Being happy helps everything!

Are you feeling ‘stuck’ at the moment? It’s something that many of us feel at some time or another and it’s a situation I come across a lot in my work as a career coach. It’s difficult to separate the different parts of our lives – if career isn’t working for us it’s going to impact on our general happiness and likewise if we’re not feeling happy with other aspects of life, it’s going to influence the way we feel about ourselves and our work. Have you  noticed how exaggerated everything can feel when something seems crappy?

About four months again I initiated a gratitude practice with a group of friends after hearing about Pam Grout’s practice on a Sean Croxton Sessions podcast. I’d been interested in gratitude for a while due to the positive psychology research proving that it can enhance our life satisfaction and wellbeing but had struggled to maintain a daily gratitude diary. Often as my head hit the pillow I’d remember that I didn’t record that day’s gratitudes. While I’d mentally note them, I found it difficult to be consistent.

Our current practice involves a daily text to members sharing three gratitudes. Not only has this helped me to recognise the many things I have to be grateful for, it has created the unexpected benefit of allowing me to vicariously live the joy of each member of our group. Our group recently got together and everyone agreed that the practice was positively affecting their mindset and quality of life. One of our members shared that she used to pray each night for help to fix her problems but as her practice developed has instead found herself thanking God for the great things in her life (what’s more she can so clearly appreciate them now). The accountability of the group, the reminder from seeing someone else’s pop up and the regular injections of joy have been key to success.

Here’s the framework for our practice in case you’re also looking for more happiness in your life:

  • 4 members (will go to a maximum of 5)
  • Each person sends a text containing 3 things they are grateful for each day at a specified time (eg. in the evening or you could do the following morning – we allow either)
  • Ideally we can’t say the same thing twice, encouraging you to dig deeper and recognise more of the great things we take for granted
  • Everyone needs to commit to sending the gratitudes even if they are not feeling it (that’s probably when it has the most effect anyway).

If you have any questions or would like to chat about gratitude or planning a career, reach out at or on 0419 120 601. Be happy!

“Every day may not be good but there is good in every day.” – Unknown

Is something holding you back in job search?

This week one of my clients in job search mentioned some advice she’d received – “The people who get the jobs are the ones who don’t give up trying”. While it has become clear to me with years of providing career guidance that job search is best viewed as a marathon than a sprint, I would argue that persistence alone isn’t always enough for success.

One of my past clients spent close to nine months smashing out around 200 applications to find himself shortlisted for just one role. His email enquiry with “Help” in the subject line definitely caught my attention. When I spoke to him in our discovery call I realised something wasn’t adding up and once I saw his resume I quickly realised what it was. This client was exiting the air force and his resume was peppered with terminology such as “garrison”, “regiment” and defence ranks.

Our work together focused on him altering his resume and tailoring it to specific roles so that his target market could understand it and see his fit for their roles. Sadly, there are many other ways that resumes might not be speaking to our audience.  My client went on to secure a new role aligned to his skills and interests about a month later (around his official discharge date), saying to me “Wow if I’d known that was possible I could have been playing golf for these past nine months rather than enduring all that rejection and stress”.

It’s worth noting that the more senior the role the longer it can take to land a position because there are less of them and organisations often apply more rigorous recruitment processes given the importance of the roles. Having said that, there are many occasions where I’ve seen clients at all levels go from what seems like no interest in their applications to having multiple offers simultaneously.

Yes, be persistent but if your approach isn’t working, please keep tinkering with it until you see better results. If you’re still not getting the results after a few months you might consider seeing a career coach to confirm that you are giving yourself the best chance of success.

Go forth and get those jobs!

Yes you can have a career after 50!

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This week one of my career workshop participants asked whether it is actually realistic to think a career change is possible in your fifties, especially after a break from paid employment. It’s not the first time this has come up in my careers practice so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic.

As someone who is turning 50 this year, I can see how my perspective on age has changed over time. I used to think that 50 seemed old but now I’m here I have to say I feel youthful, fit and healthy and love that I have wisdom and significant work experience to complement these attributes. I have absolutely no doubt that I still have a lot to offer the world of work and can demonstrate that.

