Understanding Australian Workplace Culture

Understanding Australian Workplace Culture

What makes Australian work culture unique? Australian employers value diversity, work life balance, the wellbeing of their employees, and dedication. Working in Australia can be a fun and beneficial experience, but it can also be challenging to understand the cultural norms. If  you’ve ever worked in another country, you’ll likely notice some distinct differences, so let’s discuss a few.

1. Aussies are rather direct with their feedback. If they feel your work needs improvement, in general, an Aussie manager will let you know directly. Don’t take this personally. This isn’t done to insult you. Be receptive and try your best to meet their requirements. Ask for help if needed.

2. Punctuality is so important! Showing up late without calling ahead is seen as very disrespectful and will often lead to disciplinary action. If your train is delayed or your car breaks down, make sure you call your boss and let them know you’ll be late.

3. Professional presentation is key. Aussie employers will expect you to know how to present yourself as a professional. This means your appearance and hygiene must be up to Aussie standards.

4. In Australia, it’s considered polite to get to know your coworkers. This doesn’t mean you need to pry about their personal life, but it’s expected that you’ll know a bit about their life outside of work, particularly the team or dept that you work with every day. Showing a disinterest can come across as cold.

5. Aussies do appreciate a bit of personal space in the workplace – about an arm’s length.

6. Aussies will drink alcohol at work events. This doesn’t mean you have to join in. You can certainly abstain if you don’t want to drink alcohol. However, if you choose to have a drink during a work event, don’t over indulge.

7. Remember that in the Australian workplace, everyone is considered equal. Your boss will often ask your opinion and it’s common for people to get to know their building staff such as security guards and cleaners. Aussies work together and respect everyone’s role.

8. Aussies really like to shorten names. In some cultures, shortening someone’s name without their permission is considered rude, but not in Australia. It’s a sign of comradery.

9. Avoid any claims that you can’t back. You may think it makes you look more experienced and more knowledgeable, but if you get called out, it will hurt your reputation way more than you think.

Just listen to this advice from one of our teachers, Edward Gubbay. I asked him to talk about what he thinks are some key aspects of Australian Culture. Here’s what he had to say: What do you think are the 3 most important things to understand about the business culture for someone who wants to start their career here?

“First of all, there’s a flat hierarchy, meaning it’s generally ok to go straight to someone in a management position with a questions or concern as long as it’s done a respectful way. This is different than in some cultures where you would be expected to go to first address your direct supervisor, and then ask them to bring up your concern with their manager, and then their manager, etc. In Australia, as long as you’re professional and respectful, you can usually speak directly with most people in an organization. Second, Aussie employers really value work life balance. We don’t feel obligated to work heaps of overtime unless there really is a huge project or urgent deadline. Employers generally wouldn’t ask their workers to do. This. It’s not that we’re lazy, it’s just that, opposed to in some cultures where it is an unspoken expectation, Australians are a bit more understanding that their employees have other commitments and very aware of employee burnout, so they won’t encourage you to work until you drop. Third, Aussies value open communication. It’s ok to ask questions. No one will think you’re unintelligent or under qualified, as long as they can tell you’re putting in your best effort.”

What is something you find your students struggle to understand or adapt to in Australian business culture?

“I find that our cover letter format is pretty fixed and specific in Australia. We really expect it written a very certain way. My students don’t always understand how important this is. They may use language that would be appropriate in their culture, but gives a bad impression here. For example, a student may begin his or her cover letter with “Dear Most Honorable and Respectable Hiring Manager” thinking that they’re showing respect, but in Australia, that’s not the norm, and won’t be looked on favorably. It will be seen as someone who doesn’t know how to write a cover letter. Also, some students struggle to understand how important interviews are and what Aussie employers are really looking for during the interview. I always tell them, ‘If you’ve got the interview, you’re halfway there! They already know your technical skills from your resume. They want to see how you conduct yourself.’ Students don’t always understand that, at an interview, they’re really being judged on their professionalism and behavior and body language.”

Anything else you think international students and professionals should know about Aussie Culture in general?

“Aussies are social and enjoy small talk, both in the office and out, so it will help you relate if you can get comfortable with it as well. It starts with understanding what’s appropriate during small talk. Weather, weekend plans, anything interesting in the news are good choices. It’s a good idea to know a bit about sports, since Aussies love sports and talk about it a lot. You don’t have to become a huge fan or anything, but just knowing enough to make conversation will help you with small talk and building relationships. Also, Aussies don’t really flaunt their success. They congratulate each other on accomplishments and work hard, but it’s not looked on kindly to go around bragging about a raise or a huge house or something like that. You can mention it, but it’s a bit distasteful to shove it someone’s face.”

