The CV Blog

How to be a career trailblazer

Donna preparing for the Oxfam challenge

About nine months ago my gym partner Emma told me she was planning to do the Oxfam 100km Trailwalker for her 40th year and wondered if I’d be interested in joining her in a team for the challenge. Thinking that it had been a long time since I’ taken on a personal challenge (excepting parenthood!), I jumped onboard. It seemed a distant goal but all of a sudden it’s just two weeks away.

As I reflect on my preparation, I can’t help but notice parallels between setting and actioning this goal and career goals, especially for return to work parents. There have been umpteen obstacles including a nagging knee injury, negotiating time away from family for lengthy training sessions; buying new equipment; preparing and testing food, footwear, and pack contents; the cost and time for podiatry and physiotherapy appointments; and even arranging occasional childcare.

I have had to become fit for the task which has required significant commitment and training. I have had to seek counsel and support from others when a couple of people suggested I wasn’t doing enough training. These comments led to a few days of self doubt until I was reminded of my tenacity and previous achievements.

Communication has been key to the preparations, whether it be at home, with team members, experienced friends or those we met on the track. The experiences of others has built my confidence; helped me to anticipate and prepare for the challenges; and basically given me a deeper understanding of what’s ahead.

We had a couple of really painful training sessions but never did any of us think that we’d give up or drop back to the shorter distance – we have continued to focus on our goal and HOW we will make it happen. I’m really looking forward to seeing all our hard work pay off on 17 June 2016. Whatever the outcome, I know that I have done what I can to prepare for this exciting challenge. If you’re not already, try giving some of these strategies a crack in your career planning. I’d love to hear how you go.

If you’d like to support our team, the Wander Women and the amazing work of Oxfam, head on over to the teamspace.

Ways to get shortlisted for interview

Anne text

The message above arrived last week from one of my working mum clients, Anne. I get them a bit and they’re one of the highlights of my job as a career coach – I love the feeling I get when I’ve helped someone to achieve a result.

I had worked with Anne in the past to plan a career direction so it was natural for her to reach out to me for some job application support when she identified a role that she really wanted. We worked together to ensure that Anne’s application stood out and that it did.

So why did Anne’s application impress the interview panel so much? Put simply, it clearly communicated to them that she possessed the skills, attributes and results to perform the role they were recruiting. The objective of any job application you write is to create the strongest possible link between you and the target role and this should guide all of your content.

If you’d like your next application to rise to the top of the pile too, here’s a few valuable tips:

  • Review the job information (eg. job advertisement, role description, and/or any discussions you have with the hiring company) and draw out all of their key requirements, eg. they may ask for an Information Technology degree, excellent communication skills, project management experience and strong customer service skills and you should demonstrate with specific examples how you meet each of these requirements in your application.
  • Include only what is relevant. The more you include that does not support the link between you and the role, the blurrier the link will become. For example, you wouldn’t usually include your responsible service of alcohol certification if you are applying for a role as an Accounts Clerk, except, in the very unlikely event that it’s in a wine bar and you may be required to help at the bar when others are on a break.
  • Ensure all parts of your application address their requirements – some recruiters won’t read your cover letter whilst others won’t read your resume unless you’ve hooked them with the cover letter so you need to cover both bases.
  • Use their words. The job criteria can be thought of as the keywords for a role. It is critically important to include these because they connect you to the role in the reader’s mind. Additionally, some companies use software, called applicant tracking systems, that search for these keywords and if they don’t appear enough, your application will not progress in the recruitment process.
  • Focus on results. Including your achievements, or results, differentiates you from other candidates because they back up what you’re saying and companies love results! When all applicants list duties it is very difficult to tell them apart because the roles have often been very similar. Results should generally be one sentence long and start with a past tense action word.
  • Less is more. Recruiters generally have less than one minute to read your application so create the link quickly, keep it to three pages or less with a 2 – 2.5 cm margin and use good spacing between paragraphs so it’s easy on the eye.

Give these strategies a go when writing your next application and let me know how you go. If you’d like more information, you can contact me on 0419 120 601 or

Looking to make a career transition?

career ahead

How are you feeling about your career right now? Is your work generally engaging and energising you? Do you ever find yourself day dreaming about making a career change? Chances are that even if you’re not thinking about changing careers right now it’s something that you will experience at some point in the future and if you’re like me, you’d like it to be as painless as possible.

