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Two books to bump to the top of your reading list

Are you feeling…flat? Lacklustre? A bit frazzled at the edges?

Despite what it may sound like, this is not an ad for hair care.

This my friends is a public service announcement.

I have, completely by accident, or perhaps by the work of some divine being, stumbled across the most inspiring, motivating and energising duo of books to ever exist.

It’s exciting, no? I feel giddy with power just thinking about it. I feel like with these two books in my arsenal (ahem, on my coffee table), why, I’m almost invincible.

You see, I too was feeling flat, lacklustre. I was feeling frazzled.

And then a friend gifted me a book.

And then I gifted myself a second book.

And everything kinda shifted.

I was given a fresh, new perspective.

So what were they?

Workplace restructure? What to do when facing a redundancy

A redundancy is (almost) never fun.

Picture this. Young family. One partner settling into a new company, they’ve finally landed the dream job. One partner at home, taking time out of the workforce to look after the baby. They’ve just moved into their forever home, there’s room enough for a few more kids yet. Their dog is the snuggliest little guy you’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Things were looking bright.

Until they weren’t.

Until that big, inefficient conglomerate they’ve decided to devote their life to decided it was time to trim the fat.

Targeting gender equality: why we need quotas

With #metoo and #timesup dominating our airwaves recently, I’ve had many conversations about what it means to be a young female in the workforce. Things you can and can’t do, how to navigate challenges we face, and importantly, what we want the future of working to look like for women and how we might get there. Inevitably, gender quotas or targets in the workplace come up. It does, on occasion, get heated.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with some of the reasons why no self-respecting woman would ever want to be party to such a discriminatory practice. Of course, quotas are anti-feminist. They lead to less qualified candidates snatching jobs from under the noses of more qualified (presumably more male) candidates. And surely all these “qualified women” would prefer to get these jobs based on merit alone, anyway?

I don’t quite see it that way.

All Abroad: Living and working overseas, an interview series

At one time or another, many of us have thought about packing up our things and buying a one way ticket out of Oz in the hope of discovering ourselves overseas. However fleeting, the thought of escaping your hometown for a change of scenery can be pretty enticing. As more of my friends are making the move overseas or heading home after time spent abroad, I wanted to share the varied – but equally inspiring – experiences of four wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women who today take us through the highs, the lows and the how-to of living and working overseas.

From chasing the corporate dream in New York City, to designing your very own gap year  to test out a potential career path, to balancing professional development with your unbounded desire to explore the globe, there are many ways to scratch that work/travel itch. And while their journeys have taken each of these ladies in very different directions, I keenly observed a thread of similarity running throughout the four interviews: the need to embrace experience over things.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the London edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Bianca. Melbourne girl, physiotherapist, passion for travel, the outdoors, books and red wine. Decided to make the move abroad for two years with my partner.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the NYC edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Joy, a 27 year old identical twin originally from Melbourne. After completing a commerce degree at the University of Melbourne I worked in professional services both in an accounting and consulting capacity. I’m a chartered accountant who likes numbers and am nerdy at heart! Besides Melbourne, I’ve lived and worked in Sydney and am now based in New York. I love the outdoors, socialising, keeping myself active, and anything turtle-related.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the international development edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hey there! I’m Jordi – an avid feminist and societal chameleon who spends a lot of my time talking about dating and craft. I’m currently completing my honours degree in Commerce. When I am not freaking out over my research, you can find me delivering workshops and hanging out with young people as part of my side gig with The Reach Foundation. I also mentor high school students, work with TEDx Melbourne and spend a bit of time floating around One Roof, a co-working space for women-led businesses. In my spare time, I teach bullet journaling at Laneway Learning, hit up the local bouldering gym and dance to Beyonce relatively regularly. I care a lot about people, building and strengthening community and working for effective social change.

All abroad: Living and working overseas, the Asia edition

This interview is part of a four-part series exploring the ups and downs and practicalities of living and working overseas. You can read the other interviews with three wonderful, world-faring and adventurous women here.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi, I’m Monika, and I’m someone who’s made travel  the focus of my life. I love teaching and am a bit of a grammar nut! But my work is not my life. I put people and my interests first. I’ve been a vegetarian for 10 years and love animals very dearly. I love to cook, read, go to the movies and wander through new places.

