Learning to fly
I moved out of home when I was 17. I made the decision to leave my parents in Singapore and return to Australia alone to complete my schooling. When I finished Year 12 I was shocked. Having been in the safety of educational institutions for the previous 13 years, I felt like a small bird being thrown from its nest and hoping that it would fly. “Good luck - but figure it out yourself”. This is a consistent message I have gotten in my life and it might be the best one.
I’ve never wanted to follow the traditional learning pathway - exiting a secondary educational institution, only to enter a tertiary one. My experiences at #school left me wary of how this would benefit me in life. I figured out that I am a #reallifelearner and things like #apprenticeships were better suited to me. This helped me relax into the idea that I could return to education if and when I wanted to. And, when I understood how I could apply it.
When I was starting my time in the #workforce I had ZERO experience. I walked into a job in fine dining. (The only claim that I had to being a waitress was being from an excessively large Irish catholic family. I had to learn how to carry multiple plates out of necessity.) In the interview, I said something like “it’s not that I don’t have any experience, I have some, but you can teach me the rest”. I honestly don’t know how I did it, but I started the next day.
I spent the next 6 years working mainly in hospitality, included a relocation from Australia to London, and a stint as a science performer (or what I more accurately have on my CV, a ‘Mad Scientist’).
In these short years, I have experienced the following across two hemispheres:
organizational culture based on fear - I quickly learned that mistakes were not an option. As a result, I didn’t find it unusual that my bosses expected that I know how to do things their way, without any formal training.
verbally aggressive bosses - who struggled to separate their own frustrations from their ability to manage their team
age discrimination – I was a team leader and my boss assumed I was ten years older than I was. When they found out, I experienced feedback that was in relation to my character and not of my sound performance
sexual harassment - which is always a challenge to claim and own your space. It’s horrible, and should never happen of course, but it can be an experience to help learn how to speak for your needs and I used my experiences to do so.
If I had any preparation for the workforce, it was from my father. He taught me that you had to hold yourself with confidence. Fake or not, people respect #confidence.
While a "fake it 'til you make it" mindset can get you so far, my ability to genuinely #care about what I do gets me the rest of the way. I am very proud of my work. I hold myself to a high standard. Slapdash is never an option. The moment that I feel my sense of care is slipping, I know that something must change in order for me to continue my high standard.
It’s interesting to think back to all the #businessleaders I have been exposed to and to compare them. The employers who made me feel as though I needed their approval to feel successful and safe, begrudgingly got my effort. But they lost the best thing that I can offer - my care. The people who get the most out of me, are the people who trust me and foster an environment where I’m encouraged try and fail safely.
I currently work as a Marketing and Communications Manager and content creator. This work allows me to combine a lot of my passions, primarily my love of storytelling. In my role I frequently find myself asking for permission to explore the depths of my creative mind, only to be met with the response “Daisy, you’re in charge. I trust you”. For me, this is a deeply refreshing response, as I’m reminded that I am in fact, capable and smart. The added bonus for my company is, they receive my increased effort, care and loyalty.
Reflecting on my career by writing this piece has been such a gift. I’ve actually been a real-life learner. I now speak proudly and assertively for my opinion at work. I can negotiate salary confidently and I’m learning that trial and error is the only way I improve. I’m grateful for all the good people I have encountered on my journey and also the bad ones. Together they’ve helped me realise that work should be a place where we can grow and learn, and I can feel safe, heard and valued and where I am free of fear and harassment.
A deeply important aspect of any job search for me now is, can I follow this person and will they help me grow? As a young woman who never went to university and instead went straight into the workforce, it took me a moment to realise there are times where you have to take a job because you need the money, but if you have the luxury, find a leader that you want to build something great with.