Reading newspapers makes you smarter (and more employable)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smart pill that could turn us all into Albert Einstein reincarnates?

Well, there’s not, bozo.

Becoming smarter doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes a concerted daily effort to build your smarts (apparently crosswords and coffee help too).

One such daily effort to boost your brain power is that of the humble newspaper.

Aside from keeping up with the Kardashians, reading the newspaper helps you become more aware of the things happening in the world around you. It also introduces you to unfamiliar cultures and events that you don’t normally hear about. You’ll learn to form your own opinions on world events and issues, plus you’ll have a lot more to talk about at the water cooler.

At the Institute of Careers, we’ve encountered more than a few instances of job-hunters oozing confidence on their way to interviews, only to walk away feeling as smart as Homer Simpson. And it’s not through lack of knowledge about their profession or the organisation they want to work in, but of the world around them.

As an icebreaker, it’s not uncommon for potential employers to kick off the interview with, “Did you hear about so and so in the news this morning?” The last thing you want is to draw a blank and look like you have no idea what they’re talking about.

Hiring managers want to know they’re recruiting the best of the best, and if you want to be the best, you have to stay abreast of what’s happening in your own backyard, at the very least.

Here are a few other daily habits that you can do to become smarter:

Get lost. Finding your way back from a lost at sea moment will develop your spatial awareness. Most people take the same route to work every day. Over time, the brain’s capacity to navigate declines. To train your brain’s spatial intelligence, start by taking a new, unfamiliar route home.

Exercise. Eat well. Laugh often. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. When you exercise, you increase blood flow to your brain, keeping it in top-notch condition. Laughing has also been shown to increase your intelligence and make your brain sharper (LOL).

Step outside your zone. If you surround yourself with the same people every day, and do the same things every day, you aren’t exactly learning anything. Mix things up a bit – make an effort to talk to one new person a day, or try one new thing. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Meditate. Aside from being an awesome stress reliever, meditation can increase your intelligence – just ask the Dalai Lama. Meditation trains the brain to focus and quieten the mind chatter. But you don’t need to become a monk to increase your brain capacity, all it takes is a quick five minute meditation each day to increase your intelligence and attentiveness in daily life.

Say no to Netflix. Don’t rule it out entirely, but limit the amount of time you spend glued to the box. Most programs are designed for maximum impact with minimum effort. If your motto is Netflix and chill, you’ll know what we’re on about. If you do this regularly, your brain will become less capable of thinking intelligent thoughts, just as an unfit body will be less capable of running a marathon.

Watch TED. Contrary to the previous point, TED videos are worth watching. TED.com contains some of the best videos to help you learn new things. Whether it’s learning about augmented reality or electroshock therapy, TED has it all. Tune in on your lunch break for a quick dose of the smarts.

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

Keep calm and (don’t) kill your boss! What to do when you lose your job

Whether you saw it coming or it knocked you for six, losing you job sucks. Aside from sending your stress levels off the Richter, suddenly finding yourself unemployed can significantly affect your finances, your confidence and your personal relationships.

While you could be forgiven for wanting to whittle away your days binge-watching Netflix, now is the time to dust yourself off and start again.

If you’ve just lost your job, here are some essentials to help you overcome this period of uncertainty and find yourself in a new and rewarding role – long before you get through a series of Suits!

Tip 1: Laugh, cry and get over it

Suffice to say, you’re probably feeling a whirlwind of emotions right now. The only way forward from here is to allow yourself a brief period of self-pity, but don’t dwell on it. Getting the boot can be demoralizing, but you can bounce back. Just ask the late Steve Jobs – you know, the guy who got fired from Apple, the company he co-founded? During his hiatus from Apple, Jobs co-founded computer company NeXT and launched Pixar Animation Studios. When he returned to Apple nearly a decade later, he brought the innovation of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Take a leaf from Jobs’ book and reflect on what you liked and didn’t like about your previous role, and where you want to go from here. While the financial strain of unemployment will no doubt be front and centre in your mind, try to use this time to figure out what you really want to do, whether it be a similar role for a different company or a total career change. Once you’ve got a bit of direction, you can put the wheels in motion to get there.