Top tips for rocking a desk job without breaking your back

Even though I’m only 28 , sometimes I feel like I’m about 100. Sitting at my desk for upwards of 50 hours a week (conservatively) has taken a toll on my body. While I enjoy the lifestyle of full time work, the constant battle against cracking joints, stiff muscles, and a creaky and sore body that makes me resemble a slow-moving gnome with a limp, is less welcome.

That’s why today I’ve teamed up with Robbie from Realign Myotherapy, my go-to on all things back health, to share some simple lifestyle changes to prevent back pain and help keep your body feeling good. He’s been an absolute lifesaver over the last few years, helping me balance the lifestyle I want outside of work with that 10+ hour a day sitting habit of mine! Over to you, Robbie.

First up – a few stats on back pain because you know you’re not the only one committing sins of poor posture! By now, we’ve all heard the saying “sitting is the new smoking” but is there any truth to it?

Please stop wasting my time

This is a story about how I learnt to stop wasting my time on, well there’s really no other word for it, losers. I wish it was a happier story, but unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses because it involves me feeling like I’d somehow betrayed my own good sense.

It started when a work acquaintance asked me to join him for lunch. We weren’t really friends. We had at some point sat on the same floor at work. I imagine we met at the printer or tea room. I like to fill awkward silence with awkward chatter. I meet a lot of people that way.

We’d had a coffee recently, which was ok. Just ok. We didn’t really have any great similarities or anything in common, and I certainly didn’t feel the need for a repeat catch up so soon, but I was doing as many young workers in this society are raised to do – being polite. And, quite frankly, I just didn’t have an excuse…so I agreed.

We met up and headed out for lunch. As soon as we did, I got this feeling like I’d rather be somewhere else – anywhere else. Why did I agree to this again? I mean, it was a pretty benign activity  – work acquaintances heading to grab a bite during the lunch-hour rush. So why did I suddenly feel an urgent craving for the solitude of my desk?

Defining Moments

A few weeks ago, before I moved from Melbourne to Sydney, I was chatting to a work colleague, let’s call her Rachel, about my decision to take this new job in Sydney. I told her that while it was a sideways move, instead of the upwards move I could have expected if I stayed in my old role a few more months, the change in career path seemed more important than a move up the ladder.

She agreed, telling me a story of her first “big break” in the corporate world.

Rachel had been working in a great team with a fantastic leader when suddenly, he decided to move on. Despite being much less experienced, the management team saw something special in her, and she was tapped on the shoulder to apply.

Risk Taking for the Risk Averse Part 2: A How-To Guide

Last post I shared the story of how I found myself unexpectedly moving to Sydney from my hometown of Melbourne. It is a story filled with ups and downs and big questions marks, many unknowns, a few minor freak outs and finally the big decision! (Read here!)

Now, I consider a career change in itself to be a pretty bold move. Couple that with a new city and a move that will impact not just me but my partner, my family, his family, our friends…it was a lot to take in.

For some, moving is just a part of life, but for me it was a huge decision, one that in some way said, I’m putting myself and my career first. And that’s been hard to do. I’ve asked my partner to come along with me. I’ve asked my family to support me (and store all my furniture – thanks fam!). They’ve been amazing but I know deep down they’d love for me to stay. I can’t help but shake a niggling feeling of guilt and sadness about the family occasions or time spent together I will miss. And that’s why it’s so important that I didn’t make this decision on a whim. That I was properly informed. That my reason for moving was solid. That I can back myself, and my decision, even when it gets tough, which it undoubtedly will.

So if you’re facing something similar, I’ve gathered together a few tips, small and simple as they may seem, that helped me lean into this big, crazy, uncertain, risky new life that I’ve chosen for myself.

Risk Taking for the Risk Averse Part 1: New Beginnings

From a young age, we’re taught to favour certainty. To prefer plain, old predictability. To avoid ambiguity. Not to talk to strangers. To play it safe. To stick to what we know.

After all, risk is scary.

Risk opens us up to losing out. Losing money. Losing face. Losing the sense of comfort that comes with what is safe and predictable.

So when we’re faced with a monumental decision that has the potential to re-route our lives and change the course of our futures, to switch up the safety of what is known for something exciting but unpredictable, how do we deal?

How do we learn to lean in and embrace risk when we’ve been conditioned to be risk averse?

New Year, New You? How to approach the New Year if Resolutions aren’t your thing

Happy New Year friends and welcome to 2017!!

