#ilovemcr

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The tram lines are open, city blockades have lifted and Manchester is stronger together than ever before.

When we were moving to the UK it was important for me to live in a place we wouldn’t feel like outsiders. I wanted to walk amongst the locals and feel like I was one of them – especially since we are here for 2 years at least.

The moment we were settled in our house, Manchester was home. If we mention we are from Australia we are told about these amazing local gems to discover, how beautiful Didsbury is, or end up talking over a pint about the weather and the Mancunians.

The most “Manchester” thing about the people is their immense capacity to keep on working and supporting the people around them whether they’re friends or strangers – they just do and don’t think twice about it.

There is never a sense of “other” to the Mancunians.

The terrible tragedy that was the Manchester attack happened two weeks ago now, and has taken 22 lives with repercussions to families, friends and complete strangers across the globe. As someone who relocated to the city three months ago, it was a real shock to wake up to worried messages from home in Australia and really put into perspective for me how connected the world is.

Today, I was absolutely taken aback by a video from Business Insider UK, courtesy of The Life of BakoThis guy standing in St Annes Square where we strolled through the weekend before the attack blindfolded and asking for people to trust him enough for a hug. While the gesture of Bako standing there is already heartwarming – it is the words of those who are hugging him that truly inspire me.

It is just another example of how close the city really is – for locals, expats, and people passing through. What a town.

#ilovemcr

ANZAC Day as an expat

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ANZAC Day is a sombre experience. Children grow up learning April 25th is not a happy or heroic day in Australia. It is a day of remembrance and reflection. Each year city streets are lined with volunteers selling small poppy flower pins and brass broaches to raise money for veterans. And on the day we hold our breath as the beagle plays at dawn, trying to imagine how it would feel being surrounded by your mates and war on a beach.

There isn’t as much a sense of patriotism as there is mateship for your fellow man and woman. There are sporting, religious, cultural, fashion and foodie differences that may divide us on varying levels of friendly banter to hateful misunderstandings, but what shines through is our open – maybe not always agreeable – but open nature to stand by your mate. We cheer for the underdog and don’t need an excuse to hang out over a beer – perhaps that is why one of the most popular Prime Ministers was the one who could skull a scooner whilst being cheered on.

Living abroad for the first time and experiencing ANZAC Day from the outside, so to speak, reminds me of how lucky I am to call Australia home. Australia has provided me with endless beaches to explore, too much sun, an education that lead me to university to study in a field I am passionate in, and a safe place to come back to when I have quenched my thirst for travel. It keeps my family and friends happy and healthy and provides a good laugh to strangers when you joke about riding kangaroos to school growing up. Which is all you could want really – to laugh like a silly galah with new and old mates.

It was the first year away, and it may not be the last, but I will always remember the ANZACs. With the coming of the day and the going of the night their legacy will live on so we can remember the sacrifice others made in the hopes of our futures above their own. So don’t waste it. Lest we forget.

The Ode, by Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Sweet potato and cranberries

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You would think that after moving overseas I would be more excited about the 17th century church down the road rather than grocery shopping. But, then again, for those that know me and my obsession with markets and local produce this may not come as such a surprise.

While some of my cooking (mainly baking) can be pretty shocking, I am becoming more and more aware of how my style of cooking and use of ingredients is changing – and improving! Sweet potato and cranberries are not foods I would put together in Australia, but when it came out of the oven tasting amazing here in Manchester I did a little research and found it is a popular combination! Maybe I had been walking around and subconsciously saw a dish where they were combined?

Sweet potato and cranberry bake is the most common recipe found online with different complementing ingredients, such as maple, apple, walnut, cinnamon, and raisons. You can also find it as a stuffing recipe or salad with spinach, quinoa, and pine nuts.

I kept mine simple and savoury as a bake adding a few herbs and extra virgin olive oil to the dish and roasting it for an hour. I served the potatoes with a marinated Spatchcock (poultry or game bird that has been split open and prepared for cooking) that I roasted for the same time and temperature with the potatoes as a source of protein. It also saves power using just the oven for one meal. It was delicious, so I’ve put the ingredients below to share with you!

Spices 

  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Coriander seeds
  • Chilli powder
  • Salt and pepper

I used about half a teaspoon of each spice for one big sweet potato cut into chunks. Place into a baking tray and add 4 whole cloves of garlic (peeled), and a handful of cranberries. Drizzle the lot with extra virgin olive oil and use your fingers to make sure the sweet potato and cranberries are coated with herbs and yummy goodness.

