Category Archives: Case studies

What’s Your Story? #13 – Louise Longhurst

What's your story?

Louise is an energetic senior manager skilled in sales, marketing and customer services. As an accomplished leader she is motivated by guiding people to unlock their potential and make their own choices.
Extensive experience in organisational change management has given Louise a healthy understanding of its benefits and impact in the workplace. Its lasting effects are a commitment to the achievement of happiness in both our personal and professional lives.

What’s your current position and what do you do?

Louise LonghurstManager Client Projects at Balance at Work.
I understand the challenges confronting business today, expectations high, workloads ever increasing, results, goals, objectives, targets are ongoing in an environment of change. At Balance at Work our clients are seeking solutions and tools to best manage their people and culture to meet these challenges. My role is to ensure our services are delivered effectively to address our clients’ specific needs and requirements. I am committed to customer satisfaction and service best practice.

What other activities are you involved in?

I have been known to dabble in a bit of community theatre, I have had the great pleasure playing a selfish Inn Keeper, pompous Duchess, desperate Widow, and   ruthless proprietor of the city’s worst public toilet! I enjoy a day sailing in Pittwater, however when we’re racing it’s all about following the captain’s orders, very difficult when he’s your husband. I’ve also been seen horse riding but the post aches and pains are limiting this activity.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No, I saw myself as a nun and then a teacher, I guess that’s what was around me at the time.

What was your first job?

Working in a behavioural sciences lab at university looking after rats and carrying out some interesting tests on the delightful creatures. I had a couple of pets that had the run of the department.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Living in the Solomon Islands for a short time exposed me to a wonderful culture and community. I found a job as a high school teacher in the local school. I scuba dived among the WWII wrecks and got to know some great people with whom I am still close friends. It opened my eyes to new cultures, people and experiences and was the beginning of a yearlong trip across Europe and Asia.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My husband stands out, although he knows I hate being told he has been a rock and is probably one of the calmest people I know. His mother is in the same category and has given me much to aspire to.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

Sailing round the world, meeting people, experiencing cultures.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Be kind to yourself, find your strengths and use them, understand your weaknesses and don’t be afraid or critical of your vulnerabilities. Try lots of different things and embrace change, don’t be scared to of calling it quits when you have given it your best and know it’s not right for you. Sing more.

What’s Your Story? #12 Susan Hervey

What's your story?

When we meet someone like Susan Hervey, with an interesting career or life story, we’re always keen to share it in this series of articles. It’s amazing to think we are up to twelve stories in the series already!

Susan Hervey is well known in her field and if you ever get the chance to ask her yourself, you’ll be stunned, as I was, by the variety of 20+ different jobs she has had in her lifetime. I first met Sue a bit over 3 years ago at my very first NAGCAS conference, where she and her team were so warm and welcoming. It’s taken a while to get this story – she’s a very busy woman! – but worth the wait.

Thank you, Susan Hervey, for answering our ‘What’s your story?’ questions.

What’s your current position and what do you do? Susan Hervey

My current position is Director of Career Services at The University of Adelaide. I manage a team of 14 staff and we have four major portfolios for a student body of approximately 25,000. These portfolios include Careers Education and Counselling across our five faculties, Industry Engagement and Events and Careers Information provision to students and staff. We also provide specialist support for students on campus from China and engagement and liaison with industry in China.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

My father was the first careers counsellor I ever met disguised as a fitter and turner, a job he did for his entire working life with ETSA. At 5 years of age, I had been to school for just one day when my Dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. At that stage, I only knew of 2 jobs that existed, my teacher’s job and my Dad’s job.

I still remember considering carefully whether I wanted to be a teacher or a fitter and turner. I told my Dad I would like to be a teacher and he said “I will start saving for college from today.” We had very little money and I realised this was a very big deal that my Dad was committing to. From that day on, I just knew I would be going to University, it never crossed my mind not to take that pathway. I was the first in my family to ever attend University but my sister and nearly all of my cousins followed the same path.

My father believed that education was the answer for any problem. I always knew that my father harboured a desire to train as a school teacher but his family were unable to support him to attend teachers college. As a career professional I note that my sister and I both have teaching degrees amongst other qualifications.

Our dad was very proud of us when we graduated and he would carry our business cards around in his wallet. I don’t think he realised how much we listened to his message about education and that we would return to University quite a few times. When he passed away I found an entire collection of our business cards from the first job to the current roles we had.

