How To Identify Your Strengths

Knowing your strengths is your key to finding work you love and you’re successful at, yet, identifying those strengths is not always as easy as sitting down with a piece of paper and listing a few qualities. If, like many of us, you’re struggling to see your own strengths, read on.

RELATED: What Are Your Strengths And Weaknesses?

What is strength?

Some people see strengths as something we’re naturally good at, but I prefer Marcus Buckingham’s definition: “A strength is an activity that makes you feel strong.” The more you use your strengths, the more energised you feel, which enables you to become better at it with less effort. Being good at something is not enough to call it a strength. If it drains you, then it’s a weakness.

Pay attention to your energy levels

Following this definition, notice how you feel when you’re performing different tasks throughout the day. What sparks excitement? What makes you feel good about yourself? What would you be doing all day if you had the opportunity? After paying attention for a week or so, you will probably notice a thread emerging. You may be feeling at your best when taking care of others or coming up with ideas, or creating something with your hands.

Ask your friends

Sometimes it’s hard to identify our strengths, because they come to us so naturally that we don’t even notice them, just like we don’t notice ourselves breathing most of the time. Ask people who know you well to tell you what they most value about you and what they think makes you unique. Some of the answers are bound to surprise you. When I did this exercise for the first time, I remember thinking: “Really, not everyone does this? Other people don’t think this way?” No, they don’t.

Take a strength assessment test

There are lots of strength assessment tests you can find online and one of the most popular ones is Gallup’s StregthsFinder 2.0, which I have found very helpful – not only it gives you your top strengths, but also ideas on how to bring more of them into your life. Assessments are also good because they give you the language to describe your strengths, which comes handy when you’re answering job interview questions.

Once you discover your strengths, look for ways to implement them in your daily life. The more you use them, the more you will start seeing new ways to apply your strengths and most importantly, you will feel happier and more fulfilled.

Image via Pixabay

April 5, 2015

5 Lessons We Can All Learn From Designers

We engage with the work of designers in almost everything we do. I’m writing this from my desk with a coffee cup to my right, my favourite hand bag to my left, and my computer screen in front of me – all branded and designed for the user. As you read this there will be design all around you too – an ad on the screen, the texture of the seat you’re sitting on, the look and feel of the shoes you’re wearing.

RELATED: Finding Inspiration for Innovative Business Ideas

Our engagement with the work of designers is often unconscious, but if done well the message gets through. So if design is fundamentally about creativity and communication, there are lessons to be learnt for all of us. Here’s five to get you started:

Be curious and engaged

To communicate effectively requires understanding. Become a keen observer of current events and trends – be curious and dive deeper into the issues so you can provide your own unique perspective.

Understand your creative process

While it’s nice to think that a “big idea” will just come to you one day, the reality is that behind every “eureka” moment is a lot of hard work. Discover how you learn and create best – maybe you need to mull over an idea for a few days until it’s sharpened, or you might draw out ideas through brainstorming with others. Whatever your creative process is; understand it, own it, and don’t be afraid to take hold and run with new ideas when they come to you.

Think beyond the people you know

Talking to new people, asking questions, being interested and curious about what they have to say, are all part of the recipe for successful communication. Try starting a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to before, they may offer you a new perspective that leads you to a new idea. Understanding the way different people tick will help you reach new and existing audiences.

Be confident and open to new ideas

Everyone has unique skills to offer, you might not be a designer but what is it that you have to offer that is different to those around you? Don’t be afraid to own the skills you have and the work that you create. However, embracing critique is important too –we are always learning.

Collaboration leads to innovation

The flip side of having unique skills to offer are the things you can’t do so well. Recognise what these are and reach out to those who will compliment your skills. Collaborating with others will help push ideas further, leading to better results.

Images via

By Dr Nicki Wragg, program director of design at Swinburne Online and senior lecturer of the design honours program at Swinburne University. She graduated in 1989 and worked in the areas of brand identity and publication design. Nicki completed her doctorate in 2012.

February 12, 2015

Inspirational Women: Kath Purkis

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

Name and role:

Kath Purkis, co-founder and CEO of global subscription fashion service Her Fashion Box

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

As co-founder of HFB, I created the business from the very beginning a little over a year ago. No two days are never the same at HFB and my day can switch from CEO mode to fashion buyer within hours. A typical day consists of early morning emails before the team arrive at the office, securing partnerships with fashion designers for collaborations, trend forecasting the latest fashion accessories, planning buying timelines, meeting other start-up founders who reach out, looking at the daily data behind our business with google analytics and our backend of the website. I also mentor new interns at HFB and introduce them to our big goals of being a leading subscription fashion service globally.

How/when did you know this what you wanted to do as a career?

I started my first business at 21 years old and always knew I wanted to be my own boss and build a passionate team around me. My first business, fast fashion e-tailer Le Black Book is now 8 years old and was better than a degree. Nothing beats just giving it a go and launching something, if you never try you just never know what’s possible. At 26 years old, I decided I wanted to launch a fashion subscription box and put my focus towards this. Our goal is to ship 1 million Her Fashion Boxes in the next two years. We deliver Christmas every month to women with our fashion subscription box and that is very exciting. I love seeing everyone post their HFB box shots on Instagram and Twitter as soon as they arrive.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I read a lot and draw inspiration from other entrepreneurs both start-up & highly successful. I spend at least 2 hours a week reading websites like Forbes, Tech Crunch, Startup Daily and other business sites. I also surround myself with likeminded people who are walking a similar path, I find these people incredibly inspiring too. I am also inspired by my HFB team, they are all amazing and hopefully I get to invest in their businesses one day. I know we have a few future entrepreneurs here.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

I’ve had a few mentors who have helped shape who I am today and been able to offer advice in both exciting and tough times. I feel it’s very important to have a mentor and someone who believes in you. It’s also fun sharing the journey with them and having your own mini cheerleading team. When I started my first business at 21, I was self motivated and wanted to launch my own fashion e-tail business when no one was doing e-tail well in Australia. Inner drive is very important and it means you will sit tight on the rollercoaster journey.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then?

