This article was originaly published March 5, 2019
Why did I start this process? – I quit my job without an understanding of what my next adventure should be. At the time, I was not able to articulate it, it was a mere “gut feeling” and a sense of curiosity that drove me.
What was I hoping to achieve?
In essence, I was hoping to secure a new job — one that provides me with a sense of purpose, a steep learning curve and belonging to something much larger than myself. It took a long time for me to articulate this so clearly. However, now I would go beyond that, I really wanted to reach a point of understanding, knowing “why” and to what goal I do what I do.
What did I do?
First aspect: Set-up & Tools
Similar to any project, I started off with a rough plan for the process and thus choosing a setup that enabled me.
1. Evernote (free originally, later premium)
I planned to do a lot of research and needed a place to sort and store it. I used Evernote for three main things, firstly as a database for all the articles and reading I found interesting. Secondly, as a deposit of specific job posts or companies, I later wanted to look into. Finally as a log for my reflection. Today just the article database has close to 700 entries.
2. Hubspot CRM (free)
I treated my job search like a sales funnel, meaning once I went through the initial research and felt like the company was relevant I added it to the CRM Database. The way I used this funnel changed over time to match the process e.g. initially to categories options and later to track all applications. Today I have over 300 companies in the database, roughly 200 added during this search.
3. Google Suite esp. Calendar & Keep & Asana (free)
I used the calendar in conjunction with my project management tool Asana to plan myself and keep track of everything that is going on. Asana I mostly utilised for my side projects e.g. volunteering work. Google Keep, I used as my checklist, which I used for one-off simple tasks and lists of people I wanted to contact for networking.
4. Zapier (Free)
I used Zapier to connect the different tools and automate processes e.g. all new companies in Hubspot were automatically added to Evernote to keep one complete database or entries in Evernote for a specific project, automatically created a task in Asana.
Second aspect 2: Routines
Firstly, I stipulated new routines to match the new circumstances. Thus I adjusted my schedule, blocked off the morning for priority work, lunch for one on one networking meetings and kept the afternoons more flexible for further work, networking, learning or volunteering engagements. Additionally, I updated my log regularly, ideally daily for networking conversations.
Third aspect: Reflection & Support
Reflection was key to my process. Outside of the networking conversation and my general log, I reflected more deeply on my past experiences, and asked myself a lot of questions, trying to define something like a future strategy for myself. I started off with my previous jobs and my volunteering engagement, outlining three things: positives, negatives and what did I learn. Using those insights I asked myself basic questions like what are my core principles? or who are my role models? and more complex questions like what is success? or if everything in my life starting from today, meets or exceeds my most optimistic expectations, what will my life be in five years?
I was fortunate enough that I did not go through this process on my own, reaching many of my answers through many discussion with mentors, family and friends. Furthermore, for the first time, I took coaching. This worked really well for me providing clarity on some aspects and many new thoughts on others. It allowed me to shortly thereafter complete a draft of my personal vision for the next five years.
Finally, leading up to and during the holidays' things slowed down in terms of job openings and networking, as such I used that time to analyse the results both from my networking conversation and the events I attended. This was great as it provided me with a diverse overview of many learnings, enriching the clarity I was looking for. I took this one step further after great advice and created a simple job decision matrix, weighing the different key aspects to me in early 2019.
Fourth aspect: Networking
From the beginning, I set out to explore and gain inspiration from my network, networks network and people outside my network. Meeting people to me felt like the key, as I wanted to gain a very diverse sense of possibilities focussing on three main areas: EdTech, MedTech, and Social Impact. During my roughly 4,5 month of searching, I met with over 140 different individuals, of which at least 100+ were one on one conversations and no more than a quarter were people I knew beforehand. Furthermore, I did not limit myself to Berlin or Germany and spoke to people in the UK, Israel and Africa.
A few people have already asked me how I approached those people. First and foremost this was about being open and simply asking. I reached out to my existing network to begin with and attended many events, approaching the panelists afterward and asking for coffee or lunch. More so, I usually asked the people I spoke with if they have any recommendations of other people I should speak to. Finally, I reached out via LinkedIn to people, simply asking for their support.
