In this blog post, I will describe what happened to me when my agency was suddenly downsized, and will offer some tips on how to take the catastrophe out of redundancy. When the Commonwealth Public Service job cuts started in late 2013, I used to laugh when people would ask me if I was worried about redundancy. “of course not,” I would say, “the government will always need legislative drafters. And besides, I’m blind, a woman., and a union delegate. They wouldn’t dare!” I couldn’t have been more wrong. One day, we were all called into a meeting and were told that our agency was going to cut the number of legislative drafters by half. We would all be interviewed for our current jobs, and those who were ranked in the top 50 % would keep their employment. The rest would be offered voluntary redundancies. After the meeting, I shut myself in my office and just sat there for half an hour, sipping water. I couldn’t think, and all my bravado had disappeared. Then the questions flooded in – why should I have to apply for a job that I already applied for and won? What happens if I’m not in the top 50 %? Should I take a package, or take my chances trying to find a job during the redeployment period? What happens if I can’t find a job? How will I pay the mortgage? Know That Your redundancy is not the catastrophe it feels like If you have just found out that you may be made redundant, I promise you you’ll get through it. I’m living proof! It may feel like the roof is falling in, but it’s just creaking ominously overhead, and you’ll be OK. When Applying For Jobs Give It Your All A couple of weeks after the announcement, I had to reapply for my job. I really struggled with the injustice of this, as I had applied for and won my job on merit 7 years before, and felt that I had gained 7 years of valuable experience, and was really quite good at my job. I fell into the trap of feeling that I didn’t really need to justify my case for keeping my job. When I had applied for, and won, jobs in the past, I had always approached the application and interview processes with the attitude that “this job is mine, and if I don’t get it, it’s my fault for not making the panel understand that I am the best person for this job” Unfortunately I wasn’t able to write my application with this attitude. The interview was even worse, and by the end, I almost felt like getting down on my knees and begging to stay. I hadn’t put my whole heart into the process, and this is one of the reasons why I was not successful in keeping my job. So, if you have to go through a “spill and fill” process as I did, or you decide to apply for another job, apply for it as if your life depended on it. Build up your belief in yourself, and convince yourself, and the panel, that you are the only one who can do this job. Give it your whole heart! Join Your Union I can’t tell you how grateful I was for the support of the CPSU. From the time I found out I had to reapply for my job until my last day at work, they were in almost daily contact with me, keeping me updated, and just seeing how I was. They also advised me on the interpretation of my Workplace Agreement, which was extremely helpful. The good thing is, even if you hadn’t been a union member like I had, you can always join as soon as you find out that things aren’t going as expected, and you will get help and support from day one of your membership. Consider All Your Options As I had not been successful in keeping my Job, I had to decide whether to take a voluntary redundancy, or stay on the redeployment list for up to 3 months until a job was found for me. Both options terrified me. I’d I’d specialised and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to go back to general law work, and there was a job freeze on at the time, so new jobs were few and far between. I was offered the opportunity to join a friend’s network marketing business, and this was the first time that I considered that perhaps I could do something outside of Government. With the help of a coach, I used an online tool called Career Storm Navigator, to assess my skills, strengths, values, style and goals, and consider what careers would suit me. It was only then that I realised just how many options I had. I am now licensed to guide others through this tool, so please contact me if this interests you. Seek Financial Advice This is extremely important, whether you are considering taking a voluntary redundancy or not. Make sure that you get advice from someone who is qualified in both tax and superannuation matters. There are agencies who are not linked with superannuation companies, but who can provide unbiased advice. I used Stateplus for my superannuation advice, and Lifestyle Advisers for my tax and other financial advice. Make A Budget I looked at my finances over the previous two years, and worked out what I could do without, for a substantial period of time, and what I couldn’t. By the end, I had worked out, down to the last cent, what I could sensibly live on. This will show you how long your savings will support you while you look for work, and will also give you a good idea of the minimum income you will need to earn. Find Good Coping Mechanisms The period between the day I found out that I had not been successful in keeping my job, and the day I accepted my voluntary redundancy were extremely hard. I was feeling all sorts of emotions ranging from depression and rejection to anger and loneliness, and the reactions of my colleagues towards me were equally varied. My employer had an Employee Assistance Program, and I was able to obtain free counselling from them, and was given some great coping strategies. So see if your employer has such a program, and get in touch with your Employee Assistance Program provider for help. Take Advantage Of Everything That Is available To You Look closely at the provisions of your Workplace Agreement as this will provide for any entitlements you may be eligible for when facing redundancy I was, for example, able to get reimbursed for the cost of obtaining financial advice, and my employer also paid for some short retraining courses that interested me. This May be An Opportunity For A fresh Start At the time, I felt that my redundancy was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Now, looking back, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Why redundancy was the push I needed to follow my dreams and start my own business. What Next? If you are facing redundancy or job loss and don’t know what to do next, please just reach out to me.

