I am so excited to introduce you all to the wonderful and ever insightful Amelia Novakovic! Amelia is an absolute powerhouse woman with an amazing background across marketing and communications for some super impressive global brands. She also co-founded an awesome podcast called Career & Coffee designed to help people get "unstuck". If you have ever wanted to understand more about the power of a personal brand, or what do if you are feeling a little "stuck" right now, then do NOT miss this interview!

Welcome Amelia to the Real-World Women Interview Series! Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do....

I’m a marketer and podcast producer who’s spent the past decade working across a range of industries in broadcast media, the not-for-profit sector, FMCG cosmetics and financial services for brands like MTV, Avon Cosmetics, ANZ Bank and now Vanguard.

I originally set out to be a journalist and studied it at university, until I realised two internships in that I didn’t have the ‘ticker’ for the newsroom but I’ve always had a love for writing and storytelling. Outside of my corporate job, I write, produce and host my own podcast series ‘Career & Coffee’ and love to write (and read a lot of) fiction.

I’m a tall gal from a tall family, I’m 6’foot (my brother’s 6’5!). I’m a Sydney kid who grew up in Manly, I’m a water-baby and always happiest by the beach and being creative.

amelia novakovic in studio

As well as having a very full on day job, you also co-produce an amazing podcast called the ‘Career & Coffee’ podcast, all about getting unstuck. Tell us, in all the people that you have interviewed on your podcast journey, what are the main pieces of advice that stick with you when it comes to getting unstuck?

There are three that stand out: the importance of self-awareness, our mindset and taking action.

Until producing the series, I didn’t realise how much of a disparity there is between how self-aware we think we are, and how self-aware we actually are. 95% of us think we’re self-aware, when research shows that only 10-15% of us truly are; and for those who are, they’re operating on auto-pilot 50% of the time. I learnt that I can never have too much self-awareness and that sitting with myself, experiencing my emotions and truly accepting them is the first step to getting unstuck. Actually realising that we’re stuck is very hard to do.

My peer (and brilliant leader) Lauren Buckley from ANZ, shared that we need to think of our career like a lattice, not a ladder. I love the visual idea of this, our careers being like flower vines that grow sideways, up, down, looping around and blooming in cycles. They’re organic, not linear. Getting unstuck is as much about perception and mindset, as it is about the opportunities and bold moves along the way.

And then there’s the simple but essential reality of doing the work. Taking action takes courage, and although it sounds cliché, only we can get ourselves unstuck. No matter the reason; our boss might suck, our company might stink, our job may be beyond awful, but no matter what, we’re responsible and accountable for taking action to change our situation and move forward. Identifying why you’re stuck is important, but without action, nothing will change.

One of the podcasts you recently did in particular spoke about the feeling of being ‘stuck’ after being made redundant. There are likely people reading this at the moment who have recently been made redundant, or are looking for work. What advice would you have for them on getting unstuck’ and continuing to push forward even if they feel like they can’t?  

We’ve explored redundancy twice on the show, in Season 1 and in the latest COVID mini-series, because it’s such an important aspect of our working lives.

Advice will depend on your personal circumstances but no matter when your redundancy took place, there is a need to sit down with your tougher emotions and be kind to yourself. The shock, the reality that redundancy is beyond your control and the rollercoaster of emotions that come with the grieving curve of job-loss, may be your current moment. The first step to moving through it is to acknowledge it, not try to outrun the anger, fear, shame, confusion – and just let yourself be.

Our jobs give us guaranteed structure and purpose built daily into a schedule, so rebuilding even the smallest sense of routine and accomplishment into the day is helpful. Having a shower, getting dressed and making your bed can be the baby steps that help motivate you for the bigger ones. Redundancy during coronavirus is a unique experience made worse by it’s scale, and I think the duality of feeling part of a large public unemployment statistic while at the same time feeling alone, is real; so if you’re struggling and may want someone to talk to, reach out to loved ones, friends or Lifeline (13 11 14) for support.

What do you think are some of the biggest barriers that keep us from getting out of our own ways?

Getting out of my own way has meant having to really look at how I spend my time (truthfully) and choose what I’m willing to sacrifice to pursue my passion, in a more serious and focused way. Not many have the luxury to leave full-time employment, so finding ways to create space for my passion alongside my 9-5 in a sustainable, long-term way is a work in progress.

For me, it started with being more honest with myself and others that I love storytelling and being creative, that writing fiction and podcasting are passion I want to take seriously. Changing my perspective and defining my career as everything that I do, not just my corporate job and consciously deciding what I’m willing to sacrifice to achieve it and find the space.

Although it can feel like we don’t have the time, I do believe that if we’re willing to find it, there is always more time in the day for the things we love.

You have a fantastic background in Marketing and Branding for Companies including Avon and ANZ where a huge focus is on the importance of brand and customer. I’d love to hear from you though around what advice you have for women when it comes to cultivating their own personal brand.

For me, our personal brands are equal parts cultivation and reputation.

Cultivation is active, it’s conscious creation and within our control. Whereas reputation is more organic and reflective. Like any great brand, we need to do the work on establishing our own ‘brand DNA’ of who we are and what we want to be known for, before we can project it. The outcome and feedback of our work, or our reputation, is somewhat beyond our control.

For me, the cultivation of personal brand starts with perspective. This was a huge mindset shift for me in more recent years, that my personal brand is more than just my corporate job and identity. It’s everything that I do. It’s as dynamic and expansive as I choose to make it and articulate it. So instead of being ‘a financial services marketer’ (my current corporate identity), I articulate my personal brand as my whole self; ‘a versatile marketer and podcast producer’.

