What Good Mentoring Looks Like

Posted on May 25, 2015 by

mentor

In theory, great managers should be like mentors to all members of their team, counselling and supporting staff as part of their ongoing responsibilities as an inspiring and passionate leader.

In reality, though, great managers are extremely scarce, commonly lacking any thread of passion due to being consistently stressed and time-poor.

However, some do possess the necessary skills and competence whereby mentoring comes naturally or at the very least, has been practiced enough to integrate into their daily routine.

A true mentor, however, must have relevant credibility including qualifications, skills and experience in order to gain and maintain such a position.

Of course, good mentoring is much more than teaching and offering support. It takes a certain type of communicator who is professionally minded, guiding one with detail and focus, yet with a human enough approach to inspire and motivate on a personal level.

Mentoring is often tailored to be appropriate to particular individuals rather than a more blanket fashion which might be applied to a group. Imparting information is straightforward enough, but developing a comfort level, two-way understanding and connection is where good mentoring shines.

The best kind of mentor will ask questions and encourage their pupil to do the same. They will provide regular feedback and take the time to constructively unpack areas of concern or uncertainty.

A good mentor considers their pupil an investment, whereby they have a duty of care and personal and professional stake in the outcome of the mentorship. If the pupil isn’t grasping something adequately, a good mentor will persist until he or she does. This might materialise by changing tactic or explaining in more detail and using varied examples, or simply with continued practice.

Good mentors are patient, thorough and passionate in their practice. They should understand that each pupil is different and will possess his or her own finesse rather than being a clone of the mentor.

An exceptional mentor will understand that, occasionally, they themselves might learn new approaches and ideas from their own pupils and should embrace rather than resist where appropriate, for even the best mentors are still open to continually learning.

How To Get Noticed For That Promotion

Posted on May 18, 2015 by
spotlight-pano_22323

Image: Shutterstock

If you’re of the mindset that brown nosing the boss and elbowing your colleagues out of the way is the right technique in obtaining that sought after promotion, you might like to rethink your strategy.

Transparency in the workplace generally holds far more weight than game playing and sly moves, so, aside from quality work and good time management, the key to heading on up is open, respectful and positive communication and behaviour.

Actions definitely speak louder than words when it comes to being noticed for promotion. If you’re spending much of your time boasting about how well you’re doing or how bad someone else is doing, chances are you’re being noticed for the wrong reasons, while someone else is busy achieving results.

Noticeable effort and improvement are often among the strongest elements on an employer’s checklist. A competitive edge certainly isn’t a bad thing, and it’s fine to possess that drive for success, but it should never be dirty or at the expense of others. In other words, keep on wanting and striving, but always play fair.

The fundamentals certainly never go amiss either, so don’t hold back from putting in extra hours and getting ahead of your workload so you can ask for additional tasks or assignments or to help others in some way. Just don’t ever let your motivation be for ego-based attention or to show your colleagues up. It’s usually fairly obvious when that’s the case and it’s not an appealing impression.

If you can somehow manage the balance between remaining on top of your own jobs while willing to also help your teammates with an overall calm, diplomatic and friendly disposition, you’re certain to be heading in the right direction for promotion.

Asking the right questions and always keeping interested and engaged will add to the right mix, as will punctuality and willingness to participate in all things save for workplace gossip and disrespectful behaviour.

It can also pay to politely let upper management know, if appropriate, that you are interested in certain internal opportunities which may arise, so that you’re placed on their radar when it comes to staff planning.

Building Self Confidence

Posted on May 12, 2015 by
IMAGE Getty Images

IMAGE Getty Images

In the workforce, skills and qualifications alone are not necessarily enough to excel. Self confidence is imperative in maximising those skills and driving yourself and your work into the foreground for the greatest exposure and results.

For some, self confidence is inherent and comes easily. For many others, however, it is an elusive quality which seems far from reach.

Shyness, self-consciousness, low self-esteem and anxiety are rife these days, and very often in the workplace. All is not lost, however, as there are several helpful techniques.

Building self confidence is essentially facing fear. It’s initially tough and feels scary, but with practice it lessens, and more confidence emerges.

Practice is, therefore, the definitive keyword. If you lack confidence in speaking with colleagues, for example, then start engaging with them more and more frequently. You might hate how it first feels, and those fears will emerge, but they will lessen if you push through it and keep going.

Find any reason you can to be social or make contact with your co-workers and run with it in spite of your trepidation. These peers form an important part of your experience within the company, so building confidence among them will contribute to building your confidence at work overall.