I’ve been quite lucky and when I’ve had hurdles with each business I have been able to solve problems and move forward swiftly. It’s very important to have a solid team who have the same vision as you, with this you are unstoppable.

How did you overcome these?

Have great mentors, a great partner, an amazing A-team and surround yourself with great mentors.

What are your goals for the future?

We want Her Fashion Box to be a leading subscription fashion business bringing happiness to women all over the world each month. Personally, I will be an angel investor in other start-ups who have a passionate founder who has great ideas and a solid roadmap. Ultimately, I want to be happy and enjoy each day of my life. Professionally, I want to keep creating & growing businesses I am passionate about.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

Just give it a go and don’t waste too much time thinking about the concept. So many people think far too much and delay a launch well beyond the MVP (minimum viable product) stage to the point they never launch. At least if you launch and makes some sales, you are able to validate the concept and then focus on amplifying the business.

If you are passionate about something, make sure you live it each day and don’t wait for tomorrow. Life is short and there’s never been a better time to start creating.

October 24, 2014

Inspirational Women: Joanna Gruenberg

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

Name and role:

Joanna Gruenberg, senior tour guide for AAT Kings

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I lead groups of up to 50 people on cultural tours around the base of Uluru, hiking through the domes of Kata Tjuta and along the rim of Kings Canyon.

How/when did you know this was what you wanted to do as a career?

Public speaking is something that has always come natural to me and is why I originally pursued a career in broadcast journalism in my home country of Canada, where I had a few good years dabbling in sports radio. Journalism is an extremely competitive industry, however, and I wanted to find something a little more stable. I had co-workers, friends, and bosses in recent years tell me that my ability to connect with complete strangers was being wasted as a waitress while I waited for my radio career to take off. They encouraged me to look into the tourism industry and try my hand at guiding. AAT Kings took a chance on me in March 2013 even though I had no experience in leading tours or much knowledge of Australia and its indigenous history. The more I learned about this ancient land and the people that inhabited it, the more I fell in love with the place. Within a few months I was receiving positive feedback from guests on a daily basis and being asked to train new staff. For the first time in a long time I felt successful and realised this could be the career I’d always dreamed of having, and I haven’t looked back since!

Where do you find your inspiration?

There are few words that can describe the feeling of seeing the sun break the horizon behind Uluru in the morning. You would think nearly two years of desert sunsets would get tiresome but it’s the natural beauty of this place and the simplicity of life that drives me each and every day. I’ve been privileged in getting to know the Anangu, the traditional custodians of this land, and being trusted to share their history and stories with visitors is a role I do not take lightly. They have an incredible connection to each other, the landscape, the animals, and it’s impressive to know they are continuing to pass down traditions from over 22,000 years ago. It’s something that many do not fully understand when they arrive here but I am always confident that a tour with me allows people to leave with open minds and acceptance. As advanced as our society has become, the Anangu have so much wisdom to offer us. They inspire me to take better care of myself and my surroundings, and when I hear whispers of similar sentiments through my groups, I just know that I’ve chosen the right career path.

Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?

When I moved to Australia four years ago, I had no connection to the country nor anybody here who would compliment my speaking and social abilities and encourage me to try something different. I figured I had to trust my gut instinct as I had nothing to lose. I quickly found that the skills I learned in college, and refined in the newsroom, could be applied in the role of a Tour Guide and if anything gave me a boost in solidifying my role within the company. Constant encouragement and praise from my Managing Director and colleagues made me want to go above and beyond my job description. In a way, I felt like I was back in school and trying to be the best student I could be; not for the approval but to see what I was capable of. Without all of this support, I never would have taken the leap in the first place.

What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then?

When I moved to Australia from Canada in September 2010, I was still trying to make a real breakthrough with broadcast journalism but was overlooked for a lot of jobs due to my visa work restrictions and was stuck doing basic hospitality work. Coming to the realisation that a career in journalism wasn’t going to happen was not an easy reality to accept. I hadn’t dreamt of doing anything else since I was eight years old. I had also felt guilty that I had spent my parents’ money on a degree that was going nowhere. I met many young Australians in my first few years in Sydney who suggested a career in tourism would be perfect for an outgoing, independent traveler like myself. I had always had an interest in this industry but was denied every job I applied for as most places wanted Australian citizens or permanent residents. Since becoming a permanent resident in April 2013 I have found doors open much easier. Occasionally though I still get eyebrow-raises from people who think someone with my accent has no business recounting historical events and stories from Australia’s oldest indigenous community.

How did you overcome these?

I made sure to always remember not to take the job rejections personally. Work laws are strict in this country and I had to respect that and simply wait for my time to come. I took this transitional period to research Australia’s history and involve myself in the culture. I wanted to get a real sense of what Australians value, their attitudes towards work, how they unwind, etc. The longer I spent here, the stronger I felt about the idea of making Australia my permanent home. This desire drove me to stick through the stressful times of immigration uncertainty and keep focused on a new goal of working in my new dream career. I got the sense that Australia was happy to reward its inhabitants with success but you’d have to work for it and so I was happy to accept this challenge.

What are your goals for the future?

I’d like to take my experience as a Day Tours Guide on the road. There are people I have only met for an hour or two on tour who feel compelled to give me their address and invite me to stay with them if I’m ever in their city. If I could use these strong interpersonal skills of mine, along with the knowledge I’ve gained from living in one of the most remote places in Australia, and apply them to personalised, small group touring which would give me a great sense of accomplishment. I want to bring out a sense of wonder in people all over the world and encourage them to see this planet beyond their front door.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?

I am often told by guests that I have so much passion for my job. I always tell them, “When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like a job.” I want people young and old to know that the “best” jobs aren’t always the ones that have the highest income or the richest benefits. You will feel so much more productive and fulfilled when you spend your time doing something that drives you.

October 17, 2014

7 High-Flying Women Share Their Secrets to Success

Are you despairing of ever smashing through that metaphorical glass ceiling and rising to the top of your chosen profession?  SheSaid has persuaded real-life women who are scaling the heights of seven very different fields to share their stories – and what they credit with their success.

