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  1. How to move from a dead-end job to a fulfilling career

    September 15, 2015 by Alison Hill

    Disengaged Employee

    By Alison Hill

    The weather is warming up and the days are lengthening. It’s easy to feel that life is passing you by while you are stuck behind a desk. But before you chuck it in and take up a job in the great outdoors, ask yourself, Is it really time to change careers? Do you need to do something quite different to your present job? Or would some adjustments make you more satisfied? How will you know? And what will you do next?

    There are three things to look at to help you decide if a career move is right for you right now.

    The organisation you are in now

    Perhaps you like the tasks you do, but feel that you don’t fit the organisation’s culture. Its values might clash with your own, or the people you work with are very different to you. You might feel that you are at a dead end and that your skills are undervalued. You may be involved in ongoing conflict with a manager.

    The job you are in now

    You might feel bored, that you have stopped learning, and that your tasks are routine and repetitive. Your prospects may be non-existent, and you may not be earning what you are worth. Perhaps you are concerned that your role will be outsourced in the near future.

    External factors

    Sometimes both the organisation and the job are just fine, but something happens in your life to make you consider a shift in career. It may be the birth of a child, relocation for a partner’s job, or the need to earn more.

    Any of these may make you feel it’s time for a complete change, and they might be a sign that a career change would be beneficial. But maybe a smaller change would do the trick. Being dissatisfied in your current job is not the same as being unhappy with your entire career.

    A career change is a big decision, and may involve further study or taking a few steps down the career ladder. It helps to have a very clear idea of what you are looking for, and to spend some time getting ready for a change. Here are some steps to take to prepare yourself for a career change.

     

    1. Make a list of your transferable skills and note where you may need to upskill. Plan how and when you will learn new skills. You might enrol in an accredited course, take some short courses online, or find a mentor to teach you ‘soft’ skills.
    2. Build your professional network. Attend conferences and networking events, update your LinkedIn profile, join groups and follow up the contacts you make.
    3. Build your personal brand. Know your strengths and weaknesses and work hard at your professional reputation. Create a clear, consistent image of yourself, in person and online. Use social media to boost your profile.
    4. Set your goals and make a plan to reach them. Being clear about the career you want and how you will realistically get there is the difference between dreaming and reality.
    5. Take a career aptitude test and consult a career adviser. Particularly if you are unsure about whether to make a change, a test that reveals or confirms your strengths, skills and ideal career direction is hugely beneficial. You can find out about Challenge Consulting’s career guidance programs here.
    6. Keep your resume up to date. As well as recording your positions and achievements, emphasise your transferable skills (such as strong oral communication, negotiation, or problem-solving) and even your hobbies if they are relevant to the career you hope to have. You may need to use your resume sooner than you think.

  2. Plan your professional development in four steps

    July 28, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Do you know where you’re going with your career and how you’re going to get there? If the answer is no to either one or both of those questions, it’s time to make a plan for your professional development. Your plan can cover any period up to five years but probably no less than two. Where to start? We’ll show you in four steps:

    Step 1: Your destination

    If you’re going to make a plan you’ll need to decide first where you want to end up. Once you know that, you have a better idea about where to start. This part is also where you decide if your plan is going to be for two, three, four or five years into the future. Write a statement outlining where you plan to be and by what time.

    Step 2: Self assessment

    Now you need to assess your strengths and weaknesses to highlight areas that you will need to develop and build upon. Write these down in two columns. Just to be sure that you don’t have any blind spots, it’s always good to run your self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses by someone you can trust to be honest with you. They might see characteristics in you that you don’t.

    Step 3: Gap analysis

    Now that you’re clear about where you want to be and what your strengths and weaknesses are, it’s time to analyse how far away you are from reaching your destination. Do you need to undertake some short-term training or enroll into a course at college or university? Do you need to work on a portfolio of work?

    Perhaps you need to develop some ‘soft skills’ such as learning to communicate more effectively in writing or how to present well in front of a group of people. You might also need to network with people in the field you want to work, as well as form closer relationships with people who can help you.

    Step 4: Goals and action steps

    Based on your gap analysis, set yourself some goals and list the action steps that will help you meet them. Remember, goals need to be specific, time oriented, measurable and achievable, so make sure you have all this covered. Let’s say your goal is to do a course in bookkeeping. Will you study part time or full time? Online or face-to-face? How long will it take you to complete your studies?

    Once you know when you are likely to finish your course your first action step would be to research where you could study. Your second action step could be to apply to get into the course and your third would be to enroll and so on until you have reached your goal of graduating. Write all your action steps down next to your goals – they make up your plan.

