The esteemed UNSW Arts & Social Sciences alumna is one of the youngest NSW Labor Party politicians, advocating for various issues including women’s rights, flexible working conditions, the Stolen Generations and improved access to fresh food.
Ms Houssos says she jumped at the chance to participate in the UNSW Arts & Sciences Career Ready Mentoring Program as it breaks down the unknown for future Arts graduates.
We sat down with Courtney and Alanna to discuss how their mentoring relationship has developed since the Career Ready Mentoring Program.
Can you describe your relationship?
CH: I was so lucky to be paired with Alanna. She is a truly inspirational young woman who has already achieved so much. Because we shared such similar backgrounds (growing up in a regional area, moving to Sydney, living on campus), we had a quick rapport, which only grew throughout the mentoring program.
AC: I hit the absolute jackpot when I was paired with Courtney! I got so much more out of the program than I could have ever expected. Courtney and I developed a great relationship. Our catch-up sessions were very relaxed, and we would often find ourselves deep in conversation, with many more things to say despite being well over our session time.
How did your relationship change over the course of the program?
CH: I saw Alanna grow in confidence throughout our time together, and I could see she was more confident and comfortable in the decisions she made. I think my influence over her was very small – Alanna is already such an accomplished, intelligent and thoughtful young woman with such a bright future ahead of her. I’m delighted that our friendship won’t end with this program.
AC: When I found out that I had been paired with Courtney, I was very excited but a little nervous because of how much she has achieved in her career. However, I quickly realised that Courtney is as lovely as she is accomplished and is very easy to have a conversation with!
For me, the Career Ready Mentoring Program was a fantastic opportunity to learn from someone who juggles their time incredibly well. Courtney is an extremely dedicated mother, Member of the NSW Upper House and someone who likes to take on many other commitments and community projects. She was very open about sharing her strategies for managing her time and helped me look at my schedule to re-prioritise what I am doing.
What tools, skills or advice have you received from Courtney?
AC: Two of the key pieces of advice Courtney gave me were around work-life harmony and authentic leadership. Too often, the phrase ‘work-life balance’ is thrown around, and for many people, achieving a ‘balance’ is almost impossible. Striving for a work-life ‘harmony’ is often more realistic and acknowledges that certain aspects of your life require greater time commitments in certain periods.
Courtney asked me to consider what the ‘non-negotiables’ were in my life. This gave me a good starting point for figuring out what was most and least important among my current commitments. She also spoke to me about leadership and how important it is to be authentic in what you do. Learning from Labor’s youngest MP was an incredible opportunity and I appreciated Courtney’s openness in sharing her experiences.
What are you most passionate about?
CH: I was always interested in politics and current affairs at school. It wasn’t until I was at UNSW that I got more actively involved. I decided to stand for election with a group of students focused on improving the campus experience, and was eventually elected as president of the then-student guild. Through that, I started volunteering for Young Labor on federal and state elections, and I was hooked!
I love being able to help young women to follow their passion, and especially to encourage them to consider going into politics. We make better decisions when the people making them come from diverse backgrounds, and this is especially relevant when we are debating and making our laws.
AC: I’m passionate about gender equality because society makes better decisions, is safer and more productive when women are seated at the decision-making table. Society can be structured in ways that make it very difficult for capable women to reach these positions. We’ve come a long way in terms of gender equality in Australia, but it would be a disservice to the women that have come before us to stop now.
Given your experience, would you recommend the Career Ready Mentoring Program?
CH: Absolutely! I think the key benefit of the Career Ready Mentoring Program is that it breaks down the unknown. I remember, as a student studying Arts, how unsure I was of the career options available to me. It offers many examples of people who have studied Arts, and how they used the skills they acquired to build their careers.
AC: I would recommend the Career Ready Mentoring Program to any Arts students who are hoping to open their eyes to the diversity of career paths available to graduates. Being mentored before entering the workforce is an extremely valuable opportunity. And who knows? You might get lucky enough to be paired with Courtney!
The Career Ready Mentoring Program provides penultimate or final year Arts & Social Sciences students with invaluable tools, guidance and insights to assist in the transition towards professional life.
UNSW is committed to connecting alumni. The program this year can be delivered 100% online.