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  1. Return of the Intergalactic Admin Manager

    September 9, 2014 by Kate Dass

    Several years ago, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess, who happens to be a die-hard NRL fan, took it upon herself to create a NRL staff tipping competition. “YAY” no-one said. But, when the incentives of a Jurlique gift pack for the winner and, even better, an actual wooden spoon for the loser, were dangled in front of us like the proverbial carrot, we were all in.

    Of course, this required selecting tipping comp aliases. I chose the subtle “Intergalactic Admin Manager”. The tipping comp is still going though, I must admit, having only returned to Challenge on a temporary basis after an absence of two and a half years, I am a less-than-enthusiastic participant (or is this just a cunning ploy to get my hands on the until-now elusive wooden spoon?)

    The point in all this is that I am back. Why am I back? How am I back?

    Let’s start at the very beginning.

    People are generally astonished that, until I resigned in late 2011, I was Challenge Consulting’s Administration Manager for 11 years. The common question is: why did I stay that long?

    The co-founder and original Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, is, quite simply, the number one reason. I worked directly and closely with her, literally and figuratively, and was given more and more professional development opportunities as the years went by. As my skills and competencies expanded, I was challenged to expand them further. I learned how to manage payroll, the company banking, staff superannuation, website management, social media communications. I became a qualified Career Guidance Counsellor and Psychometric Testing Administrator. I ran workshops and wrote business proposals. I was trusted, I was encouraged, I was challenged, I was made to feel like my duties made a genuine difference to the success of the company.

    Another key component was Elizabeth’s uncanny ability to select the right people for her company’s culture. Every time she took even the slightest risk and went against her instincts, the person never lasted long. This rarely occurred, however, and this meant that the team working for her and, crucially, with her, was happy, supportive and willing to work hard and with excellence as its standard.

    Thirdly, Elizabeth’s willingness to be flexible in the working arrangements of her staff members meant that when, in September 2008, I left to have my first baby, she left me in no doubt that there would always be a place for me in the Challenge team, in whatever capacity suited my new responsibilities as a mother. In early 2009, I returned to work first one day per week, then, two, then three. The balance between work and family was perfect. When, in 2011, I discovered that another little person had decided to join our family, Elizabeth was the first person, other than my husband, I told. As her employee, I wanted her to be able to plan for my successor (I did not envision being able to return to work as quickly as the first time, so I made the decision to resign). As her friend, I had no hesitation in sharing my news with her, knowing that she would be nothing less than overjoyed. I left with sadness but no regret in December 2011 and threw myself into mummy-ness once again.

    Now, I adore my children. But, something no-one ever mentions for fear of being placed in front of a firing squad for daring to suggest that motherhood is not always a complete joy, it can be somewhat lacking in intellectual stimulation. Astonishing, I know. What, you mean you can’t understand why changing your seven thousandth nappy and watching In The Night Garden ad infinitum might be, I don’t know, a tad boring?

    I needed to do something. Anything.

    I did bits and pieces of casual work during 2013 and early 2014. And then – the aforementioned Narelle celebrated her 10th Challenge Consulting anniversary in July. Whilst nibbling on a piece of excellent cheese and sipping on a glass of fizzy wine, I silently sidled out of the boardroom and took a wander around memory office. It was all familiar, yet different. It was also somewhat, ahem, disorganised. My reputation as the Office Cleaning Nazi remains to this day. No-one has yet dared to remove my whiteboard reminder, written I don’t know how many years ago. Challenge’s current owner and Managing Director, Stephen Crowe, approached me with, was it fear?, and said, “I bet you hate that state of the office.” I replied, “It didn’t have look like this in my day.”

    The team repaired to a very nice dinner washed down with quantities of wine. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my innate need to clean and apply order taking control of my brain, but I said to Stephen, “You know, I’d love to come in and sort things out for you.” We met the next week and had a (sober) chat about what I could and would do. Our current Administrator / Social Media Coordinator, Jenna, just happened to be departing for a month in Canada the very next week. And so here I am, just for the time being, looking after things at Challenge Consulting once again, every Tuesday.

    I love it. Things have changed, of course, but I still feel comfortable, welcome, and capable of making a difference, even in a small way.