    Once you have completed the four steps and created your professional development plan you’re not finished. What? Another step? Not really. It’s just that a professional development plan is not static – it’s a flexible document that changes as you change as a person and as your circumstances change. You can’t always predict what will happen to you in the future, so review your plan every six months, or sooner if necessary, so it’s still relevant to your situation.


  3. Six low-cost ways to upskill

    July 21, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Are you bored with your job? Looking to switch careers? Wanting to expand your skill set? Or maybe you want to dip your toes into an area of study without making a full commitment just yet. Look not further.

    Finding ways to upskill has never been easier or cheaper. In fact, you can learn all kinds of new skills and develop knowledge in endless subjects for nothing or very little money. So more excuses – here’s the low down on six killer ways to increase your employability at little or no cost:

    Udemy

    Udemy gives you access to 30,000 courses in just about any subject you can think of. Courses cost range from $0 up to $500. All courses have star ratings and you can read feedback from former students. You can also see how the courses are structured to make sure that they cover what you’re interested in.

    Coursera

    Coursera’s courses are short – mostly between four and fifteen weeks. They’re all free and cover subjects such as business, accounting, computing, writing, psychology and lots more.

    Codacademy

    Codacademy specialises in teaching computer-coding skills for beginners. Their courses are interactive and free. With Codacademy you can learn just about everything you need to build your own website from scratch.

    Udacity

    If you’re interested in technology, Udacity has courses ranging from beginner to advanced. You can learn things like working with data, creating computer animations and how to create your own application for the web.

    Short Udacity courses take two weeks to two months to complete and they’re free. Longer courses, called Nanodegrees, are estimated to take six to nine months if you study for 10 hours per week. They cost $200 per month.

    Khan Academy

    All of Khan Academy’s courses are free and there are plenty to choose from. Are you interested economics and finance? History and the arts? How about maths and science? It’s all there for you to delve in and out of as you please.

    Open2Study

    Open2Study courses are also free. Unlike the other online courses we have covered so far where you can work at your own pace, Open2Study courses all run for one month and they have start and end dates. You can also read reviews from former students to gauge if a course is right for you.

    We live in exciting times. Never before has it been so easy to study what you want, from almost anywhere and for so little. What would you like to know more about?


  4. Four top tips for reaching your goals

    June 16, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    FOUR TOP TIPS FOR REACHING YOUR GOALS

    It’s great to set some goals for the future – they give you a sense of purpose and a roadmap for where you’re going. But setting goals is just the beginning – you also need to achieve them. Here are our four top tips:

    1. Lay down plans

    Well-laid plans are well played plans. Break your goal down into milestones to give you a sense of control. Milestones are the steps to your goal and can be further broken down into tasks.

    Let’s say your goal is to find a new job. Ask yourself, what do I need to do that? You might decide to start with updating your resume – that would be your milestone. Then ask yourself, what do I need to do that? Maybe you can start making notes on some of your recent achievements or research on the internet for some tips on resume writing – they would be your tasks.

    Write down all of your milestones, their corresponding tasks and a definition for how you will know when you have completed them. Give yourself a timeframe for each and tick off each task and milestone as you go.

    1. Create new habits

    Very often the process for coming closer to your goal means doing a particular task on a regular basis – it’s like building up a muscle. Each day you work on it, it gets a little stronger. If you’re looking for a new job, a regular task might be to keep checking job sites and honing your skills in writing engaging cover letters.

    Make a habit of doing the necessary tasks. They say it takes three weeks to form a habit, so stick with it safe in the knowledge that it will get easier. When you’re starting out, put aside some time each day, then tell yourself that you only have to do your task for fifteen minutes and then you can stop. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find that you’ll be happy to keep going.

    1. Focus on the process

    Research has shown that our brains tend to focus on the most difficult part of any task. Consequently, we’re often tricked into thinking that it’s all too hard and finding excuses for putting it off. And if we put it off for too long, we can give up on the goal before we even start.

    To help us, we frequently hear advice telling us to visualise having already achieved our goal. Unfortunately this type of visualisation often results in fantasising about a future and procrastinating about doing anything about it. Better, more motivating advice is to visualise doing the processes you need to go through to reach your goal.

    1. Commit to the weekly weigh in

    Each day ask yourself, what did I do today to get me closer to where I want to be? This question makes you accountable for your actions towards your goal and will help to keep you on track.