How To Take The Catastrophe Out Of Redundancy

In this blog post, I will describe what happened to me when my agency was suddenly downsized, and will offer some tips on how to take the catastrophe out of redundancy.

When the Commonwealth Public Service job cuts started in late 2013, I used to laugh when people would ask me if I was worried about redundancy. “of course not,” I would say, “the government will always need legislative drafters. And besides, I’m blind, a woman., and a union delegate. They wouldn’t dare!” I couldn’t have been more wrong.

One day, we were all called into a meeting and were told that our agency was going to cut the number of legislative drafters by half. We would all be interviewed for our current jobs, and those who were ranked in the top 50 % would keep their employment. The rest would be offered voluntary redundancies.

After the meeting, I shut myself in my office and just sat there for half an hour, sipping water. I couldn’t think, and all my bravado had disappeared.

Then the questions flooded in – why should I have to apply for a job that I already applied for and won? What happens if I’m not in the top 50 %? Should I take a package, or take my chances trying to find a job during the redeployment period? What happens if I can’t find a job? How will I pay the mortgage?

Know That Your redundancy is not the catastrophe it feels like

If you have just found out that you may be made redundant, I promise you you’ll get through it. I’m living proof!

It may feel like the roof is falling in, but it’s just creaking ominously overhead, and you’ll be OK.

When Applying For Jobs Give It Your All

A couple of weeks after the announcement, I had to reapply for my job. I really struggled with the injustice of this, as I had applied for and won my job on merit 7 years before, and felt that I had gained 7 years of valuable experience, and was really quite good at my job. I fell into the trap of feeling that I didn’t really need to justify my case for keeping my job.

When I had applied for, and won, jobs in the past, I had always approached the application and interview processes with the attitude that “this job is mine, and if I don’t get it, it’s my fault for not making the panel understand that I am the best person for this job” Unfortunately I wasn’t able to write my application with this attitude. The interview was even worse, and by the end, I almost felt like getting down on my knees and begging to stay. I hadn’t put my whole heart into the process, and this is one of the reasons why I was not successful in keeping my job.

So, if you have to go through a “spill and fill” process as I did, or you decide to apply for another job, apply for it as if your life depended on it. Build up your belief in yourself, and convince yourself, and the panel, that you are the only one who can do this job. Give it your whole heart!

Join Your Union

I can’t tell you how grateful I was for the support of the CPSU. From the time I found out I had to reapply for my job until my last day at work, they were in almost daily contact with me, keeping me updated, and just seeing how I was. They also advised me on the interpretation of my Workplace Agreement, which was extremely helpful.

The good thing is, even if you hadn’t been a union member like I had, you can always join as soon as you find out that things aren’t going as expected, and you will get help and support from day one of your membership.

Consider All Your Options

As I had not been successful in keeping my Job, I had to decide whether to take a voluntary redundancy, or stay on the redeployment list for up to 3 months until a job was found for me. Both options terrified me. I’d I’d specialised and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to go back to general law work, and there was a job freeze on at the time, so new jobs were few and far between.

