Your weekly update!

Posted by | June 26, 2017 | Weekly Update

school holidays

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The listed operator has brought forward the second stage of its Aveo Newcastle development in Shortland Waters, 11km from the Newcastle CBD, after all 50 units in the $24M first stage were reserved ahead of its scheduled completion next month.

The two-bedroom villas are priced from $375,000, and a recent open day attracted 500 people.

Aveo’s Executive General Manager for Developments Gary Kordic says that around 70% of the interest came from people living within 5km of the community, with the remainder from the wider NSW region such as Lake Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Taree.

Stage two will add another 45 units subject to approval. Once complete, the six-year project will feature 300 independent villas and 127 aged care rooms, plus access to a health and wellbeing centre and the 18-hole Shortland Waters Golf Club.



NEWCASTLE’S transformation and its “smart city” credentials will be in the spotlight later this year when it hosts an urban ideas and innovation conference.

The annual Next City Vanguard conference, to be held in Newcastle from November 6 to 10, will feature 50 of the “brightest and best” young urban thinkers from the Americas, New Zealand and Australia.

Newcastle is the first city outside the United States to host the event, following on from Washington, Philadelphia, St Louis and Cleveland.

A host committee including UrbanGrowth NSW, Newcastle council, the University of Newcastle, the Hunter Development Corporation and Transport for NSW has designed the conference.

A spokesman for UrbanGrowth, which led the Newcastle bid, said the committee’s representatives were sharing the “financial and in-kind” contributions for the conference but declined to put a dollar figure on its cost.

Novocastrians are encouraged to apply to be among the 50 participants, 25 of who will be from Australia and New Zealand.
UrbanGrowth’s acting chief executive Barry Mann said he hoped Newcastle would learn from the experiences of other cities.

“This Vanguard Australia conference is a celebration of Newcastle’s unique identity, dynamic change, innovation, heritage, culture and of course the Newcastle community,” he said.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the conference offered Newcastle the opportunity to “to showcase our city as an emerging tech innovation centre in the health, education, aerospace, defence and reneweable energy sectors”.

University of Newcastle was delighted to be a partner in the conference, vice-chancellor Caroline McMillen said.

“Universities are ideally positioned to play a critical role in the economic and social transformation of their cities and regions and we look forward to contributing to this exciting opportunity to shape the future of Newcastle,” she said.

Revitalising Newcastle program director and Hunter Development Corporation CEO Michael Cassel said the city was in the midst of a great transformation.

“The Revitalising Newcastle program is ushering in a new era of economic growth and prosperity for the Newcastle city centre,” he said.

Next City president Tom Dallessio said the conference was thrilled to be coming to Newcastle.

“This historic, regenerating city has so much to teach us about building the cities of the future. We look forward to bringing 50 of the best and brightest urban leaders from around the world together in Newcastle to share ideas for strengthening legacy cities across the globe,” he said.



Knowing exactly what you’re doing at work is a great feeling. You’re confident, full of ideas, and ready to tackle anything.

Except—lately, you’ve noticed your co-workers seem to be avoiding you. They’re not extending invitations for group projects and you’re pretty sure you caught them rolling their eyes when you speak.

What gives?

The harsh answer is, to quote an old cliché: “nobody likes a know-it-all.” The more nuanced one is that they want to feel good at their jobs, too, and if you swoop in with the right answer all the time, they don’t have that chance.

So, it’s not enough to have the best ideas—you need to pay attention to how you deliver them, too.

On the bright side, a few simple shifts can help you salvage your reputation, and once you do, you’ll have the complete package of good ideas plus thoughtfulness.

Here are three changes you can start making today:

1. Be Patient

When you share your ideas first—especially if they’re strong—you eclipse your teammates’ ability to contribute. Yes, they can still build on what you’ve said or add something different, but your behavior sends a signal that you don’t really care what they have to say. After all, if everyone agreed to go with your plan, there’d be no reason (read: opportunity) to hear anyone else out.

Conversely, when you let others speak first, you’re giving them a chance. It shows that you think they have ideas worth listening to as well.

This strategy does run the risk that someone else will have the same brilliant thought as you, and he or she’ll get credit for it. But, that’s a good thing! If you agree, you can amplify it by saying, “I like Tina’s suggestion,” which’ll go a long way toward repairing the impression that you only value your opinions.

2. Be Open to Questions

One time you have to speak first is when you’re the one leading a discussion. But, as we all know, there are two ways to go about presenting an idea and asking for feedback.

The first is to share your idea and follow up with: “Can’t we all agree this is the best strategy?” Sure, this is a question—but the only answer you’re going for is a one-word “yes.”

The second option is to encourage your teammates to revise your work, by saying, “I’d love your thoughts on this: Do you see any areas for improvement?” Unlike a know-it-all who only looks for people to agree and execute their vision, you’re going out of your way to make a space for others to make valuable contributions. (If you want to dig into this a bit more, I lay out the right and wrong way to ask for feedback here.)

3. Be a Team Player

Truth talk: There’s usually more to being seen as a know-it-all than an excess of good ideas. It often comes with a side of arrogance.

It’s good to be ambitious and push yourself to contribute as meaningfully as possible, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of making your teammates feel like a bunch of runners-up.

So, ask yourself: Do you acknowledge when someone else has a good idea? Do you concede when you’re wrong, and back down when it doesn’t make a difference?

