Gap years have become an increasingly popular option among high school leavers in Australia. According to research by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, around 20% of students who complete high school opt to take a gap year before they go on to further education. Benefits of taking time out from study (and away from home) may include the development of work and life skills, a clearer idea of career goals, increased motivation and a deeper world view – all of which add to individual employability further down the track!

But, what about taking a career break at another life stage? Jacking it all in at 30 to follow your dream of working with the turtles in Costa Rica? Or, quitting your long-term job at 45 to explore outback Australia in a campervan? Yes, the year will no doubt be an adventure-packed, inspirational, life-fulfilling experience. But, how will potential employers view your time out when you are applying for jobs 12 months later?

Here are a few tips to consider so your gap year doesn’t leave a gaping hole in your career path.

  • Take a career break when there is something you really, truly want to do. Work alongside local teachers in a school in Ghana, sail around the world, protect the turtles! Make the right choice and your motivation, enthusiasm and commitment will shine through to potential employers on your return.
  • When it comes to job application time, be sure to mention your career break:
    • In your resume, include dates, job title and organisation (if relevant) and location. Then single out key tasks and achievements, as with any position, particularly those that may have value in the role you are going for. Many skills are transferable – your gap year experience should stand in your favour!
    • Briefly explain your time out in your cover letter – and then show motivation for returning to paid employment. Wording along these lines does both: “I have just returned from 3 months in Costa Rica where I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to help research and protect sea turtles. I am now keen to apply my skills and experience to the role of project officer in your organisation.”
  • At interview, reassure employers that you’re not going to disappear off on your travels in six months’ time, while emphasising the valuable skills you have gained during your career break. For example: “Sailing around the world has given me an opportunity to develop my leadership skills and work with others in challenging circumstances. It’s something I’d always wanted to do, but now I’m ready to put down roots and focus on my career in earnest.”

Taking a career break in your 30s or 40s (or at any other time) may be seen as risky and unconventional, but time away from your everyday routine can bring benefits both to you and to your future employer. Rather than leaving a gaping hole in your career path, a gap year can pave the way to the future you want and deserve.

Jacqueline Fink of Little Dandelion in Balgowlah is an extreme knitter, as you may have read recently. She uses giant knitting needles and balls of wool to create a range of stunning knits, including blankets, throws and wall hangings. And social media has spread the love for her beautiful craftwork, spawning a whole community of extreme knitters around the globe. Fink’s is an unusual hobby, that’s for sure, and it got us thinking about the subject of including hobbies on résumés. Should you or shouldn’t you?

Opinion varies from one recruiter to the next. For some, personal interests are a big no-no: they are considered to be irrelevant – an unnecessary distraction on a formal business document. This group of recruiters won’t give your interests a second glance, choosing to focus instead on the professional experience and skills you would bring to a role.

Other recruiters may look at your hobbies as part of your overall application for a job. And there are two important reasons why:

  • Relevant skills: Your hobbies may suggest that you have some of the desired qualities for the role. This can be useful for job applicants, particularly those who have limited professional experience. A candidate applying for a junior management role may be captain of their local football team, for example. Someone applying for work as an apprentice mechanic may enjoy tinkering with engines in their spare time.
  • Adaptability: Showcasing a broad range of interests in a résumé can potentially be a benefit, especially for client-facing roles, like law and accountancy, where candidates need to build relationships with people from different backgrounds at different levels of seniority.

In a recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald, Jim Bright, Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU, suggests looking at the evidence, rather than opinion. He conducted a study about the presence or absence of hobbies on résumés with a large recruitment company in Australia. After sampling no less than 999 résumés, this was the team’s conclusion: “What we found was that the hobbies made precisely no difference whatsoever to hiring decisions.” Bright suggests that candidates lose the hobbies off their résumés and use the space for content that will increase their chances of getting shortlisted. Many recruiters and candidates would disagree. Hobbies remain a very subjective issue.

Should you choose to include your interests on your résumé, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Keep them until the end: Make sure you cover your professional experience and skills first.
  • Include some detail: Don’t just list your interests; add a little information that sells them to your recruiter.
  • Have something to say about your interests at interview.

So back to Jacqueline Fink, the extreme knitter from Little Dandelion we met at the beginning of this post. Instead of writing “extreme knitter” on her résumé and leaving it at that, she could perhaps expand along these lines: “I am passionate about extreme knitting – using super-size needles and wool to create unique objects and installations.” Would it give her the edge in landing the role? Possibly – and then again – possibly not. So much depends on the individual recruiter.

What is your view? Do you think you should use or lose hobbies on a résumé?

Mentors have existed since time immemorial. Many claim that the word derives from the name of a character in The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem that was probably composed around 700BC. The elderly Mentor was a great friend of Odysseus and trusted advisor to his young son Telemachus. Similarly, today mentors are often senior figures entrusted with providing advice to younger, more inexperienced employees. The aim: to help their mentees progress within their role, within their organisation, and – ultimately – within their chosen industry sector.

