Work the system

by - September 22, 2021

You know that feeling when you first download a new app and you're trying to puzzle out how it works? Or you’re a Mac user trying to navigate a Windows machine and vice versa? That confused feeling when tech illiterates can't get new technology working in their favour is how my immigrant parents felt when they fled home turf and wound up in wildly different countries to the community and culture they knew.

I was too small minded and inexperienced in my angsty teen years to respect my parents had risked their lives and left all they knew and loved behind. Instead, I found it frustrating my parents needed help navigating Australian society and that we were disadvantaged children of poor migrants, who didn't know how to make the system work in our favour.

Neither of my parents worked once we got to Australia. In Germany, Dad Pham was in the workforce until schizophrenia crippled his ability to hold down work, and Mum Pham was bullied out of a pharmacy by racist colleagues and customers. In Australia they went on the pension, and so didn't learn anything about the working environment to pass onto us kids.

It took my boss sitting me down and asking me what I wanted for myself a couple of years ago to make me actually think about career. I'd worked with him for years and he pointed out that I have exceptional achievement drive when it comes to my work, but zero achievement drive for myself personally. My immediate response was my parents are Buddhist, they raised us to appreciate what we have and to not want. Wanting things is a very Western culture thing. Though, I suppose, I live in Western society so I went away from that meeting and had a think about what I wanted for myself.

I've never had career development as a personal goal. My personal goals have always been things like being kind, finding positive ways to view life challenges or mundane things, learning from every experience. Career development is something I thought people with career paths did. You go to uni to study a thing, then you do the thing, and progress to more of the thing. I've been jumping all over the shop from high school math/science to creative uni studies to journalism then digital content then ecommerce then miscellaneous projects. 

I went back to my boss and told him I enjoy the project work I do, I am good at willing things to happen, and to develop my career I wanted to do what I do but for the whole company in a more official capacity. It took 18+ months to make it happen, but you are now reading the blog of a Project Management Office (PMO) Manager. Not too scrappy for a kid raised on Government handouts who went to a public school in low income area, where I got voted most likely to succeed which sounds positive until you learn parts of my peer group dropped out of high school and others had to be coaxed, pushed and prodded across the finish line.  

I am learning lots in my new role, and have lots more to learn, but it's exciting to have direction and focus. I wish I had personal career direction before my 30s but, hey, it's never too late to start. I'm proactively coaching the younger people in my life to be more progress driven, prepare themselves for growth and better opportunities - basically, teaching them how to work the system in their favour. I'm hoping anyone reading this will ask themselves what they want, and have a think about how to get there. If you want to talk it through, hit me up.

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