10 tips for advancing your career - Women's Agenda

10 tips for advancing your career

Talented Women are everywhere. They are leading countries, designing new projects, managing teams, caring for children, writing best sellers, finding cures, setting up new enterprises. But not every talented woman is reaching her potential. The question is how do we advance our careers to a place we deem successful?

Talent is defined as a natural aptitude or skill. The Oxford Dictionary also notes it was “a former weight and unit of currency” used by the ancient Romans and Greeks. One difference I’ve noticed between talented women who are ‘career successful’ and those who are not is that successful women utilise their weight and unit of currency – their talent – every chance they get. It’s not that some women don’t have talent, it’s that they don’t know how to develop it.

These tips for advancing your career are a collection of the best advice and experience we’ve executed at Talented Women, studied from research and observed from talented and successful women the world over. They are written to support the talent development of Australian women and equip them with the tools to advance their careers. Our success will be your realised potential.

1. Know your goals – Be strategic with your career
Have a plan – know what you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years. It’s likely your goals will change and evolve over time, but being strategic and focused about your career direction will help you stay on track and manage the everyday distractions that invariably present themselves along the way. Don’t forget to tell important others in your life and at work about your future goals and plans so they can support you in achieving these; otherwise it can be a tough and lonely road.

2. Build a strong professional network
A well-developed professional network not only helps you cultivate relationships and connect with people who can help advance your career, it will build your confidence too. Your network can provide referrals, personal feedback and objective insights for evaluating opportunities and problems. This may come from an array of sources: colleagues, ex-colleagues, mentors, friends of friends, conferences and seminars, industry associations and continuing education. Nurturing the relationships you value will stand you in good stead when the opportunity for career advancement presents itself.

3. Personal branding and promotion
Personal branding starts with being clear about what your strengths are and valuing your efforts. Think about one-word answers to the question: Who am I? Then delete every word that defines a role – such as manager, wife, mother, friend. The adjectives left describe who you are and represent the cornerstone of your personal brand. To create a strong brand you need to be consistent and become your own best advocate – so back yourself, take credit for your good work, raise your hand, take a risk and seek challenging assignments or opportunities that will extend you.

4. Be confident in your abilities and potential
All things being equal – skills, ability and performance – there is evidence to suggest that women tend to underestimate and men tend to overestimate themselves. Studies have shown that women are three times more likely than a man to underrate their standing with bosses and co-workers. Why is this our shortfall? Because the natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back. The reality is that to succeed confidence matters as much as competence.

What can you do? Start by speaking up in situations you might not normally such as an important meeting. Initiate a performance feedback discussion with your manager. Be a speaker at a conference. Learn to have faith in your expertise and share your ideas with others. Develop a ‘growth’ mindset. Stand tall – the research shows you’re probably better than you’re willing to admit.

5. Seek out a sponsor
A sponsor is someone who plays a proactive role in helping you advance your career (as opposed to a mentor who offers advice and guidance rather than direct access to opportunities). A sponsor will recommend you for jobs and help you move up the ladder – essentially create the ‘breaks’ you need to progress your career.
Bank of Queensland executive Michelle Tredenick describes sponsors like this: “Generally [sponsors] are leaders of people of influence in their field. They are also well connected, not just in their own peer circles but in many different ways, so they understand where talent is and have good relationships at all levels.”

Identify a leader in your network you admire, someone you would like to learn from or work for. Consider approaching this person and asking if they would share their leadership story – how did they advance their career, what advice would they have for others following in their footsteps? Seek feedback and ideas from this leader. When you have built a rapport with this person and they know what you are capable of ask them outright if they would be prepared to act as a sponsor for you in the future.

6. Keep your CV and LinkedIn profile up to date
LinkedIn profiles are viewed by other professionals and recruiters on a daily basis. In fact, 200 million users are signed up to the webs biggest professional network, with over 10 million endorsements given daily. So it’s a good idea to keep your job status and responsibilities up to date and track your accomplishments. You never know who’s looking at your profile.

7. Communicate openly with those around you
Great leaders are clear and open communicators. They communicate effectively upwards, downwards and across the chain. Ensure key people more senior than yourself know who you are and what you are capable of. Be open and sincere with your peers. Help others learn and benefit from your experience. People remember when someone puts the effort in to connect with and encourage them. You may also find others do the same in return.

8. Join a professional industry association or volunteer
Joining an industry association can aid continuing education, facilitate learning and development and be a valuable source of expert information. Volunteering your skills and talents to other individuals, groups or associations can also be worthwhile. Be active among the association. If there is a chance to volunteer your services have a go. Professional associations look great on your resume and are helpful networks to tap into whilst job searching.

9. Be proactive with your performance reviews
Take advantage of rigorous performance reviews – these are the ideal time to get coaching and feedback. Prepare by jotting down points about what you think your strengths are, the opportunities you want to embrace and any concerns about gender bias and progress inhibitors you’d like to address. The discussion will be more robust and progressive if you bring pre-prepared ideas to the table. If you don’t get constructive feedback in response to your questions think about who else you can approach and whether you are in the right role or organisation.

10. Prioritise self-care
What is the vibe you want to bring to work everyday and take home again at the end of a day’s work? Being the ‘yes woman’ or the one who arrives first and leaves last isn’t a recipe for success. Working too hard will inevitably leave you feeling drained, stressed, uninspired or all of the above. Ask yourself – how can I nurture and support myself more? Is it by getting more sleep, eating more greens, saying no to tasks, a digital detox, meditation, getting a massage, playing music? Anything that helps you reconnect, find balance and inspire good health qualifies as self-care. Ultimately this will make you more productive and confident when doing the things necessary to advance your career.

Do you have any additional career advancing tips? What would you offer to women who are struggling to commit to their career goals?

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