Where you’ve previously searched for holes in people’s ideas, challenge yourself to look for—and comment on—their strengths.

As someone who struggles to avoid coming off this way, I know the insecurities that come along with reining it in. You worry about downplaying all you know, and losing out on opportunities because of it. Or you don’t want to step back from a leadership role in a discussion—even once. Or you’d feel overlooked if someone else gets credit for an idea you were thinking and had forced yourself to hold in.

Here’s the thing: I’m not telling you to silence yourself or hide your genius. If you have an idea and you want to speak up and first, go for it. If you feel strongly about taking a project a certain direction, say so. Just realize you don’t have to operate at that speed all the time. If you pick your moments, you won’t just give others a chance—you’ll find they’ll be more supportive of you, too.


Your Weekly Update!

Posted by | June 19, 2017 | Weekly Update

Hunter Glider

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Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon is urging Novocastrians to nominate a volunteer for the 2017 Newcastle Volunteer Service Awards.

The annual awards were an initiative of Ms Claydon when she came to office in 2014 and provide an important opportunity to stop and reflect on the immense and invaluable work of volunteers in our community.

“As the Federal Member for Newcastle, I have the pleasure of attending community events and meeting many of our fantastic, dedicated and hard-working volunteers,” Ms Claydon said at the Parliament House launch of the 2017 awards during National Volunteer Week.

“With this in mind I established the Newcastle Volunteer Service Awards. These awards provide an opportunity to thank volunteers for their valuable contribution.”

Thousands of Novocastrians  give their time every week, or in some cases every day, to prepare and serve meals to those in need, coach and manage sporting teams and clubs, prepare rosters and accounts, cook sausages at fundraising BBQs, or provide care for those who can’t care for themselves.

 Patricia (Pat) Price and Peter Trist were recipients of awards in 2016.

Pat has given almost her entire adult life to making the lives of disadvantaged kids better.

She has fostered 110 children and she sees all of those children as her own. Even when they have left her care, many still come back to visit and Pat is always there for them.

Peter is a respected actor and theatre director in Newcastle  who every month prepares a program called ‘Book Chat’. This event involves readings, recitals, stories and general entertainment built around the Newcastle Regional Library’s collection of literature.

This program provides an hour of free entertainment to a diverse section of our community and has become an institution to a core group of regulars.

Pat ant Peter exemplify the selfless community service the awards seek to recognise.

Today, almost 6 million Australians – including some 17,000 Novocastrians –  volunteer each year to help make a difference by freely giving up their weekends, evenings, mornings and days to do something for someone else for no financial reward.

Volunteers Australia, the peak body for volunteering in Australia, estimates that close to a third of Australians engage in volunteering activities which contributes $200 billion to the social and economic wealth of the country.

To put that figure in perspective, that’s about the same as what the entire agriculture and tourism industries put in to the Australian economy each year – combined.

In terms of statistics, 41 per cent of all Australian adults undertake volunteer work each year.

Most volunteers are aged 35-44 – although the youngest and oldest Australians contribute most.

Almost half of all part-time workers do volunteer work.

Ms Claydon urged Novocastrians to support volunteers in their community by putting in a nomination for the 2017 Newcastle Volunteer Awards.

“Novocastrians have a great record of volunteering their time and effort to help out in our community,” Ms Claydon said.

“If you know someone who deserves recognition for their volunteer service, please  nominate them.

“It’s an easy process which will take less than 15 minutes of your time. just download the nomination form from”



Over the last month and a bit, I’ve been recruiting. In February, RN advertised for six digital producers. Two of them were on my team, and I received more than 260 applications.

“Digital producer” could mean a lot of things, but for us it meant journalists with multimedia skills — and virtually everyone who applied was between 18 and 30.

In the private sector you can grab the top half of your résumé pile and throw it in the bin on the basis that you don’t want to hire unlucky people, but at the ABC we’re required to pay careful attention to every applicant.

It took a long time, but it was worth it in the end, and gave me a real insight into the job market, the media and how young people present themselves.

Here are some observations that might help other recruiters, and some tips that might help you if you’re a Gen Y looking for a job.

There are no entry-level jobs anymore

Being a millennial sucks. (Please let the record show that I am also a millennial.)

Where professionals in our parents’ generation could finish university armed with nothing but an arts degree and walk into a job that would train them, “entry level” jobs now require years of experience.

Virtually every applicant I saw had developed their skills in multiple volunteer or unpaid roles, and while the jobs we advertised were probably best suited to people with a few years’ experience, this state of affairs is still visible in people’s employment history years down the line.

It’s an arms race: when an entire cohort gets experience this way, those who don’t will slip to the bottom of the pile.

Of course, this is totally unfair: not all young people can afford to work for free, so organisations fill up with more of the same rich, white people who can.

The problem seems particularly acute in the media, where cadetships and other opportunities for on-the-job training are dwindling along with the total number of positions.

Recruiters can hope to correct for this in interviews and the way they consider candidates — and we tried to do this — but it’s a structural problem that needs a structural solution.

One suggestion is to hire based on aptitude tests, rather than CVs or university results. Some companies are already doing this.

The headshot is back in vogue

Lots of applicants included a headshot with their resume. Maybe this is normal in TV or acting, but it seems strange for a digital role.

We get it, you’re hot. That’s not why we hire people.

