“I am so thankful that a friend recommended to me the services of Samantha and the team at Challenge”

Danny Chung
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For more information:
Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

Ph: 02 8042 8907

[email protected]

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Completing the interview for that job you really want can leave you with a buzz of achievement. Naturally you can’t wait to hear a response, get the ‘ball rolling’ and find out what’s next? Waiting for a response can be a challenge of your patience, but it is critical at this stage that you show the best impression and through your follow-up to further demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

At the interview:

1. The first step in effective follow-up after the interview is to be clear on the interview process. When is the employer looking to fill the position by? For some positions filling the role is critical for others the employer will take the time needed to find the best candidate for the role. When would your prospective employer want to fill the position by? If you are to be considered, what would the next step be? Are there any other stages of the selection process – i.e. psychometric testing, further interviews, reference checks etc.?

2. When you would be expecting to hear back from the interviewer? An interviewer will generally advise when they are looking to get back to candidates, if they don’t it is important to ask this question so that you don’t jump the gun to call back. There is a fine line between genuine enthusiasm and desperation – and by knowing the interviewers timeframes you will know when it is time to show your genuine enthusiasm for the next stage.

At the end of the Interview

Remember that out of the many applications that the employer has reviewed they chose you to come in and meet with them, so always make sure to thank them for considering you and for providing their time at the end of the interview. It’s not only common courtesy but it also allows you to build a sense of rapport with that person. This is also the perfect time to leave them with no doubt that you are genuinely interested in this role and why.

Within 24 hours after the interview

If you want to add a nice touch after the interview, why not send a thank you email?

Keep it succinct and to the point and professionally outline in a couple of sentences your thanks and genuine interest in being considered for the role. You don’t want to write too much or you will lose the engagement of the interviewer. You can also take the opportunity in that email to attach any further documentation that you think may be relevant for the employer to review for your application – i.e. reference checks or academic transcripts etc. And for those that still enjoy writing letters the old fashioned way, why not?

Now for the waiting game, when is it appropriate to follow up?

If the specified date has passed that the interviewer advised that they would call, then by all means touch base and see if there has been any progress. There are certain factors that may be causing delays, but at least you can know for peace of mind and also be aware of the new timeframe to receive feedback.

Should you continue to apply for roles in the event that you are waiting back to hear if you are proceeding with the next stage of the interview?

In today’s competitive job market I would say yes. It is important to keep your options open, especially in the event of temporary work so that if you are unsuccessful for the next round you can assess your options for what to do next. It is important to keep an open, optimistic mind in the job market; otherwise putting the pressure on one interview can be devastating if you do not proceed further.

What has worked with you in terms of following up after an interview or providing a thank you follow up? Even as an interviewer, what have candidates done previously to make themselves memorable after you have interviewed them?

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You will find that even the most successful people in the world have someone that they look up to for inspiration and guidance.

‘Mentoring is always one step removed and is concerned with the longer-term acquisition of skills in a developing career by a form of advising and counselling’ – Eric Parsloe, J “Coaching for Performance” Nicholas Brealey, Publishing London 2002.

For many having a mentor can be extremely valuable. Whether that mentor is your current manager, or someone in your family, or someone who trained you at work, we are always more compelled to achieve more when we have someone encouraging us to take the next step in our career.

When I was just beginning my career in the events industry I took advantage of a mentoring program organised by Meeting and Events Australia (MEA) professional association.  As the mentee I was responsible for:

• Attending the briefing workshop with fellow Mentees (a networking opportunity with other young professionals)

• Attending the program launch to meet my Mentor

• Coordinating meetings with my allocated Mentor a minimum of 4 times at a mutually agreed venue and time.

• Communicating with the designated MEA personnel twice a month throughout the program

• Attend a debrief workshop at the completion of the program to provide feedback for the development of future programs

From the moment I met my mentor I was at complete ease and was able to openly communicate with him. I understand that this does not happen as easily for everyone. However, I would recommend if you have not found the right fit with your mentor, do not give up but rather continue to search for the right mentor partnership that can help you develop your own career.

