January 2017


10 paint splattered feet standing around paint brushes

Last week, I was involved in a kids’ art competition, and it prompted me to ask myself: “What kind of experiences do parents think will provide a rich education?”

I was one of the workers behind the scenes. My job was to remove and replace the dirty water containers – the tubs in which the budding artists had washed their paintbrushes. It was an outdoor community event, with all age groups involved. I was kept busy, but still had time to see how the artists were progressing. It was great to see some parents let their kid’s creativity shine with encouragement, positivity, and enthusiasm. I was also witness to some interesting ‘helicopter’ behaviour from many parents. There were some who stood over their children, giving them instructions. In some cases, they ‘helped’ mix colours, and I witnessed more than one who held the paintbrush while the paint was applied to the paper!

Are parents so obsessed with winning that they can’t let their kids put paint to paper anymore? Are the goals they’ve been set so high that children need constant parental input to avoid making mistakes or errors? With their parents’ ever-watching protective gaze, where are these kids going to learn how to cope as independent people in our rapidly changing world?

Today, I was really enthused by this parent’s perspective on education – a complete contrast to what I witnessed at the painting table. Louis Wang spoke of his responsibility as a parent:

“We can role-model compassion, integrity, resilience in the face of adversity, tolerance and acceptance of other people’s differences, respect for one another and the environment, the importance of hard work, and the satisfaction of doing a job well.”

In my humble opinion, being well educated is about embracing the wide range of experiences which a rich learning environment brings.

So, what should we focus on?

A sound education should enable an individual to engage in deep and wide learning experiences and develop a broad skill set. It is critical that kids experience:

  1. The joys and challenges of teamwork
  2. Disappointment, and the resilience to keep trying
  3. Victory, and pride in one’s achievements
  4. Taking responsibility for your own work, meeting deadlines and accepting feedback and criticism.

Not all parents seem to have the same worldview on the importance of independence. Parents like Louis Wang will provide rich, vivid, and diverse experiences. Their kids will be supported, and will go far.

Other parents hover and hold on to the paintbrush. Will their kids get the chance to experience life in full colour?

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Scrabble game board with interconnecting words: connections, issues, people, ideasI recently ran in to an old friend from school. She has experienced an unplanned change to her employment, and was unsure of how to get back into the field she wanted to work in. While there are still a lot of emotions around her change of job, she’s determined to find a new position that utilizes her skills and enthusiasm. When asked for my advice, one of the things we discussed was using her network to explore new opportunities. Fortunately, she has a wide network – wider than she realized!

But, what if you don’t have a strong network? How do you build your network?

I recommend you consider 3 aspects to your network: Local, Professional and Personal .

1. Local Networks:

Connect with others through associations or organisations in your local area. In my local area of Regional NSW there are a wide range of options. There’s a local Business Chamber and a range of business networking groups, including Rotary Clubs and Young Professional groups (eg. Orange Young Professionals). There are also a wide range of business breakfast and lunch groups meeting on a regular basis. Some specific professional areas run regular events related to their members, while others might be less formal. In just the last few weeks I’ve seen local Human Resources and Women in Business opportunities. Keep in mind the low key connection opportunities – many of the local trades, nurses, and teachers often meet at the pub on a Friday afternoon!

2. Professional Networks:

Engage in state  or national industry or professional associations. These often provide professional development events and conferences, and the connections made might also lead to future recruitment contacts or career opportunities. If someone is looking for an experienced person to fill a role, they will often look to people they know for recommendations and referrals. Some industries might have quite a few options to choose from, or might target different people within the industry for particular events (graduates, early career or experienced managers). While it might seem expensive to join (and for those of us in regional areas, might require more time and cost in travel to attend events) these networks often provide support, online resources and opportunities for collaboration – things which are priceless and can save you time and effort. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is one place to start looking, and each state will have a list of incorporated associations (eg. NSW Fair Trading).

3. Personal Networks:

Find a mentor, coach or sounding board. While your partner/Mum/next-door neighbour/dog might think your ideas are fantastic, they might not have the perspective or expertise to advise you. Business Coaching is increasingly popular, for the benefits of objectivity, structure and accountability. If you have a strong professional or local network, there may be someone who you can mentor, or be mentored by. Finding the right mentor or mentee might be more of a challenge, but for de-briefing or a shoulder to lean on, they’re more than worth a cup of coffee! The mentor-mentee relationship builds over time as a learning experience, and in concert with the local and industry groups, can provide valuable opportunities for reflection.

Final thoughts:

Build your network through being ethical, genuine, engaged and reliable. Follow through with promises. Respect your competitors. Take up opportunities to be involved.

Be personable, and keep in mind that networks are a “long game” in relation to building trust and relationships. Don’t burn your bridges!

Don’t be in a hurry to get results from a network. The benefits should be mutual, and you should expect to get back what you give over time. You might also need to test out a few different network options to find the right one, depending on your needs and your goals.

