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Women at Work: Vanessa Vanderhoek

Laura Peppas

In this new series, Women at Work, Laura Edwards chat with women working in unusual, inspiring or male-dominated industries to share their career challenges, passions and aspirations.

There’s an old saying that something good always comes from adversity – and for Vanessa Vanderhoek, this couldn’t be more accurate.

After the not-for-profit organisation she was working for lost government funding earlier this year, leaving 60 people redundant, Vanessa had a “light bulb” moment that would set her on a new career path.

“As the General Manager of Operations, I played a key role in the career transition of the 60 staff made redundant,” she says.

“Friends and family often comment that I am a very nurturing, engaging and motivating person…and throughout this period, I realised my gift at helping people build their confidence and overcome self-doubt.”

The 34 year old, who has 15 years of experience in senior executive roles, decided to put these skills to good use and launched her own career consulting business, Career Inside Track.


It’s a leap of faith that has paid off – since its inception this year, Career Inside Track already has 50 clients nationally, with the majority of new clients coming from referrals.

“People are being told ‘you absolutely have to see Vanessa to get a competitive edge in your career’ which is fantastic”, says Vanessa.

“I have helped people get job-interview ready, prepare for panel interviews, settle into new jobs, look for the next opportunity, return to work after children, get through redundancies and plan for retirement.”

Vanessa offers individual, group or tailored workshops to her clients, who vary widely – from CEOs and executives right through to administrative staff. And with redundancies continuing to affect Canberra, she says her business has never been more relevant.

“These days careers can be chaotic with the level of business and government sector uncertainty that’s underpinned by constant reminders that the country’s budget is not in great shape. It’s certainly a nervous time,” Vanessa says.

“It’s so useful to take time and assess how fit and healthy your career is. When times are good, people spend on fitness coaches or dieticians, but rarely do people think about a career coach to keep their professional lives on track. Knowing yourself and preparing for the times that are predictably difficult is really important.”

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Make a lasting impression at your next job interview.

This month Vanessa will present the inaugural Very Best Dressed event, which will raise funds for Canberra’s not-for-profit company, [email protected].

She says the event is all about first impressions and how to make them count.

“I will provide tips on interviews, meetings and the workplace, with Fiona Keary from Style Liberation providing styling advice to make sure your outfit is working for you,” she says.

“The first moment you step in a door, your outfit, presentation, attitude and greeting all make an initial impression on the interviewer or client. I teach you how you can get that right and start out with the success that will lead to a job offer or business win.”

All profits and donations of clothing at the event will go to [email protected] and its social programs, which supports men and women in the community experiencing hardship get “job ready” by providing mentoring and clothing to increase their confidence and likelihood of securing employment.

Vanessa says her tips for employees include “staying prepared and having a competitive edge.”

“Just like running a marathon, your competitive edge comes down to experience, knowledge, insight and expert coaching,” she says.

A balance between personal life and career is important too – Vanessa is careful to ensure the day-to-day running of her business doesn’t take away from “family time” with her two step-children and husband, Dan.

The juggling act between work, family life, children and my own health and fitness is a daily performance that I practice.  It is not hard, it just takes some planning,” she says.


“My husband has been very supportive – he made me an office, proof read the website what feels like a million times, listens to me ad nauseam about ‘the strategy’ and every day celebrates the business ‘wins’ with me. I must also add that I couldn’t have got this far without my gorgeous sister and brother-in-law. They live in Dubai, however despite the tyranny of distance, Maree continues to provide me with priceless expert advice in both establishing and building the business.”

Vanessa admits there are times even she gets nervous about her career, but always keeps some expert advice handy.

“I remember talking to a very successful entrepreneur who told me despite all of his amazing accomplishments, he still feel nervous and sometimes says ‘what on earth am I doing?’  Whenever I get nervous I think of him – if he can do it, I can do it!”

The essentials

What: Very Best Dressed

When: 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Thursday 13 November 2014

Where: The Duxton, O’Connor

How much: $45 per person

Tickets: Book your ticket online through Eventbrite


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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