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"The Best Cheer Squad Ever"

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Ubah Abdullahi is one of Project Displaced’s success stories. With a rich employment history and experience, Ubah was the perfect candidate for any number of roles after she was made redundant. But, to her shock, she struggled to find work for months, until she saw a Project Displaced post on LinkedIn and reached out. This is her story.

I came to Australia from Somalia as a refugee in 1993, and after graduating from school here, I worked for a major food company. I moved to Botswana with my husband, and worked as a manager there. Then I was lucky enough to be nominated for a scholarship to study a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of South Africa.

I returned to Australia in 2009, in the middle of the GFC, and worked for one of the big banks in various roles, including Assistant Product Manager. Then I took a redundancy, found a job in the institutional arm of the same bank as a business analyst, and eventually moved into learning and development as a coach. In May last year, I took a redundancy after 11 years.

And then, things got really hard.

What happened?

Despite the challenges of COVID, I was confident I’d find another job. But my approach to building relationships is a very personal one; normally I’d meet up with different people in my network for coffee. Thanks to COVID, that was no longer possible. My approach had to change.

How did you feel during this time?

I was extremely frustrated. It mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually diminishes you, especially when you can’t even get a call or interview for a role that you’re more than capable of doing.

I would reach out to people through LinkedIn, or would send someone an email or message, but often they didn’t respond – everyone is really busy of course, and that can be very hard to deal with. You feel like a lone wolf. I’m not very good at asking for help – like a lot of people, you don’t want to seem weak and ask for someone to help you. COVID ripped that away.

What did you do when you saw the LinkedIn post about Project Displaced?

I got in touch with Sharon Parcell and she helped me tremendously. She was absolutely instrumental in changing everything for me. She helped shape what I asked people – and that resulted in people contacting me. Some called and were gracious enough to give tips.

What did Project Displaced do for you?

So much! Along with Sharon, Anthony Cohen would send me every step. Brett Reed gave me advice around my cover letter, Rowena Morais gave me advice about LinkedIn content and I nicknamed her word-smith. Lucy Lithgow-Constable gave me lots of advice about my resume.

They’re the best cheer squad ever. A lot of your family and friends might not be the best advocate for you. You have the best in class helping you for the sake of helping you.

Every time they gave me guidance, it gave me a bit of focus and hope. At these times, when things seem very bleak, you need hope more than anything. If you implement the advice, it gives you more opportunities to succeed. It gives you direction in how to move forward from those hardships.

You want someone to tell you it’s okay, and give you advice so that the next time you do something, it works. You never get that level of help unless you have a formal mentor.

When a colleague is offering you advice, it’s from their own experience, and this might or might not be best practice.

But when you have someone who is a senior leader, they aren’t drawing just on their personal experience, they’re drawing on industry experience and advice, and that’s a lot more valuable.

And it worked?

Absolutely. One of the people I contacted was a senior executive at NAB. She invited me to a meeting and also asked along the head of coaching. They looked at my profile and had ideas of what opportunities might be feasible for me. I had a couple more interviews with them, and did an online test which is part of getting a job with them.

And then two days before Christmas, I got a call to congratulate me on getting the role! It’s management coaching, which is what I want to do, and it includes a package than was more than I expected.

Anything else?

I can’t thank the team at Project Displaced enough – Anthony for starting this project, and Sharon who was very supportive every step of the way. She was my lifeline.

Project Displaced is designed to help you make your career search a successful one. Find out how Ubah's story can become yours.





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