Sun and Fun in Sydney
It’s almost 17 years to the day since I arrived in Sydney – an excited 26 year old, ready for sun, fun and a new life.
I had travelled here as a backpacker 4 years earlier. The minute I set foot on Australian soil I knew for a fact I’d be back. I didn’t know I would never leave again, but that’s another story.
Many of you know I’m a reformed lawyer, and my first job in Sydney was as a corporate lawyer with a large, national firm. I’ll never forget the day I started. The HR Director met me in the marble-clad lobby and took me to my office, with views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
I turned around and said to him “Really? This is my office, wow!” It certainly beat the brick wall and young, eager trainee lawyer I had as my view in my previous role in Glasgow.
There I was, the young lawyer with the broad Scottish accent – one of the first Scots in the firm – and I knew no-one. Not one person in the very large firm, nor one single person in Australia full stop.
The building was round, with all the offices on the outside. Everyone had their own office – no-one shared. This meant that if you didn’t have any work, you had to actively go and knock doors and ask for it. It also meant that to meet anyone you had to do the same.
By the end of the first week no-one had taken me around the floor to introduce me. I knew the people in my team, but everyone else just walked past my office, looking in at the slightly scared young lawyer with the crazy accent.
So I went to one of the senior lawyers in the team and I said to her “I know no-one here and no-one has taken me round to introduce me, can you do it please?”. She was horrified it hadn’t happened, and did it immediately (now I would do it myself but I wasn’t as brave then!).
The Lonely Scot
As I settled into life at the firm and in Sydney I became conscious of one thing. That even though I had realised my dream of working in Sydney, and I had an amazing office with a harbour view, I was desperately lonely.
I had left a firm in Scotland where I knew everyone, and everyone knew me. We were sociable, and it was brilliant fun to be a young lawyer there. And of course outside of work I had my family and friends.
But here I was alone. And it was making me very sad, and homesick for the life I had left behind.
So again, I called in on the lovely senior lawyer (who was consistently my savior in that job, thank you Faith). This time I said “Faith, I keep hearing about these famous Aussie BBQs and I’m yet to go to one. How about you invite me to one?’ She did, and it was great.
Making the connection
Now that I’ve been here 17 years and lived in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane I’ve built an incredible base of friendship and professional connections. I’m grateful for the people I have met and continue to meet in this wonderful country.
It’s easy to fall into thinking that because we all lead such busy and full lives, we have no time or capacity for new friendships and connections. And yet as human beings we thrive on connection. It’s what makes us unique.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not lack of time or desire to connect that stops us doing it – it’s the fear of being rejected.
What if Faith had said “Actually Fiona, I don’t know that I want to mix work and pleasure, I’d rather not invite you to a BBQ”. That was a risk – she would have been perfectly within her rights to say that.
Having just spent the weekend with an amazing group of business women I know more than ever how important connection is on a personal and professional level. We talked about business, relationships, sex, kids, our fears, our successes, our failures.
There was so much laughter, and there was also vulnerability and tears. I cemented relationships, and created new ones too. All of the women in the group are busy, and we all have plenty of friends already.
But I resolved at the end of the weekend that I would do more “barging in” on these women. Because I want them in my life, and I want to be in their lives. Do I risk rejection? Maybe. But I know that by barging in I stand to gain SO much more than I can ever lose.
Robin Sharma, leadership expert and author of ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ said: “The business of business is relationships. The business of life is human connection”.
Barging in will help you create human connection and human connection will allow you to create an even more brilliant business, career and life than you believed possible. So go on, barge right in and revel in the joy and fulfillment that is unique to friendship and connection.
PS I hope you like the new look branding! Thank you to Zahrina Photography for making me look and feel amazing. My website is also in the process of being updated.
PPS The first SmartWomen Connect breakfast is on 5 April. There is room for 20 women – want in? Email me with your name, email and phone number and we’ll talk.