Bake in the oven at 180°C for 60 minutes. If you’re cooking with meat don’t forget to let the meat rest for 10 minutes so the juices are retained when you cut into it. With a whole chicken I found an hour was a good time and didn’t try out the meat.

Food plays such a huge part in our daily lives – in a lifetime the average person will spend just over 6 years cooking and eating food!

Travelling overseas you get a snippet of the culture, but living somewhere else you are completely immersed, and while sweet potato and cranberries does not come close to a revelation I cannot deny the exposure of so many new cultures and cuisines is influencing my cooking – and I like it.

Cookie monsters or helpers?

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In public relations looking through data, measuring statistics, and tracking consumer demand is a huge component to planning and implementing campaigns.

How would you even begin to justify a budget for a campaign video without a small history of how video content has become a preferred source of information?

You simply couldn’t.

Well, you could, but then you would just be throwing vague statements out there, such as, “I have been watching a lot more videos lately on Facebook, and I think it’s because the algorithm changed in favour of viral videos and quick news bites. As a full-time employee who only gets a small amount of time in between work, exercising, seeing friends, blogging, and doing house work I don’t like watching long videos. If I apply the same logic onto our target demographic of full-time business managers they are going to have so much more on their plate. Therefore I think if we keep the video to 30 seconds and share it around lunch time I’m sure our audience will watch it and appreciate the short bite we have to say about our company”.

Cringe.

Without even realising we have quickly become reliant on Big Data and what technology can do for us on a campaign side of a B2B or B2C relationship. Quicker than what we can handle, even, because there is still so much untouched, or “raw”, data we haven’t analysed. We depend on numbers, click-through-rates, page views, shares, likes, love’s, haha’s, wow’s, sad’s, and angry’s to tell the story of what certain consumers think of our content and key message – as well as when and where they view it.

And it is mostly done through cookies.

You may have noticed little banner messages at the top or bottom of your computer or mobile screen saying, “We use cookies… close and accept”.

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What are cookies?
Cookies are messages your web browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox) sends to a web server (Lonely Planet, Contently, eBay).

There are different types of cookies, meaning they can send different types of information back to the web server. Consumers can control the information being sent to web browsers by limiting or forbidding a web browser to send cookies back to the web server.

What do they do?
When a cookie, or message, is sent to the server about a web page you have landed on it identifies you as a user and suggests other web pages you may like to personalise your experience.

For example, if I were to go on Contently and read an article about SEO I may scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and see sponsored articles with “related” blog posts about SEO techniques and algorithms.

How does this impact businesses? 
Personalisation and user experience is key for a business’ online presence. There is a great article by McKinsey & Company with a modern marketing example following a mother purchasing yoga pants for herself, having a blog post about keeping an active and healthy lifestyle reminding her of the purchase, and then receiving a push notification a couple of days later alerting her of a 15% off sale where she makes another online purchase.

Lead generation, personalisation, and nurturing the customer journey goes beyond a click and check out or log-on log-off experience. It creates a relationship between your brand and customers founded on a two-way model of communication constantly updated through cookies. Resources spent profiling target markets are reduced significantly and accuracy is improved making your job in marketing/communications a lot easier – thank you little cookie helpers!

Why may a consumer feel uneasy about cookies and block them? 
It can feel as if you’re being followed! Not everyone is going to like how stalkerish their favourite brands can be, but then that is the sign of a good integrated campaign. When a consumer has a buying pattern of new clothes for the weekend you as a business want to be the first ones on their list to click. If they see you first your targeting demo- and psychographics are on the mark.

But then cookies can also be embarrassing. I haven’t connected my Netflix account to our Smart TV because I don’t want my house mates seeing how many RomComs and historical period dramas I really consume.

Why am I only just seeing references to cookies now? 
Businesses are required to tell you if they are accessing your information. How many times did you search ASOS for Saturday nights’ outfit only to scroll through Facebook and see an ad for a dress on eBay that looks almost identical? Yep, that’s what I thought. It’s the same with holidays. Looking up jumpers? Why not fly to somewhere warm for under $200 and escape the cool instead? Genius!

There are countless conversations held over coffee with friends trying to justify impulse shopping because you couldn’t get those earrings you saw out of mind (or were you just surrounded by sponsored advertisements?). Depending on your shopping addiction and the contents of your wallet those cookies can be monsters.

We are a generation that wants things on demand, in the now, who are driven by purpose and want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We don’t have time to be searching too long for something in store when we can be cooking dinner and purchasing next week’s groceries at the same time from home.

You would think anyone would be excited about all of this technology enabling businesses to show you clothes, travel destinations, or blog posts specific to your current needs, right?

