Renata: Sue Zablud and I have been friends since 2008. When I started my role as the Student Development and MBA career manager at Monash University, I inherited this amazing set of documents and guidelines that made my job so much easier. I had a great blueprint to start with, and Sue's name was all over it. So I reached out and introduced myself to her. You see, Monash University had demerged from the Mount Eliza Business School, and Sue Zablud had left with the Mount Eliza team, which then merged with the Melbourne university. And I had taken over some of her responsibilities at Monash. We have been close ever since. I've done Sue's coaching training, and she has mentored me all of these years. Sue was the person who introduced me to the concept of paying close attention to the first 90 days on the job.
And I cannot thank her enough for introducing me to the book with the same name by Michael D. Watkins. I invited Sue to run a special masterclass in the Job Hunting Made Simple, my online course and group coaching program, which I'm running again for seven weeks beginning end of February. This will be one of three special masterclasses included as bonuses to my seven-week coaching framework, which is the foundation of the Job Hunting Made Simple program. I only do group coaching twice a year. So if you are keen to join, please go to my website to learn more about the program. You can do it live with us over the next seven weeks, but you can also do it whenever you want. Since the entire program will be recorded and you can listen to it on demand. Registrations are now open, and we'll be closing in a few days.
So if you're listening and the time has passed, please still go to my website and register your interest in the next coaching program. Depending on demand, I promise to bring it forward and run another group coaching program as soon as I can. To learn more, go to renatabernarde.com/JHMS. You can find the link on the episode show notes.
Renata: About Sue Zablud. Sue is an experienced non-executive director, human resources professional, internationally accredited executive coach, mentor, and facilitator. She currently leads the human asset development group - a consultancy focused on the design and delivery of leadership development, executive education, board governance, strategy, mentoring, coaching, and career management solutions. Her focus is on engaging and empowering individuals and groups across industries, not for profit, the professions, education, and government. Sue is responsible for growing her consultancy into a highly respected international human resources consultancy and has grown her portfolio of appointments to include board positions in the public and private sectors.
She has successfully served on the board of the Royal women's hospital in Melbourne, served as the board chair of the Royal women's hospital foundation, and as an executive director of private companies. She has a B comm and MBA, is a certified professional coach with the international coaching Federation, is a fellow of the Australian HR Institute, and a graduate of the Australian Institute of company directors. Okay, so why are the first 90 days so important when you start a new role? Sue and I start talking about her career first, and then we moved to provide advice for professionals currently in between roles, specifically, those who are having to move sectors. And this leads us to talk about preparing to tackle a new environment, a new job, and how to be successful at it. The first 90 days is a great framework to follow for that purpose. Let's listen, and I think you're going to enjoy the discussion.
Renata: There you go. It's nice to see you.
Sue: Yeah. Lovely to see you.
Renata: I like your background.
Sue: Yeah. It's the view from my balcony.
Renata: Did you take a picture?
Renata: And then you use it as a background?
Sue: And my clients love it.
Renata: Yeah. It's lovely. Very nice. How are you?
Sue: I'm good. It's a very miserable day. Horrible.
Renata: Yeah. And you got a nice little headset.
Sue: Yes. I went to office works, and it's an Apple. They recommended Apple.
Renata: Yes. Excellent.
Sue: And my brother tested it with me, and he's now gone to buy one.
Renata: Oh good.
Sue: Because he does lots of zoom meetings. I think it made him understand how different it could be.
Renata: Yes, it makes a difference. But you know what the most important thing is the content.
Sue: Yeah. Well, I think, I think I've got it right. I've done a bit of prep. So actually talking about my career is a really interesting one, but there you go.
Renata: Well, let's start with that.
Renata: Tell me about your career, Sue. Tell me as if I didn't know, and you know what the funny thing is, we've known each other for so long, but I bet you there's a lot I don't know about you. So I'm curious. Tell me about your career.