I guess this brings me to my first point, mindset. What are you own thoughts about your employability? If you think companies are not going to want you, guess what, you’re right! You will go into the process inadvertently looking for signs that they are judging you as too old for the role, particularly if the interviewer(s) are younger, and this will unconsciously impact your performance. It is important that you get in touch with your skills, strengths and achievements and go into the process feeling confident and knowing how you can add value to the target role.

One of my past clients found herself unemployed in her 60s after her position was made redundant. While she wasn’t planning to embark on a totally different career path, she said to me “I don’t think I’m going to get another job because I’m too old”. I had no problem convincing her that I felt she would be successful because she had had a wonderful attitude and many achievements and skills to offer a future employer. While it took around two months, and some proactivity on the part of my client (she took her resume to organisation she was interested in working for), she secured an excellent position with a great company which was replacing a retiring staff member.

Knowing, and being able to communicate, what you can contribute to a company is paramount to success. Take stock of your skills, prepare your achievement stories (refer to my 27 March blog – “How to Ace Your Interview Responses” for a guide to doing this), and focus on establishing a strong link between yourself and the role. These don’t have to be limited to a work context and can be transferable from previous roles.

A few years ago I attended a workshop at the Career Development Association of Australia’s (CDAA) annual conference discussing a study which looked at the outcomes for a group of unemployed mature age adults. Of the 55+ age group (155 people), 62.3% secured employment and 65% of those who placed in a role had undertaken a career and resume review, engaged in job search training and/or career coaching. This information suggested to me that age is likely not what restricts those of mature age from accessing employment.

If you don’t already have a good understanding of career development and what it takes to be successful in job search reach out to someone who does. If you don’t have those skills in your network, the CDAA has a great tool on their website to search for a career practitioner. Of course, you can always call Donna at Career Vitality on 0419 120 601 for local or remote career coaching consultations.

Simple Ideas for Choosing a Career

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Are you still wondering what you’d like to be when you grow up? Believe me, many people are! As a career coach I am often asked to help adult clients to find the answer to this question, or at least what they want to do next.

This used to be my least favourite type of work but I’ve realised that’s changing with experience and achieving some great outcomes with clients – I’m often now excited about going on a journey with clients to discover more about who they are, what excites them and what next career steps they want to explore.

Usually when working with a career change client we are able to draw out a lot of valuable information through conversation and some questions. We can all get so many valuable insights from our everyday lives. On the weekend I was camping with a friend who is wondering what occupations might suit her. I asked her what she had wanted to be when she was a child? What had been easy for her that others found difficult? What held her attention? When she said she had no recollection, I suggested she speak to those who were around at the time – parents, siblings, friends, etc.

Over the course of the weekend she spoke to a chef friend of ours and talked about her love of food – saying how she ‘gets food’. Her face lit up when she spoke. I asked her what her feelings had been towards cooking when she was young and she replied “OMG that’s it, isn’t it – it’s food”. I think she would have worked it out when she reflected upon her childhood but those moments of inspiration and insight can come at any time and in many different contexts and it’s about recognising them when we see them.

Have you ever experienced a strong pull to a particular activity in either your private or work life? I once went to a story telling event at the Woodford Folk Festival and walked away saying to friends that I needed to tell a story. It was the strongest compulsion and in the next few months I spoke at three story telling events and realised how much public speaking excites and energises me. One of our CareerSmart Mums guest speakers shared her experience of immediately recognising that she wanted to be a Lifeline counsellor when she heard a radio advertisement for them – bounding out of her car to write the number down. While not everyone might experience such moments, I suspect it happens much more than we recognise or act upon. Tune in to your intuition.

If you’re still wondering what to do when you grow up, a good starting point might be:

  • Think about what energises or engages you to the point that you don’t notice time passing
  • Consider what you wanted to be as a child
  • Be open to, and seek out, the clues around you
  • Reflect on what everyone has always said you are good at
  • Seek out new experiences, learn a new skill, be curious

If you need some help or inspiration, contact Donna on 0419 120 601 or Life’s too short to not love what you do.


