Debbie Spinks: The art of mentoring is all about listening
September 14, 2018
Image: Debbie Spinks, Head of Mentoring at Babana Employment
Working as a mentor can be a pretty tough job when a lot of the people you work with have lost hope and confidence. In the inner City of Sydney suburbs one mentor is working to turn that around. Debbie Spinks has been in the business of mentoring for a number of years and has one thing that many don’t – a particular empathy and honesty with the people she works with; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. In Australia the unemployment rates of Indigenous Australian’s is well above the national average. They are more likely to take their lives, be homeless, incarcerated and afflictied by addictions ranging from alcohol and drugs. But, when you look behind the data you find an incredibly rich and cultural diverse group of people.
With a background in pastoral care and a bucket load of lived experience we sat down with Debbie Spinks to talk about some of the people she work’s with, the challenges they face and the incredible amount of opportunity they can create is only they were given the chance.
“Debbie here we are sitting in a little cafe in Redfern called the “Tin Humpy” which is a social enterprise founded by a good friend of yours Dr Mick Asher.”
“Yes Dr Mick has been around for a long time and real pillar of the Redfern community. The cafe we are in now has been a project in the making for many years and is an example of where unemployment and employment meet. I remember when it was called the purple goanna and then after that the pepper berrie! But the heart of what Dr Mick wanted has stayed the same – lets turn this into a training ground for Aboriginal people as a stepping stone into the hospitality sector.” She says with a beaming look on her face.
“Dr Mick has been a GP in the local community for decades and he works with my husband Mark over at Babana Men’s Group.” She goes on to say.
Debbie is of course referring to Mark Spinks, the founder and Chairman of Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group which sits at the very heart of the inner city community. Babana is an Aboriginal word for “Brother”.
Over the road from the cafe is a non-descript building that is much like any other office block in suburban Australia and its here Debbie spends a lot of her time. There is a Centrelink office on the ground floor and as you go from level to level there are a number of what are known as job service providers. Its these providers where the unemployed go seeking help to gain employment or job seeker assistance.
“A lot of people feel intimidated going into a service provider because they are never sure if they understand whats going on their lives that are stopping them from getting into work and staying in employment. The truth is life is made up of a whole lot of daily struggles and small things that can really impact on someone getting a job. There are housing issues, people struggle with mental health and depression and then theirs really stupid and yet solvable things like getting a licence back. So the real art to this is listening – listening to what people are saying is really key....” She says.
“Job service providers have a really tough job because they need to deal with dozens if not hundreds of job seeker contacts per day whereas we manage an Indigenous case load only which means we get to spend more time with them. More time means a higher degree of listening which means i am able to really look at how all these small things are creating a bigger problem in their lives.”
“One of the job seekers i am working with at the moment has lost his licence because of an accumulation of fines. Of course that means he can’t get to a job because the ones that he is skilled for are a long way from home. With a wife and kids that also presents a challenge. The solution? Lets see if i can get his license back by ringing the State Debt Recovery Office and either putting the fines on a management plan and therefore getting his license back. We get his licence back and he gets a job. He gets a job and he’s off welfare ....” she says
“Another one of our job seekers struggled with depression and anxiety – most of it was bought on by the constant rejection of job applications. We sit down and look at what he is applying for and realise he’s taking the scatter gun approach; applying for a certain number of jobs to tick a compliance box to keep his payments and yet only about 10% of the jobs he was applying for were relevant to his skill set. By default with all of the rejection comes that loss of confidence. So we turn that around by focusing the job hunt.” She says
Debbie goes on to say that she and Babana Employment are very much in the “hope” business because “if people don’t have hope then they will never get into employment.”
So what are the top ten tips for job seekers? Take a look:
Be creative with your resume don’t be like everyone else: your resume needs to stand out – it cannot be like everyone else’s and it must show who you are, tell your story and make a connection with the reader. Design a front cover that goes “wow” – because just like an advertising company is trying to sell you on the product when it comes to the job hunt you need to think like an advertising agent.
Your resume needs to speak to the job you are applying for: what is the point of sending out the same resume to 100 employers when it’s probably only relevant to a handful. You need to invest the time in each job application and the resume should reflect the job you are applying for. If you don’t do this you will get rejection letter after rejection letter and that just destroys your confidence.
Apply for jobs you BELIEVE you can do: you always need to apply for things you can BELIEVE you can do because you have the experience, qualifications or passion to do it – not just because it’s there and you can. I call that the “scatter gun” approach where you pretty much just shoot for anything without any investment in time in winning the role because you really want it.
Ditch the cover letter: I am sick and tired of getting cover letters that don’t tell me anything about you other than you are a good time manager. I want to know your story – I want to know what drives you and what makes you tick. What are you passionate about? I want to know that I am going to have a member of my team that fits in with work family. So, ditch the cover letter and spend your time writing a page kind of like an autobiography – as if you writing a Wikipedia page on yourself. Why? Because when someone understands your story and they make a personal connection with you it becomes harder for them to say no – the oldest sales technique (I think) in the world.
Dress for success: Don’t turn up to a job interview looking as if you have just crawled in from a nightclub! Also, dress for the job not some other job. For example, if you are going for an interview that is white collar – where I tie and jacket not a jeans and a t-shirt (although that may be ok if its IT) and if it’s a blue collar job don’t wear a suit.
Be confident not arrogant: there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Don’t go into an interview thinking you know everything about everything and being cocky – people see a dickhead and think “you’re not working for me”. That’s arrogance. Confidence is more about being confident in the fact that you present well, know what you have applied for and why you think you could be asset. Confident in mind, presentation and knowledge. Never mistaken the two.
Research your potential employer: it is a mistake to go into an interview knowing next to nothing about your employer. I mean seriously? If you are applying for jobs it is a valuable investment of your time – so, research who your employer is and what they do. Have a look at the news section of the website or have a look at what they are posting on social media. Why? Because you should try and create conversation points during the interview about what you have learnt that shows you have indeed taken the time to learn about them.
Don’t lie: if you lie on your resume then it’s only a matter of time before you get caught – and you will get caught. It is too hard to hide the real you anymore because the one thing people get wrong all of the time is the fact they just don’t bother to understand the depth of the lie and therefore how many people they have told a different version of it to. It always makes me laugh when I read someone’s resume and then Google them to find a completely different story on the internet or the resume doesn’t reflect the LinkedIn profile – I means seriously? Are you that stupid?
Always wear pants on Facebook: I love social media but wow … the things people post right? I mean you sit in front of me in an interview dressed nicely and coming across really well and then I Google you and on your Twitter and Facebook feeds your rants about everything are pretty bad. I don’t think I want to employ someone who has bagged out their former employer, looks as if they get drunk every night of the work, discriminates or is racist towards others. Yes, you would not believe what people put on Facebook (actually you probably do).
Choose well, the effects can be life changing: whether you are applying for your first job or looking to change jobs the reality is we need to choose well not just because the situation we found ourselves in lends us to be desperate. Plan the move even if the role you are applying for will be a stepping stone to something else. Ask yourself this question: where do I want to be in five years and set yourself career goals and objectives – in doing so you will arrive at a point you always knew you would. Even though I tell people I am surprised that I am where I am today – the truth is, I had two five year plans that were executed at the right time with goals,
To find out more about Babana Employment head to www.babanaemployment.com
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