Apart from having a careers adviser at school, I wasn’t aware of the Career Development Industry at all, which was probably in its very early days at that time. The careers adviser was also the maths teacher and sometime PE teacher, so Career advice was quite a low priority at my school. As a teenager, I entertained my share of the usual uninformed daydreams about careers that students still present with today. Some of the ones I remember include wanting to be a physiotherapist, a journalist and a fiction writer. Of course in the back of my mind was the discussion I had had with my father about being a teacher when I was just five years old.

What was your first job?

I had a part time job throughout high school and University but my first full time job was in assisting physiotherapists and occupational therapists with their clients. Most of the clients had suffered a stroke or an injury to a body part and we were assisting them on the road to recovery.

Craft was one of the ways we trained people to use their arms and hands again and I trained as a ceramics teacher. Many beautiful items were fired and artistically decorated by our clients and I still have some of the ceramic dishes in my kitchen cupboards that I created in my first professional role.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

A significant turning point in my career was meeting my mentor Don Dobie. I remember meeting Don in 1999 when I was employed by Spencer TAFE. I was on the cusp of quite a dramatic career change. At 32 years of age I had won the Campus Manager’s position at a large regional TAFE campus and would be responsible for 82 staff and 2,300 students on campus and via distance education. Don had been contracted by the Student Services support team to introduce us to Harrison Assessments and train us so that we could use the assessment with students.

As part of the training, of course, we had to undertake the Harrison Assessment ourselves. I had never undertaken a career assessment before but the Harrison Assessment not only showed that I would be successful in my role as a Campus Manager but that I would probably be an even better CEO. I could definitely see how useful the Harrison Assessment would be for students trying to navigate their career pathway and I have now been using HA for 17 years in the higher education sector.

I have trained in the use of many tools since but I have never found a resource that helps clients more than the Harrison Assessment. Of course, a significant and unexpected outcome is that I have had the privilege of having a very experienced and insightful mentor and friend for most of my working life, thanks to a chance meeting at a training session.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Parents inspire me, my own parents, parents in general. I chose not to have children but I greatly admire anyone who does. I’m in awe of my sister who is a full time deputy district attorney in Nebraska, her work takes her into very dark places working with child victims of crime. She also has 7 children ranging in age from 7 year old twins to a 23 year old son.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

If there were no limitations, I’d really like to return to University full time and complete my PhD. I would also like to complete the novel that I’ve made a few attempts at. I think with writing you need to fully immerse yourself in the process and surround yourself with like-minded people at every opportunity. At least that’s what I think I would need to bring a novel to fruition. So for the time being, my novel is on hold.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

If I was able to speak to myself at a younger age, this is what I would say…
In between describing to her the many fantastic work opportunities that were coming her way in the future, I would say “My best advice is don’t be afraid – of anything.”

I would speak with great excitement about all of the amazing projects waiting for her to work her magic on and the teams and individuals that she will have the privilege to be part of and more often than not, lead. I would say “As a manager be consistent, be fair and lead by example. Take the time to develop your team members and they will follow you anywhere. Bring a sense of fun to whatever you do and inspire people with your ideas, your words and your actions.”

I would also say “Find a mentor or 3 and seek their wise advice whenever you feel you need it.”

I would tell her to never stop learning, to look for ways to add value to whatever she is working on and to take more time than I did to travel for leisure or work purposes. I would encourage her to take up work opportunities even if they weren’t exactly what she was looking for or hoping for. I would say “Some of those offers will turn into opportunities that you can’t even dream of”.

Finally, I would say “Stop worrying about the future and enjoy your youth. I know you think it will last forever but the future will be here before you know it. There is no need to worry – you will create an amazing life and it will be more than you had ever hoped for. Enjoy.”

Susan Hervey
1st March 2017

Are You Ready For Redundancy?

Redundancy Louise Longhurst

When the redundancy notice appears, it is one of those moments when any sense of control evaporates. You can be overwhelmed with questions and doubt, but it’s important to devise a plan to regain confidence through things you can control. In this article, one of our friends shares her experience and her response.

Looking back

Was trouble brewing?

Did I see the storm ahead? Feel the boat rocking? Hear any alarm bells?  Was there any clue my career ship was heading for the rocks?

Times were tough. We’d had three general managers in as many years: the defeated Try Hard, the Tyrant, and the Micro-managing-control-freak-smiling-assassin, (he was my favourite). Staff sick days were high, long lunches and new outfits on the rise.  Networking on LinkedIn was rabid. Long timers, a loyal bunch committed to the cause, were suddenly switching ships.  A new HR manager was appointed, ……oh no….. I couldn’t find my “Survival Guide to Managing HR” anywhere!

