Why are soft skills so important?

Sometimes I lament when I hear about graduates and the career trajectory they think they can launch themselves into immediately.

I am absolutely that person that says you should aim high, BUT aim realistically too, and to quote every grandmother on the planet—good things come to those who wait!

Sometimes, to get from A to B, you do need to go via C, D and E, all to get back to B.

And you know what, it’s okay. It doesn’t have to take an age either.

Often your first few jobs are not your dream role, but what they are in fact are building blocks to help you grow, mature and to make you a more rounded, creative individual.

Soft skills. Learning how to answer phones, work on finished art, be a PA or on reception in a progressive organisation. Doing office admin or working in recruitment, it all plays a part in who you become in your chosen field down the track.

Myself, after studying photography, I was an assistant and worked in TV and theatre. I traveled the world, I was a ‘door bitch’ in a night club in London, I worked for a poet making bookings at literary festivals in the UK, I taught photography, I worked in recruiting and I worked on new business in design studios.

All of this made me who I am today. Each job, no matter how quirky and not related to the creative world, gave me certain skills that have stood me in good stead throughout my career journey (which I might add is still a massive learning curve for me.)

‘Door bitching’ gave me a great insight in to human nature. New business calls enhanced my network and very quickly made me realise what it takes to get past a receptionist! Television and theatre made me understand procedures and being organized. Teaching made me a more understanding person and the network I created over all those years gave me the courage to start my own business.

Soft skills are essential in any creative role. Now more than ever we are working with smaller agencies and design studios where people need to multi-task and be able and happy to wear many hats.

I am constantly surprised when consulting with individuals on how many soft skills they do have, yet have neglected to mention them in a CV.

Please don’t forgot all of those lessons you have learnt and continue to learn along the way, and certainly don’t under estimate them.

How to Blow Your Own Trumpet at Your Next Job Interview.

Being prepared, calm and well informed before an interview is a must.

Here are a few tips on helping you get thorough, what many feel is a very stressful thing…. THE JOB INTERVIEW

  1. My advice is take the stress out of worrying about public transport, or where you are going to park. Order a cab or Uber with at least 45 minutes to spare. It’s much easier to get there early, go to a café or park and wait, so you walk in on time and relaxed. If you do want to drive, do a drive by the day before so you know where the location is and closest parking. Some places have great car parks, ring reception the day before and ask.
  2. Do your research, or due diligence on the company that you’re being interviewed by. Look at their website, their clients, make notes on what you think of their website, and see what you can find out about the person that is interviewing you and who works there. Being informed makes the interview go much more smoothly for you and doesn’t leave you open to looking foolish when they begin to talk about the company. Its great if you can join in the conversation from the get go and have an opinion.
  3. Be your self. Don’t put on airs and graces. Interviewers can see through that. Yes, they want to hire someone with the skill sets they are looking for, but they are also looking for a cultural fit. Personality plays a large part in employing someone. So be you. Feel comfortable talking about you in a chatty manner.
  4. If you are a creative and your folio is not a printed folio, make sure you take an iPad or laptop with you. Don’t rely on showing your work on the interviewers computer. Never just turn up with a hard drive. It smacks of being unprepared and disorganized. If you don’t own one, borrow one for the day. DO NOT rely on the internet, have your work on the desk top or as a PDF. If they want to look at your website, be prepared to connect to your iPhone or dongle, incase they don’t know passwords etc to the office internet. Make it as stress free for both of you as possible.
  5. Work out the night before what you plan to wear and how you plan to get there. Dress appropriately. Hot or cold weather, you always have to look tidy and well presented. In many cases there is no need to put on a suit, you don’t want to overdress, but at the same time, you don’t want to turn up in ripped jeans and old trainers. Do your homework on the business. Most websites have an “Our Team” section, check them out, how are they dressed. If the interview is via a recruiter, ask them, they will know the company and be able to advise, (the good ones will be able to anyway). You must feel comfortable, so if jeans and trainers are your thing, make them clean and neat. If it is a role that you think a suit would enhance your chances, maybe relax it by not wearing a tie. I am asked these questions all the time, often at 7.00am I get a text …with photos of should I wear this or this…. I don’t mind and find it quite endearing, but it is just a stress you don’t need hours before the interview. Be more prepared, plan ahead!
  6. Talk about yourself in a positive manner along with your relevant past experiences. People want to employ those whose glass is half full, not half empty. Know the job and company well and make sure you have the opportunity to talk about why you think you would be a good part of their team. It is your time to shine, so shine !! Don’t be arrogant and criticise their company, but if you are asked an opinion about something, be honest, polite and offer a possible solution if you don’t agree with them. Be solutions focussed !!