Nope. Not everyone likes being tracked, but we expect a seamless experience when it comes to purchasing goods and services…

So are they cookie monsters or helpers?

The one month itch

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Job hunting can take many shapes and forms over a number of hours, days, weeks, months and eons. Patience is a virtue that decides to wander a bit when it has been doing well for so long, and usually does this around the one month mark.

I don’t know where it goes or what it does. Maybe Patience catches up with Cool, Calm and Collected over a bottle of red. I just know that one moment it is there and the next a big, blaring neon ‘UNEMPLOYED’ sign you didn’t see before appears. We all know the sign was there all along, but because you were focussed on making your resume look awesome, good juju, and proactive action you had all those endorphins from making calls and sending emails coursing through your veins. There was no room for doubt!

But then you feel it. The one month itch.

I thought because I had been warned about the itch I would be able to slip past the worry. I thought that because I had received such great advice from fellow expats I would see the signs and be able to ignore them. But patience wanders, doubt on your abilities can creep in, and sometimes you just need a bottle of red.

When I moved over I was confident that within 2 months I would find a job. I have support from my friends and family, a UK phone number, and 5 days a week to contact recruiters and HR teams giving myself the weekend off so I wouldn’t burn out.

Job hunting is not easy anywhere around the world. One of the Aussies I have met so far has said it took her 2 months to start her job, and another friend 6 months of consistent job searching. My fellow expat The Roaming Blonde has also written about how New York City can push you in ways you didn’t know you could be pushed in work and life. It is no different here in Manchester. If job hunting was easy national unemployment rates would be a lot lower than 5% of the population and less tabloids about there being a skills shortage in the marketplace.

At the one month mark I still have a whole month to secure a job and achieve my goal. And yet, even though I am fully aware I still have another month, I am scratching.

The best piece of advice I have received is to watch out for this one month itch, acknowledge it is there, and acknowledge all of the things you have achieved up to this point. After all it has only been one month!

The itch can tempt you with the option of settling for less in the hopes that the job you really want will come along soon. This is the easy option and only the temporary solution to a long term goal. Don’t do it to yourself.

You can get to the point where you think you want to take anything. You want a job to keep you occupied, you want stability, you want an income. I get it, I am there with you, but eventually you move passed it.

Negativity has a huge impact on your frame of mind and confidence, so stop scratching, get the balm out and make a new move.

What can you do different?  
List the things you did that caught someone’s attention (I love lists and keeping them simple is key!). Look at what you’ve been doing over the past month. What has worked and what hasn’t worked at getting an interview or phone call?

  • Did contact via email, phone, or LinkedIn work better?
  • Was it when you attached a cover letter even when they didn’t ask for one?
  • Is there a particular job site you were able to find more roles to apply for directly to the potential employer?
  • Is a follow up call or email the best way to stay in touch with recruiters and HR departments about jobs?
  • How do you try something new – even if it is out of your comfort zone – to get your foot in the door?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going… again.

So crack on!

The misconception of job hunting

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Terror, fear of the unknown, and mornings spent lounging in pyjamas staring at a closed laptop. These may be a few of your not so favourite first thoughts starting the job hunt process. In one ear there are professionals commenting on a shortage of jobs available in the market, while in the other ear a job search website can reveal over 2,000 specialised positions waiting for the right candidate to apply.

The common misconception of successful – and relatively quick – job hunting is that it takes a special type of person to put themselves out there over and over again despite little to no response.

It can defeat a job seeker’s enthusiasm before the search has even begun.

But put yourself in the employers’ shoes – if you were looking for someone to join your team, wouldn’t you advertise above and beyond to get the cream of the crop? (Hopefully you say yes!) Thankfully, it doesn’t all come down to simply experience and qualification. How you present yourself, champion your skills and strengths, and personably respond to challenges are – in some workplaces – the deciding factors.

Part of the job searching process is having the courage and determination to apply yourself for a job above your capabilities.

How can a person learn if they do not acknowledge the skills they use need constant reworking? How will a person show their future employers they are a driven individual if they do not reach out and open a line of communication?

By throwing yourself in the deep end of job descriptions and responsibilities you are opening the door to opportunity. Be dedicated to highlighting your skills, strengths, and achievements in a visually pleasing format for recruiters and employers and you are guaranteed to receive feedback.

Here are three key things I started with to overcome a morning of mourning my resume and get down to business hunting for my next job:

1. Write down achievements.
Quantifying your experience in itself is a valuable skill to have in a workplace, and one that has to start somewhere. No matter what type of job you are applying for – whether it be an internship, graduate position, or executive role – you will have an achievement to highlight. It is a section of your resume that stands out more than Objective or Qualities because achievements provide a snapshot of a specific task you needed to complete, and give the employer an idea of what qualities it takes to complete such tasks without getting too wordy. Try and make these achievements varied so they outline your key skills you want to highlight for that particular role or industry.

