Career Advice With Colleen

By Jocelyn Airth

As I punch in the string of digits belonging to my Grandparents’ landline up in Old Bar, I know exactly what my Grandma is doing. She’ll be perched on a beige leather arm chair, knitting to the beat of Phil Gould’s commentary of this afternoon’s NRL Bulldogs game.

Grandma answers the phone with a warm, “Hello love!”

I ask about Grandpa, my cousins, and her ginger cat. She rants about how terrible the Bulldogs are playing and vows to never watch another game of NRL (but we both know that’s a lie). I ask if I can interview her for this blog post. She agrees, of course, without hesitation.

You see, I’m in awe of my Grandma. She’s the most intelligent person I know – literally the only reason the ‘girls’ beat the ‘boys’ in Trivial Pursuit every Christmas. She took on a workforce that offered limited opportunities to women. She’s living proof that it’s never too late to learn or to pursue your passion.

After working for years as a nurse and raising five kids, my Grandma went back to school and finished her HSC. She went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science and ended up teaching physics to nursing students at a Sydney-based university.

Grandma then completed her Masters in both Physics and Astronomy. She has finished fifteen (and counting) courses online, ranging from astrophysics to ancient history. AND… she’s immensely happy!


So why not pick my Grandma’s brain for a bit of career and life advice?

Never let the fact that gender inequality exists in an industry stop you from following your passion

“Don’t think of a discipline as being ‘male’.  You can be anything they are. Just go for it and don’t let anyone put you down.”

“When I was working at uni, a man with the same qualifications as me, doing the same job as me, was paid more than I was. Women still suffer discrimination in different jobs – especially male-dominated ones.”

But luckily,

“Things are starting to change gradually. More women are in positions of authority, but in a lot of professions, there’s still a glass ceiling.”

Find people who inspire you

“There are many brilliant scientists in Australia who are women. Read up on Cathy Foley from the CSIRO. Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize for Physics AND chemistry. She’s the only person do so and she’s a woman.”

Compassion is important in any job, but particularly nursing

“While studying to be a nurse, I learnt the importance of discipline, focus and dedicating yourself to learning. When working as a nurse, compassion and consideration is vital.”

Whatever path you choose, there will be ups and downs

“I also have many wonderful memories as a nurse. The camaraderie of living with 300 like-minded girls, chasing a naked man down the street, trying to shut up a man singing his head off in a 20-bed ward at 3am in the morning.”

It’s never too late to learn and pursue your passions

“It was difficult going back to study. Fitting everything in together with looking after a family was time consuming. But, the family turned out to be a great help, as of my daughters had just done the HSC and was a great teacher.”

Having a positive outlook can not only help you, but the people around you as well

“Nursing taught me to be thankful for  good health and gives one the feeling of satisfaction when caring for people. Staying positive is helpful to your patients and your own well-being.”

“I have very special memories of two patients, a very old man and a young boy. Both sadly died, but both had the most amazing outlook on life and I cherish their memories even today.”

And her final piece of advice?

“Follow your passions. It is easy to follow your passions, because it is doing what you enjoy. It’s like that old saying ‘if you enjoy what you are doing you will never work a day in your life’.”

Jocelyn Airth is the Social Media Intern at UTS:Careers. She is passionate about all things digital, and wants to pursue a career in sports media.

Featured image provided by interviewee.

Author: Mia Casey

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