5 minute read – When it comes to NDIS jobs, an entry-level role in aged or disability care is not always easy. There can be long nights, uncertainty about shifts and even the need to work at several organisations at once.
But if you’re in this field because you want to help people, you also know how incredibly rewarding it can be, and likely, you’re hoping to build a long and successful career in care.
But can it be done?
Can an entry-level support worker, one day become a CEO?
“One hundred percent, yes!” said Matt Hodges, National Director of Community Services at global recruitment firm, Randstad. “I know people who have started in a community services centre, remained with the organisation for 20 years, and they are now CEO.”
To help you better plan you career in care, we spoke with Matt, who provided valuable and expert advice on everything from attitude and self-reflection to getting your foot in the door.
Start by thinking about your transferable skills
Right now, Australia is experiencing a skills shortage when it comes to NDIS jobs.
At the same time, Covid-19 has caused unemployment to rise, as businesses in every industry have been forced to close their doors.
While the situation might seem alarming on both fronts, it offers a valuable opportunity to people who are looking to kick off their career in the aged or disability care sectors.
“Everybody has transferable skills,” Matt explained. “The childcare sector was basically shut down overnight because of Covid, and there were a lot of early learning professionals looking for new roles. When we looked at their job profiles, they were actually really similar to people who worked in the aged or care spaces, so there were transferable skills that could help them make that move.”
If you’re planning a career in care, but don’t know how to get started, Step 1 is to take a look at your life and work experience, to see if you already have skills that will be valuable in your new industry.
Don’t always look up in NDIS jobs, look across
For many of us, planning a career means plotting a line straight up – we start at the bottom and we head for the top.
But moving up earlier in your career, isn’t always the best way to achieve your goal of making it to the top.
Looking sideways at NDIS jobs that can expand your skillset might actually be your best chance at building well-rounded experience that will help you get that top job down the track.
“There will always be ups and downs in organisations,” Matt said. “Individuals who go through those ups and downs and who use every experience as a learning experience, will build resilience and can climb the ladder quite quickly, because they’ve had experience and they’ve seen more.”
Have a plan and look for support
We all know getting from point A to point B, without a map can be difficult, especially when we’ve never made the trip before.
Building a career is much the same. Moving from an entry-level role to a senior manager role is not A to B, there are a lot of stops and other positions along the way.
Understanding the field and carefully planning how you will navigate it, will make you more likely to succeed.
Likewise, knowing where to get support and actively seeking it out, can help you avoid the past mistakes of others and draw on their experience and knowledge to progress faster.
“You need to be very clear about where you want to go,” Matt explained. “Every organisation has opportunities to work with your manager to plan your career.”
“For individuals who can’t communicate where they want to go, aren’t very clear on their path and don’t ask about the support their managers can give them, it’s never going to happen.”
“People who want to climb the career ladder, need to be able to communicate clearly and ask their line manager, ‘how do I get there, how can this organisation help me and upskill me so I can go where I want to go?’.”
Seek feedback and honestly review yourself
Unfortunately, not everyone has the natural confidence to approach a manager and ask for their help, or to seek out the support of their organisation in training or planning their career.
But the old saying holds true: “Don’t ask, don’t get!”
Building confidence is often about looking internally and better understanding where your talents lie and where you need to improve.
Once you know where you excel and you work on your flaws, it can be easier to assert yourself without doubting your abilities.
“If I didn’t have that confidence, I would create a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on myself and work out what I need to do,” Matt suggested.
“You need to be brave enough to go to your colleagues and managers to ask for feedback and to live by the philosophy that feedback is a gift. Open the doors, for example, by creating a survey to get that 360 feedback — it can hurt at the time but it can also help you become a better, stronger person and build your career.”
For higher level NDIS jobs, be more strategic
Once you have a foot in the door, navigating those lower level NDIS jobs can be quite straight-forward – it may take time, but the path from one role to the next is clear.
In approaching higher leadership roles in the sector, it pays to consider the hiring strategy of those making decisions.
Matt recommends looking at the previous and current strategy of the board when it comes to senior roles, like that of CEO.
He has seen companies that recruit internally, grooming a leadership candidate over time and drawing from their experience within the sector and the organisation. He’s also seen boards elect to recruit externally to bring in fresh ideas.
Look at the current state of the organisation and the outgoing leader, as well as the talent pool below them to better understand what strategy the board may employ when making a hiring decision.
“Overall,” Matt says, “Fall over and make mistakes and story tell those mistakes – that’s the difference between people who climb the ladder and who don’t climb the ladder.”
“Leaders who are at the top are there because they’ve been at the bottom and they’ve fallen over many times. They’ve learned resilience, and to think differently and they’ve taken their career into their own hands, rather than waiting for someone to hand it to them.”
Matt Hodges is the National Director of Community Services at global recruitment firm, Randstad. He offers insights from a specialist career spanning more than two decades and has helped shaped the careers of countless professionals in the care sector.
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