The quiet voices that need to be heard


Yesterday I received a hand-written note in the mail from someone I had met almost a year ago.

In his note this man (almost ten years my senior) said that I was “the only person in two years of trying to connect with the industry who said ‘yes’ to meeting and chatting about his career and giving him guidance and advice.”

I was gobsmacked.

He went on to say that he was quietly coming to the realisation that the career he thought he was going to have, wasn’t going to eventuate.

Last week I met with a young digital studio owner who, after five years of being in business was coming to realise that he was going to wind his business up at the end of this financial year. It simply wasn’t worth the trouble he said.

He spoke to me of the lack of guidance, professional development opportunities and simple knowledge-sharing in an environment that was ultra-competitive and difficult to navigate.

He spoke to me of bewilderment, confusion and isolation. 

I can continue with the examples but let’s get to the point.

I share this quote by Seth Godin with you first:

"We have to work ever harder on seeing, listening and supporting the quiet voices who have something important to say."

Every year I meet people in our industry that are struggling to learn how to build a career. How to do the basic things; to build a freelance business, learn strategic principles, manage a team and most of all, get a fucking job.

If I were to say this consistently numbered a minimum of two people a week, I’d be giving you a very conservative estimate.

These ‘quiet voices’ are our industry.

These are the masses of people who are looking for work, searching for a break, trying to win a client, build a business that works. 

So I look to our industry and ask of it, what are we all doing to celebrate, nourish and support these quiet voices?

Why isn’t there a recruitment agency for graduates only?

Why are students flooding the market every year expecting to find full time employment in the months after graduation - and in shock when their search withers away?

Why can’t I go to an intimate conference where the speakers are young and old, emerging people industry who are searching for a break, sharing their ideas in a safe environment? Asking questions and having them answered,

Why do the quiet voices exist in droves, bewildered, confused and unable to navigate a career?

I was one of those voices and in some way I feel I still am. I can’t reel off a list of ‘high profile’ agencies I’ve worked at because I hacked and hustled in technology through the Dotcom years. I did #designthinking and #hcd when it was called ‘go and listen to the customer about what they need’. I did UI design when it was experimental and exploratory.

I was one of those voices when I was studying amongst students who knew the names of the agencies they wanted to work in, on their first day of University. And I knew no one, and nothing because I was simply grateful to be accepted into a university course in the first place.

I was one of those voices when I was retrenched for the fifth time, the day after an auctioneer said ‘sold’ in my favour.

I was one of those voices when I was unemployed, searching for work every moment in every day, and receiving a parking fine I simply could not pay. Tears.

So I decided to write because I like writing and not seek anyone’s approval. 

I decided to draw because I love drawing and not seek anyone’s acceptance.

I decided I’d carve my own career and create for myself, a path that didn’t conform to the world I was trying to break into. 

I made choices.

I found my voice.

And I realised that a quiet voice can still be heard loudly - and it’s only those people who choose to listen to us that truly matter.

No one else.