Home People
Jill Absolom’s unconventional path to business success

If you met Jill Absolom today, you’d see a business leader and successful marketing consultancy owner with a zest for life and a passion for giving back, but her path to success hasn’t been a straight line.

Struck down by chronic fatigue syndrome in her last year of school, Jill’s dream of university was shelved as she battled to recover.

“I was housebound,” she says. “And there was no way I could study teaching at Deakin as I’d originally planned. I got in, which was amazing, but my circumstances just didn’t allow me to do it.”

Jill Absolom, Deakin Bachelor of Business AlumniJill spent the next few years prioritising her health, as well as working and studying part-time. She even started her own business making coats for her favourite dogs: whippets. But Jill never let go of the idea that she wanted a university degree behind her.

“I’d always wanted to go to university and it was still a big dream of mine,” she says. “When I saw Deakin’s Bachelor of Business, which I could do online, and have the flexibility to do only one or two units at a time – it was amazing. It was that accessibility that drew me to Deakin.”

Jill also liked the fact that she could study across three trimesters, which meant that she could continue to work and get her degree completed more quickly than if she was studying part-time over two semesters a year.

But Jill was unprepared for just how helpful Deakin would be in meeting her needs.

“When I started, I couldn’t have imagined that the accessibility was going to be as incredible as it was,” she says.

“Deakin’s Disability Access Plan and the team were so accommodating. I never felt like I was a burden on the team or never even felt like I was held back, because I was so supported.”

Jill did so well in her degree that in her final year she was awarded Deakin Business School’s prestigious Bowater Trust Medal, which recognises the best all-round undergraduate student completing their degree.

“I was absolutely thrilled to even be on the finalists list,” says Jill.  “Deakin has given me so much and I really felt like I was a part of something during my degree. The fact that I was able to do that alongside work meant that I was always implementing what I was learning in real time, which took my work to another level.”

Jill says that she’s grateful to Deakin for allowing her to tread a different path from the traditional school leaver.

“Deakin is the reason I was able to even study a degree, as well as being supported along the way, and having so many experiences that helped me build my confidence. Being the Bowater Trust Medal winner means I get the chance to stand up and speak about all the incredible Deakin initiatives – specifically with entrepreneurship and innovation.”

In Jill’s acceptance speech, she spoke about the challenges of living with chronic illness, and how important it has been to her to have pathways she could follow.

“Winning the award, I felt so seen as someone who had spent a long time battling with chronic illness, doing a lot of my work online and remotely. It felt like in that moment that I’d been seen and heard for what I’ve achieved and also recognised in what I can give back as well.”

Jill acknowledges that she doesn’t feel like the typical Bowater Trust Medal winner, but she’s proud to be carving a path for others who may not consider themselves as traditional university students.

“I think it’s incredible to have that visibility, and it goes to show how Deakin is in helping people realise their best futures.

To those considering mature age studies, or those treading a less traditional path, Jill says a university degree has many benefits.

“I think the more that you invest in yourself and your education, the more confident you are, the better you’ll be at what you do,” she says. And I just don’t think that ever stops.”

These days, Jill’s health is much better, and she is brimming with energy for her burgeoning career, both building her marketing business, Standout Creatives, and her volunteer work helping women from challenging backgrounds to enter the business world.

“That’s definitely come from pursuing my purpose,” she says. “When I’m passionate about what I’m doing and it feels in alignment with me and my values, I have so much more energy. It’s much more fulfilling going after things that are your personal definition of success. That’s what it’s all about.”

Learn more about our Bachelor of Business and the disability support available at Deakin.