Doors were closed, talk of another restructure surfaced. The office was unnaturally quiet, laughter was rarely heard, it felt almost wrong or inappropriate. Auditors added to the feeling of pending doom. Were my colleagues behaving oddly, awkward, different? Was I taking the warning signs seriously? Maybe bringing the dog to work was a bad idea.

I wondered should I grab a life jacket and jump ship too? Twenty-five loyal years and another recent promotion rapidly dismissed those thoughts. I kept myself busy, made good changes, was my usual flexible self, the yoga lessons and meditation felt good.  Sure, there was pressure but I was happy that I was doing my bit. I had a holiday planned to recharge, my retirement was not too far off. Now was definitely not the time to leave.

I was blindsided, unprepared and naive. I refused to acknowledge the obvious, the body language, the growing resistance to my ideas, the odd remarks challenging my work and leadership. I returned from holidays and thirty minutes later I was driving back home. Only one senior manager was made redundant.

Revenge was high on my list of to dos. Dead rat in the filing cabinet, slash a couple of tyres, crash a computer or two, release a virus, nothing too drastic. What did I do wrong? Was it my oestrogen levels? My age? Was I too good at my job? I didn’t get the golden hand shake, I got some legal advice that confirmed two things, leaving was the best thing to happen to me, and I still needed to work.

Looking forward

I also needed a distraction, a bit of fun. The “Unemployment Club” evolved and to my surprise grew quite rapidly. I found out I was not alone. The company gave me a lifeline, a career transition coach. I realised I hadn’t considered what I wanted to do for quite some time. Away from work now, I can admit it was stressful. I was tired and very unhappy. The redundancy forced me off the treadmill and gave me a chance to reassess my life. I consider myself lucky.

I know ageism exists in the workplace, especially when applying for jobs. I’ve started job hunting and have missed out on a few roles. I’m getting plenty of interview practice, good feedback, and networking with likeminded people. I’m defining my assets, what drives me and my values. I’m looking after my health and getting financial advice. I started to look at some courses and some unpaid time getting new experiences. All of these activities are critical in my navigation towards career change. I am on a journey of self-awareness to uncover the answer to “what” I want to do and more importantly “why” I want to do it and I’m excited.

Career Reality Check: Fashion Editor

We love sharing career stories!  What could be more inspiring or educational than hearing about other people’s experiences in a wide range of careers?

There are 2 ‘occasional’ series of career stories running on this blog:

  1. What’s your story? (Here’s one of the early stories, just updated.)
  2. Career reality check (So far we’ve touched on pilots and TV presenters.)

Today’s career reality check is ideal for you to share with anyone who might be considering a career in fashion publishing.

We became aware of the 60 Minutes segment below because one of the subjects, Laura Brown, is my cousin. From growing up in Sydney and studying at Charles Sturt University, Laura has worked incredibly hard to pursue her dream of working in fashion in New York. Laura is now Editor-in-chief of InStyle magazine. The other Australian subject of the story, Jo Levin, built her own path to Editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine in London.

Their stories are inspiring. Both women epitomise the power of creativity and persistence. That, and a love for their work. They also have in common an ability to be true to themselves and their own vision.

Incredibly, Jo just happens to be the cousin of one of my friends and neighbours. How’s that for a ‘small world’ story?

Do you know someone with a career story that should be shared? Let us know!

What’s your story? #11: Paula Ford

What's your story?

As the next installment in this popular series, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce you to the latest addition to our team, Paula Ford. Our clients will get to meet Paula as she starts to work on a variety of consulting projects at Balance at Work. Here’s what she told us about her career to date:

Paula Ford

What’s your current position and what do you do?

I am just starting work with Balance at Work and am very excited with this new chapter in my life.  I will be working closely with Susan to deliver a range of HR projects.  In addition, I also work part-time with a small and very committed Organisation Development Team.  In this position, I work mainly on developing, delivering and measuring a range of HR/OD projects to enhance organisational performance.

What other activities are you involved in?

I have two daughters so along with work their hectic timetable keeps me fairly busy.  Over the last few years I have been involved in managing their sporting teams and volunteering at their preschool/school.  I love to get out and mountain bike ride with girlfriends when I can and living in the Blue Mountains is ideal as we have so many great rides.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at school.  I started my working life in finance in a large private sector organisation but then decided that I really wanted to work closely with employees.  From there I did a secondment in HR and loved it.  I went back to study and moved into the HR field.  The more experience I got the more I realised that the psychology side of HR was what really interested me. Since then I have focused more in this area and completed further studies in management psychology.

