From Couch to Consultant
Updated: Feb 12
October 2020 and I’m doing my daily exercise of sitting on the couch looking for a new job!
To be honest, I’m getting a strong thumb from job scrolling for weeks even months now. With each scroll I am less and less energised and enthused about a possible career change. There is just nothing here that I am passionate about.
Oh yes, I should probably tell you what I actually do right? I am an on-board manager for Qantas. Sounds awesome right? Well it is, but this virus that’s going around is kind of getting in the way of me serving the rich and famous, meeting families, hearing their stories, and most importantly seeing my own family back in Australia.
What have I been doing all year then? Pushing a trolley around a supermarket picking peoples groceries. Can you believe that we have gone from 5000 items a day to 55,000 items being picked? Let me tell you it’s a lot of toilet paper, pasta, and tinned tomatoes. One day we’d run out of toilet paper (well most days), so my trusty scanner told me to substitute for a potato. Seems reasonable right?
I’m getting bored in the supermarket. I feel like I need a challenge and I have so much more to offer. Not long and I am the best picker in store, averaging 300 items per hour when our target is 155. I greet customers in store and get funny looks from my colleagues. Scottish Brian says to me “Aye, why you so bloody friendly?”. It is the crew in me and those interactions are important to me. Sounds silly, but I actually hope those interactions put a smile on someones face when they leave the supermarket. What I really enjoy is passing on my extensive wine knowledge to customers whilst cruising the alcohol aisle.
So back to the couch then shall we? My wife is painting her nails a deep red colour and her eyes are darting my way to see if I approve. “Looks beautiful darls” I say in my Aussiest accent! Still scrolling my phone I see something that grabs my eye, ‘Learning consultant’. Let’s keep reading I say to myself! My wife notices a shift in my body language and now I am standing up! Curious and excited, darls listens in as I say “okay, okay, okay, we have something here”.
No longer painting her nails, darls asks me “What?” with an excited impatience as I’m am now in full smile and dance mode. I explain exactly what I’ve seen, “Learning Consultant at Acceler8 Learning & Development Consultancy” based in Brighton. Darls knows how passionate I am about learning, and I sense her excitement for me. I have facilitated in the development of so many crew at Qantas. I get great satisfaction from helping others achieve their goals, particularly those who experience hardship or failure. I've experienced failure many times myself, but have a strong perseverance as a result. I think a lot of this also comes from a lifetime of playing basketball at a high level. Failing over and over again, yet achieving great personal and team success along the way has helped me tremendously.
Right now my imagination is going wild! I read the application process from Acceler8 and I am buzzing! Ideas are pinging around like a pinball machine. Darls knows me well and brings me back down to earth. Sometimes I get carried away with the big picture. I explain it like, "when a pile of rocks is in front of a heap of people, most will see a pile of rocks whereas I will see a cathedral."
I begin to read the Acceler8 website. I am wanting to get a sense of who they are? what they are about? what are their core beliefs? who have they worked with? OMG they have an office dog called Bo who is the Chairman. Hang on, is that a Gin bar?
So my thoughts about Acceler8 so far? I get a feel from their website that they care about the work they do and the relationships in their own backyard. I can see a lot of focus is on creating an environment where people feel safe, diversity is celebrated, ideas are welcomed, and fun is had. This looks like a place where people can be happy. Right, tomorrow I start brainstorming ideas!
Working in a supermarket however grateful I am for the opportunity has been challenging picking people up emotionally on a day-to-day basis. It is a very tough environment that is very unsupported from a wellbeing perspective by those running the show. Maybe I can help them down the line through Acceler8 if I am successful. Rather than focus on imperfections and problems in people and organisations, I focus on helping, I like getting the best out of people. I think this is my calling.
So, my application then? I am excited about the process and what Acceler8 have asked applicants to complete. Unconventional yet brilliant, effective and relevant to the role when I read about the steps. I am to complete a video application expressing who I am along with the criteria they’ve asked.
As I mind map my ideas onto paper, I scribble some ideas out, laugh at a few and consider other ideas. Lightbulb moment! “No Aaron, do not throw away those ideas that made you laugh, let’s revisit”. My video comprised of 3 separate scenes; one on the balcony, one inside, and finishing off with me dressed in a wig and a basketball outfit from the movie ‘semi pro’. Darls was so patient filming, she really is a saint.
Darls called me crazy with my ideas! I was comfortable with this as one of my core beliefs is to always be yourself, stay true to who you are. I wanted to portray my fun side and give back a sense of who I was before I met the Acceler8 team if invited to do so. I really didn’t want to bore them with my knowledge and experience. Needless to say, darls is never bored by me, maybe irritated, but never bored.
Video done, sent! Now back to the supermarket and just wait. “Oh yeh the virus thing, I mean who could forget that”. Lockdown 2.0 is here and Boris wants me to keep pushing my trolley picking groceries. Should I actually sub a potato this time for toilet paper? Damn I just dropped 12 bottles of wine, true story! Darls saw it too. She pushes a trolley as well and is the neatest packer I’ve ever seen. She wasn’t surprised to be fair, however skilled I am with a basketball, I can be super clumsy.
