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Five things in five years (advice to my younger self)

Cher Keane

Associate Director

It’s been five years since I moved on from my corporate career roots and found my home in the creative industry. It’s been a time of huge change in my personal life as well as professional, and I gave a little thought to what I’ve learnt along the way, and what I would say to my younger self…

1. Your 20s should be a time of discovery…

Marketing strategies for big businesses wasn’t a conscious career choice. I fell into it and that was that. I spent my 20s working in London and Sydney in fast-paced, big budget, big salary roles. The high level of responsibility resulted in me being pretty good at what I do now, and I’m eternally grateful for how I spent those years.

It was fun, it was pressured, and it paid off, but throughout my time at banks and professional services firms, in skyscrapers amongst a sea of grey, I never looked sideways and wondered what else I could be doing. Which is utterly bonkers considering my social circle was filled with musicians, tattoo artists, filmmakers, novelists and designers. I was focused on climbing the ladder in front of me, instead of seeing what else was out there. My advice to my 20-something self would be to look around more and maybe I would have found my home amongst the creatives sooner.

2. Motherhood vs career – you can have it all, but it’s rare

I left the corporate world for several reasons, but the deciding factor was after I’d had a baby and asked for Friday afternoons off (crazy, I know). My boss agreed, but an older, male partner decided this was an utterly ridiculous idea, so had me present to him as to how I could make up for this three and a half hours of time (in a job which I regularly worked 11+ hour days and on weekends). I then received a letter in the post from him a few weeks later to deny my request. He simultaneously broke the company’s own HR rules, and reminded me that misogyny was alive and well.

I was pretty devastated. Then I found a company that got it. They get that you can be shit hot at your job, and be a mum. They let me go to school plays and watch my child sing woefully out of tune with his chums (or be first lobster in the nativity). They let me work weird hours to accommodate the incredibly inconveniently timed school day. They get it if my kid’s school calls because he’s just thrown up on himself, I need to go. Because they get that if someone is good at their job, they’ll do it well, and they’ll do it even better, and more loyally, if they’re also being supported.

3. Businesses should break the mould with their hires

If you’re a creative agency, you should try hiring someone with a corporate background – and vice versa. I didn’t fit the mould of people that worked at my new place. I signed off my emails with ‘warm regards’ and the thought of wearing Dr Martens in an office was as alien a concept as to me turning up naked. But they saw I had a way of thinking and a commercial mindedness that could be good, if I could shake off the ‘circling back’ and ‘touching base’. Hiring someone from a different path, as long as they’re bringing transferable skills, might just bring a fresh perspective and some new ideas too.

4. Even if you move to Mars, you should remember the good Earthlings

Ah, Lizzie. We spent our 20s drinking Sauvignon Blanc, running marathons and buying expensive office wear. We were so ingrained in each other’s lives (because our entire lives were spent at the office) and then we weren’t. We went our own ways – different industries, houses in the ‘burbs and several babies later, we’re back working together (with slightly less running and maybe a few more negronis after the wine). No matter what big changes you make, always remember the good people, because at some point, they might just join you on the flip side.

5. Diet Coke is king, apparently

And lastly, and absolutely the least important observation I have, is that Diet Coke has been consumed more than water by every team I’ve ever been in. Is it a PR team requirement? Is it the fuel of marketeers everywhere? Who knows, but it’s here to stay.

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