Redundancy – what to do if it happens to you?

If you suddenly find yourself out of work, due to redundancy or other unexpected changes, you are likely to have a range of emotions, anywhere from despair to elation. Regardless of whether you wanted, or even expected this sudden change, there are ways to get the most from this time, and get back in charge of your career. These twelve tips can help you feel in control again.


1.     Look after yourself

First and foremost, focus on some self-care! Whether you left a job because it wasn’t right, or you were suddenly let go, it’s likely that you’re feeling some degree of anxiety or stress about your finances, your career, your goals etc. You may be feeling a bit depressed, wondering why this has happened to you. It’s important to look after the key elements of rest, diet and exercise, and be aware of any changes in your mood that suggest it’s all getting on top of you. Beyond Blue is a great resource for information on anxiety, stress and depression, and has suggestions to help you look after your well-being. Try to stick to a good sleep routine; get enough sleep but resist the temptation to do late nights and lie-ins as ‘there’s nothing to get up for’. Start the day with a morning walk or other exercise that you enjoy. Use a calendar to schedule job hunting, resume writing etc. Take the opportunity to learn some new healthy recipes to cook.


2.     Budget

Exercise financial and budget restraint. If you received a redundancy payment, don’t assume that you can splurge and go on a spending spree. While you might think you’re going to walk straight into another job this may not happen, and overspending could lead to you having to take a job you don’t really want, therefore missing out on having this opportunity to reflect, and look at other career options. Get financial advice on how to manage any large redundancy payments, work out a viable household budget, and use apps to track your spending.  


3.     What is your ideal job?

Spend some time thinking about “what do you want to be now you’re grown up?” What did you like/not like in your old job? What was your “dinner party spiel” – when someone asked “what do you do?” how did you describe your job, what were the key things that gave you pride and satisfaction in your work? Think about what you enjoy and keep doing those things if possible; are there any opportunities to work for yourself, or to turn a hobby or a side hustle into a job?


4.     Update your resume

Also update your LinkedIn profile, and make sure it aligns with your resume (CV). It’s useful to develop one core resume that has all of your relevant information and experience, and adapt that to different roles you’re applying for. Do the same with a cover letter; have a master document that has paragraphs setting out the key skills for your job or your industry, and how you have demonstrated them.


5.     Rehearse great application or interview responses

Think of and rehearse examples of situations, tasks or projects where you’ve used these key skills, it’s useful to have them written out ready to use in job applications, and rehearse them verbally as part of practising your interview skills, or in preparing to phone a recruiter about a job you’re interested. Also have your ‘elevator pitch’ ready ahead of phone calls, and ensure you’ve done some research on the job and the company so you feel prepared and sound professional.


6.     Target jobs/companies you’re interested in

Use LinkedIn, and job websites such as Seek to see what opportunities are out there. Use your network to find out about potential roles or upcoming projects or developments in your industry. Research – are there recruitment agencies who seem to specialise in your work? Talk to them and get on their books and into their awareness, so they are more likely to think of you if a role comes up that would be a good match for your skills.

7.     Stay connected

Keep in contact with your former colleagues, including any still in your old workplace, and others who have left. Those still in the workplace might want to give you a reference or have contacts in other organisations that could use your skills. They may also be feeling a form of ‘survivors’ guilt’ from being the ones still with their jobs, so you have an opportunity to help them too!


8.     Mentor

If you already have a mentor, reach out to them for advice and support on career direction, job hunting advice, access to their network etc. If you didn’t have a mentor use this opportunity to find one and perhaps consider becoming a mentor yourself; once you’ve successfully navigated a redundancy or career change, you could be a great resource to help others through change.


9.    Training

Is there any training you would like to do now you’ve got time? For example, short courses targeting specific skills, look at online options, look at job training agencies for more hands-on skills. It’s good to develop new skills, both as a way to remind yourself that you have the ability to keep learning and can adapt to change, and to demonstrate your work ethic and willingness to learn to prospective new employers.


10.   Work experience or volunteering

As with training, this can help you in learning and demonstrating new skills, showing your work ethic, and can support your morale if the job hunt is harder than you had hoped.


11.  Be organised

Keep track of who you have contacted and what jobs you’re applying for; a simple spreadsheet can help, and if you use Seek then your profile can track your job applications.