LinkedIn, a No Brainer for Job Search

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As I work with career coaching clients looking to transition, I am thankfully seeing less and less resistance to LinkedIn, however, there are definitely still some people who are yet to appreciate LinkedIn’s capability for job search or the role it plays in many a successful job search campaign.

Last week I received a message from one of my career coaching clients who has landed a great new job in her professional field. She got the role by connecting with the principal of the company she’s now working with and then sending her resume to them. The principal contacted her to meet up for a chat which then turned into a job offer. This is far from an isolated event. Another client told me just today that he had been approached by two recruiters in the last week after updating his LinkedIn profile. The roles are both of interest and align well to his skills and experience, which of course were reflected in his new profile.

Past clients have told stories of being headhunted via their LinkedIn profile whilst others have been contacted by connections about roles after adding “Currently looking for opportunities” to their profile headline.

LinkedIn is a key element of your professional branding. If you have a profile you do need to ensure it does justice to your brand. LinkedIn ranks very highly on google so will generally be the first item that comes up in a search for your name. And yes, they really do search, as one of my clients unfortunately discovered before she’d updated her profile.

Here’s my top 5 tips for using LinkedIn for job search:

Use the LinkedIn job search tool, accessible from the main menu, to search for job titles and locations, similar to online job boards. You can set up a job alert to be notified of future vacancies. You can even ask LinkedIn to suggest jobs aligned to your career interests (which you enter and update), with an option to show recruiters that you are open to opportunities.

Create a future-focused profile, ie. one written for your next role. Include a well-written summary with common keywords related to your target role and a catchy headline.

Follow companies you are interested in working for as they will frequently advertise roles on their company page to the base of followers who are interested in the organisation. Some may not even advertise elsewhere.

Build your connections by reaching out to your network. Cast a wide net – the more people you are connected with, the greater the opportunities. If you have a network of say 100, and each of those people has a similar sized network, you might have access to as many 10 000 people, any of whom could know of an opportunity to suit you.

Build your recommendations and endorsements as these can confirm your value to a potential employer. Consider writing recommendations for others which may encourage them to do the same for you but you can also ask people directly.

Want more detail on LinkedIn for job search, check out the LinkedIn Guide on the Career Vitality website Toolkit? If working with a career coach sounds like it’s for you, call Donna for a no obligation conversation on 0419 120 601 or


Getting your superhero on for interviews

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Have you ever suffered from nerves before or during an interview? It’s a very common experience and one that my career coaching clients often raise. Of course it’s usually a sign that you’re interested in the role and that there is a bit at stake in the process. Ideally you do want to keep the nerves at bay as much as possible so that the interviewers get the best opportunity to see the real you and what you can offer.

One of the main anecdotes for nerves is preparation and you’ll find I’ve written a couple of past blogs to assist you with taking a structured and logical approach to your interview preparation. While this style of preparation is essential, here are a few other techniques that I often share with clients to help with nerves.

  1. Prepare to take some notes in with you. It is fine to refer them but often they act as a safety blanket and just knowing you have them is enough.
  2. Do some visualisation in the lead up to your interview. Picture yourself at the interview with everything playing out perfectly. See yourself calm and relaxed. Watch yourself answering all their questions well, observing the interviewers nodding while you speak. Consider playing this video over and over again in your mind as it acts as a great form of practice.
  3. Be present and breathe. Often our minds can be our worst enemy at an interview, worrying or projecting our fears. Get grounded by feeling your feet on the floor and/or bum on the seat and notice your breath coming in and out of your body. Fully being in the room can help to calm you down and focusing on your breath should leave little room for other thoughts that might unravel you.
  4. Think about the interview as a ‘conversation’, one in which you need to share certain information about yourself so that the interviewer(s) realise that you have what is needed to perform well in the role.
  5. Watch Amy Cuddy’s Power Posing Ted Talk ( I have had clients pose in the bathroom before their interview, on the drive there and in their bedroom before their video interview! These clients strongly believe the strategies in Amy’s talk improved their interview performance. I saw power posing used with my son and a group of other children learning how to do a rocking stage entrance at a festival event and am a convert after witnessing him standing on a chair, hand up, wanting to get on stage, behaviour that was completely out of character.

