Career advancement checklist

If you’re serious about advancing your career, there are certain things you need to consistently do to keep moving forward.

The following checklist will help:

  • Create a career map and review it regularly. Your career map shows your desired career trajectory from where you are now to your ultimate career goal. The U.S. Newsarticle “3 Steps to Mapping Your Career Path” by Hallie Crawford explains how to create a career map by determining where you want to be in five years and then thinking backwards to your three- and one-year goals. 
  • Engage in skills development activities. When you know what your next career steps are going to be, you can also determine what technical skills you need to develop. Make sure to participate in activities that allow you to acquire these skills, such as employer-provided training, as well as self-funded courses. It’s also wise to develop your soft skills such as leadership and communication abilities. If you don’t have sufficient opportunity to practice all of these skills at work, look for other ways to do so, for example by participating in volunteer work or looking for side-gigs.
  • Ask your supervisor for stretch assignments. To advance, you need to show your current manager that you possess the ability to take on more responsibilities. You can do this by asking for stretch assignments, i.e. assignments that challenge you so you can further develop your skills and simultaneously gain more experience.
  • Participate in online and in-person networking opportunities. Who you know plays a critical role in your career development, since your contacts can alert you to opportunities, introduce you to other professionals, and even act as references for jobs. That’s why you should network on LinkedIn and other social media sites, as well as attend networking events at professional organizations.
  • Find a mentor. As you progress in your career, there are going to be obstacles and opportunities that you’ll need to navigate carefully. That’s where the advice of an experienced mentor can make a huge difference. A mentor is a seasoned professional who’s basically been where you are now and is in the position to give you sound advice. In addition, as Chris Myers points out in his Forbesarticle “Mentorship Is Key to Career Success for Young Professionals,” mentors can help accelerate your career by introducing you to opportunities you otherwise might not know about . 
  • Keep track of your professional accomplishments. Keeping a success diary or list of your projects, contributions, and achievements is essential to knowing how far you’ve come in your career. It’s also a great way to prepare for any promotions or job applications.

To make the most of this checklist, use it to review your career progression every three months. That way, you can keep track of what you’re doing so you can keep moving forward the way you want to.

PERSOLKELLY, a fresh face in recruitment

Today officially marks the start of a new era for many of us in the Australia and New Zealand recruitment industry.

I am proud to be a part of an amazing team leading the launch of a new white-collar recruitment brand into the Australian marketplace, PERSOLKELLY.

PERSOLKELLY brings together the legacy and experience of four organisations that shaped the staffing landscape over the past century and I’m proud to say (some would say it is fate) that I have worked with each through my own career journey:

  1. Kelly Services, who pioneered the modern temporary staffing industry globally in 1946
  2. SKILLED, who crafted the staffing industry in Australia in 1964 acquired by Programmed in 2015
  3. Programmed, the leading provider of operations and maintenance services across Australia and New Zealand after being founded as a paint service company in 1951
  4. PERSOLKELLY, the largest workforce solutions provider in APAC

I’ve had several moments where I have reflected on some of the amazing people who have been before us, the founders and then the custodians of these businesses, as we become the proud and now inaugural custodians of the new era.

When I worked at SKILLED, I remember seeing photos in Reception of SKILLED’s founder Frank Hargrave – who described himself as ‘a bum electrician who worked hard’ having lunch with the likes of Bob Hawke and John Howard, and then later working under the leadership of his son Greg. I was always intrigued by our Kelly Services history which was founded by William Russell Kelly in Detroit Michigan, who was an accountant before starting Russell Kelly Office Service – where Kelly sent one of his regular employees to work in his customer’s office for the first time, the billing for that first day was $6.75!

Then Programmed, when upon joining I was surprised to learn were one of the top 10 largest Australian employers after starting out as Miles Paint Services founded in Victoria, and PERSOLKELLY, which was previously the combination of one of Japan’s largest recruitment firms PERSOL Holdings and Kelly Inc. What a rich history contributing to our new journey.

I’ve also been fortunate to work with some amazing executives and colleagues at all four of the above-mentioned organisations. While many people have moved in different directions, I am forever grateful for the experiences, lessons and memories that have shaped and prepared me for this exciting new journey.  

