Personal Development: Who Makes it Happen?

by Emma Grey (Life Balance Specialist)

On Saturday night, my daughter and I hung out with some friends and ended up watching the classic 80s movie: Working Girl. We giggled through the time-warp hilarity of teased hair, parrot earrings, shoulder pads and dot-matrix printers, and then the film nudged us with a couple of timeless points in the closing scene.

Melanie Griffiths’ character, Tess, from the typing pool, gobbled up an ‘entry level position’ with the big conglomeration with which she’d brokered a huge business deal (while posing as her boss). Despite already proving herself as a strategic thinker, she believed the position she was being offered was at ‘secretary’ level, and she took it anyway—willing to work up the ranks from scratch.

It reminded me of when I left uni with an honours degree and a grad dip, and was offered a 6-week research scholarship over the summer (which was great fun and mentally challenging) then accepted a ‘trainee’ level position in the Australian Public Service straight afterwards (below what was then an ‘APS1’). It was really for school levers. My new boss said, ‘there’s not enough work here, and when there is, it’s filing, photocopying and faxing.’ It was soul-destroying.

People asked why I wasn’t holding out for a Graduate Entry position, but I was always of the ‘foot in the door’ mentality. Within a few months, I’d won a promotion five levels above where I’d started, in an area that I loved. The position may never have come up, had I been ‘holding out’ for the right job.

Tess, in Working Girl, had in fact misunderstood the position she’d been offered. She wasn’t a secretary – she was entry-level management. I defy anyone who has ever started a new job, whether a weekend job at Bakers’ Delight (as my first job was), or a senior role in a blue-chip company, not to watch that closing scene and be right there with Tess as she walks into her new office for the first time. Thinking:

  • What am I doing?
  • Can I do this?
  • Can they tell how uncertain I am?
  • Is this real?
  • How long til I’m ‘found out’?

And also: ‘Woohooooo!’

The film’s message is about making things happen instead of waiting for things to happen to you. Tess makes things happen through a mix of having a great idea and the gumption to run with it.

As you might have seen last week, I took a gamble and sent an email to this list about wanting to write content for other business owners. In about an hour, I’d had responses from five new clients, with several more queued for later in the year. One of them said, ‘I’ve been wanting to hire you to do this for ages, but didn’t know you were interested’.

People aren’t mind-readers (well, maybe some are). They need us to take risks and put ourselves out there, open to criticism and failure and all those knowledge-gathering stepping stones disguised as setbacks. We need to be like Tess (without the lying and posing as another person stuff!) and step up, and forward and on stage and into the spotlight where things happen. Every so often, we need to say ‘Look at moi!’

Sometimes it’s from the wings that we decide that we’ve failed. In truth, it’s that we never really tried…

Recommended Articles by Emma Grey:

5 Ways to Find an Extra Hour Every Day

9 Doubts that Most of us Keep Private

For more tips on life balance, time management and self-esteem visit where you can download a free eBook on the 7 Types of Busy.



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