Category: Employment

Building job interview confidence

One of the biggest obstacles I’ve seen when it comes to people going through the job application process is the dreaded job interview.  Having been on both sides of the interview desk myself, I can also say that for the first few times being the interviewer I was nervous myself, so it’s not just the applicant that can experience butterflies in their stomach.  From my personal and observed experiences, a lot of this nervousness can be attributed to not knowing what’s going to happen and not knowing what to do.  In this post, I’ll give you a few tips and tricks that should help you stand out more against other applicants and alleviate some of those nerves.

When I was younger, I saw the job interview as a one-way conversation where they employer held all the cards and was the be-all and end-all.  As time went on, I learnt that the employer doesn’t hold all the cards, you also hold quite a few cards yourself.  The employer is looking for someone who can help them perform tasks and solve problems so they can provide a service to their customers.  Apart from a pay-day, you’re also probably looking for somewhere you can utilise your skills and help solve problems. So you can see now how you both need each other for each other’s benefit.

How you frame yourself is very important to how confident you feel during the interview.  My younger self lacked confidence because I thought the employer held all of the cards and offered all of the value, even though this wasn’t the case.  As time went on, I started to see how much value I was providing to the organisations I worked for through my unique skillset (everyone has their own unique skillset, by the way).  By the time I landed my last job before becoming self-employed, I knew very well the value I could provide that particular organisation during the application process, and it was my role throughout that process to ensure they did too.

Once you’ve got your mind in the game, so to speak, the next important step is preparing, preparing, preparing.  The aim of the job application process for the employer is to find the best person for the job, and your job (pardon the pun) is to convince the employer that you are that person.  There are quite a few things you can do to prepare for a job interview that will help demonstrate your suitability for a job.  Before we get to that, though I want to emphasize the keyword demonstrate.

When you’re answering questions in the interview, it’s important that you use examples where you’ve achieved something similar in the past.  For example, if an employer is asking about a time you handled a difficult situation, tell them a story of when you dealt with a difficult situation and what the outcome was.  Much like when you’re writing selection criteria responses, I recommend using the STAR method, which is:

  • Situation – the job you were doing (this could also be a volunteer role)
  • Task – what you were doing at the time
  • Action – the steps you took
  • Result – what ended up happening

Now, back to the interview preparation.  It goes without saying that you should also dress for the part, research where you’re going so that you’re on time and so forth.  Below are some of the most beneficial things you can do to prepare for an interview.

  • Research the organisation you’re interviewing with – for example, get to know what their core values are, what is important to them, who their customers are, and what their purpose is
  • Prepare some answers to commonly asked questions – these can be researched easily online
  • Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer – this shows that you’re interested and gives you an opportunity to learn more about your potential new employer
  • Do a role-play of the interview – get someone you know and run through a practice interview beforehand

Now that you’ve got the right mindset and are prepared for the interview, it’s time to get out there and smash it.  Just remember, you and the employer are simply having a conversation around how you can help each other out.  This means you can also use the interview to determine if that employer is somewhere you actually want to work, which highlights the importance of asking questions.  Finally, its not the end of the world if you don’t get the job.  It takes practice to get good at anything, interviews included, and if you blow the first few then there are plenty of jobs out there (even during these tough times).

Where can I find support to start my micro-enterprise?

In my last post, I talked about micro-enterprises and some of the things that need to be considered when starting one.  I also mentioned that there is a lot of support available to help you along the way.  In this post, I’ll go into some of those supports and how they might be able to help you start your own micro-enterprise.

While this post is targeted at micro-enterprise support in Canberra, Australia, some of it does apply to other parts of Australia (and there may be equivalent support available in other countries).  I’ve divided micro-enterprise supports into four categories, predominantly based on their funding source/purpose:

Government Funded Small Business Support

This category involves support provided by state/territory and/or federal government programs dedicated to supporting small businesses.  Often, these supports are highly subsidised, if not free, for people wanting to set up their own micro-enterprise.  These supports predominantly help people create a business plan and develop the skills and knowledge to start and operate a business.

NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) Funded Support

NDIS supports are provided in relation to a specific disability.  For example, most of our clients are either on the autism spectrum or have a mild to moderate intellectual disability, and have an NDIS plan that funds supports that we provide to them.  These supports can range anywhere from a monthly coaching session all the way through to an intentive SLES (School Leaver Employment Supports), which involves multiple sessions per week.  If this is the type of support you need, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do to help you 😉.

Self-funded Support

This type of support is often at the premium end of the scale, however it can also have the most impact at times.  Having said that, it is more than likely not going to be cheap (but it is often worth it).  This category consists of business accelerators, coaching and other programs to help you set up your own small business.  Quite often, there are programs tailored to a specific industry provided by people with years of experience to help set up businesses similar to ones they’ve run previously.

