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  1. Why you should take stock of your transferable skills

    October 18, 2016 by Alison Hill

    It was heartbreaking to read about the despair some workers felt when car makers closed down their factories earlier this month. Workers were on average 50 years old, had spent 20 years working for one company, and felt they did not have the skills to find work elsewhere.

    While it is true that manufacturing in Australia is in decline, everybody has transferable skills – those that are developed across the lifespan in both work and non-work settings. Being able to use those skills in a different setting can open up a host of job opportunities, but first you must identify them and value them as much as a prospective employer might.

    You definitely have transferable skills

    Doing any job involves many skills over and above those required to accomplish core tasks, and some skills are useful in almost every job.  Skills are different to attributes, and the good news is that you can learn and develop them. You may have acquired transferable skills by participating in the health and safety committee in your office, or by being a member of a social committee. Putting on a great Christmas party, for example, could help you into a career in events if you are able to connect the skills you learnt to an employer’s requirements.

    Outside of work, you may have played a sport, or belonged to a school or community organisation, or be involved in a hobby. These will have given you transferable skills that you can bring to the workplace in a new role. Anybody who has kids will know that being a parent teaches many skills, such as patience, perseverance, and negotiation, to name just three. A parent returning to the workforce can name these skills to increase their likelihood of success.

    Some things you might have learnt to do, such as fixing a computer or coding your own website, are technical skills, while others are ‘soft’ skills that will always be in demand, like the ability to communicate well, delegate tasks or resolve conflicts. Whether you have learnt these on the job in another workplace or in your non-working life, they are valuable skills that will give you the edge in any job application.

    Why transferable skills matter

    Your set of transferable skills will help you in different ways at different points in your career. When you are starting out, your time as netball captain or bass player in a band can show your prospective employer that you have good team skills and can co-operate with others. Your part-time job in a supermarket demonstrates that you know about customer service, and even the hours spent playing DOTA will have taught you about teamwork and cooperation.

    For those who are looking to change careers, transferable skills are crucial. Being able to research and analyse, for example, transfers well from an academic job to a range of roles in a commercial enterprise.

    Anybody re-entering the workforce after a break will need to call on their transferable skills as many occupation-based skills will have become obsolete. Even if all the organisation’s billing is now automated or outsourced, the ability to work magic with a spreadsheet still has a range of applications.

    What are your transferable skills?

    Take some time to make a list of your transferable skills and how they can be helpful to you in your future career. Do you know a second or a third language? That can be a huge advantage in today’s globalised workplace. Are you a writer in your spare time? Or are you really good at setting goals and motivating people in your running group?

    Once you have listed them, think about how you can use them. It may be to help you write a good resume, or to identify career opportunities you hadn’t considered. Your list might reveal gaps in your skills that you could address with a short course or on-the-job training.

    When you are applying for a job, the position description will contain a list of the skills the employer is looking for. Match your transferable skills to the requirements of the position, with a specific example. If, for instance, you co-ordinated the fete at your child’s school and you are applying for a role involving project management, link the skills you used to run the event with the requirements to be able to lead a team, communicate and manage risk. Use your cover letter to explain how your transferable skills match the requirements of the job description.

    Here are some of the most in-demand transferable skills. How many do you have?

    Interpersonal skills: relate well to others • motivates others • good at resolving conflict • team player

    Organisational skills: setting and meeting goals • time management • following up • meeting deadlines • planning

    Leadership skills: team building • delegating • innovative • motivating • decision-making • strategic thinking

    Communication skills: presentation • simplifying • writing and editing • persuading • teaching

    You can work at the skills you have and learn new ones, either by informal learning in your free time or with a mentor, or by enrolling in short courses, webinars and workplace learning programs.

    Managers can support their teams by encouraging and sponsoring members to take courses in areas that will both add to their transferable skills and make them more effective team members.

