The Inbetween: sharing the parts that usually get left out of success stories

If I told you I have had the privilege of interviewing people like Christyl Johnson,  Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments at NASA and I’m graduating my degree with two years working experience, it sounds impressive. But, you don’t get to see to triumphs, failures, burnouts and determination that got me there.

So, as my graduation draws closer, I have begun reflecting on my university journey and the personal and professional growth it has afforded me.

For anyone who asks me: “how did you do it?”, my usual answer is hard work. But, the reality is, it was lots and lots of applications, bungled interviews, many rejections, some acceptances and a few instances of overcoming tricky situations.

I think it’s most appropriate, to begin with my anxiety-ridden 19-year-old self. She was eager to reach her endgame, and she set to it straight away…

By the spring of my first year, I had met with a career advisor, persisting that it was an excellent idea for me to do an internship so soon. So, I applied for about 30 of them. And, I got one response (yay)!

At the time, I was interested in becoming a special effects editor. I found myself working for a live breakfast show in the prop department. It meant 4am rises and an hour and a half commute only to work unpaid doing nothing of relevance to my career. I genuinely enjoyed the experience, exhausting as it was. I believe it was the beginning of my transformation into a resilient young woman able to deal with adverse conditions with confidence. And I can safely say this can be put down to a single quiche. (But I won’t go into that…).

Fast forward one year, and I was back on the internship trail, a little discouraged but nonetheless eager for experience. Again, I applied for many positions, and I got one. So, I took it.

This time I found myself commuting two hours in lovely Sydney morning traffic and two hours back in the charming evening rush. But, this time, I learned valuable skills, and despite feeling out of place and unsure of my value as a future employee, I gave everything a go and took every opportunity to learn.

And, it was around this time that I burned out. I was at university full time, working my casual job 25 hours a week, tutoring to make ends meet and committed to the internship. It was a lot! Again, a lot of people said “how do you do it??”, and the honest answer is: I do not know!

Naturally, as if my plate wasn’t full enough, I took on ANOTHER internship in January 2019 which briefly overlapped with the last. This experience was fantastic. I gained so much knowledge and even landed my first paid position.

I then took a short break to travel (and study, of course). This was perhaps the most rewarding experience of them all. I made new friends, experienced a new country and learned a lot about my new passion: marketing.

I returned from my trip in August 2019 and got straight back into it. I entered my second paid position and at the same time, went back to the job I gained from my Jan-19 internship.

This was a lot to juggle, but I told myself I could handle it. I soon found out I could not. I had stretched myself so thin that my mind was too sparse to entirely focus on one task at a time. And this cost me a job.

It was disappointing because I set myself to such a high standard, but it was a valuable lesson. I learned the hard way to stick to my passions, and it’s okay to say no (or I’ll regret it later!).

During my time at my second paid position, I grew immensely as a person. For the first time, I was thrust into a professional environment, given responsibility, and accountability and expected to speak my mind. This was very confronting.

I could spend a lot of time explaining the compilation of small moments that helped me grow, but I’d like to share one prominent one:

In November 2019, I was required to do media coverage of an event. I had never done this before. I believed the best way forward was to over-prepare. So, I produced media bios, pre-compiled video content and did as much research as possible. Looking back, thank goodness I did!

We were set to interview many high profile speakers, a job which I assumed a more experienced worker would do. Unfortunately, my senior employee was really sick and had to go home, which meant I was suddenly faced with over 10 interviews with significant individuals and I had not a day of journalism study under my belt.

But there was one thing I never did: give up. So, I mustered up all my courage, and I did the interviews. I am sure they weren’t excellent, but everyone seemed happy with them. And, thank goodness for that research because I had a few questions that the speakers were impressed by!

Now, all of these achievements sound great in retrospect, but I must address the elephant in the room. To have these opportunities and to work so hard, I had to make sacrifices. At times, I could go days without communicating to others, weeks without seeing my friends and my partner and months without taking a day for myself. While I was highly successful at work, my self-care lacked, and my anxiety suffered for it. My ability to block everything out and focus on my work was incredible, but it as a person, I was not my best self. This is an unfortunate imbalance I am still working every day to fix.

Fast forward, and I am the Executive Marketing Coordinator for the UOWDMS, have been happily working as a Social Media Specialist for 6 months, and better achieving my work/life balance! I have also been fortunate enough to participate in a few digital media projects and represent the Bachelor of Media and Communications degree at Orientation Day events.

If there’s one thing I’m thankful for, it’s the countless people that gave me a chance to learn and grow both as a professional and as a person. And if there’s one thing I can implore you to take away from this, it would be to not judge a person by their success or lack thereof, nor compare yourself to them. We don’t know the journeys people take, and the many obstacles they’ve overcome to be the person they are today.

Looking back on the person I was four years ago when I began my university journey, we are worlds apart. She would never have believed the things she would achieve. But, I would encourage her to take breaks and stop to smell the roses. After all, the end game is great but what’s important is the in-between.

Let me know what you think!

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Cover image by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

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