PERSOLKELLY brings together the legacy and experience of four organisations that shaped the staffing landscape over the past century.

In establishing our new PERSOLKELLY brand, our team members have applied fresh thinking and an innovative approach in preparing for our launch in this constantly changing world we are currently in. If someone had told me that in 2020, we would be merging two companies (Programmed and Kelly) and launching new brand during a pandemic – largely through remote working and two teams getting to know, trust and build relationships with one another from a distance – I wouldn’t have believed it was possible. Yet we’ve adapted and thrived and developed a great platform of character which will assist our culture, our growth and success.

This year we have focussed hard on strengthening our customer partnerships across Australia and New Zealand with our focus in STEM, Government, Professional Services, ICT, Management and Executive staffing, leveraging our learning and insights gained so that we can achieve more for our customers.

Similarly, the opportunities that our employees and candidates will have access to as a result of partnering with our business will be unmatched.

I firmly believe that the depth and breadth of our expertise, combined with our technology and capability and our partnership with Programmed, Australia’s leading provider of operations and maintenance services, creates opportunities at any scale.

I am really proud of and excited for our PERSOLKELLY team who are joining me on this new journey. Their combined history, experience and passion for putting people-first is phenomenal; no challenge is too great when you’re as ambitious and driven as this team.

We’ll achieve more, together and I look forward to connecting great employers with great people.


Kurt Gillam
Executive General Manager

Leverage microbreaks to your advantage

Are you looking for a way to boost your productivity at work? Perhaps you should try taking microbreaks.

What are microbreaks?

According to Bryan Lufkin in his BBC Worklife 101 article “Microbreaks,” to “reboot” your brain, it’s helpful to take small breaks of 90 seconds to two minutes every 20 to 40 minutes. One study showed that surgeons who used microbreaks to stretch performed better in surgery and suffered less joint pain. Another study found that microbreaks boosted the focus of assembly line workers.

What should you do during a microbreak?

However, before you decide to check your Instagram account or text your BFF every half hour or so, it’s important to know that not all microbreaks are created equal. The Harvard Business Review article titled “Boost Your Productivity with Microbreaks” quotes assistant professor Charlotte Fritz, whose research shows that taking work-related microbreaks keeps people more energized than breaks that aren’t associated with professional activities. 

In other words, distracting your mind completely from the task at hand isn’t helpful. What you need to do is find a way to take a break without disengaging from work. For example, you could stretch for a few minutes while mulling over a challenge you’re working on. Or you could pause one task—such as writing a report—to take a look at the rest of your responsibilities for the day. You could even walk over to a colleague and ask his or her advice on something. The main thing is to stop focusing intently on your task and give your eyes and brain some relief without completely redirecting your attention. Then when you return to the task at hand, your brain should be re-energized and you should feel more productive.

What about longer breaks?

Of course, you still need longer breaks, too — and during those breaks, it’s best if you can disengage from work for a while. For example, you can do a 10-minute coffee run halfway through the morning or go for a brisk 30-minute walk during your lunch break.

Set reminders

If you’re someone who tends to lose track of time when you’re working, it can be helpful to set reminders on your computer or phone. There are also apps available to help you remember, such as Micro Breaks, a Chrome extension you can easily install in your browser.

Leveraging microbreaks can help you improve your focus, so give it a try — and you’ll soon see how they can help boost your productivity.

Missed out on a promotion? Here’s what to do!

Are your coworkers being promoted while you’re stuck in the same position? Or have you been in the same position for more than three years without your supervisor ever bringing up the subject of advancement?

If you’ve answered, “Yes!” to either of these questions, you might be losing your motivation to perform to the best of your ability in your job. However, it’s important to not let the situation compromise your performance. Instead, channel your energy into finding out why you’re not being promoted — and what you can do about it.

Possible reasons you weren’t promoted

There can be several reasons why you’re still stuck in the same position. Perhaps your supervisor feels you don’t yet possess the necessary skills or experience, and it’s just a matter of time. At the same time, another employee might simply have more experience and be a better fit for the position. And of course, there’s always the possibility that your organization isn’t planning on promoting anyone for the foreseeable future. This can happen in companies that have a relatively flat hierarchy and few titles.