2. Add metrics.
Once there are between three to seven dot points enhance them by adding a measurable figure and timeline. They immediately evolve from a sentence about you at work to a business objective you have accomplished. I think back to my university lecturers saying objectives need to be SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. If you were part of a team that increased sales performance by 20% in a week or quarter – put that statistic in. If you delivered a campaign or article that boosted engagement by 40% those are numbers future employers want to see. Writing SMART achievements will set you apart from other applicants.

3. Dot point skills.
The risk with writing your resume is that it can fill up with a lot of words and not enough white space to make for an appealing read. By dot pointing skills you are clearly identifying your foundations of working knowledge. I have read a lot of “resume how to” articles lately and a common thread between them is turning away from listing soft skills such as “excellent communicator” and “emotionally intelligent”. These may be important for your role, but I agree that they belong in a small summary section of you on your resume or LinkedIn profile and not listed amongst hard skills such as “writing and editing”, “project monitoring”, and software programs you use.

If you find yourself repeating skills, and wanting to highlight specific soft skills you know will be important for your next role, create a dot point list  called Strengths as part of your Summary on the front page of your resume.

Applying for jobs starts with updating and reviewing your resume. During my interviews with recruiters and HR gatekeepers I received positive feedback on these three particular aspects of my resume and it boosted me with confidence to hear the hard work I had put into my resume had payed off.

Look for examples online, read through job descriptions you want to apply for, and even search through LinkedIn for inspiration. The only relevant misconception of job hunting is that it is effortless and can be done effectively in one day.

 

How to get from Bangkok Airport to Khao San Road

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Trip Advisor, Reddit comment threads, and travel blogs list countless posts from travellers advising the best way to get from A to B when you land in a foreign country like Thailand. Both times I have landed in the bustling city of Bangkok via Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok’s huge international airport, I have been swept up into a whirlwind of hand written signs and broken English offers.

I set aside a decent chunk of an hour to research ‘How to get from BKK to Khao San Road’ before we left as I was still unsure of how to navigate the Arrivals chaos. Now after my second trip to Bangkok I feel I have a grasp on how much certain trips should cost, and when to remain confident in bartering to make it an economical and smooth experience.

 

1. Shuttle Bus
After going through the cues of Customs Arrivals you are standing on Level 2. On your left and right there will be elevators and lifts to take you down to Level 1, Gate 8 where you will find the desks of shuttle buses and locations. Make sure you know the suburb (or road name) to pick the right shuttle bus as there are 5-6 to choose from including Khao San Road.

This will cost between 100 to 150 BAHT (4 AUD!) per person to arrive on your hotel doorstep depending on your destination. You just have to visit the other passengers’ doorstep too. If you’re not the first to get dropped off enjoy the crazy traffic! The shuttle bus departs when the bus is full or every hour. Khao San Road is a very popular shuttle departing around 20 past the hour, charging 100 BAHT per person for a 30-45minute drive.

2. SkyTrain
If you’re up for an adventure and want to dive into local life in Bangkok this is the option for you. There is a fantastic train line that will get you into the Bangkok CBD with 3 lines going North, South and West accessible from the airport and usually involving a transfer. Take the elevators from Level 2 down to Level 1 and follow the signs down further to the train. Purchase a ticket from the information desk by the station entrance or the machines. I generally go to the desk because it is easy and the lovely people can help confirm you are getting off at the right stop.

The train line doesn’t go all the way to Khao San Road because of all the old temples and palaces, so you need to catch a taxi or TukTuk depending on your luggage. Catch the train to Phaya Thai station for 45 BAHT keeping your ticket so you can get out at the other end. Follow the signs downstairs to a taxi rank. For between 10 and 45 BAHT you can get to Bangkok CBD and then either walk, catch a Tuk Tuk, or hale a taxi.

3. Taxi
Ahh yes, the illusive Thailand taxi. Well, there is not really one price I can give you to expect. On Level 1, Gate 7 outside there are 4 standing computers where you select a people-mover, van, or sedan taxi. It will give you the number of your taxi driver’s lane where he will be waiting.

The staff on site will tell you it is around 350 BAHT plus the 50 BAHT surcharge for being picked up at the airport – and when going by the meter this is correct. On top of this 350 BAHT are tolls for the highway – the fastest and preferable means to get to your hotel. The first toll is 50 BAHt, and the second heading towards Khao San Road is 25 BAHT.

