A Message Of Triumph.
It was 5 pm and time to go home. I’d sipped the last mouthful of my Lemongrass & Ginger tea for the year.
It was the start of 2018 and the majority of my close work colleagues were resigning one by one. I got home that night and knew my time was up. It was time to embark on an epic career battle and try and change industries. If not now, when?
It’s never the right time to do something you’ve wanted to do your entire life.
You think that you have time or you’ll do it ‘one day.’ That one day never comes and before you know it you’ve got grey hair, a potbelly and more wrinkles than an unironed shirt.
The next day I went to work and started telling people I’d be gone in four weeks. I felt like I had to say that and I’m ashamed to say that I said it with a touch of arrogance. Three years and three months of working with brand name tech companies, going to fancy dinners and attending Christmas party’s on million dollar yachts had gone to my head. Had I become entitled? Reflecting on this difficult time, the answer is yes.
I spent the next four weeks ringing everybody in my network thinking that a job opportunity was a sure thing. I fell for the cliche idea that your network equals your net-worth. I thought all these so-called amazing contacts would finally be worth something. I could finally cash in on that magical payday and secure that big pay cheque with the big fat bonus that goes with it which could finally buy me a house. See as a child my parents gave up the family home due to huge amounts of debt. In some way that had made me think that I could never own my own home. The battle scars of losing that home were buried deep inside of me and if I’m being honest, those scars still drive me today.
Four weeks of reaching out to my network got me nowhere. At the end of all the coffee catch ups, Skype/Zoom calls and messages on LinkedIn, I had nothing to show for it. Progress looked like conversations with HR departments or recruiters. All I had was a list of empty promises and huge amounts of follow up to deal with. Being from a sales background, I followed up with every person in my network. I asked and asked and asked again for help.
All the follow up still led nowhere.
I changed my strategy. If I’m being honest, the desire to follow my colleagues over the rainbow had kicked in. I wanted a career change and I wanted it now! I went on LinkedIn and started applying for jobs. I had a short, succinct resume that I believed would get the attention of anybody who was looking to hire someone like myself. Again, the arrogance kicked in. In the first week, I applied for three jobs thinking I’d land one of them.
Radio silence. Nothing. No reply.
The next week I applied for more jobs on LinkedIn and kept doing so for the next few weeks. Still nothing.
The feeling was demoralizing. I felt so empty because on the one hand I was supposed to be some business guru because of my social media following, but on the other hand, I was a total failure and the complete opposite of what people thought I was. It sucked big time and it made blogging during this time very difficult. How do you inspire people to chase their dreams when your own dreams are up in flames?
The magic panacea.
One night I sat alone in bed thinking about the problem I was facing. Then it came to me: I knew two recruiters who were absolute guns and knew every company I could ever want to work for. I thought I’d found the answer and boy I was excited! The next morning I woke up and rang both of them. Previously I’d referred many quality candidates to them and so again I thought it was time to cash in on my well-crafted fortune and hard work. I rang each of them and they both said: “Tim we have nothing, but we’ll let you know when we do have something that matches your skills.”
I heard this response many times over the next few months because I started networking with recruiters I’d never dealt with. Each time they would use this line. I eventually learned that this one sentence was a nice way to say “There’s nothing exciting about you and your dream of changing industries from finance to social media/marketing is a joke.”
During this time one of the recruiters asked me to write down my dream top ten companies to work for. I spent ten minutes writing the list, emailed it to him and then went on with my day thinking nothing of it. On I went down the lonely path of career change. My colleagues by this point had started their new careers and were shooting aces.
I’d come up blank and still couldn’t figure out why.
At around 4 pm one afternoon I was checking my LinkedIn messages and there was a new name I hadn’t seen before. The business this man worked for was strangely in the number one spot on my top ten companies to work for. I thought that finally the self-development gods had come to save me and I would be cured of this problem that wasn’t fit for a blogger such as myself. The next morning I had a phone call with this gentleman who reached out to me.
He’d been reading my blogs and could see I was into self-development as much as he was. We shared this passion throughout the call and I could feel the tide was shifting in my favor. This man was one of the directors of a company I’d dreamed of working with since 2011. It felt like fate. It felt like the woo woo ‘universe’ was going to answers my calls for help. At the end of the call, this man made the bold move of offering to fly down to Melbourne to see me.
It seemed like only a matter of time before I’d be riding high again.
The Monday following he arrived in Melbourne with his fashionable blue blazer, shoes that screamed “SWAG!!!” and his infectious personality. It was a big day for me. I booked the corporate meeting room at work reserved only for the best clients, I wore my very dapper blue suit (according to my girlfriend) — I even went to the supermarket and bought a few bottles of San Pellegrino to make sure everything was perfect.
