By: Melanie Burgess
Young workers should not let their age be a barrier to career success but rather ensure they are focused, tenacious and don’t give up.
This is the message from Professor Julie Cogin, head of The University of Queensland’s Business School.
“The fact is that age is not a precursor to success,” she says. “Research has found a more important attribute like perseverance is a central predictor of high impact success at any age. Intelligence and some luck are also factors.”
Cogin says it’s a common assumption that experience and a track record lead to success and this is not surprising.
“There are many examples of individuals who have built corporations, improved science and achieved greatness that followed a model of developing experience and knowledge over years of working,” she says.
“However, there are also multiple examples of younger people who have achieved career success at an early age. Most of Einstein’s contributions to the field of physics were made when he was 26 and Marie Curie’s discoveries about radiation were also made in her 20s. Closer to home, Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes built [Australian software company] Atlassian in their late 20s and now have an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion each.”
Cogin says the widely held view that a worker must “do their time” before contributing at leadership level is flawed as boards struggle to respond to technological disruption and build digital capabilities.
For 36-year-old business owner Olivia Carr, age has never been a barrier for her success.
After having her first child at age 19, she started her first business, a national educational theatre company, at 24.
She then pursued a corporate career in sales and management and was poached by Pacific Brands at age 32.
About three years ago she launched her second business, Shhh Silk.
“Kids as young as possible should do whatever they can to set themselves up,” she says.
“As you get older you become risk adverse because you have a house and school fees.
“When you are young, you take risks so I am an advocate for young people giving it everything they have got.”
Carr came up with the idea for silk bedding and sleepwear line Shhh Silk after she lost her silk pillowcase while travelling in the US and had trouble finding a replacement she liked.
Within three days of deciding on her new business plan, she was in China learning about the fabric.
Then soon enough, the products were developed and she was bluffing her way onto Kris Jenner’s property so she could hand-deliver a box of personalised sheets for the Kardashian family – chasing the ultimate marketing opportunity.
“I flew to LA, hired a car and got through their gated community by saying I had a meeting with Jenner Communications,” she says.
“You have to hand over your licence and it’s heavily controlled.
“At Kris’ place, there were huge security cameras and they had their massive custom-made Rolls Royces parked out the front.
“So I am idling in my car wondering what my next step is then a delivery van appeared so I followed the driver … he put his box down and I put my box on top then got out of there.
“They probably thought I was really crazy, but it left an impression.
“Kim got in contact and said she would love to feature us on her website, and has been so lovely and given us so much support.”
Carr now leads a team of eight employees, including her mother who heads the customer service division.
She says experience and self-learning are more important than a university degree.
Carr dropped out of school in Year 11 and since studied a Diploma of Sales and Diploma of Public Relations.
“As a young person, I don’t think you should be trying to spruik the skills you have that aren’t being recognised, you need to wow people and come into work and walk the walk and that will get recognised,” she says.
Carr’s children Georgia, 16, and Hudson, 11, are now following in their mother’s career-driven footsteps, about to launch a business in Asia selling tracksuits.