Associate Director Gemma McDonald joined Page Group in 2016 as an Associate Consultant through PageGroups entry-level graduate program, and quickly moved up through the ranks. But last year she found herself at a crossroads, struggling with a lack of motivation and waning passion for her career.

“After 12 months in a booming market, my job was becoming incredibly monotonous and felt really transactional,” Gemma says. “I was hitting all my performance goals, but found that they no longer inspired or fulfilled me. Once I lost that sense of achievement as my key motivator, I really felt like I had lost my sense of identity. If being at the top stopped meaning anything to me, what did I have? I struggled to find where I was adding value and living our purpose of changing lives when everything felt so reactive.”

Facing a career crisis, Gemma decided to sit down and reevaluate what was important to her. After some honest conversations with senior stakeholders across Page Group and a business coach, she put together a plan.

“Through a number of conversations with senior leaders I started to identify where I could add value on a larger scale, and that was within our contracting business, which has been underperforming year on year,” Gemma explains. “Suddenly I felt a resurgence of passion and energy, and I knew I had to make a change.

“I had been working with a business coach and we had been talking a lot about personal strengths and how you play to them. So I first pitched my proposal to my coach, leaning heavily on my strengths and why I think this new role could be a good fit for me. Together, we refined the pitch to make sure that it would appeal to the stakeholders at play, and then I organised a meeting with my Director and laid my cards on the table.

“I was clear about the challenges I was having, the lack of purpose I was feeling and ultimately that I wasn’t living with the passion I once did. I then spun the proposition of where the gaps were in our business and why I was the best person for the job, and fortunately my Director agreed and was really excited too!”

Support at every step of the way

Gemma says one of the main reasons she decided to stay at Page Group rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere is the support she’s received throughout her career.

“I feel fiercely loyal to Page, because they have always treated me as a person and individual first and an employee second. I have always known I can be incredibly honest and vulnerable with not only my leaders but my team and my peers, and I think that is a very rare luxury.

“My leaders have always had genuine and sincere care for me and I have always felt heard and respected. They have also always led with integrity and that is my biggest value. Through their support, they have allowed me to harness my potential and run with it.

“The fact that I have that ‘safety net’ of people behind me ready to catch me has really allowed me to reach for the stars. Nothing is off limits and if I don’t make the shot and miss the mark, then I am always supported when I land.”

Embarking on a new journey

Although she’s still finding her feet in her new role leading Michael Page’s contracting team, Gemma says she’s grateful to have a support network to lean on.

“I am so far out of my comfort zone, which feels a bit daunting and like walking on unfamiliar terrain. I was able to be so successful in my last role because I could do it with my eyes closed, and I knew that a + b = c. With this new role I haven’t worked out the formula yet, but that is all part of the journey. 

“The reality is I deal with imposter syndrome every day – wondering if I’ve said the right thing, if I delivered the right message, if I sounded smart enough, inspiring enough, assertive enough, empathetic enough. But within my team, we are all in it together and I can’t imagine ever trying to go on this journey anywhere else. I’m glad I’m surrounded by the support network I have to help me navigate through the ups and downs of this new chapter. 

As for the future?

“I am setting my sights high and would love to do an international transfer at some point in the future  and take on a bigger remit,” Gemma notes. “The world is really my oyster because I know I will achieve anything I set my mind to.”

For others who may be stuck in a career rut or trying to find that next step, Gemma has one key piece of advice:

“Opportunity waits for no one. If you want to see something change, be bold enough to speak up. You are good enough, you are capable enough and with a bit of belief, grit and determination, you will make anything possible!”

Gemma McDonald
Associate Director Gemma McDonald


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