What was your first job?

When I was 13 I was horse mad like most girls my age.  My parents were not horsey and thought this was just a phase I was going through.  They decided that if I wanted a horse I would have to save for it and work to help pay to keep it.  I think they thought this would put me off the idea.  Well dad got me a job of washing 50 cars at the local car yard.  I washed cars every Saturday morning for 2 years with frozen fingers in winter until I got a job at Kmart.  I think this was a valuable experience that contributed to my work ethic.  The horse wasn’t such a phase I kept him for about 8 years.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Having children has been the most significant change in my life.  It made me reprioritise and become a more balanced person.  It has made me realise that not everything has to be 100% perfect or you’d never get anything done.  You just have to have the courage to admit that we are all human and be willing to learn and grown from experiences.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Dr Maya Angelou a celebrated poet, memoirist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist.  An amazing African American woman born in 1928 who faced many closed doors in her life and not only survived but thrived with passion and compassion. I think one of her most powerful quotes is “I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how they made you feel”.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

I’d spend a year or two with my family travelling, living and volunteering overseas.  Whilst my husband and I have travelled I would like to share my girls’ experience of not only seeing the world but being a part of other communities and contributing to those less fortunate than ours.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Have the courage to try different things and take on opportunities.  If they seem daunting, know that you will never fail as success is not about achieving the highest level of performance or getting things right but it is about the experiences along the way that will help you grow as a person.

What’s your story? #10: Trevor Lloyd

What's your story?

Our latest career path story is from Trevor Lloyd who was recently awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to the community. This achievement is simply the latest in a long list, as you’ll appreciate when you read his story.

No time to read this now? Download it!

Trevor LloydWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

I am the Managing Director of a small property valuation company based in Blaxland, NSW. Lloyds Property Valuations employs eight people, four of whom are property valuers, the remainder being office and support staff. Our work is primarily mortgage work for bank lending purpose in both the residential and commercial sectors. In addition, we carry out family law work, compensation, investor analysis, court representation and much more.

As a leader of a team of very professional people, it is my job to ensure harmony within the team, provide professional back up where required, facilitate ongoing valuer training and ensure that clients are receiving the service they require.

We look on our employees as being members of a family.  There is no length to which we will not go to ensure that staff are being cared for. This includes generous family leave provisions, flexible working hours and conditions, and even pay in advance if necessary. Such provisions come back to the business with loyalty, honesty and output.

What other activities you are involved in?

For the past 22 years, I have been heavily involved with the Rotary Club of the Blue Mountains. I have also been involved with the Red Cross where I served for 4 years as the Blue Mountains Coordinator for Tele Cross, which is a daily in-touch telephone call to people living alone.

I was the inaugural President of the Glenbrook Toastmasters Club which trains people in public speaking. We also helped train students at local high schools to develop strong speaking skills.

Finally my involvement with the local Chamber of Commerce has enabled me to see clearly the challenges and obstacles that are faced by small businesses.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

Most certainly not. I was keen to be a green keeper so that I could feed my fetish for the look and the smell of a freshly mown lawn. I still have the fetish but my lawn at home is smaller than I had envisaged and now I have a gardener who mows the lawn for me.

What was your first job?

I started work in 1968 at the Munitions Filling Factory at St Marys, NSW as an apprentice carpenter. It was ironic because, in my last year of school in Year 10, I had told my woodworking teacher that I no longer had an interest in woodwork and wanted to skip to a more useful subject to get m through the School Certificate.  I got through the School Certificate but only just. I ended up completing my apprenticeship with the PMG as a Trainee Technical Officer (Building).

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career?

On 18th January 1977, I was in the front carriage of my regular train on my way to work.  I had just completed my Building Certificate Course in 1976 but had to go back in early February to sit a post exam in quantity survey, which I had just failed to pass. I was such a lazy student.

At 8.10 am, the diesel engine left the rails and hit the stanchion of the Bold Street Bridge at Granville and bent it at almost 90⁰. As a result, it cut through my carriage leaving only a platform on wheels and killing ten people, including one lady who died in my arms. I still wonder how I survived.

At that point I realised that life had a purpose and that I should work harder to achieve the goals that I had and, with my first child on the way, to be in a better position to provide for my family.

This is not the best way to have a life changing experience. Ultimately 83 people died and 210 people were injured at Granville.

