What you can learn from Barbie’s long career journey
There is no children’s toy that has had quite the same amount of longevity and cultural relevance as that of Mattel’s Barbie. And no other pop-culture character has had quite the same number of different careers. From fashion designer to astronaut to video game developer and so many others, Barbie has over 200 jobs on her resume.
While this character may be fictional, we can all learn something from her long career journey. In this post, we’ll dive into how Barbie has evolved, defied norms, embraced change, and grown through her over sixty years of fictional existence.
1. Defying norms and embracing change
Barbie was initially created by Ruth Handler after noticing her daughter playing out her future with make-believe paper dolls. Girls’ toys were typically mother or caregiver-focused at the time, such as baby or toddler dolls, prams, and toy kitchen items. Boys’ toys, in contrast, were diverse and varied, with planes, cars, action figures of firefighters or astronauts, and more. Handler created Barbie to give young girls a chance to play out their futures, and since her debut in 1959, the iconic doll has been breaking the so-called ‘plastic ceiling.’
A core lesson of Barbie’s career journey is never to be afraid to embrace change and challenge yourself. Help to encourage diversity and belonging at work and elevate marginalised voices. There are no limits to what you or the people around you can achieve, and defying norms can help you to grow, discover yourself, and explore new opportunities.
2. Pursuing interests and lifelong learning
As we already established, Barbie has had over 200 careers throughout her lifetime as a doll. Over the past sixty years, she has allowed young girls the space to explore their interests, learn, and play. At the centre of the concept of Barbie is an innate curiosity. Her hundreds of careers are just an extension of that.
So often, we are told that we need to decide our ‘one true passion’. We have been told from a young age to choose what we will study and work in and that we can only have one job. This can often make you feel stuck or lost in your career journey if you think you haven’t found the right fit.
Barbie shows us that we have limitless potential. We don’t have to be defined by one passion, job, or career. We are complex people with many interests, and exploring and evolving as you step into your career is okay. Being open to learning and different experiences can help open up new career opportunities and allow you to grow.
3. Setting ambitious goals
Barbie doesn’t do things by halves. From astronaut to president to CEO, her career aspirations have always gone big, showing young girls they can dream big and achieve it.
Often, we start with big aspirations, but gradually, reality and life wear down those dreams to supposedly more ‘realistic’ versions of themselves. And while practical, achievable goals can help you feel more satisfied in the short term, the big dreams linger.
Think of yourself as a child and what you dreamed about. Maybe those aspirations have changed as you have gotten older, but being ambitious and determined isn’t a bad thing. While you can still keep some SMART goals, set career or life objectives that go big, then look at how you can accomplish them.
Barbie may be fictional, but her extensive career journey serves as a lesson for us. She teaches us to embrace change, pursue our interests, continuously learn, and seek ambitious goals. By applying these three key lessons to our own careers, we can navigate our paths with purpose, continually grow, and achieve success in both our personal and professional lives.
Never forget – you can be anything.
Cover image courtesy of Mattel, Inc.
Amelia is a Sydney-based writing and communications enthusiast working at UTS Careers as a Communications Assistant. She is a current UTS Student, studying a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing & Advertising), and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. She is passionate about creativity, storytelling, and the art of a well-timed gif, and has a vast collection of crazy socks.