There’s a point at which a CV becomes overdesigned

Thanks to online tools like Canva, it’s never been easier to dabble in graphic design.

A sizeable proportion of the résumés we saw had more formatting than humble old MS Word can provide. Bright colours, glyphs, textures and shapes abounded.

If you’re applying for a job, there’s no doubt that a well-arranged CV can make you stand out, but a loud or overdesigned one will make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

How far is too far? A bright pink cover page may be too far. A patterned six-page presentation alternating between portrait and landscape orientation is probably too far. A pie chart of how you spend each day (you only sleep for three and a half hours?) is definitely too far.

Five stars, Margaret

Design inflation plays a role in another weird trend I picked up: heaps of the CVs I saw had a “skills” column, with the candidate’s abilities rated on a five or 10 star scale … by the candidate.

And we’re not just talking about proficiency in, say, editing software; people rate themselves for more nebulous concepts like “time management” and “intercultural communication”.

Of course, these self-assessments tend to be glowing: nobody gives themselves one star.

I get why you’d do this if you were applying for a job: it’s much more visually striking than a list of your skills. But it also makes it obvious when you’re taking creative licence in describing your abilities.

It’s unlikely that you’re a five-star audio producer, a five-star video editor and a five-star reporter. Are there even enough hours in a millennial’s lifetime to learn those skills to such a high level?

It’s much better to be upfront about where your true strengths lie, and at least you’ll get five stars for honesty.

Nobody knows how to write a good cover letter

When I’m looking at applications, I look at the cover letter first. I want the candidate to introduce themselves and explain why they’d be good for the job.

But 90 per cent of the cover letters I saw were just CVs in prose form.

This was:

  1. Boring for me.
  2. Pointless for the applicants; their CVs were also attached.
  3. A bit disturbing; I thought my applicants were professional communicators.

When you’re job hunting, you need to write an original cover letter for every job you apply for — changing the subject line ain’t going to cut it. A cover letter is your opportunity to stand out, so here’s a simple guide to writing a good one.

Introduce yourself. Outline your understanding of the role and the organisation. Make a pitch for your vision of the role and why you would be great at it — this should reference your experience, but it shouldn’t be a laundry list.

Show some personality. Avoid typos. And for God’s sake, keep it to a page.

Millennials are so impressive

Constant technological disruption means it’s a tough time to be in the early stages of your career, but so many young people responded with incredible flexibility and a willingness to learn new skills.

I might have just spent 800 words whinging, but at the end of the day we had so many great people apply for our jobs that it was difficult to choose a shortlist, let alone successful candidates.

As an employer, that’s a great problem to have. As a millennial, not so much.


Your Weekly Update!

Posted by | June 12, 2017 | Weekly Update


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IF the dreary staircases in train stations and public places in Newcastle and the Hunter were brightly painted and even made music when you trod on them, would people use them more?

Year Six Lambton Public School pupil Annabelle Mahoney thinks so, and she also reckons if her idea was put into practice, the region’s troubling obesity rate would be lowered.

Judges in the Hunter Innovation Festival like her way of thinking and have named the diminutive 11-year-old the winner of the Smart Ideas competition.

Annabelle has won $1000 to prototype her idea plus business advisory sessions at The Business Centre and attendance at business development workshops.

“Annabelle had a simple idea that is relatively easy to implement and has so many benefits … And to top it off, she gave a remarkable and confident pitch; all the judges were impressed with her style,” said festival organiser Christina Gerakiteys.

For her part, Annabelle admits she was more than a little nervous when she stepped into the limelight at Watt Street Commercial to pitch her idea to festival judges.

“I didn’t think I’d win because there were adults and the guy before me had a really good idea,” she says in reference to finalist Christopher Glover, who pitched his idea to transform the former BHP site into an enormous carpark with linking ferries to Queens Wharf.

The two other finalists were Annabelle’s classmate, Alex Gallagher, whose idea was to install a solar panel roof at Lambton Pool to allow it to open year-round, and Isabelle Jones, who mooted a social media management platform.

Annabelle admits she got her idea at the eleventh hour after she saw a photo of a child eating a burger a Newcastle Herald report /story/4518448/obese-toddlers-and-a-system-under-pressure/ on obesity in babies and children in the Hunter.

“I did research and it says each step you take burns .025 calories so then I just needed a way to make people choose stairs,” she said.

Annabelle thinks that decorating stairs – either by simply painting them, putting motivational signs on them, funky lighting and even attaching electronics to allow them to make musical sounds – would make people opt for the stairs.

“If there are piano stairs it’s exciting to step up and see what sounds it makes,” she said.

Alex, who trains in a swim squad at  Lambton Pool, said his idea to heat the pool year-round was inspired by his cousin, a talented diver.

“She trains at New Lambton but in winter she has to go to Sydney because she can’t train anywhere in Newcastle,” he said.



PLANNING and hosting parties has always been Andrea Ciotti’s favourite thing to do.

But when Ms Ciotti moved from her native Florida to the Hunter a couple of years ago to be with her partner Ben Johnston, she battled to find the high-quality and quirky items she could source in the US. So every time she visited her homeland, she’d lug items back to Newcastle.

The conundrum came about the same time that Ciotti, 28, who has a background in events, questioned herself about what brought her most happiness in life.

“I realised it was making people smile and I had a lot of creativity and a desire to bring that all together,” she says.