From start to finish, every word he said was music to my ears. We had huge diagrams all over the whiteboard. He set me an exercise to do for homework that would help him figure out how we could work together and it was basically a dream come true. I got home that night so excited. I rang my boss. I rang my girlfriend to tell her. I told the guy at the gym that I almost never speak to. I even told my friend Cat Woman — she has four cats. It felt like everything was falling into place. Now it was time to close the deal.
Things elevated quickly with the man that flew down to see me. We moved incredibly fast on the opportunity to work together. The next week he had his PA reach out to me and he paid for me to fly to their HQ to discuss things further. I flew in early that morning with my game face on. Things were going so well that he even had a limo pick me up from the airport. The ride from the airport to their office felt like one of the biggest moments of my career. It was indescribable and I wanted that moment to last forever. I arrived at the office and it was spectacular. It had a beautiful view of the water and was brand new. We went upstairs to talk business and he had his cameraman film the conversation. I gave every bit of passion and emotion I had at the time. That look of defeat that I’d had only a few weeks earlier had completely disappeared. I was ready to go and nothing was going to stop me.
By around 2 pm it was time to get ready to fly home. It was time to work out how we would work together. He put a deal on the table and suddenly I felt myself feeling nauseous. I was massively disappointed as it didn’t tick the right boxes and missed my expectations by a million miles. I tried not to show him how disappointed I was and told him I’d think about it knowing full well that it was not something I could say yes to.
“If the ride from the airport to the office was one of my career highlights, then the ride home was like being front and centre at your own funeral”
I felt stupid. I felt let down. I felt like a failure and a fraud. The next few days were very dark. At the end of the week, I politely declined his offer and vowed to take a break and meet again down the track to discuss things further.
Back to the drawing board.
It took some time to pick my ego back off the floor and start over. I’m the sort of person that once I set a goal, I’m going to get it no matter the price. This career change was one such goal that I was not going to give up on. For the first time since 2011, I started to listen to my Tony Robbins tapes again on my phone. This was a sign I was in crisis mode. I returned to work and started coming up with more ideas to kickstart my career change. One of those ideas was a simple thought:
What if my resume was total nonsense and was scaring people away?
It was a wild thought but one I committed to exploring. I’d learned that this stupid thing called a resume was often the first impression a hiring manager got of you. I sent my resume to one of the recruiter friends I mentioned earlier who still hadn’t got any roles for me to consider. He’s a kind gentleman and told me that my resume needed work. This is going to sound really dumb, but the process I took to write my resume was as follows:
- Take the five-year-old resume I hadn’t used in a long time and add recent skills
- Remove really old jobs that made my resume look bad
- Change the date at the top of the cover letter template
Through my carelessness, upon reading my resume for the very first time, I realized some crazy things — I had manager names (first name only) on my resume that only people from my current company would know; I had spelling mistakes all through the resume; I had only focused on mentioning skills as if I was a factory worker and didn’t talk about any results I’d achieved; I had a resume that sounded like a media release for a startup that had just raised $25M in seed capital. The whole resume was a complete joke. No wonder I had had zero replies and no interest.
It was time to take things up a notch. I changed my elevator pitch with potential employers and recruiters from being all about finance to being about what I’d achieved with my blogging and social media. I spoke about the blogging and social media work I’d done while working in finance instead of talking about finance exclusively.
The biggest thing I did was take the arrogance and entitlement factor out of every conversation.
I showed humility instead of cockiness. I showed gratitude instead of an overinflated ego. I stopped expecting results and disconnected from the outcome. As part of this new process, I spoke with an old client I’d dealt with back in 2014. He’s someone I’d always thought of working with one day. LinkedIn showed me that there was a role in his team and I asked him about it. It didn’t meet any of my criteria, so we quickly ended the conversation on a good note. At the end of the call, he told me I should have coffee with one of his colleagues and so I did. Early the next Monday morning I showed up for a coffee catch up with this guy even though I don’t drink coffee (a pain to explain every time someone says ‘coffee catch up?’)