    Another way to make yourself accountable is to tell someone what you are going to do over the week towards your goal. Be careful who you tell though because some people won’t be interested. You need someone who will give you a hard time if you’ve procrastinated about following your goal plan.

    When you get to the end of your week, write a summary of everything that you achieved. If you’ve kept yourself accountable, you’ve probably achieved quite a lot and you’ll feel energised for the next week.


  5. What to say in a performance review

    June 9, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Performance reviews are an opportunity to get some feedback on your work over the past year, but they’re also your chance to have your say on how you think you could become a better professional. Here are eight ways to do so:

    1. What you like about your job

    Tell your boss what you like about your job. It helps them to understand who you are and how to keep you motivated and happy. Happy employees are more productive and contribute to a healthy workplace culture.

    1. What you want to learn about

    Let your boss know what you’re interested in learning about. It helps them to plan where you might fit in a growing company. Employees who are continually learning continually increase their value in a business.

    1. What you would really like to work on

    If there is an upcoming project that you want to be a part of, tell your boss about it. It shows your interest in what is happening in the business. Employees who work on projects that they are interested in are more passionate about their work.

    1. Where you see yourself in the future

    Tell your boss where you see yourself in the future with the company. It shows that you are goal orientated and are keen to be a part of the business in the long term. Employees with a vision for the future are motivated towards achieving their goals.

    1. How you would like to contribute to the company’s success

    Let your boss know what you would like to do to contribute to the company’s success. It shows that you are a team player and that you’re dedicated to common goals. Employees who want to contribute have a high morale.

    1. What support you need to do your best work

    Tell your boss what support you need to do your job well – be it training, new technology, better communication, an extra pair of hands or anything else. If you don’t tell them, they may not think to offer support. Employees who speak up about what they need are more likely to get help.

    1. What isn’t working

    Be honest about what isn’t working – be it a process, procedure or a type of technology. Managers who aren’t working with the systems may not be aware of inefficiencies and appreciate insights from the ‘trenches’. Employees who give feedback can help to streamline business processes.

    1. What ideas you have for improving practices

    Suggest solutions for what is not working. It shows that you’re creative and insightful. Employees with ideas for improving practices show their leadership potential.


  6. Keeping motivated when you are a Leader

    May 19, 2015 by Jenna

    Leadership takes on many responsibilities; it can be very busy and even tiring at times and therefore motivation levels can fluctuate. However, in this role you need to be able to keep yourself motivated because in turn it keeps the rest of your team motivated and thriving in the business.

    It starts with keeping in check your own personal motivation – your passions, continuing to challenge yourself with various projects and remembering why you committed to these goals in the first place. What you are trying to achieve?

    Sometimes the quickest way to lose motivation or even exhaust your level of motivation is to spend all of your time and energy trying to motivate and please the needs of your team. The truth is motivation is personal and you cannot force it upon others. Instead, leading by example through your own motivations, you can inspire others to motivate themselves and drive them to perform better. It’s showing the way towards success.

    Methods for self-motivation can include:

    • Learning new skills – What is needed for your current role? Where can you obtain these skills? Is there anyone who you can consult with for direction or advice?

    • Taking appropriate leave breaks to relax & rejuvenate – Clearing your mind of distractions (and resting), taking the time to find out more about yourself or pursuing a personal goal or hobby.

    • Spending time developing a self-improvement plan and setting goals – Where do you see your role developing in line with your business goals? Where do you see your team going and what do you need to do to help guide them there?

    • Investing in courses and training that can lead to growth and development – Are there any conferences within your local area that are providing information on areas of development? Have you looked into local educational institutions and what courses they provide? Are there any online resources that you could review outside of business hours?

    Building your own motivation by developing our skills and abilities also provides the knowledge and insight to pass on to others. If others within your team are seeking your advice or direction, you can provide recommendations and information on what you have looked into previously, helping direct others toward their future success.

    Make sure to also keep following up on your personal progress and what motivates you, whether it is every month or six months. That way you can help keep your motivation levels consistent and on track.

    If you are currently in a leadership role, what motivates you? More importantly, in what ways do you keep your drive and motivation consistent?


  7. Tips on how to effectively lead teams

    May 5, 2015 by Jenna

    Leading teams requires great commitment and looking outside of yourself to meet their needs. We have provided some tips below to help set you on the right path to a great leadership experience: If you are new to a leadership role they might help guide your way and if you have been at it for a while they may serve as a useful reminder.

    1. Brush up on Your Communication Skills. Having clear and precise communication is important, and being honest and open with your team helps build a level of trust. Making sure all staff understand what the goals and expectations are and giving them the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas for feedback is important.

