If You Want A Great Next Role Get Ill First

145673236“It took me 130 coffees to land the ideal next role for me,” said my breakfast companion 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.

I am a huge fan of making the grass greener on this side of the fence; to try to fix your current role so it is inspiring and great. But sometimes the reality is that we need to move on- and finding that outstanding, insanely perfect next role can be a daunting challenge.

As your career evolves and you get more senior, it becomes tougher for the perfect opportunity to ‘land’. And that’s where the ‘Get Ill First’ strategy comes into play. This is what it is and how it works.

It’s all about Information, Leads, Learnings…. I.L.L.

“I had 130 coffee meetings. I contacted people I knew 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 companion explained.

Today I had breakfast with the wise Rob Irving. I told him this story. He gave me this insight.

“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 next day. This is what he told me.

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!

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6 Responses to If You Want A Great Next Role Get Ill First

  1. Matt April 17, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    Recently subscribed to your blog and have found your pieces interesting and inspirational. I totally agree about keeping an open mind and keeping yourself open to opportunity. Also special kudos to the people who give up their time to have a coffee or meet with you, and help you along your journey….

    • Chris Savage April 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks Matt!

  2. MC Hammer April 17, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    “49 nos before a yes”. Is this a reflection on your romantic endeavours?

    • Chris Savage April 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

      Indeed and you were my only YES

  3. Alan de Souza April 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    What perfect timing! I have recently taken the leap of faith and about to start having what appears to be lots and lots of coffee. Fortunately, I love coffee so this new adventure should be very interesting. Cheers!

    • Chris Savage April 19, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Good luck with it!!

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