Address the situation

Considering that recruiters and hiring managers like to see job growth on your résumé, it’s important for you to address the situation so you can keep moving forward. Keep the following tips in mind:

Remain professional. As Mike Guerchon points out in his Fortune article “The worst thing you can do after getting passed up on a promotion,” you can’t let negative emotions like disappointment or hurt affect your behaviour and actions. If necessary, take some time for yourself to process your emotions before you go back to work. You can’t risk getting angry with your supervisor or venting at your coworkers. Instead, redirect your energy into your performance.

Ask for feedback. In her article “The Realistic Way to Bounce Back When You’re Passed Over for a Promotion” for The Muse, Rachel Bitte advises seeking feedback from your supervisor. You’ll probably learn exactly how you can improve — plus, you might gain some insights into how decisions about leadership positions are made in your organization.

Look for other ways to gain more responsibility. Even without a title change, you can still advance, as Kathryn Vasel explains in her CNN Business article “How long should you stay at a job if you aren’t being promoted?” For example, ask for more challenging tasks or request to be put in charge of certain projects. That way, you’ll have more responsibilities to add to your résumé.

Why you should always be early for work

Do you always run late in the mornings? Do you find it challenging to get to your desk without being the last one in the office?

Being late can hurt your career

If you’ve answered “Yes!” to either of these questions, you might be doing your career more harm than good. According to a survey cited in Maurie Backman’s article A career-hurting habit that could tank your earnings for USA Today, on average, people who always arrive early for work make $2,500 per year more than those who are late. What’s more: They’re less likely to be let go.

Being early can be good for your career

In contrast, getting to the office early can be beneficial to your career. First of all, you’ll beat the traffic, so you’re much less likely to arrive at work stressed and tired. You’ll make a good impression on your supervisor, since showing up early clearly indicates your enthusiasm for your job. And you’ll be able to take advantage of the peace and quiet to work on more challenging tasks, as Stephanie Vozza advises in her Fast Company article This Is Why Being a Morning Person Will Make You Better at Your Job.

Time management tips
  • There are several time management tips you can keep in mind to make sure you get an early start:
  • Prepare for tomorrow. In her article The Bad Habit That’s Killing Your Reputation at Work for The Muse, Ruth Zive recommends getting the next day’s clothes and materials ready before you go to bed at night.
  • Go to bed on time and get eight hours of sleep. That way, you’ll be rested in the morning.
  • Set your alarm an hour earlier. It will give you more time to shower and grab a cup of coffee.
  • Leave half an hour earlier. Even just 30 minutes can make the difference between getting stuck in traffic and having a nice, relaxed commute.
  • Don’t try to do things before heading into work. Running an errand or having breakfast with a friend can easily make you run late. Schedule errands and meetings for after work or on the weekends instead.

It can be difficult to leave your nice, warm bed in the morning. But if you plan ahead for the next day and make sure you get sufficient rest, you’re more likely to wake up refreshed and ready to get to work before the rest of your team arrives.

How setbacks can make you a winner

Have you ever felt like things just weren’t going your way? That even though you did your best during an interview or worked hard on a project, you didn’t get the desired results?

If you’ve answered “Yes!” to these questions, here’s the good news – encountering setbacks might help you advance your career in the long run.

Exceptional achievers suffer setbacks early on

According to Ian Leslie in his BBC article “Why suffering setbacks could make you more successful,” a recent study in the U.K. investigated the roots of athletic success by conducting interviews with more than 80 coaches and elite athletes. It found that although most athletes encounter one or more setbacks early on in their careers, those who leveraged the failure as motivation eventually became exceptional achievers.

A related study from the University of Virginia found that Olympic silver medallists went on to become more successful in their post-athletic careers than gold medallists. Moreover, they lived longer. And other studies that don’t focus on sports have shown that many high achievers — including three of the four members of The Beatles — suffered setbacks early in life.

One explanation for this phenomenon could be that high achievers find a way to transform trauma into motivation. And in the long run, this motivation drives them to achieve more and more. 