How Do You Know If Your Work Life Balance Could Use Some Work

How Do You Know If Your Work Life Balance Could Use Some Work

If you’re like most Aussies, your work life balance could use a bit of an upgrade. We get it! It’s tough to make time for yourself and your family and still feel like you’re accomplishing your goals. There can be pressure in the workplace to meet deadlines and appear dedicated, particularly for career focused, ambitious individuals who don’t want to miss out on professional opportunities. It can be easy to get carried away, especially if you love your job! However, it’s always important to remember that life is short, and we need to make the most of every aspect of it, not just the professional side. If you adore your job and want to make it to the top of your field, then maybe throwing yourself into your work is what makes you happy, but for the rest of us, striking a balance is paramount. So, how do you know if you’ve found the best balance? We’ve got you covered.

Know your priorities

If your family is the most important thing to you, then make sure your family time is off limits and don’t let work projects seep their way in. Block off time to spend with them. If you career is what you’re focusing on right now, then communicate that to the people who matter most in your life so they can support you and understand when you need to spend more time at the office or attending professional development events. Trying to learn a new skill, focus on your health, take a class, join a social club, travel more, begin a new relationship, or chase after any other personal goals? Carve out time in your weekly schedule for those things. Don’t let work run your life.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

You’re going to have days where work takes over. You’re going to have days where your health or your kids or home maintenance takes over. You’re going to have days when you just collapse and need a break. These are all normal parts of life. Every day doesn’t have to go exactly as planned in order for you to achieve a balanced life. As long as you can look back on the past week or month and say you achieved the goals that were most important to you (no matter if they’re personal or professional), then you’re doing great! Let a deadline slip at work due to a family emergency? That’s bound to happen and if your boss is decent, then he or she will understand. Get home later than planned because you’re working late on a project at work that’s really important to you? We’ve all been there. It’s alright, so long as your family or partner knows they’re a priority.

Use your leave!

This is a no brainer! Did you know that Aussies enjoy some of the most generous paid leave packages in the world?! In some parts of the world, there is no paid leave whatsoever. Thankfully, that’s not the case here in the land of Oz. We enjoy vacation time, sick leave, maternity leave, carer’s leave, long service leave, and the list goes on… so USE it!! Take a vacation, even if you’re not travelling, just to have a long weekend to relax, read a good book, go to a footie match, or just sleep in. Give yourself a break. If you’re sick, for goodness sake stay home! In most cases, the office can survive without you for one day. Your HR department will generally be a good place to start to see what your leave entitlements are, but since we live in a country that values work life balance enough to make paid leave available to just about everyone, there’s no reason not to enjoy it.

Get Creative!

There are loads of modern solutions that can help you get a bit of extra time on your hands. Try getting your groceries delivered instead of spending half your Saturday at the shops. Become buddies with your slow cooker so dinner is ready when you get home and you can enjoy more free time. Use cloud storage so you can work from anywhere, when it’s convenient for you. Conduct meetings via webcam, so there’s less travel to client sites and you can get more done in the office. There are heaps of options out there!

Switch up your Commute

Did you know that commuters who take public transit on average are more relaxed than commuters who drive to work? Why is this? Because they use their commute as extra downtime to catch up on Netflix, read a book, make phone calls, pay bills online, and cross things off their to-do list. Alternatively, they can opt to use the time as extra work time if there’s an impending deadline, which allows them to avoid cutting into personal time with work. If you have the option, try switching to public transit a few days per week and use the time to do whatever you like. Alternatively, workers who have the option to work from home, even once or twice per week, not only report better work life balance, but in general tend to be more productive. If this option is available to you, you should definitely consider taking advantage of it.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’m not happy with the way my time is divided now,” then it’s time to do something about it. Try planning your week in advance or checking with your HR representative to see what sort of flexible work arrangements might be available to you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but putting in some effort to make sure your time reflects your priorities is definitely worth it!

A Quick Guide to Professional Email Templates

A Quick Guide to Professional Email Templates

Writing a professional email may seem like a simple task, but it’s not something that should be taken lightly. In many cases, receiving an email from you may be the very first impression that you make on a potential employer. That’s why it’s important to treat it as part of the interview process and take it seriously. Even if you’re already in the workplace, knowing how to craft a professional email can benefit your relationships with co-workers and clients, and improve your professional reputation. So, how can you find out if your emails are suitable? ECA Internships has got you covered! Here’s a quick list of tips to help you out…

For the job seeker:

  • Carefully consider every email you send to a potential employer as part of the interview process. The employer will judge whether or not you know how to conduct yourself as a professional based on how you present yourself.
  • Don’t tell your life story. You’re asking for a job, not pitching a novel. Keep all information relevant. If the employer would like more information about you, they will request it.

If the job ad asks for any specific information or documents, make sure you provide them in the email. Additionally, make sure documents are named as something appropriate. Resumes should be labelled as “Resume” or “John Smith – Resume” instead of “Johnny’s resume” or anything else. If they ask for specific documents, such as your resume or a copy of your qualifications, and you neglect to include them, you are showing them that you don’t follow instructions very well, which is not a good first impression.