I expected nothing out of this conversation. It felt like a conversation between two friends and I left feeling like I’d met someone I was going to stay in touch with. My search to find a new career continued. Every day looked like this:
- Check LinkedIn messages
- Check online job ads
- Follow up with recruiters
- Continue to write blog posts and do what I’d always done
A few days later the guy I had coffee with reached out and said there was a role in his team I’d be perfect for. This time I made sure I didn’t get too excited given the let downs I’d had prior. I’d played this game one too many times and I was going to ruin my mindset again by getting too excited. He introduced me to his HR contact and I spoke with her. Things looked good and then nothing. She eventually got back to me and said they’d decided not to hire someone for that gig. None the less we bonded over our love of Europe. As it turns out, she’d worked at the same company I was working for and somehow we were connected on LinkedIn. She’d been reading my blog posts and really loved the inspiration I was trying to deliver. There was a sincerity in her words and I believed that she did connect with my writing.
We stayed in touch and had a few more calls. Each call became more about designing something that would interest me instead of taking a cookie-cutter role off the shelf that wouldn’t align with the quirky and weird person I am.
During one of these calls, I took a big risk and told her I wanted to work four days.
The opportunity I mentioned earlier that was the biggest career highlight and the biggest career failure all in one was still on my mind. I hadn’t given up on the idea yet. I came up with a plan to work four days for one company and one day for the other company I’d previously turned down.
Thinking the answer would be no, she surprisingly said yes! To date, the only other employer that had said yes to this crazy idea was my current employer at the time. The next few weeks went quickly and before I knew it, we’d agreed on what I was going to be doing. Timing wasn’t good though. I was due to go on holidays right in the middle of the negotiation but told them that I’d be available for phone calls whilst on holiday. Saying this made me feel like I was violating every bit of self-help advice that had ever been written. You know the advice like:
“Turn your phone off”
“Disconnect on vacation”
“Your notifications are destroying you”
I’d actually written some of that advice and while I do believe that we should switch off, this was an emergency in my mind. Like I said before, nothing was going to get in my way — not even a holiday. As I sat in cattle class on various trains while traveling across the countryside, I’d respond to her emails. We got closer and closer to doing a deal. Then I arrived home and there was one final hurdle: The current company I worked for had also offered me a new role that ticked all my boxes.
The difference between the two gigs was that my current company were not willing to hire me as a people leader. The new company allowed me to change industry, work four days and manage quite a big team. Slowly, my mind was made up. One opportunity was comfortable and one was a big risk. I knew in my mind that I had to take the big risk. Leading people was something I was good at and it was time to stand up and do what must be done.
“I lit my comfort-zone on fire and watched it go up in a blaze of glory. Watching it burn was glorious”
I also began looking at what it would take to leave my current company. It turns out I was going to lose long-service leave, a rather large bonus and three years worth of shares that hadn’t vested yet. I rang the nice HR lady at the new company and explained my situation to her. While she was sympathetic to my situation, there wasn’t much she could do.
It was all on me and my responsibility to deal with.
I ripped the band-aid off and said yes to her offer. I burned all the boats, left a lot of money on the table and made the difficult decision to start the career change I’d been seeking out for nine months — eight months longer than I thought it would take. Signing the contract for my new career felt amazing and scary at the same time. Would I succeed? Did I deserve it? Had I learned enough to take on the challenge? Like any big decision, there’s always doubts.
There’s your inner fears of not being enough too that you have to deal with. We all have them. Still, we have to act in spite of the unknown. Taking the plunge and signing the contract felt amazing. Later that day I stood in the lobby of the company I was leaving and drank a bulletproof coffee. The taste of MCT oil and almond milk tasted delicious. Now I said I don’t drink coffee and I don’t, but this was a big day and for a few short hours I was going to bin my success habits for some time to enjoy myself. Nothing was going to ruin this day for me. To top it off, the weather was beautiful and sunny. Sometimes I feel like you can’t plan these moments. Sometimes life feels complete and it makes complete sense.
After so much hard work, pain and determination the moment I’d dreamed about was finally here. It was my moment of triumph and no one was going to take it away from me. To top it off, the fifth day of working with the company that was number one on my list looks like it’s going to happen. It turns out that there were bigger things planned and that working one day a week actually made more sense for everybody and provided a good balance.
Sometimes deals don’t get done for a reason and this was a perfect example of that. What stood on the other side of this huge let down was exactly what I wanted — I just didn’t realize it yet.
So why did I fail to change careers for nine months?
- I had to change my mindset first
- I had to figure out what I really wanted in life — I thought I knew, but I didn’t
- I had to be patient as hell
- I had to drop the entitlement factor
- I had to reflect on what my actual value was
The nine-month challenge I faced was 100% to do with my inner world and how I perceived reality, and nothing to do with the job market, recruiters or even companies.
People just hire what they see.
I had to make people see what I could be.
I had to see myself differently before I could triumph.
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