Career — 12 February 2013
If you want a great next role, get ill first!

It took me 130 coffees to land the ideal next role for me,” said my breakfast guest on Friday. 130 coffees, hey. Now that would make you pretty ill. And that’s the point of this story. You need to get ill if you want to secure the very best role you can. Here’s why.

Sometimes we can get lucky. A recruiter who knows us well gets in touch and links us with a great role, perfect for who we are what we need next. As your career evolves and you get more senior, it does become tougher for the perfect opportunity to ‘land’ so painlessly that way. And that’s where the ‘Get Ill First’ strategy comes into play.

I had 130 coffee meetings. I contacted people I knew and who I thought could lead me to others who could tell me more. That’s what happened. One coffee introduced me to three more coffees, and so the path evolved. About 25 of those meetings ended up being ‘important’ on the path, and somehow those 25 led me to the five key conversations that led me to that perfect role,” my guest explained.

Today I had breakfast with the wise Rob Irving. I told him this story. He gave me the insight I want to share with you today.

You need 49 ‘no’s’ before you get a ‘yes’”, he explained. “A ‘no’ is not a ‘NO – you don’t win’ situation – it’s a coffee meeting that does not provide a firm conclusion on your path to, in this instance, the search for a new role.

But these meetings are the magic in giving you fuel on the path to evolving your career, IF you approach them with the right mindset. It’s all about personal growth and development. It’s about getting ILL.”

Every coffee meeting provides an opportunity to extract three critical things:
  1. Information – about your industry, your skill sets, what’s happening, what’s the trend, the vibe, the need.
  2. Leads – to new people to meet, to opportunity.
  3. Learnings – about ‘stuff’, what’s happening in the street of your industry, about your ‘offer’

Information, Leads, Learnings = ILL

To end – a quick story.

I’d been CEO of Ogilvy PR for two years having sold my PR firm into the group. I was feeling stale and wanted a change. But I did not have the courage to quit, fearing a life of selling bananas on street corners if I left my current security for the great unknown. And then a wise man gave me some advice. I quit the next day.

I was reminded of this story while having breakfast recently with a dynamic software and gaming industry leader who recently decided to leave that career and start afresh.

He was frenetic in analyzing his recent career, and on what he thought he’d do next. I stopped him after the first coffee. “Focus entirely on the future, but don’t get fixated about having absolute clarity about what you want to do next. Rather, follow this critical piece of advice that was given to me once. It will ensure you make the right decision.”

Relax – What you do next will become apparent.

Have the courage to ‘make yourself available’ to new ideas and opportunity.

When you know you need a change, or when it is forced upon you, have confidence that the right opportunity will evolve. Embark on a process of conversations. Have as many conversations as you can, with people in various companies and industries. Talk about your passions. Talk about theirs. Talk about their challenges and business issues. Keep an open mind.

Allow yourself the freedom to explore. Have courage that what you do next will become apparent – it will become obvious to you at some point, and it might well not be what you would have expected. Oh – and it might involve a bit of coffee along the way!

More reading:

Seriously, who is in control of your career?
This is how you make a start on a more successful life
The recruiter, the briefcase and a powerful message for success 


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(6) Readers Comments

  1. Hi Chris, great post!

  2. What a fabulous post that for me, rings absolutely true.

    I find that as I progress, the opportunities become harder to find – i know that before my current role, i received 45 rejections. So your numbers gave me some comfort!

    One thing i learnt along that difficult part of the journey was that I needed to present myself differently – I needed to take note of my brand and make sure it is as distinctive as possible. So personally, I have invested a lot of time into making sure I have my blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and others all aligned, all telling a story…so that whoever wants to research me can get a full, rich, textured story that is engaging, organised and above all, authentic.

    I think that is now so important.
    We cannot hope to stand out any longer just by sending in a CV and cover letter. We need to have a clearly spelt out Unique Value Proposition – we need to champion our brand, spell out a narrative, position ourselves and sell to our strengths.

    By investing time in this approach every day, I am starting to feel more and more like i have something compelling to offer during the next of my 130 coffee meetings!

    Thanks so much for posting.

  3. Ditto.

  4. Thanks a lot! Great way to present this! I can really relate to this and am happy I’m a dozen coffee away from a good opportunity :)

  5. Pingback: How to find your next job using social media, Career

  6. Pingback: 5 tips to handling job search rejection | adageblog

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