food at lunch if any, afternoon sugar hits… anything we think will help to get more done. In reality, they only make things worse.

Inertia, combined with a lack of fresh air and poor eating habits, creates huge highs and lows in performance. You have probably seen it at work, affecting the mood in your office, filtering through the whole business as well. Encouraging a healthy culture across our organisations for the wellbeing of our people, is not an easy task.

Providing options allows everyone to find their comfort level.

Slade Group has committed to improve the overall wellbeing of our workforce through our Slade Wellness program, which we’ve called Healthy Me, Healthy You.

We’re providing information to allow our people to make informed decisions about their working habits and promoting a work environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle. We believe encouraging a culture of wellbeing will make Slade a better place to work, as well as enhancing our reputation as an employer of choice.

To help us on our journey, we’ve partnered with TWOSIX Wellness, a corporate wellness business who have offered some valuable insights from their past experiences with professional services firms like us. We were also joined by Chris Heddle from Melbourne Myotherapy and Remedial Massage. This week they partnered with us at the program launch, demonstrating good desk posture and stretches, breathing exercises and how to make organic coconut protein balls (which seemed to gain the most traction).

If that sounds like something you’d also like to achieve, you can model our program initiatives below. We’d love to hear about your progress.

 

Healthy Me, Healthy You
Our recipe for improving and maintaining team performance by encouraging a healthy work environment

Ingredients

  • Lots of water – drinking water reduces dehydration
  • Several portions of healthy food – try raw fruit or nuts instead of processed snack foods
  • Fresh air for good measure – go outside at least once during the day
  • 15 to 30 minutes of exercise – organise a walking group, take the stairs instead of using lifts if you can

Method
Combine ingredients with simple messages. Educate the mixture gently, don’t be too prescriptive.

Cooking
Allow ideas to bake slowly over several weeks to allow proving time. You should notice lethargy fall and concentration improving. Results will be increased productivity and happier, healthier people.

 

What wellness initiatives have you implemented in your workplace?

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