Tully Smyth on Redefining Her Career After 'Big Brother'
Tully Smyth on Redefining Her Career After 'Big Brother'
On her childhood ambitions:
Mum likes to tell this story about when my little brother and I were both asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said a ballerina and my brother Scott said "an elephant." I think he had the better idea. During high school I was set on being a fashion designer. I used to spend all my money on magazines and keep them in piles and piles in my bedroom. In hindsight, my parents probably thought I was a hoarder. It wasn't until actually picking up Textiles and Design as a subject at school that I realised I actually couldn't draw at all. I had zero artistic abilities when it came to designing clothes on paper, which is obviously a vital skill for a fashion designer. It was a little disappointing.
On school life:
My report cards always said something like "Tully is a very bright and talented student however can be easily distracted by others." I always tried really hard and loved being the centre of attention . . . And never took criticism very well. Tears were a regular occurrence if I didn't do as well as I had hoped in a test.
On her first paid job:
I was a babysitter from a pretty young age but my first paid job in the workforce was at the local McDonalds. I remember going in and asking for an application the minute I hit 14-and-nine months, which was the legal age for me to be working. I worked at the front counter and regularly won awards for "Best Presented Crew Member"—my shirts were always ironed and tucked in and my visor on straight.
I also worked in the drive-through window sometimes but was quickly pulled out of there for talking too much to customers and slowing the queue down.
Not going to university was never an option in my eyes. It's not as if my parents were the types to pressure and force the idea onto my brothers and I, but it was always something I was certain I'd do. Had I not gotten into the course I wanted, I think I would have felt like I'd failed.
I did a Bachelor of Communications majoring in journalism at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst. At the time I just thought, "I want to write for a living," and journalism seemed like the best fit. That, and as I said, I'd always loved magazines and the fashion world. The Devil Wears Prada was very big and I wanted to be a part of that industry.
I knew Charles Sturt had a great reputation for journalism especially—they had their own radio station, their own university paper, their own TV studio all on campus. Plus the thought of living in a dorm made all my sorority house dreams seem like a reality.
I did a LOT of interning. I felt it was important to work at a range of different print publications so I did everything from a week working for The Mudgee Guardian (where the biggest story was dear old Dot from around the corner turning 100) to interning at men's mag FHM and then finally, Marie Claire. Obviously Marie Claire was the most fun for me—attending shoots, helping organise the fashion cupboard, and sitting mere metres away from the powerhouse that is Jackie Frankwas life-changing.
On career mistakes:
[My biggest mistake was] going on "Big Brother"? Haha no I'm not sure. It was definitely an interesting decision to leave my cushy, well-paid and respected job as a social media strategist at DDB Sydney to be a "Big Brother" housemate but no regrets!
On her best career decision:
After "Big Brother" I had the option to go back to working in advertising. I was inherently good at my job but I didn't love it. I wasn't passionate about it. I still wanted to write, I wanted to be more creative in my career. So I made the decision to not go back to work and to instead, risk it all following my dreams. Three years later and I don't miss that desk one bit.
On what motivates her:
My mother, if I'm honest. She's quite ill now with early onset Alzheimer's, but growing up, I always looked up to her as a bit of a wonder woman. She worked crazy, stupid hours—first in advertising and then in recruitment—and would come home on the weekends and throw the most lavish dinner parties for our family and friends. On top of all that, she was a brilliant mother to myself and my two brothers.
I remember going to her office after school and watching her work—it was clear to me she was very good at her job and well-respected by her peers. That vision has always motivated me to do better, push harder, dream bigger.
On her job right now:
I really hate that question [about what I'm doing for work] mainly because what I'm doing doesn't have one nice neat little label that I can chuck at people when they ask me! I'm a freelance writer. I have my own travel blog, but I also write pieces for websites like news.com.au, Mamamia and Pedestrian.tv.
I'm also what they call a "digital influencer" which basically just means I get paid to promote and advertise products on my Instagram account— I've basically taken my experience as a social media strategist, looking after other people's brands and applied it to myself as a brand. Finally, I'm also working with a few new apps on some top secret stuff—so I guess you could say, a freelance consultant too.
On her best skills:
My "industry" is a funny one. I think you have to be bright, forward-thinking and adaptable. You have to have good people skills, a keen eye for the aesthetic and be always open to learning and improving, keeping up to date with trends and ahead of the game. Apart from that it also helps if you are just naturally quite a good writer or speaker.
On the apps she uses for work:
Apps are my life! Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are the main apps I use but I also have about a million photo editing apps for my photos and other influencer apps like Brandsnob, Tribe, and INTO. I generally just use my iPhone calendar [instead of a planner]. If i don't write an event or an appointment in there as soon as I get it, there's no way I'll remember what I have on for the day.
On the worst career advice she's received:
"Good looks will get you far." I think originally, a lot of people thought my overnight success in social media strategy was because I was a female with blonde hair working in an industry that was predominately male, when really it was because I was a digital native and had been blogging before we even called it blogging. It ran in my veins.
On the best career advice she's received:
Do what you love, love what you do. I won't ever again end up doing a job that makes me miserable.
On her career in five years:
I don't really mind [where I am professionally], as long as I love what I'm doing and I'm having fun! Dream gig would be a presenting or radio gig—something where I can write my own content and then share it with the world like the attention-seeking drama queen that I am!
On finding a work/life balance:
Well, it's funny because just as my mum was my professional motivation, she's also my motivation when it comes to making sure I have a balance between work and play. She was a workaholic. She was always tired, always overdoing it. I remember going away on family holidays and the minute we get to the hotel or the bungalow or whatever it was, she'd be crawling around trying to find the internet port so she could plug her laptop in and check her work emails. I never want to be like that. Balance is so important, I always make time for my friends and family and try not to work overtime on weekends.
Life is too short to be glued to your computer screen!