I was offered the opportunity to join a friend’s network marketing business, and this was the first time that I considered that perhaps I could do something outside of Government.

With the help of a coach, I used an online tool called Career Storm Navigator, to assess my skills, strengths, values, style and goals, and consider what careers would suit me. It was only then that I realised just how many options I had. I am now licensed to guide others through this tool, so please contact me if this interests you.

Seek Financial Advice

This is extremely important, whether you are considering taking a voluntary redundancy or not. Make sure that you get advice from someone who is qualified in both tax and superannuation matters. There are agencies who are not linked with superannuation companies, but who can provide unbiased advice. I used Stateplus for my superannuation advice, and Lifestyle Advisers for my tax and other financial advice.

Make A Budget

I looked at my finances over the previous two years, and worked out what I could do without, for a substantial period of time, and what I couldn’t. By the end, I had worked out, down to the last cent, what I could sensibly live on. This will show you how long your savings will support you while you look for work, and will also give you a good idea of the minimum income you will need to earn.

Find Good Coping Mechanisms

The period between the day I found out that I had not been successful in keeping my job, and the day I accepted my voluntary redundancy were extremely hard. I was feeling all sorts of emotions ranging from depression and rejection to anger and loneliness, and the reactions of my colleagues towards me were equally varied.

My employer had an Employee Assistance Program, and I was able to obtain free counselling from them, and was given some great coping strategies. So see if your employer has such a program, and get in touch with your Employee Assistance Program provider for help.

Take Advantage Of Everything That Is available To You

Look closely at the provisions of your Workplace Agreement as this will provide for any entitlements you may be eligible for when facing redundancy I was, for example, able to get reimbursed for the cost of obtaining financial advice, and my employer also paid for some short retraining courses that interested me.

This May be An Opportunity For A fresh Start

At the time, I felt that my redundancy was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Now, looking back, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Why redundancy was the push I needed to follow my dreams and start my own business.

What Next?

If you are facing redundancy or job loss and don’t know what to do next, please just reach out to me.

Unhappy looking woman looking over her shoulder at a man who is speaking harshly to her

Bullying At Work, and What I Learned

What is Bullying?

Safe Work Australia defines bullying as:

“repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed to a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”.

Bullying can include such behaviours as:

  • Abusive or offensive language or comments;
  • aggressive and intimidating behaviour;
  • belittling or humiliating comments;
  • practical jokes or initiation; and
  • unjustified criticism or complaints.

Reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way is not bullying.

My experiencE of Being Bullied At Work

I was bullied at work in the mid 2000’s. I didn’t recognise it as such until afterwards, when a friend put the name “bullying” to what I was describing.

The person doing the bullying was my then supervisor. Let’s call her Veronica for the purposes of this article.

Veronica worked part time, and had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. She would often give me a large piece of work to do, some time on Monday, and ask me to have it completed before 5pm Monday.

This often put me under extraordinary pressure, as the work was more than could reasonably be completed in the short time available. But I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps Veronica was requesting this so that she could look at the work whilst she was at home.

However, I found out that Veronica very rarely took my work home, and it usually would sit on her desk until she got back on Thursday. So, the deadlines were arbitrary and unnecessary.

Once I did receive the work back, there were often many criticisms, and I would usually have to completely rewrite it. Veronica would often tell me that I had not followed her instructions. She would say that she had asked me to do X, but my clear recollection was that she had asked me to do Y, which was quite different.

I could seem to do nothing right. I found this quite distressing, as I am someone who pays careful attention to verbal instructions, and will ask questions to clarify anything I don’t understand.

I eventually refused to take verbal instructions from Veronica, and would only accept instructions in writing, so I had written proof of what she had asked me to do. This made things a little better. However, Veronica then sometimes would replace my name on work with hers, without my knowledge, and then take credit for the work at meetings. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Veronica referred to me one day as her “worker bee”, which made me feel completely worthless.