Fifth aspect: Research, Reading & Podcasts
As already stressed, research was important to gain a general understanding of what is happening and to prepare all meetings, especially networking conversations. Outside of Google, LinkedIn and Job-boards what helped me were TBD Community, 80,000 Hours and networks/communities I spend time with such as The Impact Hub Berlin, SEND e.V. or Venture Ladies. More so, reading provided great insights all around. Similarly too Podcasts like WorkLife, TED Radio Hour or Master of Scale.
Sixth aspect: Applications
Yes, I did send applications. However, I always had a feeling that I was far more likely to find what I was looking for through networking. In the end, I send 36 direct applications that resulted in interviews with 4 companies. On the other hand, countless indirect applications ran through my networking efforts which resulted in 12 concrete applications that resulted in interviews with 7 companies. In total, I interviewed more intensely with four companies, three of whom were from my networking efforts. Please note, it was never about gaining multiple offers, comparing them and choosing one. It was always about getting to know the people, company and underlying values to see if one is what I was looking for.
The outcome is probably one of the most positive surprises. Yes, I did find that job and I am most excited to start at Leapsome! But I gained so much more for which I am truly grateful. Every person I spoke with was kind enough to give up their time for me and provide new inspiration, insights and thoughts that will guide me far beyond my job search. The reflection, new found clarity and strategic approach to my future without knowing exactly what that will be, will also guide me far beyond my job search. Finally, I gained new friendships and deepened others, which alone was far more than I could have hoped for.
Learning & Recommendations
What did I learn:
- People are happy to help. Putting myself out there and asking for support goes a long way and opens unforeseen opportunities.
- The setup worked really well to provide structure during a highly ambiguous process.
- Doing things outside of the job search really helped. I started volunteering with two NGOs that provided a sense of purpose during this phase and opened unforeseen opportunities. Thank you Serlo and Imagine Foundation!
- It simply takes time and patience. My original timeline evidently did not work out, taking five instead of three months, teaching me a lot about patience.
- The process is hard. At times I questioned literally everything I was doing. Staying curious, resilient and believing it will happen was important. Here the people around me, friends, family, mentors and coaches were really important.
- You are not alone. I was fortunate enough to meet many other people that were going through similar processes.
- Reflection has been and will be key in the future.
- Advice is always biased. Being aware of that is very important. This was important in all the networking conversation but also with friends and family.
- Trust your gut or at least trust it enough to explore even when you cannot clearly articulate it just yet.
- Purpose is not a universal thing. One question that was central to my search was, where am I best placed to foster impact? It took a long time to realise that no one can answer that for me, but I had to define what impact/success means to me. I understand it now, I want to enable people using entrepreneurial means.
Recommendations for others:
- Every individual is different and as such every process is different. I chose to quit my job without knowing what’s next, choose your own way.
- Start by creating a plan and establishing a setup that works for you. For me, that was a combination of Evernote, Hubspot CRM, Google Suite and Asana.
- The process will be difficult and takes time. You are not alone, seek out support from people around you and/or new ones. In the end, we spend a large part of our daily lives at and with the people at work, making the effort well worth it in the long-run.
- Network, Network, Network. I probably cannot stress this point enough. It makes total sense that my quotas for successful applications were far higher this way, as I got to know the company, culture and people beforehand. Please note, I also strongly believe in networking to enrich an existing job.
- Reflection. Beyond this process, this is something I will personally take into my new job and daily routines.
- Frame your own story. Everyone has a story to tell, framing it makes a huge difference. Do not let people assume but provide clarity and honesty to your action. I actively spoke about why I took time-off and my actions during that time.
- Books that were very powerful to me (in no particular order):
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Give and Take by Adam Grant
- Doing Good Better by William MacAskill
- Man’s search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- The Big Five for Life by John Strelecky
Why this Article?
With this article, I was hoping to achieve three things. Firstly, by writing it a closing reflection to me personally. Secondly, I shared this post in a thank you email to everyone that helped me along the way, trying to show a sense of my gratitude. Finally, I made it public to hopefully help others.
I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback or personal insights! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org