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What’s New And Changed In The Illawarra Job Market

We get the inside scoop from Margherita Colley of Illawarra Recruitment

Those days of searching through classifieds for local jobs or dropping off your resume at a business’s front desk, hoping for a callback, are long gone. 

In fact, the job market all over the country has changed pretty dramatically over the last few years, including right here in the Illawarra.

Whenever we switch on the news, we hear terms like ‘unemployment rate’ and ‘labour market’ thrown around and it seems to be a pretty hot topic on everyone’s lips. 

So, what’s the scoop for us Illawarra locals?

Who knows, maybe not every other person we run into will be employed at the Steelworks or the Council. Has it really changed that much? 

Instead of guessing and stressing, we got in touch with Margherita Colley from Illawarra Recruitment for all the info. 

Margherita has been in the recruitment industry for over 35 years so she’s well-equipped to fill us in on what’s happening right now for Illawarra locals in the job market scene. 

Read on to get the full rundown.

Navigating New Challenges

“I’ve been in recruitment for a very long time and I’ve seen many ups and downs,” says Margherita. 

“But I’ve never seen it like it is at the moment. Employers are really struggling to fill their positions in any field, even jobs that traditionally would have been more in demand.”

It’s likely you’ve seen your fave cafe shut for a day because they’re struggling to get staff, but it’s not just the hospitality industry that’s taking a hit. 

Specialised professions such as tax accounting and legal secretarial roles are encountering similar challenges. So are the traditional ‘blue-collar’ jobs such as labourers and tradespeople, which remain popular and highly sought after in the Illawarra.

“For positions where I might have gotten plenty of applications in the past, the volume isn’t the same right now,” Margherita adds. 

Bucking The Trend

We were curious to find out if there were any types of positions that were bucking this new trend and seeing a bigger number of applications, so we asked Margherita.

“Since the COVID lockdowns, it’s clear that what candidates, especially younger folks, really want is a good work-life balance. They’re all about remote or hybrid jobs. If we post an ad for a job like that, especially one where you can work from home, we get flooded with applications.” 

So, if an employer is open to flexibility and can offer ‘work from home’ or even hybrid roles then they’re much more likely to get the level of applicants they need to find the right fit. 

Oh, and to get into the nitty-gritty, positions at Wollongong and Shellharbour councils are still high on the search list for job hunters, and jobs in Kiama are also pretty popular. Makes sense, considering how beautiful it is to live there!

Adapting To Change

Margherita encourages employers who are having a difficult time trying to fill roles to consider being more adaptable if possible. 

“The windows of opportunities for candidates have broadened,” says Margherita. 

“For instance, if you have someone with great experience but isn’t degree qualified, employers are considering them now. Before, it was all about having that degree, but now they’re more open to candidates who may not tick every box of the essential criteria but will still make a great fit for the role.”

If you’re a job seeker looking to switch things up, now’s a great time. Employers are increasingly open to candidates with diverse experience and transferable skills, rather than strictly sticking to every specific requirement on a piece of paper.

Advice For Candidates

So, if you’re thinking about trying out a new job or exploring something you didn’t think you would have been considered for in the past, Margherita has some advice for you.

“First things first, make sure your resume is polished and error-free. Employers notice mistakes, so double-check and edit them carefully. Communication is key—follow up after submitting your resume. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and talk directly to the employer. In today’s world, many candidates stick to email, but a phone call can really make you stand out. If it’s an online process, giving them a quick call can still show initiative.”

Using a good recruiter can also be a game-changer too. Find one you click with like Margherita and her team at Illawarra Recruitment.

A recruiter who understands your work ethic and transferable skills can advocate for you effectively, even if you don’t meet every single requirement on paper. It’s all about standing out in this new job market.

And For Employers

What if you’re an employer who has a role that needs filling? What else can you do to get that dream candidate all signed up?

“For employers, it’s important to consider offering flexible options like hybrid or remote work. Also, don’t overlook part-time opportunities—working fewer hours doesn’t mean a lower quality of work. In fact, the right employee might work diligently from nine to three, knowing they can balance work with picking up kids or other commitments. Being open to flexible hours and broadening job requirements to include candidates with transferable skills, can really open up possibilities,” Margherita tells us.

And although it may feel like money is tight right now, employers need to consider upping their wages for new candidates. 

“Salaries have increased across the board since COVID, particularly for roles like administrators and entry-level accountants,” Margherita adds. 

Employers need to weigh the benefits of slightly higher salaries against the cost of losing out on top talent in this competitive market.

Oh, and be quick! None of those 8–12-week waiting times. If you find a candidate you like, act fast before they get snapped up by somebody else. 

Making The Most Of The Illawarra

“The Illawarra has many small and medium-sized businesses,” Margherita tells us.

“Many people moved here from Sydney expecting high salaries, but that’s not always the case. Salaries in this region are sometimes lower compared to Sydney. Local employers often can’t match the higher salaries offered in big cities due to their limited budgets.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

When you work for a small business, it’s an opportunity to learn everything. 

Everyone pitches in—you might handle admin tasks one moment, customer service the next, and you may even do some accounts.

This diversity helps you build a broad skill set, unlike larger organisations where roles are usually more specialised. 

“Working in a small regional business lets you gather diverse, transferable skills by participating in various aspects of the business. It’s a perfect way to develop a well-rounded skill set.”

“I’ve been in the recruiting game for a long time and I still love it,” Margherita says.

“What really brings me joy is when clients and candidates trust me completely. I see myself as part of the team for my clients and a champion for my candidates.”

If you’re an employer seeking candidates, feel free to reach out to Margherita and her team

And if you’re looking for a new job, be sure to check out our local jobs board for opportunities around town.

The Illawarra Recruitment team are passionate about finding employment for Illawarra locals, and they are committed to continuing their outstanding work.

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