HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: Have I been in my job too long?

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Hello hello. I’m back from a month of writing, and while I was locked in my shed, I ticked over a really big birthday. One with a zero at the end.

It rattled me, in the way that decade-defining birthdays rattle us. They make us pick up our life, or at least the story we’re telling ourselves about our life, hold it up to the light and examine it a little, before putting it down and seeing how we feel about it.

This was a work birthday, and I just turned 10. I have been working at Mamamia for a decade.

Holly Wainwright is one of Mamamia's Executive Editors. Image: Supplied.


This is me ^^ in my first year at Mamamia, in fancy dress. Hardly changed a bit, right?

It isn’t surprising that it’s a personal record. It isn’t surprising to think it will probably never happen again. But what’s interesting about it is that how I feel about that birthday - and this definitely mirrors some of my experience of the “real” big birthdays - has taken me from denial, to acceptance, to pride.

This decade has been the most professionally fulfilling of my life, no question. I’ve done a lot of things, learned a lot of things, achieved a lot of things, failed at a lot of things. I’ve worked with the smartest and most talented and hilarious women, some of whom now work in all corners of the Australian media landscape, and some of whom are still by my side.

Is it “good” or “bad” to have been in a job a long time? Certainly it’s increasingly rare. For Millennials and Gen Zs the average time in one workplace is two years and three months. For Gen X it’s five years and two months.

My average, I’d guess, almost exactly matches my Gen X data set, and I’ve always been a bit embarrassed about it. When I’m asked “How long have you worked here?” I sometimes do a similar thing that I do when I ‘m asked about my age - fluff it a bit. “Ages.” “100 years.” “Quite a while”, “How about that weather?”.

But now, undeniably, my time at one workplace has become career defining. And if you are finding yourself questioning how long is too long, and when to stay and when to go, I’ve learned a great deal about longevity, when it’s good and when it’s bad.


Here. I hope some of it is helpful.

Watch: First Date with Holly Wainwright. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

1. There’s a difference between staying put, and standing still.

In the time I’ve worked at Mamamia, I’ve had at least five job titles. Maybe six. I came here from magazines, entirely inexperienced in digital media, to work on a then-existing parenting site, tempted by reinvention and by the promise of working with Mia, who then was a charismatic, mysterious force.

With the original iVillage team (the previous Mamamia parenting site), 2014. Image: Supplied.


Within a year, I became the Editor of Mamamia. Then I had a meltdown. I could have run away but I’m stubborn, so I regrouped and moved on while standing still.

I became the Editor of Mamamia in September 2014. Image: Supplied.


Since then, I’ve been the GM of podcasts. I’ve been Head Of Entertainment (that meant podcasts and video). I was Head of Content for several years. And I’ve been what I am now, an Executive Editor - a non-full-time role where my primary job is making things, not managing people and projects. 

Thank you for coming on this tour of my CV with me. The point is not that I work for a very dynamic company (I do) and like new challenges (I do) but that “10 years in one place” does not have to, or even usually mean “10 years doing the same thing”. It’s helpful when you’re deciding whether you should leave where you work because it’s “been too long”, to do a tally of what you’ve done, achieved, moved on to and left behind during the time you’ve worked there. But be careful, it might make you proud.

The first ever podcast with Shelly Horton, 2015. Image: Supplied.


2. You can’t become an immovable force.

Nobody wants to be part of the furniture. Nobody wants to be the reason positive change can’t happen. It can be tempting when you’ve been in a workplace a long time, and seen a lot of projects come and go, to look at new people, things and ideas and see all the reasons why it’s not going to work. Or feel threatened by the people trying new ways to solve a problem you wrestled with. All that happens to immovable forces is that inevitably, challengers find their way around them. If you’re deciding whether to stay or go somewhere, ask, am I part of a positive push forward, or do I feel like a roadblock? Which brings us to…

3. The six words you should never say.

“We’ve always done it like this.” Close cousin to “But that’s how we do it here.,” or “That’s how we’ve always done it.” If those words keep coming out of your mouth, or even into your head, it's time to log-on to Seek, because resisting change is futile. Wherever you work, in whatever industry, change will be the constant. At Mamamia, it’s not the constant, it’s just constant. No-one highly change resistant can survive in a fast-moving workplace. So, you don’t want to be that brake, but there’s a very important nuance to be noted here because…

4. Experience is invaluable.

Banning yourself from saying those words does not mean sitting back and letting inexperience waste time and resources trying things that have already been tried. On a bad day you might roll your eyes (internally, hopefully) when someone new bounds in and suggests an overhaul that sounds eerily familiar. You will then consider your options. 


Experience has made you good at your job, it’s made you alive to rabbit holes and tripwires. It’s given you insider knowledge that leads to something thin on the ground and more valuable than ever - expertise. Mastery. You need to be able to express that expertise in a way that makes people listen to it. That means not dismissing or mocking new ideas, listening and responding respectfully, and always pairing your criticisms with suggestions of other ideas. The fastest way to close ears is to start with one of those six-word phrases. Use your powers wisely.

Listen to Theis Glorious Mess discuss how Holly Wainwright balances her kids and career. Post continues below.

5. Change everything else.

If you adore your job but life’s beginning to burn you out through repetition, change other things. Move. Get into something completely non-work related that brings you a joy spark. Get a dog. Have a fricking child (only if you want one). Dump someone. You know, something that makes you feel alive.

6. It only works if you love it.

My Mamamia era is still in full swing because I genuinely love it. That doesn’t mean that every day I have leapt out of bed with a song in my heart, busting to get to work (I’m not delusional) but that I have been allowed to grow and change within the confines of one workplace. I’ve become a more accomplished writer (I hope), a podcaster, a digital content expert and someone who dances on a stage in an ABBA wig.


The MMOL tour with Jessie and Mia, 2022. Image: Supplied.

But the main point is, I believe in it, that the work fills me up. That I’m not, as I once was, frustrated, looking out at other places I’d rather be, lying about my age.

So… jump if you want to jump, stay if you want to stay. But don’t let anyone else judge your number.

Talk soon - Holly xx

Feature Image: Supplied.

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