My distress and anxiety increased over the months, until it got so bad that I would get chest pains whenever I heard Veronica enter the office first thing in the morning. The first time this happened, I thought I was having a heart attack! Thankfully though, it turned out to be stress related heartburn, for which I had to take medication for many months.

How I Handled It

I took a course on emotional intelligence, mainly to get out of the office for the day. The facilitator, Barbara Miller, was an organisational psychologist and a life coach, and so I asked her to take me on as a client to help me cope with what was going on at work.

Over a number of months, I worked with Barbara on rebuilding my shattered self-esteem, and implementing techniques for coping with stress. I learned that my value as a person wasn’t dependent on what others thought of me, but what I thought of myself. I started reciting positive affirmations to myself about my ability and my value during the bus journey to and from work each day. Finally, I began to really believe again that I was a person of value, who had something worthy to contribute.

After 3 months of coaching, I had the strength to do what I knew I had to do. I knocked on Veronica’s door, marched into her office, and told her that “her management style was making me ill”. I said that I would not work with her anymore, and that whilst I looked for another job, I would like to be transferred to another section and work with a different supervisor. Thankfully, she agreed.

I am so grateful to Barbara, and for the work we did together. It saved my sanity, and gave me the strength to get another job, where I worked happily for a number of years. It also taught me about the importance of drawing upon my own beliefs as the main source of my self-esteem, rather than relying entirely on others to make me feel good, or bad, about myself.

What You Can Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work

If you don’t want to do what I did and change jobs, you have a number of options.

Safe work Australia has a good page on bullying here. This page suggests:

  • Examining your workplace’s bullying policy and reporting procedure;
  • Asking the bully to stop their bullying behaviour;
  • Seeking advice from another person such as a supervisor, human resources officer or workplace health and safety representative (links to these are provided on the Safe work Australia Page);
  • Contacting your State Work Health and Safety Authority;
  • Contacting the Fair Work Commission; or
  • Contacting the Australian Human Rights Commission.

I would add to this list, contacting your union if you are a member.

Most importantly, please remember that you are not alone. Seek support where ever you can, from family, friends, colleagues or even a coach as I did. Please also, look after yourself.

Editors NoteThis post was first published on 3 June 2016, and has since been edited to update and expand upon the information in the original post.

image with the words lets learn and transition

8 Things You Should Do Before Looking For Another Job

Whenever things got bad at work, I used to look through the online gazette for jobs hoping I could find one that was better than the one I was in. But, when I did find something that looked good, I’d either get scared and not apply for it, in case it was the same or worse than the one I was in, or I’d decide that it was all too hard and not apply for it, as I wasn’t prepared. So, if you’re sitting at your desk, contemplating looking for jobs, here are 8 things that I highly recommend that you do before you even think about doing that. If you do these things first, you’ll be prepared to apply for that exciting sounding job, and will be less scared of the unknown, as you’ll know exactly what you want.

1. Update your CV or Resume

I can’t stress enough how important it is to do this regularly. There’s nothing that will raise your anxiety levels higher than finishing a job application the night before it’s due, and realising that you haven’t updated your CV for 5 years. Trust me, I’ve been there!

So take some time to update your CV at your leisure, so you can do it right. Find the duty statements for all the jobs you’ve done, and take plenty of time to cast your mind back into the past and remember all you’ve achieved since you last updated your CV.

Get a friend or colleague to check it over for errors, and if it really needs an overhaul and you’re stuck, get some professional help.

2. Reflect upon your past and present careers

While you’re updating your CV, this is a great time to reflect on your past and present jobs. Give some thought to what you liked about them, and what you didn’t.

Think about what satisfied you most about each job, and see if there’s a common thread. This will be something you’ll want to look for when considering whether to apply for jobs in the future.

Similarly, consider the things that dissatisfied you most about each job. You’ll want to avoid these in the future, if possible.

When I did this, I discovered that I was happiest in the jobs where I was helping people, an I was most unhappy when I was being closely managed.

