20 Nov A patchwork career isn’t a bad thing
Julie Parker’s career has been a patchwork of different jobs and study opportunities, and that’s just the way she likes it.
“Rather than just pursuing a single career, I’ve focussed on pursuing things that I’m interested in at the time. That might not always look great to a recruiter, but on the flip side I think it reflects a lifelong love of learning,” Julie says.
When Julie attended a Mentor Walks event in Geelong last month, she believes it was somewhat fortuitous to be paired with Georgie Knight, a General Manager at GenU – an organisation that supports people with disabilities, the ageing and those experiencing disadvantage – because just that morning she had been thinking about the many women facing poverty.
“I have concerns about the number of women who are facing poverty or might have nowhere to live in the next 10-15 years. For example, if a woman who has spent a lot of her time caring for her family suddenly goes through a divorce, well, she might be left with the house but if she hasn’t got a career to fall back on, and a lack of superannuation funds, how’s that woman going to afford to pay for that house, or sustain herself on a pension after retirement?”
“That’s real. It’s happening. I decided it wasn’t going to happen to me.”
“When I turned 40, I decided to make a switch in my career. Basically, because I wanted to buy a house. I’d been having a great time, but I quickly realised I needed money and security. I had to find work that was less about paying for my art career and instead look for work that was going to sustain me.”
Finding the right path for you
Julie realised that even though she hadn’t taken a traditional pathway, she did have a lot to offer an employer. For starters, she’s acquired valuable skills through her creative practice as an artist, and she’s also spent 11 years running her own business – she knows how to get things done.
“I’ve built up this wealth of skills that were really useful in the workplace. I realised it was a case of me convincing people that I could do whatever they needed. They just had to ask me and trust me.”
Now that she’d realised what she had to offer, she came to Mentor Walks with a question that’s often on many women’s lips: How do I ask for more money or to be paid for what I’m worth?
“Georgie gave me some great advice and I’ve been leveraging that since. She said I needed to be a little more strategic and to remember that sometimes these things are a long game. Her advice really resonated with me and helped me to make some decisions that had been fermenting for some time.”
During the time of Julie’s walk, she had a couple of employment options on the table; a six month contract in a creative, strategic role with the possibility of it turning into a permanent position, and a secure role doing something that she’s done before, but felt it may not have been as challenging or interesting.
In the end, she decided to go with the position that provided her with challenge. She was realistic about having to find a job that paid her mortgage, but the inner artist in her also encouraged her to find a job that would feed her soul.
“I felt more confident to make this decision after talking to Georgie that morning. I remember sitting on the rock at the foreshore in Geelong. The sun had come out – it was bitterly cold – and Georgie told me all about her experiences. She made it very real and warm; her path hasn’t been smooth either. It helped me realise that a career journey can be indirect for many.”
Mentoring for women doesn’t always happen in the workplace, says Julie. “I’ve seen good women leave workplaces because they’re not getting the support they need. Women need the help of other women.”
Since her walk, Julie says she has a better sense of self worth, which is something she’s previously struggled with.
“I’ve often thought, well I don’t have years and years of experience in such and such, so I might not be as good. But, as I said before, I’m just realising now that it’s really valuable to employers to be able to draw from a lot of different resources – my studies, my art practice, my business and now my corporate experience.”
Julie loves to connect people with one another. She’s a mentor herself, and often supports other creative types through their career journey.
“The glass ceiling is still there. We’re trying, but there’s still a long, long way to go. I’m trying to make that change happen by supporting the younger women that I work with. I need to be mentored so I can help other women. It’s all about paying it forward.”