I completed the Associate Diploma of Business (Valuation) with flying colours back in 1990 and never looked back.

Who has inspired you?

There are many people in all of our lives who say something that may change your life or may be a role model we admire.

My father once said to me “if you aim for the stars, you’ll reach the clouds”. I remember I was never happy with the clouds.

One of my fellow commuters, when I told him that I was about to embark on a four-year Valuation Course – and would be 40 by the time I completed it! – simply said “What age will you be in four years if you don’t do the course?”

An old sage tradesman who was close to retirement when I started work once said to me “You will spend more time at work and see more of your workmates than you will spend at home with your family, so make the best of it and enjoy the ride”.

Lastly, my mother-in-law who grew up in the Jewish sector of Amsterdam during the Second World War said “Look what I have become in spite of my past and because of it”.

What would you tell your younger self about life and careers?

Turn your labours into challenges. When you are stuck at school and can’t understand, instead of heading for the no-hopers, turn to someone who did understand and ask them for help.

Always support and encourage those around you who appear to be square pegs. They usually become the successful ones in our society because they concentrate on what is important, which sets them up for long-term success and not short term gratification.

Everyone is capable of being a millionaire. It just requires goal setting, focus and work and it is within all of us.

Do you know someone whose career story should reach a wider audience?  Please drop us a line to let us know!

360 degree feedback surveys can work for you

Here at Balance at Work, we recently managed a 360 degree feedback survey that saw 1360 feedback surveys completed for 157 managers. Along the way, we learnt a few lessons about what can go wrong with a 360 degree feedback project and ways to make the process much smoother in the future.

Here’s a short list of tips to help you get the most out of your next 360 degree feedback exercise.

1. Explain to everyone what a 360 feedback survey is and why they are doing it

Before doing anything, it is important that you tell everybody who is being assessed and everyone providing feedback the basics of what a 360 is and how it works. We had several people confused about why they were asked to provide feedback for their line managers – they are so used to it only going one way. By providing a clear outline of the project and the expected outcomes, it will be more likely that the feedback given will be constructive and useful.

By providing a clear outline of the project and the expected outcomes, the feedback given is more likely to be constructive and useful.

2. Provide step-by-step instructions for every part of the 360 degree feedback process

Regardless of what system you use to conduct your 360 (we use Spidergap), it will take a little time for users to understand how to use it. In order to make sure you get the highest quality feedback, it is vital that all involved know what to expect in the process as well as what is expected of them.

We found it is Important to give instructions around the criteria for choosing feedback providers, relationship titles and hints for providing useful feedback. It is always better to give clear, comprehensive instructions than to leave it to chance.

3. Be careful about who is providing 360 degree feedback

One of the biggest obstacles to getting useful, meaningful feedback is the source of that feedback. Having a balance between all relationships to the person being assessed is vital to making it a real 360. It is also important that those providing feedback feel confident in their ability to assess the person in question.

We had comments that people didn’t know someone well enough to feel comfortable providing feedback, a situation that would be avoided with more care in feedback provider selection.

For example, questions about internal management procedures will be confusing if you are including customers in the survey. Feedback providers can make or break a survey, so consider carefully who you want to involve and what you hope to gain from their perspective.

By following these 3 simple steps, you can ensure your 360 degree feedback survey process runs smoothly.

For our client, our experience contributed to the value of the survey. Here’s the feedback we received at the end of the project from Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia:

Susan and Harriet are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we as an organization are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool worked well and the follow up coaching sessions that we have deployed have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organization is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such great support crew on this key project.

Download our free Planning Checklist or let us organise your free trial!

What’s your story? #8: Susan Toole

What's your story?

Susan TooleWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

Admin / Bookkeeper for Balance at Work Pty Ltd and Corptraining. HR Coordinator for Thorndale Foundation Limited.

For my admin / bookkeeping roles, I try and balance the numbers and provide ‘behind the scenes’ support for two small businesses. I started with Susan at Balance at Work almost six years ago. The role has allowed me to venture back into the workforce on a part-time basis, whilst my children were still young. Susan introduced me to Nikki Heald at Corptraining three years later, where I do very similar work. Both these employers allow me the flexibility to juggle their needs along with the needs of three young children and a husband, which is most important to me!

While I continue to work for Susan and Nikki, I started with the Thorndale Foundation just over six months ago in quite a different position as their HR Coordinator.  Thorndale provides support services to (primarily) adults with disabilities in the forms of residential housing, day programs and our Australian Disability Enterprise which gives them the opportunity for employment. There is a lot of paperwork involved, and an understanding of budgets/accounting has served me well so far!