In February Ms Ciotti did just that when she opened Palm & Pine, a boutique party supply store across from The Edwards in Parry Street, Newcastle West.

The store stocks a swathe of chic cups, plates, napkins and inflatable toys and even has a Balloon Bar that has all manner of coloured ballons, fun balloons in the shape of a beer mug, diamond ring or even the “really popular” poo) and gender reveal balloons for baby showers.

The most popular ones are the confetti balloons – large helium balloons that can be filled with different confetti to suit any private or corporate party theme.

Ms Ciotti, who can help clients set up their party, says her fixation with pineapples came as a child when she and her mum baked a sponge cake that leaked out of its springform tin.

“All that was left on the bottom of the oven was a tiny slither of cake that looked like a pineapple ring, it was the best cake ever,” she says, laughing when she says she began her blog The Pineapple Cake “before pineapples got trendy”.

Thankful for the support of her hubby in store, Ms Ciotti says running her first business has elevated her anxiety – “There is so much to do and it’s difficult finding a balance to not spend all my time in the shop” – but brought great satisfaction.

“It’s getting busier each week and the feedback is incredible, I’ve had repeat customers and people come in and say ‘I saw what you did at my friend’s party and I want this’,” she says.



Did you take the job to make friends? No, probably not. That would be quite low on the list of good reasons to accept an offer.

But having them sure is a perk, isn’t it?

Working with people you like can literally help power you through the day.

And in case you think this is an exaggeration and that work pals are just good for grabbing a beer with at the end of a long week, take this statement about the crucial nature of work friends from the infographic below: “Office friendships have a direct link with engagement and productivity.”

The infographic is, in fact, full of insightful nuggets, but as someone who values your work friends, you probably won’t be too surprised at the findings.

Those seemingly pointless conversations you have with co-workers while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing or on your way to a meeting? They’re not nothing. In fact, the data shows that having friends at the office can actually help your career.

A few minutes of non-work related banter can be viewed as a distracting force, or it can be seen as an engagement-enhancing break. So, it’s not just your social life that stands to benefit from these relationships but your professional life, too.

Think about it: When you’re in good spirits, you’re likely to find it easier to complete your to-do list—from the tedious, mundane tasks to the ones that require more creative energy.

You don’t have to have a best friend—though if you’re lucky enough to have a work BFF , well then, you may be one of the 50% of people who say that it’s resulted in having a strong connection with the company .

But just having any friends means you’re likely to be happier at work, and if you’re happy, you’re engaged, and when you’re engaged, you produce better work. You open yourself up to challenges. And maybe you even propose new and exciting ideas to your boss, bolstered by your co-workers’ praise and encouragement.

The fact is, the workday can be long and exhausting, so it really helps if you’re surrounded by people who you actually enjoy. What’s more: “The more friendly you are with the people you see every day, the happier you’ll be,” explains Muse writer Kaitlyn Russell .

So, the next time you catch yourself not doing your work and instead chatting with a colleague, go ahead and pat yourself on the back for cultivating those work relationships. It means you’re going places.


Your weekly update!

Posted by | June 5, 2017 | Weekly Update

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HUNTER residents are overhauling their homes in major renovations, rather than facing the cost of buying in a market of soaring house prices, a new report on building in Australia has found.

The HIA’s latest Population & Residential Building Hotspots report 2017, published on Sunday, names 22 so-called “hotspots” in New South Wales. These are areas where population growth exceeds the national rate and where the value of residential building work approved is in excess of $50 million, HIA said.

Regional NSW did not make the list, with the Greater Sydney market completely dominating the state’s haul of hotspots, the report revealed.

But HIA said the good news on housing was not confined to Sydney, with parts of the Hunter Region performing strongly in residential building activity.

“The HIA Hunter Region’s number one housing hotspot during the 2015/16 financial year was the Central Coast’s Warnervale-Wadalba area, as a result of its superior performance for residential building approvals and population growth,” HIA executive director for Hunter Craig Jennion said.

An appetite for renovations in Newcastle and Cooks Hill put the area behind only Mosman in Sydney for approvals in alterations and additions. There was a total of $94.4 million worth of approvals in the Lower North Shore suburb in 2015/16, compared to $63.3 million for Newcastle and Cooks Hill.

“The local renovations market is benefiting from the substantial rise in dwelling prices over the past five years which has pumped up home equity levels, a situation made all the more favourable by the environment of very low interest rates,” Mr Jennion said.

“There is also evidence that Hunter homeowners are refraining from moving house in the current environment due to the high costs and instead are engaging in major renovations work on their existing homes.”

Newcastle’s median dwelling price has climbed from $312,000 to $500,000 over the past decade, according to government data.



Have you ever heard about someone “cutting the line” to land their dream job?

They’re the people getting the perfect position without ever submitting a resume, or negotiating a sweet signing bonus plus five weeks vacation, or getting hired for a role the company created just for them. How do they do it? Are they just naturally golden? Or do they know something you don’t?

While you might use the word lucky, these folks don’t necessarily move more talented; they’ve simply perfected a way of approaching the job search in a manner others haven’t been trained in (or are fearful of adopting). This out-of-the-box approach gives them a notable advantage when it comes to standing out.

So what do they know and how can you follow their lead to make your next transition not only more quickly, but more successfully as well?

