7 Attributes To Assure Your Working Future

Posted On 25 May 2021

7 Attributes To Assure Your Working Future

25 May 2021
7 Attributes To Assure Your Working Future

Candidate Resource, Employable, Employer Resource, EST10 Team, News & Events

7 Attributes To Assure Your Working Future

It was my first year at Monash University. I was lucky to be living on campus at one of the best universities in Australia, being exposed to a multitude of different people, courses and experiences and study­ing for a Bachelor of Arts, which I knew would interest me. I recall the relief of getting into a decent university and thinking, ‘Phew, now I’m okay, hard work done!’ Little did I know that the journey of forever being employable had only just begun.

I remember a conversation during my first three months at uni­versity. Vicky was a third-year student on my floor who was doing a Bachelor of Arts like me. She asked me what degree I was doing and then proceeded to tell me, at great length, that my degree was use­less and wouldn’t land me a job when I graduated. She, herself, was uninspiring – a little negative and even a touch depressive to speak with. I couldn’t distinguish at that moment between what I could learn from her, and what was her own baggage.

We never spoke again, but her lecture/unsolicited advice stayed with me for the length of my degree.

Vicky was right to a certain extent. While I was annoyed at what I saw as her audacity, I have been grateful ever since. What she did was plant a seed, which I fed unconsciously with incremental actions. I chose subjects that might leverage my future job possi­bilities. One of these subjects was Human Resources (HR), which I took in my final year. Studying HR was new then – I loved the subject, and it was one I did well in.


My other main subject was Japanese. Now, I was far too relaxed at university to have excelled at learning Japanese. Studying any lan­guage needs constant and consistent application and work – you can’t cram it. Despite my apprehension, I decided to take part in an exchange program, which involved studying at a prestigious univer­sity in Japan – all in the name of keeping me on that path to ‘future employability’.

I can tell you honestly, I didn’t want to use my summer break by going to Japan. I was not a diligent student. I was 20 years old. After my first year at university, I had settled more into university life than into university studies. I would have preferred to be at the beach or the pub having summer fun with my friends, rather than staying at the homes of various Japanese families and going to university daily.

I went because, somehow, I knew it would be good for me – a little like choosing to eat a salad rather than a burger. The trip to Japan assisted me greatly with my language skills and opened my mind to a different culture and customs – and I knew it would look impressive on my résumé in the future.

By the time I graduated from university, at the height of the 1990s recession, jobs were scarce. I didn’t want to mope around and do any old ho-hum job. Instead, I wanted to stay on a path of employability and continue upskilling. So, I took myself off to Japan with the purpose of fine-tuning my Japanese language skills. My plan was to stay for 12 months – but I ended up extending my trip to three-and-a-half years.

In the beginning, I was happy to have any job and started in hos­pitality, at a five-star hotel in a beachside town called Atami. My job was as a ‘meeter and greeter’, and I worked six days a week. It was the norm in Japan, and all of us ‘meeters and greeters’ did it. Our job was to bow all day, every day – when someone entered, when they left and re-entered and then finally when they left for good. Very important job. On one side of the entry were all the petite and serenely beautiful Japanese girls lined up in their soft blue-flowered kimonos, and on the other side were the gents in their grey and blue (flowerless) kimonos.

I was with the Japanese ladies, of course, until I didn’t fit any­more – literally as well as culturally. I ate so much Japanese curry (most people associate the Japanese with sushi, but their curry is very popular!) that I could not fit into my ladies’ kimono. Instead, I was hastened into the men’s kimono but, quite frankly, it was a disaster. I was then ‘promoted’ to the job of dishwasher in the hotel café. At first I was miffed, until I discovered we were allowed to eat ice cream during the quiet times. A silver lining. This experience was my first introduction to the importance of ‘fitting in’ at an organisa­tion, and how quickly things can go pear-shaped if you don’t.

Following my dishwashing stint my vocations began to improve slightly. While my roles were all casual in style, they were helping me to achieve my goal of speaking fluent Japanese. Along the way, I also developed so many other skills and attributes that complemented my degree.

My time in Japan taught me an important lesson: while we may not know exactly how at the time, ultimately all our actions and efforts will lead somewhere. Inactivity and non-exploration is undoubtably a much easier path to choose, but it’s not the way to secure our future.

Working and living in a foreign country, where English is not the main language, for that period of time was tough. My resilience and tenacity were tested and strengthened. The environment was unfamiliar on every cultural level – from views on women, marriage, Australians and foreigners, to beer, food, sleeping, religion – you name it, it was all poles apart from what I knew. I had to negotiate jobs, contracts, visas, bank accounts, living arrangements, car licences – all in Japanese. At the time, I didn’t think of it as an ordeal. It just had to be dealt with if I wanted to be there. The unknown is sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s also exciting, and I relished the thrill of trying to make things work, no matter the obstacles.

