Your next great move involves people

At the end of last year, I was made redundant from a full-time position at a design college. It was a blessing in disguise, as I knew that I was ready to change the trajectory of my career, but without the nudge that redundancy provided, I would probably be still just thinking about making a change.

Lesson one — when you know it’s time to make a move, don’t wait for something to change, before you change something.

So there I was, one week before Christmas, about to go on a one month holiday to Fiji, and I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back.

It was liberating, but also a little daunting. I had handed over all my freelance client work to take the full-time job, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do next.

All I knew is that I wanted to work with a team of like-minded people, who did meaningful work. I wanted to learn and I wanted to expand my skills beyond graphic design and teaching.

In need of direction, I turned to my friends, many of whom I had met working in the co-working space we began in 2014. They gave me insight and advice that was honest and encouraging. Most of all, they told me to take on roles I had little or no prior experience in.

Lesson two — ask the people who know you best to point out your strengths and remind you to pursue opportunities where you doubt your abilities.

Once I had an idea about what I wanted to do, I reached out to people in my network and let them know I was available and the type of work I was looking for. In particular, I targeted studios and organisations who aligned with my values. I wasn’t asking for a job, I was just asking to have a coffee.

Within one week, I had set up two interviews, two casual chats, and received a 1-month contract for work.

Lesson three — all you can do is ask.

My friend Bethany says, “after all, what’s the worst that can happen? They say no?”

I have never got a job showing my folio, applying through a job network, or going through an interview process. Believe it or not, I worked as a freelance designer for 10 years, and I never even had a website showing my work! I don’t suggest that this is a good idea, I am merely pointing out the importance of having a good reputation, doing good work and having good relationships.

The role I am currently working in came from following up with a connection I made in my previous role. Someone I had ensured I had kept in contact with and whom I had left a good impression. 

Lesson four — building and maintaining relationships is the key to success. Be generous and help people where you can. Try to write back to people and say thank you when they help you out.

I have recently been reading a book called, Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. The book begins with an inspiring story (his) of a small town boy who became one of Crain’s 40 Under Forty and now runs a successful consultancy agency. He attributes his success to his days working as a caddy for businessmen and women at his local golf club and learning from an early age the importance of relationships.

I still consider myself slightly introverted when it comes to networking or meeting new people, but you never know who might hold the key to the next door that will open for you, so I figure, maybe it’s worth introducing myself.

Have we met?

Lauren Vilitati