How to live an authentic work life


Veteran ABC newsreader Virginia Trioli spoke powerfully on how she crafted an authentic work life for herself at the recent Women in Media Conference. 

Viriginia Trioli, Women in Media Conference 2018
Viriginia Trioli, Women in Media Conference 2018

Trioli advises “not to mute our voices, quiet our requests or dial down our demands”, particularly in a world that is reductive of us women and our capabilities. While the full transcript is worth reading here,  I’ve distilled into the key principles that resonated for me:

Kill ‘nice’

Don’t confine yourself to someone’s expectations of you. Listen to that voice inside that knows exactly what it is that you really want to do, but is being drowned out by the white noise of what you think you ought to be doing. Set the boundaries for yourself. This is my favourite part:

Get in touch with the difficult woman inside you — the one who insists on her voice being heard; the one who refuses to bend to ‘the way we’ve always done it’ before; who can identify what she was put here to do and asks for the help she might need to get it done…”.

Don’t be the ‘nice’ girl and please everyone. Please yourself.

Do your own performance evaluation

Don’t wait for someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart to point out your shortcomings. Get there first and do something about them. Periodically sit down and take inventory of:

  • what I’m doing well
  • what I need to improve
  • where the gaps are in my skillset and knowledge base, and
  • how I need to fill them

Have a ‘save your arse’ file

Now that you’ve done the self scrutiny, she advises having a ‘save your arse’ file to draw upon when asking for pay rises. Show the facts of what you’ve contributed, and make it hard for people to say no to your requests.

“It’s basically a file of rock solid evidence that allows me to argue that I have added value, increased readership and have been useful to other staff,” Trioli said.

I’ve already started my file which will  be useful at performance evaluation time.

And then ask for what you want

When it comes to asking for what we want, more often than not women take a backward step by consistently underrating their abilities. Identify the next challenge in your career – and ask to be considered, even if you don’t have all of the listed criteria. Have that meeting with the senior director, and pitch your idea or solution. Don’t wait to be noticed or asked.

Ultimately we need to appreciate that our individual authentic working life will be different to someone else’s. For example, Trioli relates her joy in being considered for 60 Minutes, the most prestigious current affairs show in Australia, only to turn it down when she found out the travel commitments would have conflicted with the family life she wanted.

Being a difficult woman in a difficult world

Trioli talks about not only bringing our best self to work, but all of our capabilities and strengths. Most women underplay their achievements, demonstrating incredible organisational, planning, strategy and execution capacity in running a household, combined with work, and school and volunteer commitments. As for me, I’m dedicating myself to  becoming a  ‘difficult woman’ – the perfect antidote to being ‘nice’.