Do what they do:

1. High Performers Don’t Follow the Application Rules

The standard approach to applying for a position is to follow the application instructions outlined in the job post and get in touch with an internal recruiter. But high performers know that there’s a back door—and that it’s often a better bet.

My client Eric did exactly this. He reached out to people within the company in similar roles to the one he was interviewing for. If the conversation went well, he asked his new contact to introduce him to the hiring manager. (And if you’re unsure of how to go about that, here’s how you can find an in .)

You can identify and contact future co-workers or the hiring manager directly (often through LinkedIn ), both to build relationships and to do a little under-the-radar investigation about the company culture.

Just like knowing the hostess at a popular restaurant shortens your wait time, you too can cut the line. Instead of waiting with the crowd, your future boss picks up the phone to recruiting and says “I just talked to Eric, can you make sure he gets an interview?”

2. High Performers Don’t Focus on the Interview

Instead of focusing on scoring an interview at any cost, they decide whether or not a company or position is even worthy of their time. They want to know whether it’s a fit before they sit down across the table from a hiring manager. In other words, it’s having the confidence to remind yourself you’re in control.

For example, you can do a little private investigation work on the company, hiring manager, and other employees. See how they’re talked in the news, and how management responds to press (both good and bad). Regarding your prospective teammates: What kinds of causes do they support? What types of people seem to be employed there? What do they all do in their off hours?

Ironically, this confidence makes these professionals more desirable than the average candidate. When you’re being selective, you do your homework, and that means going into the interview process with a greater level of knowledge and conviction about the organization.


Your Weekly Update

Posted by | May 29, 2017 | Uncategorized

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Hunter tourism operators are set to receive a boost in education.

The state government has announced it will increase the number of free webcasts available to support the growing need for online learning in the rural and regional tourism sector.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said the number of webcasts available in the Hunter would triple, as part of the program by Destination NSW.

The program, which includes 18 online training events, aims to help tourism businesses develop, promote and sell their products ore effectively.

“This expanded program of online webcasts and webinars allows Hunter tourism operators to log in, learn, and ask questions of tourism experts, from a location that suits them,” Mr MacDonald said.

“In 2016 Destination NSW found 73 per cent of all webinar attendees were from rural and regional NSW.

“The focus of this year’s program is to create more online and on-demand content, which is user-friendly, convenient, accessible and free-of-charge.

“If, for some reason, tourism operators can’t log in for the live webcast, they can always log in later to view the presentation at a time that suits them.”

Tourism and Major Events Minister Adam Marshall said the workshops had a “how-to” focus.

“As a result of last year’s NSW First program and the advice and support of experts from the state’s tourism agency, we are now seeing 37 new tourism products being offered in international markets, and more than half of those new tourism products come from rural and regional NSW,” he said.



NEWCASTLE has the “best minds” to solve Australia’s “energy crisis”, Labor spokesman for energy and climate change Mark Butler says.

Mr Butler toured the CSIRO Energy Centre in Mayfield on Wednesday, before a visit on Thursday to businesses, including the Tomago aluminium smelter, which was at the centre of February’s heatwave emergency.

He said there was “a lot to learn” from the city’s researchers.

“You really have the best minds in energy policy, and they’ve been here for decades,” Mr Butler said, praising the “world-leading” work of University of Newcastle researchers and their printed solar panel site, reported in Monday’s Newcastle Herald.

He said the country needed solutions to rising energy costs. “It can’t wait,” Mr Butler added.

 Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said the CSIRO Energy Centre should be treasured.

“For me, it’s just so important,” she said. “The skills and expertise for our energy solutions are right here.”


Weekly Jobs Update

Posted by | May 22, 2017 | Weekly Update

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If you’ve ever had a manager ask you for feedback, then you probably also remember the way you reacted.

You likely hesitated and, if you’re like many professionals, shared some positive reinforcement. If you were feeling courageous, maybe you added a small “this is good but could be better!” area of improvement. But if there was a larger issue at hand? You said nothing, bringing it up felt too risky.

Now you’re in that manager’s position and you’re not getting real feedback from your team. They say things are fine but you know better—no one’s perfect, you probably do have a few areas you could improve in, and you know that the more you improve, the better off your team will perform.

So how do you get honest feedback as a leader? (And before performance review season?) Ask. And ask again.

Assuming that your team will proactively tell you how to improve is a mistake. As the boss, it’s your job to open the door (repeatedly) to make them comfortable to say something. And because I know this can be hard, I came up with the four types of questions that’ll help open up that dialogue.

1. The Open-Ended Question

If you rarely ask for feedback, a simple open-ended question may be enough to speak conversation.

Try one of these out:

I’m always trying to improve as a professional and as a manager. Is there anything I could be doing better or differently?

Getting feedback is how I keep improving and I love using the SSC framework for it—is there anything I should stop, start, or continue doing?

2. The Project-Specific Question

Sometimes people are more comfortable being open when the feedback doesn’t feel as personal. Try asking questions around a project you’re working on with them to get the scoop on what you could do better.

A few examples of how to do this:

Hey Jane, I noticed that the team was scrambling at the end of the week to deliver the project to Client X. Is there anything I could’ve done differently that would have made that smoother for you? I want to make sure I’m helping remove obstacles for the team, even if one of those obstacles includes me or my current process.

