Don’t leave your career to fate. 5 tips to help women manage their careers

In my last article, I shared the story of one of my clients, Susan who like many mums get  caught up in the treadmill of work, family and life and don’t take time out to actively manage and make plans for progressing their careers.

3 fundamental questions were asked to help Susan get started:

  •  What does the bigger picture look like and where am I currently in it?
  •  What am I really doing here?
  •  How am I able to progress within my organisation?

In this post, I share 5 tips that Susan is taking to manage her career and how you can utilise them as well.

5 tips to manage your career

1. Be seen to be strategic

Demonstrate that you know and understand what the key priorities and challenges of your organisation are. Know who your key stakeholders are and seek out opportunities that will help you to engage with or be known to them.

Identify how your role fits into the bigger picture and the contribution that you are making and communicate this when opportunities arise.  Keep up to date with trends and publications in your industry and use them to influence your work.

Continue to learn and make use of in-house training and development opportunities. Seek out a mentor, sponsor, or champion to help you advance your career, give you an independent perspective, objective feedback and provide a sounding board for your current challenges.

2. Be known

– Build your profile

Build your profile within your organisation by getting known amongst the senior, executive and board level staff. Speak up at meetings and do not be afraid to put forward your perspective and in challenging those senior to you in an emotionally intelligent way. The more you do this, the better you will become at it. If this is an area that you are lacking in confidence, work on your communication and presentation skills or seek the help of a coach.

– Promote yourself

Self promotion is vital for your career growth. Women are not usually good about talking about their successes and achievements. You may have many accomplishments and think that your work speaks for itself and as a result others will notice. Don’t leave it to chance, take control and begin to actively manage and communicate your achievements.

Seek out ways to let people know what you are doing. You don’t need to brag, keep your comments brief, modest and tell the facts. Weave them into conversations when appropriate, for examples in meetings, updates, success stories in company bulletins, newsletter, intranet….

3. Become an effective Networker

– Internally

Identify influential people and those who can help support your career.  They might have qualities and behaviours that you admire, a specific skill that you would like to develop, or have influence within the organisation.

Make of list of 12 of these people and do some research on them – what are their roles, achievements, areas of expertise….? Knowing something about them before hand enables you to make a connection and have something to talk about when you meet them.

Find out how you can get access to them. For example, do they eat in the cafeteria, which events, functions, meetings etc….might they be present at? And when the opportunity presents seize it!

– Externally

Networking outside of your organisation can provide role models that may be missing in your own organisation. It will also give you insights into different organisations and a foot in the door for future job prospects.

Seek out people with influence who may be able to connect you with others or be able to provide formal or informal mentoring.

– Online

LinkedIn is a site for professionals and can help you to build your online visibility and brand. Here you can nurture your existing network by sharing information about your profession and sector and expand it by connecting and building relationships with peers in other companies and industries.

You can also join groups related to your sector; keep up to date with trends and thought leadership – all of which will help to support your career growth

4. Be bold

Ask for help if you need it and be willing to share your own knowledge and skills, for example by mentoring a junior member of staff. Raise your head above the parapet and ask for what you want.

Let it be known that you are interested in leadership roles and talk about your ambitions when relevant and appropriate. Look for opportunities that will take you out of your comfort zone such as stretching assignments, projects, tasks…This will provide you with different experiences, exposure and increase your resilience.

Seize them when they present themselves and refrain from falling into the trap of trying to rationalise and make assumptions about what they might entail and subsequently talking yourself out of it.

5. Be your best self and develop your leadership brand  

Do how others see you match the way that you see yourself? Is there a gap? Do people see the ‘real’ you?

Think about how you can manage perceptions so that it is authentic to you. Undertake a 360 appraisal and get feedback and use areas for development and successes as food for continual learning and development.

In question 2 of my last article you would have identified your strengths, purpose, passion and values and have a clearer picture of what’s driving you and what you stand for.

Work on developing this ‘authentic you’ so that you lead, communicate and build relationships in way that is unique to you. Build on this personal brand so that you are constantly developing the ‘best you’ and making your mark .

Cheering you on, Vera

What tips would you add? How are you managing your career?

Busy hardworking mum? Join me on my BE BOLD programme to take time out and be strategic in your vision for your career, business and life and make 2013 your best year yet

Images, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos: ‘stockimages’“adamr” “digitalart“, “digitalart” . A version of this article was published in the Yorkshire Times on 7 Nov.

I work with women who are advancing their careers and businesses, women who have left  employment to build profitable businesses AND develop teams and people within organisations through coaching, mentoring and leadership development programmes. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead and on LinkedIn


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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6 Responses to Don’t leave your career to fate. 5 tips to help women manage their careers

  1. For me, I think something about managing knock backs – we all get them whether its someone criticising a piece of work, or someone being promoted above you. Its part of work, but so easy to allow this to effect our self esteem – remember you do have valuable skills and seek where these are best put to use. Your time will come.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Carolyn, thank you for stopping by and sharing your tips. Agree that building your resilience is important and love your ‘seek where these are best put to use’ – matching one’s talents with one’s purpose.

  2. Tilla Brook says:

    IN number 5 on developing your own leadership brand I always ask the question “Would YOU follow you?” If your answer is yes, really capture what it is about you that you would follow, then promote yourself for those aspects. If your answer is NO – that’s the work you have to do!

  3. I really enjoyed this article, thank you!
    As women we need to be more self-confident and working on all the areas you mentioned really helps.
    We shouldn’t equate self-confidence and self-belief with arrogance and wondering how we’ll “come across” to others. Having a mentor outside your organisation as a sounding-board is very useful. I have found that people are often flattered (rather than annoyed) when you ask them for advice. We can later “give something back” by mentoring someone else ourselves, as you also mention. I am also a great advocate of life-long learning. Especially in the age of the Internet there’s just so much good stuff to read up on, so many good people to learn from in webinars, for example. It doesn’t have to be expensive and if it’s reading, can be integrated into a train ride or waiting in a queue for example…
    Have a great week, Louise

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Louise, thank you for sharing those valuable insights. Your advice about the internet is a great one – there is so much available and if you know where to look there are some valuable free ‘stuff’.

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