Gratis Support

Gratis support is support that can be provided at no or low cost from friends or family.  If someone you know has skills in business administration, then they might be able to provide advice or assistance to help set up and operate your new micro-enterprise.  I’ve worked with participants who have had the whole family involved in the running of a micro-enterprise, with each member of the family contributing their own skills to the planning and running of the business.

Conclusion

As I’ve said previously, running a business is hard, however you don’t need to do it alone.  The amount of support out there is phenominal, and to be honest, without it my businesses wouldn’t be where they are today.  Help comes to those who ask, and these days, more than ever, it’s important to be able to ask for and receive help.

What is a micro-enterprise?

Mainstream employment may not always be a viable choice for a lot of people with a disability.  In times past, the Australian Disabiltiy Enterprise (ADE), formerly known as sheltered workshops, have provided employment for people with moderate to severe disabilities, however this work can often be seen as menial and may not be paid at the award wage.  One concept that is starting to gain popularity is the mirco-enterpise, where a person with a disability sets up their own business to provide a valuable service to their community.

The process for setting up a micro-enterprise takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, much like any small business.  It begins by getting to know the person with a disability (participant) who is potentially interested in, and suitable for, setting up a micro-enterprise through a series of interviews and visits.  This gives a great insight into the interests, skills, strengths and abilities of a participant, which forms the basis of any business ideas that are investigated and possibly implemented.

Once a business idea has been formed, it is then battle tested in the open market to ensure there enough demand to create a business that can sustain the desired lifetyle of the participant.  Successful ideas can then be taken and turned into a complete business plan, which will serve as the blueprint for the new micro-enterpise as it is built.  The business plan is a key part in this process as it covers the strategic and operational aspects of the business, such as marketing, sales, finance and legalities.

At the end of the day, setting up a small business can be quite demanding, however it does offer a very high level of flexibility that you wouldn’t normally see in other workplaces.  While setting up a business can be overwhelming at the best of times, there is a lot of support available (which is a whole new post), especially for participants on the NDIS.  For the right person, running their own business could be a very rewarding way to achieve a lifetyle that might not otherwise be available.

Building confidence through work experience

Most of the people I work with have either never been in the workforce or have been unemployed for an extended period of time.  Because of this they often don’t have much to show on their resume, which isn’t very appealing for potential employers.  After doing some market research and running a series of work experience sessions, I’ve discovered that this is an excellent way to help people bolster their resume, increase their confidence and potentially find something they love doing in the process.  In this blog post, I’ll outline how we help people move towards their employment goals through our work experience program.

One of the most important, and unique, aspects of the work experience program we’ve developed are the business networks that my team and I have built up over the years (even before I started Self++ back in late 2019).  It’s through these networks, which are constantly growing, that we’re able to facilitate placements in a wide range of industries from computer repairs through to social media marketing to gardening.  This gives our program participants the opportunity to try different things and gauge what they love and hate about working in a particular industry.

Instead of limiting people to a single workplece over a twelve week period, we’ll customise a program where participants work at three or four different employers in different industries over the same period.  The industries and employers selected for an individual are based on their strengths and interests, and also who is available to facilitate a placement at the time.  If a participant has an employer in mind that isn’t part of our networks, we can also accommodate that.

During the placement, we provide one-on-one support to ensure everything runs smoothly and to address any concerns participants or employers might have.  This level of support also allows us to cover any workplace injuries under our own volunteer’s insurance, negating the need for employers to take out their own insurance policy.  At the end of each placement, we also gather constructive feedback from both the participant and employer about the positives and negatives of their experience in that workplace.

At the end of the program, our placement facilitator will compile the feedback from each of the workplaces into a final report.  The facilitator will also provide a written reference the participant can use when applying for work, and contact details that can be put on their resume.  If an employer decides that they want to take on a participant on a more permanent (and paid) capacity, then we’re also happy to facilitate that as well.

That sums up how our 12 week work experience program works.  If you’d like more information, please contact us on (02) 5104 3356 or email [email protected].

What on Earth is SLES?

Quite often I come across people who have no idea what SLES (School Leaver Employment Supports) is, or have never even heard of it.  Up until I started developing the SLES++ program, it was also something I knew little about.  In a nutshell, SLES is an individualised program to help people with a disability transition from school to the workforce.  This can be done using different techniques such as upskilling, coaching and training delivered in an individual or group environment.