So how do you work out what career to pursue next? Recently I have had a casual career counselling gig at a local university and what has really shocked me is how often students select careers and courses without any research. Many of the students I have met have never spoken to someone in their target occupation.

My work with many private clients confirms that this is not a rare phenomenon, with many of us approaching our early jobs in this way. Having also gone through my own career transition from human resources management to career coaching several years ago I thought I might share some tips that will increase the success of your next career transition.   <Keep reading  on Champagne Cartel>

How to find the right job

How are you feeling about your career right now? Is your work generally engaging and energising you? Do you ever find yourself day dreaming about making a career change? Chances are that even if you’re not thinking about changing careers right now it’s something that you will experience at some point in the future and if you’re like me, you’d like it to be as painless as possible.

Read my recent blog for Champagne Cartel if you’d like some tips on how to go about it.

Unlocking needs leads to better parent/child relationships

raising children

I recently attended a course that I was hoping might give me some additional parenting tools. At 24 hours spread over four SUNDAYS, it felt a pretty big investment but then I do love personal growth and this parenting gig is one I take pretty seriously! Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), simply put, focuses on genuine communication between parent and child and basically assumes that conflict arises from an unmet need.

So here I am a month after the course and I can honestly say that it has been one of the most significant influences to my parenting style to date. So often we take some training and promptly forget what we learned, but in this case, I have successfully transferred the lessons to my real life and continue to incorporate and build on the skills I developed.

To illustrate the change, I’d thought I might share an example of an interaction that I experienced with my son which resulted in a totally different outcome as a result of using the P.E.T. approach. One morning Matthew said “Mum, I don’t want to go to swimming today”. Whereas I would have once said something like “well we’ve paid for the lesson and you have to go”, I tried my new skills instead. “So Matthew you don’t want to go swimming?” To which he replied “no”. I said, “That seems strange, you usually enjoy swimming, has something changed?” and he replied “Yes, I keep getting water up my nose when I swim backwards”. After some discussion about how he could tackle the problem we arrived at the idea that he ask his swim instructor if he had any tips on how to avoid the problem. We rehearsed the conversation in the car on the way and  I later watched my five year old confidently raise the issue with the instructor who told him “sure mate, you just put your chin here”. The pride and pleasure I felt when he reached the other end of the pool and gave me a thumbs up was immeasurable! The thing is, this isn’t an isolated example, as we continue to have honest conversations and enjoy more conflict-free time.

What I love most about my new P.E.T. skills is that I have the tools for more authentic conversations with everyone – family, friends, clients and colleagues. I also feel far more confident that our son will have an increased chance of not needing to recover from his childhood between my new skills and the ones that I can see him developing as he sees this needs-based communication modeled.

If P.E.T. training sounds like it’s for you, Kathryn Tonges, currently runs workshops on the Sunshine Coast and on the northside of Brisbane.

Are you going to be rocking 2016 too?

2016 road

How have YOU recovered from the Christmas holidays? It was our first big one and I managed to enjoy a month off work (well paid work anyway). It seemed to be just what I needed because I came back feeling super refreshed and very focused on setting and achieving some goals in 2016. I am feeling incredibly positive and excited about the year and thought I might share a few strategies that have contributed to me being in this space in case you find them useful too …

What makes you feel good? I got back in touch with some of the things I love over the holidays – comedy, music and connection which I found at the Woodford Folk Festival. I laughed heaps and enjoyed sharing the experience with some very positive people – putting me in an awesome frame of mind. If anyone else loves a bit of comedy I have recently heard about the Cardigan Bar at Sandgate where there a free comedy on the 3rd Wednesday of each month (thanks Shelley – August 2015 workshop!)

Mind too crazy to meditate? I started this for just 20 minutes a day and cannot believe how clear and focused my mind has been and the huge increase in my ideas since. Last year when I interviewed Suzie Aron on Triple YYY we talked about meditation (on or off the air) and she told me one of her mentors had suggested sticking with it even when we experience ‘monkey mind’ (which was always my problem) because it is about ‘the practice’. It was true, after a couple of weeks my mind settled right down – the thoughts didn’t go away but those monkeys weren’t going bananas either. I have been using the ‘Simply Being’ app which allows me to adjust the time and control the music if needed but there’s also lots of others around.

