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Margaret Zhang is a trailblazer for young professionals. At 24 years old, Margaret, who hails from Australia, has become a highly sought-after photographer, stylist, writer, creative director and consultant for luxury brands such as Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton. She has a legendary work ethic, hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and made the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list of innovators and entrepreneurs last year.
It all began with Shine By Three, a fashion blog Margaret started when she was just 16. Her photography and fearless style was internationally recognised, leading to invitations to fashion shows and offers to freelance as a model and photographer. Until last year she juggled all this with university studies before completing a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney.
Right now, you're probably wondering how Margaret can possibly fit everything she does into one day. She says she only gets about five hours' sleep a night, but it's what she does during the other 19 hours that counts. Let's take a look at the truths that have defined Margaret's career so far.
1. You can do more than one thing
Often the advice young people hear when considering career paths is to pick one thing and focus on it to avoid becoming a 'jack of all trades, master of none'. But Margaret has thrown that cliché to the winds. Instead she's become a sort of poster child for a new generation of multi-skilled professionals who embrace the notion that a career is no longer based on a single job.
"Anyone saying that millennials 'can't commit' fails to realise that they don't need to commit," Margaret Zhang told Acuity magazine in a recent interview. "Because of the increased fluidity of industries through technology and new roles being created daily to fill the exponentially shifting rate of consumer demand."
Why not start making that progress now? According to Margaret, rapid career progression is completely realistic if millennials work hard, smart and early.
2. Passion keeps motivation alive
Since graduating from university, Margaret says her professional life has been just as busy as when she was studying, but what sustains her is her passion. She says freelancers in particular will only get out what they put in, so working on something you're really interested in will help you keep going. Then the long hours and hustling on weekends will feel less like a chore.
"Schedule militantly, stay focused, don't procrastinate," Margaret said. "It all depends on how much you care about what you're doing."
3. Social media is a tool, but it's not real life
"Social media is an incredible tool to build a portfolio," said Margaret, who uses these public platforms to share her personal messages and opinions, continuously build her brand and connect with collaborators and communities. "Having said that, you can't allow the validation of others to define you as an actual human being," she continued. "Social media is not real life."
4. There's no golden formula for work-life balance
"I get the sense that people have this misguided idea that there must be some operational secret to juggling various workloads, whether that's the balance of studies and career, work and parenthood, the list goes on. But there really is no groundbreaking golden formula," Margaret said.
'You just do it - and if you're going after something you're truly passionate about, you will always find the time necessary. The sacrifices you make in downtime or social life to further your work don't seem like sacrifices."
5. Have an escape
Margaret keeps a rigorous schedule. She doesn't claim to be a health guru with a perfectly balanced life. Instead, she picks and chooses, manages what she can and says everyone has different priorities. For her, a little escapism is essential.
"I'm a notorious workaholic, I have a lot of trouble switching off, and with the amount of travel I do for work, it's difficult to have a solid routine in health and wellbeing," Margaret said.
"I have a keyboard in my apartment in New York that I play for a few hours on days when I'm not on set. Piano is my first great love, so it's a nice form of escapism."
As for the future, Margaret's star is still rising. "I'm working more and more in motion, which I really enjoy," she said.
"I'm still consulting on a range of clients between fashion, lifestyle and music categories, and working on several projects I've invested in on the side.
"I'd like to make a bit more time for personal travel, but we'll see how the year pans out."
Margaret Zhang's comments were told to Acuity Magazine (June/July 2017).