While SLES can help prepare NDIS participants for mainstream employment, i.e: jobs that you’d find on Seek or any other job website, this type of employment doesn’t suit a lot of the people we work with for one reason or another.  This is where Customised Employment and Micro-Enterprises come into play.  Both involve a significant amount of ‘discovery’, that is interviews of a participant and those close to them, to get an idea of their strengths and interests so they can thrive in the workplace.

Customised employment involves using this information to work with a local employer to fill what I call a ‘labour void’ – valuable tasks that need to be done within the business but aren’t due to time and staffing level constraints.  Micro-enterprises are similar, however instead of working with a local employer, we help participants find a service that is valuable to their community (which could include local businesses) and work with them through the process of setting up a small business.

Once a participant has found a role that they love doing, whether it’s mainstream, customised or micro-enterprise, we will then help them transition to ongoing supports once their SLES funding finishes, so they’re not left in the lurch not knowing what to do.  This process is easier said than done, and can take up to 2 years from start to finish.  Having said that, by the end of the process SLES participants have a great chance to be working in a career that leverages off their strengths and that they find quite fulfilling.

For more information about SLES, including how to get it, visit our SLES Information website sles.info.

Things to consider when looking for a job

Things to consider when looking for a job

Before looking for a job, you need to have an idea of what you’re looking for.  Any job you consider applying for should be fulfilling, able to support you financially and fit into your lifestyle.  Once you’ve discovered what you’re looking for, it’s then a matter of knowing where to look for a job that suits you.  There are several aspects of a job you need to consider before you even start looking.  These aspects can affect your lifestyle in a way that can either align or misalign with your values.

Location

Much like real estate, one of the first things you need to consider when looking for a job is the location of the office.  Some of the things you may need to address include:

  • Is there suitable public transport readily available?
  • How long it will take to commute?
  • Do you have to pay for parking?
  • Is it close to other places you normally visit?
  • Can you work from home?
  • Does the office need modifications to accommodate any relevant disabilities?

Salary

When searching for a job, it’s important to know how much money you need to earn in order to cover all of your expenses, which can be achieved by creating a budget.  Another thing that needs to be considered is the market rate for the type of job you are searching for.  There are several websites that provide information about the market rates in different areas of the country, such as Seek and Hays (you may be required to sign up to view some of these).  Alternatively, you can run a Google search to get the salary for a particular job.

The market rate for the job you are looking for should be greater than the total of your expenses.  If this is not the case, you need to either consider reducing your expenses, changing the type of job you are looking for, or consider working more than one job.  If you don’t do this, you may end up in financial trouble in the future.

Employee Perks

A secondary consideration is what type of employee benefits does a potential employer offer.  Some employers may offer benefits, such as:

  • Subsidised health insurance
  • Ability to purchase extra annual leave
  • Salary sacrificing
  • Staff discounts
  • Employee Assistance Programs (counselling)
  • Penalty rates

Registered charities and non-profit organisation may also have access to more generous salary sacrifice arrangements through Fringe Benefits Tax exemptions.  Public service jobs (local, state and federal) also generally have a good level of employee benefits, such as an annual leave purchase schemes and employee assistance programs.

The Employee Benefits Concept Page has information about the different types of employee perks that may be available, and provides examples of how they can be used.

Workplace Culture

The culture of a workplace boils down to how people behave.  Signs of a workplace with a good culture include:

  • High employee morale (happy employees)
  • Excellent communications
  • Support for employees when they are having trouble (either personal or work-related issues)
  • A high level of drive and energy
  • Employees will speak well of their employer
  • Low level of staff turnover
  • A high level of organisation, where everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing

On the contrary, some things you should avoid in a workplace culture include:

  • Low employee morale
  • Bullying, harassment and intimidation
  • Low levels of energy and motivation
  • Employees speaking badly of their employer
  • High levels of employee turnover

It’s important to work for a company that aligns with your values, otherwise you may experience higher levels of stress and lower levels of fulfilment.  While you can ask questions about company culture in a job interview, you can do some research beforehand using the company’s web site, and workplace review websites like Glassdoor.

Field of Work

The field of work boils down to a few different things.  Firstly, is the industry you’d like to work in.  Some examples include:

  • Education
  • Government
  • Retail
  • Legal
  • Service
  • Health
  • Charity

Next, is the job you’d like to be doing.  This will be based on what skills you have, and should align with your values and Ikigai.  Some examples include:

  • Driver
  • Electrician
  • Carpenter
  • Retail Sales
  • Accountant
  • Cleaner

Hours of Work

There are three main types of employee when it comes to the regular hours worked each week:

Full Time

This type of employee works between 36 and 40 hours per week, usually to a regular schedule during business hours.  Some workers might do shift work, which while has a higher level of pay can be more taxing on the body.  Shift workers usually work overnight and/or on weekends, and may have a roster that changes over time.  Full time employees usually get leave entitlements, unless they are contractors.

