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  1. 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.

     

     


  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. 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.


  4. 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?


  5. 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?


  6. 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?


  7. 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?


  8. 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?


  9. 4 Work Habits to Help Increase Your Performance at Work

    March 31, 2015 by Jenna

    We all want to be top performers at work. We want to work hard, achieve goals and be recognised for our efforts.

    Here are four habits that will help you achieve more:

    1. Make Yourself Accountable: While working independently is advantageous, it is also important to have someone that you report your progress to, whether it is members of your office team or a supervisor. This can often enforce more urgency and effort to complete the task when you know you need to report your progress to someone on a regular basis.

    2. Discipline yourself to set priorities: It will make it easier to focus on the important tasks. Address the higher priorities in the morning when you are freshest and save the more repetitive ones for later in the day. If you receive assignments as the day is winding down, use the last five to ten minutes to prioritise for the next day. Lists are very helpful, and checking items off as you complete them will further encourage you to accomplish more.

    3. Don’t let fear prevent you from completing challenging tasks: If fear takes control of our daily lives it can paralyse us from completing tasks. It results in achieving less and we may start avoiding commitment to tasks. The remedy for fear is planning. Start by making a list of things you have accomplished (even if it’s only two or three) and keep it in a visible place to use as self-encouragement. Then make a list of things you want to accomplish and the steps to complete each one. The best way to successfully complete a big project is to break it down into smaller pieces.

    4. Avoid Procrastination.The longer you put off a task the more it will end up haunting you. You can save a lot of time and stress if you work on the difficult/important tasks first, then the rest of the day will seem less daunting.

    What steps do you follow to keep yourself performing at your best? How do you keep track of your progression? What works best for you?


  10. Bad News, You Didn’t Get The Job… What Next?

    March 17, 2015 by Jenna

    You were picked out of the crowd of candidates to attend the interview. You meet the recruiter and start to feel like you are building a strong connection. You leave feeling confident and on a buzz. Then you wait with anticipation for the follow up call. When the recruiter gets in touch they tell you that unfortunately you were not successful, and will not be proceeding further.

    At this point you will probably be experiencing feelings of confusion, disappointment and even anger. Do not react in a way you will regret. Instead think about the importance of maintaining relationships in your potential employment network. Remember that industry networks are all connected in different ways. So if one door closes, it doesn’t mean that another one isn’t waiting to be opened.

    Before throwing in the towel and accepting defeat, you can run through the following steps to help lead you on a better the path towards success:

    • Thank the recruiter/employer for their time – After all it isn’t easy for the person conducting the interview to deliver bad news to a potential candidate. To react badly only shows that you are emotionally reactive and respond to feedback negatively. It could also put you on the back bench for future roles if you behave in a manner that is rude or sarcastic.

    • Don’t be afraid to ask for specific feedback – The best way to make improvements is to gain feedback to learn for future opportunities. Advice on how you performed during the interview (body language, eye contact etc.) or how you answered interview questions can be really useful for upcoming interviews. If the feedback relates to experience or skill sets, you may even want to consider educational courses or work experience that may help further develop those areas.

    • Let the recruiter know that you would like to be considered for other suitable roles that become available. This keeps communication open and allows you to keep connected to potential employers.

    • Don’t hesitate to get out there and start applying again right away – You probably don’t feel like applying for more jobs when that feeling of rejection hits you, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing out there for you. It is important to stay focused on the goal of finding the job that’s right for you and not give up. Reach out to people within your network to let them know that you are searching for new opportunities. Register with a recruiting company that works in your chosen field. You can also seek out networking opportunities to start building more connections.

    • Keep practicing your interview skills – This may sound like common sense, but the more practice you get the more confidence you will have when you interview. Practice for different interview methods e.g. one on one, panel or video interviews. Ask connections who are responsible for hiring people what they look for in the ideal candidate and practice their useful tips.

    Remember that the application process is competitive and that we can’t win them all. That doesn’t mean however that we can’t take further measures and practice further steps to help us land our next great role.

    What was the best feedback you ever received after an interview?




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