Tips for overcoming setbacks

So how can you leverage setbacks to help you perform better and achieve more in your career? Keep these tips in mind:

  • Expect failures. If you’re working towards something that’s more challenging than anything you’ve ever done so far, you can’t expect to get it right the first time. Maybe it will take two tries, or three. Simply accept the setbacks as part of the process, and don’t let them knock you off course.
  • Surround yourself with supporters. In the CNBC article “Most people probably would have stopped — 8 tips on overcoming even the most crippling setbacks,” Thomas Carter advises spending time with people who believe in you and who’ll encourage you.
  • Analyse the setback objectively. Put your disappointment aside and determine why you failed. Did you possess sufficient skill or knowledge? Did you have the right tools? Look for concrete factors you can change in the future.
  • Learn what you need to. In her Success article “8 Ways Successful People Overcome Setbacks,” Patti Johnson recommends that you need to invest time in acquiring the skills and/or knowledge you need in order to achieve your goals in the future. For example, if you want a promotion, find out what skills you need to acquire and start working on them.
Failing forward

According to the author C.S. Lewis, “One fails forward toward success.” In other words, setbacks and failures don’t have to be final — so long as you learn from them and become more motivated than ever before to succeed.

Five mistakes to avoid in your cover letter

Do you break out into a cold sweat when it’s time to write a cover letter? Are you uncertain about what to include – and what to leave out? Do you sometimes wonder if you should include a cover letter at all?

Few people enjoy writing cover letters – yet they’re a very important part of every job application. According to Ashley Stahl in her Forbes article titled “8 Common Cover Letter Mistakes to Avoid,” 53 percent of organisations prefer candidates who include a cover letter along with their application. And if you want your cover letter to stand out for all the right reasons, you’re best advised to avoid the following mistakes:

  1. Starting with your name. As Lily Zhang explains in her article “7 Cover Letter Mistakes That Make Hiring Managers Cringe” for The Muse, you should only include your name below your signature on your cover letter and on your résumé. A better way to start your cover letter is, “Please consider this letter an application for the position of _______.”
  2. Making it all about yourself. A cover letter isn’t a document about your qualities or life story – it serves to indicate how much value you can bring to an organization. You can briefly highlight your strongest selling points – i.e. relevant skills and experience – to explain why you’re a match for the position, but you should present them from the potential employer’s point of view.
  3. Failing to customize the cover letter. In her Monster article “Cover letter mistakes you should avoid,” Kim Isaacs points out that it’s perfectly fine to use the same cover letter for multiple applications – so long as you update the job title, hiring manager’s name, and company name. Do not forget to do this, as getting someone’s name wrong is likely to land your application on the “reject” pile right away.
  4. Summarizing your résumé. There’s a reason your résumé and cover letter are two different documents. Your résumé is a list of your skills, experience, and accomplishments, while your cover letter should highlight how they apply to the position – nothing more and nothing less.
  5. Going over one page. A cover letter should be one page – maximum. You can always elaborate on the most important points if you’re called in for an interview.

Now that you know what not to do in a cover letter, you’re better equipped to write one that represents you as a capable professional worthy of consideration. And that can be invaluable to help you land the job you want.

Practical tips for gaining more confidence

The thought of leading a project makes your stomach sink. You dread having to speak in front of your colleagues. And you regularly second-guess yourself when it comes to the quality of your work.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you suffer from a lack of confidence. And that’s unfortunate, because you might be a talented, dedicated worker, but if you’re not confident, you could be missing out on opportunities to advance your career. For example, you might not apply for a job you want, even though you’re qualified. Or your boss might pass you over for a promotion because you don’t possess the required leadership skills. 

Fortunately, you can teach yourself to be confident. Here’s how:

  • Use confident body language. According to Andi Concha and Ed Prosser in their BBC Capital video “How to fake confidence,” you should hold your head up high and keep your shoulders back. When speaking, make eye contact with the other person and use big gestures. This will make others perceive you as a leader. And the most interesting thing is that the more you do this, the more your brain will believe that you’re confident, too.  
  • Be knowledgeable. In her article titled “How can I boost my confidence at work?” for The Guardian, Sharmadean Reid reminds us how important it to know your area of expertise. Being sure about your own abilities goes a long way to reducing self-doubt. 
  • Keep a running list of your achievements. To combat that niggling voice in your head that keeps telling you you’re not capable of something, make a list of your accomplishments. Whether you’ve handled a challenging project on your own, given a successful presentation, or learned a new language you can use for business purposes, regularly remind yourself of all of the things you’ve done well in the past. This will help you realize you’re capable of more than you think. 
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. As Kenny Kline points out in his Inc. article “4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Confidence on the Job,” eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can help you feel good, which in turn can help you feel more confident. This is because reaching athletic goals affirms your ability to achieve objectives, healthy nutrition can boost your performance at work, and getting high-quality sleep is linked to enhanced self-esteem.

