What I realised after reading Not Just lucky: Jamila Rizvi's new book

What I realised after reading Not Just Lucky by Jamila Rizvi

“I was lucky”.

That is how my break in the media came about, according to my very own career folklore.

That phrase, or something similar, inevitably features whenever I find myself explaining how I jumped from a career in law to working as a journalist.

It’s not the only time I have credited an occurrence in my life to luck, but it is the one I put down to luck most often.

It happened almost 10 years ago and it is only recently that it dawned on me that, maybe, my break was more than luck.

After my brief career as a lawyer I fell apart. Properly. I had a nervous breakdown that spanned several long and miserable months. (I have written about it here).

It was ugly and I emerged from it quite different. I decided to leave corporate law behind me and I was grateful just to have my health. For many months my career simply wasn’t something I thought about.

I happily worked in a department store selling clothes while I rebuilt my health and I adored every minute of it.

When I was ready to dip my toe back into the world of full-time work I was torn: to pursue a different path in law or finally give journalism a go, as I’d always wanted?

The latter won in part because a business magazine, BRW, was advertising for a team of researchers to help compile the Rich 200 issue.

They were going to hire a handful of people – ideally university students with a commerce or economics background. (I did a business degree when I studied law).

It was a fixed-term 3-month contract and we’d be working alongside the editorial team. I figured it would be a terrific way for me to see whether journalism really was the calling for me.

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If it was, I planned to apply to UTS to enrol in a master’s degree in communications. I applied and got one of the positions.

On our first day the editor in chief took us researchers for coffee. I mentioned that I had been a lawyer and was looking to make a career change.

It set the moves in motion that led to me being offered a position as a legal reporter at the end of the research term.

I have always credited luck for that happening: in my own head as much as anywhere else.

Just recently though I started to wonder. Maybe the fact I took a 3 month contract designed for students helped? Maybe the fact I had done a double degree and done well enough to secure a good job at the end of it helped? Maybe it was more than luck that got me the break?

The reason I had this revelation recently is simple: I received and read a copy of Jamila Rizvi‘s career manifesto Not Just Lucky.

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You have probably read, seen or heard Jamila speak. Despite the fact she is barely 30, Rizvi has worked as an adviser for a Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd), been chief of staff to a senior minister (Kate Ellis) and been editor in chief of a gigantic women’s media company  (Mamamia).

She studied law at ANU while also working around the clock for Rudd. She is a regular panelist on The Project, The Drum, Today and will be making her second appearance on the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night.

She is a popular speaker, columnist and mother of one. The latest feather in her already full cap, is as an author of a top-selling, impeccably researched yet totally readable, book. Not Just Lucky is a revelation.

It explores all notions of women at work and specifically refutes the “lucky” thesis that Rizvi discovered is so popular among women.

(Hint: it has to do with the fact that, unlike men, women become less likeable the more successful they are. When women reach for “luck” when it comes to explaining their own achievements, it is shorthand for “Please don’t hate me”.)

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Jamila identifies, piece by piece, the structural and cultural reasons women are robbed of their confidence when it comes to their careers. The result is compelling.

It is practical, funny, insightful and mandatory reading for Australian women. She tackles pay, tricky conversations, double standards, confidence, set-backs, being a boss, fear, failure, sexism and every subject in between.

There is a reason that Lisa Wilkinson, Julia Gillard, Clementine Ford, Rosie Waterland and Zoe Foster-Blake have all given it ringing endorsements: it is terrific.

I sat down with Jamila recently to ask her about this book – where the idea came from, what she learned in the process of writing it and the message she has for Australian women. You can watch it here:

Read it! Buy it! Share it with your friends!

Have you ever credited your success to luck?

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