Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How long is too long?

By Kate Sykes, CareerMums

Some of our users have sent questions to CareerMums on how to deal with the challenge of having worked for an employer for over 10 years but are now facing a redundancy or are being performace managed out because their salary levels far exceed the typical salary range for that role.

I should start by saying what a wonderful achievement for anyone to stay with an employer for more than 10 years - even 5 years demonstrates loyalty these days. For some people, incremental pay rises over a long period of time can sometimes price people out of the market. I heard about a woman in a PA role who was earning $105,000 because she had been with the same employer for over 20 years. She has since left her employer - a redundancy was offered. In these cases it gets to a point where certain roles are worth a particular range in salary.

For people experiencing this challenge, it may be worth looking for a new role. New roles provide new learning opportunities and new challenges. Another solution is to talk to your employer about non-monetary benefits so you don't price yourself out of the job.

Regardless, employers should be up to speed on career paths and performance management for each employee and it should be dealt with appropriately and in a professional manner.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tackling Interviews Head On

I don't think I have ever met someone who loves job interviews. Why is that? Surely there are some people out there who could talk about themselves all day - LOL!

I think our fear of interviews often comes down to the unknown. Most of the time, we don't know the people we will be talking to, so it is difficult to know if it will be a relaxed or formal interview with easy or difficult questions.

It is safe to say that there are some things we just can't control. On the other hand, you can control how prepared you are.
  • Know the location, time and who you will be meetingat least 36 hours before the interview.
  • Dress up! It is always better to be dressed up than dressed down.
  • Do some research on the company. Use the internet and look up people on LinkedIn.
  • Review the job advertisement. Can you do everything it says? What about the key competencies? How can you demonstrate your suitability?
  • Know your flexibility requirements.
  • Don't lie about anything.
  • If you are asked to give examples using prior work experience, refer to experiences on the past 5 years.
  • Always speak positively about yourself and focus on successful outcomes you have been part of.

Remember that nearly 50% of getting a job comes down to your perceived 'culture fit' with the organisation. Just be yourself, respond to the best of your ability, and see where it gets you.

Interview questions

The typical traditional recruitment questions include:
  • What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
  • How would you describe yourself as a person?
  • What did you enjoy most / least about your last position?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • How well do you work under pressure?
  • How would your co-workers describe you?
  • Describe the best boss you have ever had.

Certainly consider these questions in your preparation. There is now more of an emphasis on behavioural based questions which involves actual behaviour / performance of the candidate based on the core competencies required of the advertised role. Look for the core competencies in the job description. If they don't state the key competencies in the advertisement, ask the contact for them.

Make sure you pay close attention to the key comptencies the employer is looking for and start to consider examples of work you have done that reflect these competencies.

Try not to use your children in your responses. Your responses must be workplace related.

Think of these responses as telling a story.

Examples of competency-based bahavioural interview questions:

Conflict Management

  • Describe a time when you facilitated a creative solution to a problem between employees.
  • Tell me about a recent success you had with an especially difficult employee or coworker.

Customer Focus

  • Give me an example of a time you effectively used your peole skills to solve a customer problem.
  • Tell me about a time when you encountered a customer who was complaining of poor service. What did you do?


Describe for me a situation where two individuals or parties were at odds, and you helped to negotiate a win:win solution.

Strategic Planning

  • Tell me about a strategic opportunity you identified and pursued.

Team Work (Encouraging and building)

  • Describe a time you led a team of people who didn’t always see eye to eye. What did you do? Why did you choose to do that? How did it work out?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Losing Sight of What You Really Want

By Kate Sykes, Director of

Last week, I was tasked with recruiting for a part time Administrator role in Sydney. We had over 90 applications! The process of culling applications is a difficult one. Some resumes simply haven't been tailored to suit an administration role. For example, if all of your experience relates to graphic design work, it makes it diffciult to be shortlisted. others simply did not have the required experience requested by the client.

I am not a recruiter that penalises people for taking time out to look after children so this was not a big issue.

The next stage was phone screening. Talking to people on the phone is an interesting exercise. If you lack enthusiasm, knoweldge of the administrative duties required of the role, or can't remember the role you applied for (because you have applied for so many), it makes it difficult to be shortlisted.

I finally shortlisted six candidates. They were a mix of mums returning to work, mums already working and some older women who were looking to transition from full time work to part time.

While talking to one of the six candidates, we came to the agreement on the phone that this role was actually not for her. Why? This candidate was used to more senior consultant roles, but having not worked in these types of roles for 8 years, she felt that she had to start somewhere. And that somewhere was lower in skill and pay.

This is a common challenge. My immediate advice to her was to not settle for second best. Over her 'family years' this candidate had worked in 2 part time roles, published cook books, and more. She had shown incredible endurance and resilience in taking on various work related projects and roles while raising her young children.

My advice is this: If you want to return to the workplace in roles that you worked in pre-children, get busy with contacting past colleagues, managers, clients etc. Network at local business events. Attend workshops or conferences to find out more about employment opportunities. There is a skills shortage, so if you think you still have it (and want it), go for it. You will not only feel better in yourself for pursuing your career goals, but you will also be teaching your children some valuable lessons in life.

Next week: Preparing yourself for interviews.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If not a “Working Mum”, then what?

By Kathryn Hocking, Reverie Coaching

My mother hates the term “working mum” so you can imagine my concern and her unease when I unveiled my business to her, one that was based around the concept of “Coaching for Working-Mums” and by that I mean coaching for women in paid employment. My choice to coach this niche doesn’t mean that stay at home mums are not welcome in my practice it just means I have chosen to target my marketing efforts towards “working mums”.