If you’ve gone through life feeling less than confident, cultivating these new habits might make you uncomfortable at first. But if you stick with it, you’ll soon notice that your confidence will grow — and you’ll be able to focus on your career without your self-doubt holding you back.  

Why all feedback is a learning opportunity

Maybe your supervisor thought you did a great job on your latest project – or maybe you missed the mark.

In both situations, it’s wise to politely ask for feedback and use it as a learning opportunity. Here’s how to learn from all types of feedback – from positive to negative.

Positive feedback

When you receive praise for a job well done, you deserve to be proud of yourself. But don’t just leave it at that – ask your manager what the strongest and weakest aspects were so you can continue to grow. For example, let’s say you had to write a report about a new market segment and you spent weeks researching and writing it. If your supervisor tells you that your research was comprehensive and detailed, you can rest assured that research is one of your stronger points. However, if he or she informs you that your presentation of the facts could have been clearer, ask him or her how you can improve. Perhaps you need to brush up on your writing skills, or maybe it’s helpful to include charts and graphs to give a visual interpretation of statistics. Then use that information as a takeaway to do an even better job next time.

Negative feedback

It’s never nice to hear that your work isn’t up to par – but it can help to realize that criticism can be a powerful learning tool. Instead of becoming defensive and explaining why you did things a certain way, engage in a meaningful dialogue with your supervisor, as Nicole Lindsay advises in her article “Taking Constructive Criticism Like a Champ” for The Muse. Listen closely to what he or she has to say, and ask questions if you don’t understand. 

For example, let’s say you had to lead a team that was creating a new marketing campaign and you failed to produce all of the deliverables on time. Your manager is likely to tell you that you need to work on your leadership and communication skills while learning how to assign people to tasks that play to their strengths. In addition, you should probably learn how to break a project down into smaller steps so you can be sure to complete the work on time.

Getting feedback is an inevitable part of every job – and it’s also a great way to learn. Just think about it: Many people take courses or go back to school in order to learn new skills or take their abilities to the next level. However, there’s nothing like getting practical, on-the-job training. So when you recognize the educational aspect of constructive criticism, you can leverage it to your advantage and keep moving your career forward.

Four phrases that inspire trust

As a manager, you want your people to trust you and follow your leadership. This enables you to help them perform well and enhance the productivity of your company.

But did you know that the words you use every day greatly impact how people respond to you and by extension, how much they feel they can depend on you? Because of this, knowing which words will encourage people to trust you is a critical communication skill. Here are four powerful phrases that can help you inspire trust in the workplace:

“Thank you.”

A leader who never recognizes other people’s efforts is likely to be seen as self-centered, whereas one who acknowledges other people’s input is more likely to be seen as dependable. That’s why it’s important to always thank your team members for their efforts, time, or attention.

“I’m listening.”

It’s no coincidence that this phrase was made famous by the award-winning sitcom Frasier. In each episode, radio psychiatrist Frasier Crane would encourage callers to share their troubles on-air by saying, “I’m listening.” Of course, it’s not your job to listen to your employees’ psychological woes. Nevertheless, the catchphrase is just as appropriate in a professional setting because it communicates to the other person that he or she has your full attention and can expect your best input in return.

“I understand.”

When an employee comes to you with a concern, take the time to listen and engage in meaningful dialogue in order to truly understand where he or she is coming from. As Nan S. Russell points out in her article titled “25 Simple Trust Building Behaviors” for Psychology Today, you need to withhold judgment during this process. If you can do this, you show that you’re empathetic – and that will encourage your people to trust you.

“I trust your judgement.”

If you really want to inspire trust, you need to demonstrate your confidence in your employees’ capabilities. Be wary of overusing this phrase, as it’s only appropriate when an employee’s skill level and knowledge merits your confidence and you intend on following through on your words. If you say you trust someone’s judgement and then second guess them, it will not only undermine any relationship you’ve built with that person; it can also make other employees less likely to trust you.

