“Challenge Consulting have added considerable value to Energetics for our long term needs”

Matt Wilkin – Energetics
Read More
For more information:
Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]


Stephen Bradbury was a four-time winter Olympian whose story may have ended there had it not been for luck. In a race where he seemingly had no chance he won the gold medal. Not any old gold medal, Australia’s first gold medal at a winter Olympics. How many opportunities are you creating for luck in your career?

It turns out the luck of Stephen Bradbury is not the exception. So often I hear from clients “I just wish I was one of those people who know what they want to be, like nurses, or doctors, or teachers”. Personally I have had many moments when I too wished I was one of those people. It turns out that while these people may seem to be in the minority we are all in fact just as lucky. Over the last decade empirical research has consistently shown across populations, age, socio-economic backgrounds, race, and gender that upwards of 80% of us state that chance or luck has paid a significant part in our career .

So I took this question to you, our cross-section of the Australian population and you replicated this finding, with more than half of you stating that your career was decided by chance:

  • “I was temping and only supposed to fill in for one day. I was asked to stay on and apply for the full time position which has taken my career from strength to strength.”
  • “I originally wanted to be a hairdresser, and then decided to become a teacher! Neither of those careers worked out so I was looking for a job and started as a call centre rep, working my way up and am now Program Ops Manager 15 years later – and in finance no less. A career that was never on my radar!”

Of course it is not luck alone that leads to career success. Stephen Bradbury didn’t get to that dais purely by chance! Stephen Bradbury represented his country at four winter Olympics because he worked extraordinarily hard and made many personal sacrifices. This hard work was what led him to that day where luck played him a card. He owned his role in creating that luck:

  • “Life can take you in many directions, circumstances and plans change, unexpected opportunities arise.”
  • “Patience, resilience, dedication, seizing on-job courses opportunities, diligence but above all great relationship building skills.”
  • “I was employed by this firm in 1963– I’m still here — I now own it!”

Stephen Bradbury didn’t idly stroll across that finish line; he raised his arms in the air and owned his success, owned his hard work, and owned the part he played in that lucky day. Isn’t it time you too owned your career success – the chance, the luck, and all the hard work?

We would love to hear your career stories – how has chance, luck, and hard work played its role in your career success?

Did you know that Challenge Consulting helps clients with Career Guidance? Contact Susan Kealy at [email protected] or 02 9221 6422 or visit the website to find out more.


Bright, J. E., Pryor, R. G., Chan, E. W. M., & Rijanto, J. (2009). Chance events in career development: Influence, control and multiplicity. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75, 14-25.

Chen, C. P. (2005). Understanding career chance. International Journal of Educational and Vocational Guidance, 5, 251-270.

Guindon, M. H., & Hanna, F. J. (2002). Coincidence, happenstance, serendipity, fate, or the hand of God: Case studies in synchronicity. Career Development Quarterly, 50, 195-209.

Hirschi, A. (2010). The role of chance events in the school-to-work transition: The influence of demographic, personality and career development variables. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77, 39-49



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


We’ve previously blogged about some of the experiences our temps shared with us about working overseas, and what it’s like working here in comparison.

But, did you know members of our team have their own tales to tell regarding their experiences working in such diverse international locations as London, Paris, Chicago and Cape Town? In addition, we are very fortunate to have a wonderful English team member of our own, who has shared her impressions of working in Sydney with us here, too.

This week, five of Challenge Consulting’s staff share their stories …

Lost in London by Elizabeth Varley, Managing Director

London is where I commenced my exciting career in recruitment. After travelling for a year I arrived in London broke. I quickly found the best avenue to replenish the meagre bank balance was to go to a recruitment agency and get a temp job. This was the turning point in my career.

After an interview, the consultant introduced me to the Branch Manager and, amazingly, she offered me a job as a Temporary Recruitment Consultant with the company. So there I was, an Aussie in London working in Earls Court (Kangaroo Valley as it was known then) placing other Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians and the odd South African into temp jobs. The word soon spread that I was one of them and before long the branch had a fantastic team of expat temps working all over London.

What did this experience teach me? For one, flexibility. When in a foreign land, adopt “a can do attitude” and the doors of opportunity will be flung open. I also learned was the fine art of combining a raging social life with the professional necessity of turning up on time, every day, and putting the effort in for my manager and colleagues.

After a year of having a ball at work and acquainting myself with a large number of excellent pubs and pommy lads it was time to come home to a much more sober life, in every sense of the word.

Being away from home, the constraints of family, and the career treadmill can be lots of fun, as long as you are prepared for the unexpected, and make the most of every situation.

Lost in London? Yes, but alive and well!


How I Learned “Hospitality French” in Paris by Melissa Lombardo, Consultant – Temporary Recruitment

I anxiously arrived in Paris after travelling around beautiful and sunny Europe for four months. That means I arrived short on cash and desperate for a job. By short on cash I mean eating €1 noodles for dinner along with some boiled broccoli that I had added for that extra bit of nutrition. By desperate for work I mean, applying for absolutely every job I saw. “Brick Wall Watcher Wanted”. Sure I’ll do it … how many years’ experience required? Brick Wall sounds much better in French anyway.