Towards the end of my stay in Japan, I became acutely aware of the unexpected benefits of living within limitations. I was dis­covering something new about myself every time I encountered a new challenge. I came to understand our inborn, human ability to persevere and create solutions instinctively.

I returned to Australia fluent in Japanese, but with no motivation or desire to work for a Japanese firm in Australia. However, those three-and-a-half years in Japan made me the perfect candidate for a job in recruitment. The number-one strength you need to work in the recruitment industry is resilience (refer to chapter 3). After living in Japan, I had this in abundance! During my travels I found there were very few setbacks that I could not deal with. I had to deal with all the stresses and challenges and solve all my problems myself – there was no-one else to fix things for me.

When you live in a foreign country where you must speak in a second language, all your senses become heightened. I became acutely attuned to read body language, interpret eye contact and recognise subtle messaging. For the first time, I became fully aware of what observing and being an observer means, and how powerful it can be. I surprised myself by how much I embraced my newfound observer role, considering I am not naturally patient.

I had to learn the art of observation to survive. Although I might not have understood half of what was being said, I learned to pick up the subtleties of interaction and how to use these to negotiate and influence. These are skills that have served me to this day.


Upon my return to Australia, I began what was to be a long and successful career in recruitment. My first job was with Julia Ross – a well-known, inspirational entrepreneur, business magnate and founder of Julia Ross Recruitment. From the moment I inter­viewed with Julia, I wanted that job. I was enthralled by what she had achieved. I loved that she was a woman in business doing great things. There was a magical power and thrill about working there. I wanted to be a part of it!

Recruitment was tough, and working in a Julia Ross world was even tougher – standards were high. For the first time since com­pleting my degree, I felt I was on track to having a professional career. My training was excellent – some of the best recruiters and managers at the time trained with Julia Ross. I know if it had not been for my experience with Julia, I would not be where I am today. I loved that job. It gave me a sense of belonging. I could have chosen a different recruitment company to work for, but I am not sure I would have been as enthralled and motivated in another firm. The values of loyalty, trust and having a strong work ethic, as well as Julia’s high service levels and standards, innovative approach and willingness to strive for perfection, suited my personality and style.

The funny thing is, I fell into that job! I went for an interview at the Julia Ross Recruitment office in Parramatta for a job in banking and they suggested I might be suited to recruitment. They gave me a test: they said, ‘We are advertising this weekend. Have a look out for the job ad.’ (In those days, jobs were advertised in Saturday’s news­paper.) I looked but couldn’t see it. So, I called up on Monday and said I couldn’t see the advert, but I asked to apply anyway. The rest is history!


I wonder if Vicky, the third-year Arts student, would be surprised to learn that my 25-plus-year career in recruitment has taken me throughout Australia and to the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. Perhaps she’d be even more startled to hear that this experience led me to complete an MBA and launch my own boutique recruitment firm, EST10, in 2010. So much for my ‘useless’ degree, Vicky!

As a young undergraduate, the concepts of lifelong learning and being employable were not something I gave any thought to, but my path to being employable had always shown in my actions and behaviours. I seemed to instinctually understand what I needed to do to make myself employable. It was only later in life that I started to pay close attention to the choices we humans make in life, and how they influence our future path.

Recruiters develop the ability to look at candidates and their résumés in terms of a ‘life map story’ – a map of the candidate’s direc­tion, with many connecting dots representing the whole picture. This provides invaluable insight into candidates’ personalities, but also highlights their untapped potential.

I have always loved hearing stories of people who go against the tide and challenge our perception of what success is. I once read that Steve Jobs took a summer class in calligraphy, not knowing if it would ever have any value or application in his career. At the time, he had just dropped out of university and wanted to keep himself busy. In his own words, ‘If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.’

Steve Jobs also said: ‘You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.’ In other words, you need to trust that the dots of your life and experiences will connect in the future. You don’t always know which of your actions will change the course of your life.

If you cannot see how your dots connect yet, be patient. Some­time and somewhere, your personal and professional stories will come together in a beautiful arrangement, just like mine did.

Download the full first chapter of Employable here.

About the author
Roxanne Calder
Managing Director

As Founder and Managing Director at EST10, Roxanne has an all-encompassing role that includes building and growing the business, as well as actively recruiting and consulting.

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree at Monash University, Roxanne began her recruitment career with renowned recruiter Julia Ross. From there, Roxanne worked in HR and recruitment with a number of global players and boutique businesses throughout Australia, the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 20 years. She has been responsible for managing large teams and projects, implementing RPO models, managing and assisting businesses to an IPO and assisting companies in setting up their recruitment teams and processes.

Following completion of her MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management, Roxanne launched EST10 in July 2010. In doing so, she hoped to combine the flexibility and high touch service levels of boutique agencies with the structure and strategy afforded to larger firms. Roxanne believes in high-touch, high-care consulting and is always on the lookout for consultants that share this vision of recruitment.