Some musings on ‘Career’



What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be everything. The furthest back I can remember is about 8 or 9 when I wanted to be a florist. I used to make crappy little crafty things – stationery sets, photo frames with shells stuck on them, etc, and tried to sell them to family friends. Didn’t exactly make a fortune there. I wanted to be a writer for awhile, and for a period in about 1989 I was sure I was going to be the next Enid Blyton. Even wrote her a letter once to warn her she had competition – shame she was long dead and couldn’t read it. Somewhere along the way the creative drive dwindled and I wanted to be just like Jennifer Kyte (be nice, it was the 90s), and then for most of my teen years I vascillated between law and journalism.

Eight years of Uni and five years of ‘real job’ later, I can proudly announce (why proudly? dunno, just seemed to fit) that I’m none of those things. In fact I’m not really a ‘thing’ at all. That question, ‘what do you do’ is difficult to answer, because I don’t have a label as such. When I was studying and tutoring at the same time, the answer to that inevitable question would be “I’m a PhD student and a University tutor” and there were plenty of people who didn’t know what a PhD was. Then when I went into consulting, my first ‘real’ job, post-Uni, I’d answer honestly enough that I was a consultant. And then have to spend 10 minutes explaining what that means (fair enough, it’s kind of a nothing term). Now that I work in research administration, it’s probably even more obscure to the average punter. Not niche, exactly, just another job title that needs to be couched in plenty of explanation. I usually just name the University I work at and only go into more depth if I’m talking to someone who actually cares about what I do for a living.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to answer “I’m an XXX” but then I think, what happens when you want to change careers? Is it easier or harder to explain, that “I was an XXX and now I’m doing XXX”? If you’ve had a work identity, maybe it would be harder to cut ties with that? I’ve seen research that shows that the average Gen X and Y (and I’m right on the cusp, if you care) will have 3 distinct careers in their lifetime.

I’m starting to appreciate the fluidity of my career path as it flows along because I don’t know where it’s going to take me and I’m unlikely to become trapped in a particular job as long as I focus on building skills that are easily transferrable. I may not have ‘a’ passion, or a goal I’m shooting for, but maybe that’s a good thing because then I don’t have to deal with what happens after you reach that goal and then see thirty years of same-ness stretching out before you. I do sometimes wonder whether there’s a passion or a career-destiny waiting for me out there somewhere and I’m just not brave enough to take the leap of faith required to look for it?

Whatever the case may be I have come to a decision of sorts recently regarding career options and that is to do an MBA. It’s been 5 years since I finished studying and the truth is that I really miss it. Juggling work and school was a way of life for so long that now I get a little ‘first-world-problem-ish’ about the spare time I have these days. I did my VCE at night school while working full time in a law firm and although it was a drag at times I really loved walking into the class at 6pm at night, twice a week (especially in winter when there was a warm cosy familiarity about it), after a long day at work, and letting my nerd off her leash.

My boss has been particularly encouraging about the MBA and having done one herself found it really challenging and rewarding. For someone like me with a social science background, the grounding it will give me in all things business and economics will come in verrry handy! I’m a little nervous about the commitment, but the way the Melbourne Business School MBA (the one I’m applying for – it’s the best in the country so I figure if I’m going to do this I might as well do it properly!) works is that you have to do the Postgrad Diploma in Management first, which is the first 9 of the 20 subjects required for the MBA. If I can at least get through 9 subjects then I’ve got a piece of paper for it and can transfer over to the MBA to do the remaining 11 subjects if I want to. If I get accepted, the first subject is The World of Management, which has to be done over a week full time in late August. The thought of taking a week off work to sit in a classroom with brand-new textbooks and learn shit is RIDICULOUSLY EXCITING. I’m really looking forward to the challenge, the networking opportunities it will provide, and the skill-development which I can apply right now, in my current job, as well as round out my skill set for future career options.

The application process is online to start with, and one of the things to complete are some personal statements. I found the first one particularly useful because it forced me to think about what I really value about work. What do I want to do, not just what do I think is a useful activity or what do I think I’m good at. And what do I really value in a job? I know I have to feel like there’s a point – that I’m adding value, and I’m not just going to be on this earth for an indeterminate period of time chewing up resources and being generally useless. Marrying my reasonably broad set of skills and interests with the need for purpose into a Statement of Career Goals was challenging, but I’ve done my best, and here it is: *Deep breath*

My long term career goals are to work in a management position for a consulting company, research organisation, not for profit organisation, policy unit or government department where the overall mission is related to social justice and social outcomes.

It’s not very sexy, but it’ll do, for now 😉



UPDATE – July 12th: My application has been assessed and they’ve asked me to sit a maths test to demonstrate that I can handle the quantitative aspects of the course. The test is next week. Blurgh.


Just a little hiking story

ImageRecently my Mum and her partner bought a cabin down the beach, intended to be used as a family holiday house and I think it’s fair to say we were pretty stoked by this (‘Going to Bonnie Doon’ anyone?).  It’s not luxury but it’s comfy and well equipped and set in gorgeous surrounds. FF and I headed down there Friday night for a bit of much needed R & R after an exhausting couple of weeks. Work has been a little nuts, trying to get my head across a new project, and FF had finished his last exam. So this weekend we knew we had to get out of the city.

Nikki Gemmell, of The Bride Stripped Bare infamy is one of my favourite authors, although I don’t love all her books equally. There’s a line from her book Shiver, about a Sydney journalist who takes a job travelling on a mission to Antarctica, (I’ve just spent 20 minutes trying to find the exact line and couldn’t, grrrrr), where she’s standing on the rail of the ship feeling the city being sandblasted off her skin by the Antartic wind and that line and the feeling it evokes has always stayed with me. That’s what we wanted this weekend – sandblasting.

So yesterday we drove to Erskine Falls in the Greater Otway National Park and hiked from there to Blanket Creek picnic ground and back again – 8km return. It was wonderful. We frollicked, took photos of random mushrooms and new ferns, drank the raindrops that were hanging off the edges of fern fronds and leaves, looked inside fallen trees and just generally pretended to be intrepid explorers. We didn’t pass a single other person on the track the whole time, which of course gave us plenty to feel self-righteous about. A conversation about what those ‘non-hiking, non-nature-loving douchebags’ were probably doing instead of being great-outdoorsy like us, may have been had.

Funny how something as simple as going for a bushwalk can feel like a holiday, isn’t it? Stripping the day right back to its simplest pleasures can be amazing. We stopped at Blanket Creek for lunch of ham sandwiches and water eaten under a shelter watching the rain, followed by a wee in the long-drop dunny, and then hiked back to the car. After hours of tramping around and smelling damp earth (and resisting the temptation to rub my face in it) it was home for a shower, a bbq and a boardgame. The cabin has no TV or internet – bliss.

I don’t know about you lot, but when I get home from a holiday or even a weekendaway like this one I’m determined to bottle that feeling, bring some of it back with me but I’m never really sure how. What could I do this week to make that feeling last? Walk to work every day, even in the rain? Make sure I take a proper lunch break each day and go for a walk, if I can? Something I can reaffirm my commitment to doing is not having the TV on unless there’s something I specifically want to watch, and most nights there’s actually nothing.

So to all my hundreds of blog followers (haha), what are your ideas for bottling that holiday feeling?