Need help identifying opportunities in your local area? Interested in developing the skills to engage at networking events? Mayten Consulting can work with you to identify opportunities, build your skills and grow your network.

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Look before your leap – have you packed your parachute?

Parachuting preparation

I watched with interest the ABC’s 7.30 Report on Monday 10 January. “A generation of Australians wondering if they’ll ever have a full-time job”. (You can find out more, or watch the story online.)

One statement really got me thinking:

“Young people are leaving schools and universities to a world where the chances of finding full time work is at its lowest since the world plunged into recession in the global financial crisis of 2008.”

They’re competing with each other, with previous graduates and with continuing workers. Those who have the best preparation, skills, resources, networks and knowledge should have the best chance of success. But, it’s like being part of an elite team – everybody has the skills, resources and knowledge! It’s whether you are ready when the time comes.

A lot of my recent work has been in the tertiary sector, so I had a quick look at some of the recent data for university student enrollments and course completions.

  • In Australia there were more than 328,000 applicants for undergraduate courses commencing in 2016. Around two thirds of these keen students were offered a place in a course. So, there are around 200,000 students entering university each year.
  • Around 15% of students will drop out before graduating, leaving 170,000 graduates with shiny new degrees competing in the job market.
  • In fact, in 2015, there were 324,836 course completions in Australia – from diplomas through to higher research degrees. There are a lot of people with qualifications competing in the job market!

What does this really mean for the school leaver, university student or new graduate? 

What can you actually do to give yourself the best chance of success with your hard earned qualification?

Plan your pathway and be ready!

Put yourself in the strongest possible position to get employment in your chosen career area. Be aware of the options available and be open to opportunities that arise.

  1. As much as possible, align your work experience to build your network and your skill set.
  2. Take opportunities to do voluntary activities that gain you experience.
  3. Consider related jobs that will give you hands on experience in the area you want to work in.
  4. Obtain evidence – reports, attendance sheets and certificates of completion, or referees to reinforce your know how.
  5. Write it all down, keep records and make sure it is all up to date.

So, start developing an action plan, and get yourself ready. You wouldn’t jump out of a plane without a parachute, so don’t enter the job market without a sound plan.

If you need help to ‘pack your parachute’, contact us.


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Mind the Gap

Transition – what are we talking about?

Leaving home to attend University, TAFE or start a new job is a time of transition for any young person. Transition is stepping from the station platform onto the train – you don’t want to slip between the gap! You want to be sure you are stepping onto the right train, and you need to make sure you have everything you need for your journey.

Making a smooth transition requires planning, courage and support. It’s one of life’s major challenges, and can be unsettling if unprepared for the adventure that awaits.

Defined, Transition is: “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another”. We transition throughout our lives – from year to year, one home to another, from school to work, or work to retirement.

Being prepared for this period of change is critical. Transition is emerging as a key concern of post-compulsory school education, whether moving from high school to a job, GAP year, TAFE program, apprenticeship, or university study.

My experience of the transition out of home, way back in the 1990s, is vastly different to the transition experienced by today’s young adults:

  1. ‘Transition’ as a concept didn’t really exist. It was called ‘leaving home’ and was generally accepted as something you did when you finished school. Now, “transition” is a whole area of academic research. There are specialists in Transition Pedagogy across the world, and transition concepts span years – not just the first few days out of home. These specialists provide frameworks for transition and develop programs to support all involved.
  2. The internet had no impact in our social lives. Few people had mobile phones, and we wrote letters or postcards to connect with friends and family. We weren’t as up to date with what was happening back home, and it was harder to keep in touch with friends and family. In most cases, you had to make new friends and connections, because you just couldn’t keep in touch in the same way as we can now. These days, FOMO (fear of missing out – tip for digital immigrants) is a major issue. There’s intense competition as to who is living the most awesome new life in their new environment, with snapchat, facebook or Instagram posts sharing ups and downs instantly with new and old friends.
  3. My parents and I had similar moving out experiences. Our experiences in our new environments were in person, by phone or through the post. Uni in the 60s and 70s wasn’t that much different to the 80s and 90s. Today, it’s unlikely that most parents have much experience in common with what their kids will go through. For today’s students, the reading and information processing expectations are huge (email, website, online forms and timetables) and the communication styles are completely different (facebook chat, webinars and skype). It can be just as confusing for parents as it is for the young person. Both generations are starting a journey.

My experiences working in higher education and secondary education mean I know about the huge differences between high school and university or TAFE. My own recent experiences as a student mean I understand the expectations for study for current students. My contacts, across Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and America, provide me with insight and perspective relevant to many different settings.

If you want to make a smooth transition, the first step is to understand what you know and what you don’t know. One you’ve got that clear, you can work on what you need to know.

I can help you navigate the system, understand the language, and prepare for the next part of life’s adventure! Contact me to find out more.

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