Sue: So my career started in the 1970s when it was very unusual for a woman to enter the business world. I was the only girl from my year at school to go into a commerce degree. And after finishing my degree, the big thing was how do I find a job now? I was very lucky to be recruited into the Myer, Melbourne, or Myer department stores, I think we'd probably call it now, as the first woman in their internal audit department. And I was a woman with two other guys, and we had a lot of fun. And I thoroughly enjoyed being in retail, in a role that was professional rather than just sitting on the floor selling. So that was a big shift for the organization. And, I realized how big it was when I got in there.
Sue: I had fun, but there was a crisis in our family business. And my father said, well, you've done a business degree, come and fix it. So I went and fixed it. And for 17 years, I stayed and did marketing, research, got involved in industry textile and clothing industry, and got involved in establishing the flammability standard for children's nightwear - which I see as a big tick in terms of making sure kids are safe in the clothes they wear to bed. So it was important. From there, the business was sold, thankfully you want to know on my behalf. I was through, and I’m no longer locked in. I went off to do an MBA with the dream that I would be an accountant. That was what I could see as the opportunity, and that would be the way I would go.
Sue: And through the Monash MBA, I could do an accounting stream to qualify as a CPA. So off I went, but to my surprise, I mounted all right in the accounting subjects, but I excelled in the strategy and the people subjects, human resource management, which was just really starting to happen. It used to be called personnel management. And suddenly I found my area of passion and, I really enjoyed it, and I still keep the connections. As part of that, I also entered into the career management area without even knowing it by being president of the MBA alumni association on introducing or being part of the team that introduced mentoring to alumni at Monash. I mentoring again was a very, it was used to happen, but it was never a process that had a structure or a formality to it and accountability for both the mentor and the mentee.
Sue: So that was a really interesting place to go. in terms of that, in the 1990s, the recession hit, and as we said, now we have the first one since then it was a big recession. Lots of people were laid off, particularly professionals, airline pilots, defense personnel, and the idea of getting prepared for a job and doing a job search was something very new. And I got involved in that industry, and as my clients won jobs and they did, then they would call me in and go, well, okay, you've done the job search piece. Now, can you help us? I need to recruit people, or I need to set up some HR policy. I was very honored to be the recruiter for the first internet development team at Yellow Pages, a search engine, which we now know has died, definitely died as these things can do.
Sue: The person who hired me understood that what they needed were people who had science skills, who could think analytically and be very scientific and technical, but they also needed to have humanities skills. So particularly people who'd done philosophy or psychology. So it was a really interesting time. Again, being at the forefront of I.T. at that time and the internet was really amazing. And in the MBA, I actually got introduced to computers, which was only just sort of starting to become part of what we did on an everyday basis.
Renata: I think Sue, I will link below in the show notes, the episode we have with Geoff Slade, from the Slade group recruitment company here in Melbourne. You’re saying that you were part of this first transition when professionals had to take control over their careers because their careers wouldn't be taken care of by the employers anymore. The time in the nineties where that switch happened, where we got into jobs, we would expect that we would be in that organization forever. And then, in the nineties, we learned, no, no, this is not going to happen anymore. And now it's up to you to plan your career and advancement if that's what you want to do. And take control over your destiny as a professional. Would you agree?
Sue: Yes. I think what it was, we learned that we didn't have jobs for life, that our companies were not there to sort of look after us forever, that we needed to take responsibility. And also, we needed to learn new skills on how to do that. And that's how the career management area took off. It took a while for it to be called career management. But that's really where it was born. And, in terms of that generation, then we've come to know that even now, it's not unusual to have more than five or six or seven jobs in your career, maybe more. Even two jobs at once that wasn't heard of in those days.
Renata: Well, you seem to have had quite a varied career. What do you think were the key strengths that took you from one career to another, from job to job?
Sue: Well, we've talked about the first two phases of my career. The next phase was very much around me going in as an executive into a post-graduate education provider, which was Monash Mount Eliza business school, and then Mount Eliza business school. And in doing that, they've started to understand that if they wanted their graduates to get jobs, they needed to have someone inside on the executive helping those people to do it. And I started to look at my students’ strengths, what were my MBA students’ skills, and that led me to a tool called Strengths Finder, which is published by Gallup. It’s still around, and I still use it. And because I didn't really know, I was trying to think about, well, what if I asked a student, what are your strengths?