The Retail Afficionado: Jennifer Jones, 38 (above)
Former Diesel Clothing managing director and founder/CEO of homewares company Have you met Miss Jones, a lifestyle-publication favourite

Tell us your potted career history: I witnessed first-hand the passion and love my parents had for their homewares business in the Philippines and I made it my personal goal to start my own business by the time I was 30. So just shy of my birthday I resigned from Diesel Clothing. First I tried my hand at selling almost anything and then, on my Dad’s suggestion, I went back to the Philippines to source a homewares collection.

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? The most confronting aspect of moving from a corporate career to your own business is the sheer amount of work you need to do yourself. I didn’t want to take out loans or get investors so I started with my savings and a fierce determination to succeed. While you do make sacrifices, especially financial, you know every aspect of your business and how to do things, and you have more time to do the things you love as you’re calling the shots.

What do you credit with your career success? I was told that when you start your own business everything you’ve done in the past, no matter how insignificant, plays a part in your success. This couldn’t be more true and all the roles I’ve had in the past have given me instinctive knowledge about starting my own company. We now release two full ranges a year of over 300 items and supply over 800 stores across Australia. Find something you truly love doing, then make it your job!

The Banker: Melanie Evans, 36
Head of home ownership for Australia’s second-largest lender, Westpac Group

Tell us your potted career history: I started in banking at 17 years old while studying my undergraduate degree. Having held senior product, marketing and P&L roles in banking, super and investments, it’s fair say I’ve grown up in a male-dominated environment!

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? I believe that those who achieve career success – as defined only by them – tend to be highly successful in life beyond their career too. So I’m very conscious of leading a happy and healthy life. I’ve never thought of anything as a sacrifice. I make explicit decisions on a daily basis about how I spend my time and I own those decisions. I’ve had very good role models in that regard. I make time to go for a run in the morning or at lunchtime, I prioritise family commitments, I make sure I eat well. I don’t hide the fact that I am spending time on myself because I think I am better person for it.

What do you credit with your career success? Understanding your business and most importantly your customers; hard work and tenacity; building solid relationships based on trust and respect; challenging convention and encouraging others to challenge your own thinking; always learning by seeking out people and experiences that will give you new perspectives; caring about people and developing those around you; enjoying yourself and being happy.

The Engineer: Sally Glen, 40
Australian director at Independent Project Analysis (IPA), the industry leader in the quantitative analysis of project management systems

Tell us your potted career history: I don’t recall really choosing engineering but growing up in the outback and being good at maths seemed good perquisites… and I happily went off to remote Tom Price for my first job. I’ve had three out of four good bosses, only two employers and interesting work. From starting in construction and project management, my work now involves governance and project economics, plus evaluating over 200 projects in the last decade (flying and airports are overrated!). Lots of public speaking, including teaching project professionals, is not where I thought engineering would take me.

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? We decided early on to have one of us home and it was an economic decision that I work. I have worried about how much I’ve been away from the girls (now five and seven) during their very young years. I think that has probably been harder on me than them and maybe it is giving them good role modelling for what is possible. The single income has postponed some plans but it has been of enormous comfort to me from many overseas locations that the kids had a parent at home.

What do you credit with your career success? I manage everything in large part because of my husband’s role as stay-at-home parent. I have an aptitude for process improvement and the puzzle solving that goes with operations management, and I have a scenario planning mindset to seeing off problems. Being more senior is isolating and I have to work on those likability issues that tend to be felt more by women. I credit my children for teaching me to be “present” and I have a small, core group of family and friends who help with my sanity from time to time. I also run.

The Journalist: Kate Mills, 40 
Former editor of BRW magazine and founder of, a platform for flexible work opportunities for women in law, accounting, engineering and management consulting

Tell us your potted career history: Nearly a lawyer, but then accidentally fell into journalism and instantly loved it. Started in legal journalism but spread into becoming a general business commentator and spent the last three years as first female editor of BRW.

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? As editor my life came down to my family (husband and two girls) and work so I have been through periods where you just don’t see friends and you have to keep an eye on your physical and mental health so you don’t burn out. Any sacrifices have been worth it though – I love what I do.

What do you credit with your career success? Hard work and some luck. Early in my career I met an editor at a party who gave me my first big break – she overheard me making a group of lawyers laugh and thought I would be good value! I am like a lot of women who are the quiet hardworking ones that get things: we need to make more noise though about our achievements – that is one reason more men get ahead. My new motto: hear me roar!

The Lawyer: Anna Elliot, 38
Senior associate and leader of the Sydney labour and employment team at global top-20 law firm, Squire Sanders

Tell us your potted career history: I trained as a lawyer at Hammonds (now Squire Sanders) in the UK. After five years, I moved to Sydney with the intention of staying for six-12 months and returning to my role in London. After a brief career change honing some invaluable business development skills at KPMG, I met my husband and realised I was staying. So I re-qualified and continued my career in employment law in commercial firms here. Seven years later, I received a fantastic opportunity to re-join Squire Sanders to set up the labour and employment team in Sydney, when its newest Australian office opened in November 2012.

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? Yes. Although moving to Sydney was the right decision for my personal life, it set my career back about five years and I am still catching up with my former UK peers.  I also took less time off for maternity leave, and had less time at home once I returned to work, than I would have liked. I absolutely love being a mother and I am also passionate about my career – I have been very fortunate to have a husband and employers who are supportive of both.

What do you credit with your career success? Being hard working, committed and driven. Also maintaining relationships and never burning my bridges, which was a key factor in being approached for my current role.

The Property Manager: Kate Brown, 36
Group director, sustainability for global property company Grosvenor, run for the Duke of Westminster 

Tell us your potted career history: Completed a Masters degree in Art History and found my first job in property as a graduate asset manager in London, moving into development soon after. Once professionally qualified, I was posted to Sydney as a development manager, taking on the new (international – across our 19 offices) role of group director, sustainability five years ago.

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? The first three years of full-time working while undertaking a post-grad course – four nights a week, four hours a night just for the lectures and coursework on top – was very tough. I kissed goodbye to ANY social life! Now with a young family and an international role, the sacrifice is different: time away from home.

