100 coffees to opportunity - with Jane Merrick, Head of Marketing at Rest

Written by Danielle Owen Whitford

Jane Merrick from Sydney, Australia.


When COVID hit, Jane Merrick, like so many others, found herself looking for a new job. However, she did things a little differently, and instead of sending out 100 CVs, she set out to have 100 coffees with 100 different people. She had an amazing response of 180 coffee requests from all over the world. 88 coffees in, Jane found herself as the new head of marketing at Rest.

We recently caught up with Jane to find out more about her fascinating journey of courage, resilience, and the incredible value of building and nurturing relationships - especially when times are tough.

“People get caught up in their day-to-day work, and focus on the tasks at hand, and put relationships to the side. But the relationships are the most important piece.”

Jane Merrick

How did your 100 coffees idea come about?

Jane’s heartfelt post on LinkedIn generated 55,000 views and 180 coffee requests. (click to zoom)

Jane’s heartfelt post on LinkedIn generated 55,000 views and 180 coffee requests.

“I left my job at the beginning of March off the back of a restructure, and two weeks later, COVID hit. I knew that I had to get another job, and I knew that networking was the way to make it happen. I was reading lots of stuff around people feeling overwhelmed and fearful. 

“At that time, I was feeling quite grateful that I wasn't working. My 12-year-old was doing fine, but I had to sit with my 9-year-old daughter each day to help her with her school work. I couldn’t have done that if I was working. I was quite grateful to spend the time with her.

“Also, the weather in Sydney was incredible. We live near the beach and it was beautiful. I became very appreciative of what I had. So I put this post on LinkedIn. It was quite reflective. And I said ‘to stay connected, I am aiming to have 100 coffees’. And, yeah, it went viral.

“I just read somewhere that it’s 100 coffees between now and your next role.”

”It had this incredible reaction. All these people responded to me. It was a combination of people I knew, but I was really surprised by the number that I didn’t know - random strangers reaching out to have a coffee. And it just went from there.”

100 coffees with strangers sounds quite daunting… how did you deal with overwhelm?

“I was very overwhelmed at the beginning. I wanted to connect with people straight away and had that expectation on myself to respond. At one point I was doing 10-15 a week, 3-4 a day. I realised that I didn’t need to put that time pressure on myself, and started to prioritise the connections. It didn’t matter if I didn’t connect with people I didn’t know for a month or so. Plus people change things. I just had to be patient with myself.”

Did the gloom of impostor syndrome creep in? If so, how did you keep it at bay?

Jane grabbing a virtual coffee with Pioneera’s Dane Alexander.


“The impostor syndrome lasted for a little bit. It was intimidating at first. But the catch ups were one-on-one, somewhat personal and direct. People were quite vulnerable and open to talking about things they wouldn't normally talk about in that situation. Once you start working through it, and having these types of conversations, they’re no longer intimidating or scary.” Jane is grabbing a virtual coffee with Pioneera’s Dane Alexander.

What were some obscure/surprising coffee experiences?

“I talked to an engineer in Korea who just wanted to reach out. I think that they were just looking for comfort to a certain extent. Another interesting one was a guy I met in Melbourne in lockdown. We were talking about swimming, and he took his laptop outside and showed me his pool. He’d rigged up a band so he could swim on the spot in his pool in the middle of winter in Melbourne.

“There was also an exec coach. She was great, actually. Within about 10 min, she paraphrased and reframed what I was doing in a way that sounded really structured and planned and beneficial. That really helped.”

What are some unexpected positives you found during this  time?


“I started doing the Manly to Shelly Beach swim. A couple of the people I met were swimmers and they were challenging me to give it a go, and some people I knew locally had done it. That’s been a great benefit!”

“Having connection with people in this environment helped me stay positive, to keep learning, and to stay busy and motivated. Which is not something I had planned.”

Now that you’re employed in a new role, how has this experience changed your approach to work-life balance?

“Going from not working to suddenly working and sitting in front of a screen all day wasn’t good. I went a little bit crazy. I’m now beginning to recognise that and trying to structure things in the middle of the day like boxing or swimming or making sure I don’t have a meeting scheduled when my daughter comes home from school. When you’re not in an office 50-60 hours a week, that flexibility is really great!”

What are your key takeaways from this experience?

1. Value relationships

“It’s been a really valuable, worthwhile exercise, because I’ve had some amazing breadth and depth of conversation. It’s just been incredible to connect with so many people over this period in such strange circumstances. And I feel like there was value in every connection.”

“Think about how you develop, and how you nurture those relationships, because they are really important.”

2. Don’t be afraid to say YES


“I just said YES to lots of different things. Just keeping my options open, because that’s what it would take. Because I’ve had so many conversations in this environment meeting strangers, this has also really helped me in meeting new people in my new role. I’m not worried or scared at all about it. I’ve done it a lot, and that experience is really helping me now.”

3. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can lead to growth

“The biggest thing I got out of this was people are very vulnerable and open and really happy to have conversations about, not just work stuff, but how people are going with their families and their environment. It’s really opened me up to new opportunities and new ideas.

“I’ve done a couple of podcasts and been interviewed a couple of times. I’ve done a bit of that before but not as much around this particular topic. And I feel like it’s an important topic. It’s not like a work capability or work skill. I feel like this is a different form of leadership and it’s important.”

“It takes as long as it takes – be gentle on yourself”

This conversation was brought to you by Pioneera.

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