Today we meet Debra Brook.
Debra is our embracer of change – with strong coaching credentials and a wealth of experience helping others chase their dreams. She sees beauty in adversity, and you’ll often find her on the back of a motorcycle!
Let’s get cracking!
Debra, what is your top tip to lead to successfully getting a job?
Searching for a job and getting a job are two different pieces. Jobsearching has its own set of tips and tricks, but getting a job starts way before the jobsearching begins. In the early days of the coaching relationship I see a lot of clients focusing on their ‘what’ – what skills they are taking to market. Without invalidating the value of a competent and hard-earned skillset, times have changed, but under the pressure of looking for a job, it’s natural to want to go hard on the skillset. In the professional world, transformation and culture have now become keywords, so the magic actually happens when the client understands not only ‘what’ they are bringing, but ‘who’ they are bringing to market – how they ‘fit’ in their greater world; we are not one-dimensional silos that live all our pieces independently. Once you have explored all those pieces – skills, strengths, values and vision – and woven them into a brand, and then consistently take that brand to the job market, your resume, your cover letter, your professional network, and your LinkedIn profile, will all work together to draw the right type of role to you and set you up for success.
Name one thing you would do if you were looking for a job today:
Invest in myself and work with a Career Coach. I’d make sure that I could put hand to heart and know that the type of role I was looking for was actually a role that was a good fit. I’d be wanting to make damn sure that I wasn’t the mouse on the wheel going in a perpetualcircle and sticking to a role that was bringing me little to no happiness. I’d also make sure that I was representing myself in the job market competitively and articulately. A second set of eyes over your process will provide reassurance that you are on the right track.
How long is “too long” to be searching for a job without successfully getting a job?
Is there really an answer to that question? What’s the alternative? You think you’ve been searching for too long, so decide to throw down your bat and ball and stop looking? Probably not a strategy that will facilitate a positive mindset or a successful job outcome. A better strategy would be to be have an initial plan – then put a jobsearching and networking structure in place, and regularly review what’s working and what’s not working. Don’t fuel the frustration by thinking that you have to spend all day every day looking for a job. You don’t. You just need to be consistent.
My advice to a job seeker who feels stuck or like their job search is taking too long:
Looking for a job can be isolating, and it’s important to maintain a sense of ‘normal’. Grab a coffee with a friend or just get out and away from the whole process every now and again. Come back to it with a new sense of fresh energy. Check in to see if you have a good set of resources that you are taking to market and that you have all potential opportunities covered. Don’t simply be relying on one job site and sending off endless applications. That’s just one strategy. Make sure recruiters can find you by doing the research and using current keywords in your profiles, reaching out to your network (and remember that the magic in your network is not who you know, but who they know), doing the research and seeking out organisations that you feel are a good fit for you and contacting them directly with a tailored introduction email. And following up everything! Look at what you are currently doing – if something isn’t working for you, change it.
My advice to applicants who want to stand out:
I have never missed out on a rental property. Ever. And that’s because every single time I have been looking for a property, I write a letter to go with the application that tells a prospective landlord who I really am. Not just an application form. You are unique – take that to market. That’s the stand out. What’s your value proposition? If I had ten people standing in front of me, why would I pick you? Presumably, candidates will bring a mostly similar skillset, and this is where the ‘you’ piece separates you from other candidates. So, tap into that. If you’ve explored it, you’ll take ‘you’ to market, authentically and confidently – and this authenticity and confidence will come across in all aspects of the process – from your resume, your cover letters, your approach to your network, into your conversations, and finally into the interview. And FYI – into the workplace.And this isn’t the time to be humble about achievements. If you can quantify them – even better.
The most common mistake I see people make when searching for a job:
Not putting some sort of structure to support the project they are about to undertake, and realistic expectations as to what the project will look like from start to end. Project is probably a good way to describe it. There needs to be vision, a plan, a structure, a process, an evaluation mechanism, and accountability. It can look like a long and overwhelming journey from the starting line. And from that mindset it’s easy to take a random approach. The last thing you need in your life when you are looking for a new job is something else to create chaos. Keep the whole process tidy and consistent. At the same time, factor in the inevitable rabbit holes and prepare strategies to get back above the line.
The most common career mistake I see people make:
Staying in a job that just doesn’t fit. Just because you have spent ten years in an industry, or spent three or four years at Uni, or have a Master’s degree, it doesn’t mean that the career you chose way back then is the right fit for you now. If you aren’t getting out of bed on Monday morning happy to face the day, then you want to start exploring what it is that’s missing. Find where you fit now. I had a client who left corporate and opened a Bed & Breakfast. It had always been a dream and it was time. I’ve had a few fabulous careers to date – all very different from one another. I’ve been an interpreter, a full-time musician, a small business owner, and now a coach. All for significant stints, involving study and completely different industries. I’ve had successful transitions into and out of every single one of them.
What’s the most common thing you see hold people back from getting the job they really want?
There are loads of things that hold people back, including confidence, but if I have to choose one, I’d have to start with the transactional pieces – the resume and cover letter combo. If you’ve done the exploring, and are clear on what you are looking for, then make sure your resume is selling the brand that you want to take to market. A resume is a one-dimensional document, so put a piece of you into it. It’s your first opportunity to stand out (or not be noticed). A second or third set of eyes on it will give it a sweep from other perspectives, or have a career coach give you some professional feedback. Then tailor it slightly to suit each role you apply for. Next – always use a cover letter. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here – there are plenty of great templates out there that you can personalise, and confidence is really inspired by a great resume and cover letter.
What does it really mean when you get a “thanks but no thanks” reply to a job application?