What do you credit with your career success? Never being afraid to ask the question; for a new challenge. People only know what you want if you tell them. So many people are dissatisfied… don’t die wondering! There was a need for my role but it didn’t exist. I asked the question and after some discussion it was created. Also being prepared to feel scarily out of my depth. Being a group director aged 30 was a little daunting – I made plenty of mistakes, but had to learn quickly.

The Television Careerist: Sarah Stinson, 33
Executive producer, Channel 7’s The Morning Show and Daily Edition

Tell us your potted career history: I started in the newsroom at Channel 9 in 1998. I was meant to do a week-long internship; I ended up staying for 8 months, simply by creating new jobs for myself. From there I went to the Today Show as production assistant and after two years, to my dream job at A Current Affair, starting as a researcher before moving up to senior producer. I then went to Today Tonight (Channel 7) as a producer and was promoted to chief of staff, where I really cut my teeth in management. This paved the way three years ago for my progression to executive producer of The Morning Show, and more recently the Daily Edition.

Have you had to make personal sacrifices? On the face of it, yes – I’ve been called back from holidays for every form of natural disaster. In my early 20s I spent more time in a dark edit suite than a dark nightclub (in retrospect, this may have been a good thing). I’ve spent pretty much every Sunday morning for the past 15 years chasing stories when I should be sleeping in. But this is a lifestyle, not a job, so I wouldn’t necessarily call them sacrifices, but rather a relatively small price to pay for long-term gain.

What do you credit with your career success? I have always been resourceful and incredibly determined. If someone tells me something can’t be done I see it as a challenge – an invitation to make it happen. I love recognising talent in other people and helping them to play to their strengths. More than most industries television is a team sport – it’s a constant relay. We all rely on each other to get the best product to air each day. And the two vital ingredients for any successful career: gusto and gumption.

Which women inspire you? We’d love to know your female role models and who you look up to!

Nicole is the founder of and developer of the 12-Step Prosperity Plan, an achievable and even enjoyable blueprint to take Aussies from worry to wealthy. Nicole’s writing has earned her top personal finance awards in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Her career credits include founding and editing The Australian Financial Review’s Smart Investor magazine, and reporting and editing for the magazine arm of the UK’s Financial Times. Author, qualified financial adviser and Fairfax’s Money Matters columnist for the last decade, Nicole is a regular on television and radio. She talks money without the mumbo jumbo. Follow her on Twitter at @NicolePedMcK.

October 8, 2013

Job Working conditions Round-up (contd)

Not so great was a national nuclear science agency ordered to pay a manager $35,000 for failing to offer her part time work options when she returned from maternity leave.Australian Industry Group chief executive Tim Piper said the Federal Magistrates’ Court imposed penalty should make all employers aware of the need to accommodate workers with families.

“In any case, it makes good business sense to retain existing employees, given the ageing workforce and the high cost of training,” he said.

Access Economics recently told a summit in Sydney that growth in Australia’s workforce would plummet from 170,000 workers a year to only 125,000 for the entire decade of the 2020s.

That means your power as an employee is only going to grow. Remember that next time you are feeling undervalued.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

September 2, 2003

Preparation vs Personality – And the Winner is…

An international survey of employers has revealed that when it comes to hiring administrative staff, preparation, not personality, wins the day.

Employers in Australia and eight other countries said the top candidate moves that impress were:

  • Researching a potential employer thoroughly before attending a job interview
  • Asking informed questions at the end of the interview
  • Neat appearance and arriving with all appropriate documents well prepared.

Good manners were rated by a small five per cent of managers as a job winner and only one per cent cited personality as a major influence in giving a candidate the job.

The Workplace Survey relied on data collected by a research firm for recruitment giant Robert Half International in nine countries including Australia. The other countries included Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The survey involved 1,550 managers in charge of recruitment from human resource staff to finance directors. OfficeTeam, a specialist recruiter of administrative personnel and a division of Robert Half, released the results in Australia.

Nicole Gorton, Australian branch manager of OfficeTeam, said the survey results showed how important it was for candidate’s to do their research. “In today’s competitive environment, anyone who wants to succeed in interviews has to do their homework and appear committed to the vision of the company,” said Ms Gorton.

“Getting through the interview may only be the first step to career success but it is the time when you are meticulously judged and it is true when people say first impressions last,” she said.

OfficeTeam have also released the findings of a survey of candidates that asked what areas of their career get the creative treatment during an interview.

  • 33 per cent of respondents ‘enhanced’ the content of their former jobs
  • 22 percent expanded on their management skills
  • Only 5 per cent exaggerated their salary
  • 51 per cent of interviewees found it difficult to talk about their weaknesses
  • 23 percent preferred to avoid discussing the reasons for leaving their last job.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

August 5, 2003

Is your role in demand?

Each year recruitment giant Hays Personnel Services interviews Australia’s major employers to find out their hiring, firing and salary intentions for the financial year ahead.

You can see the Hays series of salary surveys on by just clicking on Career Resources and then Dollars & Sense. In the meantime, here is what the experts have to say about your industry.


It has been a challenging year for office support candidates with even highly skilled, experienced staff finding job shopping tough going. Roles in demand include receptionists and office juniors. In the public

sector the roles of executive assistant has been on the rise but not in the private sector.

“Additionally, restructures and technology have further eroded administration roles with job descriptions changing from traditional roles to include areas outside of “office” support such as analysis, resourcing, policy, procurement, sales, IT and research,” says Hays.

In turn this has created a multi-tasking mindset – such as receptionists working on accounts processing.

“As positions are merged employees skills have to be upgraded,” says the report.

Organisations that were unable to merge or upgrade skills made staff redundant and then hired replacement staff with the skills they were after. This also meant that candidates were hitting the market without the skills in demand.

The research also shows that while the role of executive assistant is on the rise in the public sector, in the private sector PA/EAs “have been replaced by more junior multi-skilled roles”. Companies are also keen on using temp to perm candidates to ensure they find the right person for the role. Hays advise candidates to be flexible and to keep building their skills and keeping existing skills sharp.