I’m very fortunate that I really like the people I work for so going to work is never a chore!

What other activities are you involved in?

Currently, I am Treasurer (previously registrar) for St Finbar’s Netball Club, Glenbrook and I also volunteer for Combined Districts Kart Club – as Lap Scorer/Timing Official, Event Assistant and Canteen Helper.

Previously I have also been the Secretary, Treasurer and President of our local preschool when my children attended. It was while I was President that the preschool’s Director resigned and it was the committee’s responsibility to find a replacement.  After managing the process to the interview stage, I asked Susan to join our interview panel as our HR expert. During the project, she recognised my capabilities and not long afterwards, asked me to assist her at Balance at Work.

My volunteer work with the go-kart club also led to my employment at Thorndale. As some of my volunteering had been in an administrative capacity, I was able to demonstrate my potential as an HR Coordinator to the President of the go-kart club, who is also the CEO of Thorndale.  For me, it’s definitely been a case of “who you know” as a flow-on effect of volunteering.

Is that what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

To be honest, I never really knew what career I wanted when I was at school. I never felt a passion for anything that would drive me down a certain career path.  I was good at Maths and English so felt that I could take those skills with me anywhere, primarily in an office environment.  After I completed Year 12 in NSW, I moved with my parents to Queensland where they enrolled me in a Business College to give me more practical skills for an office, such as touch typing and shorthand.

I did start a Bachelor of Commerce as a mature-age student in Qld, but personal circumstances required me to relocated back to NSW so I didn’t finish that degree. Interestingly enough, my majors were in Human Resources and Industrial Relations which are so relevant to my position at Thorndale.

What was your first job?

My first paid job was on a Saturday morning at a local petrol station from the age of 14. I had the 7.00am to 12.00pm shift which then allowed me to head off to the netball courts for a game at 1pm. Whilst I occasionally filled up someone’s car with petrol and checked their oil, I was mainly behind the register. After my shift, I had to balance my cash register totals before I could leave. If I was out of balance, it meant a longer time there to re-check my figures so if I wasn’t spot on, I was late for the game!

My first full-time position was as a Junior Secretary in Brisbane for an Insurance Broker. It took me two trains and a car trip (and a fair chunk of my pay!) to get to work, but I had a truly lovely boss who I enjoyed working for so it was worth it until I could move closer to work.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

No doubt having children! My husband and I made the decision that I would be a ‘stay at home Mum’ to raise our children, which I was quite happy with for about ten years.  However, once they grew out of the baby stage and developed some independence, I knew I wanted to return to the workforce on a part-time basis and develop some of my own independence.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Like a previous career story, I also admire Richard Branson.  His quote “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients” is something so many employers still need to learn.

My friends and family also know I am a Disney freak, so my other choice would be Walt Disney.  My favourite Disney quotes are very simple:  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” and “Keep moving forward”.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

If money was not an obstacle and my husband agreed, I would love to have my own animal shelter for both cats and dogs (or any animal that had been mistreated or was at risk).  We have our own little menagerie at home – one dog, three cats, two chickens and a budgie – who all bring a sense of peace and happiness to our household.  They are all well looked after and very spoilt. I would love to bring a sense of that to other less fortunate animals.

What’s your story? #7: Chris Bulmer

What's your story?

The latest addition to our series of career path stories features Chris Bulmer, National General Manager, Learning and Development, for ISS Facility Services.

As a  definite ‘people’ person, Chris’ career has progressed from farmhand to school teacher to where he is now, changing the working lives of his many and diverse peers. He’s not quite the famous rock musician he wanted to be as a teenager – but he’s still a ‘star’!

Do you know someone whose career story should reach a wider audience?  Please drop us a line to let us know!

Chris Bulmer

What’s your current position and what do you do?

I am National General Manager Learning and Development for ISS Facility Services.

The role is fairly new to the business and has been created to build a comprehensive Learning and Development platform for all team members to access in our organization. In two years we have created a learning structure that ensures that our people have access to training and development that supports their career path growth from Line level all the way through to senior leadership.

Its seems to be working well as our Employee Engagement scores relating to L&D have increased year on year since we started and for the past two years consecutively we have won the prestigious Customer Service Institute of Australia Training Excellence Awards!

What other activities are you involved in?