This makes it a total of 475 BAHT (19 AUD) but you may still pay more. We were asked to pay 600 BAHT (24 AUD) with no meter even though it is illegal to have the meter off. You will experience this if you are heading back to BKK airport so don’t fret too much. You can counter-offer 500 BAHT listing the meter fair, tolls, and let him know you are aware you are giving extra already, but it is up to you whether you go get another taxi that will run by the meter or go with the flow and give the driver a couple of extra BAHT.

Final thoughts:

Next time I fly to Suvarnabhumi Airport BKK I will head down to Gate 8 and check what time the shuttle buses leave for Khao San Road. If I have just missed one and need to wait longer than 20 minutes my next option is to take a taxi. I have taken my suitcases on the train to save money, but in future will catch a taxi for 500 BAHT to Khao San Road.

However, if I am staying in Bangkok CBD I will catch the train because it is cheaper and quicker because you avoid the traffic.

I am all for being cheap, but sometimes a girl just wants to get to the hotel and start enjoying the 3 C’s of Bangkok – culture, cuisine and cocktails!

A green invitation to travel

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There are many different words one can choose from to try and describe how it feels to travel and the experiences people take away from their escapades. It can feed the soul to the point of exhaustion one moment and the next see you soaring on top of a mountain. Pick a continent – any continent really now as even aeroplanes and ships find a common destination in Antarctica – and you will find cheap flights going on the red eye descending into a whole new world.

Travel is so easy today sometimes it is a little hard to imagine the Smith brothers were awarded for the first flight from England to reach Australia in 30 days or less. In 1919 they opened the biggest door for civil aviation in Australia on a global platform after the industrial boom from World War One.

Today we see an average of 93,000 daily flights originating from almost 9,000 airports in the world. You can fly between England and Australia in 24 hours with one stopover to refuel and stay in a  $457 billion hotel industry.

With such staggering numbers and billions of priceless dollars spent on experiences each year, it begs the question what eco friendly practices are available in the travel industry to help reduce our global footprints?

I can’t deny in my adventures I feel guilty for losing track of time in hot showers or running the aircon overnight, especially in the more humid tropical climates. So to my delight I was surprised at a small footprint I became a part of on a recent trip to Thailandand will look forward to experiencing more of for future adventures.

I spent my first two nights on Khaosan Road in Bangkok near the Grand Palace and fell asleep every night with the aircon on listening to all of the Tuk Tuks drive by and loud doof doof music. The people were eclectic, the food was cheap and everyday I would struggle to find a bin to put my rubbish in. I loved the hustle and bustle of the capital city with streets lit up and awake until dawn, but I was extremely excited for my Phuket leg of the trip.

I stayed at Thavron Beach Village Resort and Spa just ten minutes drive from Patong Beach with a view any office junkie – like myself – was dreaming of. Their slogan was “Where Thai tradition meets nature” and was founded by Tilok Thavronwongwongse whose mantra was, “He that conserves nature loves others besides himself”.
brianna2Waiting for me on the bed was my invitation. It was asking me to “conserve and make a difference” with the hotel. Rather than have the staff take the golf carts to every room each day up the side of the hill, guests could hang this little sign and receive a voucher for the restaurants in exchange for being a part of their small footprint. 150 Thai Baht converts to roughly $6 Australian dollars.

Out of the five night stay I participated three nights and made do by hanging towels out on the balcony and folding my sheets up a little with my laundry basket empty and some clothes hand washed hanging on the towel rack. It’s not that there weren’t beautiful facilities to use with environmentally friendly soaps. And we’ve all heard the stories – some funny and some down right scary – of hand washing clothes when travelling around and how it can smell, wreak, make flowers wilt turn out after weeks. The sheets were still crisp and the bathroom was iridescent in marble. I was happy and content in amongst the trees and away from the sensory overload looking forward to falling asleep to the strange sounds of the Asian jungle.

My contribution may have only been three nights, but if one of the 40-odd rooms at the hotel, for each of the Thavron Hotels and Resorts, or every hotel in the $457 billion dollar industry saved one night’s laundry bill in their stay how much do you think it would add up to? My guess is a lot, and this is just one chain’s values I have interacted with committing to sustainability.

Thailand is a small and dense country with culture inextricably intertwined with the earth and sea. I would encourage any person who longs for the buzz of a jungle or ocean mist on their face to holiday there and escape city madness.

Make sure to keep an eye out for your own green invitations when you travel and let us know what you find! I think we can all look forward to future ideas the travel industry will offer to help preserve the natural environment around us, one small footprint at a time.

This post originally appeared in HART Magazine, writing content for the soul. 

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