For mentoring to be successful the most important aspect is to show commitment to the mentoring program. The hardest part of the program for me was to arrange and commit to face-to-face meetings with both my and my mentor’s busy work schedule. Email would often be an easy fall-back position, however, I needed to show a level of discipline in setting meeting times and committing to deadlines so that I could gain the most value out of this program and time with my mentor.

Each mentoring meeting I allocated an hour, whether that was at my office or a local coffee shop, I always ensured I took a notepad and made notes during the discussion and confirmed specific action plan items. I learnt that if I postponed meetings, the more the connection separates and the important information shared can be put aside instead of being utilised for career development. For mentoring to be successful the other key skills I had to develop were:

1. Active listening – for many listening is a skill that we think comes naturally, but when we are being provided feedback on ourselves, we usually immediately go to a defensive frame of mind. I had to be open to the information that my mentor was sharing and asking open questions to elicit more information and increase my understanding of the feedback.

2. Goal setting ¬ the mentoring program was a specific period of time, so as to get the most out of the six months, I had to set clear goals and commit to achieving the action plan that I developed with my mentor. I also had to personally take responsibility for my own professional development.

3. Personal reflection – I had to reflect on my experiences and learn from the challenges I faced.

4. Delivering results – understanding that while my Mentor would provide feedback on how to deal with issues it is still my responsibility to take action and make the decisions.

5. Curiosity and enthusiasm – showing that I was interested in the program by turning up on time for meetings, responding with positive body language, building trust and rapport with my mentor.

So what did I gain from my mentoring experience?

As a young professional in the industry I was afraid of having a voice. I was afraid to speak up because I knew my expertise in the events field was limited compared to most and I was the youngest professional working in my department. My mentor helped me gain the confidence be able to express myself within my working environment not only to share ideas but to speak-up to address any issues within the workplace. By giving myself a ‘voice’ I was able to achieve results and progress in my career a lot faster than sitting on the sidelines and waiting for others to make decisions.

I also had the opportunity to complete the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which looked at my personality preferences. By understanding my personality type I was able to better understand how and why I manage my work and communicate the way I do. I also learnt more about the opposite personality preferences and developed strategies on how I could most effectively work with other personality types. I shared this information with my manager at the time and it helped both of us to better understand how to work most effectively together. If you haven’t had the chance to complete the MBTI, I would recommend it as a great way to find out more about yourself and your key strengths and blind spots.

Most importantly I developed a strong connection with a valued and trusted advisor. Through this partnership I confirmed how important achieving a work-life balance was to me. My mentor was living, breathing proof that you could have a successful career, have a loving family and enjoy your personal interests and have them all co-exist to create a well-balanced life. I found it quite inspiring.

If you maintain a good relationship with your mentor, you can keep in touch with them for years, and as we are always changing and developing in our roles, the pursuit of knowledge and guidance is ongoing and essential.

Is there anyone in your life that you consider to be a mentor? If not, is there anyone that you look up to that you would like to connect to as a mentee? There is no time like the present to start making those connections, just remember it takes time and commitment to make it work.

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Whether you think it a myth or you have managed to make this work in your life, everyone has to create their own work-life balance. Stepping up in the corporate ladder will often involve further responsibilities, and the pressures and commitments outside of work will sometimes mean that decisions/sacrifices need to be made to find balance.

But is there ever really a balance? Or can it sometimes feel like an ultimatum?

In a generation that is so reliant on technology, do you often find that you are checking your emails outside of work, making late night phone calls and perhaps having trouble sleeping when you are focusing on a deadline?

Let’s face it; the result of overworking can often bring more negative outcomes than good in terms of personal life and health. Increased stress and anxiety on a regular basis, not allocating enough time for meal/coffee breaks and limiting face to face contact with loved ones will often leave you feeling like you have achieved less instead of more.