I have two great boys and spend a lot of my spare time on Mountain Bikes and riding the Gold Coast waves. My wife and I enjoy nice wines and we make sure that we all get away twice a year on overseas trips. Just back from Miami and New York City. I am a keen guitar player and enjoy playing music with friends when the opportunity arises.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No !!!!  I wanted to be a famous rock musician! I played in many bands before settling into life as a school teacher and ultimately the world of People and Culture.

What was your first job?

Farm hand on Dad’s farm. Free labour!! Musician was my first paying job and then teacher.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Meeting my wife Karen. I was messing around a lot and had no specific purpose apart from exploring the world and getting as much human experience as I could. When Karen and I got together I got focussed on career, owning a home and having a family. I still explore the world a lot as I am constantly travelling…. And take the family with me when I can.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My Father. He inspired me to have a go and work hard. He provided opportunities for me that he never had. Education was important to Dad as he had to leave school early to run his Dad’s farm. Thanks to him I got to go to Melbourne Uni and get a couple of Degrees. That made him very proud.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

To successfully climb Mount Everest.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Never waste a minute of your life doing stuff that you don’t want to do or is boring. Pursue your Passion and never give up until you have nailed your goals and dreams. Don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun and always be good to your people!!

What’s your story? #6: Chris Barton

What's your story?

Chris BartonWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

CEO of StartHere Pty Ltd, incorporating Rewardshere.com.au, PricePal.com.au and soon to be released folo.world.  We are a shopping technology business that allows consumers to receive a cash discount when they shop online and for companies and charities to use our white labelled solution as a fundraising and loyalty tool.

What other activities are you involved in?

I love spending the little spare time I have today with my kids and am involved in their sports activities such as Tae Kwon Do and Athletics and also playing sport myself, my latest interest is distance walking and trekking.

I also like to assist Not for Profits with business and marketing assistance as a way of giving back.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?               

I had no ideas what I wanted to do when I was at school, although I did go to Uni and get a teaching degree. I am not a believer in having clear career paths as I believe it boxes people in.  I think that most successful and happy contributors in our workforce understand what skills, strengths and weaknesses they have and find ways to make use of those skills by filling needs. I am more a believer in individuals building their ongoing skills and then understanding how to best market these to employers or through starting your own business.

What was your first job?

I stacked shelves at Franklins supermarkets!

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

The biggest turning point I had in my career/life was the day that I stopped working for money and started following my Purpose. I strongly believe if you follow your purpose and are successful at what you do other rewards like the money will follow.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

I admire my parents, as they created the foundations and moral compass that I base my life on. I am inspired by my wife every day and particularly by those in our society who aren’t afraid to carve out their own path.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

I am a strong believer that we all should live every day as if we have no limitations and I attempt to follow this consistently. Most limitations are self-imposed and can be easily removed. As soon as we remove these barriers from our thinking anything is possible. I think we should all get up every day with the belief that nothing can stop us achieving what we set after.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Understand your purpose, follow your own path, don’t replicate others and most of all have fun.

Avoiding the ‘Horror Hire’

This post originally appeared on the Harrison Assessments blog. For more posts like this, click here

If you think when you go for a job interview it is a nail-bitingly painful affair, imagine what it’s like for a manager who has to screen through all the job applications, narrow down the best and then conduct each and every interview while other tasks keep piling up!

Once the interview is over, all the job applicant has to do is wait patiently for the call that may or may not eventually come.

The manager on the other hand, has the task of deciding who is the best among the many hopefuls to fill the vacancy. If not using a job fit assessment there’s not much to go on. The stakes are high. If the right candidate is chosen, the company profits. The wrong one it can be a very expensive horror hire.

So how does one pick the person that is exactly the right fit for the job? And how sure are you that the person who ‘aced’ the test will actually pass with flying colors in the workplace, now and in the future?

Some might choose to go purely by gut instinct; others will base their decision on the recommendations of colleagues and friends. The results can be so very right or disastrously wrong as one small local engineering firm discovered to its dismay.

The firm had hired a manager who was highly recommended and who supposedly had chalked up quite an impressive resume working with multinational companies. The new manager was hired to help streamline the company’s operations but in the first three months, he behaved so arrogantly towards other staff, they refused to work with him and chaos ensued. The company was forced to terminate him only to discover that he had obtained the e-mail contacts of all their clients and associates which he then used to exact revenge.

He emailed allegations against the company to their clients and threatened to cause even more malicious damage to the company’s reputation, unless they paid for his silence! The enraged company was forced to hire outside expertise to investigate his background, counter his claim and fend off his allegations. They paid for a due diligence report to be conducted and forwarded the report to their clients. Then they hired a lawyer to block further action by the ex-employee.