To add to this dire situation I barely knew a word of French. 

After a stressful four weeks I was lucky enough to be offered two positions, one working for a Parisian recruitment company as a headhunter and the other one in hospitality, at a creatively named English themed pub, Frog Pubs. As the purpose of my trip was more “having a good time” than “career”, I chose the latter option. Quietly, though, I was rather chuffed about being offered the first role, despite not speaking French!

I eventually learnt “Hospitality French”. I couldn’t have a conversation with somebody but I knew when they wanted the bill, to know where the bathroom was, or another drink. Well, except for the time somebody ordered four “coca’s” (coca-cola) and I presented them with four Coronas.

Generally speaking the French were pleasant and friendly and were happy to speak English when I struggled to understand them or ordered them the wrong drink. They were also easy-going when at first I made the assumption of handing over the beer to the male of a couple and the Virgin Pina Colada to the female. I grew to learn that Parisian men absolutely love their mocktails and to never stereotype what a person might drink again.

Working for the pub in Paris was certainly a wise decision. The culture was warm, friendly and team oriented and we were always given fun targets to meet at the start of our shift. I made some amazing friends from all over the world and it was definitely a valuable insight into French culture. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world!


Chicago, City of Extremes by Jenny Madden, Senior Consultant

When my husband and I first went to America to work in 1987, our first port of call was Chicago, a wonderful city hugging the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Chicago is a beautiful city to walk and ride around. We lived in a cosmopolitan area an easy 15-minute bus ride to the CBD.  Chicago is a city of extremes, absolutely freezing in winter and incredibly humid in summer. 

I worked for Hilton Hotels as EA to the GM of the Palmer House, the oldest operating hotel in the US.  It is an amazing structure with gilded, hand-painted ceilings.  I found the Americans to be extremely hard working and demanding. For example, I started off with one week’s annual leave per year!

The next stop on our American odyssey was New York, where I had my first child … but that’s a whole other story!


Movies for Morale in Cape Town by Carmen Mackrill, People Services Consultant

One of the best and most memorable experiences I had whilst working in Cape Town was during my time with a national insurance company.

The company held a large internal drive to motivate staff. It was decided that all 1000+ employees needed to see the movie Antz. Of course.

Each divisional office had to nominate a specific day to watch the movie so, one day, Head Office (where I was working) shut down at 3pm in the afternoon so its 450 employees could watch the movie. The whole cinema was booked out just for us and we all received individual snack bags.

I know you’re dying to find out if, in fact, staff morale was boosted by this movie-going experience.

Well, I am happy to report that my sister-in-law now works for the same firm and has advised me that it remains a very happy place to work, and similar morale-boosting exercises continue to this day!


Sydney: I’m Impressed! by Anna Carveth, Administration Assistant

I remember my first train from Bondi Junction into Sydney on the way to work and remember looking out of the window feeling immensely happy and content. Replacing the familiar view of grey clouds, rain, and more recently snow, was bright sunshine, warm surroundings and a city that was new and exciting.

It’s all about location and Sydney is definitely it! Sydney is an impressive city; it is modern and clean and there are a vast amount of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from. The Sydney Harbour is a 15minute walk away from work and the view of the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge never fails to amaze me.

Having been in Sydney now for several months, I have been lucky enough to have worked for that time right in the centre on George Street. I work in an office where I am the only British worker and have had the opportunity of working with Australians and a South African. Living in Bondi and having friends out here from home, has meant that I have not made as many Ozzie friends as I had imagined. Being able to gain this opportunity through work has been a great advantage. I am always asking questions about everything in order to learn more about different backgrounds and upbringings and although most of it is similar to the UK, there are still some differences.

There are the funny towns that I still struggle to get my tongue around such as Woolloomooloo, Yagoona and Wahroonga, and I have found that if a word can be shortened, it will be! I have also been confused when faced with alternatives such as ‘Mufti’ day.

In comparison to working life at home, apart from the hot weather and the few days of torrential downpour, I don’t find it to be much different. There is the sense that things are more relaxed, however, people still have the same work ethic and work the same hours. There are still the rules and regulations that different companies have to adhere to and the company I work for shares similar core values to the company I worked for at home.

Overall though the experience so far has been brilliant! I am lucky enough to work for a great company and have met some wonderful people. Working in Sydney has only been a positive experience and I know I will go home with some great memories!

Share your stories! Leave a comment below …


During a lively discussion forum last Wednesday morning, Challenge Consulting explored trends in employee retention with a group of clients.  

Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines retention as “1. the act of keeping someone or something, 2. the ability to keep something”. In the context of business when we talk about retention, we talk about ‘keeping’ employees as the direct opposite to ‘losing’ employees or employee turnover.

Employee turnover is one of the most largely measured and reported statistics in business. But given that we know that on average 20% of the Australian Labour Market will change jobs each year[i], how significant are these turnover statistics, really?

During our discussion forum we explored this question and more, including:

  • What is retention?
  • What are the motivational drivers that keep our participants with their employer?
  • How do we or how should we measure retention drivers?
  • What retention strategies are smart organisations implementing in an attempt to keep their top talent?

