No. 7 Ice Train to Frankfurt

And when, in the fields standing like broken teeth, the winter trees, rooted both in sky and earth, having bitten off too much summer, brace against the cold winds to come, I find myself, for the first time feeling the slightest weight of my fifty six years and sensing perhaps the faintest chill of the frost to come.

Our six-to-eight children, clumping here and there for a little while, spread unevenly across the globe from Sydney to Kunming, Melbourne to Frankfurt, like autumn leaves, sheltering from the north wind, provide transient loci for our remaining parental instincts.

We have grandchildren now, very welcome additions, simultaneously strengthening and weakening the bonds and duties of parenthood. Their boisterous new souls snatch the baton from our loosening grasp, thrusting it instead into the innocent, unprepared, hands of our children.

The deed is done, the die is cast, and we are set free to roam the earth like Kami, familial spirits, watching over the living from a distance, available at need, but separate now, distinct once again, from offspring.

It is in a small, zwei zimmer, apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, that we plot our escape. It is here, amid the cobbled streets and coffee houses, that we fan the flickering flame of our lives, restoring finally, the saturnine embers, glowing in the dead of night, to full flame, licking at the accumulated detritus of a lifetime, the fuel load, into the beginnings of a raging bush fire that will, god willing, consume and sustain us for thirty years at least.

Germany, grey in late autumn overcast, slips silently by the train window. We are leaving Europe tomorrow. We fly half way around the globe to Sydney, and summer, and perhaps to one last family Christmas and a BBQ on the beach.

Will we gather our brood once more, before the final exodus, or will this be an altogether more modern affair, electronic and instant, implacable as the orange and black display of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof train time table?

One last goodbye in Frankfurt before we board the plane. This has been a good trip, albeit a whirlwind of social encounters. A lifetime of relationships have been honoured or reinstated. It has been, I now see, a kind of clearing of the decks, a profound and sincere act of atonement and preparation – for whatever comes next.

No. 6 The Four Point Method – The downs and ups of starting your own consulting company

The Four Point Method – The downs and ups of starting your own consulting firm

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any organisation in possession of substantial cash reserves must be in want of a consultant.

However little known the requirements or challenges of Sydney’s leading corporations on first acquaintance, this truth was so well fixed in my mind, that I considered their consulting business to be my rightful province.

This was certainly my assumption a mere twelve months ago when, upon leaving Microsoft after thirteen years, I set up my own Consulting Pty Ltd, a Sydney based consulting firm of the very first water.

I would focus on Cloud Transformation, Corporate Governance, Adoption Change Management, Program Management and Business Analysis. My deep and extensive knowledge and expertise in these areas were, I felt certain, both widely known and fulsomely acknowledged.

I would place a well-formed shingle adjacent to my home-office and wait for the telephone to ring. Or the emails to ping. Or the text messages to arrive. Or at the very least for offers to be pasted on my Facebook wall.

Despite endless endorsements on LinkedIn, frequently from people I don’t know, often for skills I don’t possess, the offers did not flood in. Neither did they flow, nor even trickle.

There was instead a kind of silence – not, sadly, the silence that comes before the storm, not the silence after a deep intake of breath portending imminent action, nor even the silence that punctuates the moment prior to performance of a great work. No. It was the forlorn silence of a deserted office block, in a down-at-heel neighbourhood on a bank holiday weekend.

Surely some mistake? I called my various friends and acquaintances, drew down on my network, and, in all earnestness, sought first to understand.

At last an ex-colleague put to me the crucial question. What, he asked, are you doing about getting work?

Doing? DOING? I was incredulous. I told him about my Facebook page and my LinkedIn profile and my very impressive shingle.

Yes, he said, but what was I actually doing?

‘More than that?’

‘Yes, definitely, more than that.’


And then he gave me the following advice which transformed my fortunes within a few weeks, and which I would like to share with you:

(The Four Point Method)

  1. Edit your resumé to cover the specific requirements of each role or contract you apply for. Like you, I thought this sounded like an awful lot of bother and was by no means convinced.
  2. With each application, send a new cover letter addressing the specifics of the role and highlighting your suitability for it. I agree with you – what’s the point of the resumé if you have to say it all again in a cover letter?
  3. If a number (better still the name) of someone to speak to about the role is provided, call it, and call it before you edit your resumé or write your cover letter. No one relishes the opportunity to talk to a recruiter more than I, but actively seeking one out? Really?
  4. Keep constant watch on the job and contract advertising sites and apply for anything interesting the same day it appears. Like I have time to waste browsing job sites!

I thanked my colleague politely and was preparing to hang up, when he asked me if I’d like to know why these four points were important? I couldn’t very well say ‘No’…

  1. Recruitment companies receive so many applications that they have implemented filtering software to reduce the burden of selection. The software parses your resumé looking for the key terms and phrases used in the advertisement. If you use a generic resumé you are unlikely to have covered all these points and you will be filtered out by a machine before any human being has an opportunity to take a look at you.
  2. Recruiters expect a good quality cover letter that explicitly calls out why you are the best person for the job. This saves them time, and time is money.
  3. By calling the recruiter you can make a human connection and become a person rather than a resumé. You can also gain important additional information that the recruiter is happy to provide privately but does not wish to include in the advertisement. By sending in your resumé and cover letter soon after speaking with them, the recruiter can make the connection with you and will probably take the time to read your brilliant writing.
  4. Recruiters work in a highly competitive environment. They need to put their best candidate in front of the client as soon as possible. Same day turn around gives the recruiter, and therefore you, a distinct advantage.

If you follow steps 1 to 4 you make it so much easier to represent you and prioritise your application.

I had to admit, he had a point.

Having previously applied for dozens if not hundreds of contracts, within a couple of weeks of adopting the Four Point Method I had my first few contracts.

Winning contracts, I soon discovered, was only the beginning. But that’s for another time.

For now, a year has passed since I started my own company, and I feel I can say, with a certain minimal authority, the clichés about working for yourself are largely true.

I trust you had a good 2014 and wish you and yours a wonderful and fulfilling 2015.