Sue: They'd sort of look at me blankly, ‘what do you mean?’ And we could do a bit of a coaching thing to get them there. But what I did was say, well, let's, let's do this tool. And in my case, my top five were around strategy, which I sort of went, Oh, okay. What strategy? So being able to see connections, being able to be analytical, to look at issues and break them down and see the big picture. So that's one. The second one was very much around communication. And in my case, I can write reasonably well, but I'm particularly good at verbal and the presenting piece. Being at Mt Eliza Business School, I learned how to facilitate workshops. I watched people facilitate workshops. I had in-the-moment training to do that and drew on the strength that I had in communication.
Sue: I was also good at what they call input, which is about continually learning. Even for our session today, I started to look at, well, what's something I've read in the last little while that could add some value here. So that's, to me, if I ran something, it's never quite the same because it needs to be fresh, it needs to be different. Then, one of the next ones that were, I suppose, is a linchpin to my coaching is empathy, which is a key element of emotional intelligence. So my strength is that I can put myself in the shoes of my client or my coachee, and I can be a little bit ahead of them to help them see where their path is, but not telling them what it is. So really asking, not telling. So they’re the combination of strengths that make me.
Renata: Well, let's use that empathy and that connection, that great connection that you have with professionals, Sue. And tell me, what do you think would be your key advice for those professionals that are currently in transition and looking for work in 2021? It's been a tough year, 2020. This podcast is listened to in over 50 countries, but mainly in Australia and the US. We are almost in different gears, aren't we, in other countries going through different periods of this pandemic, but if you can summarise what you think would be your advice for professionals looking for work, what would it be?
Sue: I think the first thing you need to be doing is taking a good look at yourself. Understanding who you are and what you offer. And I mean, to the point of understanding, what are your transferable skills? Even though different sectors require some different expertise, but key things around communication, analytical skills, people skills, those sorts of things. What are the ones that you've got that are highly transferable? Write them down. Include them in your job search materials, whether it be an interview in your resume, in your profile. So, start to get an understanding of you. And then I think now, and I must say, I've been looking at some of the government work that's being done here. They're trying really hard to support people in this space. So one of the other things is if you start to look at well, what's the industry I want to be in?
Sue: Health is obviously one that's very high up at the minute. Logistics and supply chain would be another one. So how do I find out about these industries? One of the best ways is to talk to people and network and hopefully draw on your network. So if you're a professional, who's come out of a university program, you should have an alumni tap into that alumni. I mean, I think now people are much more receptive to helping because they understand the challenges that are there. And I'd also use the internet, do some really good research. Start to understand what turns your button on for what you want to do. And then I suppose the big challenges today, given that a lot of us are working from home. You can't sort of go and have a meeting for coffee or whatever.
Sue: You can do a zoom coffee or whatever. But, I'd be thinking about if I find an industry, say health, and I want to go into health, and I've been in administration, but I want to go into health administration or health management. What do I need, what knowledge do I need? And that's where I'd start to look on. I've noticed that there's a government website called Course Seeker. On that website, you can put in, ‘I want to be in the health sector.’ You can even put the particular area and see what sort of short courses are available. Now, I know there's a resistance, and I had it through my career, working with students, ‘but I've got a qualification. Why do I need something else?’ But to me, given that it's very hard to do an internship or go and get some experience, the magic word called experience, how do you get the skills you need?
Sue: And I would suggest that would be the way. Go and look at maybe there's some work being done around how to manage the COVID outputs, how to look at what's changed in health from COVID perspective, what have you got to offer to that particular area? We could, logistics and supply chain, it's really about going and having, is there a micro-course on that? Even if it's just a two-month program, you get a feel and the language. Because the other thing is you get to interview, you need to be able to speak in the language of the sector you're going into.