One thing it doesn’t always mean, is that you were not suitable, or your skillset did not come up to scratch. If you are sure you are going for suitable roles, then be confident that every application you put forward will be successful. There is no value in second-guessing yourself when you receive this kind of messaging. It could simply be that another candidate had more experience, or the employer was simply looking for something a little different from what you were offering. And it doesn’t invalidate your skills or experience This is disappointing and extremely frustrating (those rabbit holes I mentioned earlier…) but if you let every rejection define you, you won’t bring your best game the next time round. Ask for feedback and consider the learnings. There is no doubt that the process from start to finish takes resilience, so surround yourself with people who believe in you.
What is something someone searching for a job can do today to improve their chances of landing a job?
Just add one new way of approaching the job market. If you are doing nothing but looking at online job ads and applying madly, then you are in a long queue. You should be using a variety of ways to tap into the job market, many of which I have mentioned earlier. By being creative with your jobsearching, you have more opportunity to spread yourself further. Don’t underestimate the power of a good network. Who can the people in your own close network suggest you have a coffee with from their network? That referral could lead you to a potential employer. So, in a nutshell, add just one more jobsearching strategy. Make sure you cover as many bases as you can think of. A career coach can help you explore creative and competitive ways of approaching the market.
What’s your favourite piece of advice or “words of wisdom” to give the people you coach?
Not very conventional, but a small dose of “get over yourself and get on with it” every now and then has the client taking a step back an asking themselves “have I really been consistent”, or “have I explored how and where I ‘fit’ thoroughly, or “am I adopting a close enough is good enough attitude because I am over it”, or maybe “am I taking enough responsibility for my own outcome here?”… Sometimes a good reality check can be very insightful!
Now let’s discover a bit more about Debra herself…
Debra, what gets you fired up in the morning?
I’m a real night owl, so I’m not sure that ‘fired up’ is the correct terminology! That could be due to being a musician, or working all night to finish the odd Uni assignment! Nonetheless, I do face every new day with a sense of what’s possible (and a really good coffee!). I really do enjoy the career coaching piece in the array of coaching that I do. I see magic happen so often, and feel extremely lucky to work with people that are on a significant journey of change. There is so much to discover and explore. I find it exciting, working in that space with them. So, what fires me up in the morning? The knowledge that what I do in my own career space brings me joy, and that I have the privilege of playing a support role in someone else’s story as it emerges.
How do you maintain your motivation?
I have days where my motivation is challenged, but I have an inherent determination and belief that things work out. I may go down a rabbit hole every now again, like most people, but I try to keep my eye on the prize and reconnect to the outcome. I find that working with my own coach on a regular basis gives me the space to explore where that lack of motivation might be coming from, and develop strategies to reconnect to it. By nature, I’m very ideas driven – I usually have lots of plates spinning at once, and it can become overwhelming to manage the motivation for each piece. My coach helps me work through the most important pieces first which is really helpful in maintaining motivation in the bigger picture.
What do you do when you just don’t feel like it?
Take a break. Do something completely different. Give myself some space to clear my head and refocus. I’ve always been a great believer in the power of surrounding yourself with positive people. And if I can pick up the phone, or grab a coffee with a friend with the intention of getting myself back above the line, then I find this helps exponentially.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
I have had so many amazing people come through my life, and there has been a lot of career advice thrown into that mix. I have seen people step completely outside corporate into a purpose-driven career, I have seen others study passionately for years, to find at the 11th hour that they craved a complete change of career focus. I’ve had a number of careers myself: musician, interpreter, small business owner… there’s been others… and I have immersed myself in these for significant periods, and usually with a lot of study or practice, or steep learning curve of some kind. On reflection, I have probably modelled my career journey on the people I have encountered and really connected to – those people who really embraced change, rather than taken any particular career advice.
What’s the worst?
My parents were very gypsy-esque, and from very different backgrounds. We moved constantly when I was young and I went to many schools. My mum was an academic and an actress, and my dad was a cowboy – the hat and boots kind. These days we would call my dad an entrepreneur, but in his prime, he was considered just not able to settle into any one career. So, it was inevitable that I would be drawn to change. While my father couldn’t seem to avoid change for too long, he didn’t ever seem to embrace it wholeheartedly – he almost seemed to stumble into it, and manage it from there. So, the worst piece of career advice I got was from him. Despite his own history, he held fast to the belief that success was entirely defined by going straight to uni, with one career focus, and sticking to that from day one forward. He couldn’t have been less insightful as to my own vision.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career/working life?
There’s been so many! But a standout is making a choice to get to know myself and get a really good understanding of what’s important to me. That’s what I mean about insight. And I don’t believe you can separate the career piece from all the other pieces of your life. Once you start to get a sense of where and how you ‘fit’ in your world and what gets you out of bed every day, then you can authentically explore what career aligns with the vision that you start to develop for your life.
If you could go back and tell your teenage self one thing related to jobs/career, what would be?
My 14-year old granddaughter started her first job last night. As she was on her way out the door, her mum yelled “Love you. Look busy”. I thought that was reasonable advice for a trainee! I had my first job at 14 in a small country town near the coast, serving customers and shovelling lollies in to bags at Woolworths. My mother opened an account for me at the coolest clothes shop in town, and I used my wages to keep the account in credit so I could choose and buy my own clothes. I remember that being a big thing. Having a sense that the money I earned was valuable to me, which in turn meant that the job I had was valuable. In retrospect that was probably the first time I had a sense of what I valued (and at 14 apparently it was clothes!). So, what would I tell my teenage self?: figure out what’s important to you when you start to earn money. Even casual baby-sitting money. Connect what’s important to you to what you are earning. If you start that at the very outset, then you are going to set yourself up to connect to those careers that authentically ‘fit’ you – no matter where the path takes you.