You stand out by being yourself

I had forgotten that 2019 was a big anniversary year for me until I found this.

It’s old and tatty but it’s one of my most beloved keepsakes.

Aww, look at the smile on my face.

I was bursting with happiness at finally joining Channel 9 Sydney, then the most exciting and glamorous television station in Australia.

The Nine network was home to the biggest celebrities, the fattest budgets and the most popular shows – and from June 1989 to a young journo with stars in her eyes.

I’d started out as a TV reporter, spending two years in country NSW and one in Alice Springs with ABC News and 7.30 Report.

The Sydney job was behind the scenes, as an associate producer on the 6pm news. At first, I hoped it would only be a matter of time before I got back into reporting. But it turned out producing was a role I much preferred. I’d won a couple of awards for reporting, but I never felt that I had what it took to stand out among the competition.

I can see now that it was because as a reporter I was always trying to look and sound the way I thought ‘real’ reporters did. I didn’t feel confident enough to bring myself to the role.

It’s what would have made the difference then – it’s what makes a difference now. If you’re in the right role, doing the work that’s right for you, you really do stand out by being yourself.

I’ve only got to think back to some of the people who were just starting out at Nine when I was there to know how true that is.

Like Peter.

He was an enthusiastic young sports reporter and by then, I was the weekend news producer at Nine.

He’d dash into the newsroom late on a Saturday afternoon, and together we would go through the script he’d written for the main game of the day.

My job was to edit for meaning, grammar and Nine-style. I knew very little about most sports, but he would explain what was meant by some of the terms and I would steer him through the changes he needed to make.

As we worked, he’d talk about his hopes and dreams for his career at Nine – the greatest of which was to take over from the great Brian ‘Hendo’ Henderson as 6pm newsreader.

He would always end our editing session with a cheery, ‘Thanks Sherene – that really helped’ as he dashed to the editing booth to have the story ready for the bulletin, often with minutes to spare.

He was Peter Overton and he’s one of Nine’s biggest stars these days – former Sixty Minutes reporter and now the presenter of Nine’s flagship 6pm news bulletin for over ten years.

Of course, Peter’s success is partly down to his talent and the hard work he’s put in. But more than that, people see in Peter the person I saw all those years ago – a genuinely kind and considerate person who really cares about others. I still treasure the thank you note he wrote me when I left the newsroom. Peter’s warm and generous personality has been the hallmark of his career and it’s why audiences embrace him.

He’s not the only one. I worked with many ‘stars’ at Nine and those who really made an impression on people were those who added their own stamp to their roles – Liz Hayes, Peter Harvey, Ray Martin.

Liz Hayes was co-hosting the Today Show when I landed a job there and after she heard that I was worried she didn’t like me (my lack of confidence at work once again), she took me to dinner to tell me how glad she was to have a woman in a senior producing role on the show. She was warm and supportive and just lovely.

I learned many things from my time at Nine that I put into my work and my writing today, but this is the most important:

Being who you are isn’t a barrier to getting where you want to go.

It’s a huge advantage.

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