Balancing the Grind with Sarah Meredith, Australian Country Director at Global Citizen

Sarah Meredith is Global Citizen’s Australian Country Director, overseeing the movement’s efforts in Australia since 2016.

She sits on Global Citizen’s Senior Leadership Team and has been involved with Global Citizen Festivals in New York, London, Johannesburg and Montreal.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

During high school I wanted to go into a sports administration/netball coaching and umpiring career. However, all of that changed after I was selected as a member of the Australian Government’s National Youth Roundtable in 2001 when I was in Year 12.

The opportunity involved me traveling to Canberra and talking about issues of concern for young people. I met the most incredible people and became inspired to work in policy and advocacy. 

As a person with a hearing impairment, speaking in public was a very anxious experience which meant I never thought I would pursue a job with a lot of public speaking, so working in politics and getting involved at university in student politics was out of the comfort zone.

It gave me enormous confidence embracing the fear and I felt like it was a great training experience for me. In 2005 I took a full time position with my local MP and then I moved to Ministerial adviser roles in the Victorian and Australian governments.

After more than a decade, I still had the burning passion to stand up for equality and create a better world, and so I undertook a Master of International and Community Development whilst working full time in Canberra for the Minister for the Environment.

Once I completed my degree, I wanted to work in the international development space and jumped at the opportunity to work with Global Citizen to head up the Australian operation of the movement.

It’s been an incredible experience and I have expanded my skills far beyond what I could have ever imagined when I first applied for the role.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My work day is never the same. As we are an international organisation with offices across the globe, I often start my days catching up on emails and messages that have taken place during the night and phone calls with my colleagues based out of our New York office.

We have a morning team connect which has been a really important part of the day during COVID-19 for our team.

I then jump from meetings with the government, music industry, media, politicians, corporate partners, philanthropists to our CSO network to find ways that we can secure wins against extreme poverty and new business development opportunities.

I also report to our board of directors and so I do a significant amount of governance, HR, finance and legal work. I end the day with calls with colleagues in Europe and London, particularly with other Country Directors as we troubleshoot issues.

The challenge of working for a small NFP is that you have to wear many hats so that is the hardest thing to manage in my daily workflow and priority setting! 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Yes, we have the capacity to work anywhere we can take our laptop and connect to the internet, but with the complexities of time zones it can be a challenge to get that balance particularly when we have a global campaign.

Pre COVID-19, I travelled often both domestically and internationally, which I miss. The challenge for our organisation, which is a people business, is how we manage partner relationships and team dynamics without seeing people face-to-face and to do it within good times of the day! 

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I have worked in a couple of roles where work-life-balance was completely off and wasn’t part of the culture, and I became very sick because of it. For me it is critical to have that separation and chance to disconnect.

Running, eating healthy food and quality time to reflect with family and friends is key to a happy life for me. I have learnt that I perform better and am more effective when I care for my physical and mental health and have perspective about what I am working on.

It’s something that I constantly check in with myself on and have undertaken professional coaching to help me address. 

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

A new routine I have started is mapping out the week and writing down what I would like to get out of the week and then thinking through the wins at the end of each day.

It may be reduced social media use, ticking off my three run training scheduled for the week, eating good food or drinking enough water.

From a work perspective, I like to do short and long-term projects throughout the week so that I am always looking ahead and meeting the weekly requirements. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend? 

I love the Tribe of Mentors, it gave me some great insights from people with different backgrounds. Brene Brown’s Rising Strong and the Courage to be Disliked spoke to me about owning my mistakes and who I am, being authentic and to face conflict.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind changed my whole way of thinking about the world and helped me to be more curious.  In terms of daily newsletters, I love The Squiz podcast and email with a summary of everything you need to know. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Runkeeper App – I have become obsessed with tracking my running performance and maps.

I also love my MiGoals diary which I have used for the last few years and I look forward to setting goals and reviewing how I have performed! It has been great to see the goals for this year and how I still delivered on what I wanted to achieve which I am incredibly proud of! 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

I would love to hear from Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas. I am curious how leaders have navigated the current crisis and can maintain decisive action and creativity with the huge challenges put before the company whilst keeping his mind and health in a good space? 

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I would say the most important lesson I have learnt is that no one will look out for your health and interests as a priority, you have to stand up for yourself and be clear about what you need.

I have had professional coaching on this as I love to give my all to my passions and sometimes don’t see when that balance is off. I have some little reminders and can recognise feelings to signal when I need to rebalance.

I always remind my team that their time is valuable and it is important we are purposeful in how we spend it and execute our organisational priorities. Always have courage to be bold and brave in what you choose to do and what you want or need.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.