Part Time

Part time employees work less than 36 hours per week, and may have rostering arrangements similar to a full-time employee.  Part time employees will usually get a fraction of leave entitlements compared to a full-time employee based on the number of hours they work, unless they are contractors.

Casual

Casual employees are a bit like part-time employees, however they receive a higher hourly rate instead of leave entitlements.  Casual workers generally do not have a set roster, and their hours may vary from week-to-week.

On Call

In addition to working regular hours, some employees, especially in the support and health industries, may be required to be on call overnight and/or over the weekend.  This means that they will be “on standby” in case something happens, and will go to work if needed to.  When an employee is on call, they usually receive an on-call allowance plus they will be paid for work they do when they are called upon while on call (often with penalty rates).

Type of Employee

There are four main types of employee, with each having different conditions of employment.

Permanent

Permanent employees have the most stable type of employment.  These employees are employed on an ongoing basis, with no specific end date.  Permanent employees usually have full leave entitlements, depending on the “Hours of Work” category they fall into above.

Temporary

Temporary employees are employed for a specific task over a set period of time.  Unless a temporary employee is granted an extension at the end of their employment period, they will have to find another job.  Often, the recruitment process for temporary employees is less formal than that of permanent employees.  Temporary employees will have similar entitlements to permanent employees.

Contractor

Contractors are a hybrid of temporary employees working full or part time, and casual employees.  While contractors do not have leave entitlements, they receive a higher hourly rate for the work they do.  Like temporary employees, contractors are employed for a specific task over a set period of time, and will have a set number of hours they work each week.  Contractors are generally employed because of a specific skillset they have, such as Project Management.

Casual

Casual employees are a lot like contractors, except they might not be employed for a specific timeframe or have regular hours.  Like a contractor, they do not receive leave entitlements but will receive a higher hourly rate.

Conclusion

Once you’ve got a better idea of type of job you’d like to apply for, and the structure of employment, you can start searching for jobs via job search websites or agencies.  If you’ve found a company that you’d really like to work for, you could also approach them directly to see if they have any jobs that haven’t been advertised yet.

What are employee benefits, and how can they help me?

These days, employers are offering more than just a base salary to reward employees for their hard work.  Many employers offer their employees a variety of benefits, some of which we’ll go into below.  While most of these are optional benefits, you may want to talk to a financial adviser prior to making any decisions that could have an impact on your finances.

Health Insurance

Some employers may offer partially or fully subsidised (paid for) health insurance if they have an affiliation with a health fund.  This could include hospital only cover, extras cover or both.

Purchased Annual Leave

In addition to your normal annual leave entitlements (which is normally 4 weeks for a full-time employee), some workplaces offer the ability to purchase extra annual leave so you can go on longer holidays.  This works by the employer dividing the cost of the extra leave (the amount you’d be paid if you were working) over a longer period (from a month to a year, for example), and taking it out of your pay each pay cycle (when you get paid).

For example, if your normal pay is $1000 per fortnight ($52,000 per year), and you want to purchase 1 week of additional leave and spread the cost over the year, your pay would decrease by around $10 per fortnight ($500 divided by 52).

It is important you talk to a financial adviser prior to purchasing extra annual leave to ensure it is appropriate for your situation.

Salary Sacrificing

Salary sacrificing, or Salary Packaging, allows you to make purchases with your pre-tax income, helping you save tax.  Below are some examples of different things you can salary sacrifice, with the most common being cars:

  • Cars
  • Laptops
  • Mobile Phones
  • Superannuation

If you work for a non-profit or charity, you may also be eligible to salary sacrifice some general expenses without incurring Fringe Benefits Tax.

Of all the benefit types, salary sacrificing is the most important benefit to get financial advice for, in fact some employers will explicitly require proof that you’ve received financial advice, or will get you to sign a waiver saying you didn’t get it.

Staff Discounts

Some employers will give you a discount for products or services they provide (for example, supermarkets).  Other employers may enrol in a program where employees can get discounts at various businesses, or offer discounts through their suppliers.

Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs gives access to counselling and crisis support to employees and their immediate family.  Sessions are generally provided in-person or over the phone at no cost to the employee.  This can be beneficial as there is usually a very short waiting period compared to seeing a psychologist or other mental health professional.

Penalty Rates

Penalty rates are usually given to employees who work outside normal business hours, and consist of an additional percentage of the normal hourly rate, often called a loading.  Loading can range from 15% for weekday after hours work to 150% for Sundays and public holidays.

