Old Blog

Accommodation Coaching Case Study 1

Last month, we had the pleasure of helping a participant move out of their student accommodation into somewhere more suitable for their transitioning lifestyle.  When they were referred to us, there was a level of anxiety around the whole process of applying for a rental property, especially given the way the market is in Canberra with low vacancy rates and a high level of competition.  The desired goal was to find accommodation before their current rental contract expired that was within their budget, had space to park their car and was reasonably close to where they worked and went to university.

After explaining the current nature of the market, the participant made the decision that it would be best for them to move into a shared house as soon as possible.  Our first session involved explaining the whole rental application process, what landlords were looking for in an application and what to say when making initial contact with someone advertising a property for rent.  The participant also came up with a list of features that were either desired or mandatory when looking for a property.

After our first session, the participant was able to book in two inspections for properties that suited them.  Prior to the first inspection, we met up to discuss the process and see if there were any questions or uncertainty.  During the inspection, we were discrete about our exact role saying we were a friend of the family helping out for morale support.  After being shown the property, it was decided that it wasn’t entirely suitable, despite the other tenants being nice.

We met up again just prior to the second inspection to go over the process and see if there were any question or concerns.  We then went through the second property and built some rapport with the existing tenants at the same time.  After the inspection, the participant decided they liked the place and wanted to apply for it.  We then guided them through the process of submitting an application, for which they were accepted, and provided advice afterwards on how they should go about ending their current contract.

In the end, our participant was relieved that they were able to find somewhere to live that met all of their requirements and was in a reasonably central location to meet their needs, despite a tight rental market.  While some compromises were made around the timeframe of the move, they were entirely driven and decided by the participant.  We were even able to help out with a couple of unrelated side-issues the participant was having, which led to one very happy participant.

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.

3 Super Fast LEGO® Remote Control Cars

When building things that move, I have the desire to make it either as big as possible, or as fast as possible.  In this article, I’ll look to satisfy this need for speed by showing you three of the fastest LEGO® Remote Control Car designs.

The first car we have is a very simple but quick design by Christoph Bartneck that incorporates the bare minimum for power and steering.  This design uses a Power Functions L motor and servo combo.

Next, we have a Rally Car design by ArsMan064, which uses a Power Functions RC Buggy Motor and a Servo.  This design is very fast and sturdy, and can even go down stairs.

The final design by Thomas technic also uses Power Functions motors and servos, and is quite zippy.

While most LEGO®-based therapy programs are aimed at small children, we run LEGO® build sessions for people aged 15 years and older with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.  During the 10 week program, we’ll be building cars like the ones in this article and racing them against each other.

Contact us for more information on our after school LEGO® build sessions, or click here for more information.

3 Cool LEGO® Catapults To Rule Your Kingdom

I’ve been into LEGO® castles since I was a child, having built many over the years big enough to take up a dining room table.  One of the cooler weapons I’ve built over the years to help defend my castles is the good ol’ catapult.  In this post, I’ll go through 3 different catapults that you can build to help defeat the evil king.

 

First up, we have a simple but cute design, involving a rubber band by 1tucan.  This design doesn’t require many pieces and can be made quite quickly.

The second design by Jarrod TY is a bit more complex, and builds upon the rubber-band design in the first video.  This catapult uses a winding mechanism to reset the launcher.

Finally, we have one of the more complex catapult designs I’ve seen, but one of the best performing – a Da Vinci Catapult by Sariel.  This design uses two axles to propel the launcher instead of rubber bands, and a ratchet mechanism to reset.  A word of warning, the axles used as springs in this design can be permanently bent.

While most LEGO®-based therapy programs are aimed at small children, we run LEGO® build sessions for people aged 15 years and older with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.  During the 10 week program, we’ll be building catapults like the ones (safely) in this article and pitting them against each other.

Contact us for more information on our after school LEGO® build sessions, or click here for more information.

3 Cool Rubber-band Powered LEGO® Cars You Can Build

I’ve been making LEGO® cars for quite a while now, and something that has piqued my interest for a while now is unusual powers sources for the cars I make.  One of the first things I came across were rubber-band powered cars.  In this article, I’ll go through a few of the ones I’ve found to be quite enjoyable, that you can also build at home.

The first car is a rubber-band car based on the LEGO® EDU Renewable Energy Set by The Technic Gear LEGO Reviews.  It involves a simple spring action lever design with gears that is quite easy to reset.

Next, we have a cute DIY Rubber-band car with a Batman theme by Toys”R”Us.  This simple design has a wind-up mechanism, as opposed to the lever mechanism of the first car.

Finally, we have a variation of the levered rubber band car by Yoshihito ISOGAWA.  This is a larger version of the first car, with more leverage and gearing to help it go further.

While most LEGO®-based therapy programs are aimed at small children, we run LEGO® build sessions for people aged 15 years and older with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.  During the 10 week program, we’ll be building cars like the ones in this article and racing them against each other.

Contact us for more information on our after school LEGO® build sessions, or click here for more information.