The annual gala was a big success! While it’s still fresh in our minds, I’d love your feedback on anything we could do differently next year or ways I could change what I did to be more helpful to you and the team.

3. The Self-Identified Area-to-Work-on Question

In some cases,  it’s not a surprise what you need to work on. You may have identified it yourself, or been told at your last review that you really need to have better attention to detail or be more responsive to your team.

When you know what you’re looking to improve, that’s a great chance to ask more targeted questions like:

At my last review, one of the areas of feedback from the team was that my responsiveness wasn’t where it needed to be. I’m actively working on that, but I know that sometimes I slip up and would love your feedback when I do. Is there anything right now you’re waiting on me for?

I’m working on my attention to detail, since I know it’s an area I’m not always as strong as I need to be. Could you give me feedback after this afternoon’s presentation on any places I didn’t get the details just right?

4. The Question That Takes Guts

Finally, there’s the nuclear option. It’s not an easy ask, but hearing an honest answer to it can be one of the most valuable gifts someone gives you. When asking this, it’s incredibly important that your tone, body language, and response be truly open.

Please tell me the thing you think I don’t want to hear.

Before you run off and start asking these questions, let me first share an important rule.

How you react during this discussion is really important. If you get defensive or angry, that employee will be much less likely to share anything with you again, and will likely spread the word to others who report to you.

So make sure to thank them for being honest with you, and tell them you’ll think about what they said. You don’t have to agree, you don’t have to act on it, but you do have to consider it.

Plus, even if you don’t agree, someone out there thinks that of you, which means others might as well; at a minimum you have an area of improvement when it comes to perception or communication. (If you think this might be a challenge, here’s advice on taking constructive criticism like a champ.)

And even if you don’t agree this time around, you want them to bring you the next round of feedback which might be right on the money. As I said earlier, your team will only do better when you grow as a manager.



TAFE NSW’s brightest students and the contribution of its alumni were recognised at the 2017 TAFE NSW Hunter and Central Coast Student Excellence Awards last week. The Awards are supported by 20 industry and business partners.

The International Student Award was awarded to Shimmer Mhindu, Diploma of Nursing (Enrolled-Division 2 nursing), Rutherford, Hunter Valley sponsored by The University of Newcastle.

Tatiana Mozhar was awarded the Science Award, Diploma of Laboratory Technology, Beresfield, Hunter Valley, sponsored by Hunter TAFE Foundation.

The Plant and Heavy Vehicle Award, sponsored by Komatsu went to Benjamin Watt, Certificate III in Heavy Commercial Vehicle Mechanical Technology, Rutherford, NSW.

2017 Alumni Awards Winners:

Contribution to Business Award – Troy Rhoades-Brown, Head Chef and Owner of Muse Restaurant and Muse Kitchen;

Contribution to Community Award – Luciane Sperling, author of ‘Touched by Love, Turning Crisis into a Blessing’ and Founder of My Inner Light;

Emerging Talent Award – Thomas Goodwin, Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) student at The University of Newcastle.

“Our award winners are the future industry leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and small business owners of tomorrow,” Ms McGregor, Regional General Manager North, said.


Weekly Jobs Update

Posted by | May 12, 2017 | Weekly Update

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With  521 jobs available on Jobs In The Hunter, we’ve got your job search for the coming week covered – simply click here!   Just remember to tear yourself away to spend some time with your Mum on Sunday!


IT’S a medical breakthrough of a different kind: a smartphone app that has high hopes to “transform” the working lives of health workers.

Newcastle entrepreneurs Dr Billy Drew and Tony Singh are the men behind it, breaking out with a goal to uncomplicate the “onerous” and “labour-intensive” task of swapping or picking up shifts between medical professionals.

Called CoverMe Medical, the subscriber-based app is the second to be developed by startup company Mobito, which produces apps solely for the medical industry – the single largest employer in the Hunter.

Dr Drew, who also works as an anaesthetist, said there are countless shift workers on any given day looking to swap their shifts.

“It’s a problem I live every day,” he said.

“If I want to go on a week’s holiday, I might have a morning and afternoon session –  there’s 10 of them I need to get rid of.

“You go through this process of ringing all these different people, and you do it for each session you have. Often it’s a very onerous and labour-intensive thing to do.”

The app is network-based so that users advertise the shift they want covered to their colleagues.

Users receive a notification of the cover request and accept it if they are willing to work it.

Those wanting to pick up a shift can also advertise their availability.

Those who are registered to list or find shifts will need a Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency number, which is designed to prevent fraudsters exploiting the system.

Mr Singh said there was a “glaring need” for technological solutions to everyday problems, with the app already receiving interest from medical workers and their employers.

“We have global ambitions for the tool,” he said. “This problem exists not just locally and nationally, but it is a global issue. We believe it will transform the way medical professionals connect and access work opportunities.”

The app is currently being trialled with select groups before it is released to the market.



It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I know that I have a scheduled phone call coming up in 10 minutes. Instead of throwing myself into the start of a new project, I kill some time by watching a few mindless YouTube videos.

Harmless, right? Except I often do that very same thing numerous times throughout my day—without even realizing it. And, it often has a dire effect on my productivity.

Identifying Wasted Pockets of Time

Stop to think for a moment, and you’ll likely notice that you do this very same thing yourself.