Definitions: SD / CX / UX / UI

If anyone is wondering, like I have been, what the difference is between Service Design, UX Design and UI Design, here is a breakdown I understand.

The key difference is the level of the distance from the real world execution people actually encounter.

I've also started seeing CX Designers as well (Customer Experience) so it really depends on the day of the week and the person saying it.

Here goes…

Service Design (SD)

• Is about defining the why and the what of a service to be experienced.

• It’s about finding the problem and then working out what’s the high level solution.

• Focusses on all people involved mostly the business (viability), but also technology (feasibility) and customers (desirability). Tools: Service Blueprints, Business models, Customer Journey Maps, Personas, Empathy maps, Ideation, Testing, Prototypes

User Experience (UX)

• Is about how best to deliver the experience.

• It is more focussed on the actual execution to a clear problem. Tools: Customer Journey Maps, Personas, Empathy maps, Testing, Prototypes, Wireframes

User Interface (UI)

• Is about the visual design and interactions that happen on the screen.

• Its the colours, fonts, brand etc

• Often can be a called aVisual Designer or Digital Designer. Tools: Wireframes prototypes, Usability testing, SketchApp, Photoshop,

10 Points How to Interview

I spend a lot of time with creatives on understanding how to best present themselves and their work in an interview.

I recently did a talk to a group of students and was asked to put forward 10 bullet points on how to go about the interview process.

I thought I would share them with you. They are in no specific order, but all equally important.

• Interview the interviewer (It’s important you understand the role and ask questions too).

• Be confident not cocky.

• Have a plan when you meet them on how you want to show your work.

• Gauge the meeting to see if they are chatty, quiet, formal, informal and follow accordingly.

• Never forget it’s an interview.

• Research the company first.

• Communication - BE YOU!

• Don’t bore them, find something in common with them while chatting eg: a project they’ve done, footy team, picture of a pet on their desk.

• Be relevant.

• Be individual.

I hate Recruiters

Ha so do I!!

I can’t tell you how many clients say that to me, and how many in fact ring up and say first up “hello my name is Steve, I hate recruiters and I have never had any success with them….but I have been given your name and told you are different…”

That’s what I love. I prefer to be called a people placer or networker from hell or even Queen of the creative in Melbourne!!  ANYTHIING but a recruiter.

I’ve been working in the industry for over 20 years as a photographer, then in new business in Advertising and Graphic Design and designing portfolios and consulting with creatives. I’ve also taught at university level for years and sit on course advisory and a graduate employment boards.

I can talk with a mouthful of marbles under water; go to the opening of an envelope and love people.

I worked in London in the late 80s early 90s as a door bitch in a London nightclub in Chelsea that taught me a lot about human nature, and about being able to judge a personality very quickly.

These skill sets, set me apart from others.

Getting into a Night club/ finding a job in the Creative industry, just saying…

How important is your LinkedIn Profile?

REALLY important.

Your Profile needs to be kept up to date and show the breadth of who you are, where you have studied and jobs you have held.

Any organisations you have worked for that also has a LinkedIn profile, may have a logo you can use on you own profile. This is visually a much faster way for people who a viewing you to see where you have worked.

Think carefully about your photo you upload as well.

Recently I had an experience where I had put a candidate forward for a digital marketing role.

