The Career Investment That Paid Off

The path to workplace fulfilment is not always linear, as these women discovered.

By Jessica Parry


The path to workplace fulfilment is not always linear, as these women discovered.

By Jessica Parry

In The Road Ahead, billionaire Bill Gates wrote that investing in yourself was an important measure of future success. But many simply don’t have the time or inclination to do so – a decision which could be career limiting. For those who do take his advice to heart, the payoffs often go beyond a pay rise and lead to a new career direction or work/life balance.

Like Cara Stagg, 29, who had her personal growth epiphany two years ago while working long hours in a movie industry human resources role. “It felt like I was on a hamster wheel, the only challenge was keeping up with the volume of work. There was no room for growth because it was about doing as much as possible, working harder, not smarter. I lost my sense of purpose and knew that I needed a break because I felt so exhausted and burnt out.”

Jodie Mlikota, 34, from Cairns, Queensland, was the opposite. In a fulfilling role as a senior development coordinator at a university, she was prompted to study further by a supportive employer. Already with a marketing and communications degree under her belt, she decided on postgraduate study in social innovation and entrepreneurship because it was already an area of interest: she was active in a local group promoting entrepreneurial ideas. “Even so, I didn’t really go into it with too much expectation,” she says.

As part of the course, Jodie began working on – a culinary marketplace (currently based in Cairns, Port Douglas and Brisbane – but with expansion plans) that matches a chef or accomplished home cook to a host who desires an elevated home-cooking experience.


“We are capable of anything, if we want to make change.”


After launching Gathar in October 2018, Mlikota has quit her day job to focus full time on the growing business, which has 30 “culinarians” on its books and lots of positive feedback from locals and holidaymakers. Her income is derived from a cut of the menu costs.

“I don’t think I would have done anything with the concept if it hadn’t been for study,” she says.

“It helped me to frame the idea and give it a real business backing. It would have been an idea rather than a reality.”

For Felicity Langton, from Victoria, further study was always at the back of her mind: to gain a formal qualification and boost credentials gained from 20 years in not-for-profit sector marketing, management and consulting. “In addition, I felt like it was time to learn something new, to test myself to study and achieve in disciplines – like accounting and HR – beyond my day job.”

A flexible, online Master of Business Administration – the MBA (Leadership) from CQUniversity – was the solution for this flat-out mum of two teenage girls. “I’m pretty busy but I knew I would work out a way to squeeze this in. The MBA doesn’t have any deadlines or group work, so I never have any other calendars to try and co-ordinate. If my family needs me I don’t have to put them on hold for study and that was important to me.”

Associate Professor Kate Ames, Director of Flexible Learning and Innovation Projects at CQUniversity and co-creator of the innovative MBA, says the course is ideal for remote students, business owners  and anyone who already has their own network and doesn’t need the interaction and group work of a traditional MBA. It’s a self-led, online course with a five-year maximum timeframe.

Finding A New Path

Cara Stagg decided to take two-and-a-half months off and do further study in the form of e-learning short courses. After completing several online courses, she finally found her new path, which was more of a detour. She is now People and Business partner at the NRL. “I realised that what I wanted to study was still in the field of people. I was just in the wrong role and company.”

“I think people can be ignorant toward self-reflection, it’s much easier to point out flaws in others than to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. We are capable of anything, if we want to make change.

“I also learnt the value of time to myself. Being busy and rushing is probably the easiest way to avoid confronting your personal issues.”

For Felicity Langton, the cost of investing in herself has not only been financially less than she thought, it’s also been less demanding on her time, in terms of the flexibility her MBA course offers, allowing her to balance professional and personal development. “I join cults,” she laughs. “I’m a member of both the Thermomix and CrossFit cults. I was very inspired by the AFLW this year so I joined [local club] Blackburn’s inaugural women’s team. Of course, I knew nothing about AFL – literally, I read the rules on Wikipedia – and joined lots of other women of all ages and backgrounds, also new to AFL and we were grand finalists in our first year.”

Despite some qualms about leaving a secure, full-time job Jodie Mlikota is revelling in running her expanding business and has this advice for anyone thinking of taking the plunge and studying further: “It’s always a little bit daunting but there’s no harm in giving it a go. A lot of what I got out of study was not necessarily the course itself but the extra-curricular opportunities, such as winning a scholarship to attend an international innovation conference. The experience you have at uni can be a lot richer if you pay attention to every opportunity.”

CQUniversity’s MBA (Leadership) offers an ultra-flexible and affordable learning option, priced from just $7000.