12.  And finally, ask for help

Think of the support you can get from your friends and family. For example, a good resume goes a long way so if you have a friend or family member who’s good at this stuff, ask them to check yours and make suggestions to improve it. Or get professional resume writing; it can be a great investment. Get help with interview skills, and practice. Let friends and family know you’re looking for a job; or run business ideas past savvy friends. If you have an idea for a new product or service would they buy what you’re selling, and how much would they pay for it? People generally want to help; and the more specific you can be with requests for help, the better.


And of course I’m happy to help too; if you want further advice or support, please get in touch. Thanks for reading; Louise @ Cara Counselling.

What happens at an initial counselling session?

When I'm helping clients with anxiety, I often talk about small acts of courage - doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable, and subsequently having both a great sense of achievement, and the realisation that the world didn't end!

I finally took my own advice today and made a short video, giving some info on what happens at a counselling session. If you have 3 mins 42 seconds to spare please have a look, and let me know what you think 😀Any other counselling questions you want answered? Get in touch & I'm always happy to help.

The stress of moving house

 With the Reserve Bank slashing the official rate for the second consecutive month, many property experts are predicting an increase in buyers entering the property market. Whether this is a good thing or not is very much a matter of perspective; it’s probably good news if you’re planning to sell as the buyer pool will be larger, it also seems like good news for buyers who will pay less for their loans. However there is the less rosy view that the cuts will lure home buyers into stretching their budgets to take advantage of these historic low rates, which may come back as mortgage stress down the track when rates rise.

But assuming you’ve done your financial homework and are still thinking of buying, or selling, what does moving house mean for you in terms of your stress levels?

Depending on which poll you read, moving house is at the top of the stress list, for some people triggering more stress than relationship breakdowns, divorce, or changing jobs. Personally, I like the idea of moving, and one of the kids has asked for a new house for their birthday (they’re too young to understand the concept of money!). But yet the same kid had a meltdown just yesterday, when we did a drive by of a potential block of land to build on! And my hubby, while indulging me in driving past various blocks of land or houses for sale, never wants to move again (our last move was two years ago).

And that’s not surprising; moving is one of life's most stressful experiences, because it involves having to cope with change and transition. For many people change and unfamiliarity cause stress and anxiety. It’s important to remember that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is normal, and there are a range of actions you can take to reduce the stress.

1.     Preparation

Whatever you can do in advance will be one less thing to worry about; and this will vary depending on whether you’re moving to a new area or staying local. For example, if you need to find a new GP, dentist and so on, these are things you can research and get out of the way in advance. Facebook groups can be a great source of advice on local facilities and activities.

There are heaps of checklists available to help keep on track; most banks, removalists etc have one on their website, or to save you the search this one can be printed and ticked off.

Make sure you advise utility companies as soon as possible, as generally at least a few days notice is needed to ensure a smooth changeover.

2.     Focus on the positives

Remember why you’re moving. For example, if it’s to a bigger house, then while you’re busy packing all of the things crammed into your current kitchen cupboards, imagine them organised in your new space.

Moving can put a strain on the whole family, and on relationships. Take time to do some fun things together. If the new place isn’t too far away, take time to go for a walk in your new neighbourhood and find local parks, or try some of the cafes and restaurants that will become your new locals.

If you have kids, take them on a few walks or drives by the new place, so they get used to the idea of their new street, and talk about the move, find out any anxieties they have, so you can address them early.

3.     Helping kids move

Talk about their new bedroom, and consider a new lamp, picture, or bedding that they can choose. Keep some familiarity as well; when we moved we packed the kids bedding, soft toys, blankies, toothbrushes and pjs straight into a large bag each on the morning of the move, (Ikea blue bags are great for this) and took these with us in the car. At the new house they each got to pick their room, and the bag went into their room straight away, ready to unpack once the beds were in and assembled. This makes it easy to make their bed for the night and give some familiarity to the new surrounds.

(An overnight bag for the grown-ups is also a good idea, plus a box/basket with the kettle, tea bags, etc. and a few snacks for everyone.)

4.     Look after your health.

Staying active, eating well, and getting outdoors are all part of reducing stress and anxiety. In addition to getting out and about in your new neighbourhood, try to keep the basics in check and ensure you get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. Do menu plans in the weeks leading up to the move, with a focus on planning healthy meals that also use up the contents of your fridge and freezer.

 Do a grocery order for home delivery or click and collect for after you’ve moved, so you are restocked and ready to go.