“Do your research – look at the big picture and discover how a company operates and what its structure is before accepting a permanent role. Ensure it meets your career objectives. “Be flexible on salary requirements as it may be necessary to take a slight drop in your expectations now in order to progress your career further in the future. You will find that working in an environment that you enjoy will automatically create more opportunities.”

July 22, 2003

How to get that pay rise (contd)

A matter of timing

Timing is critical. When it’s easy for a boss to say ‘no’, then she or he will do so. Friday afternoon is a good time to ask for a pay rise because the boss can then spend the weekend worrying that you might leave.It also gives the boss time to work out how they are going to justify your increase to their own direct report. Max says: “Do not rush your boss into a decision. Use phrases like ‘I would like you to think about’ and ‘at an appropriate time …’

“So it goes something like this: ‘Jane/Jack as you know I have been with you now for nine months and the job has developed in some interesting ways, particularly in xyz.

“I would like you to review my salary arrangements. As you know the range for my job is from x to y. I don’t expect an answer immediately as I know you will want to think through my contribution and my market value.

“However, you can appreciate that I would not have mentioned this unless I had given it a lot of thought. Thank you for this opportunity Jack/Jane. I know you will do your best for me.”

Finally, remember the second rule of negotiation, “if you don’t ask, you

don’t get”

Interpreting the answer

Recruitment consultants would also add a piece of advice about what to do if you are turned down.

It’s all in the delivery. If the boss says to someone ‘we can’t right now but let’s look at it in three months or six months’ then they probably mean it.

However, if your direct report delivers an outright ‘no’ then you might want to think about joining another company.

Make sure you do your research. If you are in sales or another revenue generating positions your chances are better than those that are not.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can

be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

July 8, 2003

Career Tips: Please don’t go!

If your employer tries to entice you into staying after you have announced

your intention to leave, BEWARE.

Executive recruiter Paul Hawkinson says that in his more than 30-year career

he has only ever known a few examples where accepting a counter offer to

stay with a current employer actually turned out to be a good career


Your career is your very own business. Deciding to move to a new role is a

business decision – not an emotional one – and so you need to keep a clear

head if your current employer tries to get you to stay.

First up, keep in mind why you are leaving. Reasons could include that you

are unhappy in your current role, you believe you are worth more money in

the current market or that the new role will give you greater responsibility

and thus help build your skill set.

Managers want people to stay for a variety of reasons but mostly because a

team member’s departure looks bad on him or her. Everyone can be replaced

but how quickly and at what cost is the question your manager will need to

wrestle with.

Your departure might impact on the morale of the team or it might be

following closely on the heels of another resignation. It could mess up the

holiday leave schedule or delay the start of an important project.

Whatever the impact, push your ego to one side. The manager’s reaction is

not about you but about what might happen to him or her.

It is tempting to stay when someone says: “We need you.” Tempting but not

always a good idea.

At the end of the day, if it has taken your resignation to get your boss to

offer you the additional responsibility, pay increase, promotion or window

office that you have been asking for then GO.

And if you decide to stay, don’t kid yourself that you haven’t created just

a tad of ill will. Are you really a team player? Will you jump ship the next

time you don’t get what you want? Counter offers can also be a tactic to

give your company time to find someone to fill your shoes.

According to Paul Hawkinson, well-managed companies do not make

counter-offers “ever”.

“Their policies are fair and equitable. They will not be subjected to

‘counter-offer coercion’ or what they perceive as blackmail.”

Now that’s settled, you can get back to the business of telling your

colleagues where you want them to hold your farewell and booking the exotic

holiday you are going to take before staring your new job.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to for more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

June 10, 2003

A Day in The Life of… A writer

SheSaid gets the goss from Belinda Alexandra, author of White Gardenia.

Describe a typical day

I usually begin the day with yoga or dancing (depending on my energy level and mood) and a healthy breakfast. I walk my two indoor kitties in the garden and then settle down in front of my computer about 9am. I usually write or read for research about six to eight hours a day, and few hours over the weekend. However, when you work with your imagination, you are pretty well always working, even in your sleep or in the shower. My office is in my head. I do try to ‘shut off’ when I’m out with friends, though, for their sanity’s sake and mine. I usually end the day with dinner with friends or family, a movie, or taking some sort of class (language, history, dancing).

What’s the best part of the job?

Being able to live two lives – the one I’m living and the one I’m creating. Travelling for research. Creating stories that give people pleasure.

What’s the worst part of the job?

Facing a blank page everyday during the first draft process and trying to make the words and images come together. But when it works out, it’s a real high.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Read books twice. The first time to enjoy the story. The second to study the writer’s technique.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer.

Who was the biggest influence on your career?

My mother. She used to buy me exercise books to write down my stories as soon as I learned to hold a pencil.

What would you spend your last $100 on?

A dinner party for good friends

What would you never wear again?

A one piece catsuit (unless it was Halloween).

What are you reading?

Bush Oranges by Kay Donovan. It’s a beautiful tale about sisters living in the tempestuous climate of North Queensland in the 1920s to 1990s.

What can’t you live without?

My sense of humour.

What inspires you?

Beauty – in people’s spirits and in nature.

Buy White Gardenia from the SheSaid bookshop.

June 3, 2003

Resume Writing Tips

Managing your own career is vital these days and keeping your r?sum? up-to-date and ready to roll is the very least you should be doing.However, rushing your r?sum?s update is not a good idea. This is the first impression a prospective employer will have of you so make sure it’s not also their last impression of you.

To make this important job easier, CareerOne asked Tara West of Aussie R?sum?s to provide her expert tips. Aussie R?sum?s is a professional r?sum? writing service. It also carries out an annual survey of major employers to find out what they want to see and read on a candidate’s r?sum?.

What style should candidates follow when preparing their r?sum??

Tara West says that for most candidates, simple is best. While graphic artists, art directors and other creative roles might require fancy fonts and stand out tricks, most of us should avoid these along with graphics and photos.

“Fonts should be easy to read, information correctly aligned and full justification used,” advises Ms West.