Tip 2: Be a tight-ass (for now!)

Even if you received a redundancy payout, it’s a wise move to reassess your budget and make cutbacks so you can stay on top of your bills while you’re looking for a new job. Curbing your spending will undoubtedly mean changing your habits and plans. You might have to postpone that trip to Bali, cut down on your morning latte and forgo eating out, but remember, it’s only temporary. Resist the temptation to use your credit card to cover shortfalls. The interest you'll have to pay will only add to your financial woes in the long run. If you have a serious budget deficit, contact your bank ASAP to discuss repayment options.

Tip 3: Talk it out

Research shows that job or financial loss can increase the risk of health problems such as anxiety and depression. Talk about issues with your family and friends, don’t bottle it up. If you have emotional support, you’ll be in a better place to deal with the financial ramifications of unemployment. Beyond Blue has put together a downloadable booklet, Taking care of yourself after retrenchment or financial loss, which is a great source of knowledge and support.

Tip 4: Keep up appearances

As tempting as it might be to lounge around in your jim-jams all day, set your alarm for the usual time you’d get up for work, shower and get dressed in your usual work attire. Mentally, the structure of a routine will make you more motivated to get back into the workforce ASAP. It’s also important to exercise and eat well; this will ensure you look and feel your best when embarking on the next chapter in your life.

Tip 5: Revamp your CV and LinkedIn profile

Before you start applying for new opportunities, polish your resume and ensure it includes your most recent role and responsibilities.  If you’re applying for professional positions, you’re going to be checked out on LinkedIn. Use this time to update your profile, making sure the information matches your resume. While you’re at it, reach out to your LinkedIn network and ask your connections to let you know if they come across jobs that would be a good fit. Lastly, line up a few referees now, so they can expect a call when you start interviewing.

Tip 6: Make yourself more marketable

Now that you have some time on your hands, read blogs, listen to podcasts and tune in to webinars to update your skills. For example, you might like to take a social media marketing class to build a stronger online presence. You could also consider volunteering for a board or not-for-profit organisation. The benefits of this are twofold – it keeps your skills fresh and makes you more lucrative to potential employers. Remember, it’s always easier to get a job when you’re in a job.

Tip 7: Keep on keeping on

After the crushing blow of being fired, it can seem like another kick in the guts to apply for job after job with no luck. You probably expected to hear back from more employers, and chances are you certainly didn’t expect the interview process to take so damn long! Try not to feel down if you don’t find a new job straight away because these things take time. To help you stay positive and keep your professional momentum, try to do a few work-related activities every day. Even if it’s just a call to a recruitment agency or a few tweaks to your CV, each move will be a step closer to your next role.

 

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

Calm your farm! How to overcome interview nerves

Ever heard rap god Eminem’s Lose Yourself?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the hit 2002 song, the opener goes like this: “If you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

While Eminem was rhyming about his rise to fame, the same can be said about fronting an interview for the job of your dreams; it’s your one opportunity to tell your potential employers why they simply must hire you. But if you let your nerves get the better of you, forget it!

Unless you’re an alien, most candidates will get nervous in the hot seat. You know the score; sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, etcetera.

When we perceive the stakes are high, our body can’t distinguish the high stakes of a job interview from the high stakes of running from a bull in Spain.

The body reacts the same way, sending out the fight-or-flight response which would make complete sense if we were running from a raging bull, not sitting opposite a panel of four.

This fight-or-flight response makes it difficult to think clearly because our focus is on hiding our anxiety, therefore our attention is divided. When this happens, people’s thoughts move faster so they feel they need to rush into an answer without thinking it through, while others just draw blanks.

Whether you are nervous by nature or nonchalant, it’s imperative to remain cool, calm and collected during the interview process. After all, it’s your one shot to shine!

Here are our top three tips for keeping it together during an interview:

Tip 1: Be prepared

The more time you spend preparing for your interview, the more confident you’ll be. Candidates who have done their homework and can articulate how their skills and qualifications align with the position will be better prepared. Rehearsing what you'd like to say in advance can help you recall important information when anxiety strikes. When preparing for the interview, it also pays to plan your outfit in advance so you don’t feel frazzled before you even get there.