5.     Take time to breathe (and other anxiety reducing tips)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point stop, and notice how you’re feeling; increased heart rate, more rapid breathing, racing thoughts and tense muscles are due to adrenaline and our sympathetic nervous system, and can be countered by deep breathing, engaging our parasympathetic nervous system.

Belly big - breathe in - belly small - breathe out

  • Take a slow breath in through your nose for a count of 4, breathing into your lower belly so it inflates

  • Hold it for a second or two

  • Breath out slowly through your mouth for the count of 5, and feel your belly deflate

  • Wait a few seconds then take another deep breath, and find a breath pattern that suits you.

Kids can also learn to do deep breathing to calm down; one tip that worked for us was getting the kids to lie down with a favourite toy on their belly (eg soft toy, action figure) and try to make that toy fall off!

Progressive muscle relaxation

Lie down if you can, then close your eyes and tense your body. Starting with your toes, progressively relax each muscle group, working your way up through your calf, thighs etc, and imagining that you’re so relaxed, you’re sinking into the surface that you’re lying on.

Stay in the present moment

Rather than focusing on all the things that you have to do, or that could possibly go wrong, focus on right now. If you’re doing a task, do only that one task rather than trying to multi-task (which has been found to be a bit of a myth, less efficient than doing one thing at a time, and infinitely more stressful!)

6.     Ask for help

 And be specific; have a list of jobs that need doing, and match people to the jobs that best suit them – people respond much better to a specific request such as ‘can you collect moving boxes for us’, ‘are you available tomorrow night to help me wrap and pack kitchen stuff’ and, if you have kids, having someone lined up to keep them entertained for at least part of moving day is also a major help for many families.

If you’re overwhelmed before you’ve even started, remember that there are buyer’s agents and other professionals who can help you from the very start of the process. For example Jayne from The Informed Buyer has a range of services from helping you with your property search action plan to doing the search and even negotiating for you, and reducing stress is part of her goal.  

7.     Keep an eye on your wellbeing

While it’s perfectly normal to feel stressed or anxious, it’s important to be aware of the impact of a move on any underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, OCD, or depression.

If you find you can’t concentrate, experience mood swings, palpitations or other symptoms, pay attention to these signs and consider seeking support from your psychologist or a counsellor.

As ever, if you have any queries or would like some further strategies to reduce stress and anxiety, please give me a call or email.

Returning to work from Maternity Leave? Thinking about a Career Change?

Career counselling isn’t just for high school kids; it’s relevant to people at any stage in their working life, and particularly for mums going back to work, or looking for work opportunities, after maternity leave. (And of course, also for the increasing number of dads who take time from work to be a stay at home dad! I refer to mums/maternity leave below, but this applies equally to dads returning from leave, and indeed to anyone considering a career change.)

There are so many questions around the return to work “who will look after the little one”, “how will they settle”, “how does childcare rebate work”, and so on. The question of ‘what will my job look like?’ is pretty big too, and this can look different for everyone.

Some mums will be returning to their old job and trying to balance it with family life, some will be going back full time, some part time. Some will be returning to the same organisation but in a different job, and some will be looking for a whole new role, maybe with more flexibility, or opportunities for working from home.

If you’re considering a new job after maternity leave, or a wholesale career change, there are lots of questions to consider, but equally lots of career advice available.

Questions first.

Is this a good time to think about quitting my old job, or making a change?

This is a biggie! For many people, quitting the job that’s ready and waiting does not seem like an option, and realistically may not be the best choice right now. Instead, this may be the time to:

• Look at the pros and cons of your job – is it flexible, rewarding, fun – what do you get from it?

• What do you bring to the job? Are there particular skills that you don’t use in your existing role, but that you could leverage to get you a better or more flexible role in your current organisation?

• Are you making the most of what your organisation offers? Whether that’s flexible work or management training or salary packaging; make sure you’ve researched what’s on offer and you’re using the perks that are valuable to you.

• If you are seeing a total job change as the way to go, what are your transferable skills? And what are your interests and strengths?

• What are your other work options? Do you have skills, knowledge and financial backup to go and try something new, for example starting your own business?

• Do you have contacts ready to help you land a new job in their field, or with insights that can help you? Ask family and friends what they see as your main skills and strengths; they may have noticed qualities you don’t even think about.

• Can you give returning to your old job a few months, and see if the work/life/money balance works for you and your family?

And remember that settling into your old job, but with a whole new way of working, can take time; give yourself maybe three months before you make any major decisions.