Not long goes by and I hear from Acceler8. I am impressed with their prompt communication and reassurance. Long story short, because of that virus thing I’m not sure if you know about? Well, I have to wait a bit longer. I’ll happily wait for this opportunity as I am so passionate about learning & development.
Lockdown over and today is interview day. Darls drops me off but I am super early, too early. Quickly I head to the local coffee shop and order a long black. I talk to the people there and they are super friendly (potential new local). Power pose in the bathroom and a few words to the mirror “just be yourself mate”.
Get to the address and the gate is open, do I buzz or just make my way to their office? Just make your way there. So off I go, make my way to a door. ‘Knock knock’, and some old bloke in barely any clothes with Boris hair answers the door and says “yes” irritably. Awkwardly I just say “Acceler8?” and just get given a finger point followed by, "down there".
Moment of truth! I open the door and the Chairman ‘Bo’ comes running toward me “woof woof” he says. Giving him a little pat I introduce myself to Chris and David. Chris the consulting director and David the operations director greet me with such kindness and enthusiasm. I think Bo is wanting food, damn I should have brought him a biscuit.
In the meeting room we go, “wow, this room is impressive” and I am met with such great hospitality, warmth, care, leaving me with an overwhelming sense of acceptance. My earlier perceptions about them were ringing true. First impressions are important, and the feel of this place is something I cannot put into words. Magical!
Speaking of ringing true, I listened to my advice of 'be yourself' and left the meeting room knowing I had shown them who Aaron is. Thankful that they had asked me to return for stage two, immediately my imagination went off like a pinball machine again thinking about what beauty I can create.
Stage 2 was to do a presentation on a leadership style. As broad as I liked, I chose one of familiarity and that I am comfortable with. I spent the next few days putting together my presentation on ‘coaching leadership’ style. This style is effective as you get the best out of people by simply asking effective questions. Never do I tell people what to do when coaching, I unlock their potential and the credit belongs to the individual. I made an effort to continue with the idea of having fun. So as any learning consultant should do, I immersed myself in the Acceler8 brand, and aligned my presentation to fit in with their beliefs.
So presentation day, and after making David and Chris walk into chairs and doors with their eyes closed, I was successful in getting Elaine to the Gin bar. Unfortunately, we didn’t pour one and I knew I’d have more work to do if I were to have a gin from this beautiful bar.
Bonus as well, ‘Bo’ didn’t bark at me when I was leading his master David around with his eyes closed.
Everything ran smoothly, just how I’d envisioned and practiced at home. As always though technology fails (not the fault of Acceler8). For some reason my video didn’t play toward the end. Not a problem, I have dealt with this before. Whilst laughing it off and troubleshooting, I told a story of the time my video zoomed in on one girl’s chest during a presentation. Oh, and yes, this was in front of the CEO of Qantas international.
Finishing off my presentation I was able to link it back to my application video of me in the semi pro basketball outfit. One thing in L&D I think is important is linking back, it tells a story.
Walking out of Acceler8 I got straight on the phone to darls and said, “I love this place and what they're about”. Then and there I said something I never thought I would. “Darls, this is not just a job, it is a career I am passionate about. If I were to not go back to flying, I know I’ll be happy here". Thankfully being ultra longhaul crew flying maybe once or twice a month, I will be able to stay with Acceler8 full time and continue this journey if successful.
Fast forward a few days and a zoom call organised, this is the moment! Sitting on the couch again where I’d been strengthening my thumb for months scrolling jobs, there was Chris and David. “Congratulations, you are the right fit for us”.
Here I am now in my fourth week and ‘Bo’ and I have what I call a “Bo-mance” as he sits beside me monitoring my performance and bag checking me daily. In thirteen years of flying, I have been bag checked twice, Bo checks my bag for chicken every morning as I walk in. He even knows I keep crisps in my draw.
Chris, David, and Marcus (creative director) have welcomed me wholeheartedly and I have gained a real appreciation for what we do here. Chris’s experience speaks for itself. He has an exceptional delivery when facilitating that is appreciated by all, it is evident he cares. David has gone above and beyond in making sure I have everything I need, and what I love is the openness and honesty we have between us that he encourages. Marcus is, how do I describe it? “genius level creativity” and I have really enjoyed learning from him these past weeks. I look forward to working more with him and feeding off his creativity.
I am yet to meet the rest of the team, however knowing the type of people Chris and David surround themselves with here at Aceler8, they will be exceptional individuals. I’d be proud as a client to work with Acceler8 and I am proud to be a part of such an amazing team. What excites me is we have the opportunity to positively influence people’s journeys. As a collective we all care about that experience we provide for our clients. In doing so we build trust and long lasting relationships.
I have met a lot of consultants in my professional career and observed their work. I can hold my hand on my heart and say I have never seen anyone immerse themselves in the clients as well as Acceler8 do. You should see the beautiful things we create.
They say, "never tie yourself to a brand", however I consider myself fortunate to be a part of two amazing brands in Qantas and Acceler8. Who knows, maybe in the post covid world we can come together to create something truly beautiful.
This journey has just begun.