I Got A Career Changing Tip Walking In A Coffee Shop For Directions!

Man reading a newspaper in a coffee shop
Man reading a newspaper in a coffee shop (credits: unsplash.com/@ugmonk)

I always like to remember the story of my first job in Australia.

There I was in Hampton train station in Melbourne, convinced I was in the right suburb for the house inspections that were going to happen for the day. I was a new migrant in Australia for a week and had to find a permanent place to stay quickly, as the day by day rent costs were absurd for a fresh grad!

I decided to go into a coffee shop and ask for directions and approached the first person that was sitting there.

“Excuse me, could you please point me in the right direction to this address?”, I asked a gentleman who was reading the newspaper.

He examined the address and asked: “You are new here, right?”

“Yes, I only arrived 5 days ago”’.

“Well, first of all, welcome to Australia! Second, you better have a seat and have a coffee with us, as you are a bit far from the right suburb. I am assuming you are without a car…I could drive you to your destination, but you will never make it on time ’cause we are about 45 minutes away! But don’t worry, I will drive you to get new listings in nicer areas once we finish here. Just have a seat. I’m John and this is my daughter”.

Ok, that could have been the most unexpected words I could get. I didn’t even know how to react. My body automatically gave in and placed the backpack on the floor to joined them.

I ended up ordered an orange juice. After a few catching and throwing I learnt that they were an Irish family who called Australia home for 25+years! They were regulars at that coffee shop. Today they were flicking through the newspaper looking for a job for his daughter who was about the same age as me and by coincidence, also a mechanical engineer!

I mentioned I was also unemployed still and John handed me a page of the classifieds. “Here, we will all look together then!”

There I was, planning a day of house hunting and ended up job hunting instead!

John noticed I was looking for jobs in the recently graduated section and was aiming at “Grad engineer” or “Entry level” labeled jobs.

“Why are you looking in that section?”

I explained I had no job experience besides a couple of internships back home and he interrupted me:

“You are looking in the wrong section! Look here this one looks promising — Director of Operations.”

I laughed as I thought he was joking. But he wasn’t.

“I can’t do that one, I have no idea on how to run operations or lead people.” I said in a shy voice.

“Marta, let THEN tell you you can’t, not you!”

(I will give you a moment to let that one sink in….)

Wow. I mean, I never thought like that before. I found myself arguing back with multiple scenarios to what was so obvious to me and how my inexperience would get in the way but John had a counterargument for every statement and all arguments made perfect sense! He even offered to help me write down a cover letter!

Fast forwarding a couple a weeks, I ended up applying, John helped me with the cover letter as promised, and yes: I got the job! That’s right! I got the job!

It turned out they were looking for an entry level candidate that could grow into the senior position, as the factory was a startup and needed “a young and willing to grow person”.

So yes, my first real job ever was as an Operations Director in a startup factory! I would never even think of applying for this job if it wasn’t for John guiding me to aim high and not to let my preconceived idea (that as a fresh grad I could only get fresh grad roles) stop me from my purpose and dream!

So, next time you apply for a role, look for what you really want and aspire and who knows, you might be the perfect candidate for it!

Disclaimer: Apologies if some interpretations may offend a reader. I do rely on literal translation at times since English is a second language. My intention with this article is to spread awareness. I welcome your feedback to ensure I will not be constantly making the same errors in translation.

I also write about my own life ,professional experience and learning curve. I am a continuous improvement learner so I welcome you to share extra information and spread awareness with me if you have other ways of analyzing the same issues or you have value-added information to the readers of this article. Thank you for reading.