This candidate was highly qualified for the role, however the company that was interested in employing, looked at LinkedIn and there and then decided if this person thought that their LinkedIn photo was appropriate to sell themselves, they didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

The client said to me  “the person we employ needs to understand how important our brand is on line.”

They had strong doubts, given the photo was a very casual image with sunnys on their head at a restaurant, that this candidate was able to make good choices for their brand.

WOW. It was the first time ever I have had someone lose a job because of their photo.

But from this, I have taken it on board and wanted to share this with you.

Keep it clean, simple and corporate. It’s not Facebook, it is about business and it needs to be kept professional.I have great photographers that can help you with your profile shot if need be, I get a new one shot each year.

Q&A with Ivan Neville, Assistant Secretary, Labour Market and Analysis Branch, Department of Employment

"I sit on the Graduate Employment Advisory Board at Deakin University with Ivan Neville, who is the Assistant Secretary, Labour Market and Analysis Branch, Department of Employment

I asked him a few key questions about CV’s and tips for job seekers - it is a very interesting read..." 


I have been with the federal Department of Employment for over 15 years and in my current role, I oversee the analysis of the contemporary Australian labour market and the identification of the current and future demand for skills. I also give presentations around the country on a broad range of labour market issues.

Prior to joining the Department of Employment, I worked in the ABS for many years in a number of economic and labour market areas.

I grew up in Canberra and studied at the Australian National University, completing a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Graduate Diploma in Demography.

What are the “do’s” and “don’t’s” to include in your CV.

My main advice to job seekers is that they target their CV to the job they are applying for. It is also really important to check your spelling and grammar and, if you can, ask someone to proof-read your CV and application. We know that employers don’t spend long reading CVs, especially if they have had lots of applicants, so make sure it is not too long (2-3 pages is sufficient). Use clear and concise language to cover the key job requirements and presentation is important – your CV should look professional but doesn’t need to be fancy. Research the job and company you are applying for, and follow-up with a phone call. You only get one chance to make a good first impression so take advantage of it!

Why is gaining a university qualification so important?

The labour market has become increasingly competitive across all qualification levels. In the future, almost half of all new jobs will require a bachelor degree or higher, so going to university will generally improve a person’s employment prospects. We also know that graduates are now gaining entry-level positions within companies and working their way up, allowing them to experience a greater breadth of roles within their chosen field.

However, university is not for everyone and there are other pathways which lead to successful, fulfilling and well-paying jobs. Many people prefer and are better suited to undertaking a trade or other vocational education and training (VET) courses and in fact, many of the occupations currently in shortage are in trade based occupations.

Perhaps the most important message is: don’t do training for the sake of it. Get advice, do your research, and pursue the right type of training for your chosen career path or job.

Tell us what you are currently working on.

I manage a team of hard-working people who are experts on the Australian labour market. They are constantly analysing what is happening across the country, whether in regional areas or in particular industry or occupation sectors; where there is growth or whether there are shortages or skills in demand, as well as tapping into what employers are looking for. 

All of this forms part of a complex picture about how the jobs market is functioning and our analysis contributes to broader government policy. For example, we are currently studying the structural shift in the economy towards the services industries, as well as the rise in part-time work and the impact of the ‘gig economy’. We try to plan for known events and anticipate what might be around the corner and we need to make sure all our stakeholders can access our information.

While our work obviously feeds into the bigger picture, at a very basic level, it is very satisfying to know that our work can contribute to helping someone find a job.

Top tips for job seekers in 2017 and beyond.

The notion of a “job for life” is diminishing. Research shows that we can now expect to have 17 different jobs over a lifetime but in some industries, this will be even more. Job seekers shouldn’t expect to immediately get their dream job, but should instead view each job as a stepping stone towards their goal. Combined with a global marketplace, technological advance and an increasingly competitive jobs market, we all need to be prepared to learn and adapt.

It can be really tough out there so job seekers need to ensure that they meet the requirements of the job being advertised and stand out from other applicants. We talk to thousands of employers every year and they tell us that they value ‘soft skills’ just as much as technical skills and experience.  Don’t underestimate how important these employability skills are, including good people skills, the ability to work in a team, being organised, or innovative, or creative. These are also known as transferable skills, and while they may vary from job to job, you need to demonstrate to every employer that you have these.