She suggests using good quality white paper for hard copy r?sum?s that will be posted or hand delivered. R?sum?s delivered online should use popular formats such as Word or PDF.

“When emailing your application, keep in mind that certain fonts may be on your computer but not necessarily on another.

“Arial font is widely accepted, is ‘open-faced’ and looks professional. Ensure your font size is readable by viewing your document at page width. Generally 11 point is sufficient.”

How long should my r?sum? be?

For most roles, no more than four pages is required, says Ms West. For senior roles, a r?sum? can be up to six pages.

“It is very rare for an employer to request a one to two page r?sum?,” she says. “From comments received by employers in our survey it was stated that one to two pages does not adequately demonstrate (a candidate’s) skills and qualifications.”

“Of course, an exception to this would be a recent school leaver or TAFE, college or university graduate with limited experience.”

What should I put in my r?sum??

Your r?sum? should contain information relevant to the job application such as employment history, education, training, memberships to industry groups and any industry or work-related awards you have won.

Ms West says candidates can also provide “personal” information they wish the potential employer to know.

“Many employers responding to the Aussie R?sum?s Employer Survey stated that they liked to see a pertinent mix of an applicant’s work and personal life,” says Ms West.

“This provides the employer with the opportunity of not only identifying a candidate’s skills, but also gaining an understanding of the person behind the r?sum?,” she says.

January 14, 2003

Resume Writing Tips Continued

Ms West says that employers taking part in the Aussie R?sum?s survey claimed that “personal” information was not used to make a final decision as to whether or not to employ the candidate.”For recent graduates, your r?sum? needs to demonstrate your educational development and achievements, in addition to highlighting any transferable skills you can apply to the position,” says Ms West.

“As your r?sum? may not demonstrate a vast amount of experience, it will be vital that your application includes a covering letter addressing the advertised criteria,” she says.

“Both the r?sum? and covering letter will be a strong marketing tool.”

“No application is complete without a dynamic covering letter,” says Ms West.

“This compliments your r?sum?s and briefly outlines your expertise.

“Unless addressing selection criteria, your covering letter should be no more than one page, typed in a clear readable font with full justification.”

Should I send my r?sum? by email or should I post a hard copy?

“Overwhelmingly, employers prefer applications by email and in most cases do not require a follow-up in hard copy,” says Ms West.

Most employers advertising a position will say in their ad how they want r?sum?s to be sent to them.

“If you are sending a r?sum? by email, it’s important to email your cover letter and r?sum? as one document and not as two separate attachments,” says Ms West.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to for more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

January 14, 2003

10 Ways to Reach Your Professional Potential

  1. Work those extra hours over time if it means you’ll get the job done to perfection. You’ll get the satisfaction as well as respect from your colleagues and boss.
  2. Practise discipline and be committed. There will be times when you need to make sacrifices to get ahead – just remember it’s well worth it when it pays off.
  3. Get yourself a role model – someone whose career you admire – and search out their biography or any information you can find out about them in journals or on the Internet.
  4. Confound your critics by succeeding in the Pie In The Sky career they always mocked you for going on about.
  5. Be ambitious. If it’s a big opportunity that beckons, go for it, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re wasting your time.
  6. Spead your knowldege and expertise whenever and wherever you can. You will improve your self-esteem and self-confidence if you’re successful at passing information along to others.
  7. Cement your opinions on current affairs, politics and topical issues. Read, read, read and devour information provided by electronic media. There’s no excuse not to be well-informed about what’s going on in the world.
  8. Seek out experts or professionals in the area or industry that interests you. Make contact first via letter or e-mail requesting a half an hour meeting or phone call during which time you’ll invite them to answer your well-researched questions.
  9. Don’t let work/study become all-consuming and energy draining. You don’t want to burn out, so it’s important to maintain a balance with a full social life.
  10. Network, network, network. Wherever possible combine business with pleasure. Seek out clubs, seminars, events and conferences where you’ll meet interesting, resourceful, well-connected professionals. Likewise, if you’re working with like-minded people, it’s easy to extend the relationship to include socialising.

From Get On With It the sassy new book for independent single women by Sue Ostler (Allen & Unwin). Learn to love your own life, develop your career, take control of your finances and enjoy everything you want!

Image from “The Devil Wears Prada”

July 2, 2002

Confronting The Boss From Hell

The most difficult person to deal with in the workplace might just be your boss!

When I finished reading the best seller Dealing with Difficult People I was so impressed by the advice and techniques it contained, that I thought the book could just as easily be renamed Management 101. I couldn’t understand why such a simple and economical resource that could really make a difference to people’s effectiveness, productivity and dare I say, happiness in the workplace, was not a prescribed text! Author Roberta Cava is similarly perplexed, especially given that her knowledge and extensive experience of this subject shows that managers and supervisors are in fact the worst offenders!

I caught up with Roberta recently to chat about her best-seller and to get some top tips on dealing with difficult people that could really make (or save) your day!

“I keep seeing people who get up in the morning, they’re in a good mood they run into some difficult situations and it ruins their day,” says Roberta identifying a common scenario. “What I try to do is give people the ability to stay in control in difficult situations and to not let other people get control over their life,” says Roberta of her internationally-presented and widely-acclaimed tips and techniques.

“It has been so effective that I get letters from all over the world now from people who say that their lives have changed because they have been able to change their way of responding,” she says of her infinitely rewarding work. A best-seller that’s been in print since 1990, available world-wide through eight publishers and in five languages, it’s easy to see that Roberta’s endeavours in Dealing With Difficult People are both appreciated and necessary. While certainly her area of expertise, Roberta’s work doesn’t stop with workplace scenarios and survival guides.

“I’m busy doing an awful lot of writing related to the book; magazine and newspaper articles and I’m writing a sequel to it for Pan Macmillan in Australia and it’s called Dealing With Difficult Situations. I’ve already written Dealing with Difficult Spouses and Children, Dealing with Difficult Relatives and In-Laws, and there is going to be a whole stream of them come out eventually,” she says of her seemingly prolific output.

