“Don’t take no for an answer.” That’s the principal advice from Sharmila Juliet John, better known as Juliet, and she certainly practices what she preaches. It is this tenacity that has seen her win the Malaysian version of the US hit reality TV show The Apprentice, develop an iPhone App that was endorsed by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, work as a TV presenter internationally, interview the Prime Minister of Malaysia, establish a successful business and score a job in an area that she was told, flat out, by her peers was a fantasy.
“Nothing is unachievable,” Juliet says decidedly, as if this statement were as immune to scrutiny as a mathematical equation. And, so far, she has been living, breathing proof of this declaration.
Juliet’s story is one worth hearing, if, for no other reason than to remind you that stepping out of your comfort zone is an integral component to achieving success. And that staying in the safe lane will get you nowhere, fast.
Juliet believes her tenacity is probably attributed to nature, rather than nurture, because she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t doggedly determined. Born in Malaysia, to her dad, a doctor and her mum, an accountant, Juliet grew up in KL, where she was a quintessential tomboy, dirt-ridden, hanging out with the boys, playing sport and getting a black belt in taekwondo.
At 23 she moved to South Australia to complete a degree in Psychology. She then returned to Malaysia to work in media when she was asked to try out for a spot on the reality TV program, “Please Give Me A Job” which is the Malaysian version of the US hit series, The Apprentice. At the audition, producers asked her to speak to the camera, with no other instructions. Juliet spoke for 15 minutes at which point the tape ran out. “I would have kept going too!” she laughs.
When she received a call back, the producers told her not a single other applicant had spoken the entire time. She was the only one. This maverick attitude scored her an offer to be on the Malaysian version of The Apprentice, which she subsequently won. Juliet received thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes and a taste of fame after the show aired. “I got stopped on the street in Malaysia for a while to take photos.” She shrugs, nonchalantly. “I’ve got no problem with fame. It’s not something I shy away from. It was cool being noticed in public.”
But instead of following this path, Juliet was confronted by a crossroad. When she was about to start her new role, which she’d won through the show, she was simultaneously offered a place in the Master of Global Media and Communications at Melbourne University. She shrugs, “So I decided to go to Melbourne.”
It was while completing her masters degree in Melbourne that Juliet decided she wanted to be TV presenter. Her peers told her that this was a pipe dream. “It just was not a feasible possibility for me,” she explains. “I was not from Australia. I had absolutely no experience. I wasn’t an Australian Permanent Resident at the time. Everyone told me I was crazy!”
So she did what any tenacious person would do, she stalked the Channel Ten news studio. “I went to Channel Ten every day and just hung around. And then, after doing this for some days, I noticed that the News Editor went out to the foyer for a cigarette break at 11 am regularly.”
Eventually Juliet found a window of opportunity in which to approach him and introduced herself. “He took me on a tour of the Channel Ten newsroom. He was very lovely, but said he had no work.”
Two months later, Juliet received a call from that same editor. He told her that although he was sorting through piles of resumes where candidates had much greater practical experience than her, her face was the only one that came to mind.
She recalls the moment, “‘You were the first face I remembered’, he said to me. ‘You were the only candidate I had physically met’. And I have never forgotten that moment. Now I know I just need to meet a person to make an impression on them. Otherwise I am nothing more than words on paper!”
Juliet tells me that this has become her manifesto. “Every single job I’ve ever gotten was through hustling and chasing my boss.”
While listening to Juliet, I couldn’t help but wonder how many opportunities I had let slip by due to fear of rejection or embarrassment. It reminded me of a conversation I had had a day earlier with someone who worked in palliative care. “Nobody ever regrets the things they’ve done,” he said. “They regret the things they haven’t done.”
Juliet worked as an assistant producer and news reporter, among other things, for Channel Ten, Channel Seven and ABC Radio. She was then invited by a Malaysian television station to be their Broadcast Journalist. During this job, she interviewed the Prime Minister of Malaysia, various Malaysian Ministers and the Foreign Minister of Sudan.
When she later returned to Australia, Juliet pursued another project that had been brewing in her mind for some time. While studying in Australia she had noticed that a lot of her fellow Malaysian students weren’t having such a great experience. “They spent all this money to be there and then they just lived between the student accommodation and Uni.”
She realised this was because they had no access to information to guide them. She wanted to create an info portal for Malaysian students to help them assimilate and make them feel more at home. She built an app called “Malaysia In Melbourne” with the help of a developer, that provided details on such things as where to find Malaysian restaurants, halal butchers etc. She included videos where she interviewed the owners of the companies included in the app. The app received a lot of media attention, in which she was declared the first app presenter ever. It was endorsed by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and she received sponsorship from Swinburne University.
From her experience TV presenting, Juliet then landed a highly coveted role with Seek, as their roving online reporter. In this job she interviewed CEO’s to explore and teach viewers what it was like to work in various industries. “I got to interview a vast range of interesting people,” she explains. “It’s here that I really got exposed to the world of recruitment. And this is where I got my idea for my business.”
Juliet went on to establish Juliet John Media, a unique business based in Malaysia that offers corporate videos with a twist: Juliet interviews her client in a similar method to the way she’d produced the Seek videos, to create high-end professional footage.
Juliet had been running her business for a while when she decided she wanted to explore the world of recruitment in more depth and ended up in Melbourne, working as recruitment consultant at Ignite.
“It was a natural progression,” says Juliet. “My background and my current position tie in perfectly. I was constantly talking to people, learning about them. I love working with people. You’re always trying to find the best match between candidates and clients.”
Juliet found she was able to apply her skills and still do the things she really enjoyed from her background in journalism and running her business. “I love the aspect of the chase. I love talking to people. I love all of it!”
While she is currently working for Ignite, Juliet’s media company is still running in KL. “I am very lucky. I was able to merge all of my interests and do what I love.”
When asked what advice she would give anyone looking to embark on similar adventures to her, Juliet says, “If you get knocked down, don’t take it personally. You need to be ruthless. Get in front of the person. Be remembered!”
Oh, and she also speaks English, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia and Tamil. As if you needed any other reason to be impressed!
Juliet is a specialist recruitment consultant at Ignite. She specialises in sales, marketing and media jobs. If you would like Juliet to be tenacious on your behalf, be sure to get in touch with her.
Juliet’s Top Career Tips
Author: Cassie Lane
Copywriter / Content Strategist at Ignite