The importance of heroes to shape and inspire your career

If you’re struggling with direction in your career right now, reflecting on who your heroes are can give you the inspiration and guidance you need to create your next chapter, says What She Did Next founder and two-time career changer Jacqui Ooi (pictured with colleagues on a work trip to Uganda in 2013).

I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently that talked about the role of heroes in our careers, and it got me thinking about who my heroes are and how they’ve influenced my career choices.

When I was younger, my heroes were definitely in the musical arena. I wanted to be Janet Jackson (or one of her dancers would have sufficed!) and even went to a performing arts high school… but that dream fell by the wayside after school finished and I became a journalist instead.

Then in my 20s, I wanted to be Angelina Jolie, travelling around the world with the UN supporting refugees. It might sound flippant but I had a genuine interest in that space (still do) and seeing her in that role really inspired me. I wanted an adventurous life and I wanted to help people, and so I did end up changing careers into the international aid sector and worked for a global children’s charity for about eight years.

Now my heroes tend to be women in politics and women bravely speaking up for change, and also women who aren’t afraid to live their lives a little differently. This has influenced my latest career shift to step away from office life and work for myself, taking on projects that amplify women’s voices and stories, and starting What She Did Next to support other women on their career change journeys.

Over to you…

So if you’re struggling with direction in your career right now, have a think about who your heroes are. It might just give you some clues about the strengths, qualities and achievements that matter to you – which, in turn, can help you see what you want your next steps to be.

As the article says:

“A hero represents a possible self. One that can solve the problems and overcome the barriers we perceive in our existence. They can foster hope and aspiration. They inspire us to action, and can be a touchstone or reference point when developing and pursuing our career goals.”

The best part is that we’re seeing women all around us now doing incredible things and choosing all sorts of different ways to live and work. So what resonates with you? Who do you aspire to be?

Jacqui Ooi is the founder of What She Did Next. A two-time career changer, she made the leap from magazines to not-for-profits in her 30s and from salaried work to self-employment in her 40s. She believes career change skills are essential in a fast-changing world and women should have the knowledge and support to take advantage of all the opportunities available to us now.

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