Tip 2: Get a head start

In the case of a job interview, there’s no such thing as fashionably late. Feeling rushed when you arrive at the interview by not allowing enough time to get there, or by getting lost or not finding a park, can all increase nervousness, not calm us down. Bottom line – map out your route prior to the interview and leave home with plenty of time to negotiate the traffic and find a park. You might even want to do a dress rehearsal in the days leading up to the interview so you’re super prepared.

Tip 3: Change your mindset

With a panel of four people sitting opposite you, firing away questions, it can begin to feel like an interrogation. But it’s important to remember you’re also interviewing the employer to see if what they’re offering is a good fit for you. If you think of a job interview as an exam or a test you’ll only become more nervous. Instead, try to imagine the interview as a knowledge exchange between two people who are getting to know each other. This will alleviate the sense of pressure and help you feel less nervous before and during the interview.

At the end of the day, if you let nerves get the better of you, you won’t come off as a confident contender. Employers want to hire the best and brightest, so if they see someone who perceivably lacks confidence, they will question your ability to do the job, which means you might miss out.

Category: 
Interview, Job Search

Last minute interview tips

Congratulations, you have a job interview! What are some last-minute, quick tips to make sure you give yourself the best chance at success?

During the job-hunting process it’s not uncommon to become disillusioned and frustrated by the number of hoops you need to jump through before you even reach the interview stage. You’ve probably already spent an hour responding to the key selection criteria and tailoring your resume, figuring out public transport routes and maybe even buying a new outfit to wear.

As exhausting as the lead-up has been, when it comes to your interview it’s important that you’re in the zone because you don’t want all the hard yards to be for nothing. Job interviews never seem to get any easier, but if you follow our last minute interview tips you might just land the job you’ve been wanting.

  • When to arrive
    The best time to arrive is five to ten minutes before your interview.  Any earlier and you become annoying, putting pressure on the interviewer and leaving them unprepared, any later and you’ll leave them waiting which reflects very badly on you.
  • Know who to ask for
    When standing at the reception desk, don’t go flicking through your phone trying to find the email from the recruitment agency containing the interviewer’s name. Know who to ask for and ask with confidence – introducing yourself.
  • Make a great first impression with everyone, including the receptionist
    Often employers will talk with their staff about you after you leave.  While the interviewer is primarily interested in how your skills relate to the job at hand, everyone else in the office will want to know what you’re like to work with as a person.
  • Answering interview questions
    Feel free to take your time and breathe.  Answer confidently and wherever possible, use a specific example.  If you need an extra few seconds to think of an example, rather than get flustered and say “um...”, tell them “that’s a great question” then go into deep (and confident) thought.
  • Focus on your body language
    Smile, make eye contact, have good posture and listen actively. Don’t fidget!
  • When they ask if you have any questions?
    This is an ideal opportunity to find out about the culture of the workplace. You could ask the interviewer to describe the culture of the company, how many staff it employs and how long it has been in operation. This is also the moment to sell yourself and let them know how interested you are in the position. Be careful not to sound scripted – you want to use this as a catalyst to turn a structured interview into a friendly discussion and put your best foot forward. A great example is: “I really love what you guys do here and it seems like a role I would be perfect in. Can you tell me where you see the company going in the next 12 months so I can start thinking of ideas on how I could contribute?”  You’ll score bonus points if you can think of some great ideas on the spot.

Good Luck!

Category: 
Interview

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!

 

Category: 
Job Search

How to get the job you want

Landing your dream job could be as easy as 1,2,3 – you just have to follow our simple three-step plan.

Step 1: Make a list of 10 organisations you want to work for. Remember to pick places that are close to home, or relatively easy to get to. The key is to choose organisations that you would genuinely love to work for. It’s not uncommon for employers to ask job candidates ‘how bad do you want it?’ By showing enthusiasm and passion, it will be a lot easier to convince the employer to hire you.

Step 2: Ring every organisation on your list and say you are writing a letter to the manager about potential positions within their organisation, and would like the manager’s full name. Then write a letter explaining why you have specific interest in working for their company. Don’t forget to outline how you have the ability to perform, and excel, in the role.