You have to leave to run an errand in 15 minutes, so you might as well read the latest clickbait on the internet. You’re planning to take your lunch break in 10 minutes anyway, so why not see what’s happening on Twitter?

I get it—these small pockets of time seem completely insignificant in the grand scheme of your workday.

However, one day when I was feeling particularly stressed and overwhelmed by my to-do list, I had a realization: Just because I was wasting a seemingly small amount of time didn’t change the fact that I was still wasting time—and it was time that I was complaining I was short on to begin with.

It seems stupid when you put it in writing, but we all fall into this trap numerous times throughout the day. Those minutes before a meeting or before you pack up for the day are almost too easy to justify wasting.

So, it was then and there that I decided to make a change: I would use those seemingly unnoticeable time blocks to my advantage.

Leveraging My Time

Sure, those short time periods might seem like the perfect opportunity to give yourself a little breather—and, yes, sometimes a break really is necessary!

However, they’re also a great chance for you to take care of a few of those small, pesky tasks that crowd up your to-do list. They don’t require a ton of focus or a big commitment, but they still need to get done.

Answering emails, making a quick phone call, creating an outline, or even cleaning off your desk. They’re all things that you could complete—or at the very least make some major progress on—in the course of just 15 minutes.

And, that’s exactly what I decided to do.


step 1

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At the John Lewis department store in the UK, they call the employees ‘partners’. It isn’t just a word bandied around to make people feel more engaged, they have a genuine focus on their staff. It’s a reflection of a management belief that they have a shared responsibility for the consumer, and that the way the company treats their staff is the way their staff will treat their consumers. As a result, everyone in retail wants to work there. But employee engagement doesn’t always work this well. And in the gig economy, where workers aren’t considered employees at all by many companies, behavioural psychology is being deployed in a way that can even work against employee self-interest.
Inevitably, it is Uber that is a master of employee manipulation, as reported in the New York Times exposé on this topic, How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons

When demand for drivers peaks, local managers for Uber in the US are urged to use all kinds of techniques to get drivers to move to particular locations, such as adopting female personas in text messages, as they have been found to be more persuasive. Uber also tries to keep drivers working when they are inclined to knock off. By gathering information on how much their drivers want to earn each week, they will send message alerts such as: ‘“You’re $10 away from making $330 in net earnings. Are you sure you want to go offline?”

So what, you may be thinking. The drivers are making money. No one is putting a gun to their head.

Where’s my motivation?

Consider why we do what we do.

Extrinsic motivation is when somebody works for a tangible reward, such as their salary. Intrinsic motivation is what we want for ourselves; things we would do regardless of external recognition. They’re both important.

Although an employee may join an organisation for the money and benefits on offer, they may come to believe in the organisation’s goals, both because those goals are worthwhile and because the employee learns that when the organisation succeeds, they succeed. This growing understanding comes from promotions, salary bumps and professional development.

(Of course, other HR functions help achieve the same thing, including work flexibility, growing a positive culture of respect, etc).

But such organic development is not really possible in the gig economy, because there are no promotions, no salary bumps and no real opportunities to learn skills that will help the contractors or “independent business people” get a better job. They’re not considered employees by the company so there’s no seniority, no benefit to long service. So it’s difficult to argue that when the company succeeds, they succeed.

In fact, due to certain dynamics in the gig economy, the opposite is often the case.

The dark side

So how do you achieve intrinsic motivation in a situation like that? Well humans have certain cognitive triggers, behavioural adaptations we have evolved to help us thrive but that can be manipulated. This manipulation is much easier to achieve in a contractor relationship, where you have fewer responsibilities and interaction is almost exclusively conducted via a phone app.

One of the most basic and powerful methods is to provide positive feedback. Everyone is motivated by goals and progressing towards them. According to the NY Times, Uber found there was a drastic drop in driver attrition after their 25th ride, so they implemented push notifications to warmly remind new drivers as they closed in on that number.

This might seem fine, and much like your manager evaluating your performance and providing encouragement, except that it’s automated. If your manager encourages you, that probably means they’re invested in your career, and that if you do well they’ll notice and you’re likely to be rewarded. Uber’s feedback doesn’t involve another human, and means little long term.

Similar to this is the gamification concept of badges – little graphics Uber sends to let you know when you’ve worked hard, provided an entertaining ride and so on. Again, they get you to internalise the company’s goals while costing them nothing. And yes, they do work. In the NY Times story there’s a particularly poignant moment where a driver, who quit riding for Uber because he was running at a loss, is still proud of his badges. Imagine earning a company money while not making enough for yourself, and being proud because they emailed you some congratulatory emojis.

So, who would you prefer to work for: John Lewis or Uber? Or is that like comparing apples and pears?

The fact is that isn’t going away, and as we move towards wider automation, and the job market increasingly favours flexibility in workers, the temptation for companies to cut costs by creating as one-sided a version of engagement as possible might only grow.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Can you think of other examples, outside the gig economy, where engagement is gamed rather than earned? And do you think this is a trend we’ll see in the future of work?



STUDENT and retail entrepreneur Liam Scanlan has an idea he thinks has the potential to alleviate Newcastle’s ongoing city parking woes.

The 20-year-old Maitland resident has entered the Smart Ideas competition, a part of the Hunter Innovation Festival, with a user-pays app concept he believes could open up more parking spaces in the inner-city.