The culmination of over seven years worth of experiences in her hugely popular seminars on dealing with difficult people, the book of the same name took just four months to write. A chapter added to the revised edition in 2000 names the 115 (yes, that’s right!) types of manipulators – your basic “difficult” people – and offers strategies on how to deal with them. Roberta explains. “When I first started doing my seminars Dealing with Difficult People I always thought that the most difficult people in the world would be the client. Then I thought that the second most difficult people to people working, of course would be the colleague. I was decidedly wrong,” she admits. “Overwhelmingly, the biggest problems in business start at the top.”

“The reason for this is that most supervisors and managers, directors and CEO, executives of companies have not had basic supervisory training and this is extremely true in Australia. I have never seen so few people in supervisory positions that have the basic supervisory knowledge. And they make a lot of mistakes,” she adds.

April 9, 2002

Career Questions and Answers

Our resident SheSaid career guru offers some professional advice.

Q. I work for a large international computer company as a marketing co-ordinator. My immediate boss is due to take maternity leave in three months and I have been offered her role while she’s away, which will involve greater responsibility and longer working hours. Neither of which I mind, however, I have not been offered any increase in my salary. Should I accept the new role and not mention the salary situation, or should I ask for an increase?

A. This is an excellent opportunity for you to show your true worth. After all you’ve probably been angling for this role for some time. You should sit down with your boss and clearly define what will be expected of you in this role, and what exactly the goals are to be achieved. Instead of asking outright for a salary rise, discuss and agree on what you would be entitled to in the event that you meet the goals set. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a permanent salary increase, it could be a bonus payment, a promotion, or even extra holiday. This way, what you are doing is saying to your boss that you have confidence in your own abilities and are asking to be rewarded when you succeed.

There is no legal obligation for your organisation to pay you more, unless you are working under award conditions. If this is the case, you will need to consult the individual award under which you are employed. Use this situation to its best advantage and show your company what you’re worth!

Q. I have worked for the same company for the last seven years. I started as a telesales operator and over the years have been promoted ‘through the ranks’ to assistant manager. The next level is that of operations manager, which my boss has told me he is happy promote me to. The trouble is he’s been saying it for the last three years! Each time a position becomes available he fobs me off with some excuse or other, and gives the job to someone else. How long should I wait for this promotion? Or should I start looking outside the company to further my career?

A. Get serious! If your boss has been promising you a promotion for three years and has done nothing about it, then you need to evaluate your position within the company. It is time to take stock of your career to date, recognise your achievements, identify your strengths and then take all those skills to a company that is going to recognise and appreciate you.

Sometimes it is hard to break into a senior role in a company in which you have ‘moved through the ranks’, as many people may perceive you as the girl who started as a junior however inappropriate that may seem now. Find yourself a good recruitment consultant, one who specialises in your industry, and ask her to assist you in making your next move.

Q. I have recently been promoted to publicity manager for an educational publishing company. I am not a university graduate and have achieved my professional success by working hard and learning quickly! However, I have recently been told that I am expected to give a presentation to a large audience at an overseas book fair in six months’ time – and I’m petrified! I have never had to present to a large group before and don’t know what to do, or how to prepare such a presentation. Should I confess my fears to my director, or make an excuse to get out of the trip altogether?

A. Yours is a common problem, for which there is a simple solution – get professional public speaking training. The majority of people who you see speaking so effortlessly in the media or at conferences have generally had some form or professional training. Usually a consultant has trained them to ensure they achieve the maximum impact when they present. It’s all about practice. The more public speaking you do, the more comfortable you will become.

As a start, contact organisations such as Toastmasters International, which has 200 clubs across Australia. They are a group of individuals who are all keen to improve their public speaking skills, so it is a very supportive environment in which to learn and gain your confidence. Otherwise, ask your manager if you can attend a training course specialising in professional presentations. These courses are offered by all reputable training companies, such as Rogen International and Mercuri International. This will help with both the content and the delivery of your presentation. If your company will not pay for you, look at funding a course yourself, as professional education courses are normally considered as tax deductable. Check with your accountant for confirmation.

See this as an excellent opportunity to develop another important skill, rather than a situation to dread. Remember: you will be fabulous if you think you’re fabulous!

November 4, 2001

How to Like Your Job?

Do you find that because of our slow economy, financial needs or just life situations (credit cards) we stay in jobs we really don’t love? You don’t mind your colleagues and you really don’t mind the work either. Don’t panic because it’s not a bad thing to feel ‘okay’ about your day job. In fact there are ways to feel positive and good about going to work.Accept the situation

One thing to remember is not to put your job before everything else in your life. Have key areas and determine your priorities. Some people put relationships, self, spouse, family and friends and then work. Of course you can’t be unrealistic and think that work will never get out of control on occasions, but, if you start prioritizing your life? work won’t get your down. Don’t apologise if your job is not on the top of your list.

Expand your outside life

If you have worked out your priorities you can now expand your life outside of the office. Make friends unrelated to your job; don’t get involved in activities that are glorified networking opportunities. Surround yourself with positive people that inspire you.

July 1, 2001

How to Like Your Job? (Cont’d)

Take control of your lack of motivation

If you are feeling a tad bored at work and unmotivated this can be for a number of reasons. The first thing to do is ask yourself, “Why am I bored and unmotivated?” It might be because you have outgrown the job, are bored with the routine or not getting the appropriate feedback you need. A tip to conquer this is to look around at work and see what things need fixing? then go about doing it. Not only will you be seen as taking initiative but also you will feel excited about tackling a new responsibility.Get a hold of your life outside of the office

It’s not abnormal to have your personal life come into the office. You have to recognize this as a temporary situation and that you have to get a hold of it. The best bit of advice I was given was to talk to my manager to see if there were ways I could re-prioritise to get my job done and stay sane. Ask your support systems and don’t try to be a martyr. Only makes your life harder.

Deal with office politics

Keep above the politics. Stay focused on the goals of your job and your projects. Remember you are a professional and don’t get sucked into coffee shop bitching. Never gossip about the people you don’t like to anyone at work. There is no point putting your energy into the people you dislike at work.