    Document what you learn and how it might transfer into a different role than the one you have now. And be ready to use your transferable skills in a new setting when the time is right.


  2. The insider’s guide to learning new skills at work

    May 31, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Whether you want to develop in your current position or you have set your sights on a new role, effective skills development takes planning and commitment to making time to learn or upgrade your skills. The world of online learning has made this a bit easier, and there are good courses to do in your ‘free’ time with this flexible approach.

    When planning your approach, start with any mandatory professional education requirements, such as courses designed to help you to comply with licencing conditions. Use professional websites to identify what’s on during the year, and commit to a timetable of helpful sessions, so that you’re not scrambling around for those last points at the end of the year.

    Then identify areas that you want to learn more about. It might be something identified in your performance review, or an area in which you realise your skills have fallen behind. You may see that a new skill could lead to a promotion or even a coveted new role.

    These are some of the courses we have found helpful and which you can jump into now to upgrade your skills.

    For upgrading your business writing skills, the Australian Writers Centre offers a one-day course on the essentials for people working in customer service, support or sales. The course is also available online. For middle managers and above, there’s Professional Business Writing, which runs every couple of months. This one is aimed at writing proposals and reports. The presenters at the AWC are experts in their field as well as great presenters, and as a bonus, the classrooms overlook Luna Park and the harbour. The next one starts on 23 June, so hop on board.

    Getting your head around project management can be bewildering. The Australian Institute of Management  runs short courses for novices (two-day course, next running in Sydney on 8-9 June) and for those with some knowledge and experience (three-day course, next running 7-9 June in Sydney and 20-22 June in Parramatta). AIM has a wide range of courses, from Leading with Emotional Intelligence (14 June) to Managing budgets (20 June).

    Webinars are often a huge disappointment, not delivering what they promise and disguising a marketing pitch as a learning opportunity. A site for solo entrepreneurs, Flying Solo, has good ones on demand, and they are helpful to everybody, not just soloists.  Accelerate your workflow is particularly helpful, showing you how to use technology to streamline work. Dealing with your inbox, automating routine office tasks and an analysis of the budget’s implications are some recent topics.

    Fancy studying at Harvard or Princeton? You can. Coursera is one of many providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. They are free, online and generally presented by outstanding lecturers. Try Preparing to manage human resources,   a four-week course from the University of Minnesota, which starts this week, or Big Data: data visualisation from QUT.  Coursera is also offering a practical, project-based course, How to write a resume, created by the State University of New York. When you finish you will have a polished resume developed with guidance from a professional career counsellor and recruiter, and with feedback from your peers.

    Skillshare  is a great platform for learning creative skills from others. The range of skills on offer is huge – from making French macarons to being more productive. Most include practical projects. There is a good selection of video classes in digital marketing, so helpful if you have been charged with writing your organisation’s blog posts! You are bound to find something to do for fun and relaxation too, like painting or creating a custom rubber stamp.

    Lynda.com,  part of LinkedIn, offers video tutorials you can follow at your own pace. You can learn about thousands of topics taught by industry experts and working professionals in software, creative, and business skills.

    Be sure to add all the new skills you learn to your resume. There are plenty more good sources of skills and professional development learning, and you are sure to find an online course, webinar, podcast or class to suit your needs. The important thing is to identify a need and then commit to learning.

    If you have learnt something amazing, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

     

     


  3. 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.


  4. 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?


  5. Three great ways to share what you know

    July 14, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    If you’ve been working for a while you will have amounted a healthy set of skills and a level of professional expertise that you can be proud of. You didn’t achieve it all on your own though – many people helped you along the way by sharing the gift of their knowledge either through formal training or less formally on the job.

    Now it’s your turn. Share what you know with less experienced colleagues and discover that, it’s not only the recipient who reaps the benefits of shared knowledge, you do too. Here are three great ways it can be done:

    Brown paper bag lunches

    Brown paper bag lunches are a wonderful way to share what you have learned during your working life with your co-workers. The way that brown paper bag lunches work is for a group of co-workers to get together at lunchtime with their take-away lunches at regular intervals – say weekly or fortnightly.