3. Make an inventory of your skills

This is also a great time to make an inventory of your skills. Don’t just stick to your work related skills, but also consider the other skills you have.

You’ll always be happier doing a job where you’re using your best skills. also, this list will be useful if you want to change careers, as it will point you to other career options. It’s also a good chance to decide whether you might like to update your current skills, or gain some new ones, in order to expand your career options.

I was able to get my employer to pay for me to do 2 short courses, one on technical writing (as this was something I thought I might be good at), and one on starting a business.

4. List your interests

If you are thinking of changing careers, it will also be very useful for you to list as many things as you possibly can that interest you. These will not only give you ideas for different types of careers, but may also jog your memory to start that hobby you’ve been putting off for ages.

5. Consider your personal qualities and values

These are what make you unique, and will show what sort of work environment you’re best suited to, and the people you’d be most happy working with.

You won’t want a slow paced job if you thrive on the adrenaline of a tight deadline, and you won’t want an open and noisy work environment if you work best by yourself when it’s quiet.

You may not be as happy in a job if the people you work with have different values to you. I was in a job like that once, and while I loved the work, I never felt like I quite fitted in with my colleagues when we socialised after work, which was strongly encouraged.

6. Consider your goals

I’m someone who likes to run away and hide when people ask me to write down goals. But what I’m suggesting you do isn’t really as daunting as it sounds. Just give some thought to questions about the quality of your life, like:

  • How much do you need to earn to keep up with your bills?
  • Do you want to spend more time with your family?
  • How is your work life balance looking?
  • Do you want to take more holidays, or a different type of holiday?
  • Do you have the time to do the things you most enjoy? etc.

This will get you thinking about what you want your future to look like, and how your job will fit into that. If you’re not comfortable with long term goals, just look ahead a single year.

7. Brainstorm career options

If you are thinking seriously of a career change, use what you’ve listed in the points above, and start brainstorming different career options. This may take some time, and a good deal of research.

Find out as much as you possibly can about the careers you are interested in. If you can, talk to people who work in those careers, and see what a day in that career would look like for you.

When I was doing this, I didn’t have the luxury of time, as I only had 3 months to decide what to do. I knew I wanted to start a business, but didn’t know what. So, I jumped into a business which wasn’t quite right for me. Having said that, I don’t regret a single day in that business, as it lead me to do what I’m doing now.

8. Build your belief in yourself

If you are seriously thinking of changing jobs, there will come a time when you have to apply for one. Truly believing that you are the best person for the job is vital if you are going to win that job. After all, if you don’t believe that you’re the best one for the job, the panel won’t either.

I read a blog post the other day which said that if there were two people with identical skills, where one believed in themselves and the other didn’t, the one who did would be 90% ahead of the other one. Click here to read the whole post.

Let me tel you about 2 very different jobs I applied for. I read the selection criteria for the first job, and decided that I really wanted it. Before I started writing the application, I wrote down all the reasons why I deserved that job, and why i would be very good at it.

By the time I walked into the interview, I felt that that job had my name on it and, if I didn’t get that job, it would be entirely my fault, as I wouldn’t have done a good enough job of convincing the panel that I was the best one for the job. Needless to say , I got the job.

In the case of the second job, when I read the selection criteria, I knew I could do it, and wrote an application that was good enough to get me an interview. However, when I walked into the interview, I just couldn’t seem to muster up that feeling that the job was mine. A little voice in my head kept whispering “you might not get it”. That little voice was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as I didn’t get the job. I didn’t believe enough in myself, and so the panel didn’t either.

I’m not saying that self-belief will get you the job every time, but it will certainly put you a step ahead of those you’re competing against, who may not have that self-belief.

I am a career transition coach, and I passionately believe that no one should be stuck in an unfulfilling job simply because they don’t know what their options are, or are too scared to follow their dreams. I’m not an expert at writing CV’s but if you would like help in any of the other areas I’ve written about here, please contact me.

