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Snagging Six Figures: From earning $48,500 in consulting to $82,000 in talent management

The concept  ‘Snagging six figures’ was created after we had readers writing in asking for advice about how to use their degree and current job skills to launch into a different industry or career. We know that no one career story is the same, but telling the stories of others can challenge, inspire and shape your own. We are asking every interview the same five questions:

  • Why they picked their course
  • Their course experience
  • Their first job
  • What they learnt
  • Their next step
  • And their advice

Name: Abbey

Age: 26

From graduate program at a consultancy firm to talent management at Woolworths

Salary: From $48,500 at 23 to $82,000 at 29


Her course and why she picked it:

I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, like most, without knowing what that means.

Knowing I didn’t have the stamina to complete a six year course straight out of school I started looking for subjects within my undergraduate that I liked.

I really liked the introductory industrial and organizational psychology course work that was a part of my electives and I decided to study ‘behaviour’ at work. I became fixated on the idea of a mutually fulfilling relationship between an employer and employee and what an impact that would make in the working world.


Her course experience:

When people tend to talk about wanting to become a psychologist, they tend to specifically mean they want to become counselling psychologists. This is no surprise as psychology is mostly known to the public as a “healing profession.” Psychology is, of course, a lot broader than this, but most depictions of psychologists in the media and society are the images of psychologists that help others deal with clinical or personal problems.

So people often mistakenly believe that they will be learning about the counselling components of psychology and perhaps getting practical, hands on experience in psychology training at the beginning.

In reality, you will instead spend the first four years learning close to nothing about counselling or doing anything remotely “hands on” at all. This usually comes as a big surprise and shock to many.

A Bachelor in Psychology generically trains you to become a capable scientist able to do scientific research in any of these specialty areas of psychology later in Masters or Doctoral programs (your 5th, 6th and 7th years).

I decided in my second year that I would couple my Bachelor of Psychology with a Bachelor of Business. This was the best decision I made and I couldn’t recommend it more.

My favourite subjects in business was operations management and human resources. Operations is more than just understanding the back end duties at a business. Operations covers logistics and inventory turnover management; basically the study of maximising productivity and cost efficiency in a business. Which, often is a blend of technology, management and strong people management.


Her first job:

I did a year long internship in my final year of studying. The face-to-face hours with business are lower then psychology and I was able to work 2 days a week in the human resources team at David Jones. (Because I finished my psychology degree before my business degree).

I loved the internship because there are so many arms to a business like David Jones and it showed the breadth of opportunity that there is within operations and people management. For example, David Jones have a head office where they employ buyers, marketers, researchers and people in sales; they have the actual shops and the team units that run those, the e-commerce team and then other arms like events and partnerships.

Working in a big organisation like this, where there were so many verticals gave me an understanding of how important people management was; and also how organisational effectiveness was gauged and assessed in the real world. This was a big learning, because as a business you need to understand the return on investment for each team and person in your business.

I decided I wanted to move into consultancy, and in my final year of business applied for the graduate program at a consulting firm.


What she learnt:

The consultancy graduate program lets you work across a few different business projects, so you get a taste for where your skills lie.  For example, one of my clients was a non-profit. Moving from a for-profit organisation to a non for profit proved to be a difficult and challenging transition for me. Things that made sense in a for-profit environment were foreign in non profit and vice-versa. For example, and htis is really just a surface example, they were trying to implement a talent management program to grow staff retention, but couldn’t necessarily work within the traditional frames of salary incentives.

My biggest piece of advice is to combine a business degree with a psychology degree if you are considering human resources or talent management. My business skills were arguably more valued than psychology in the consultancy industry application process, and the psychology degree just gave me a point of difference.


Though in saying that, there was a guy in my graduate stream who did a combination degree – bachelor of law and bachelor of psychology; and he also has a good grounding now to move into legal consultancy for commercial law or employment law.


Her next step:

I  was connected with the head of Learning and Development at big supermarket chain (think Woolworths, Coles, IGA) before I was looking for my next job. The head of Learning and Development reached out to me with an opening in their talent development team.

What does this mean?

Basically, organisational psychologists and the head of human resources at a big supermarket chain (think Woolworths, Coles, IGA)  have put lots of work and application into understanding strategies to identifying key talent in businesses.

Like David Jones they have a lot of business arms; there is head office with marketing, sales, buying, logistics and e-commerce; then there are the brick and motor stores, the managers that run them, the staff that work there, the delivery team; then there is events, visual merchandisers etc. It’s a huge machine.

Organisations like Woolworths or Coles carry a heavy emphasis on talent will often ask behavioural based questions aimed at identifying an individual’s fit for a role AND the organisation in their interview process. Behavioural-based questions often start with the sentence: “Tell me a time when…” and the interviewee is asked to think back to a time they demonstrated their reaction to a common work-place scenario or carried out a task that is core to the needs of the position.

The reasoning or “science” behind behavioural-based questions is that past behaviour predicts future behaviour. This is a core assumption that drives my thinking (and many others in the field) around hiring talented people.

At two thirds of the companies, performance is measured using annual evaluation interviews, by measuring the meeting of targets and evaluations by superiors. The biggest challenges in the field are attracting talented employees and positioning the organisation as a desirable employer. This is my job.

In comparison to HR management, talent management covers more narrow scope in that we focus on people rather than on function and our role is aimed at the capturing and retention of talent.

What does this mean in tangible terms?

In my first year I worked on our graduate program. I streamlined what the program includes, what kind of students we’d be looking for; how they applied and how we assessed them.

Her advice

People and people management is key in business. Familiarise yourself with the breadth of roles working with people. Most people just think of human resources and they don’t think of talent management, external communications, operations management etc.

If you don’t have the qualifications that I have you could still get your foot in the door as a team leader managing staff in a shop or on site and leverage this role to move into head office.

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