Ok I’ve thought about it / tried it – I still want to change careers!

• Do a skills audit – what are the transferrable skills from your old career?

• What are the new skills you bring? It’s likely that you’re more efficient these days, and maybe you’re returning with increased patience, or have spent time reading or researching to gain some new knowledge.

• Do you have a whole new network to call on? Or a great product or business idea now that you know a whole different market demographic?

• Do you want to start your own business? If so, who do you know who runs their own business and is likely to give you honest feedback on the pros and cons of being your own boss?

• Do you want to work alone, in a team, as a manager?

• Is there an option to do the same type of work but in a different way, for example as a consultant, or even using sites such as Airtasker to work casually?

• Can you get some experience in your new chosen career through volunteering? Or is there an entry level or lower level role you can target?

• Get professional Financial Advice to ensure you’ve considered all the angles on pay, superannuation, child care costs and benefits etc.

What if you’ve lost confidence?

Even though being a mum, or a stay at home dad, takes a myriad of skills, and you’ve likely learned so much in your time away from the workplace, the thought of going back to work can be daunting.

If you do decide to return to your old job, here are a few suggestions to get your through the return to work jitters:

• Keeping in touch – while you’re on leave try to visit your workplace, and stay familiar with what’s going on so you feel you’re still in the loop

• Make a plan with your manager prior to your return, so you know what you’re going back to. As well as hours and days, the plan should include an outline of what you’ll be working on, and any projects, reports etc that you can read up on before you go back.

• If part of your apprehension is around your skills or being up to date with your industry, use LinkedIn, websites and blog posts for your industry, relevant podcasts, and find networking events or training opportunities to meet up and catch up.

• If you can, find a mentor, someone who can support you with a combination of practical advice and that feeling of having someone you trust backing you up.

• Enjoy the social element of being back at work; try to have proper lunch breaks where you chat with colleagues or get out to meet a friend for lunch

Whatever you decide to do; ask for help.

• Visit relevant online forums, such as mum’s pages, parenting pages for advice and support from people in similar situations.

• Use LinkedIn forums, and Seek or other jobsites that have career guidance and job-hunting resources.

• Ask family and friends for help and be specific; rather than telling a friend that you need some help with your job hunt, try for example;

 ‘knowing that you’re great with grammar, can you please proof read this job application’,

 ‘you know a lot about finance, can you please check that I’ve covered the key points in this application’,

 ‘you’ve been on interview panels, will you please mock interview me for this job?’.

Get help with updating your resume and cover letter - my good friend Michelle over at the Small Business Virtual Assistant loves doing resume updates, and of course I’m happy to talk through your plans, support you through the decision making, and give practical support through interview coaching etc.

If you have friends in an industry you’d like to break into, ask them about their experiences, what they like and don’t like, what transferrable skills they see you as having, and what else you need to focus on.

Recognise that some people may question your decision, for whatever reason. If you have really thought it though and considered all the pros and cons, you’ll find it easier to have a great discussion on why you’re changing career, rather than finding yourself defending your decision!

As ever, if you’d like further info, or want to talk about your career or return to work plans, please get in touch :)

Why do kids lie, and what can parents do?

Parenting is challenging and rewarding, fun, frustrating, confusing, and tiring and, for many people, the most joyous part of their lives.

It also comes with many questions, like ‘Why won’t you sleep? Why did you put weetbix on the dog?! Why don’t you like apples today? You loved them yesterday!’ And also the realisation that we don’t always have all the answers, for example I have no idea who would win a race between a wolf and a velociraptor (if anyone has the answer to this let me know; my 5 year old will be very happy!).

One of the more troubling questions we have to deal with as parents is “Why is my child lying?” and the follow on of how to help them to stop.

1. Little lies & their intent

As a first step, consider if you really need to stop every lie? Kids, just like adults, sometimes tell white lies. They learn from us that occasionally it’s ok, or even polite, to lie a little when it is not malicious, and the intent is to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

Generally, as a parent, telling your child some white lies is harmless. Again, the intent is important; for example when you’re encouraging your child to choose their own clothes when getting dressed, and then wholeheartedly compliment them on their choice of wildly clashing colours! But it is important not to do it too often, for a number of reasons:

• Our kids learn from us – when they know that we tell lies, it’s easy for them to think that lying is ok

• Kids, especially younger kids, can’t easily tell the difference between a white lie, told to protect someone’s feelings, and a ‘real’ lie they’re telling to keep out of trouble

• Lying to your child to avoid a meltdown, for example saying the park is closed, or the shop is sold out of ice cream, is sooo tempting (and I have absolutely done it too). But it isn’t teaching your child the right behaviours, such as how to deal with disappointment, and it might teach them that lying is a good way to solve problems, or that their parents can’t always be trusted.

