Coffee with Justine Campbell
Managing Partner for Talent at EY, UK & Ireland
Describe your career path in two or three sentences including any twist or turns ending with where you are now and where you see your future.
I am an HR professional by background. I started at EY many years ago and left and worked for another city firm, then came back to EY so I am your classic boomerang. I’ve been very fortunate in my career, to have had the opportunity to progress in a range of positions, globally and across EMEA and experience different cultures in the process. I never had children so I haven’t had the benefit of juggling that but it has meant I have been able to dedicate an awful lot of time to my career. This will probably be my last big job and then I will need to think about the next 5 or 10 years and what I might do after dedicating so much time to my corporate life.
What decision / experience proved to be the most helpful to your career?
I am not sure if there is any one decision. I have rarely said no to things that come my way so maybe it is my conscious decision to say, Yes! I recently held a global role with loads of travel and I made the decision to come back and do a very heavy operational role — some of my friends wondered why on earth would I do that. I think you have to keep on looking for new challenges and be interested in the next thing so I try and move roles every 5 to 7 years. You have to keep moving, not upwards necessarily but to avoid becoming stale.
What do you think are the most important qualities for sustaining a fulfilling career(s) as you grow older?
You have got to maintain interest. It would be easy to roll my eyes and say well we tried that. You need to stay young in your mind whilst harnessing all the wisdom you have. You can have a professional skepticism and remain optimistic. You must read and be interested in what is going on — you don’t have to be down with the kids but try but find a way to keep your work mojo and still be comfortable in your skin.
What advice would you give your 20 year old self knowing what you do now?
My 20 old self didn’t listen to anyone so I am not sure I could give her any advice! But if I could, I would say, roll with it and trust your instincts. I think we were lucky to be born when we were. In the 70s and 80s there were a lot of role models for women and we felt positive about our future.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for people making a career re-entry or re-invention later in life?
Women returners, by the time they hit their 50s, have a wealth of experience, not just professional experience. But there is a danger that you become invisible and so the question is how do you make the most of the power you have? And how do you find your voice when, as a population, you are becoming invisible? How do you harness all that power? It is not just about if you are employable, it is about what kind of work do you want to do that and what is going to be fulfilling to you.
The challenges are different if you are pivoting from a corporate role or changing gears entirely but either way you need to be flexible and open. Everything has a different pace. There needs to be an adjustment — if you are slowing down, you need to be sure you are not taking your foot off the gas too quickly. Similarly, if you’re ramping up you have to go at a pace that works for you.
And then there is the question of how do you define yourself, if for many years you defined yourself by your professional title, I am a lawyer or a marketer — it provided a short hand for who you are. How do you say, I am more than that? What do you say that gets to the heart of your worth, how do you put words around your worth that goes beyond a title and speaks to years of experience and wisdom.
What do you think are the opportunities for people wanting to work in their 50s, 60s and beyond.
I don’t think there has ever been a better time in terms of opportunities, particularly if this country goes ahead with Brexit, there will be all kinds of skill shortages. The business world is becoming more accepting of different ways of working, including flexible working, part time, portfolio. People are beginning to see the power of experience especially in light of a relatively unskilled population. I see many young graduates that lack so many skills and are quite naive. You need to supplement this with greater wisdom that comes with an older workforce.
What is your top tip for staying relevant in today’s job market
Be flexible, keep your mind open and stay energised.