Going full circle – what I have learnt along the way 

On her last day with PHD as co-lead of business growth, Chloe Hooper reflects on her seven-year journey to explore the lessons and values within.

Today is my last day at PHD after seven years of being part of their huge growth journey. Due to avoiding COVID lockdown, I have found myself completing my three month notice period travelling Australia.

Last night, I checked myself into a hostel (we have been living in a van and I thought it would be nice to wake up in an actual bed after seven years in one company – I appreciate a hostel doesn’t sound like the biggest treat but the hot shower was heaven).

Ironically (and I think the universe’s way of telling me something), the place I randomly selected happened to be where I had stayed seven years ago when I rocked up to Australia. I had just quit my job in the UK and with my backpack on, I was ready for an adventure. ‘I’ll be home in six months’ I said to mum as I waved goodbye at the airport.

I’d put my career progression on hold. Destined to be behind all of my friends who had stayed at home to climb the graduate ladder. I distinctly remember being really nervous, concerned that I’d thrown my degree and work experience away. But I needed an adventure and relied heavily on my motto, ‘always do the thing that scares you most’. As I sat in this very hostel, I had no idea I was about to be offered my dream job.

Seven years on and I can’t quite believe I am sitting here again, about to be unemployed and living in a hostel. True to form, I’ve decided to do the thing that scares me most. Except this time, I’ll be starting my own business. Quite frankly, I’m just as scared of failure now as I was back then. I take comfort in the knowledge that I am not starting again, I’m starting from experience.

I’ve written down some takeaways which I’ve learned along the way, hoping that they may help someone else right now at the beginning of their journey in the industry.


Understand your limiting beliefs

Limiting beliefs are thoughts, opinions and beliefs that hold us back from what we want in life. I am embarrassed to admit it, but my most significant limiting belief was my desire to be liked. It wasn’t until I uncovered this that I was able to identify why I approached things the way I did. Having self-awareness around your limiting beliefs can help you to understand your behaviour and can be the most valuable piece of information that you ever receive.

Purpose is intense – instead, find your values

I have been to a million talks on finding your ‘purpose.’ To be completely honest, I give up. Even now I have defined what I want to do with my career (and I have done a lot of soul searching), it is still complicated to label. Defining purpose seems to always lead in one direction, to our friends and family. Why? Because deep down, that’s what all of us are in this crazy rat race for!

My recommendation is to stop putting so much pressure on defining your ‘life’s purpose.’ Instead, search for values. Understanding what you value most and what’s most important to you can easily be defined in the workplace. Values allow you to navigate your career path and support decision-making.

Find a team that cares

I was blessed at PHD with a leadership team that I respected. They have all earned the right to be followed. As a business, we had a clear vision, and we were united in our pursuit of growth.

It was my peers who pushed me to be better. Look around you, are you surrounded by people who will push you to be better? Will they catch you if you fall? If not, find them. If you find a team who cares, not only will they push you to be better, but you can push them. I remember when Mitch Long, our incredible head of strategy, asked me for his opinion on a ‘30 Under 30’ award entry he had written. I told him, ‘Mitch, you are one of the smartest people in the industry; this isn’t good enough – start again’. He took the feedback well and won the award. We could only share that brutal honesty because we knew that feedback came from a genuine place of care and passion.

Over-communicate your needs and wants 

Sometimes your most important learnings come during periods of change. The importance of over-communicating your needs and wants only dawned on me after handing in my notice. If anything, it’s probably the thing I’d like all of you to take away from this article.

Don’t presume people know what you want.

It’s possible that your manager is finding it hard enough to define what they want next in their job and their career, let alone what you want. That is for you to define – and that is for you to over communicate. And if you don’t get what you want the first time, ask why. Then work on it and try again.

I am not talking about money, I am talking about what you really want. Gain clarity and don’t be shy about it.

Get involved in new business 

I have been part of hundreds of new business meetings and processes, and there is one key theme – the people who get involved in new business have the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities publicly.

Client work is awesome, but it doesn’t always allow you to take the stage unless it’s award-worthy. New business gives you the spotlight to demonstrate your smarts and it will also be a powerful learning opportunity. Take the first step today. Even if there is no clear opportunity, reach out to the relevant people and let them know you want to be involved.

Say yes to training 

I have been blessed over the years to participate in many leadership ‘away days’ where coaches and facilitators taught us how to be the best versions of ourselves. These have always been my favourite days at work (and probably why I have decided to move into this space in my next career move). In saying that, unless it was forced into my diary, another meeting would have likely taken priority. Put yourself and your development first. Not only will this be great for your growth, prioritising training and development earns the respect of others.

Prioritise building your network 

Upon announcing I was going out on my own, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and care that I have been shown by people within the industry. People seem to genuinely want to help, and many have assisted in guiding me to where I am now; at the bottom of a new mountain that I can’t wait to climb. Take time to build your network, you never know what is next.

I wrote this overlooking a mountain reflecting on the highs and the lows I have been on both personally and professionally since my last visit to this hostel. It’s been one hell of a journey. Take some time this week to reflect on how you got to this point today. You’ll be amazed by what you have learned along the way.

Chloe Hooper was most recently co-lead of business growth at PHD.


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