This got me thinking about the term “working mum” and the fact that my mother, who has been ‘stay-at-home-mum’ (SAHM) most of her adult life, hates the inference that SAHM’s don’t “work”. As an aside I could also dissect the implications of the term “SAHM” but I will leave that for another time!

My argument to my mother was that:
1. Given “working mum” is the recognised term for mothers who return to paid employment sometime after having a child; and
2. Given that so much of online business and marketing is based around ‘key words’ and Google searches that I had to use the popularly accepted terminology whether I agreed with it or not.

However, the recent release of the book “Career Mums” by Kate Sykes and Alison Tait really got me thinking about how the term “Career Mum” may be a far more appropriate term to move forward with in my business.

Let us for a moment consider a few definitions:

According to the word “work” is:

1. Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labour; toil;
2. Something on which exertion or labour is expended; a task or undertaking;
3. Productive or operative activity;
4. Employment, as in some form of industry, especially as a means of earning one's livelihood;
5. One's place of employment.

So based on the above definition SAHM’s would certainly be considered to use exertion or effort to accomplish a task and certainly undertake productive activity even though it may not always feel like it!

It does get a little tricky when considering that the word work relates to ‘employment’ which typically relates to earning a living rather than non-paid work. However despite this I would certainly agree that SAHM’s do “work” and so the term “working-mum” is certainly problematic.

When considering the word “Career” defines it as:

1. An occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework;
2. A person's progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking;
3. Success in a profession, occupation, etc.

I feel more comfortable with the term “career mum”, however, I personally feel that having a career (requiring special training and it being one’s lifework) and having a job can mean quite different things and this is the advantage to the term “working mum” which encompasses both.

So consider whether a SAHM has a career by asking the following questions:

  • Is being a mother a profession (definition: a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or science)?
  • Could being a mother be conceived as one’s lifework? and
  • Isn’t being a mother a progress or general course of action through a phase of life (i.e. your children’s childhood)?
It would seem at least two elements of the word career could apply to SAHM’s, As I hope I have demonstrated here, there really is no perfect terminology for the mother who spends time in paid employment either working from home or in a specified workplace (what a mouthful!).

I personally think the core of the issue is not about terminology but gets down the lack of respect, or perception of lack of respect, that SAHM’s feel they receive in comparison to “working mums” or “career mums”.

Being a full-time working mother or career mum myself I have come to realise that this lack of respect is not one-sided. I have seen many instances of SAHM’s not respecting and out rightly judging working mums as bad or selfish mums who are damaging their children permanently and on the flipside seen career mums disrespecting SAHM’s thinking that they are unmotivated, unintelligent or lazy.

There seems to be a lack of respect of the choices that women in Australia are lucky enough to have combined with a lack of support among women about the fact that everyone must make this choice based on what is best for them and their family.

While out to drinks with a large group of women recently (incidentally I was one of only 1-2 full-time “working mums” in a group of 15) a friend said to me when I asked her about her job:

“I’m only working part-time because I am choosing to put my child first”.

Now as someone who works full-time because:
• Firstly, one income doesn’t cover our mortgage and bills;
• Secondly, I am trying to build a more flexible long term future for my family; and
• Thirdly, because I really enjoy having a career

I could have taken this statement to mean that I do not put my child first and been extremely hurt, however, considering her a friend I gave her the benefit of the doubt and respected her position despite the fact her words were poorly chosen. Interestingly this shows there is even a divide between mums who work 1-3 days a week and mums who work 4+ days a week!

My experience to date has been that women are quite divided on what is best for their kids and quite judgemental of mums who make a different choice to theirs.

I think we should stop getting hung up on the terminology, and start supporting each other to make the choice that is right for them. I know for a fact that I am a happier, less stressed and more loving mother when I am undertaking paid employment than I was when I was at home full-time. At the end of the day my family benefits in many ways from my participation in the paid workforce yet I have the utmost respect for my mother who was an amazing SAHM and I have many memories of outings, craft projects and creative games with her. My daughter may not grow up to have as many of those types of memories but I hope she will grow up with a sense that she can be or do anything she puts her mind to, that she can pursue her dreams and that she can have a career and still be a great mother if she chooses!

I am, however, considering changing my programs to “coaching for the career mum”…..

Kathryn Hocking, © Reverie Coaching 2012,

Kathryn is the Director of Reverie Coaching and uses her passion, forward thinking and creativity to inspire, motivate and encourage working mums and mumpreneurs to pursue their dream careers and dream businesses in a way that does not compromise their identity as mothers.

Kathryn offers the following face-to-face and online coaching Programs “Dream Career Kickstart”, “Coaching for the Working Mum, “Life Coaching” and will soon be offering a “Coaching for the Mumpreneur" program. Kathryn also publishes a weekly blog “Ambitious Mummy” and monthly newsletter “The Inspired Mummy”, you can view her website at

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Don't forget your network and find jobs that are not advertised

Depending on how long you have been out of the workplace, your network can be your lifeline to paid work again.

Your network is made up of friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues, staff, managers, and other people you know in your community (including local businesses and shops). These people know you, your work habits, your capabilities, and your personality so you already have an advantage.

Before you start looking, get your resume up to speed, know what you want to do, know your key skills, how many hours/days you can work each week, and how much your are worth. Then start approaching your network.

If you don't have a profile on LinkedIn (, get one. You can then start tracking down ex-bosses that you have lost track of. Then send word out on Facebook, email others in your network, and call the rest.

Some of the best leads come from close by. Try it.