The key when using any of these phrases is to realize that words alone are not enough: Your tone of voice, body language, and subsequent actions are just as important. However, when you use these phrases in the right context and mean what you say, you’ll show yourself to be an honest communicator and approachable, trustworthy leader.

Inspiring a new direction: managing change in your team

From the impact of disruptive technology in the workplace to the realities of an evolving workforce, change management is a hot topic for many managers. But when change is critical to the success of your team, how do you encourage and even inspire it?

Know your vision

Before broaching the subject of change with your team, you need to be clear on three things: What is the reason for change? What is the desired end state? And what is your plan to get to the desired end state? For example, let’s say you’re going to start using more AI-based tools. The reason is that you want to free up your team from more repetitive tasks so they can focus more on core tasks. This change process will involve training your team in the use of the new tools and redefining their job responsibilities so they can maximize their time.


You need to be completely clear with your team about your vision, the reason for change, and the process you’ll implement to effect it. A lack of communication can cause people to become concerned and disengaged, so frequent and consistent communication is key. Keep your team informed as to the progress of the process, and welcome feedback and questions.

Lead by example

Any change should start with you, the leader. If you expect your people to embrace change, you need to do so first.  If you’re adopting new technology, then get trained and start using the new tools. If you’re bringing more independent contractors in on projects, welcome them into the workplace and make sure they have everything they need to do a good job. If your objective is to allow employees to telecommute, work from your home office one day a week.

Provide support

Make sure your team members feel supported throughout the process. Provide them with the tools and training they need to achieve the desired state. Regularly check in with each person individually, as well as with the team as a whole, to see if they need more assistance. 

Acknowledge your team’s efforts

As Sturt and Nordstrom point out in their Forbes article “6 Do’s and Don’ts of Leading Through Change,” it’s important to keep acknowledging all of your team’s efforts. Always bear in mind that it can be more challenging to produce good work when things are in flux, so it can be extra meaningful to thank your people during this time.

Change is exciting, but it can also be confusing and even intimidating for some employees. Nevertheless, when you approach change management with a strong strategy, you can motivate your people to do their best so they can leverage new tools and circumstances – and that in turn can enable your team to reach new heights.

Five ways to bring more positivity into your workday

Do you sometimes struggle to put a smile on your face at work? Are you occasionally bored with your job? Or do you get overwhelmed by your workload now and then?

Even the most motivated of us sometimes find work tedious or challenging. Fortunately, there are ways you can bring more positivity into your workday:

  1. Look on the bright side. When our mood dampens, we often only see the negative side of things – and that can make things worse. By training yourself to also recognize the positive aspects, you can motivate yourself and at the same time, gain more confidence. For example, if your supervisor gives you a difficult project, you might only see the challenges it entails. But the positive aspects are that your manager believes in your abilities – plus, successfully completing the project will result in another accomplishment to put on your résumé.  
  2. Personalise your workspace. Whether you have your own office or a desk in an open-plan set-up, it’s important to personalize it with things that make you feel good. Decorate it with photos of your loved ones, pets or a memorable event like a fun vacation. Plus, according to Sophie Lee in her article “Why Indoor Plants Make You Feel Better” for NBC News, plants can boost your mood – so buy some indoor plants in colourful pots and put them on your desk. 
  3. Listen to music. In her article “How Music Can Boost Your Mood” for PsychCentral, Julia Lehrman explains that listening to uplifting music can help silence negative thoughts and put you in a more positive mindset. In addition, according to a study in Nature Neuroscience, music stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which enhances a feeling of wellbeing. Just pop in those earbuds and start listening to your favourite playlist!
  4. Do something nice for your coworkers. A study cited in Time revealed that people who were generous reported higher levels of happiness. In other words, bringing your coworkers coffee or helping a colleague who’s struggling with an assignment can boost your mood.
  5. Get some exercise. Exercise triggers the release of serotonin – another feel-good chemical – in the brain. So go for a brisk walk or hit the company gym during your lunch break – it’ll make you feel better!

With these pointers in mind, you’ll soon find you can boost your mood – and your energy levels! As a result, you’ll likely become more productive and empowered to take on even the most difficult of challenges.