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I’m Doing Something Wrong here – employment

By Vanessa 9 March 2012 34

I returned to Canberra last year after six years of living in Christchurch, NZ. Earthquakes  brought me back – believe me, terra firma is much more conducive to peace of mind.

I ‘ve  spent all my adult working life in Canberra (apart from baby breaks and the above) so of course I began seeking employment here. I thought I had a great resume of experience, honourable work ethic, enthusiasm – all that great stuff. Combine that with a local unemployment rate of around 3% and I had no doubts about successful job hunting.

Enthusiastic optimism turned to bewildered dismay over the course of a few months as I failed to find *any* employment in the public sector. I registered at temp agencies, government temp registers, applied for jobs, scoured the online APS gazette – writing up what I thought were reasonable applications. I had employed friends look at my resume – was it up to date? Not too waffley? Acceptable format? Enough information? Yes, yes, yes were the responses.

Still no success. As my savings dwindled I came to the soul destroying realisation that I would need to apply for a job seeker benefit, something I have not done since I was 18 – and then only for 5 weeks. That was waaaaay back in the 70s. I’ve always worked. I don’t want to be on a benefit. I have a good brain, a lifetime of experience, a yearning to contribute productively, yet still I fail. I refuse to accept that over-45s are not employable. Maybe I’m wrong about this?

If anyone can tell me what I am doing that’s wrong – my approach, my expectations, whatever – I can fix it and hopefully get some success. It is all incredibly depressing to contemplate that there may in fact be no hope of being employed. It is terrifying to realise how quickly I have moved from employed, comfortable, single woman to unemployed, broke, unemployable middle aged woman no one wants. I see Ainslie Village looming on the horizon – but wait, I’m not eligible for that accommodation because it is geared towards the mentally ill. Perhaps I will qualify sooner than I think.

Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas, criticisms will be gladly received.

What’s Your opinion?


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I’m Doing Something Wrong here – employment
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Vanessa 6:42 pm 13 Mar 12

Thank you so much for all the really useful, encouraging suggestions. I must admit I was at a bit of a low point, and your kind and thoughtful responses have given me just the boost I need.
I prefer not to think age has much t do with employment prospects, after all the PM is around my age and she recently managed to retain her job.
I worked in the private sector in NZ so I certainly have no objections to job seeking in other than public sector, I am trying this as I write this.

Again, thank you all for your encouragement

scorpio63 12:32 am 11 Mar 12

Hi Vanessa, I am a contractor working for both the public service and private enterprise. I am rarely out of work and wish to give you the following suggestions:
– register for 3 month contracts initially as opposed to longer term contracts given that the majority of departments are satisfied conducting Protected or Highly Protected clearances (now termed Vetting) for shorter term contracts if adequate references or referees are supplied. The 6 month-12 month contracts are more difficult to secure without a Secret Clearance.
– Check out exactly what your old Referees stated to the Agency before the Agency gives a Department or private employer your Referee’s details. Many people ‘assume’ that after requesting a previous employer to be referee for them, that a glowing referee report will be given orally, Unfortunately, this does not always occur. Also, I have discovered with other people I have met as contractors, that a referee has not been available on several occasions when an agency or department has contacted them. The agency and/or department move on to the next candidate (temp) who have the clearances and been working continuous long term contracts. It pays to follow up with the agencies and depts that your referees were actually contacted. Email addresses are best in addition to phone contact details of your referees provided,
– obtain your own Police Check as it saves departments time when doing your clearances and have discovered it a bonus.
– Macarthur Recruitment are great, PCA and several government depts are seeking admin project workers at present from their temp registers..
– The quickest way to get back into the public service is to take on a few reception admin roles paying less, obtain your references locally and then move on to the ASO4,ASO5, ASO6 and above roles.
– I took short breaks in between having kids, running a business from home and supporting my Ex’s business for 20 yrs and chose the temp scene.
– I suggest lastly that you ask for written references along with the oral referee requests Vanessa. Agencies and departments still view mine and take them into consideration.
Best of luck, you will be offered roles shortly,

(i)

IrishPete 8:37 pm 10 Mar 12

Indi said :

Just going out on a limb….bit presumptuous to link Ainslie Village residents all having a mental illness with your apparent inability to score a plumb APS job and lead the high life. Sounds lije you have basic attitude problems

I think Ainslie Village is male only anyway.

IP

Peanut 8:22 pm 10 Mar 12

If you were able to apply for benefits back in the 70s may I venture to suggest that your lack of success may be that you are too old. Over 50 it is very difficult to get jobs in Canberra and in the tight environment that now prevails it is even more difficult. Good luck with your job search!

spiderinsider 11:45 am 10 Mar 12

That sounds really frustrating Vanessa. It sounds like you came back to Canberra at exactly the time the efficiency dividend increase began to bite, with a resultant pause in recruitment. Case in point: at my workplace we got approval to advertise to fill a vacant position, got to the point of taking applications and then got told by the powers that be (who’d previously approved the recruitment taking place), that we couldn’t fill the position.

But while the environment isn’t great for job hunters, there must still be some vacancies being filled by people not already in the position, and there are some more things you might want to try. One is checking that your selection criteria are as good as can be. Ann Villiers has an excellent book on this http://www.selectioncriteria.com.au/write-and-talk.html (the library has copies, but also a loooong waiting list it seems). The other is asking the contact officers for feedback as to why you weren’t selected (if you haven’t already). I realise this isn’t for the faint-hearted, but it might give you an idea of whether there are things you can work on to increase your chances next time.

