Don’t buy your lunch

Buying your lunch is an expensive exercise – if you spend $10 a day on lunch, five days a week, that’s $2,400 a year.

You’re at work to make money, so don’t spend it at work.

Planning and preparing your weekday lunches on a Sunday not only saves you money, it saves time.

Try the following brain food recipe for an easy week day lunch. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function.

Japanese style salmon patties


  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 180g can pink salmon, drained, bones removed and flaked
  • 1 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon extra
  • 1 bunch choy sum, trimmed
  • ½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. In a large bowl, combine rice, salmon, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, ginger, soy, coriander and chill. Mix well. Shape into 8 even-sized, flattened patties. Chill, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan on high. Fry patties in two batches, 3-4 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on paper towel.
  3. Wipe pan clean. Heat extra oil on medium. Stir-fry choy sum and tomatoes for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Serve patties with wasabi mayonnaise (see tip) and fresh vegetables.

Top tip

  • To make wasabi mayonnaise, combine 1/3 cup whole egg mayonnaise with 1-2 teaspoons of wasabi paste.

Recipe courtesy of Ninemsn Food.

Be productive when working from home

Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. While the office space is free and the commute short, there’s more distractions, less “water-cooler” interaction and fragmented working hours. Follow the Institute of Careers’ simple tips to ensure your working day is a successful one.

Dress the part:

Even though your office shares the same address as your bedroom, it doesn’t give you free reign to greet your laptop in your Peter Alexanders. Stick to your usual workday routine – that means shower, eat breakfast and put on your work clothes. Wearing work clothes at the home office puts you in a mind-frame to work, not watch Sunrise.

Create a task list:

Write a list of all the actions you need to do that day, and objectives you’d like to achieve, and allocate the amount of time needed to undertake each task in one-hour blocks. Stay focussed and stick to the schedule, otherwise you could find yourself procrastinating and slacking off from the task at hand.

Set boundaries:

Don’t do your laundry during the workday and avoid personal calls until after work. If you wouldn’t do these kinds of things in an external office, don’t do it while working at home.

Take a proper lunch break:

Allocate yourself one hour for lunch. Make yourself a healthy meal and then go for a walk or short run to clear your head, thereby avoiding the afternoon slump. The advantage of working from home is that you can be super healthy by preparing your own lunch every day and making exercise fit around your schedule.

Say no to midday movies:

Tempting as it might be, don’t switch on the TV – Dr Phil's background chatter will only distract you from work. Surround your workspace with work-related things instead of items that might remind you of all the personal chores that need to be done.

How to cure a case of Mondayitis

A productive, happy and effective day is usually achieved by getting up on the right side of the bed in the morning. But after a carefree weekend, the thought of leaving the warm and cosy confines of your bed at the start of the working week is downright depressing.

Here’s what to do if you’re battling the Monday blues:

Tidy up loose ends on a Friday

If you finish as many tasks as possible before the weekend, you will feel much better going into Monday morning with a fresh start.

Clean your workspace

Don’t start the working week with remnants of last week’s work. Clear away your coffee cups and file your paperwork in appropriate folders so you’re not scrambling to find important documents on a Monday morning.

Create a to-do-list

On Friday afternoon, create a list of tasks to accomplish during the week ahead. By being organised, you will feel better on Monday if you know exactly what you’re up for.

Sundays are for relaxing, not partying

Schedule your social life on Friday nights and Saturdays. Save Sunday for relaxing and winding down after the weekend. Sundays are also a good time for meal prep – make your lunches for the week and prepare as much food as you can to make weekday dinners a breeze. 

Be an early-bird

If you sleep in on a Monday, you will only be putting extra pressure on yourself. Rise early, exercise, eat a good breakfast and catch up on the news. Even listening to your favourite tunes on the way to work can lift your mood and help you snap back into the routine of the coming week.

Avoid big jobs on a Monday

Spread major jobs throughout the week. This strategy will reduce any stress and anxiety about the thought of going back to work on a Monday.

Lead by example

If the boss suffers Mondayitis, chances are even the most enthusiastic of staff will succumb to the blues – they’re contagious! Managers need to set an example. View work as an enjoyable experience and convey this impression to staff.