Renata: Yes. I think that that's the biggest challenge, isn't it? And some people can pinpoint the problem, but they can't pinpoint the solution. And what you're giving is a couple of solutions there because when you're changing sectors, let's say you've been in hospitality or higher education or tourism. And you're trying to change to, let's say, what you said before logistics or government or health. There is a change in jargon or narrative to describe things that have to happen in the way you present yourself and your resume and cover letter and even in your LinkedIn profile. So that transferable skills needs to be also aligned with the transfer in the way of communicating, would you agree?
Sue: Yes. And I think it's also about seeking out supporters. Again, find a mentor in a particular, look at your professional association or the professional association that you want, the industry you want to join, and see if there's a possibility for you to get a mentor. Or to find through your support networks, through the people who you've done. A lot of you. If you've done a business course, there's a broad range of people who've been involved. How do you tap into them? How do you have conversations to build your skills in that space? It's not easy to shift sectors, but I can tell you, there are different triggers. At the moment, the trigger is I've been made redundant, or my sector is not hiring what I thought they would do. They've gone a different way.
Sue: In my case, my kids went overseas. That made me actually take myself up off my backside and go, okay, what do I need to do to see them? How do I have a work-life and see my children? And I ended up working in America, doing conferences and going, running a mentoring program in Canada. And how did the door open? The door opened by me going and saying, who is it that knows someone in Canada who would be able to refer me? And having the conversation, not saying to them, I want you to do it for me, but just that connection. So I think it's about being confident and being able to take that step. It's hard, but if you have supporters or a coach who can be there for you. So when you've done something, and you thought, I don't know if that worked as well as I wanted it to, you can go and unpack it with someone like you or me and suddenly go, ‘Oh, I didn't do so badly after all. So what could I do differently next time?’
Renata: Yes. I think that's a great idea. And just to give a business case example of what that would look like is, I mean, ideally, you would do that with time, thinking a little bit more long-term. And I know some people are very anxious about getting a job tomorrow, but to use this opportunity, catch up with people, learn, and understand how you can transfer your skills is important. I had a conversation early last year, so that's 2020, with an individual who had been made redundant from an airline, as many have from an admin role. So a management role, managing teams, large teams, and especially managing teams that were delivering the catering. Across several countries, across several air-crafts with several suppliers, having to maintain the quality and the consistency and the branding of that airline across the globe. In Australia, as you know, we have a very big demand in the health and aging sector - NDIS providers - that are very keen on this whole idea of delivering high-quality services across the board, in a very pulverized way. With service providers representing the brand of the service provider in a large sort of geographical area.
Renata: And I said, ‘have you considered this?’ And he's like, ‘no, I haven't.’ Until you talk to somebody, I'm not even from that sector, but until you talk to somebody about the sector, you cannot find those commonalities to then identify the transferability of your experience. It's not just the skills, but the experience. Having those conversations, and if you can take notes, I'm now trying to connect with HR managers to create a special service provision for an organization. Every time I talk to them, I take notes because I want to use the same language they're talking to me. When I'm then selling my product in the future, it's not ready yet, and it’s something that's under development, I want to use that language. So I take lots and lots of notes. So if you can use these ideas as listeners listening to this podcast, that's the sort of, that's what Sue and I are trying to convey here is have those conversations, find people in the sector. And then when you finish a conversation with someone Sue, you can say, ‘do you know somebody else I can talk to?’
Sue: That's a perfect way to get the next step in the journey. And I think you'll find there are people, authentic people are very keen to help you, as long as you need to stay a little humble. I think you need to be careful about how you present yourself. But if you're humble and open, I think there's another piece to think about here. So you're going to be doing a whole lot of work around looking at what your skills are. I think the other piece you need to look at is, what are your values? And what sort of culture and what sort of organization brings out the best in you? So, as you said before, don't just take the first thing that rolls up along the aisle, because it could be a disaster. So, start to think about, well, what's a good climate for me?