As for going on newstart, as Phototext said, no shame in that. Or could you look at doing some more study and getting Austudy instead? I have to confess I have no idea whether you’d be eligible, but it might be worth looking into.

Good luck!

ThatUniStudent 8:02 am 10 Mar 12

You’re taking the wrong approach to the Interviews. Here, this is a short educational video on how to secure a job through corrrect interview technique courtesy of Chopper Read’s job agency:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4rSZP0nNCc

shadow boxer 2:39 am 10 Mar 12

qbngeek said :

dundle said :

If it’s APS, it could be your selection criteria aren’t up to scratch. I know employable people who have failed to get APS jobs because they write selection criteria wrongly. There are lots of resources online about that, if you haven’t seen them already.

If it’s not that then it could be because the APS doesn’t seem to be hiring much. A lot of jobs are advertised but I’m not sure about how many are filled.

I am also struggling to find a (new, I already have one) job and I am in my 20s! With a degree and years of experience both in and outside APS.

Without knowing more about your experience/qualifications I can’t really give more relevant advice though.

I came up with a simple solution to the selection criteria issue, I just refuse to write it. I send in my resume and a covering letter and if they tell me that I need to address selection criteria I politely tell them to stop wasting my time.

It is a stupid and archaic way of hiring staff.

Its actually pretty effective at weeding out those with attitude problems or problems with authority. It also checks applicants aren’t too lazy or iliterate to construct a set of claims and achievemnts against a criteria and gives some insight into how people approach difficult esoteric theories like strategy development.

Sounds like it is doing its job here..

c_c 2:12 am 10 Mar 12

qbngeek said :

dundle said :

If it’s APS, it could be your selection criteria aren’t up to scratch. I know employable people who have failed to get APS jobs because they write selection criteria wrongly. There are lots of resources online about that, if you haven’t seen them already.

If it’s not that then it could be because the APS doesn’t seem to be hiring much. A lot of jobs are advertised but I’m not sure about how many are filled.

I am also struggling to find a (new, I already have one) job and I am in my 20s! With a degree and years of experience both in and outside APS.

Without knowing more about your experience/qualifications I can’t really give more relevant advice though.

I came up with a simple solution to the selection criteria issue, I just refuse to write it. I send in my resume and a covering letter and if they tell me that I need to address selection criteria I politely tell them to stop wasting my time.

It is a stupid and archaic way of hiring staff.

I’m not having a go at you because I entirely agree with you about those damn criteria, but how often has ignoring them actually worked?

APS hiring is a joke and the selection criteria are the absolute pits. I mean I often see one criteria being “Contribute to OH&S practices” – how do you answer that? List all the dumb stuff you didn’t do? Tell them about the time you got a paper cut and put a band aid on it?

The APS really needs to take some pointers from the private sector, particularly companies like Google who have some innovative hiring methods.

qbngeek 12:25 am 10 Mar 12

dundle said :

If it’s APS, it could be your selection criteria aren’t up to scratch. I know employable people who have failed to get APS jobs because they write selection criteria wrongly. There are lots of resources online about that, if you haven’t seen them already.

If it’s not that then it could be because the APS doesn’t seem to be hiring much. A lot of jobs are advertised but I’m not sure about how many are filled.

I am also struggling to find a (new, I already have one) job and I am in my 20s! With a degree and years of experience both in and outside APS.

Without knowing more about your experience/qualifications I can’t really give more relevant advice though.

I came up with a simple solution to the selection criteria issue, I just refuse to write it. I send in my resume and a covering letter and if they tell me that I need to address selection criteria I politely tell them to stop wasting my time.

It is a stupid and archaic way of hiring staff.

EvanJames 11:52 pm 09 Mar 12

The labour market in the ACT and surrounds has been weak for the last year or so. And if you’re only aiming at public service jobs, that is a bit unfortunate as the mid-budget cycle increased efficieny dividend saw recruitment come to a screeching halt. If the liberals get in however, watch carnage ensue.

Pandy 10:45 pm 09 Mar 12

Have you got a Kiwi accent?

Thats the problem!

Bramina 8:29 pm 09 Mar 12

harvyk1 said :

Don’t bother with temp agencies, what they really want is numbers on the books so they can say “we have 20,000 names” to potential employers to encourage them to sign with the agency. Furthermore many agencies actually have restrictions of trade which means a placement with the temp agency can not turn into something more (without going through the agency). In fact don’t bother signing up with any agency, instead keep looking through the jobs boards (esp if there is a board for your particular area) and applying for any jobs you see on the board.

From what I’ve heard job agencies are leaches. They take a huge chunk of your pay for the effort (which is minimal) of placing you.

Vanessa 8:27 pm 09 Mar 12

Indi said :

Just going out on a limb….bit presumptuous to link Ainslie Village residents all having a mental illness with your apparent inability to score a plumb APS job and lead the high life. Sounds lije you have basic attitude problems

I can assure you, I am neither looking for a plumb job, nor have I any attitude problems. I simply looked at the official criteria for an application to live in Ainslie Village to be considered. On the website.

Econman 8:16 pm 09 Mar 12

Try the ACT Government. http://www.job.act.gov.au.

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