One in five professional jobs is not advertised formally, so networking and approaching employers directly will allow you to find and apply for vacancies. Additionally, jobs that are informally advertised usually have fewer applicants, so not only will you be able to apply for more jobs, but there will be less competition for these jobs.

Signs you might need a new team member in your studio

If at the end of the week, you’re sitting down and having a conversation with your partner about:

  • The long hours you’re working
  • The lack of diversity of skill sets in your team
  • The fact your business is growing and stretching your resources...

Then it's time to consider the type of person you’re going to start looking for.

The first few things you need to take into consideration are;

  • Know your budget
  • Be aware of the skills sets you’re looking for
  • Understand the type of personality you want to fit into the dynamics of the team
  • Write a clear job description

Then it's time to call me to have a chat — 0403 302 831


  • I have a 20 year understanding of the industry from both client side and agency/design side
  • I'm excellent at putting square pegs in round holes
  • I charge an affordable flat rate fee that won't break your bank

And above all; I know people, I love the industry and I’m an excellent matchmaker.

Employing staff is never about bums on seats, there are so many variables one has to take into consideration. If you’re trying to do it on your own whilst running your business it can be overwhelming, time-consuming and a pain in the bum.

I alleviate this by vetting the candidates from my large, ever-growing network and only send you a small selection of the most appropriate.

I may also decide to throw in a wild card candidate that may only have 6 out of the 10 qualities you're looking for, but my gut feeling tells me they’d fit in really well to the role.

As you know, this whole industry, be it advertising, design or marketing, revolves around clear communication and that is my point of difference.

To sum me up in 5 ‘Why Me’

  • I’m as honest as the days long
  • I get to the point very quickly
  • I have good dickhead radar
  • I know the industry and its people inside out
  • I love what I do

In an interview — p.s It's a test

Continuing on from my previous post "In an Interview", here are some other points to consider:

If you find yourself in an interview situation where there are several people sitting around a table chatting and the atmosphere has become quite informal, NEVER, NEVER forget you are still in an interview!


  • Start swearing even if they do
  • Talk badly about someone even if they do, you are best to be a bit vague about that person or say you had heard stories but never experienced it yourself
  • Put your feet up on the table even if they do
  • Talk about your partying exploits even if they do
  • REMEMBER — this is all set to test you and what kind of a person you are. You certainly don’t want to pretend to be something that you’re not but you do need to soften the edges in your first interview.

I have seen situations exactly like this; where the candidate was perfect and the client was a minute away from offering them a position. The candidate then let their guard down in the relaxed atmosphere of the interview and later the client has rung me to say how great he was and would have been perfect for the job. BUT can you believe that he spent the last 15 minutes talking about how shit his last boss was and became quite personal. This was enough for the potential employer to be turned off.

You have to remember in a situation like this, the employers thinking what will this person be like when they leave my employ and what will they say about me and my company?

In an interview — "Whats" and "Nots" to do

You have to remember in an interview situation that you have one chance to make an impression on your potential employer. As my mum would say, ‘you need to be able to stand on your head and blow your socks off at the same time!’.

What this actually means is that you need to be articulate — answer the questions truthfully, ask questions about the business — whilst maintaining composure, keeping nerves at bay and displaying the qualities that have been discussed in the brief.

Things NOT to do:

  • Bag your previous employer
  • Complain about long hours in your previous job
  • Talk about people that you have worked with in a negative manner
  • Don’t be late to the interview and if you are; make sure you phone the company and explain to them why you are running late: ‘the train didn’t come on time, I had a flat tyre'
  • If you can see you are not going to make the 11 am meeting, ring BEFORE 11 am NOT after — when you are already late
  • Don’t make money your priority but have a clear understanding of what your worth is before you go in, in case the question comes up
  • Don’t turn up with your bum hanging out of your jeans and wearing thongs, even if it is 40 degrees outside
  • Don’t park in a one-hour parking spot and have to leave the interview to fill the meter
  • Don’t say ‘ummmmm’ when answering questions
  • Don’t have a big night before the interview, be clear-headed and clean breathed.

