Leadership and Culture – The 13 Day Jobs of Marilyn Jones

Recently, I was invited to speak at an industry masterclass on culture and leadership, being asked to draw on my own experiences and share them with the audience.

While I’m happy to chat with others about their careers, I am not a great ad-libber when it comes to talking about myself, so in preparation for the event, I wrote down a few things about my culture and leadership journey and what I’ve learned along the way.

Job 1a – Answering the phone for my dad’s plumbing business

Age: 5-14.

Lessons learnt: Taking down the correct details was essential for making money. I also learnt not to mix business and family, although the culture was great, of course!

Job 1 – stacking shelves at Foodland

At 14, I got my first real job. It was half outside and in winter, and I used to put socks on my hands because it was so cold stacking the shelves. My boss was grumpy, never really said much, and I was scared of him.

Lessons learnt: Don’t work for someone like that again, and don’t create a culture where staff don’t feel comfortable enough to communicate with you.

Job 2- COLES ‘check out chick’ and spruiker.

I wasn’t comfortable with the 2nd part of the job as it involved selling to customers over the loudspeaker, but I had an encouraging boss willing to spend time teaching me what I needed to know.

Lessons learnt: It’s a great lesson to think about giving your staff a gentle nudge to move out of their comfort zone to do things that they may not have done before. It’s also important that the workplace culture makes you feel safe being able to do something different.

Job 3University

Did I spend too much time at the uni bar? Hmm…maybe, but I did end up with a degree and learnt to socialise as well.

Job 4Cancer laboratory summer scholarship (and started my Honours)

This is where I learned about academia.

Lessons learnt: Relationships lead to support and even rehiring. Some of the leadership in academia was great as it was in that lab, although in other labs, the culture was so competitive that it turned me off pure academia. The culture was one of working seven days a week non-stop, or you were not seen as one of the team.

Job 5 – Snake Venom R&D

This was an industry commercialisation role where we did R&D around snake venom purification, and the neurotoxins were sold. I loved the actual role, and the team I worked with were supportive and diverse. I learnt so much from that environment.

Lessons learnt: Do your due diligence, especially around the products market! Unfortunately, they had no market for their product, and I lost my job. Make sure there is a market need or pull for the product and not you just pushing it.

Job 6 – Sales to Adelaide scientists of scientific instrumentation.

I loved it. My boss was great, but I did not have a lot of freedom. I think it was from trust issues he had with a previous staff member who had abused their time. Be careful not to tar all with the same brush; one staff member does not mean all will be like that. I ended up on excellent terms with them in the end.

Job 7- Restaurant management and backpacking across the UK, Europe, and Thailand. A bit like Uni- learnt to socialise.

Job 8 – Laboratory Sales Melbourne – Life Sciences

This was through someone I know who I had worked with before. I did not formally interview for the role and ended up in Melbourne doing a job I had no real idea of what I was doing.

Lesson learnt: Make sure you always get interviewed for a role, and you also interview others. 40% of candidates don’t work out because of mismatched expectations on both sides. As start-ups, please interview thoroughly, get someone else to interview, and please do references; I do believe what is not said is probably more important than what is.

Job 9 – Recruitment

1998. The year Google started. I had to pick up the phone and cold call, no email blasts. It was the old-fashioned phone and fax and mailing out ‘thank you for applying’ letters. I took a significant salary cut, thinking that was what I had to do. I did not talk enough about it to others, as I was naïve and had no real mentors and jumped at it. I ended up working in a not-very-good environment at all. There were 2 of us in the Melbourne office, and we had to ring Sydney to let them know when we were going to the toilet. Also, made us come in on Sundays? Really?? Yes, and I took it. Burnt out. Be careful you don’t expect too much of your staff. That company has now been sold, and thankfully, the culture has been addressed.

Job 10 – Unemployed Employment Consultant – Salvation Army

I loved the work, and it was really rewarding. I loved my manager, and she was also a leader. The culture in the office was caring and supportive of us and for those we were trying to assist. I found out that I missed science, though, but it was also good to try something different. Many of the job trainings that I learnt then I use today in our mexec jobstrategyTM program.

Job 11 – Science recruitment

Combining the jobs with roles in Australia and the UK, I learnt a lot and had mixed feelings about my leaders. I became a boss and did not get any leadership training in my first leadership role. I look back, and I had become the micromanager. I think partly I was managing the way I was being managed. But that did not work for me. The recruitment part I loved, though. I was matching up candidates with clients and having an impact on people’s lives. What I learned from there is what I use now. Making mistakes is okay as long as you learn from them.

Job 12 – Being a Mum

I learnt a lot about leadership and how to manage insubordinates and those that don’t listen to you. My daughter is now in VCE, and I have a 14-year-old boy. Agh…

Job 13 – mexec Director and Founder

I am now running my own business, and I see it as a start-up. In 2011, I started doing a few CVs as I was asked to when a biotech was closing down, and I set up my ABN. I remember calling one of my mentors, saying: “What do I charge?” I have now grown to 5 staff. I have had my ups and downs as someone like you have and will. But I love working for myself and building mexec. I have found what I want to do when I grow up.

I have to take time to lead. As the primary recruiter, I was not doing enough of the leading. It takes time, and I must step out of what I need to do daily to spend time with my staff. Time is something that we now have a weekly meeting, and even daily meetings are even better, and it ensures that we are communicating and helping support each other. My lesson here is as you build your team, make sure you can give them the time that they need so that they can do their jobs effectively to help you build your business and the culture that is inclusive and what you aspire to.

So that’s me and my journey, hopefully with some insights into what I am now and how I got here today.

7 thoughts on “Leadership and Culture – The 13 Day Jobs of Marilyn Jones”

  1. Hi Marilyn, We first met during job#8. While you state that you “had no real idea on what I was doing”, this may have only been for a very short period because when you visited the lab, you were always well prepared, very knowledgeable on the products and, if you did not know the answer to a question or problem, you were honest, said you did not know and would promptly follow up with the information or resolution.

    Lesson learnt- sometimes were are our own worst critic 🙂
    Thanks for sharing.


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