If you experience interview nerves, why not give these tips a go and let us know how it works out. If you think you’d benefit from some interview coaching Career Vitality would love to help you. Call Donna on 0419 120 601 or email

The career coaching paid for itself!

One of my early career coaching clients was a Teacher’s Aide with 17 years’ experience who wanted a career change. Her part-time role had really worked for her and the family in the past because of the hours and time off for school holidays. With her youngest child in their final year of high school, she was able to increase her hours just at a time that the school was scaling back hours as a result of reducing enrolments.

My client had no idea what she wanted to do next or how to go about getting a job. It had been a long time since she applied for a position and lots had changed with the advent of the internet. She recognised she needed help and decided to invest in career guidance despite her husband’s view that she was wasting both her time and money.

We started the process by looking at my client’s career story through an activity called a Timeline. By identifying everything she had ever wanted to be, was, or still wanted to be (including paid and unpaid roles) and then considering what had influenced her towards or away from these options we were able to draw out a lot of valuable information about her career preferences and influences. The next step was to identify what she liked or disliked about the roles and what tasks and skills she would like to take forward to future roles. Through this activity it became very clear that my client had a strong interest and aptitude for administrative work.

The next stage of our work focused on presenting her fit for administrative work in a market where she would be competing with career admininistrators. While we couldn’t change her Teacher’s Aide job title, we were very particular about presenting her administrative and other relevant transferable skills rather than the technical skills related to teacher’s aide work. It called for a very different resume and cover letter than if she were staying in the same field.

After only a couple of weeks my client successfully landed a full-time administrative role, managing to double her salary between the increased hours and the higher rate of pay associated with the administrative role. We both loved that she was able to silence hubby by demonstrating that the career coaching had paid for itself.

If you’d like to talk about how career coaching can help you, call Donna on 0419 120 601 or email

How to fast track landing your next job

Career Guidance Brisbane

Where do you look for roles when you’re in job search? Are you like many others who trawl Seek advertisements? There’s a bunch of different job boards out there but one thing they have in common is that they’re incredibly competitive because most job seekers focus on that channel.

When providing career guidance to my clients, I encourage them to think broadly to maximise their job opportunities. There is a strong view in the market that as many as 70% of jobs are not advertised and this is what we refer to as the hidden job market.

So how do you access the hidden job market? A great place to start is your network which can be a source of vacancies, referrals and support. Why not check out my You Tube video which steps you through an excellent tool for mapping out your network so that you recognise who can support your job search?

Direct approaching employers can get great results. I know of a woman who has never applied for a role but always keeps a resume in her car for when she comes across the right employer. Identify a number of employers you are interested in working for and send them your resume. Follow them on LinkedIn and visit their website careers pages to potentially access unadvertised roles. Work out if you know anyone who can provide an introduction to a person or company of interest as a referral can dramatically increase your chances of success. You might even write to a company with an offer to solve a problem they have or with a way to generate additional revenue into their business which has led to roles actually being created.

Consider including social media in your job search. I’ve had clients post on Facebook that they’re looking for their next opportunity and it’s been delivered to them. LinkedIn is also an excellent resource. While the platform advertises jobs, there are the additional benefits of companies posting vacancies on their pages which are only accessible to those following the company and you can easily see your network and network’s network to tap into opportunities and introductions.

Other valuable strategies include volunteering or enrolling in a course. Volunteering can be a great way to get experience and can lead to paid work. A course will build skills while connecting you with new network contacts and their benefits.

If you would like advice for accessing the hidden job market, or could benefit from some career guidance, call Donna on 0419 120 601 or email to book a free 15 minute consultation. We work with Brisbane clients as well as offering skype and telephone consults nationwide.

How to Ace Your Interview Responses

Interview Preparation Brisbane

One of my favourite activities as a career coach is preparing clients for interviews. They often come to me saying that the very thought of an interview gives them sweaty palms; recalling horror stories of mental blocks as soon as they’re asked a question; oblivious about how to efficiently prepare; and having minimal ideas about the process and what an interviewer is assessing. Fortunately they leave experiencing the opposite and frequently go on to get the job.