Things to REMEBER to do:

  • Research the company prior to your interview
  • Conversationally bring up some of the campaigns or projects you have seen on their website
  • Look up the employer up on LinkedIn before the interview and see if you have any connections that you may be able to bring up in the interview
  • Be honest and up-front
  • If the interview is going well, and they start talking start dates, let them know there and then if you have holidays pre-booked
  • Be observant in the meeting, if something catches your eye in the office, such a photo of a Staffy dog and you have a Staffy dog, it could be a nice, warming conversation to break the ice
  • Dress appropriately and comfortably
  • Be confident about who you are and what your skills are
  • Look your potential employer in the eye
  • Shake hands at the beginning and end of the interview, no matter how relaxed the atmosphere is.
  • Good luck!

Want more? Keep reading with "In an Interview — It's a Test"

5 'Must Includes' for your CV

Getting a CV in shape for is one of the most important things when looking for a new role. Yes, it's daunting, but, there are a few simple things to keep in mind when you're updating it. Here's my must haves: 

1.     Always include your mobile, email and a link to a folio (if appropriate):

I know this sounds really obvious but you’d be amazed at the amount of CV’s I receive that do not have this information! Instantly it shows me that you’re disorganised and are a poor editor. 

2.     Keep your job experience points short and succinct — don’t waffle!

We need to get to the point as quickly as we can, yet include the variety of your skill sets in each job. Whilst your job experience points may be similar for each role you have had, try to vary them across the job descriptions. This will eliminate repetition and a potential viewer getting bored.

3.     Put your personal interests into your CV

People like to know what makes you tick, what interests you. Such as travel, photography, family, sport. This is also a good opportunity to include something personal and quirky, such as ‘I’m great at making coffee’, ‘Love cats more than dogs, but happy to pat dogs if they’re in the office'. Show your personality!

4.     Remember to include your skills and qualities — this is hugely important for a potential employer to see how you see yourself being represented. It also gives them an opportunity at a quick preview of the kind of roles you would be suited to in their business.

i.e. great attention to detail, strong leadership skills, friendly, flexible, excellent time-management skills.

5.     Include education, achievements and any awards along the way — having a CV is all very well but if you’re not updating it regularly you may forget things.


  • Such as short courses on design and folio production
  • Leadership and management roles
  • School captain or awards in excellence achieved
  • Or your involvement in relevant industry communities.

Good luck!

What’s happening in the creative landscape — April 2017

In 2017, I’m working with so many different organisations on so many different levels, no longer is there just the traditional role of 9-5, 5 days a week. We are now also looking at contract roles, shared roles, roles where employees are able to work off-site and roles where the title is forever changing.

Traditionally, graphic designers were graphic designers, writers were writers and production managers were production managers, we loved to title and understood it’s meaning.

Today, more and more roles are being cross-pollinated, and we are now looking at production managers with finished art skills and graphic designers with traffic management skills. We are even now being asked to define the creative skill sets between digital and print.

We mustn’t be limited when we are looking for roles or where we are looking to set up business. There are positions in the CBD as well as enormous amounts of opportunities in the suburbs. Many companies now are taking their creative in-house and filling their teams with powerful, creative minds.

The advent of social media and the digital age is seeing roles changing almost before our eyes, which is both exciting and daunting for many. It’s important to surround yourself with people that have the knowledge and understanding of this new age to guide you appropriately.

I spend a lot of time surrounding myself with the right people. People I’ve known for many years and new people that come into my stratosphere. I learn something from each and every one of them, some things I want to hear and some things I want to stick my fingers in my ears and run away from.

The communication industry that we are in is a constant learning curve, what we do today will impact what we do tomorrow more so than it ever has before.

We need to be confident, well researched, well presented and challenged in the roles we are looking for and in the teams, we are pulling together within our businesses.