If meetings and presentations are your weakness, carry your social practices into this area as well and rather than being the wallflower, be the opposite. Engage and interact. Pretend you feel bold and courageous as if it were a performance. Some find it helpful to pretend they are someone else. The idea is you learn how to convey self confidence and after lots of practice, it becomes your own useable skill.

If your job requires you to interact with clients or customers, focus on the service or product you are offering rather than yourself. If you ensure you know your service or product inside out, then you are simply a conduit for imparting the information. Remind yourself that it is not about you, and focus on the client’s needs. By practising this focus technique, your delivery will become stronger and less self-conscious.

If you are applying for jobs, some self confidence is necessary to convey competence, edge and tenacity. It is, of course, normal to feel nervous during a job interview so most employers will make some allowance for that.

One technique for quashing those nerves is preparation. If you thoroughly research the position and the organisation, you will go in armed with knowledge, and that fuels self confidence. Going in blindly with uncertainty only fuels the nerves. Practising answers to potential questions is another way to feel prepared.

It is also helpful to remember not to waffle during an interview, which nerves can encourage. Listen carefully to the questions and be clear and direct in your responses. Don’t veer off in random directions but do engage with interest and enthusiasm.

Again, the more interview practice you get, the more self confident you will become.

How To Find A Job Through Social Media

Posted on May 4, 2015 by

social-media

The term social media has, understandably, lead many to believe that its sole function and purpose is socialising.

What many don’t fully appreciate is the likes of Facebook, Twitter and particularly LinkedIn can be very effectively utilised to network, make important job contacts and discover job listings and opportunities.

LinkedIn is not simply a site to upload your CV for your current connections to peruse. It is an intricate networking hub where you can search companies of interest while discovering who works where and who does what. In turn, you’re able to introduce yourself to these employers with a view to being considered for future opportunities.

One great aspect to LinkedIn is it will tell you if your current connections have any relationship to the organisation’s you’ve got your eye on. If so, it means you can ask your connection for a formal introduction, which LinkedIn is geared to help generate.

A formal introduction from someone who knows you, and knows them, is many times more effective than going in blindly. And LinkedIn is there to help you unearth these connections which you would otherwise not likely realise you had.

Moreover, with your resume and work history already neatly packaged as part of your profile, LinkedIn contacts don’t have to ask or search for your credentials. It’s made easy for them and for you, and there are even industry specific forums where you can chat and make connections that way.

Additionally, Twitter is more useful for job networking than some might think. By pro-actively following companies and establishments in your realm of interest, you increase your chances of hearing about opportunities which may be announced as public tweets.

You are also able to compose your own tweets informing your followers that you’re in the job market and looking to make contacts. Twitter is very direct and to the point, and others may even help you in re-tweeting your original posts for further saturation.

Meanwhile, Facebook, while being the most truly predominantly ‘social’ of the three sites, still presents opportunities to job network.

A status update advising you are job hunting in a particular area, for example, can alert a connection who knows somebody who knows somebody else working for a business offering the perfect opportunity.

It’s quite often our casual acquaintances or very distant connections who are our most valuable when it comes to networking, as they present potential entry into whole other worlds of which we are not part of. So never dismiss even the most remote of connections, as they could be your next ticket to the right opportunity.

Welcome To Adzuna

Posted on April 30, 2015 by

Fairfax Media announced the joint venture in Australia with leading international job search engine Adzuna in January 2014. Adzuna is now Fairfax’s primary online job listings brand in Australia.

In October 2014 Fairfax Media transitioned its MyCareer online jobs board to Adzuna (www.adzuna.com.au), a leading international job search engine.

Following on from this merge we are proud to announce the transition of Jobs.com.au to Adzuna.

From May 2015, the job search and alert functionality provided at Jobs.com.au will be migrated to Adzuna.

post an ad

Adzuna is a job search engine which makes it easier to find the right job for you. Adzuna searches thousands of websites and brings together hundreds of thousands of ads so you can find them all in one place. Adzuna provides a consolidated and comprehensive view of Australian job listings, powerful and targeted search, as well as real-time employment market data and social job hunting tools. It is a compelling alternative for recruiters and job seekers and is an innovative step forward in the evolution of the Australian recruitment and job search market.

We look forward to you finding your next job on www.adzuna.com.au

5 Career Mistakes You Will Regret In 10 Years

Posted on April 27, 2015 by

Your career is a lifelong journey. It’s something much bigger than just the industry you work in, or the current job you hold. 

Your career is a series of work, life and learning experiences that you undertake. It’s the journey that helps you to reach important life goals.