Sue: I work better in an organization where I've got lots of autonomy, or I work better in an organization where I'm part of a team, and there's a bit of competition, and that gives me energy. Really start to think about that and think about when you're having a conversation, not necessarily with a recruiter, but when you get to the stage of talking to the person you're going to be reporting to, have some questions up your sleeve around, well, what do you see as a good environment to work in? How is performance management managed? How often do you meet with everybody? Those sorts of questions, because the values will make a difference about how you stay in that organization. And it should also be really there as you're considering a role. Don't just take a role because it sounds okay. Have a bit of a piece of paper that sort of starts to do pros and cons. And pros mean, this is for me taking the role, this is why I shouldn't take the role. And there should be a lot more on the, for, as against the against. And I think that's key.
Renata: That's very good, Sue. Thank you for that. And that leads us to the topic of our conversation today, which is the first 90 days. Now, I don't know if you know this, but you were the first person to talk to me about the first 90 days. So we've known each other for a while. In my introduction, I will explain how we met. But I believe I was about to start a new role. I think it was my role at the Institute of chartered accountants. And you said, ‘have you, have you heard about this book?’ And I'm like, no, and you sent me a link, and you sent me an article to read, and I was obsessed. You gave me a framework to use forever. And then I used, of course, for myself, every time I changed jobs, but of course for clients as well, it is a great concept. And I'd like you to explain and tell us why it's so important.
Sue: Well, I think Michael Watkins from Harvard University wrote this book, ‘The First 90 Days’, a long time ago. It still resonates. It’s very much about thinking about when you're in a role, how do you make sure you stay there for the long term? And it's how you start, will be how you finish in lots of ways. But he put it down. He gave us a blueprint. I want to go through the whole blueprint today, but the blueprint is very much around, thinking about what is the impression you want to make? I can go through some of the questions that I would suggest you ask as you go through this, but what happened as a result of Michael's book, the recruiters and organizations started to look at making transitions are not easy. Just because you were great in your last role does not mean you're going to be great in your new role.
Sue: And how do you set yourself up for success? And the word started to come around to this concept of onboarding. Now, onboarding is really about you coming on board an organization, and the onboarding is successful. The word inherently says that if you're onboarded well, you will be successful. And so I was hired many moons ago to help recruiters. They get a really strong candidate, and they’d have them ready. Sometimes they were from overseas; actually, a number of them were from overseas. So there was a cultural change and organizational change. And working with them for what we called a 90 day period or a three-month period if you like, the 90 days came out of Michael's work. And the other thing that's happened concurrently with that is the concept of probation periods. So now, when you take a role, you're not going to keep it forever because you may only last if it's a three-month process or a 90 day one, you may have at the end of that, a performance review that may well end up in you not being there anymore.
Sue: Or, I mean, what I hear now from my clients is this has been pushed out to even six months, which is a long time. So to give up a permanent role and go into a new role that has a probation period, you want as much insurance for you as you can get. And that's where the onboarding comes from. And what I do with working with those clients is about, well, it’s the end of the 90 days, how would you like to feel? What would you like to have achieved? And starting to explore that period, breaking it up into intersections, if you like, around, I've got to spend the first bit, perhaps working with my boss, getting a feel for what they're looking for from me, what are my KPIs? KPIs are not the only thing; you’ve got to fit in an organization in a whole lot of ways.
Sue: You've got to get on with your team. You've got to feel comfortable with, and you’ve got to be accepted by the client. You've got to win the respect of your peers. There's a whole lot to do. And I think that this concept of getting ready and having a plan. So it's not just about when you start, but it's about some work you do. Often I will start with this the month before they go into a new role. Now you can do that with me as a coach, and it's a great experience, and it's not a cheap exercise for executives, for instance, but you can do it with a career coaching space around doing some work, using some tools to understand what are you going to have to do differently? What are the skills that you need to apply? But what are the things you should stop doing? So there are some big questions.
Renata: Yes, and I invited you to come on board and do a masterclass for the Job Hunting Made Simple program, which starts again late February this year, because I think never has the 90 days become more important for professionals that potentially have been out of work for a year. And not just any year, a year where business models have really pivoted, have completely changed. The priorities that we had back in 2019 for many sectors potentially changed 180 degrees to a completely different business model, priorities, and set of unexpected KPIs.