Step 3: Visit each business dressed in black pants and a smart shirt. Ask for the manager by name – you already know this from Step 2. Look the manager in the eye and explain why you have a specific interest in working for their company. Ask if you could possibly do a day’s work experience to prove you are more than capable of doing the job.

While the organisations you visit might not be hiring, you’ll still stand out from the pile of resumes when recruitment does occur because the employer knows who you are. Once you have done some work experience, you have your foot in the door and can leverage that into a job.

Case study:

A job-seeker named Paul had a career goal to work in the mines. Until he got his wish, he was applying for jobs in warehousing and would apply for at least five jobs a day – but to no avail. What was the problem?

Paul’s resume and cover letter literally said: “I’m looking for warehousing work while I pursue my goal to work in the mines.”

This is a big problem – any employer will look at the opening line, the most important line in any resume, and will immediately know the applicant doesn’t actually want to work for them.

After following our three-step strategy for building a career, Paul ended up finding a job in less than two weeks. Where was the job? In a warehouse, not the mines. Nevertheless, Paul is now a closer to building his career, and can now use the same strategy to pursue work in the mines.

Category: 
Job Search

Visiting potential employers unannounced

The main reason job-seekers should consider visiting potential employers unannounced isn’t to score a job immediately – it’s about establishing a rapport, showing your tenacity and getting your foot in the door.

When speaking with someone face-to-face, keep in mind you are dealing with a human being, and human beings usually share the following traits:

• They will be probably be more afraid of you than you are of them. This is why they sometimes try to bluff you away with nastiness – don’t be afraid!

• They will only deal with someone they like and trust. If you are open, honest and tell them your strengths and weaknesses from the outset they will trust you more.

• They will always avoid making a decision if you let them, therefore you need to ask them to make the decision.

• Their number one priority is always themselves. Being charitable is nice, but noone will hire you because you have no money and need a job. You need to explain what value you will specifically bring to their business.

• They will only take action to avoid a pain or make a gain. This means you need to stimulate two emotions – greed and fear of loss. If you tell your potential employer you’d love to spend one day per week on work experience with their company, they will be gaining an extra employee for free and might not have to sift through dozens of resumes when the time comes to making a new appointment. If you tell the potential employer that you are a serious contender for other jobs but would still love the opportunity to work for their organisation, or at least do work experience, they might be more inclined to say yes if they fear they could lose out to the competition.

Category: 
Job Search

The golden formula for job-hunting

Apart from selling yourself, what the heck has sales got to do with the job-hunting process?

In sales, there’s something called a golden formula where activity x skill = result.

In the job search context, activity means the amount of effort you put into your job-hunting, namely the number of jobs you apply for, while skill is the quality of your job-hunting efforts.

As an example, you could have the perfect resume (high in skill) but not apply for any jobs. With no activity, even if you multiply it by a high skill, you will still won’t get a result.

On the other hand, you could apply for 100 jobs (high activity) but have a terrible resume (no skill) and you’ll also find there’s no outcome.

If you’re halfway, so you have an OK resume and apply for one or two jobs per week, you’ll start to see a result but chances are it won’t be a big one.

If you need a job fast, then you have to step into overdrive and focus hard on both activity and skill. This means you need not only a high-quality resume but an effective job-hunting strategy so that when you apply for a large number of jobs, the golden formula dictates that you’ll get a result.

So what exactly does high activity mean?

Activity is more than just the number of job you apply for; in fact to get an exceptionally high activity rating you must engage in a full range of job-hunting techniques. This includes looking beyond Seek to find jobs – so doing your own research, networking and getting your name known at the top places you’d like to work, regardless of whether they’re currently hiring.

What do we mean by high skill?

A fantastic resume is only one part of skill – and keep in mind you can’t have a “perfect resume” that does not change. The perfect application is a package that includes a targeted resume explaining exactly why you have a specific interest in working for the company you’re applying for, and then presenting yourself, preferably face-to-face, to the company after you have researched the management.

Category: 
Job Search