Thesis done – and now? The power of asking for what you need.
As my internship came to an end, I started writing my thesis about the positive impact of cross-mentoring (a form of mentoring where two people from different organizations or industries share their experiences, learnings and best practices) on innovation. And even though I was pretty occupied with doing research and figuring out how to master this last part of my studies, I couldn’t stop thinking about I could start to pursue my dream of bringing the Future of Work into the now.
To gain more clarity on next steps, I contacted my former STRA professor Frank Widmayer, who I formed a great connection with due to our shared passion for New Work. When we spoke about possible ways how to enter the field of change management and organizational transformation, he often referred to his own coaching and consulting business that he was running on the side to provide insights from his personal experience.
As I listened, I suddenly wondered if he might need someone to support him with his work. Without thinking about it too much, I took a chance and just asked him if I could start working for him on a part-time basis. At first, he laughed, surprised about my unlikely idea, but as we kept entertaining the thought, the ‘pros’ by far outnumbered the ‘cons’.
He wanted to expand his business but struggled to find time for doing the extra work, whilst I wanted to expand my knowledge and skills in his area of expertise and had the time and dedication to provide support. So by the end of September 2017, two weeks after having submitted my thesis, I started working with him on developing leadership trainings that helped executives establish New Work principles in their teams and organizations.
- Be brave! So many opportunities in business and life get lost due to our natural fear of rejection. Remember: The worst that can happen is that you get a ‘no’. And if it’s a ‘no’, it wouldn’t have been for you anyway. Trust that life takes you exactly where you need to be at exactly the right time. Following the belief that ‘the universe has your back’ can significantly increase your resilience.
- Connections are everything. Whether in person or online, look out for like-minded individuals and people who already are where you want to be. Follow them, engage with them, learn from them, and if it feels right, ask them how you might be able to support them.
- Transparency and authenticity are key for building trust. Unlearn to wear a mask in the business context, you really don’t need it. Be who you are, communicate what you want, and share what you can / want to give.
How I got my first (dream) full-time job in Australia
Nevertheless, I knew that working for Frank was only a temporary solution. I have always been a free spirit, curious to explore the world, and since I spent the best time of my life when I lived in New Zealand during a school exchange and my semester abroad at Karls, it was pretty clear for me that I wanted to return down under (this time, my heart called for Australia). Frank was well aware of my plans as I have always been very transparent with him, and in February 2018, I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket to Sydney to start my first full-time job in paradise.
Here’s what I did to make this dream come true:
- Start with laser-focused research:
Since I was quite clear by now on what I wanted to do, I started googling terms such as “The Future of Work”, “Co-Working”, “New Work”, “Leadership Consulting”, or “Business Transformation” and always added the keyword “Sydney” or “Melbourne” to my search.
Next, I created a list of inspirational companies that I came across and deepened my research by looking up their ratings on Glassdoor (an equivalent for Kununu), checking their LinkedIn feeds, stalking the career paths and current job descriptions of some of their employees, and evaluating how aligned my own purpose and values were with those of the organizations
- Consider your gut feeling
For whatever reason, I felt particularly drawn to one of the companies from my list. It was a premium boutique co-working space called Work Club Global. Maybe it was the language style they used to describe themselves, the artistic design of their webpage, or their bold mission of breaking away from the rigid ways of traditional working and providing a space for creating meaningful connections that I could just very much identify with.
Due to my growing interest in creativity and spirituality at the time, I interpreted this inexplicable feeling of being drawn to this particular company as my intuition (aka ‘gut feeling’), and I was curious to see what happens if I would follow it to guide a major decision in my life.
- Make direct contact with executives via LinkedIn
Since Work Club did not have any open positions advertised at the time, I drew from my positive experience with Frank where I learned how powerful it can be to be brave enough to put yourself forward and simply ask for what you want. So, once again I took a leap of faith and contacted Soren, the founder of Work Club, via LinkedIn.
It took me 2 hours to make the very best use of the 300 characters I had for the contact note you can send with you LinkedIn invitation – but it was worth it since he accepted it the very next day. Now, I was able to write him a longer LinkedIn message, which is exactly what I did. In my message, I briefly outlined what I studied, what I currently do, and how I could contribute to advancing the goals of his company. I also attached a cover letter which stated the above in greater detail and invited him to jump on a quick Zoom call with me to explore more.
- Be yourself, not your qualifications
One week later, we had a call. Of course, I took some notes beforehand to know what I might want to say or ask, but what I considered most important was to show up authentically. I didn’t want to hide behind a professional mask, but connect on eye-level. I communicated that to Soren in the beginning of the meeting that my aspiration was not to impress him, but explore what we could do together to bring our shared values and vision to life.
The week after, we had a second call, which indicates that my ‘strategy’ worked. In this call, Soren highlighted the importance of being proactive, showing up as your ‘true self’, and having a clear, strong purpose – especially in the early stages of building one’s career. Ultimately, those factors (and not my degree) got me the job at Work Club three weeks later. And let me tell you, this is not the exception to the rule! The more companies embrace the ideas and principles of New Work, and the more jobs are replaced by automation and AI, the more important it becomes to be human – and to be YOU!
In the third part of this blog series (publication next week), Mia will talk about building a career in a global pandemic.