Narelle Hess: international woman of mystery

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When she’s not presenting her Masters research thesis “Generational and Career Stage Differences in the Psychological Contract” (awarded Best Paper at the Academy of Management Conference in Anaheim in 2008), or speaking at the International Congress of Applied Psychology in Melbourne, or attending the European Academy of Management Conference in Rome, Narelle somehow finds the time to provide clients and candidates with first class and highly praised Team Building, Organisational Diagnostic, Outplacement and Psychometric Assessment services.

How does she do it?

A qualified, registered Organisational Psychologist and member of the Australian Psychological Society, Narelle has been described as “insightful”, “strategic”, “supportive”, “caring”, “analytical” and “practical”. No, this is not Narelle writing this.

I sat down with Narelle recently and asked her: “Why psychology?” What followed was a fascinating story about how one inspiring person at the right moment can spark the beginning of an amazing personal and professional journey of discovery. Read on …

In high school, as many of us did, Narelle completed a career assessment. Her top suggested careers were 1. Psychologist and 2. Teacher. Narelle had no desire whatsoever to be a teacher, but psychology piqued her interest. On the advice of her Career Advisor, Steve Montgomery (whom she still cites as a major source of inspiration), Narelle decided to investigate this career path more deeply, fascinated as she was even then by better understanding herself, others and the mysteries of the mind.

She initially embarked on a Bachelor of Psychology degree, however she encountered a lack of flexibility in terms of elective choice, and transferred her studies to a Bachelor of Applied Science. This allowed Narelle to centre her studies upon another area of interest – sport. Sports psychology investigates such topics as motivation, the effects of mental attitude upon performance and mindfulness. For her Honours thesis, Narelle branched out somewhat, completing a study on public speaking and the influence a crowd’s responses has upon performance.

After graduating with Honours in Applied Science, Narelle, realising she could not yet be an actual psychologist, decided to seek out a role that would expose her to a wide range of businesses, organisations, professions and people. Thus began her career with Challenge Consulting. Working at our Parramatta office, for the next 18 months Narelle went from pure recruitment to being heavily involved in the development and implementation of two new service offerings at Challenge: career guidance and psychometric testing. Simultaneously, she embarked upon more study, this time a Masters in Organisational Psychology.

This busy period was followed by a move to Challenge Consulting’s Sydney office, and even more expansion of what were now known as “People Services” – career guidance, psychometric testing, outplacement programs, training workshops, organisational diagnostics and online skills testing. It was also at this time that Narelle completed her Masters thesis, which she was invited to present at the Academy of Management Conference in Anaheim in 2008.

The effects of the global financial crisis hit the recruitment industry hard in 2009, as it did most industries. Not surprisingly, though, Challenge Consulting’s Outplacement Services did a roaring trade. Narelle channelled her energies and expertise into helping many frustrated, frightened people through a difficult and demoralising period in their lives and careers. She described this time as a great opportunity to really help people, to share information and advice, and to learn a lot about people and their differing responses to adversity.

At the conclusion of our conversation, Narelle labelled 2010 a “limbo year”. When I prompted her for more information, she spoke about it as a time of refocusing, regrouping and re-evaluating for herself, for Challenge Consulting and for organisations generally. Narelle, along with her new People Services colleague, Carmen Mackrill, embarked on an ongoing project to improve existing services, implement new ones, provide more assistance regarding selection, feedback and coaching and, above all, to continue to grow bona fide partnerships with clients.

Currently, Narelle is Communications Officer for the Career Development Association of Australia’s NSW division committee, and cites this as a wonderful means of offering our services nationally via the CDAA’s network. She is also focusing her considerable energies and talents on projects centring on team building, strategic planning, and professional development and training.

Finally, Narelle has a forthcoming journal article in the works … stay tuned to The Consulting Room for details …