    Here are some key words and phrases to take away from this personal perspective on staff retention and why people stay, and even return:

    – Professional Development Opportunities

    – Making a Difference

    – Team Spirit

    – Challenged and Trusted

    – Selecting the Right People for the Company Culture

    – Management’s Willingness to be Flexible

    – Facilitating Work/Life Balance

    – Feeling Welcomed, Valued, and Trusted

    [Thank you, Stephen, for this opportunity. I cannot express how much I appreciate it.]


  2. Cover Letters: what you should and should NOT include …

    September 7, 2011 by Jenna

    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

    ______________________________

    To begin with, whilst you don’t want to read someone’s life story in a job application cover letter, my personal feeling (and one that many of my colleagues and respondents to last week’s poll concur with) is that something a little beyond “Here is my CV. Call me” creates a slightly more positive impression. 

    I’m just saying. 

    We had some, er, interesting responses to last week’s online poll, which asked “What is the #1 worst thing you can put in your job application cover letter?” 

    The “Other” option attracted my favourite, which was: “If hired, I will cook at your next family BBQ”. Whilst this may not be the most appropriate inclusion, it was more of an inducement than “a massive picture of myself, naked”. Shudder. 

    We had a tie for the #1 worst thing: just over 27% of respondents believed that using the wrong company name or wrong cover letter, and criticising either your prospective or previous employer, were equally as bad as each other. 

    Bad writing, poor grammar and jokes were also considered shabby form. 

    Now, I am sure you can imagine that, as a busy recruitment firm, Challenge Consulting receives many hundreds of job applications every week, most with cover letters included. 

    I promise you, they’ve seen it all when it comes to cover letters and CVs, the good, the bad and the ugly. I mean, really ugly. I questioned Team Challenge for their expert suggestions of what job applicants should and should not include. Repeatedly, their responses centred on the letters being tailored to the role being applied for, and personally addressed to the consultant managing the job … 

    – “I like cover letters to be tailored to the role being applied for and addressed to me. No ‘To whom it may concern’, thanks or, worse still, ‘Dear Sir’ – not only does this smack of impersonality, as we happen to have no males working at Challenge Consulting, it clearly demonstrates the applicant cannot even bother to find out who they’re writing to.” 

    – “A few paragraphs is ideal. Cover letters must be relevant and specifically tailored to the job you are applying for. Do not just create one cover letter that you use for every application, you need to tweak it to ensure it is customised to each role. You must outline your skills and experience, detailing what you could bring to the specific role. I also like to see the applicant’s reason for leaving their previous role/s if it is not already outlined on their resume.” 

    – “The worst thing a person can do is address the cover letter to the wrong employer/agency and have the wrong job title. Do not include personal details, such as your marital status, religion, children, etc, that are not relevant. Do not include negative information about your previous employer.” 

    – “I like to see someone who has tailored each cover letter to the position they are applying for, and addressing the selection criteria, especially for the more technical roles. It is also important that the candidate addresses the cover letter to the person who is listed on the job ad. If the candidate has put the wrong name, or a different role they are applying for, it looks really bad, and suggests a lack of attention to detail.” 

    – “I only generally read the covering letter once I have reviewed the candidate’s CV and have established their relevance, however, looking at the covering letter can be incredibly useful to:

    • Gauge written communication skills
    • Understand reasons for leaving their current opportunity in favour of the advertised opportunity (if not included in CV)
    • Provide clarity regarding the relevance of their experience if it is quite technical
    • Their relevance to advertised opportunity, especially if a change of industry is involved. The cover letter offers and opportunity to explain who their skills are transferable.”

    Perhaps the best response was the most succinct, from a person who appreciates the succinct in others: 

    “If you can’t construct an interesting and informative (but nice and brief) cover letter, don’t bother including one. It should be a summary of who you are, your most recent experience, and your reasons for applying. You should also include your contact details and availability for interview, but not much more.” 

    Have you seen or even been the recipient of a weird or wonderful cover letter? Let us know in the comments section below. 

    Next week, we address the controversial topic “Should smokers be allowed to go out for a cigarette break during office hours?” Have your say in this week’s online poll now …




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