For a new entrant to the industry, it looks like being yourself is key to getting ahead. It’s a throwback to years gone by to suggest otherwise says Bella Masters.
My media career began in January 2020. A few short weeks later, Melbourne went into lockdown so, like most of you, I spent the better part of the last two years working from home. Now, for the first time, me and my fellow Gen Z cohorts are truly experiencing agency life.
You might have read about Gen Z having higher expectations for the workplace than the generations that came before. And it’s true we have entered the industry wanting to work for businesses that have shared values, prioritise mental health and offer flexible working arrangements.
The beautiful thing is, Covid lockdowns have put this on the radar for people of all ages. And while we’re all keen to find a better way of working, there are some differences of opinion between the generations, something that hit me during a presentation at my first industry conference.
The session on successful pitching advised women to “act like ladies”, not be “cute” and forget about nicknames.
I get that there was a time when women had to be buttoned up and professional at work, but when I look around and see the people making their mark on the industry, a key part of their success can be put down to being themselves.
There are plenty of big personalities in our industry and it seems to me like that has helped them to get where they are today. Would they have the connections and relationships if they had watered down who they are? I struggle to believe they would.
So much of today’s agency culture is geared towards encouraging inclusion and diversity and to me, that goes hand in hand with being yourself. Positive workplaces are built on authenticity and if the ideal version of professionalism fails to take this into account, the approach can come across as fake and disingenuous.
From what I have seen so far of the industry, it looks to me like more opportunities open up when you let your personality shine through. There needs to be an element of personality in our work, too, if we want it to stand out and cut through. Today’s media landscape couldn’t be more cluttered, so a cookie-cutter approach isn’t going to work.
Being yourself at work should extend to the way you speak. I try to keep the way I communicate and the vocabulary I use similar to what I would in my day-to-day life. Obviously, there are certain words you leave out when speaking to clients and there are nuances to the way you speak in a professional setting. But sticking with the theme of authenticity, the way you speak needs to be natural. We should all resist the temptation to use media jargon. Clients, colleagues and new people entering the industry will appreciate it.
From what I’ve seen, the industry has changed significantly for women in recent years. My colleague Sharni Ames has talked about a time when it was acceptable for men to comment openly on a woman’s figure and when the idea of juggling work and a family was inconceivable. But to suggest women should act like ladies in the workplace is a turn of phrase that is foreign to me. It’s so old-fashioned and medieval. Why should women have to act differently compared to men in the industry? There shouldn’t need to be any divide between the way we carry ourselves.
Granted, I’m new to the media world. But I’m just the tip of the Gen Z iceberg. More of my cohort are coming through and many share these attitudes. Just like flexible working arrangements, we’re keen to embrace a progressive and forward-thinking approach to work. And to me, that means being yourself. Don’t you agree?
Bella Masters is a Performance Manager at media agency Hatched.