By many accounts, 2016 was a terrible year, one of the worst in recent memory.

I don’t like to think about a whole year being “bad”. I’d prefer to think that any year is what we make of it, which got me thinking about New Year’s Resolutions.

I had intended on saying that New Year’s Resolutions aren’t really my thing, but in fact, when I really got down to thinking, I realised that I’ve never made a New Year’s Resolution.

I set goals for myself and implement systems and am always working towards something or other. They’ve just never really coincided with the start of a new year or been packaged neatly into a New Year’s Resolution. I mean, who needs all the extra pressure of the New Year to have our resolutions unraveling before we hit mid-Feb (if we’re lucky), anyway?

But this year, on the trip home from a New Year’s Eve weekend away, crammed into a tiny Holden Barina with some of my favourite humans and about a hundred overnight bags and pillows and snacks piled so high we could barely see over them, my sister decided we should share our New Year’s Resolutions.

How blogging saved my sanity (and can save yours too!)

You used to have a burning passion that lit up your every waking hour but then growing up happened and it somehow got lost along the way. Sound familiar? Here’s what happened when I rediscovered my love of writing, and why it might be worth investing in reviving your forgotten passions too.  

I’ve always wanted to write a blog. Pretty much since my sister started hers a few years ago I wanted my own but I never knew what I would write about. I told myself that I wasn’t  interesting or insightful enough. I didn’t know enough about anything. No one would want to read it.

Then one night as I was falling asleep, like a hypnic jerk jolting me awake, the idea for The Modern Ascent came to me. I started writing the next day.

Who’s on your team? A guide to coaches, mentors and sponsors

Who’s on your team? Who’s there to support you through all the ups and downs that life has a tendency to throw at you? Who has your back when the going gets tough? And who’s there to celebrate your big wins?

Yesterday I attended my sister-in-law’s ten year anniversary showcase for her dance school. Assisting backstage as a ‘runner’ (the technical term for directing masses of dancers – some as young as three – through the labyrinth-like backstage area to get them on stage right on cue), I was in awe at just how many bodies it takes to seamlessly execute a professional production.

It got me thinking that in our careers, just like directing a 270+ strong cast of dancers, we need to surround ourselves with a support team that sets us up to excel. One way I like to think about this is to ‘build a board’. 

Why you can (and should) fake it til you make it

Do you ever have an off-day at work, a day when you want to curl up small under your desk and hide, pretend that you’re invisible and hope that no one notices you?

And do those days ever coincide with a day when you have an important meeting? Maybe you have to give a presentation? Or meet with some challenging stakeholders? For whatever reason, you need to be ‘on’. You need to be at your most charming and engaging.

I most certainly have days like that. My greatest hope on those days is that I’ll get by unnoticed and just plow silently through my work with as little social disturbance as possible. But when those meetings or presentations roll around, I need to reach deep down inside myself and somewhere, somehow find the energy to make it work. I know that I’ll always manage to pull through but often I still come off a bit awkward, my small talk is off and I find myself wishing that I could put it off to another day, a day when I’m feeling a bit more confident and outgoing.

Well lucky for me, and now you, I discovered Amy Cuddy – social psychologist, author and university professor.

Live, don’t survive

“The only pride of her workday was not that it had been lived, but that it had been survived. It was wrong, she thought, it was viciously wrong that one should ever be forced to say that about any hour of one’s life.” Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand 

Do you sometimes feel like you’re just surviving. Only just hanging on.

I had a vacation-induced epiphany recently where I realised that so much of my life seems to be about just surviving (in the not-living-life-to-the-fullest sense). Just making it through the day. Or the week. Spontaneity and fun are pushed to the back burner while my long list of to-do’s take pride of place.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? It’d help to know I’m not the only one who’s treading water, holding out for the next weekend, long weekend or holiday to get on with all that living I have planned.

Before getting into my whole ‘holiday-epiphany’ thing, there are a few concepts that keep popping up and pushing their way to the front of my overcrowded and overstimulated mind that are in no small way linked to this whole idea of living vs. surviving.

Money Matters with Wadzanai Nenzou

Come on, admit it. We’ve all been there. Paycheck comes in. Credit card gets whipped out.

And just like that we kiss our paycheck goodbye as those sacred credit card numbers float listlessly through the ether and result in a dreaded ‘debit’ on our netbank statements. And while we become one pair of can’t-live-without-shoes richer (yay!), the effect on our bank balance can sometimes remain…how should I put this…questionable?