    2. Be Committed to Your Goal. Not only should you be explaining the importance of the company goals to your team, but you need to show by example that you support the goals as a leader. This involves setting out the tasks, having follow-up meetings and making sure that your team is on track with what needs to be achieved.

    3. Give Verbal Recognition. Verbal recognition for efforts and praise show your support towards the staff member’s accomplishments. It also boosts morale and positivity that encourages a mutual support among team members.

    4. A Team Leader Should Lead by Example. A great leader is someone who shouldn’t be afraid to get their hands dirty or dig in to help when the team requires additional support. Someone who can encourage team members to take risks and support them when they do.

    5. Invest in Staff Careers. To ensure your staff are up to date with the skills they need for their role, you may need to invest in training, invest time mentoring or finding the right mentor, invest time to discover what they really need and want in order to do a great job.

    6. Resolve Conflicts. Any conflict within the workplace needs to be handled promptly and assessed by leaders as soon as it arises. Appropriate measures need to be taken to find resolution or negotiate a mutual agreement. Whether it is conflict in a task or between co-workers, leaders must step up to the plate to take action and problem solve the best way that they can.

    7. Teach Adaptability. The effective team manager should teach adaptability and flexibility to all their team members. This results in better communication, a greater sense of empowerment among staff and a faster exchange of information.

    8. Build Pride in Your Team. Positive reinforcement on success is a proven way to keep staff motivation high and build pride in your team. It will increase productivity amongst the team and encourage drive towards goals. You are also creating a positive working environment that employees are happy to be a part of.

    9. Give Your Staff New Responsibilities. Just as you have developed into your role of leadership, your team are looking for development opportunities. It is important that you help them by giving them the opportunity to take on new responsibilities as the opportunities arise.

    Have you lead teams during your career? What were your first experiences when it came to leading teams? What did you find was most successful? What did you learn from the experience?


  8. What are the next steps after gaining a promotion?

    April 28, 2015 by Jenna

    You have worked hard to get your promotion, now you have to set yourself up for success in your new role. Preparing to take on more responsibility will make the transition process run smoothly and will help set you up for future success.

    So what are the next steps after you receive the promotion? What can you do to keep yourself on track?

    1. Get clear expectations. The first thing you need to do is really understand your new role. What does the organisation expect of you? What does your manager expect of you? And what do you expect of yourself? Clarifying these expectations sets up a path to follow.

    2. Set your goals What do you want to accomplish and why? Set personal and career goals both short and long term so you can measure your progress on the path. Don’t be afraid to share your goals or vision with management and get their buy in as well,

    3. Talk to your boss. Get to know your manager and determine how you will work together. How and when will you communicate and what will help you succeed beyond the job description. These things are critically important to your mutual success.

    4. Focus on building relationships. You may have moved to a new department with new peers or report to and a new manager. The relationships with the people around you are part of that job! Invest time in building relationships with your new peers, people in other groups, your boss, your customers, and if you are a leader, your team. It makes your working environment more positive and productive if you have a level of rapport with your team.

    5. Learn what you need to learn. Remember you are new to this position so you cannot know it all on the first day! It is part of our development to learn new skills. Take notes, ask questions, request feedback to make sure you are heading on the path towards success. The earlier you set yourself up to understand the requirements and expectations of the role, the easier it will be to settle into the position and start delivering.

    6. Celebrate! Of course you deserve the time to celebrate your promotion and share the excitement with others. Take some time for yourself and those closest to you to celebrate your progress and accomplishments. Celebrating builds your confidence and awareness, and it sets you on the right path for even better performance.

    Sometimes we tend to rush from one project to the next without fully understanding what we have achieved. Every accomplishment is a stepping stone on the path towards your future. Show appreciation towards those who helped get you get to that next stage.

    If you have been through a promotion recently, what steps did you take to continue to perform at your best and show that you were the right one for the job?


  9. What to expect in a performance review

    April 14, 2015 by Jenna

    Performance reviews can seem intimidating and can make you feel anxious, but at the end of the day they are important in helping us develop and improve our performance. Whether you have been in an organisation for a few months or a few years, the performance review is inevitable. With correct preparation though, they don’t have to be scary.

    1. Be Prepared

    There is no harm in asking your manager ahead of time what to expect from the upcoming review. You can also ask fellow colleagues who have been at the organisation longer what they have experienced. Make sure that you are recording your work progress and achievements so that you also have something to present to management during the review process.