July 1, 2001

Best Career Tips Ever!

Whether you’re just thinking about a career change or are in the middle of a major job hunt, tips from the experts are always useful. The SheSaid career guru is here to help. Brush up on your interview techniques, write a better resume, be prepared with some intelligent questions at your interview.

Company research

Interview preparation

Dos and don’ts at the interview

Questions you may be asked

How to answer questions professionally

Questions you should ask

At the end of the interview

Company research

Research the company that you are interviewing with. With the amount of information readily available over the web, you should be able to find out all you need to know. Alternatively, if the company is a listed company, call their head office and request the latest copy of their annual report (they are obliged to send it to you). If you need information on stock market performance, the world’s stock exchanges have extensive reference information available.

Useful sites: (Australian Equities) (US Innovative stocks) (US mainboard listing) (UK mainboard stocks) (UK innovative stocks)

If you are using the services of a recruitment company, make sure that they supply you with information on the company, or at least direct you to where you can find the relevant information.

Interview preparation

This is your big chance to make a lasting impression. You have no excuse for not being fully prepared and organised. Chances are, if you’re not, the next person will be!

Make sure you know what you have written on your CV. Interviewers will ask you about it.

Have the correct time, location and pronunciation of the person’s name that will be interviewing you. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there do not be late!

Prepare a list of questions that you would like to ask, and don’t hesitate to take it out from your bag to read from the list. We all get nervous in interviews, and it is horrible to remember when you’ve left that you forgot to ask something critical. Asking questions shows the interviewer that you have prepared for the meeting.

Wear your most businesslike and appropriate outfit. Make sure your shoes are clean and well heeled, and that your jewellery is appropriate. Remember: it is easy to be quirky once you actually have the job.

Dos and don’ts at the interview

Always remember that you are being interviewed because the interviewer wants to fill a vacancy.

Do fill it out any application forms neatly and completely

Do greet the interviewer by name

Do shake hands firmly. (This is so important. A weak handshake can take the whole interview to overcome.)

Do wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright in your chair, look alert and interested at all times. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Smile!

Do be enthusiastic – nothing is more attractive.

Do look a prospective employer in the eye when you speak – very important!

Do follow the interviewer’s lead, but try to obtain a full description of the position and duties expected early on so that you can relay your appropriate background and skills.

Do keep in mind that only you can sell yourself and make the interviewer aware of the potential benefit you could be to the organisation. Think like the interviewer: what would you want to hear?

Do keep in mind that there may be more than one role on offer in the organisation. Remain positive throughout the interview.

Don’t smoke, even if the interviewer smokes and offers you a cigarette.

Don’t answer questions with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Always give an example as it helps to reinforce what you are saying.

Don’t lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as much to the point as possible.

Don’t make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.

Don’t ask about salary, holidays, bonuses, etc. at the initial interview unless you are positive the interviewer is interested in hiring you.

Questions you may be asked

There are some questions that invariably come up at interviews. You look professional and polished if you can answer them intelligently instead of trying to think on your feet (or more likely your backside!)

Why did you choose a career in this particular industry?

What do you know about our company?

What do you know about this particular job?

Why would you like to work for our company?

What interests you about our product/services?

What style of management gets the best results from you?

What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?

Which did you enjoy the most, and why?

What have you done that shows initiative in your career?

What are your major weaknesses and what are your strengths?

What do you think determines a person’s progress in a good company?

Are you willing to relocate?

What are your hobbies?

What does “teamwork” mean to you?

What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now?

How to answer questions professionally

On a general note, keep the answers to these questions short and professional. Nobody likes to interview someone who rambles on. Where possible, give an example, as it helps to anchor what you have just said in the interviewer’s mind.

What style of management gets the best results from you?

“I like a participative style of management. In my current role, my boss and I have a meeting every Monday morning, and together, we determine the priorities of the week. Each afternoon at 5pm, I update her as to the events of the day, and what goals have been achieved. As such, we find that we work as a very productive team more than achieve the targets we set on Monday.”

Alternatively, “I like a fairly hands-off style of management. In my current role, I am given a task and when it is completed I let my boss know. Using this approach together we have successfully delivered four projects on time …”

Be careful of strengths and weaknesses questions, and again give an example. ‘Weaknesses’ is one area where if you don’t prepare beforehand you may tell your interviewer what they really are! Instead, the trick to this question is to think about a weakness that could just as easily be considered a strength.

“As I like everything to be correct, when under situations of extreme pressure I tend to not delegate as effectively as usual. However, I am aware of this situation, and am consciously trying to overcome this situation.”

Which, in reality, probably means you become a control freak when stressed! However, what the interviewer hears is that you ‘like everything to be correct’, and that only in times of extreme pressure do you operate less effectively. But who does? The interviewer will also appreciate it that you know of this perceived ‘weakness’ and are trying to improve on it.

Remember: don’t lie! Just be smart, but not a smart-arse!

Questions you should ask

Looking and sounding prepared is important. Don’t be afraid to refer to a notebook during the meeting.

Is there a detailed position description available?

Why is the position available?

How would you describe the culture of the company?

In you opinion, what are the company’s best-selling products or services?

Why do you think that is?

What kind of training will I receive?

What kinds of people have done well within the organisation? Why?

What is the company’s strategy for the next year? Where are they trying to position themselves in the market?

What value are you expecting me to add to the team?

What do you see the career progression for this role being?

At the end of the interview

Ask what the next step is from here. Let the interviewer know you are interested in pursuing the opportunity further, without being overbearing. If you are offered the position and you are comfortable and happy with everything discussed, including salary, accept the position on the spot, subject to receiving the offer in writing. If you wish time to think it over, be tactful in asking for that time. Agree on a definite time when you will come back with your answer. NEVER resign from a permanent role without a written offer from your ‘future’ employer.

Most interviewers will not make an offer in the interview. Don’t let this discourage you. It is all part of the process. The general line is: “I am interviewing other candidates…”

Always remember to thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. Let them know that you hope to hear from them soon. Remember to shake the interviewer’s hand and smile. Walk away knowing you have done all you can do.

August 1, 2000