However, all too often we make career decisions that are short sighted and based purely on emotion; you don’t like your boss, you’re busy competing against others for that next promotion or you don’t get on with one of your colleagues.

What may seem like a little decision now could have bigger consequences to your career pathway in the long run.

Here are 5 career mistakes to avoid:

 

1.    Choosing a career for money rather than job satisfaction

Don’t make the mistake of measuring your success on how much you earn.

You spend a lot of time at work and so it’s really important that you like what you do.  Look to pursue a career that matches your skills and passions, and evaluate what you personally want from a career. Make sure you consider the bigger picture and don’t focus solely on the here and now.

2.    Avoiding challenges and making mistakes

One of the worst things you can do in your career is to avoid a challenge. Sure it’s daunting, sure you might feel nervous or a little uncomfortable to start with, but putting yourself in challenging situations enables you to learn and grow as an individual.

Everyone makes mistakes; it’s how you learn from them that really matter.

3.    Not investing in yourself

At the end of the day you are the boss of your own career, and the only person that’s really accountable for your success at work is yourself.

In today’s market place you must work hard to stand out from the crowd. While hard work and passion will help you progress, enhancing your skills and knowledge by investing in training or qualifications will help to move your career in the right direction.

While investing in your career may cost you time and money now, it can bring career rewards in the long run.

4.    Waiting for something to happen

Today’s workplace is competitive and more often than not you have to be proactive in going after what you want.

If you wait around for the right moment to ask for a raise, to step up and take on more responsibility, or to do that extra training – you could miss out on opportunities.

Once you’ve taken the plunge and been assertive, you’ll feel more confident in going after other things you want out of your career.

5.    Not maintaining a healthy work life balance

“I’m really glad I spent all those evenings working late, and so little time hanging out with my friends and family”, said no one, ever.

According to The Australia Institute think tank, the balance between life and work is deteriorating for 4 out of 10 people, with Australians donating $110 billion in free labour every year.

If you are in the habit of working late and weekends then make a start by addressing your work life balance by:

  • Creating an exercise plan you stick to
  • Scheduling in dinner dates with friends and family
  • Remembering your passions and making time for them every month

Avoid these 5 mistakes and you will progress in a career that you are passionate about, and enjoy a balanced and healthy life.

How could a four-day week change your life? [Infographic]

Posted on April 20, 2015 by

Many of us talk of working a 4-day week, but thinking, or could it truly be a reality one day? Countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are the closest to achieving this dream, so what is the possibility of other countries including the Australia following suit?

Citrix GoToMeeting has put together a detailed infographic which builds out the case for a four-day week, highlighting the pros and cons.

4-Day Work Week1

Best entry level jobs

Posted on March 30, 2015 by

find-a-job

Starting at the bottom is an unavoidable step for most. There are, however, a number of ways to get your foot in the door without having to break your neck in the process.

For some roles, particularly skilled trades including carpentry, plumbing and hairdressing, an apprenticeship is the most common and direct way in.

Apprenticeships require you to study as well as work, so it’s an excellent combination of on the job training and educational reinforcement. You’re nurtured in a way that is fitting to your needs as a beginner and taken through systematically step by step.

Similar to an apprenticeship but more in line with office or corporate work is the internship.

Internships are temporary and are sometimes, but not always, paid – though often at low rates. The overall duration and the daily hours and workload are usually negotiable or at least variable, and interns are generally taken on shortly after, during, or as part of, university studies.

Interning can be a great way to gain valuable work experience while learning and developing new skills. Moreover, it is an excellent way to make contacts, and as such, interns are commonly hired as full time employees following their tenure, making it the perfect opportunity not only to learn, but to prove oneself and make an impression.

Targeting the job market directly at an entry level will usually require you to begin with assistant jobs, or those base level roles as part of a bigger team governed by a team leader.

Many positions offer on the job training, particularly sectors like retail, administration, customer service and call centre operations. Such roles can lead to internal promotion and also give you the experience needed to transition upwards elsewhere.

Alternatively, the option of volunteering should never be overlooked. If you’re financially able to begin as such, volunteering can quickly lead to employment, particularly if you demonstrate the necessary attributes required.

Many organisations will gladly accept the offer of help in exchange for practical learning, and you’re immediately on your way to meeting the right people and hearing first about upcoming opportunities.

The Big Picture: Clear & Concise Business Writing

Posted on March 25, 2015 by

clear&concice

Business people expect to be able to read, without difficulty, any document they’re given. They don’t want to have to spend time reading it again and again in order to understand the message. Regardless of how grammatically correct a piece of writing is, they will condemn it as badly written if they can’t understand its message easily.

