Image: just one of the many Babana jobs projects has undertaken in the last year
We all know the data and the stats around Indigenous unemployment – the reality is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to be unemployed than non-Indigenous Australians and 2016 Census data shows that it will take until 2031 to halve the gap, and until about 2051 to close the gap entirely. Even New South Wales, which leads Australia on this measure, won't meet the target until about 2026. And yet here we have a significant amount of our mob out there who are ready, willing and able to work; who are talented with an immense amount of experience which begs the question – why are things not changing? For the last few years Babana Aboriginal has been doing its part in trying to close the gap when it comes to employment across the inner city of Sydney from Glebe to Redfern and from Marrickville to Redfern and it starts with changing hearts and minds when it comes to the perception that a lot of employers have when it comes to Indigenous job seekers. We began with a simple formula of creating a community awareness day that sought to bring job seekers and unemployed people together with employers who were willing to give mob a go. But; it was also an opportunity for us to also work with our people when it came to make sure they were job ready – by pulling down some of the barriers that they themselves might have.
In fact some of the barriers to employment are not skills or experience its all about the daily struggle of life such as ensuring mob have safe and secure housing, are able to ensure they can pick up and drop off kids to school right through to the fear many have around entering a pre-dominantly non-Aboriginal work place; the question that go through their heads about whether or not they will fit in and how they might be seen.
Then there are the other things that people don’t offer see such as fines – yes, the truth is a lot of Aboriginal people who have fines clocked up have them because they didn’t have a license or received a fine that meant they couldn’t pay it – when they couldn’t pay it the license was gone. In some cases when the license is gone so to is a job and access to employment. Then there are those who have come out of prison or who have been on remand; these are the mob that many employers rule out without even given them a second chance.
That’s why the Babana Aboriginal Jobs Days have become so important. On the one hand it enables us to work with our people to overcome the barriers to work, the daily struggles. On the other hand, its about working with employers to support their understanding of what the situation may be with a potential candidate for work. Once we achieve a match, we then mentor and support our job seekers in the work place – to further break down the barrier of acceptance. That’s because we recognise that in order to close the gap when it comes to employment its all about changing hearts and minds on both sides of the jobs equation and its also about pulling down the barriers and working hard on addressing the daily struggles of life.
Here are five tips for our job seekers out there:
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.
Mark is the Chair of Tribal Warrior Association, Chair of Babana Employment and Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group. For more information head to www.babana.org.au
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