From a young age, we are conditioned to have a fixed and certain view about our careers and the persona that society attaches to it. Questions like “what do you want to be when you grow up?” or “what does your partner do for a living?” all feed into this psyche. But this is dated and dangerous.
Gone are the days of a job for life, and thank God, how boring. Today we must all be ready to adapt and embrace change. The only certainty in our professional and personal life is that things will change whether we are ready or not. So instead of fighting it, make it happen the way you want. Consider the benefits of slash careers, write your own story and don’t be limited by the scepticism and fears of those around you. And remember, even when you feel lost and uncertain and second-guess yourself, don’t worry, it’s normal, we’ve all been there. Just hold strong and have faith in yourself and if all of that is too hard, then just pretend until your ego catches up to your success!
I wanted to be a famous actress
For me, the attributes of embracing change, remaining adaptable and having a love and understanding of language have all been integral to my career. These attributes were incubated in the performing arts. Yes, I wanted to be a famous actress. I know, not the most common starting point for a lawyer.
Or … maybe a lawyer
After studying performing arts at UWS Theatre Nepean and taking up acting, I then found myself
teaching … something I had never planned on doing. Then, with the intervention of a good friend, I decided to take the leap and study law.
“I remember being terrified because I really didn’t think I had the brainpower.”
I remember being terrified because I really didn’t think I had the brainpower. I was always the fun, bubbly, arty one … not the serious lawyer. Thankfully, my brain cells managed to multiply and I ended up practising law for about nine years before moving from the legal arm at one of the big four banks to the frontline as a bank manager.
Now I am thankful for the skills I’ve picked up along the way because they enhance my client-centric focus in my current role at Nexus.
Opportunity doesn’t knock, it whispers!
To me, life is like reading a book. You don’t turn to the last page to find out how it pans out. You want to see how it develops.
If someone pointed me out to you in the theatre while portraying Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and said, “Wow… she’d make a great general manager for a bank in 20 years’ time”, you’d laugh. For me, this is the most exciting thing about my career to date. I never saw any of it coming.
As my father once said to me, “opportunity doesn’t knock, it whispers, and you have to be listening.”
My journey into the law was amazing and a turning point for how I saw myself and my potential. Can you believe it? I was awarded first-class honours! And while I loved law and its practice, I didn’t like the way the traditional firms operated so, embracing change yet again, I moved to Hobart and began a PhD in bioprospecting.
“If someone pointed me out to you in the theatre while portraying Hermia in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and said, ‘Wow … she’d make a great general manager for a bank in 20 years’ time’, you’d laugh.
Eventually, I came back to Sydney and worked in a couple of law firms including Truman Hoyle, which embraced my non-traditional lawyer personality. The more I practised law the more I became interested in what my clients did. I used to call it the “so-what” factor.
The law books say you can’t do it, but so what?
Really … a banker?
I contemplated work in business and ended up as legal counsel at Westpac. My inquisitive nature is never quelled and I started looking on the bank’s intranet to better understand its business. I thought the frontline sales team could do with some co-ordinated support, so I put together a proposal for a new job for myself. It coincided perfectly with Gail Kelly’s move to create a customer-centric culture. A series of secondments upskilled me to the extent I was then appointed as the bank manager at Hurstville, one of the top four branches in the country.
“Everything I had learnt as a lawyer actually hindered me. I had to learn to retrain a lot of things, even just simple communication.”
It was amazing. I loved it. Again I could feel my brain cells multiplying. It was a completely different skill set. Everything I had learnt as a lawyer actually hindered me. I had to learn to retrain a lot of things, even just simple communication.
I realised that legal language is terrible. After my experience as a bank manager, I now approach it differently. I can appreciate the mindset you get into as a lawyer, it is challenging, but it doesn’t work for everyday Australians, and that is who we are servicing. Communication fascinates me and I learnt that bankers are very good communicators because they are sellers. Lawyers traditionally aren’t.
And back to law … but no longer a “handbrake!”
Now back working as a lawyer I appreciate just how difficult it is to run a business unit. It’s a completely different skill set and I have huge respect for my clients and the work they do. What we do as lawyers is such a tiny facet of their business. It’s not everything, not the be all and end all. When you’re in a law firm you can trick yourself into thinking it’s a really important thing. It’s not, and for business it’s a headache and they don’t even want to think about the headache. No one wants to know about it.
The challenge is to be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
When I was moving into the business arm of Westpac, the people who gave me a shot were more interested in my performing arts background. That’s what gave me the edge. My legal background was a concern to them. A lawyer in their minds was a handbrake. But a lawyer can be part of the solution.
What people think they need isn’t necessarily what they do need, and that’s where the skill set of the lawyer and the skill set of the banker come in. The theatrical background and love of teaching were integral to my success in the national manager role at Westpac, especially upskilling regional bank managers. Everything is simply a problem to be solved.
Many businesses and legal firms talk the talk when it comes to collaboration and collective wisdom, but few walk the walk. They baulk at bringing in people with different skill sets. That’s not the case at Nexus. It’s all about complete collaboration and striving for success. It’s all client-centric. Law is the only industry that thinks it doesn’t have to concentrate on customer service. My skill set from Westpac is a perfect fit – for me, the client is at the centre of everything.
Good business structure involves flexibility and strength. Those attributes apply to a good lawyer and a good law firm.
So remember … enjoy the journey, own your path and don’t apologise for taking a different route. Often it’s the choices that fill us with the most fear and make the least sense that end up defining our success and happiness.
What do you think about the prospect of sticking with one career for your entire professional life? Is the diversity and constant interest of a slash career something that interests and excites you? Let us know in the comments!