Blond Ambition For More Than a 9 to 5

Recently I had an amazing night out in the West End watching 9to5, the musical theatre production named after the 1980s movie, starring Dolly Parton. As well as the sheer comedy genius, I thoroughly enjoyed the perspective on working life and I started to think about my career journey as a GenX.

In the 1980s as a pre-teen, I aspired to be an office worker. I wanted to work my way to the top with a savvy swagger and a coolness that would make the village I grew up in stop and take note of how to make it in life. I didn’t ever see or acknowledge the sexism, or class system that would potentially prevent me from landing a job, or getting promoted if I was lucky enough to get a job.

By the 1990s, I’d decided that I wanted to work in marketing. I wanted to change opinion, champion movements and leave a legacy by harnessing the power of a brand. Through school and university (not a red brick), I worked hard enough to jump through academic hoops to get an entry level job. It wasn’t what I really wanted, but I had ambition and I knew that I just needed to make, and take the opportunities that would present themselves. 

In the 2000s, I realised no one else had had the same dream as me. This was both a blessing and a curse. 

It’s amazing looking back as I was instrumental in changing the business and marketing processes for a relatively large publishing house. I had autonomy really early on in my career, and I learnt about managing multiple stakeholders. I’d become a solutions provider for my employer. But, because of the corporate culture, I quickly became a threat. It was their fear of the unknown – not knowing how or why the processes that I had implemented (although it really wasn’t rocket science) were working, not knowing how to measure my effectiveness as this was a totally new function, and not knowing how to manage me to ensure that I was being as productive as physically possible.

After a couple of years of being innovative in a conservative and traditional business I moved on, leveraging the many lessons I learned, and I landed my first managerial job in marketing. This process of learning, innovating, expanding my reach and remit became my career modus. Over the past 20 years, I’ve made myself redundant a few times, been made redundant a few more times and I’ve left companies under my own steam only when I’ve given and got all that I can from the experience of working within that brand.

Fast forward to 2019 and the world of work has thankfully changed. But, I wonder just how different or difficult it is for all those people out there who have a dream about what they want to be to find a company that’s accepting of their potential, rather than their (limited) experience? Are the innovative stars of tomorrow even able to express their ambition, potential and ideas to employers? Do you get an opportunity to really change the process, to bring in and develop new techniques into businesses looking to grow and thrive? If you’re a marketing grad, intern or just starting out in your career let me know how you’re finding your feet. I’d also love to hear from recruitment business managers about their mindset when recruiting!


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