Alumni Spotlight - The Power of Networking and Interview with Jacqueline Carmont


Networking is such a critical life skill, and this really comes to the fore during a career transition as Directioneering Alumni Jacqueline Carmont would attest. Jacque built an impressive global career with one of the world's largest professional services firms. Joining as a graduate, her career flourished from client facing roles in Australia and Asia, to practice leadership and management roles in the USA. Her return to Australia coincided with changes in her family life and after almost 20 years with the firm, she decided the time was right for a change.

We recently met with Jacque and she shared her insights on how she navigated her career transition and secured her new role as a Partner in a Consulting Firm.

Jacque can you tell us a little bit about the start of your transition journey?

I saw a great ad on LinkedIn, then I met Monika (my coach), and said "I've seen something, but I've never done this before, can you take me through the journey?" It was great, instead of it being a theoretical exercise, Monika and I worked through Directioneering's very established, tried and tested process, but with a live example. And this role was fascinating. The role took me through five different rounds of interviews. Not only was Monika there at the time when I wrote my application, but she also shared my emotional journey of five different interview rounds and her guidance and counsel through that was invaluable.

The learning I had is that you need to be invested. You actually need to see yourself in that role. Every time you get a call back for the next meeting there is that glimmer of hope and excitement, I found it really difficult to try and apply for different roles at the same time.

That is such an interesting perspective Jacque, how did you manage that, were you able to lean into other opportunities or did you just focus on that process?

I do admit I did focus on that one process, and I did miss out. And the feedback that I received was that they went with another known quantity. And that was another learning for me. Due to my innocence of not having been in the market for some time, , and this is a learning that others have shared, there is somebody already in line for the job, but due to internal processes, companies must go through a fair and transparent recruitment process allowing others into the mix for consideration, but then they may end up going with the known quantity.

When you look at that process, it sounds like you learnt a lot, how did you recover from the disappointment because you were so invested?

I think when it was shared with me who received the role, I could recover from it, because the person appointed was an internal candidate. The feedback was that I was great on paper however I hadn't worked in that industry before. Technically and on paper I ticked all the boxes, culturally everything was great, but they just went with the safe option. Emotionally, I'm quite realistic – I could say well –they have gone with the internal person, and it's that learning. There could be nothing wrong with you, your interviewing style, or your CV. There's just options in the market and so luck can play into it.

What that also taught me, and it was a great reminder with Directioneering, was to get on LinkedIn and connect with your social networks. A lot of us may have over 500 connections on LinkedIn, there may be people we haven't spoken to in a while. I actually did that, and realised there was somebody I hadn't connected with for a while, and I was going to a panel meeting in the city and he was in a similar location, so we organised to have a coffee beforehand. And I reached out to him and said "I have seen an interesting role in your office and I'm actually at a panel meeting across the road, I'd love to catch up." It was an old friend who I had worked with when I was in my twenties. That's who I ended up getting a job with. I caught up with this individual who I had not seen for over 15 years and he supported me to getting the position that I'm currently in. All through networking.

That is an interesting point about networking, what else did you learn?

I have to also tie in the great counselling advice received from my coach Monika. I'm an extrovert, so I can reach out and have coffees or lunches with people at any time, but what's the outcome that I was hoping for as a result of that coffee? That is something I actually had to focus on to manage my time, because I was fine organising social events, I can fill my calendar with coffee catch ups and lunches, but then what are my expectations of those? I had to manage and prioritise, because it was no longer having coffee or lunch for the sake of it. It was great having that friend, being Monika, and we practiced those sort of networking scenarios in my coaching meetings. And she gave me such simple tips, for example "this is what I'm interested in doing, what sort of tips would you give me in relation to this" or "is there anyone else that you know of that I should be speaking to if this is a new area that I'm now considering". The number of times people would say "Yes, I'd love to help you!" or actually, "I think I have a role or a job, or someone you could speak to about that."

Is there anything else you learnt about networking Jacque?

When you're moving into the next stage of your career or life, it's important to actually share with your network what you are now considering doing or even skills and examples of work that are different to their experience and interaction with you. Because the number of people who said, "Oh Jacque I didn't realise that you did that, you have done so much!"

So, it sounds like this was an opportunity to reinvent yourself in some ways?

Correct, by doing that in a safe environment, it also prepared me for future interviews as I had practiced, without realising, how I now introduced myself. I practiced in a succinct manner what I am looking to do going forward and what I had done in the past.

Practicing your pitch in a safe environment was really important as when you had worked in a firm for as long as I had, you start using internal acronyms and people totally know what you mean but now in the outside world, those words or acronyms might not be as clear. By having those conversations with my network, or casual coffee catchups, it enabled me to really polish my pitch and practice some of my statements, so they rolled off my tongue with confidence come interview time with strangers. Practice makes perfect.

I'm wondering if there is anything that you learnt about yourself during the Directioneering process that you continue to leverage in your new career?

I think what Directioneering helped me with was confidence. You can be in a firm for so long that you do question your capability and you do question some of your experiences and you don't realise how impressive they may be when you get into the wider market. Sometimes I felt that I didn't put myself forward because I didn't tick all the boxes. Something I take forward is the confidence in myself and the confidence in my abilities. Just having my coach Monika, who didn't know me, say "Jacque, these are great points, these are great achievements!" and you start to realise, yes they actually are, yet at the time, it feels like it was just the expectation of the role, so you don't look to call them out in a way that is beating your chest. That is something I have taken forward.

I think also what Monika has done and the Directioneering framework has given me is a structure in terms of how to go about applying for a role. And I've even taken some of those learnings, in terms of how I hire staff, how I interview, and how I pitch for work. It's a different type of interview, it's not an interview to win a role, it's to win an engagement or piece of work, and I use that framework, structure and confidence in that environment. So, when I'm doing my BD work, tendering and pitching, I bring all of that to the table, so I use it in my everyday work.

If you were to give any advice to someone who is at the start of their transition, and it is a new experience for them, what would you say?

The first word that comes to mind is patience. My learning has been even though your network may be active, and roles may be published, sometimes they don't move at the pace you expect them to move. Job hunting becomes your full-time job, and that's where you need the balance. In my experience, some of these processes you go through can take over two months. There can be changes during the journey, there are a lot of things outside of your control. Patience is important; proactivity is really important. You have to follow things up. Set yourself goals. I set myself goals to meet two contacts a week, that's something I learnt, make small and manageable goals.

Jacque this has been so insightful; are there any final words of wisdom you can share?

Bring yourself to every meeting. You can try and create the version that you think they are looking for, but that's never going to survive long term; you might secure the role but it won't work out and I've seen some terrible outcomes. You may end up job hunting again in the next year.

It's also important to trust your own instincts. If you feel that it's not the right fit, do you really want to apply for the job? Are you just doing it for a numbers game? Because if you are successful you will go through all these interviews, and then even if you land the role, you might not be happy. It's about being true to yourself, understanding who you are and understand what you want and not just applying for anything, so you can prioritise your time.