In November 2021 I was a working-from-home-loner craving human connection, when I had my COVID epiphany moment where I knew it was time to evolve my portfolio career.
This is an honest personal account of how I rebelled against the ‘Great Resignation’ trend, channelled Arianna Huffington’s ‘Great Re-evaluation’ and used human-centred design thinking to search and land my ultimate dream job.
Pains vs gains
Life is a mirror. And this was the time to really look into it.
I gave myself an honest reality check — what exactly am I looking for? What are my pains and gains?
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Sometimes the biggest pain is doing nothing at all. There’s nothing like a pandemic to spur your career moves into action.
I loved my life and work as a social entrepreneur and advisor, but I missed that sense of belonging and culture you get at the right company. I didn’t want to abandon my passions; I wanted a role that positively influenced and infused my social entrepreneurial pursuits.
Define and discover
A multiple tabbed Excel spreadsheet became my ‘mission tracker’ dashboard:
- My SMART goal gave me a clear mission: ‘Land an epic role by Dec 31st 2021 within a value aligned company that embraces me as my full human self’.
- I defined ‘must haves’: I ranked from 1 to 20 the most important things in my life right now. Top ranked were: high quality human connection, great employee experience, intellectual stimulation and flexibility. I got super clear on my strengths and only pursued roles that would celebrate these. It’s also worth mentioning that the role title wasn’t even ranked on the list; achievement, status and ego are ‘first mountain’ things that are not important to me at this stage of my career.
- I selected only three companies to pursue. All of which met my tight non-negotiable criteria of ‘must haves’. I identified one local, one national and one international company, all of which worked globally. (This was important to me given my diverse geographic experience).
- I went hard. I knew applying and submitting my CV on clunky portals was a waste of my time. I wasn’t prepared to become just another number applying via LinkedIn job posts. I hustled my network, I practised courageous asks. I was determined to secure interviews at only these three companies, so my mission was clear. I didn’t let optionality paralyse me. I didn’t waste my time on ‘traditional’ job search routes.
- I did 15 role interviews over five weeks, and spent over 150 hours preparing for interviews and ‘challenger rounds’ (AKA ‘when large companies milk you to be free consultants’). I made sacrifices in my social life. I scaled back client and advisory loads. My great re-alignment mission became a near full time job. (I recognise this privilege. The point I am trying to convey is this: dream jobs require strategy, dedication and time commitment. Luck equals strategy plus opportunity.)
I learnt to trust the timing of the universe. As I was in the midst of interviews, my friend Christie Hunter Arscott sent me some pages from her new book Begin Boldy. The research and philosophies she provided helped me to power my search with courage leading the way.
The dark side of job searching that we don’t talk about enough includes the tsunami waves of self doubt, ‘generic email’ rejections, patience testing, tears, breaking points, ghosting — you name it, I went through the thick of it.
And I once thought modern age dating was hard!
Are you a previous corporate warrior who has fled the big city and is now living a different style of life in a regional part of the country? This was me. I wanted to work in international business but I also firmly wanted to retain my local lifestyle.
There was only one company I wanted to work for locally here in the Gold Coast, Australia — Everyday Massive — but it had no roles advertised. I had been admiring the work Everyday Massive was doing for over a year and so I needed to get on their radar in a creative way.
Ideate and prototype
I went to the local craft store with the Everyday Massive brand Pantone colours. I spent $8 buying various sized pieces of coloured cardboard and stickers in their brand colour palette.
I went home and spent hours designing a ‘Mystery Package’ – a hand-written, personalised pitch package that I would hand deliver to the Everyday Massive company HQ.
I got inspiration from Matryoshka dolls, the Russian set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The final package was big, with seven smaller packages inside.
I infused human-centred design techniques to formulate a seven-step ‘journey map’ featuring seven small packages, each one based on a human-centred design technique. (Yes, I put some creative thought and rigour behind this $8 investment!) I empathy-mapped them opening the package, taking them on a UX journey. What is this random package delivery? Who is this person? What is their background? Why is she so desirable, feasible and viable as a potential employee?
I led with humility and humour.I studied and researched the company’s brand language and baked this in. I infused its values. I predicted the pains and gains. I addressed the package to everyone in the office, including the office dog Sonny.
Small things equal big things.
Not all great things go to plan and when I delivered the package, no one was in the office. So I left it at the front desk and set a timed email to Tim Evans the CEO at 8am the next morning that read:
‘There once was a girl called Nim.
Who sent a special package to the Everyday Massive team, including Tim.
It arrived mysteriously yesterday at the Everyday Massive HQ.
One asked ‘What shall we do?’
7 story steps to follow to,
Curious to hear your thoughts after you marinate it through.’
I had one objective with this mystery package: to meet with the team in person.
The business had no roles advertised. I didn’t have any internal intel or existing contacts or leads. I was blind and ambitious all at once. I just knew they were my people and this is a company I wanted to work for.
By now you think I’m crazy right? And that’s okay, good luck with your mass applications to random roles.
The power of ‘job crafting’
I am a lifelong believer in the fine art of ‘job crafting’. I have never won a job in a traditional way. I live for applying innovative techniques and human-infused strategies to everyday challenges like job or home searching.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and it turns out my $8 investment at the craft store was the golden ticket to discovering the job of my dreams.
Just one week after the mystery package was delivered, I accomplished my goal: to meet with Everyday Massive. There were no open roles, but lots of open minds. Over the next few weeks we had multiple conversations that I found invigorating and intriguing. They had a role that was going to market next year – and then out of nowhere, arrived me and my mystery package.
During my first week at Everyday Massive, my Mum asked me how it was going, and my answer was: “I feel like I’ve come home”. I have never experienced a company and role that feels so personally fulfilling. The culture is absolutely epic. The people make me feel valued, the intellectual stimulation is off the charts. If you (like a previous version of me) are thinking, ‘no way, this isn’t possible in this day and age’, let my story give you hope.
It is possible to be in a safe, inclusive working environment that fills your heart, brain and soul everyday. They do exist.
I now lead growth at Everyday Massive. I spend my days nerding out on human communication and employee experience; two things that were at the top of my original strengths list. Not only did I land in a company that ‘embraces me as my full human self’ (as per my SMART goal), they also celebrate AND elevate my full human self.
This is the greatest opportunity workplaces have now, more than ever before.
This article was first published on LinkedIn.