Mentoring can have significant benefits for the organisation, notably in terms of promoting a positive company culture, enhancing productivity and improving employee retention. Both mentor and mentee also stand to gain from a successful mentoring relationship through open, honest communication and feedback. Here are a few tips on how to get it right as a mentor:

Set a clear framework from the outset

In consultation with your mentee, decide how often you will meet and for how long. Also consider which communication channels you wish to use between meetings. Will your door always be open to your mentee, or would you prefer to receive emails from her on a particular day at a particular time?

Define goals together

Discuss and decide your mentee’s personal and professional goals with her. Your mentee’s input is a crucial part of this conversation; your role is to guide and support her in implementing a plan to achieve these goals.

Listen and learn from each other

It is often said that the mentor/mentee relationship is a ‘two-way street’ where the mentor has just as much to learn from the relationship as the mentee. Give your mentee the opportunity to express herself openly and honestly. Every individual has different ways of thinking and doing – and you may pick up an invaluable tip or two!

Let your mentee make mistakes

Provide honest, constructive feedback to your mentee, but allow her to follow her own vision and make mistakes. Learning from errors is essential to personal and professional development. Help your mentee analyse what went wrong and she’ll be able to move forward with confidence.

Be a positive role model

Lead by example not just in the mentor/mentee relationship, but in the wider workplace by demonstrating confidence, respect for others and clear, open communication. Celebrate your successes with your colleagues, but also share your failures. They show what you have overcome to reach the place you are today and will provide your mentee – and others – with a realistic perspective.

Being a mentor is both a privilege and a responsibility. Done right, it can benefit mentee, mentor and the wider business organisation.

With so much advice, tips and information out there on how to land your dream job I am feeling stressed from the sheer volume of what I need to know and I haven’t even interviewed yet.

We have put our heads together in the office and come up with a list of what NOT to do for your interview. Common sense… Most likely but we have taken the stories and comments from hiring managers we have heard over the years and compiled a list for you.

What not to do, to get that job

  1. Don’t be late for your interview

If you are running late call the hiring manager or recruiter and let them know. We understand stuff happens and it can be unavoidable but tell someone otherwise your punctuality will be questioned and it’s not a good look. On the flip side don’t be super early it’s annoying having you waiting in reception 45 minutes before. Turn up 5 minutes before the interview is scheduled.

  1. Wear appropriate clothes.

Have you heard the expression ‘dress to impress’ well it works!  Depending on the role you are going for, you may not need the full suit and tie but are shorts, singlet and thongs the best you could do?

  1. Don’t sit in reception on your phone

Turn your phone off or put it on silent, you don’t want it ringing during your interview. Take the time to observe and see what is going on, it’s amazing what you can see when you are not glued to your phone.

  1. Don’t smoke just before your interview

We understand it might help you to not be so nervous – but the smell will be noticeable no matter how many mints you chew.

  1. Do not take a takeaway coffee cup into the interview

We understand it’s the norm to walk around with a cup in your hand but now is not the time or place. It also makes it awkward when you go to shake hands and your hands are full. We won’t even go there with chewing gum!

  1. Don’t bag out your previous employees

Yes, your old employers might be awful but if you criticise them in the interview the hiring manager won’t be impressed and it’s a small world out there.  You may give the impression you could be difficult to work with.

  1. Don’t sit down before you are invited and bring your enthusiasm!

Wait until you are told to sit down, its common courtesy. Ensure your body language is sending the right signals. Make eye contact with the hiring manager, ensure you have a solid handshake and be happy, no one wants to chat with someone who is sour.

  1. Don’t answer the question with ‘it’s on my resume’

This is one of our pet hates, we want to hear your answer, how you articulate and communicate what you have done not just a one-word statement.

  1. Watch your language

Obviously swearing is off limits but how often do you say umm when you are talking or ‘like’ or do you finish your sentence with yeah. Practising some sample interview questions before your interview may help you to be more articulate.

We hope we haven’t scared you off with all our don’ts, be yourself and try to enjoy the experience no matter how nervous you may be. One last thing; treat everyone you meet with a smile from other people in the lift, the receptionist, to walking past desks towards the meeting room – these could be your potential colleagues, bosses and they will share their impressions of you later. Make sure you are seen in a positive light.

We would love to hear any stories or experiences you have had during your interviews from either side of the desk.

Social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have become part of our everyday lives. They are a great way to share information, ideas and images, but what you are telling the world about yourself each time you post? If a recruiter were to take a look at your timeline, what might they think?