The 5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was In A Job That Made Me Miserable

image with the words lets learn and transition

It’s amazing how many people are miserable in their jobs. I know I was. Now, thankfully, I’m in a job that I love.

Here are 5 things that I wish I knew when I was stuck in a job that made me miserable.

1. You are not alone

If your job makes you miserable, remember that you are not alone.

I remember when I was in a job where I was being bullied. I felt so isolated and alone, as I thought I was the only one.

But, when I eventually plucked up the courage to tell someone what was going on, I found out that I was not the only one in the office, or even in our section, who was being bullied.

statistics show that 60% of Australian employees are miserable in their jobs. So, there’s a good chance that if you are miserable in your job, some of your colleagues probably are too. So, do some discrete asking around, and find people who are in the same position as you, and reach out to them for support.

Hopefully, you also have friends and family that you can reach out to for support as well. But remember not to dump everything on one person all the time, as it can get exhausting for them.

2. You always have the support of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

If you are a Government employee, EAP is a great source of support from trained counsellors and psychologists.

The great thing about EAP is that it’s free, and is not limited to work issues. It’s open to your family members as well as you.

I have used the service myself, and found it very helpful when I was going through the redundancy process. I was having difficulty coping with being in the office during my redeployment, as I felt very uncomfortable talking to my colleagues who had not been made redundant, as I felt they didn’t know what to say to me, and I didn’t know what to say to them. I felt that I didn’t fit in any more.

The psychologist I spoke to was able to give me some really good strategies for coping with being in the office, and dealing with the feelings of anger and rejection that I was experiencing. She even suggested that I speak to my employer about the possibility of working from home as much as possible.

I really recommend EAP as a great service for finding someone to talk to who is outside your workplace and not emotionally involved, who can give you some great coping strategies for whatever you’re going through at work. For more information, click here.

3. Finding great stuff to do outside work makes life much happier in general

I once was in a job in which I was miserable because I didn’t have enough to do. I know that’s very unusual these days.

So, I started selling Tupperware. It was great! I had something to look forward to every weekend, and sometimes in the evenings during the week. I was going out more than I had in the past, and was meeting lots of new and interesting people.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that you go out and sell Tupperware. But I do recommend that you find something to do after work, or on weekends, that you really enjoy. It will give you something to look forward to on a regular basis, and make it much easier to think about something other than work when you’re not at work.

4. Posting on social media may make you feel better in the short term, but the consequences could be serious

If your job makes you miserable, don’t post about it on social media. Seriously, don’t!

You never know who might see that tweet about how much you don’t like your boss, or that rant on Facebook about how much you hate your job. A friend of your boss might see that post, and pass it on!

If you are applying for jobs, this is particularly important, as there is nothing to stop a potential future employer from checking your social media profiles to see what sort of person you are. You wouldn’t want a future employer to decide not to employ you because they’ve seen a social media post from you complaining about your current job or employer.

I remember when I was doing some work for a nonprofit organisation a few years ago. They were in the process of negotiating a contract with someone, and just out of interest, someone in the organisation had a look at the twitter account of the new contractor. The account contained a number of tweets containing negative remarks about the nonprofit organisation, and so the contract negotiations were cancelled.

If you want to tell someone about how miserable you are in your job, tell your best friend, or your dog, or cat, or pet lizard, or whatever pet you have. Pets are so wonderful aren’t they? You can cry on their shoulders, or tell them anything, and they’ll keep your secrets.

5. Remember to take care of yourself

It’s so easy to forget to look after ourselves in times of stress, and turn to food, alcohol and other substances to make ourselves feel better. My substance of choice was alcohol.

While these substances make us feel better in the short term, it’s important to remember that long term overuse can lead to health problems such as weight gain, heart disease etc.

I used to find that exercise used to help me a great deal. I used to be a ballroom dancer. I could walk into a lesson in a fowl mood, and an hour later, would walk out feeling exhausted, but relaxed and happy. The same went for weightlifting years later.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. If you have any questions, or would just like to talk about anything that I’ve raised here, please contact me.