In the modern employment market we generally see behavioural or competency-based interview formats which you can recognise by their request for examples or use of words such as “Tell me about a time …” This format is underpinned by the concept that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour, ie. if you have successfully got an outcome in a previous role you are likely to be able to do so in their context.

Preparation is really the key to success. Here are a few tips that can make a big difference to your ability to effectively answer interview questions and stand out above other applicants.

  1. Develop a suite of your achievements/experiences (aka examples) using a model such as CAR (context/action/result) or STAR (situation/task/action/result). It is impossible to know exactly what questions an interviewer(s) will ask but if you have a comprehensive pool of examples to demonstrate the outcomes you have achieved in your roles, you will be well positioned to answer any question they may ask you.
  2. Note the competencies you demonstrated in each of your examples so that you can offer an appropriate example when you identify the competency being assessed by an interview question.
  3. Ensure that you use a specific example. Candidates have a tendency to generalise eg. “I often communicate with difficult people – I ask them what the problem is; listen to their perspective; observe their non-verbal communication; offer my view on the situation, etc.” If you want to maximise your interview results, it is preferable to talk about a specific interaction in more detail – eg. “I have had a number of experiences dealing with difficult people – for example, one of my colleagues at ABC Company frequently spoke to me, and other members of the team, with a dismissive tone which made me feel that he didn’t value our opinions. The situation escalated one day when he did this in front of one of my client managers. It had got to the point that I no longer wanted to work in the team. One day I met with my colleague and told him about my observations and how I was feeling. The colleague was surprised and indicated that he appreciated the feedback. From that point forward the colleague changed his behaviour and we were able to maintain a very effective working relationship.”
  4. Review and refresh your examples in the lead up to your interview, particularly taking into account the competencies required for the role.
  5. Take your notes/examples to the interview with you. While it is perfectly acceptable to refer to them, sometimes just having them can help candidates to feel more secure.

Any questions about this blog, interviews or career guidance can be referred to Donna at Career Vitality on 0419 120 601 or Good luck with your next interview.

Is my career over, I haven’t got a referee?

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As a career coach, I am often asked how to tackle not having a referee. Most employers expect to be able to contact a previous supervisor for feedback on your past performance, yet we’re not always in a position to provide a professional referee.

This situation can occur across all stages of the career journey. Perhaps you’re too nervous to tell your current supervisor you’re on the hunt; maybe your previous boss passed away; your earlier employment was overseas and you’ve lost contact with them; perhaps you and the boss didn’t see eye to eye; or you’ve taken some time out of the paid workforce or never worked before. Whatever the reason, don’t despair because there are a few ways that you might be able to get around the issue.

Past or current colleagues, or previous bosses, can make great referees. The hiring manager/recruiter basically wants to speak to someone who has observed your work so think laterally about who fits this bill – present and past clients or suppliers might even suit. Have you done any relevant voluntary work? If you need to dig deeper, you might consider presenting past written references, performance review information, performance feedback, LinkedIn recommendations, and/or awards that you have achieved. You can suggest to the hiring manager that you offer a personal referee to supplement what you are able to present. Offering the option of an extended probation may also tip them over to making an offer.

If you’ll need an opportunity to explain your referee circumstances, I recommend stating “Referees available upon request” on your resume (unless it is completely untrue in which case leave the heading out). This will allow you an opportunity to impress with your resume and interview before having the conversation about referees. I have a contact who was employed by a large corporate without a professional referee (she had taken a parenting break and worked for her husband for the preceding five years) but it went all the way to the CEO for approval. Always be honest with the potential employer and be prepared to work with them to achieve a solution.

If you want to be proactive in remedying the referee situation, you might consider volunteering or doing some temporary work which may not have the same rigour around referees but have the potential to lead to a referee.

Career Vitality offers 1:1 and group career counselling to individuals and organisations in Brisbane. We’d love to chat about how we can support you in your career. Contact us at