My interview with Jessica Simpson introduces two 'firsts' to the series: the first employee and the first 'millennial'. I find it interesting how Jess has pursued her career choices by focusing on the activities she enjoys doing. For someone still in the relatively early stages of building career experience, I also like the the thoughtfulness of her approach: the focus on continuous learning; consideration of how current activities support her long term career goals; and her willingness to play the long game. Focused and disciplined, Jess is also a really lovely person - someone who can encourage people to do another 20 lunges, as well as invite them to sit back, relax and enjoy their flight. I interviewed Jessica earlier this week.
What is it that you do you do exactly?
I work in two completely different professions. My main role is a flight attendant, but I’m also a group fitness instructor.
Why do you love about your work?
I love the huge variation in my flight work, day-to-day, week-to-week. It’s often unpredictable and I can literally end up anywhere in the world at the end of the day. I'll never stop getting choked up watching loved ones be reunited at the gate lounge, especially at Christmas. I love teaching! It gives me the tiniest sense of routine and keeps me grounded. I love that I have a creative outlet that combines my passion for health and fitness.
What work did you do previously?
I was Group Fitness Manager at two large health clubs. There I looked after teams of around 20 people (performance and schedules) as well as liaised with club management on revenue, KPI’s and client feedback.
What was your first ever job?
In a card and giftware store at the local shopping centre. In hindsight I think I enjoyed it. It was my first real experience of independence and I liked earning money. Also, it was an odd sensation not to be at school or home or at some organised sport. I found a whole new part of my personality.
Can you remember what you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
When I was very young, Dad and I would drop Mum off at the Canberra interchange, and I thought driving people around in a bus all day would be the coolest thing in the world. After my first flight I wanted to be a flight attendant – I think it was the high heels (I have words with my inner child every time I take them off at the end of the day).
What have you studied?
I did a Bachelor of Commerce at Adelaide Uni, with a marketing major. I’ve done tons of training courses through fitness institutions, including Les Mills. Lot's to stay on top of, so I'm always doing new programs.
I’m now doing a Masters in Nutrition, which I love! Studying's definitely more interesting the second time round.
What are your career plans?
I want to combine my marketing background with what I’m learning in health and nutrition – ideally with a government related organisation like the Heart Foundation or CSIRO. I’m interested in the way social media promotes fads and I’m keen get involved in initiatives which communicates that fitness and healthy eating don’t need to be as challenging as is often presented by the media.
What does your workweek look like?
It varies every single day. Some weeks I work 30 hours, some times 50. Some days I’m in Australia, sometimes overseas. In an average week, my wake up call will be set at 4 different times. For my fitness work however, I need to be able to provide some certainty around class times. Generally I can make it work with my flight schedule – but for those times it goes to mush, I’ve got an amazing friend who’ll pick up a class for me.
What do you wear to work?
As a flight attendant, I wear a uniform and get a high degree of direction for makeup, accessories and hair. At the gym, comfort! I am usually quite excited to wear more expressive pieces with lots of colour and enjoy the contrast of a messy bun after all that hairspray.
What is your standout proudest work moment?
Not a single moment – but I am proud that on any given day, I stand in front of up to 50 strangers, sweat, yell and exercise in front of them. Who in their right mind would do that? Pushing myself into that environment (which doesn’t come naturally) is one of the best things I have done for myself. It’s built a kind of confidence that’s made meetings, interviews and striking up conversation with people I’ve never met before a lot easier.
If you had the possibility to go back and change anything in your working life, would you?
I would have completely exhausted every opportunity at university – networking events, Q&A sessions with guest lecturers. I would have met as many people as I could. If I had done that I would have had a huge leg up into my industry.
Is there anyone whose career you really admire?
I'm genuinely blessed to belong to a family where career success isn’t necessarily governed by academic success – my father began his career as a tradesman and completed a Masters in Complex Systems Management just before he was 50. My mother began her career as a bank teller and now attends university in her 50s. An aunt has made a living whilst travelling the world; another is a successful businesswoman after decades in the corporate world. I suppose I admire that my family showed me that there is more than one dream, and more than one way to get there.
Do you have a mentor?
My Godmother! She keeps me incredibly grounded, believes anything is possible, and tells me when I need to smarten up. We live in different parts of the country, but have bi-monthly conversations. She is wise, passionate and has made her own dreams a reality.
How do you unwind?
I can have a notoriously short attention span but after a great deal of encouragement, I've become obsessed with reading. I love exercise, particularly yoga; and my dog, Dom Perignon, is my endless delight. Our latest adventures include trips to the dog park where he avoids playing with other dogs, but can sniff out a treat on a stranger.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing your current work?
Oh my goodness - I would either be a career student, or waiting tables across the world and travelling.
What do you want more of in your work right now?
As much as I love variety, I’m a little bit fickle and wouldn’t mind a bit more routine. Deep down though, I can’t bear the idea of doing the same thing every day.
And less of?
What do you think the biggest fail a person can have in their career?
Tunnel vision – needing to stay on the same path for your whole career. Careers are longer and there’s so much opportunity to explore new things.
What is one word you would use to describe yourself as a child?
If you knew me really well, you’d know …
I loathe goodbyes, and I can be painfully indecisive.
What kind of impact do you think you have on the people you work with?
I believe very strongly that the energy I bring to work affects the people I work with. I hope that bring I sense of positivity and calm. I want to be the kind of person that you want to spend the day at 35,000 in a tin can with – but also I hope that I motivate and inspire people (in the gym).
Other than work, what do you love about life right now?
I'm surrounded by friends and family who are driven, engaged and passionate about their goals, and supportive of mine. They’re also kind. I love the warmer weather, Christmas spreads in my favourite cooking magazines, and Sundays in Adelaide's fabulous vineyards sipping quality local produce.
and finally, a quick pop quiz!
Favourite book? David Kessler’s The End of Overeating is about additives in food and how they affect our consumption. This sparked my interest in combining marketing principles with health and nutrition concerns.
Favourite movie? The only one I’m prepared to admit to is Pulp Fiction. My movie taste is lowbrow.
Favourite piece of art? Any kind of daggy photograph a relative has taken with a camera phone (we live in different parts of the country)
Favourite place? Adelaide beaches, with my family and dog on Christmas day.
Along with being a very worthy interviews for this series, Jess is also a family member
All images provided by Jessica Simpson
If you enjoyed reading about Jessica's career, here's the link for more interviews I've done with people who love their work.