So, you’ve got your Work Health and Safety (WHS) qualification and you’re ready to apply for positions in the field. What do you need to know to have success in gaining a position in WHS?
I previously covered 10 top tips to jump-start your WHS career, with tips to help guide you. Here we delve a bit deeper where I outline how you can apply.
1. Market: Get to know the job market. Read what jobs are currently on offer, even before you’ve decided you’re available and looking for a new role. Check online websites like Seek, Jora, Indeed and Career One. Set up daily email alerts so that you are informed as soon as a WHS role becomes available in your area.
2. Position Descriptions: Screenshot, print off or download all the position descriptions that are for the type of role you are after. Read and re-read them so that you have the “lingo” that is used in WHS job adverts so that you can translate this into your resume, cover letters, and interviews.
3. Key Terms: Keywords from those job descriptions are picked up by computers scanning your resume. Make sure you have included these. Also, check that your LinkedIn profile has these same keywords and skills listed. These keywords are typically listed on your LinkedIn profile as Industry Knowledge and Skills:
- Incident Investigation
- Risk Management
- Hazard Analysis
- Emergency Management
- Environmental Compliance
- Quality Assurance
- Hazard Identification
- Process and Construction Safety
- Hazardous Materials
List these for endorsement on your LinkedIn profile. Then message your associates and ask if they wouldn’t mind endorsing you for the skills you want to highlight. Base your requests on the keywords that you have researched from WHS position descriptions.
4. Key Criteria: Make sure you have addressed all the key criteria in your resume from the job advert. Where you have any gaps, make a note and be prepared to answer questions regarding any weaknesses in the interview. For example, the role might be for HSE (Health Safety and Environment) but you haven’t yet completed any qualification in Environmental Studies. Do your research and tell them in the interview that this is an area of study that you’re looking into.
5. Resume: Check the job adverts and see how your resume stacks up against them. Then review your resume and update it to reflect the key criteria and terms.
A lot of WHS roles have “add-ons” which can be identified in the position titles, e.g. “WHS & QA Coordinator” or “HSEC Advisor” (Health Safety Environment and Community). WHS is often combined with a Human Resources (HR) role. Other common dual roles include WHS combined with Quality, Auditing, Risk Management, Environment or Return to Work Coordination. Think about what you can bring to the role and what skills and training you could do further increase your chances of employment. For example, if you want to improve your skills in auditing, look at doing a certificate with SAI Global
6. Return to Work Coordination: Return to Work Coordination (RTWC) is the most common “add-on” to health and safety roles. In New South Wales every Category One self-insured employer with 20 employees must appoint an RTW Coordinator with the relevant skills, training, and experience, and in South Australia every workplace employing more than 30 workers has to appoint a Return to Work Coordinator who has completed the approved training.
The RTW Coordinator certificate course looks at what to do when a worker is injured, how to help an employee return to work, what a workplace is required to do under law to assist an injured worker ‘return to work’, preparation of the workplace and identifying workplace barriers. Return to Work Coordinator Training is held in every state and territory and certified courses approved by the WorkSafe regulatory body: in South Australia, the certified course is approved by ReturnToWorkSA, in Western Australia the course is approved by WorkCover WA, in Victoria the course is approved by WorkSafe Victoria and in New South Wales it’s approved by SafeWork NSW. TAFE and local training providers usually run these courses.
The course is usually a two-day course and costs approximately $400 – $600. The course is a great investment in yourself and your WHS career.
7. Interview Questions and Answers: Once you are successful in gaining an interview, you will need to be thoroughly prepared to be able to answer the tricky behavioural interview questions, such as “Tell us about a time you tried to implement a WHS strategy in the workplace and failed”. The way to answer these questions is to have customised STAR scenarios already prepared.
S.T.A.R. is an acronym for Situation-Task-Action-Results. ‘Situation’ means set the scene, describe where it took place and what was happening at the time (think of who, what, where, when and how). Task means to describe the challenge or safety issue. Action means what action you had to take to resolve the issue – describe exactly what you had to do. ‘Results’ mean what was the final outcome of your actions – how did it fix the issue long-term and what was the reaction of workers and management? How did you personally contribute to the positive outcome?
Think of all your interactions in the workplace that made it a safer place for you and other workers and prepare a selection of at least ten “STAR Success Stories” for your interviews.
Check out some great practice with behavioural questions before your next interview here
8. Recommendations: Ask your LinkedIn associates for a recommendation. Just like asking someone for a written reference, having something worded for them in preparation can go a long way in helping you receive back a precise recommendation that is exactly suited to what you need – and quickly.
In your recommendation you will probably want them to include:
- How long you worked with the firm or knew the colleague and in what capacity (i.e. did you work alongside each other in the same team; were they your supervisor or did they report to you; or, were you working for different contractors or clients on the same project);
- What are your strengths and what would have made you stand out as a co-worker, particularly emphasising your skills in Health and Safety?
Giving other people recommendations can help grease the wheels for receiving recommendations in return. Who would you like to recommend for a job well done? Prepare a short succinct paragraph and add it to their LinkedIn profile.
“My success was due to good luck, hard work, and support and advice from friends and mentors. But most importantly, it dependent on me to keep trying after I have failed.”
With these top tips, you will
soon be in your own WHS role before you know it – it’s just a matter of preparation, perseverance, and persistence. You will make it!
Gaynor has a strong background in WHS, Risk, and Compliance, with many years in mining, construction, fabrication, and utilities (electricity) and prior to that, a solid background in compliance and leadership positions in the education and training sector. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Diploma in Work Health and Safety, Cert IV in WHS and Training and Assessment and a Graduate Diploma in Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) completed with Dr. Rob Long in Canberra. She continues to study SPoR in Master Classes held by the Centre for Leadership and Learning and Risk (CLLR). Currently, she is working in multi-million dollar mining projects as a WHS and Risk Consultant.
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