Today’s a pretty exciting day for me. Today I got my first award! And it’s a restaurant voucher so I’m planning to eat a lot of smashed avo.
Now, I’m not really sure what was said at this conference, I’m writing this in Paris on a vacation (Louvre selfie, anyone?) but I know it was for my work in championing diversity – it seriously lifted my spirits when I was awake at 3.30am suffering chronic jet lag… Breakfast wasn’t until 7 and it was a painful wait. To those in the room the award was for a successful women’s conference I put on this year, but those close to me knew it was for two years of hard work channeled towards my purpose.
Quite frankly, I thought someone would’ve noticed long before now – mostly because two years ago I was disproportionately younger, and when one of our fresh grads came to seek advice on how they could create their impact, I realized there are a few common themes.
So to anyone new in their career wanting to champion a cause, I have a few (hundred) words of advice I’d like to share:
1. Just start
There is no magic recipe, you just have to start! I’ve seen a lot of people ‘start’ by finding a project team, creating an extensive written plan and then… Tumbleweeds. If you really love this cause, make an educated guess and have a crack. Quick ways to gather insights can be to run surveys, or grab coffee with people who represent your target audience. Remember, people love to talk about themselves (we’re all guilty of it) and will more than happily sit down and share insight if you tell them you’re keen to hear their opinion. And then, get on with it!
2. Two years to success
All people early in their career want to make a difference like yesterday. I held my first women’s event two years ago and I honestly had no idea whether to call the thing a success until now. Two years later and it’s looking pretty different to my one woman operation back then. Now it’s a team sport. I’ve heard of people worrying that adding a team will dilute from the cause or recognition (see below: this one is a moot point). You’ll find a team of people that you trust over time – you just need to find the right people, and that’ll take two years as well, so don’t rush.
3. Don’t do it for the recognition
It’s unbelievably obvious when you’re not genuinely passionate about something. I got little internal recognition for the first two years of my work, speaking engagements, internal events, external events and I was resilient to that because I did the work I deemed important for the kind of world I want to live in. I literally live and breathe this. I talk about it with my mum, I talk about it with my housemates/friends and I challenge my own mindset about gender diversity regularly.
4. Be consistent, it’s a marathon
I’ve always been a ‘big bang’ person because I’ve always loved the performing arts. I’ve always thought, ‘it’s on the day that counts.’ You turn up and practice every day to prepare, but it’s your moment that people remember you by. Frankly, that’s totally untrue. The ‘moment’ is a bonus – it’s all the hard work that counts. I committed to quarterly events, speaking when given the opportunity and an annual Women’s conference. I’ve stuck to that and while a single one of those events really put my work on the map, it’s been all the things in between that really brought that together.
5. Create your own mission and choose your adventure
Your values are your compass – and this goes for all your work – know them and life becomes much easier to navigate. You know what to say yes to, and what to say no to. I’ve taken on a lot of things in the last two years, perhaps too many, but when starting a passion project, the reality is you have a job (you know, the one that’s paying you?) to turn up for every day. So I’ve had to figure out what projects align with my goal, to support gender diversity. From there, it’s your adventure to choose – and an adventure it is.
So go forth, take your energy and create change. You won’t always get it ‘right’ the first time but who cares, you’ve got plenty time.
Go be a champion!
The Real Millennial
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