When writing to a manager or co-worker:

  • Write as if you are speaking to them. If you have a casual, friendly rapport with that person, it’s ok to write in a more casual manner. However, if you have a very formal, professional rapport with the person, then make sure your email communication reflects that.
  • Try to be as helpful as you can. If you can’t help, explain why or redirect them to someone who can. If you would like to help, but are simply too busy, it’s ok to explain that in a professional way.
  • If you’ve made a mistake, take responsibility and apologise. Do everything you can to make it right.
  • Never discuss personal information using your professional email. If you want to discuss matters unrelated to work with a co-worker, it’s best to establish another method of communication, such as exchanging mobile numbers or personal email addresses or becoming friends on Facebook.

When writing to a client:

  • Always use your company’s approved signature. Most companies will encourage this to assist with branding.
  • Take their requests seriously. If you can’t assist, explain why or direct them to an alternative contact or resource. You never want to seem unhelpful or uncooperative.
  • Remember that you represent your company when you email external clients. Their interactions with you may affect whether or not they continue to do business with your firm and how they talk about your company to their colleagues. Think of each email to a client as a business meeting.
  • Do not overwhelm clients with emails. Try to combine all info into as few emails as possible, as it’s more efficient and easier for the client to refer to later. Clients could become annoyed if they feel as if you’re pestering them all the time with endless emails.

For everyone:

  • Be respectful! Even if the person you’re corresponding with hasn’t been respectful to you, it’s important that you keep your emails professional.
  • Don’t be overly casual unless you truly have a rapport with the person. If you try to force it, this can be interpreted as disrespectful.
  • Remember that emails are a written record. This means that anyone you correspond with could forward your message to someone else. You never really know who will see your emails, so make sure all content is appropriate. Additionally, if you’re using your employer’s email server, chances are your employer can also access and search your emails. Keep that in mind when deciding what to write in an email. Never complain or being overly negative in your email communications, and most definitely never be insulting!
  • Emails are not texts! When crafting a professional email, whether it’s for a potential new employer, client, co-worker, or your boss, the message should be written in complete sentences and free of emojis and shorthand.
  • Begin with a friendly opening.
  • Consider how you would like your email answered. If you’d like a polite response, make sure your tone is polite. If you need a reply fairly urgently, make sure you inform the person that the matter is urgent. If you want or need more information, make sure that you clearly ask for it.
  • Use a classic, easy-to-read font.

In my own experience from hiring people for my department, I know that first impressions from emails can greatly impact my decision on whether or not to call someone for an interview. You want to give yourself every possible advantage, so why risk ruining what could be a great opportunity by throwing together a poorly prepared introductory email?

Here is the basic structure of a professional email:

  • Greeting
  • Opening
  • Body
  • Salutation
  • Signature

Let’s check out these examples:
Good:

  • Professional
  • Acknowledges a request that’s been made and explaining politely why the writer can’t accommodate
  • The writer does not actually say no, but explains their reasoning and welcomes further discussion
  • Proper structure and style
  • Thanks the reader

  • Polite and calm tone
  • Proper style and structure
  • Apologises for inconvenience
  • Thanks the customer for the comment
  • Addresses and resolves the concern
  • Represents the company in a professional manner

Bad

What to Expect From an Accounting or Finance Internship Interview

What to Expect From an Accounting or Finance Internship Interview

So, you’re a fresh graduate in the field of accounting and finance and you’d like to get some experience to put on your resume and grow your professional network? That’s great! An internship can be a great place to start. But, what should you expect if you’ve never attended an interview before? And, how can you prepare? We’ve got you covered! We asked Marlene Raddino, Training Manager at New Direction Training, who takes accounting interns regularly, and here’s what she says:

“I don’t focus as much on the accounting questions, actually. I can get a basic idea from their resume. They could be an excellent, advanced student, but if they have a poor attitude, then they won’t learn much. For interns, I’m far more interested in their willingness to learn from the team.”

Marlene also said she asks these questions in nearly every interview:

  • Can you identify your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you work in a team?
  • Have you ever worked in an office environment before? How did you find it?
  • What’s your workflow like? How do you manage it?

How do you feel about asking for help when you don’t know something?

Marlene also asks about different scenarios that might come up in the office, such as what you might do if you realised you made a mistake or had to deal with a difficult customer, how you relate to coworkers, etc.

What we hear more and more from employers, is that interviews are largely behavioural. The employer wants to see that you can conduct yourself as a professional, process information easily, have a good work ethic, and that you will fit in with their team. While it’s important to present yourself as a professional, make sure you can back up your technical skills described on your resume as well, and make it clear that you’re willing to learn!

Some common ways employers will assess your technical skills are:

Employment assessments (in some cases sent via email prior to the interview). These could be tests to determine how well you know how to use programs such as Excel or Xero.
Skills assessments at the interview. Some of our clients have candidates take an accounting knowledge test.
✓ Questions about your accounting coursework or background

Check out our other articles to find more ways to prepare yourself for your interview and more as part of our job readiness series!

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