Consistent with organisational research and theory on retention[ii], we identified common themes in what ‘retained’ our participants with their employers, including: job satisfaction (i.e. interesting and challenging work), job embededness (i.e. a feeling of belonging to a team or social network in the organisation), employee voice (i.e. feeling that their opinions are heard), and role clarity (i.e. understanding role and responsibilities and how it directly relates to the organisational purpose). What we also found were a range of individual motivators that were influencing retention of the ‘top talent’ in the room, including: flexible work arrangements, career development, training and mentoring, and a range of company values.

It was clear that a one-size-fits-all strategy for retention would be impossible to retain each of our discussion forum participants, so how can retention drivers be measured at the larger organisational level? According to industry research[iii], 95% of Australian companies conduct Exit Interviews, an emerging trend is that 45% of Australian companies are now conducting Stay Interviews (periodic in-depth interviews with existing employees to measure key retention drivers, starting right from the first 3 months), not to forget the common practice of Organisational Surveying.

During the discussion forum we debated how well organisations were utilising these and other sources of retention data, i.e. was the right information being captured to measure retention drivers and then once the data was collected was the data being used strategically to manage retention initiatives? Google’s Project Oxygen[iv] provided us with an example of an organisation analysing all available employee data to identify common retention drivers and more specifically develop their Google Rules for managers.

By the end of our discussion forum, there was agreement from participants that not all turnover is negative and not all retention is positive. In fact, some turnover can be a positive and some retention can be a negative! But as Australia already shows the signs of another deepening skills shortage, there is no doubt that when their key motivators are not met, talented employees can find other employers that will meet these drivers. Does your organisation need help identifying the key retention drivers for your most talented people? Challenge Consulting can help you measure retention drivers through our Organisational Effectiveness Profiling and Exit Interview Consulting services, help you develop managers with a focus on retention with our Effective Supervision Workshop and help you build a strategic approach to managing retention in your organisation.

What do you think smart organisations should be doing to keep their most talented people and what motivates you to stay with your current employer?

[i] Sweet, R. (2011). The mobile worker: concepts, issues, implications. NCVER Occasional Paper, Adelaide.

[ii] Mardanov, I., Heischmidt., & Henson, A. (2008). Leader-member exchange and job satisfaction bond and predicted employee turnover. Journal of Leaderhship and Organizational Studies, 15, 159-175.

Ramesh, A., Gelfand, M. J. (2010). Will they stay or will they go? The role of job embeddedness in predicting turnover in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 807-823.

Siebert, S. & Zubanov, N. (2009). Searching for the optimal level of employee turnover: A study of a large UK retail organisation. Academy of Management Journal, 52, 294-313.

Swider, B.W., Boswell, W.R., & Zimmerman, R.D. (2011). Examining the job search-turnover relationship: The role of embeddedness, job satisfaction, and available alternatives, Journal of Applied Psychology. 96, 432-441.

[iii] Lambert, L. (2010). All aboard: Identifying flight risks in probationary staff can help retain promising talent. Recruitment Extra, Nov 2010, 26-27.

[iv] Bryant, A. (2011). Google’s quest to build a better boss, New York Times. 


Established in November 1992, Challenge Consulting is an ever-evolving, always-adapting organisation. It has at its foundation a strong, talented, people-focused team working daily on the front line of candidate and client management.

We are a recruitment agency. Our close-knit team of Consultants and Account Managers is focused on providing clients and candidates with a job placement experience that is both professional and personal.

We are also more than a recruitment agency. Our suite of People Services encompasses Team Building, Organisational Diagnostics, MBTI and Professional Development Workshops, Outplacement Programs, Psychometric Assessments, Online Skills Testing, and Career Guidance Programs.

We work with clients and candidates nationally and internationally from diverse backgrounds and industries. Our goal is to provide a superior, innovative and dynamic service with every project.


What is The Challenge Consulting Blog all about? We’re glad you asked! In essence, we wish to put the wonders of modern technology and social media to work to unite the Challenge Consulting community.

We work with clients and candidates nationally and internationally from diverse backgrounds and industries. The Challenge Consulting Blog is our way of bridging the divide and providing an informal, safe, relaxed forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the ever-changing world of recruitment, staff development and career management.

Our goal is not to be didactic or dry, but rather to present in a real and entertaining way the experiences, ideas and opinions of our talented team of consultants working daily on the front line of candidate and client management. We also want to provide our readers with the latest national and global industry trends, ideas and innovations, and to invite you to get involved via your comments and feedback.

Penny Robertshawe writes and manages our blog. Penny recently joined the Challenge Consulting team after taking over from Jenna Baril in June 2015. Penny’s background is in writing, editing and designing learning. Over the years, she has written for websites, magazines, professional journals and for the vocational education sector.

Penny is passionate about using writing as a vehicle to help people realise their potential and to give them tools for making a positive difference in their lives. Her aim is to inspire her readers to take action and make any changes they feel they need.

Penny is keen to hear your feedback about the Challenge Consulting blog so she can find out more about the kinds of things you would like to read about. So stay tuned and keep in touch.