“When people park, they log into the app, plug in their basic details – license plate number, and a payment measure like PayPal or credit card - and then save their user profile,” he says. “Once parked, you ‘start meter’, and go about your daily business then when you get back to your car you ‘end meter’ and only pay for the exact amount of time you were absent from your vehicle.”

Mr Scanlan said the current parking metres force drivers to pay in advance and guess how long they might be at lunch or shopping or in a meeting.  He said parking inspectors would not have to look for paper tickets on windshields but simply scan the licence plate number to see if the parking space was being paid for, and issue fines as required.

The app could have additional features, including location services that allow drivers to see whether they are in a metre area, what the prices are and where free parking is.

 Parking in the city is set to be an issue for Mr Scanlan, a trainee accountant and creative specialist at Bottrell Business Consultants and founder of Eat Your Water clothing. He is studying a double degree in business, innovation and entrepreneurship and must soon relocate from the University of Newcastle’s Callaghan campus to the NeW Space city campus. “There are about four car spaces at NeW Space and everyone at Callaghan is complaining about how they are going to find a park.”
The Smart Ideas competition calls for entries with a produce, service of concept to benefit the Hunter.


Weekly Jobs Update

Posted by | April 28, 2017 | Weekly Update


If you’re looking or full-time, part-time or casual employment, Jobs In The Hunter has 629 current vacancies online right now – take a look here!


HUNTER businesswoman Kirsten Molloy has led a trio of women working in regional mines to win industry recognition.

Ms Molloy, the chief executive officer of the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator, took out the Exceptional Woman in Mining award at the recent Industry and Suppliers Awards dinner at NSW Parliament.

Chloe Piggford, the environment and community manager at Glencore Integra underground mine near Singleton, was named the Exceptional Young Woman in NSW Mining.

Jemma Callaghan, a mobile equipment operator/trainer assessor at Rio Tinto Coal & Allied’s Mt Thorley Warkworth Mine, was named Outstanding NSW Tradeswoman/Operator/Technician.



I’m always on the lookout for the next productivity hack that’ll make my workweek shorter. But even with all that time spent experimenting with lists and apps, I still had that window each week when I was pretty much just running out the clock.

Maybe, for you, that window is when you’re easing into work on Monday. Or during that funky 3 PM to 5 PM window right before the Friday finish line.

Whenever it is, it’s exactly when you should dive into Entrepreneur Sol Orwell’s Research-Plan-Connect (RPC) activity. It’s just what it sounds like: a block of time away from deadline-driven work to focus on these three categories: researching, planning, and connecting.

Ever since learning about it, I started setting aside time on my schedule to work on things that get me ahead, rather than things that just hit deadlines. And after doing it for three months, I’ve found that I’m actually reading all those articles I save and emailing the people I’d been meaning to reconnect with.

I’ve been able to accomplish big things, while also building my skills and network in ways that would’ve taken me much longer if I’d simply followed my old “I’ll fit it in here and there” approach.

Want to give this a shot? Here’s what you might do during your new RPC time:


I’m a reformed article hoarder. I used to have weeks when I saved industry articles with all the intentions of reading them—and just never gotten around to it.

Looking back now, it seems pretty obvious to block out time to, you know, read them. But setting that time aside—specifically—makes all the difference.

Or, if you’re not sure where to start, investigate the things that’ll help out you on the job. These could include anything from new tools or resources, to conferences you’re considering attending, or workshops you feel would benefit your team.

If you can book a skill-boosting webinar during your research window: perfect.

And that potential client you’ve been cyber-stalking? Yeah, that’s actually just research.

I set Google alerts for topics related to my industry. This way there’s a curated round-up of news ready for me to absorb each week. It’s how I stay fresh and “in the know.”


Type A’s: rejoice! And non-type A’s, I promise you’ll find this worthwhile, too.

If you RPC on Fridays like me, planning for the week ahead during this block will be a no-brainer. But it doesn’t have to be on Fridays, and it doesn’t have to involve your weekly planning, either.

When you need to, seize the time to outline big projects or your goals for the quarter.

Maybe even use the time to review your personal development plan—and think about how you’ll meet larger goals to advance in your career.

Use your planning window to break that Herculean task you have coming up into small, manageable chunks; and when you get back to it, you’ll have a real, live step one (and two and three).


Connect time is all about warming and building key relationships with co-workers, clients, business partners, work friends from previous jobs—the list goes on.

I’m not suggesting you suddenly jam all of your coffee dates into back-to-back meetings and come back to work jittery, or stare, unblinking at LinkedIn. (Though, if you’re always putting those things off for “when you have time,” this is a window to do them—within reason.)

It can be as old-school as popping a thank you note or birthday card in the mail, or as informal as sending out a heartfelt tweet. One-on-one brainstorm sessions, chats with your mentor, and Friday happy hour mingling all count too!

Finally, if you want to be truly successful with this approach, remember: Don’t kid yourself.

While you don’t want to be a stick in the mud (like telling your networking contacts you’ll only meet during this window, their schedule be damned, or feeling like you have to split each block into perfect thirds), you do need to be honest about the difference between making it work for you, and pretending that cat videos are “research.”

If you use this new work schedule for all those career-boosting activities you typically back-burner, you’ll find yourself looking forward to—and benefitting from—what were once the least-productive hours of your week.


Weekly Jobs Update

Posted by | April 22, 2017 | Weekly Update