Have you set any goals for this year? Planning some business and personal goals for 2016 has left me feeling so focused and efficient with my time. I am now about to think about what I’m doing and how this relates to what I want to achieve this year. Some of my key goals include delivering four CareerSmart Mums workshops (the dates have all been set), creating an online version of the workshop, and writing a workbook so that mums can access support irrespective of their budget. I’m also going to offer some networking events and travel overseas!

It seems to me like there’s a really positive vibe around 2016 – I hope that it is a fantastic year for you and everyone around you! If you know anyone who might benefit from CareerSmart Mums there is a workshop starting on 29 February 2016 at Everton Park.

Finding flexible work

woman working with son

The challenge of finding flexible work is something that our clients frequently raise as a key barrier to balancing paid work and family. If you’re looking for flexible work you might like to check out the article Donna wrote for the School Hours website recently. Click here.

Supporting parents gives a laugh

This morning I finally met up with Leigh, the Director of School Hours Pty Ltd. I have been communicating with Leigh by email for some time now because I regularly promote School Hours as a flexible work resource in CareerSmart Mums workshops and wanted to know more about the site.  When I arrived at the designated coffee shop, I noticed a male sitting at an outside table and also that there were very few other patrons.  I approached the counter staff and asked whether “L-e-i-g-h” was a male or female name in their experience.  As we wondered and chuckled, the seated male rose and walked into the coffee shop, clearing up the answer to the question. Turns out that my assumption that I was communicating with a mum all this time was totally wrong!

The element of surprise didn’t stop there.  It was awesome to hear the School Hours story and to recognise our shared passion for supporting return to work and working parents.  Leigh offered me some wonderful ideas and tips and I’m super excited about future possibilities in our respective quests to support parents.

A chat to another career mum

Last Sunday (yeah Sunday …) saw me chatting to an inspiring lady, Sarah, who has set up a brilliant website to support return to work mums.  I had heard about the site a while ago and finally reached out to find out more – great decision I’d say! So lovely to connect to other women keen to support parents.

Sarah set up Career Mums after searching unsuccessfully for resources to support her own return to work.  The site contains valuable ideas, suggestions and resources to support return to work and working mums. I particularly love this  Career Mums view:

There is no ‘right way’ to balance a career with being a mum, the ‘right way’ is your way.

If you are thinking about transitioning back to work check out Career Mums today.

Mentors Matter

Mentoring AdviceAs I sat waiting to catch a plane to my industry association’s national conference recently, I reminded my friend Jo, of our one year anniversary.  It was at last year’s conference that Jo had kindly offered to mentor me during my transition from human resources to the career industry.  Although I had a mentor through a university scheme, I jumped at the offer because Jo had taken a very similar path to the one I was embarking on and I figured the more access I had to skilled people on my journey, the better.  As it turns out, I haven’t exactly been monogamous in my mentoring relationships, having also enjoyed a couple of other very valuable informal relationships last year.

I actually can’t imagine having got to this point without access to these wonderful people (at least without much more pain, many more mistakes and much more time).  So what has come out of these relationships, you might ask?  Collectively, the benefits included work experience through placements, enhancing my technical skills through supervision and case meetings, expanding my network, recommendations for opportunities and actual work, developing a referee in my new industry (which helped me obtain consulting work) and learning about setting up, and running, a small business.

Potential mentors are all around us, whether it be in the workplace or the community.  Ideally the discussion of mentoring would happen when you know, or have developed a relationship with, the potential mentor because this will allow you to assess their suitability and potentially increase their comfort in taking on the role.  Yesterday I had the pleasure of connecting with a very experienced professional in my industry (I sent her an email after seeing her speak at a professional development session a little while back).  As we left the coffee shop, she said that she would be happy to continue to catch up, even in a mentoring capacity.  Although the thought had crossed my mind, it was lovely that it happened quite organically.  I will definitely be adding this person to my network of mentors which will allow me to call on others a little less and give me the opportunity to observe another style and skillset.

Whatever your stage of career, you are likely to find a good mentoring relationship valuable.  It can be a great way to grow into or out of your role, transition roles or industries, expand your network, increase your organisational knowledge, or to be challenged in a supportive context. Do you have a mentor?  What have been the benefits of the relationship?  If you don’t, is it time to consider it?