Is salary negotiation a no-no?

You’ve landed the job of your dreams, but the take-home pay is less than impressive. Here we discuss if – and when – you should negotiate on salary.

According to the Institute of Careers CEO David Zanker, don’t barter on wages at your first interview.

“You have to wait until the company has invested in the process, and in you,” Mr Zanker says.

“A good time to enter these discussions is before you start the job, not while you’re still an applicant.”

Another clever way to broach these somewhat uncomfortable discussions, Mr Zanker says, is to take a strategic, forward-thinking approach.

“Employees could ask their new employer whether they’d consider a salary review in three months’ time, based on performance.

“That way you’ve opened up the doors for discussion without hitting them up straight off the bat.”

A final word of advice – if you’ve negotiated on salary, don’t expect to get any leeway in hitting your KPIs and targets.

“You’ll really need to impress your employer during your probationary period because you fought for your skills and experience to be reflected in your higher salary,” Mr Zanker says.

“If you don’t fulfil those expectations, you’ll lose credibility fast.”

Finding work in the hidden job market

Have you heard of the hidden job market?

An estimated 80 per cent of jobs aren’t advertised, which begs the question – where are they and how do I get one?

In the burgeoning aged and child care industries, for example, you won’t find many jobs advertised because employees are required to have a Certificate III in their respective industries, and complete a certain amount of hours on work placement. As a consequence, there’s a lot of potential employees doing placements in the aged and child care sectors that will automatically get the job.

But that’s the bad news.

The good news is there’s plenty of scope to find out about these and other hidden jobs through the power of networking – both on and offline.

Networking is advantageous for all jobseekers, whether you are unemployed and looking for work or have a job but want to take the next step in your career. It’s a great way to meet key industry insiders, and find out about new opportunities through word-of-mouth and face-to-face contact.

Online, the best way to network is without a doubt through the business-focussed social network LinkedIn, so if you don’t have an account – get on it! LinkedIn is the biggest and best professional network to find a job, develop your career and connect with likeminded professionals in your area of expertise. Make sure your LinkedIn profile reads like a resume – keep it crisp, clean and concise.

For those of you who are already in the workforce, immerse yourself in your industry and take a genuine interest in what you’re doing. Further to that, actively attend professional development opportunities including events and after-hours functions. Be confident but not pushy when approaching people you don’t know – the last thing you want them to think is that you’re trying to get something out of them.

As a final tip, we at the Institute of Careers recommend you become a collector of business cards. Get yourself a little black book and store every single business card in it – you never know when that contact will come in handy!


Job Search

The key to achieving a work/life balance

The work/life balance is getting worse for Australians, with the average full-time worker doing six hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Unfortunately, many workplaces have created – and cultivated – a clock-watching culture where everyone races to be the first in the office and the last to leave.

This might come as a surprise to you, but at the Institute of Careers our message is simple; don’t be afraid to arrive on time and leave on time.

A lot of people who put in the extra hours also waste a lot of time chatting at their desk so the key to being a productive, 9-5 kind of worker is to be organised and have an effective time management process in place.

By all means, if you’re working on a major project and need a few extra hours to get the job done, so be it. But don’t get into the pattern of thinking that you need to get in early and stay back late to be seen as a diligent or committed employee.

In fact, if you are having to constantly stay back late to get through your workload, the company you’re working for is probably under-resourced. Providing you’re not wasting time, you may have a strong case to put forward for more resources so you’re not chained to your desk when you could be at home with your family.

Although many organisations have all but done away with clock-in clock-out cards, we think they should be used more frequently because the majority of people are working too many hours during the day and not getting recognition for it. The clock-in clock-out model was seen to discourage a work/life balance but by clocking in just before 9am and leaving eight hours later, it actually shows your employer that you are running a tight ship and using your time effectively to get your work done.

When to stay and when to go

Thinking of calling it quits? This article will give you some points to consider before you throw yourself at the mercy of the job market.

While quitting your job can be both terrifying and liberating, you need to make sure you’re leaving for the right reasons. It’s always easier to get a new job while you’re still working, so think twice before you resign without another job to go to.

Even if you’re at your wit’s end and find yourself in a situation where a job as a cherry picker suddenly looks attractive, make your next career move a move up – not backwards or sideways.

