Between self-help books, memoirs, inspiring interviews and Pinterest quotes, there's an awful lot of career advice out there — particularly aimed at women — which, let's face it, can make it tricky to decipher the useful from the, well, not-so-useful.
In this time-poor era, where we're still facing issues around the gender pay gap and women are largely underrepresented in STEM jobs — despite there being a growing demand for workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries — we're cutting through the clutter and going straight to the top, asking five strong, successful and smart Australian women to share the career advice that's stood them in good stead.
1. Embrace the challenges
Interior designer Shaynna Blaze may be a familiar face thanks to The Block, but her career wasn't an overnight success story. When Blaze started out, interior styling wasn't a well-known job, but she stuck to her guns and turned challenges into opportunities — something she attributes her success to.
Her advice to others? "Not everyone is going to like what you do and you're going to be challenged every day, so embrace it! Because that's how you get great results."
2. Don't buy into stereotypes or stigma
Life could've looked differently for Alexandra Kite, a microbiologist at Ego Pharmaceuticals, formulators of Elucent Skincare, if she'd let stereotypes and stigma stand in the way of her STEM career. "In general, science and STEM-related careers are predominantly male-led. Perhaps this is partly a result of stereotyping and that young people have a perception that certain genders work certain jobs. For example, a study found that two thirds of children aged between nine and 11 drew a man when asked to draw a scientist," she says.
Passionate about changing the conversation around women and STEM, and inspiring the next generation of female scientists, Kite is one of the judges of Bauer Media's #STEMstart competition, in partnership with Elucent Skincare, which is offering a $20,000 grant to one Australian woman to help her pursue a career in STEM.
Kite's advice to young women, whether they're working in STEM-based careers or not, is simple: "Be confident in yourself and your capabilities, volunteer your time if you can, build good bridges — my dad has always told me that every person you meet is a potential door to a new opportunity — and find a workplace that fosters equal opportunity for its employees." Kite has happily found that — and "a newfound sense of appreciation for skincare" — working for Ego Pharmaceuticals.
3. Learn how to say no
Writer and actress Michelle Law is known for breaking down gender barriers in her industry. Over the course of her career, Law has gone from strength-to-strength — writing her own play, Single Asian Female, and debuting her first mini-series, Homecoming Queens, last year — but she's the first to admit that her dedication to her work has also been her downfall.
"I'd like to stress the importance of a good work/life balance. I have workaholic tendencies and I need to remember taking a break should be a part of your job," says Law. The creative also encourages women to accept that it's okay to say no — not just at work, but in your personal life, too.
4. Accept that you've still got a lot to learn
She may be one of Australia's most successful and well-respected broadcast journalists, but Leigh Sales' journey to triumph hasn't always been smooth sailing. Early on in her career, Sales was told that she didn't have the face or voice for television. Taking that jab with a grain of salt, the veteran reporter dug deep, worked hard, and now graces TV screens most evenings interviewing big names like Shane Warne, Hillary Clinton and Michael Caine.
For young women about to embark on their career, or those who find themselves at a crossroads, Sales reiterates the importance of enjoying what you are doing in the moment and learning from those around you. "The journey is long so you can't always be focused on the destination, you have to enjoy the journey itself," she says. "[Also] try to work with people whom you admire and from whom you can learn. And be open to learning. You only realise later how much you didn't know."
5. Find a mentor
The creative force behind Qantas' Flying Art series planes, Ros Moriarty, is a former journalist turned author, Aboriginal literacy advocate and managing director of Indigenous design company Balarinji.
Not short on success, Moriarty credits her achievements — which include being inducted into the Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame — to having great female mentors, both young and old, in her life. "I think mentoring is not just someone who's trod it all before, I think it's someone who will challenge you on the way you think about something," says Moriarty. "They're the best mentors."
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