This of course depends on the individual and the field of work, but I can personally say that I can relate to this topic all too well.

Around December last year I made a complete career change. For the past six years leading up to this change, I was building a name for myself in events and hospitality, working around the clock to meet the demands of the job, which in turn cost me in terms of a personal life. Time for my friends and family would often need to be an appointment in the calendar, and while I gained so much in terms of experience and growth, and the industry provided many opportunities and perks, there came a time for me to make an independent choice to either continue this lifestyle or make a change.

And what a change it has been! Not only did I realise that one could do ‘normal’ hours, but I can now make more use of my free time in ways that I never had the opportunity to before. Not to mention exploring a new industry entirely and branching out!

If you currently find that your scale is leaning more towards to the work component over life, how can you balance it in your life?

Jeff Stibel of Harvard Business Review outlines seven ways that you can create more balance and be happier at work:

  1. Smile –  Turns out, smiling is directly linked to happiness. It may have started as a correlation but, over time, the brain linked the two. Don’t believe me? Try this: smile (a nice big smile) and attempt to think of something negative. Either you will stop smiling or you won’t be able to hold the negative thought.
  2. Stop worrying – Worrying happens to be one of humanity’s best traits. It is the underlying emotion behind foresight, planning, and forecasting. We worry because some future event is uncertain and that feeling is a cue for us to start thinking about how to address it. The problem is, we worry too much about things that are out of our control (like the economy, stupid). Stop sweating the small stuff!
  3. Take a break – Overworking people to exhaustion is a horrible way to extract knowledge from people. Taking a break provides an opportunity to reflect and often it is during such times when the best ideas, our deepest insights, emerge.
  4. Do things differently – Part of the problem at work for many people is boredom. We are stuck in a rut where we come in and do the same thing over and over and over again. Get your enthusiasm back by doing things differently.
  5. Stop managing and start leading – If you’re in management, you need to find ways to motivate and stimulate your employees. How? Stretch their minds. Empower your team by giving them more responsibility, more decision-making power, more autonomy. Equally important: be inclusive. Explain what is happening in the company as a whole and give your employees a broader perspective on how their jobs influence the overall business.
  6. Delegate – Being controlling is bad for business, not to mention bad for your physical and mental health. The best leaders always look for people better, smarter, and more capable than themselves.
  7. Have fun – Here is some tough advice: If you don’t like what you are doing, stop doing it. Life is too short to not have fun. I love what I do and when I stop loving it, I do something else. Even in this economy, you will be in high demand if you are good at what you do — and can do it with a smile on your face.

Not sure of where to start when it comes to work-life balance for your employees? Forbes outlines five easy steps to A+ work-life balance:

  1. Talk the talk – Put work-life balance in your Core Values, post it prominently and create opportunities to talk about what that means with your employees.
  2. Walk the walk – You have to model it. Avoid email on weekends and at night. Take vacations. Give employees rewards of experiences (dinner for two, an activity for kids) that show you care about their life outside the office.
  3. Ask! – How many employers have actually asked their employees what they would want to have a satisfactory work-life balance? It might not be as long a list as you think. Make time to find out what balance looks like for each employee and work together to make it happen.
  4. Get out of the 9-7 box – Give employees more flexible schedules! If you think they will take advantage then they are probably not employees you should trust to begin with. Judge on performance not hours of tushes in seats.
  5. Celebrate families – Let your employees know their kids and families are your concern and interest too.

I think my colleague here at Challenge Consulting summed up this topic best, as a result of the combination of Australia’s low birth rate, low unemployment rates and ageing population, Australia is going to have to really embrace flexibility in the workforce. In my opinion work/life balance is still very much paid “lip service” and very few organisations truly embrace the concept. I think the simple adage of “work to live, not live to work” sums it up. We all just need to learn to live it.

How do you learn to live it? How have you created a work-life balance in your life?