If we look at household name brands, like Disney and Apple, a large part of their brand success comes from consistency and I believe the same applies to our personal brands. Cultivation is creation, so first deciding what we want to be known for, but it’s also about communicating and applying this with relentless consistency. For anyone in a corporate role with a stack of other skills and interests, it’s about practising how to bring that into your conversations with peers, leaders and your network.

The other half of personal brand is our reputation, or as Jeff Bezos from Amazon so famously put it: “your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

I don’t believe we can control our reputation fully, but I do believe we’re accountable for it and it’s in our best interest to listen and evolve based on the feedback we get from our network. Just like a brand, there can sometimes be a disconnect between what we’re crafting and projecting about ourselves and how we’re perceived, so it can be really helpful to ask your ‘consumers’ for feedback and really listen.

Like a brand, our personal brands will form and exist whether we consciously cultivate it or not. If you do nothing (which was me for years), your personal brand will form around you based on your jobs and presence (in-person and online). A guest on our series phrased it best; are you the quiet one or the loud one? A team player or a solo operator? A front room or back room person? A or B? C or D? Instead of leaving these questions to be answered and decided at first glance by others, why not take control and project a personal brand that’s authentically you?

amelia novakovic

What is the biggest personal risk you have taken and how did you arrive at the decision to take the leap? 

I’ve taken some pretty solid risks in my career and life so far, but the biggest risk I’ve ever taken at work was my decision to apply for an executive position with Avon as Head of Communications, at the age of 22. I had worked for the company for two years at the time and saw the opportunity when it was announced as part of the incumbent CEO’s new leadership team changes.

For the record and a very important disclaimer: I never thought I would actually get this job. At the time, I applied thinking it might help me get a small promotion or a side ways step, or at the very least to get my ideas heard by senior leadership through the interview process. After many many rounds of interviews, I got the job and overnight everything changed. I was moved from my hot desk on the floor to an executive office, becoming the leader of the department I had worked in for two years.

It was the most intense, terrifying and transformative experience of my working life. Nothing can prepare you at the age of 22 for the realities of being an executive leader in a Fortune 500 brand with over 130 years of history. The ‘deep-end’ would be an understatement… truthfully, a lot of the time I felt like I was drowning at the bottom of a corporate ocean. All of the things that my executive team mates had spent twenty or thirty years learning and crafting, I was trying desperately to figure out and learn as quickly as I could. The business had also announced that it was in turn-around, so I had to face into some really challenging and confronting situations of organisational change, including restructuring decisions and redundancy conversations within my own teams.

With these harder moments also came the flip-side of extraordinary ones too; like leading my team and an organisational rebrand, presenting at conferences to hundreds of people, creating campaigns that raised millions for breast cancer research funding and travelling across Australia and Asia Pacific working with industry leaders.

This experience taught me that if you’re going to take a leap, be willing and ready to jump the whole way. You don’t have to have it all sorted out or have all the answers or experience, but you do need to leap with the full ambition and commitment to land the jump. If you go into any risky career move thinking, “naahhh, there’s no way they’ll pick me – as if!” or “I’ll just see how far I get…” - please know that there is a chance (a huge one) that they will pick you and you will get it, because the truth is that we can’t always see in ourselves what others can see easily.

amelia novakovic digital diva degree

Have you ever experienced Imposter Syndrome or a time where you have felt like you weren’t good enough, smart enough, experienced enough etc? How did you deal with this? What advice would you have for other women who struggle Imposter Syndrome?

Yes, absolutely. Truthfully, I’ve experienced this feeling in every job I’ve ever had. I felt it in a big way during my time for Avon and I felt it when I started working for the ANZ. I had never worked in financial services and I had also never worked solely in data-driven marketing, which I had been hired to do. I felt my lack of industry and technical knowledge in a very visceral way (not to be gross, but a lot of sweating…).

People have told me to “fake it till you make it,” and I do believe to some degree this is true. Putting on a confident face can help us get over the early nerves of a new job or opportunity, but if we make it a habit it can have deeper impacts. Getting into a habit of faking it everyday, or “surface acting”, can impact our wellbeing pretty severely in the long term.

I’ve found that having trusted company, close friends, peers and mentors that I can be open up to and be vulnerable with has been a huge help in tackling my own moments of imposter syndrome. They remind me that in most cases I’ve already done a similar task or been met with a similar situation before. That I have a lot of transferable skills that I can lean on, and in some instances, they offer advice and learnings from their own experience.

A lack of confidence is one of the major causes of missed opportunities for women across their professional and personal lives. What does confidence mean to you? What does it look like in others, and what do you think we, as women, need to do to have more of it across all areas of our lives?

I would be lying if I said I knew the answer to this question with certainty. At this point in my life and career, I see confidence as being a state of being; it’s calm, clarity and conviction.

It doesn’t need to be overt, or extroverted, or an image. It’s not uniform, it’s unique. I see confidence as a woman standing tall in who she is and exploring what she wants and owning what she hopes for. There’s an ease that comes with confidence, a calm and acceptance that comes from knowing that you are who you are. It’s less about what others think and more about what I think and want for myself.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given in your career to date?

It’s a quote my Dad shared with me when I started my first job: “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

You have given us so many nuggets of GOLD in this interview Amelia, thank you! If you haven't subscribed to the Career & Coffee Podcast yet, make sure you do - its available on Spotify, Apple, or at http://careerandcoffeepodcast.podbean.com/

amelia novakovic and partner