Renata: And also the workplace and the environment, and what it takes now to lead teams and projects - working from home, the tyranny of distance, a new set of protocols and, written and unwritten rules. All of that will become also part of preparing for that first 90 days. And even if you don't have a job, it's important to start thinking about it before you start and, as you said, it's the first 90 days, doesn't start one on the first day of work. It has always been, as Michael mentioned in the book, and you've also been coaching, something that you start doing beforehand. But I think, more now than ever, you really should start beforehand. Right? And this whole idea that we've been talking about before about having these conversations, talking to people, understanding how different sectors operate is also part of that first 90 days.
Sue: Absolutely. And I think, as much as Michael didn't realize what he'd unleashed, I don't think, but it's been a lovely framework for me to use with my clients, and I see that it empowers people. So it's great.
Renata: Yeah. You mentioned that some of the probations are now longer; they’re up to six months long. Have you found that the 90 days tend to stick for most sectors and professionals, or do you envision it become longer? What's your experience coaching clients that have gone into new jobs? Do the 90 days seem to be a good average?
Sue: I think so. If you haven't made it by 90 days, you haven't won them over, and it’s not going to work. You may last for six months, but it won't be a happy lasting. So I think you've got to make it's about that good first impression. What the six months give you is a bit, it's actually more for the employer, I think than you. It gives them a better indicator. It also gives them more flexibility. They can say goodbye to you very easily during the probation period. They can't do that so easily once you're a permanent member of staff, so be conscious of that, but make the most of it. If you have six months, think about, ‘what are you going to set at the three months?’
Sue: They'll usually still have a meeting in three months. and at that meeting, how do you set yourself up in the next three months? And this will be part of your career forever, really. Performance management has changed considerably. It's no longer going to be that sort of, I want you to do this, and you're going to do that. It's very much a collaboration. And the work David Rock's been doing with the brain and coaching and some in his neuro leadership Institute is talking about how coaching, how you're going to be asking someone what they would like to do and how they would like to be, rather than saying, well, I want you to do this or that. And you need to perform in this particular way.
Renata: Sue, as we start wrapping up when you think about what the most important critical goals a professional should aim for to achieve at the end of that first 90 days, then what would it be? What would be the top two or three goals to work towards?
Sue: I think it's to have achieved an outcome that they promised. And to have done it well, and to have done it in a way that it looks good for them and the organization, I think that's paramount. That they'd built good relationships and that they've, I think, this concept, we use it now of managing up. It's not just about managing out to the client or the customer I think is probably a better word for that. But it's about managing up really well so that your boss, I mean, the word boss is a bit archaic now, but to the person, you report to, that you demonstrate that you're a good member of the team that you're doing, what was expected in fact, more than expected. But also remember that you need to manage across. So you need to be able to win your peers. You may be in a competitive environment, but how do you stay professional, authentic way with your peers and your direct reports? It's important.
Renata: This is an excellent way to finish this conversation, Sue. Thank you so much. I can't wait for us to run the master class for the Job Hunting Made Simple program. Yes. In March. That will be fantastic. Lucky are the clients who will get to engage with you in the masterclass and learn more and learn all the techniques and advice you're going to share with them. So thank you so much for coming on board to the podcast today.
Sue: Thanks Renata, it's been a pleasure.
Renata: Hello again. I hope the episode has been useful and that it has given you a greater awareness of how to make a successful transition into a new role. As I mentioned in my introduction, Sue will deliver a special masterclass for the professionals doing the Job Hunting Made Simple online course and group coaching program. It starts very soon at the end of February, and registrations will close in a few days. So if this is a good solution to support your job search, please go online to learn more. The link is renatabernarde.com/JHMS, and you will find the link also in the episode show notes. By the way, we always include all the links discussed in the show notes. So check it out if you're interested in the books we've mentioned or websites that we spoke about. That's it for this episode, ciao for now and until next time, bye.