    Each time the group meets with their lunch, one member in an informal, relaxed way, shares something they have learned that others may not know about. Let’s say it’s your turn. You may have been reading up on something interesting that could be applied to a work situation, or you may have attended a conference that featured an interesting speaker, or maybe you have used a piece of technology that others haven’t and you think that they might find it useful.

    You can share information from a past position or something that relates to your current role, it really doesn’t matter so long as it potentially helps your co-workers in some way. Brown paper bag lunches are also ideal for getting to know people at work better and promoting collaboration.

    Lessons learned

    Lessons learned is a retrospective process traditionally used in project management. It’s designed to capture both the negative and positive lessons that were learned during the execution of a project. A project can be anything from implementing new technology systems and creating training programs to organising a conference.

    The point is that during any project some things will have worked well and others may not have. Sharing lessons learned with others who are about to undertake similar projects helps the new team to avoid some of the pitfalls of past projects and to leverage on some of the positive aspects. If you’ve worked on any type of project, you can share your lessons learned in this way.

    Mentoring

    One-on-one mentoring can be immensely satisfying for both the mentee and mentor. The mentor–mentee relationship is essentially a conversation between two people. Because everyone comes to the table with their own set of professional and life experiences, as mentor you’ll soon realise that your mentee isn’t the only one who is learning in the relationship. As you progress with mentoring your colleague, your knowledge will expand, deepen and become more ingrained.

    Mentoring is also a great way to establish your reputation as an expert, demonstrate your leadership skills and advance your career. What’s more, mentoring can be a lot of fun and many mentoring relationships have been the start of long-lasting friendships. So look for opportunities to mentor others because the benefits to you are tenfold compared to the time and effort you put in.


  6. 8-point checklist for effective online training

    July 7, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Are you using online learning to train your staff? Online learning gives staff the benefit of being able to do their training when it suits them best and dispels the need for having staff in one place at one time for training.

    Done well, online learning is engaging, meaningful and produces desired outcomes. Done poorly, it lacks sound learning strategies, achieves little towards meeting outcomes and demotivates learners. So before you invest in a training strategy for online learning, go through this checklist to assess a training program and ensure you’re not wasting precious resources:

    Communicate expected outcomes. Make it perfectly clear what your staff need to know by the time they’ve finished their training and why they need to know it – never assume that they know the expected outcomes of their training.

    Highlight critical information. Focus the learner’s attention by using headings, clear formatting, colour and plenty of ‘white space’.

    Build on existing knowledge. Help learners to recall prior knowledge so they can link new information with related information in their long-term memory.

    Cater for individual differences. 
Include different types of activities – branching scenarios, case studies, eLearning games, videos, audio and ‘chunked’ text – to engage a range of different learning styles and test knowledge.

    Ground learning to real life. Design activities that are relevant to learners’ real life roles and responsibilities in the workplace to emphasise the relevance of what they are learning.

    Give feedback. 
Let learners know how they are progressing by giving feedback on their activities, congratulating them on completing learning modules and helping them keep track of their progress.

    Encourage collaboration. Create a community of learning within the workplace by encouraging learners to share knowledge, insights and link their own success to the success of their colleagues.

    Provide sound support. Ensure that learners can access support when needed to help them with issues like site navigation, questions about the learning and strategies for completing the modules in the time required.


  7. Five awesome ways to love your job more

    June 23, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    ‘The secret to great work is being passionate about your job’, said Steve Jobs. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to keep the passion alive. So what can you do when you’re faced with challenges like conflicting demands on your time and energy, internal politics and a general lack of job satisfaction? Quitting is an option, but not always the best one. Another option is to take action to ignite your passion using these five awesome techniques:

    1. Look for meaning

    We all want to feel like we’re doing something meaningful that will make a difference but sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind that we lose sight of why we’re there. The secret to finding meaning in your work is to align it with your values. Write down your top five values. Here are mine – family, good health, challenge, creativity and curiosity. What are yours? How does your work help you to live according your values?