Employees may also be paid a flat rate for being on call, which is where an employee is available to work at short notice if required, but not actually working.  When an employee is called out to work, they may also receive a loading depending when they worked.  Some employers may also pay a minimum rate for a call-out, for example someone called out on the weekend may receive a minimum of two hours pay for work they’ve done, even if they worked less.

Training

Employers may opt to pay for training relating to the job you’re in, or to further progress your career within the company.  This could be industry specific training or training through a TAFE or University.  It is quite common for employers of apprentices to pay TAFE fees upon successful completion of a unit.  Some employers may add a condition that the employee must stay with the company for a period of time, otherwise they may need to pay back the company for the cost of the training provided.

Parking

While not common, some employers will offer on-site parking for free, or will reimburse you if you need to pay for parking, especially if you’re visiting the site of a customer.

Conclusion

The list above are just some of the benefits employers are offering their employees.  Some places may also offer other benefits that we haven’t covered here, such as childcare or bonuses.  While some benefits may be automatic, your employer should give you information about how to claim extra benefits that aren’t (if they don’t, you can ask them).

What on earth is Ikigai, and how can it benefit me?

In last week’s blog post, I talked about purpose and values.  This week, I’d like to extend on those topics and talk about Ikigai.  What on Earth is Ikigai, you might be wondering.  Ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-guy) is a Japanese concept which roughly translates to “reason for being”.  It takes the concept of purpose and values and builds on it in a way that can be applied specifically to your career.  Your Ikigai is where the following four elements intersect:

What you love

This is where your values come into play.  As I mentioned in the last blog post, our values are things that are important to us, which is a key driver to helping you determine the things that you love.  To demonstrate this, I’m going to use my imaginary friend Jim (who I just made up).  A couple of Jim’s core values include being able to help people solve problems and thinking logically.  These values guide Jim towards his love for computers.

What you are good at

Generally, when you love something you want to spend as much time working in that field as possible.  Over time, you’ll build your skills and become very good at what you do.  Because Jim loves computers and solving problems so much, he’s spent a lot of time coding and creating lots of different little apps, which has made him a very good programmer.  Passion occurs when your love for something intersects with something you’re good at.

What you can be paid for

While it’s great to be able to do something you love, it’s very hard to do it all the time if you’re unable to pay your bills.  The next piece of the Ikigai puzzle is finding something you can be paid for.  In Jim’s situation, you can see through various job seeker websites that it is possible to earn a living by programming.  When something you can be paid for intersects with something you’re good at, that is your profession.

What the world needs

One of, if not *the*, most important parts of the Ikigai concept is doing something the world needs.  The key to being successful in business (and life in general) is the ability to help others solve their problems.  Since the world needs people like Jim to program computers to make life easier, he’s got this covered.  Your mission in life is where your love for something intersects with something to world needs, and your vocation (job) is where something the world needs meets something you can be paid for.

Bringing it all together

When you’ve identified the four previously mentioned elements, where they intersect then becomes your Ikigai.  People will often work in a job they hate just because that’s what they’re told to do, or told what they can do.  This leads to high levels of stress, which in turn leads to a decrease in mental and physical health over time.  The Ikigai concept aims to increase the level of personal fulfilment, resulting in lower levels of stress and better long-term health.

How can your purpose and values help you find a job?

Before looking for a job, you should have a rough idea of what you’d like to do. Any job you consider applying for should be able to earn you enough money, fit into your lifestyle and be fulfilling to you.

In order for a job to be fulfilling, the work you are doing must not conflict with your values.  Values are the things that are the most important to you, and define how you behave. Success, in your own mind, is defined by your core values, and aligning what you do with your values should create a state of happiness and fulfilment.

While your values may change over time as you move through the different stages of life, they don’t usually change too much. As you start out in your career you might value money above all other things and be happy to work long hours.  However, if you start a family these values might change, along with your career preferences. As you get older, you may also start to value your health more, making decisions based on leading a healthier lifestyle.

For example, someone who has family as one of their core values would benefit from working in a job that allows them the extra time to spend with their loved ones and the flexibility to take time out to tend to family matters when needed. In contrast, a job where they have to work long hours is likely to lead to a high level of stress and discomfort.

Everyone on this planet has a purpose in life, however many of us have not found that purpose yet, and some of us may never do so. Our purpose is what keeps us going when things gets difficult, and provides a beacon to guide us through life’s many choices.

Your life’s purpose is closely linked to your core values and passion, and should be the focus of any goals you set and decisions you make, including finding a job. The reason for this is that your purpose is what drives you, and the energy you get from being internally motivated is one of the most powerful things to help you be successful in life.