While we have no problem discussing these indiscretions with our friends, colleagues, sisters and mothers – so much so that we at times wear them as a badge of honour, almost boastful that our newest Iconic purchase meant we had to live off cup-noodles for five days straight – when it comes to having serious conversations about our finances we run (feet encased in those shiney new can’t-live-without-kicks) for the hills!

From uni to the real world: what I wish I knew

Are you at the end or coming to the end of your university degree?

I’ve found for myself and many of my closest friends that this can be one of the most challenging transitions in your early working life. You’re coming off a brilliant few years of skipping classes in favour of napping on sunny university lawns, two x 12 week semesters a year sandwiched by endless weeks of holidays, and more uni pub crawls, after exams parties, booze cruises and uni balls that you can poke a stick at. Of course there were hard times too, mid-semester exams, end of semester exams, take home exams and the horror that is swotvac (that’s a ‘study without teaching vacation i.e. a one week period of cramming before your exams start, for our non-Aussie readers). I personally find it favourable to suppress those particular memories.

But despite how great uni is, the reason I think so many of us struggle with post-university life is that we hold these grand expectations for what ‘real life’ and our ‘grown-up jobs’ hold for us. For many, that long-lusted-after first real job represents the beginning of the rest of our lives.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising then when reality somehow doesn’t stack up to the expectations we’ve built up in our heads.

The original and the best: how to be a #GIRLBOSS

Sophia Amoruso is the original #GIRLBOSS. Founder, former CEO and current Executive Chairman of Nasty Gal, Sophia is the ultimate cool-girl-come-CEO. She is a self made millionaire doing it on her own terms.  She didn’t go to college and spent her teenage years hitchhiking and dumpster diving. But what she lacks in formal training, she makes up for in experience and an enviable work ethic.

In her book, #GIRLBOSS – part memoir, part career guidebook – she dishes out advice for all the up and coming #GIRLBOSSES of the world. She details the remarkable growth of Nasty Gal from a vintage clothing eBay store run out of a studio apartment to a multimillion dollar fashion empire, but don’t go suggesting that luck has anything to do with it. Sophia calls bullshit on the concept of luck which, she maintains, implies being “devoid of responsibility” and that we “don’t control our own fate”. Instead, she challenges us to show up, work hard, and plant the seeds for a life “beyond your wildest dreams”.

The Pressure of Yes

Do you ever find yourself in a situation wondering what the hell you’re doing there?! When your mind is a million miles away thinking about all the other appointments/meetings/catch ups/errands that are piling up as you sit/wait/drive/text/listen/watch/discuss. When you have other places to be/stuff to do/dogs to walk/family to visit/houses to tidy. When you’ve forsaken that afternoon nap your body has been crying out for since Monday or that Netflix binge session to meet up/make up/step up/dress up and be there for your friend/sister/girlfriend/colleague/boss/auntie/neighbour/grandmother’s third cousin twice removed that’s visiting from Europe.

If that in any way resembles what is running through your mind on an average Wednesday evening, then we have something in common. Or at least we did.  

When procrastination takes hold: four tips to get you back to your productive best

Procrastination has a strong hold on me. I’d like to think I’m not alone. We, the social media generation, have endless hours of fun right at our fingertips care of a well timed instagram or facebook stalk, or the shiny new delight that is snapchat face-swap and all those fancy, funny filters that could easily siphon away a whole evening.

Of course, sometimes, a bit of good old fashioned procrastination is harmless (or delicious if you’re a procrastibaker like me). If you work better under pressure and pull out some of your best work when the heat is well and truly on, there’s no harm done, right?

But, if you’re having trouble deciphering the fine line between productivity and procrastination and the results are showing up in cut-corners and missed deadlines, then it’s time to buck up and kick those procrastination habits.

Welcome to The Modern Ascent

Success is not achieved without hard work. But we’re not afraid of a little hard work. We’re not afraid of getting our hands dirty. We’re here because we aspire to greatness. We’re here because we’re ready to swiftly and expertly climb to new and dizzying career heights. We’re ready to break ground and kick arse.

But one women can’t do it alone. Well, she probably can. She’s probably a pretty grade A chic, a lot like you and I. But just because she can do it alone, doesn’t mean she should have to.

And that’s where The Modern Ascent comes in.


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