    1. Be Honest

    This is an opportunity for you to share with your manager your honest thoughts and opinions on your current workload and working environment. This means acknowledging if you are struggling in some areas and working with management on ways to resolve or delegate certain tasks. This is also an opportunity to shine and really show your manager where you are excelling (as long as you can back it up with examples).

    1. You are Part of a Team

    Remember that your performance review should not be just an opportunity for your manager to point out all of your failures. You should both be discussing how you are performing as an individual and a team member for the overall success of the company. If you have ideas or feedback to put forward on possible improvements or incentives for the team, now would be the time to do so.

    1. Know Your Accomplishments

    Don’t sell yourself short. A manager may not always be present during the time of an accomplishment and may ask you what you have contributed to the company so far. Don’t let it fall under the radar, even get a colleague or witness to verify it if it was a team effort or if it helped another person significantly. If you are a facts and figures type of person, present it to management with the data necessary to support your review.

    1. Be Open to Constructive Criticism

    These periodic assessments are provided to everyone in your team to help you improve. It is important to not take constructive feedback as though it is a personal attack or react in a defensive manner. Take the time to listen carefully to the feedback your manager has provided, and once you know they have stated all of the details, take the time to ask any questions about anything you may be unsure about. You can also ask what steps you can start taking to improve this area of feedback.

    1. Give Feedback

    There should be a point in the review session where you’re asked if you want to give feedback on your colleagues, your boss, or the projects you’ve worked on. Be honest, but professional with your feedback, especially about co-workers or the way a certain project has been organised. Don’t leave anything out, but at the same time provide value by offering suggestions for improvement instead of just complaining.

    1. Ask Questions

    Show that you were attentive and have initiative by asking questions at the end of the review on the next steps and areas of improvement. Be open to answer any questions provided by the reviewer as well. It’s a lot better to reflect on questions while the conversation is still fresh and even take notes on responses to reflect upon afterwards.

    If you’re honest and assertive in your performance review and know what to expect, you’ll leave your review with more positive motivation than ever.


  10. LinkedIn Study Reveals the Skills Employers (Really) Want

    April 7, 2015 by Jenna

    What do you tell an employer when they ask you what your strengths are? Do you provide them with leadership examples from previous roles, outline key skills or educational achievements that could be valuable for the role? Do you know what skills the employer is looking for to fulfill the role?

    A recent study by LinkedIn reveals that when it comes to interviewing and hiring early-career professionals, employers aren’t just considering education, experience and job skills. They are also looking for specific soft skills and personality traits — and how these characteristics rank may surprise you.

    LinkedIn defines early-career professionals as those with zero to three years’ experience. Understanding these skill sets will give you a better indication of how you can be considered in today’s job market.

    Specific skills
    The two most important skills employers look for are problem-solving skills (65 percent) — defined as the ability to see and create solutions when faced with challenges — and being a good learner (64 percent) by learning new concepts quickly and being adaptable in new situations.

    Employers also look for candidates who have strong analytical skills: 46 percent of the employers surveyed said early-career hires need to be able to use logical reasoning.

    Communication skills are essential. The ability to clearly communicate ideas while speaking plays a much more important role than doing so in writing, however. The study revealed that 45 percent of employers want to hire people with strong oral communication skills, whereas only 22 percent consider strong written communication skills to be crucial.

    Furthermore, creativity, the ability to think outside the box (21 percent), and being tech-savvy (16 percent) are also pluses for employers.

    Personality traits
    The most important personality trait employers look for in early-career professionals is the ability to collaborate. Fifty-five percent of employers put a premium on the ability to work well with others. A close runner-up was the ability to work hard, with 52 percent of employers preferring candidates who have strong work ethics and go above and beyond.

    Having a positive attitude also goes a long way for 45 percent of employers, while 31 percent said being passionate by demonstrating enthusiasm for their work and the business’s values is also important.

    Additionally, employers look for candidates who are organised (twenty nine percent) and resilient (twenty one percent).

    Role-based skills
    The types of skills employers are looking for also depends highly on the position and industry they work in. LinkedIn’s study found that hiring managers look for these specific skill sets when interviewing and hiring for sales, marketing and consulting roles:

    For sales roles: Candidates should possess strong oral communication skills and a good attitude that shows optimism and maintains positive energy.
    For marketing/PR roles: Creativity, passion and strong written communication skills are key to a great hire.
    For consulting roles: Employers look for candidates with strong analytical and written communication skills.

    Hiring managers, do you agree with the above statistics? What other skills sets are important to you when it comes to the ideal employee for your office team?




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