This means that if we want to be considered good business writers, we need to think about more than simply getting the grammar right.

If our documents are to be useful to people as they go about their daily work, those documents must be concise and accurate, and they must offer something helpful. In business-speak, they need to add value. Unfortunately, this is where many modern business documents fall down.

What do business readers want? What to they often get?
Opinions, advice, conclusions, solutions, insights Too much information, long lists of findings, lengthy essays
Questions answered quickly and clearly Answers buried in indigestible text
Concise, unambiguous language Garbled sentences; vague, abstract language

The purpose of business writing

‘If you have nothing to say, there is no point in saying it.’

­­–RW Jepson

First of all, let’s consider why we write.

In business, we’re usually writing for one of three reasons: to explain, to inform or to persuade. This is in contrast to other areas, where documents can be written for quite different reasons: to amuse, to educate, to entertain, to pass an exam, to win a literary prize, and so on.

Here are some examples of business documents that either explain, inform or persuade (or do all three):

  • an email to a manager requesting a new computer
  • an auditor’s annual report to a company’s board of directors
  • a market research report to a politician on the results of a telephone survey
  • a company-wide memo from the CEO explaining the new flexible work hours policy
  • a healthcare adviser’s report to a government depart- ment on the options for an integrated health services program
  • a local council’s policy on resident parking.

Although the reason for writing may be obvious in theory, in practice many writers are so busy recounting the detailed background, or how they arrived at their conclusion, that their purpose for writing is obscured or lost altogether. Too often the result is a document that is unclear to everyone but its writer.

Why do we get it wrong so often?

One reason is our education. We’ve absorbed certain writing habits from an early age. For example, at primary school we’re encouraged to be creative in our use of words, then at high school and university we’re expected to demonstrate excellence in thinking. When we make the transition into business, not only do we need to support our conclusions, we’ve also been conditioned to believe it’s essential to write as much and as elaborately as possible.

Another reason is the pressure most of us are under at work. Submissions, reports, business cases and other docu- ments often have to be written on the run, with little time for drafting or rewriting. Deadlines are usually non-negotiable, and project plans rarely include a realistic amount of time for writing and editing a report.

Finally, we all want to be respected in the workplace – to be seen as experienced and professional – and sometimes we misguidedly believe this will happen if we use complicated, overly formal language. We therefore risk confusing style

with substance, by focusing on the language rather than the document’s structure or message.

So what does a ‘good’ document look like?

‘Good’ documents, as well as being grammatically correct and written in straightforward language, present their messages in such a way that their intended readers can understand them quickly and easily. Writers of these documents do this by considering the document’s overall readability.

Readability has three components

We can think of readability as having three equally important elements:

  • structure: the material is organised based on the reader’s point of view, not the writer’s
  • layout: the material is designed and presented in a way that allows for quick and easy reading and understanding
  • language: the style is clear, concise, uncluttered and to the point.

This book deals primarily with the third element, language, but it’s important to be aware of the other two as well if you want to create truly readable documents.

 TIP: Documents that are intellectually and empirically sound but difficult to read and understand do not help the writer’s professional reputation.

How to do it

First, confirm your reader and purpose

Before you do anything else, you need to confirm two things: who your reader is, and the purpose of your document (in other words, what you hope your document will achieve).

It’s easy to define our reader as ‘the board of directors’ or ‘the project management team’ or ‘all staff’ or ‘business unit heads’. But a generic definition doesn’t work in practice. You need to be more specific.

Answering the following questions will help:

  1. Who is the reader? Can you name him or her? If there’s more than one . . .
  • can they be grouped? How? (ie into what categories?)
  • who is the primary reader? On what basis? (ie who pays the bill? makes the go/no decision? has influence over the other readers?)
  1. What are you writing about? Can you say it in one sentence? Why are you writing about this? Can you say it in one sentence?
  2. Is the reader familiar with the topic?
  • How much do they already know about it? (ie how much background do you honestly need to provide? Don’t tell them what they already know.)
  1. What is their main question?
  • Can you answer it?
  • Where in your document will you place the answer?
  1. What is their probable frame of mind:
  • towards you? (receptive? interested? cynical? wary?)
  • towards the document and its message? (enthusi- astic? uninterested? hostile?)
  1. What do you hope they will do after reading this document?
  2. How can you make sure they see this document as value-adding?

Think carefully about the answers to these questions, as they will influence how you structure and present your information.

