Know your ‘cheerleaders’: Getting your family, friends and others to back your career

Know your ‘cheerleaders’: Getting your family, friends and others to back your career

There are certain people in your life who understand who you are underneath that shiny job title. These people love, empower and protect you on a deep level. That’s why we need them as our cheerleaders.

This is part seven of the the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto, supported by Charles Sturt University. See the introduction here.

Having a base of trusted friends, partners or relatives who will stand with you, no matter what, can be a great foundation for you as you build that successful business or career.

These people may have known you before you were born or they may have stuck by your side since the mischievous days of high school.

Perhaps, they only know you as “mum”.

Charles Sturt University associate professor Maree Bernoth understands the importance of personal cheerleaders all too well.

Her success as a prominent researcher and advocate for people in aged care has not come without its burdens.

When she blew the whistle on neglect in aged care many years ago, she faced an unexpected backlash and was forced to make a number of life-changing decisions like selling the family home and relocating.

Bernoth is thankful her partner was there to back her through it all.

“It’s about being in it together,” she says.

To have cheerleaders like this, Bernoth believes it’s up to you “to bring them on the journey with you”.

“So that means communicating with them about what you’re doing even if they don’t understand what you’re talking about,” she says.

“I was talking about disembodiment to my husband who’s a bricklayer but I told him about it and he had a vague idea so he became invested in what I was doing.

“My kids watched me do assignments while they were doing their homework so we were doing it together.”

By talking to your loved ones about your challenges, commitments and goals, they’ll have a better understanding of where you are at and how to best support you.

“My husband learned to cook so that responsibility was taken off me,” says Bernoth.

Cheerleaders like close family, friends or even the local community offer strength, comfort and pride in many ways.

“There is this cushioning, this support around you,” she says.


According to Zendesk managing director for Australia and New Zealand Amy Foo, cheerleaders are “foundational” to success because they ground you and give you purpose.

“All roads lead back to home,” she says.

Among Foo’s most important cheerleaders are her sons, partner and father, who she says was a diversity and inclusion champion before “D&I” became a corporate buzzword.

“He’s been a champion for my career my entire life,” she says.

Achieving balance between your career ambitions and quality time with loved ones can sometimes be a challenge.

But, it is possible.

Foo, who often travels for work and manages over 200 people, says it comes down to this.

“Planning and prioritising furiously is a muscle you need when you have a career and a family,” she says.

“My husband and I communicate furiously on prioritisation.”

One of Foo’s biggest priorities is her sons’ milestones so she will never miss their birthdays or concerts.

“That comes back to understanding what is important and why you want to be present in those occasions,” she says.

“Making work integrate around that is something we all have the power to do.”


Another choice that’s truly in your hands is who your cheerleaders are because it’s really up to you to decide who is allowed by your side.

“Career and life are sometimes uncertain,” says Foo.

“You can always decide who is next to you to take that journey of uncertainty and trust me if you have the right people next to you – your personal cheerleaders, your friends who care about you — you will always achieve the outcome that you want.

“That’s why I believe it’s so important to have personal cheerleaders.”


Sometimes loved ones like close relatives or a partner can be our most vocal naysayers.

If you have a relationship that disempowers you or discourages you from reaching your full potential, it may be time to reconsider if it’s worth fighting for.

“There is a point when you have to make a choice: is it worth the effort?” says Bernoth.

Once you’ve done your part to openly communicate and include loved ones in the journey you’re taking, it’s up to them to come along and be a true cheerleader.

“If they decide they don’t want to be on the journey, that’s their choice and then you have to make a choice too,” says Bernoth.

“Often, I see with students there’s relationship breakdown.”

As painful as this may be, there’s a silver lining in cutting ties or distancing yourself from loved ones who hold you back.

“The naysayers may be the impetus to make us work harder, to think differently, to learn to communicate differently.”

The rest of this series can be found here:

Introduction: ‘The Mentee’s Manifesto 2019

Part one of the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto: How to build a support network of mentors, sponsors, coaches, personal cheerleaders and more

Part two of the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto: How leading women at the top of their game have worked with mentors and sponsors to get there

Part three of the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto: How to land a mentor and work with one effectively

Part four of the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto: How to benefit from and get started on mentoring others

Part five of the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto: Why a sponsor could make a difference to your career

Part six of the Women’s Agenda Mentee’s Manifesto: How to self-learn from role models 

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