There are a number of reasons why people decide to quit their jobs, but some of them could be coming from emotion rather than a voice of reason.

Reasons you should quit your job:

When your job becomes a health risk, it’s a no brainer. Working in a job that impacts your health or mental wellbeing can have serious, long-term consequences. If you find yourself in this situation, develop an interim plan to support yourself financially and call it a day.

If a job doesn’t align with your long-term career goals, you’ve stopped learning new skills or you want another challenge, it’s time to think about the next big thing. A good time to go is when you’ve maximised all your opportunities and you’re not growing. While flying in and out of jobs can be frowned upon by employers, staying in a job for too long can be equally detrimental to your future growth.

In saying that, people often leave a job because of a lack of opportunity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the opportunities don’t exist. Before you make plans to leave, talk to your manager or HR department – you could be surprised where these conversations can take you.

If you’re in an industry or company that’s tipped to go bust, now could be a good time to plan your escape. It might be a matter of embarking on a new training course or finding a job in an associated industry.

And when you have a picture of your boss in the freezer, it’s time to leave or review your coping mechanisms. In your professional and personal life you’ll no doubt come across people you don’t like, but how you deal with them could be all you need to keep sane. Of course if your boss is bullying or harassing you, report it.

The ins and outs of (behavioural) interviews

After the initial excitement of being selected for an interview passes, panic soon sets in. But once you experience a few interviews, you’ll realise they usually follow a specific formula depending on the type of job, organisation and person conducting the interview. 

Casual/conversational interviews are the kind of interviews where you will likely go for a coffee with the manager, who will then ease you into the interview by having a general discussion about the organisation and the position it has to offer. You will then be asked to outline your career history, skills, experience and what you can bring to the role.

Stress interviews take on a much more formal tone from the outset, and are usually conducted by a panel of three or four. Questions will be fired at you from all directions and you should brace yourself for very direct questions such as ‘why are you applying for the job’ and ‘what experience do you have’.

Behavioural interviewing is a common interview technique in Australia, particularly in salary, management and government positions. In this type of interview you will be asked a number of specific scenario-based questions to establish how you act in various situations and circumstances that are likely to occur within the organisation.

STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result – is the ideal method for responding to behavioural interview questions. In a STAR interview, the candidate will provide an example of a specific situation, explain the task they had to perform, outline how they actioned the duty and describe the result. The key is to provide a specific example of how you responded to a specific scenario from your work history – it’s not a textbook answer or a ‘what you would do in that situation’ response.

Behavioural interview questions usually relate to the job you’re applying for so look carefully at the job ad for clues to what duties the role includes. If the role is a customer service role, for example, expect to provide an example of how you have provided customer service.

Case study:

“How do you deal with angry customers?”

A typical, vague answer from a candidate not using the STAR format is –

“I will be patient and find out the customer’s exact problem, and help them to come to a resolution.

A good answer using the STAR format is –

“I follow a system for dealing with angry customers, which begins by thanking them for letting me know their concern, and recognising that I understand how their particular problem must make them feel. I then let them know that I will work to resolve the issue and take appropriate steps to do so. As an example of this, I was working at a pizza shop and had a customer complain that their pizza was cold on delivery (situation). I recognised that it was my job to help turn this customer’s experience into a positive one (task), so what I did was (action) say: “Oh no that’s terrible, there is nothing I hate more than cold pizza! I am terribly sorry that this has occurred and I know how frustrated you must feel. Unfortunately I can’t heat that pizza up for you now so I can do one of two things. I can send you another pizza right away and personally watch over the process to ensure it is piping hot when it arrives, or I can send you a voucher for a free pizza with a note to make sure you receive a much better experience next time, on us”. Once I said that, the customer was happy that I was genuinely interested in them having a great experience and was happy to heat their pizza in the microwave and let us try better next time (result).

By following the STAR format, the prospective employer will have a clear picture of how you manage a specific situation, and what behaviours you utilise to reach a desired outcome. Some interviewers will require you to answer in this way, but many won’t. Regardless of what type of interview situation you find yourself in, the Institute of Careers recommends using the STAR format to respond unless you have been told to answer in a different way.