According to a 2018 survey by US-based online employment website, CareerBuilder, 70% of hiring managers screen candidates’ social media accounts. What are they looking for? First, reasons not to hire you, such as posts about drinking and drug use, discriminatory comments or potential links to criminal behaviour. However, what managers see can also work in your favour and lead to a job offer. Big plus points on social media include evidence of creativity, professionalism and good communication skills. The message is clear: use social media to promote a positive message about yourself.

Obviously, this may be easier said than done, especially if you’ve been tweeting and posting for years without a second thought. Here, however, are a few ideas to polish up your online presence:

Ensure your profile looks professional

Where better to start than with your headshot? On LinkedIn, especially, ensure that you are appropriately dressed for the roles you are applying for. Tidy up your Facebook and Twitter profiles too so that anyone stopping by for a peek comes away with a good first impression.

Clean up your content

Take the time to go over your posts and photos and remove those that could be seen as unprofessional, inappropriate or offensive. If you are especially concerned, consider running a scan through an online reputation management site, such as BrandYourself or Removify. These providers will identify posts, updates and images that may be flagged during an online screening – and will then help you clean them up.

Think about what you are posting before you post

This applies to every social networking site you use. Post photos, information and comments that show you in a positive light. Use your privacy settings, but don’t believe that they will guarantee you 100% privacy. The reality is that your content can still be copied and communicated outside a private group of family and friends. Last year’s rant about your current employer might suddenly rear its ugly head!

Use an alternative channel to share news with family and friends

There are some great apps out there that enable you to share your photos and news selectively with a small group of people. Maybe now is the time to change your social media habits?

Remember, your digital footprint is permanent, so make sure you leave a good one for potential recruiters to find.

At Optimal Recruitment, we are always on the lookout for professional, positive candidates. To discuss current vacancies, please contact one of our team on 02 8416 4181.

Good choice! Australia is facing a growing shortage of truck drivers as road freight increases in importance and current drivers reach retirement age.

But what does the job involve? What qualifications do you need? And where can you find work? Find out more in our handy FAQ.

What does the job involve?

There is more to truck driving than driving a truck! You will also be expected to:

  • Load goods onto your truck – manually or with a forklift – and ensure that they are correctly positioned and securely strapped/covered if necessary
  • Safely transport goods to their destination
  • Carry out basic truck inspections and maintenance
  • Check on the condition of goods
  • Use a GPS/navigation system with confidence
  • Unload goods at your destination
  • Complete the necessary paperwork

What type of industry can I work in?

There’s a huge choice of potential sectors: construction, waste services, agriculture and warehousing, to name a few. So many goods are transported on our roads! Exact roles vary according to the sector you work in and the type of goods you transport. Driving a cement mixer truck will obviously be very different to transporting livestock from A to B. Some specialist roles, such as the transport of dangerous goods, require additional qualifications and licences.

What sort of hours can I expect?

Working hours vary – you may start early and finish late. Truck drivers may drive interstate and into rural and remote areas, so you may spend many nights on the road away from home. Some trucks are kitted out with bunks, a fridge and television for this very reason.

What qualifications do I need?

To start: a clean driving record. You will also need to pass practical and knowledge tests and an eyesight test to gain your heavy vehicle licence.

There are five different categories of licence:

  • LR: Light rigid
  • MR: Medium rigid
  • HR: Heavy rigid
  • HC: Heavy combination
  • MC: Multi combination

You can’t go straight from a class C (car) licence to an MC licence! You need to have held a class C licence for at least one year before you can apply for an LR or MR licence, and for at least two years before you can apply for an HR licence.

To apply for an HC licence, you need to have held an MR or HR licence for least one year. And to apply for an MC licence, you need to have held an HR or HC licence for at least one year.

There are a number of qualification routes, but most people choose to complete a Heavy Vehicle Competency Based Assessment (HVCBA) with a Registered Training Organisation to gain their licence.

To read more about the HVCBA route and to find a Registered Training Organisation in your area, click here.

For more information about the heavy vehicle licence types and requirements in NSW, click here

What is the pay like?

According to the government’s Job Outlook, full-time truck drivers currently earn around $1,300 per week, although pay may be lower than this for newly-qualified drivers, and higher for those with more experience.

Where can I find work?

  • Approach companies directly – some may take on newly-qualified drivers and train them on the job.
  • Check out online job ads.
  • Register with recruitment agencies.

It can be difficult for newly-qualified drivers to find work, as many roles require at least one year’s practical experience. Don’t give up! The future is bright for the truck driving profession.

Useful sites

Australian Government Job Outlook https://joboutlook.gov.au/occupation.aspx?code=7331

NSW Roads & Maritime Services http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/business-industry/heavy-vehicles/licence/index.html

Australian Trucking Association http://www.truck.net.au/

 

If you hold a heavy vehicle licence and are looking for truck driver opportunities, please call the Optimal Recruitment team on 02 8416 4181.