With so much at stake today, it’s time for employers to ramp up the assessment process and cull those who misrepresent themselves. Using the Harrison Assessment can help you avoid the very expensive horror hire and keep your organisation profitable.

To find out more about using Harrison Assessments to make sure you don’t make a horror hire contact us here

What’s your story? #5: Judy Palmer-Brown

What's your story?

When Judy Palmer-Brown and I first met, we were both working at a higher altitude – in the beautiful Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. There have been many changes for both of us in the 15 or so years since then. It’s been great to have our paths meet again more recently and to have the opportunity to hear her very interesting and inspiring career story.  

Judy Palmer-BrownWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

Employment Services Project Manager for WSI – TAFE NSW. My role is to engage and work with clients from a range of organisations who work in the field of recruitment and employment services. These organisations place unemployed people into training and sustainable employment to assist them towards achieving independence.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

Not at all. I had considered becoming a legal secretary or a nurse. Both were considered traditional occupations for females who had not gone on to university studies. Tertiary education wasn’t considered as a serious option for girls in the Blue Mountains in that era unless they were highly successful students, wishing to become a teacher, or their parents had completed tertiary education and were encouraging them to go.

When I first left school I trained to become a secretary at a well- known private college. It was quite expensive and I was having difficulties paying the fees. I left the course half way through due to the financial pressure, coupled with a flagging interest in secretarial work, in favour of nursing as I could train on the job.

What was your first job?

From the time I was 14 years old, I worked part-time at a local service station that doubled as a general store. I learnt to pump petrol, use a cash register, stack shelves and maintain a mini delicatessen. I worked two afternoons after school and each Sunday. My best friend worked alternate weekdays and the Saturday. We were earning good money although lamented that we never got to see each other. This was my first lesson in the importance of work/life balance.

My first full-time position was as an enrolled nurse. I enjoyed learning and caring for others although had nagging doubts about if it was truly the career for me. I was beginning to wonder if one actually existed.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

I became a single parent at quite a young age when my first marriage broke down. I wasn’t able to continue working as an enrolled nurse as child care was too difficult to manage as a shift worker.
I worked in a range of different roles including banking, clerical, reception and hospitality accommodation services, as my six months of training had given me enough skills to gain entry level positions.

While my roles were generally junior level, I gained insight into the running of business and I developed an interest and passion in starting a business myself; however I was limited as I didn’t have management experience in any particular field and had no capital funds for a traditional start-up. What I did have though was desire, drive, and a vacuum cleaner. I set up a cleaning business and used my experience in hotels to benchmark a high level of service backed up by a quality improvement and feedback program to ensure my clients received personalised service that exceeded expectations. The business grew quickly and I began to hire staff.

After several years of running my business, I began to feel that I needed a new challenge so made enquiries at my local TAFE college about studying Business Management, although I was open to other avenues as well.

I met a dynamic head teacher in Tourism and Hospitality who encouraged me to gain qualifications in Hospitality Accommodation Services to complement my work history so I could share my work experiences as a teacher. Teaching was an amazing experience. I had discovered a whole new passion. That was in 1996.

I have since gone on to complete a Bachelor of Adult Education and specialised in language, literacy and numeracy teaching in conjunction with labour market programs and workplace training.

Completing a degree also gave me opportunities within the TAFE sector, ultimately leading to managing programs for the Institute and working in the commercial sector. My current position allows me to indulge in my passion for business along with developing training opportunities for people like myself, who have found themselves in a limited capacity to develop a career because of personal circumstances. I firmly believe that education is the greatest investment you can make in yourself.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

I know this is going to sound cliché… however I admire Richard Branson. Richard has boundless enthusiasm and an absolute sense of self that allows him to stretch and grow his business while continuing to challenging himself and inspire his employees. The Virgin group is as diverse and vibrant and the founder.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

I want to work for myself again. I want to build an enterprise that I can be immensely proud of; one that inspires others and provides opportunities for employees to feed their ambition and achieve their own personal success.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Education, education, education! I can’t stress enough how important it is educate yourself. Education is powerful. Be open to ongoing learning, whether that takes place in the traditional sense or through mentors. Gather people around you who are positive and generous with their time and knowledge and then reciprocate and pay it forward to people who you can assist and influence. Aside from gaining a qualification, studying builds self-confidence and develops a broader understanding of the world and how it works. Share everything you learn.

Do you know someone whose career story should reach a wider audience? Please let us know!

 

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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