    1. Do more of what you like

    You might not like every aspect of your job, but you probably like parts of it. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do more of those parts you like. Do you enjoy helping others learn new skills? Are you a natural organiser? Do you like working with words to make something sound just right? Build more of anything you like and see how your job suddenly becomes more interesting.

    1. Learn something new

    To be happy at work you need to find the sweet spot between being under challenged and over challenged. If you feel that your job only needs half your brain then you’re bored and it’s probably time to learn something new. Challenge yourself by learning more about the industry you work in and learning new skills. You’ll not only quell your boredom but you will also be adding to your worth as an employee.

    1. Get clear about expectations

    If you’re faced with conflicting demands, ask your boss to clarify priorities for you. Be upfront early about the possibility of not completing a task on time because another task has taken up all your time and attention. You don’t want to be faced with having to tell people that you didn’t complete the task by the due date, so flag obstacles early so others can plan ahead.

    1. Keep away from the moaners

    Are you hanging around with the cynics and whiners at work? Negativity breeds more negativity. Work will never be perfect, but when you spend your time with people who love to hate the workplace and most of the people in it, you won’t be happy. Seek out people with more balanced views and you’ll find that your views about work will shift dramatically.


  8. 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.


  9. 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?


  10. Bad Habits Leaders Should Avoid

    May 12, 2015 by Jenna

    When you look up the term ‘leadership’ or ‘leadership roles’, you will find many articles on what to do to become a great leader. It is also important to be aware of bad habits that can hinder progress.

    I know I have been guilty of at least two of the items listed below, but the first step is being aware of these habits so that you can find the ways to improve your leadership performance:

    1. Taking credit for others’ ideas and contributions – We all know the famous term, there is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’. It is very exciting when members of your team make a contribution that takes the organisation in a positive direction. However, the biggest failures one can make as a leader is to neglect to recognise and acknowledge individual and team contributions. If you are taking credit for someone else’s work, chances are you will start to notice your team working against you and not for you because they do not feel appreciated or valued.
    2. Using a position of power to control and intimidateothers — This autocratic style of leadership will often leave the team with a low level of autonomy. This can prevent creative ideas being presented as team members feel they do not have the right to contribute.
    3. Blaming others when things go wrong – It is important to recognise with the team when mistakes are made and that they have negative consequences in order to assess better solutions for the future. However, singling people out, pointing fingers, or making others carry the full weight of the failure is not reaction a leader should take. A leader needs to stand by their team no matter what, accept responsibility of when things go wrong, keep track of team members and progression, and have an ‘open door’ for team members to approach if they are experiencing struggles on tasks.
    4. Clinging to traditional methods and old ideas –In order to thrive in society most leaders need to think outside the box, take risks when needed and use innovation to be one step ahead of competitors. While traditional methods may have worked in the past, if you find you are constantly using the same strategy when the rest of the world is changing, you may fall behind. This includes those that refuse to learn new skills and tools to keep up with today’s market. If you are not trying to learn and adapt, you will fall behind.
    5. Failing to keep promises – Leaders who make promises but do not follow through risk loss of personal credibility, trust and the goodwill of others. If you have let down your team more than once, it can often take a long time to earn that trust back.
    6. Actingalone – Leaders who do not consult, collaborate or solicit input from others often fail to make enlightened decisions. Leaders also need to make sure they delegate tasks within the team appropriately so that they can stretch their teams’ abilities.

    Failing to effectively manage issues – Leaders who dismiss the need to address, manage and resolve issues, place themselves and their organisation at risk.

    What are some of the experiences you have learned in a leadership role? What were the learning curves that you have experienced?




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