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Recipe for a Job in Australia with Peter Acheson

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by Lionel (subscribe)
Join me as I travel, play, eat, live and work in cities and places around the world.
Published August 23rd 2012

Each time I return to Australia, there's more news of a dollars and cents economy in the local media. The 2-speed roller coaster economic ride coupled with global financial volatility seems to cast a dark shadow over Australia. The Canberra Times has estimated that at least 14,000 jobs will be eliminated from the federal public service during the next three years. New South Wales is haemorrhaging jobs with redundancies at Kell and Rigby, Reed Construction, St Hilliers, the Hastie Group, Volgren, Darrell Lea and the shutdown of Caltex oil refinery at Kurnell adding 630 bodies to some 15,000 job casualty count.

The situation isn't rosier in Victoria with 4,200 job cuts including 440 and 120 jobs vanishing with Ford's and CMI's plants closing respectively, Qantas making 500 maintenance and engineering redundancies and the 550 jobs at TAFE slated to go, with another 1,450 expected by the end of 2012. Queensland home to 6 of BHP's six coal mines in Bowen Basin isn't spared either. BHP had already closed one of their mines and will continue to make cuts to overhands and operating costs if necessary. Over the past four months, the Queensland State Government has overseen the elimination of 7,500 public sector jobs, with another 20,000 slated to follow. Then there's Australia's 3rd largest bank announcing it would slash its Australian workforce by 1,000 and freezing most executive salaries for the rest of 2012.

In the face of national storm clouds, the Australian economy seemed to remain resilient. The national jobless rate dropped from 5.3 per cent to 5.2 per cent. In total, 14,000 more people were employed in July than the month before. Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan stated that Australia's economic fundamentals remain strong and predicted that the commodity-rich economy would be the fastest-growing in the developed world through 2013. These mix signals of job losses and growth in the major cities will likely have many readers flipping the Job pages of newspapers every weekend.

Peter Acheson / Image courtesy of Peoplebank
To better understand where the jobs are and how best to find one in Australia, I decided to seek expert advice. I spoke to Peter Acheson of Peoplebank which specializes in the permanent and contract placement of IT and T professionals in various markets, including finance, professional services, services, IT services, manufacturing, government, distribution, telecommunications, and retail in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. The company had recently completed a study of its biggest 50 clients, providing a cross-section of hiring intentions at organisations including the big four banks, other S&P/ASX 200 companies, federal and state governments.

As CEO of Australia's largest IT&T recruitment company, Peter sets the company's strategy, defining how Peoplebank is going to be successful as recruitment partners to its clients and candidates, and positioning it in the marketplace as an outstanding place to work, and an outstanding company to do business with. Following on from that, his next duty is making sure the company has the right people in the right positions to achieve our strategic goals. He also takes on the responsibility of setting the culture of the company and ensuring every staff shares the goal of delivering above and beyond expectation. He believes in being a role model to his staff by setting the standard for team behaviours that collectively reflect Peoplebank's core culture.

Lionel: What is the job market in Australia like, presently and for the remainder of 2012?

Peter: The good news is that Australia's economy grew by 10,500 jobs last month. But of course, the reality is that this figure would have been much lower without the continued jobs demand being generated by the mining sector. There can be no doubt that the on-going resources sector boom is underpinning Australia's economy. Having said that, growth in the jobs market is still lower than it has been in recent years. From an eagle's eye view, the jobs market, overall, is steady. But the more closely you look at individual market sectors, you can see that growth is patchy. Some sectors are performing better than others, and even some regions within the different sectors are performing better than others.

Lionel: What Federal and/or State Government policies are creating or losing jobs in Australia?

Peter: At the Federal level, hiring levels have been consistently strong. At the State level however, hiring patterns are quite volatile. In NSW, the O'Farrell Government, after a period of slow hiring last year has committed to programs that see it hiring steadily across a number of job descriptions. By contrast, Victoria's public sector is shrinking as the Baillieu Government pushes ahead with plans to reduce the State's public sector workforce by 3600 administrative jobs. Queensland's public sector is being even harder hit by austerity measures, as the State's new government seeks to reduce its budget significantly by cutting up to 20,000 public sector jobs across Queensland.

Lionel: Where are the available jobs in Australia?

Peter: It's no secret that the strongest area of jobs growth is in the resources sector – mining, engineering and related roles continue to be in demand across all States of Australia. In addition, Peoplebank is seeing increased demand arising in the utilities sector, which as investing in new capabilities. There are also plenty of opportunities in the Health sector, which is facing an ongoing shortfall of skilled workers in the face of an ageing Australian population. In both Melbourne and Sydney, the banking sector which accounts for a significant proportion of Australian jobs is starting to hire once again, after several quiet months. The banking sector is hiring particularly strongly in the area of wealth management, including advisors and others to help manage bank customers' superannuation and related portfolios.

Lionel: What qualities are today's employers looking for in their people?

Peter: In the first instance, employers are naturally looking for relevant skills and experience for the roles they have available. Beyond that, we're seeing that companies are increasingly putting a higher value on 'soft' skills, like communication and interpersonal skills as well as the ability to collaborate across teams and across cultures. These skills are becoming core requirements for working successfully in today's world. When Peoplebank asks employers to rate an 'outstanding' employee, their common response will indicate that the person has gone above and beyond their duties or does more than they've been asked to do. Bosses like employees who have a positive outlook, and who show some initiative in their work.

Lionel: What is your advice for my readers looking for a job in Australia in the coming months?

Peter: In a steady market, readers looking for new career opportunities needs to put in place as many strategies as they can to land their ideal job. For instance, be really clear about which company or which job you're after, and make the most of your personal and social networks to help you get there. It's also helpful to work with recruiters who specialise in the area you're searching in. For instance, Peoplebank has a number of specialist teams in IT, mining and engineering, the financial services and marketing sectors, and our specialist recruiters are well-placed to help position candidates in the right way for a particular role. And above all, keep investing in yourself. Invest in training as it will not only boost your skills but the people you meet along the way can be a great asset to you in your career.

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