Get the ‘story’ right

If you’re struggling to clarify your ideas and key messages, the best approach is to plan the big picture before you start writing. Here is an easy way to do it:

  1. Do a storyboard or linear plan before you start writing.
  • List all your main topics or themes, with each one accompanied by a one-sentence explanation. This will show you at a glance how your ‘story’ stacks up.
  1. Include key messages, not just chapter or topic headings.
  • Rather than simply listing your chapter and section headings, you’ll find it much more helpful if you include a sentence after each one, stating the main conclusion or principal message of that section.
  1. Keep your reader and your purpose in mind.
  • After writing each topic, heading or key sentence, ask yourself whether they will make sense and be valuable to the reader.
  1. Include only information that is directly relevant to this topic and purpose.
  • Do not include history, background or ‘nice to know’ facts unless you are sure they are relevant to or important for the topic/purpose.
  • Use the ‘So what?’ test to help you stay on track
One size does not fit all

How a business document is structured should depend on its reader and purpose, which means that a one-size-fits-all template is unlikely to be successful. Templates are more effective if they are flexible, to allow for the document’s specific context. If you are obliged to use a standard template that permits no variations, you should do your best to tailor the information so that it addresses the reader’s concerns and interests.

In addition, different readers may have different require- ments of a document, as well as different levels of knowledge of the topic. Some will only want a quick overview of the main points, and won’t be interested in the detail. Others will want to know the detail of every point. Others again might have only one question: ‘What does this mean for me?’

As it’s not possible for a document to cover all these variables successfully, you will need to think laterally about how to structure your writing.

For example, a large, complex report with numerous recommendations, plus instructions for how to implement them, can be more effective if it’s constructed as three stand- alone documents, each with its own reader and purpose:

  1. an executive summary (main points, overview only)
  2. the body of the report, containing the context for the work, the findings, conclusions and recommendations (the substantive content)
  3. appendices, containing the detailed implementation plan, plus any background material not essential to under- standing the main report.

These three sections can be bound together, or they can be bound separately if the report is extremely long.

Some tools to help you

Once you’re clear about who you’re writing for and why, you can think about how best to organise and present your material to make sure it’s truly ‘readable’.

The following powerful tips will help you do this.

To create a good document… How?
Use a top-down structure Reverse the traditional structure and place your conclusions first.
Highlight the key messages Present the principal messages early and in summary form. Then, within the main body of the document, make them easy to find.
Make layout your secret weapon Consider non-text elements, such as page layout, legibility, highlighting and graphics.

This is an edited extract from Clear & Concise  by Susan McKerihan, published by Black Inc. Books and available now in print and eBook.

Tips For A Better Work-Life Balance

Posted on March 16, 2015 by

Longer working hours, lower staff levels and increasing pressure and demands have meant that, for many, work has become excessively exhausting and stressful, leaving little time or energy for a life outside the office.

If you are finding the balance is not in your favour, it might be time to examine certain areas of your life with the aim of boosting your resilience and stamina. After all, if these things are being compromised, your work will surely suffer.

Quality sleep is by far the most vital component in preparing your body and mind for work demands. Sleep deprivation can cause anxiety, depression, memory loss, weight gain as well as weakening your immune system, leaving you susceptible to illness.

If work stress and anxious thoughts of the day are leaving you restless at night, there are plenty of options to assist. Exercise is one of the most beneficial practices you can do for not only combating stress and fatigue, but also promoting sleep.

Additionally, relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing not only assist with sleep but also general well being, advocating positive mental health and clearer focus. There are also many herbal teas and vitamins which promote sleep and have other benefits as well.

If you’re the type of person who takes work home with you or continues to receive work calls once you’ve left the premises, it’s extremely critical to set boundaries and strictly limit this kind of behaviour.

It’s often a case of setting cut off times and learning to switch your phone off at the same hour each day. Having self discipline where these factors are concerned will not decrease your productivity, as you might think, but will increase it, as you’ll be better rested and can input more energy during working hours.

For some, the opposite situation is the issue. For example, frequent lateness and never arriving to work early or finishing prematurely and allowing themselves to fall behind their workload.

It could be that social or home life are not only being put first, but are prioritised to the detriment of work and achieving goals. This is, however, where the same techniques such as exercise and relaxation will assist in positive ways.

Looking after your body and mind will improve motivation and energy levels, leading to earlier starts and more focussed drive and commitment at work.

A balanced diet, limiting caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake, will enhance mood and drive, so you’re able to organise your schedule and workload better and boast more effective outcomes.

Some of these practices may take a little while to perfect, but once you’re on a roll with your new work life balance, chances are you will never look back.