2. True lies

In young children, especially under fours, it’s important to encourage imaginative play and pretending. Recognising that some of the more ‘out there’ stories your child tells you are part of play and can be treated as just that, stories, will make parenting that bit easier.

Where it’s moving beyond storytelling and into the realms of telling the grown-ups what they want to hear, there are a few questions to consider in deciding how to approach this type of lying.

• Why did my child tell this lie? What do they get, or avoid, from lying about this?

• What do I want them to do instead?

• How do I help them learn to tell the truth – what’s in it for them?

For example – why did my five-year-old lie about drawing with a marker on the back of the curtains?! Well, as best I can understand it, he realised from my really cranky tone, and the hands on hips, that I wasn’t happy, and that no good was going to come from confessing it was him!

What I wanted him to do instead was really two things; not draw on anything other than paper, and not lie when he makes a mistake.

How can I help him learn this? By being clear that, when something goes wrong, telling the truth helps us to fix it. And I also help (when I remember) by not doing the ‘who did this awful thing’ type questions but rather focus on how we need to fix the problem, and how telling the truth makes it easier to fix things straight away.

The key is to help your child to get it right, rather than focus on catching and punishing them for doing the wrong thing. It’s also good to show and explain to our kids that we find it hurtful when they lie; this is not only to support them learning not to lie, but also to encourage and reinforce our kids knowing that they can tell us anything.

3. Encouraging honesty

• Ensure that everyone in the family knows the importance of telling the truth, and that the grown-ups are modelling honesty.

• Reward good behaviour; where your child comes to you and tells you something they did wrong or something they’re worried about, thank them for telling you and then help them fix it. For example, if something got knocked over and broken, or spilt, tell them what they need to do to clean it up, or help them clean up depending on their age. If they upset a friend at school or got into trouble in class, talk through what they can say or do to show they’re sorry and make amends, and ensure they follow through with apologies etc.

• Where your child is making up a story or telling a tall tale, a good response is to acknowledge it’s a story and enjoy the imagination involved. For example, the time my older kid seriously had me believing that some marine biologists had brought a huge tank to school with an epaulette carpet shark, which had been found injured and was recovering before being released back into the wild, and that they had left the tank at school for the kids to study! Something I could have said would be ‘wow, I love the idea of carpet sharks at school. What other sharks would we have in this story?’

• What I accidentally did in the carpet shark example was use another technique instead. Epaulette carpet sharks are my favourite! So, when I found out that there wasn’t really one at school for my beautiful budding marine biologist to show me, I was genuinely disappointed! As mentioned before, letting our kids know that we’re hurt and disappointed when they lie is a good strategy.

• If you notice that your kid is telling lots of ‘bragging’ stories, about how they ran 10 times faster than everyone, or are able to do amazing superpower feats etc, maybe they feel they need to be better, or cooler, or somehow ‘more’. Finding things to praise and reward your child for can help give them a boost; try to ‘catch’ them doing something well, or some great behaviour, and tell them how proud you are of them for it.

• And, as with so many behaviours, label the behaviour and not the child; if you call your child a liar they may feel that’s what they are, so they may as well do it. Instead of saying ‘we’re really disappointed that you’re a liar, say ‘we’re really hurt when you lie to us’.

This is a really big and interesting topic, and the strategies vary a bit depending on the age of the child. If you google ‘why kids lie’ you’ll find lots of further reading; this link has some extra information across all aspects of the topic, including suggestions for parents of kids with ADHD.

I’d be delighted to hear about any other strategies that you have tried, or to discuss ideas. If you feel that your child is lying consistently, has other serious, negative behaviours, or if you have concerns about your child’s safety or wellbeing, it never hurts to ask for help or advice, for example from your GP, paediatrician or school counsellor.

Part three of this blog series ‘Help; I don’t want to keep lying!’ will be out next week and will look at some things you can do if you are concerned with your own behaviour. If this is info you feel you could use right now, get it touch & I’ll be happy to give you some strategies.

Thanks for reading, Louise @ Cara