Progressing your career while working flexibly? It's possible, with learning and development | Women's Agenda

Progressing your career while working flexibly? It’s possible, with learning and development

Organisations today look very different to how they did even ten years ago. With a shift towards more flexible working environments and a growing part-time workforce, individuals – in particular, women – have more opportunity to pursue a successful career while balancing family and other commitments.

Too often, however, ‘unconscious bias’ is still present in the workplace, especially when it comes to to areas that should help excel careers, like Learning & Development (L&D). In both Australia & New Zealand, women comprise of nearly half of the total working population, yet only 19 per cent of board positions according to WGEA. Many organisations are failing to ensure that training programs are appropriately tailored to, and accessible for women to be able to participate in.

For this reason, organisations need to look at how they integrate L&D initiatives to ensure all their people are given the best chance to thrive and develop their careers. Equally, women have an opportunity to reassess how they work and make changes that support career development while maintaining flexibility.

Don’t let part-time get in the way of learning

Professional development in your role – regardless of whether you’re a business leader, manager or customer facing employee – is so important, both to maximise your individual performance and ensure career progression.

If your employer is scheduling training sessions at times you cannot attend (e.g. in the early morning or late afternoon if you have outside commitments, or on your day off), it is important to voice these conflicts and propose alternate arrangements so you’re not placed at a disadvantage. This will involve working with your line manager and business leader to ensure flexible learning solutions are available, and to ensure you are receiving the best possible opportunities to grow and develop in your role.

Make flexible work, work for you

At my company Skillsoft, we believe organisations perform better when gender parity at leadership level is a reality. In 2015 we launched the Women in Action Leadership Program, and followed this up recently with a conversation with the authors of The Orange Line: A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family & Life (by Jodi Detjen and Kelly Watson).

The advice, messaging and strong themes in ‘The Orange Line’ make it a valuable resource for women no matter where they’re at in their careers, and offers some practical steps for integrating work with other commitments.

Based on the notion that women can often hold themselves back in their careers by trying to fit within the confines of outdated corporate cultural practices, the resource helps women reframe their assumptions, shed any guilt they might shoulder, and pursue their career with passion.

The book highlights six key steps to help women succeed in their careers:

  1. Recognise what is blocking you at work: Listen to the conversations you’re having at work, listen to your own thoughts and identify any feelings of guilt to assess your behavioural response.
  2. Bring yourself into the equation: Develop your own vision for your career and put yourself at the centre of that plan.
  3. Develop self-awareness: Question yourself often, this will help you develop insights. For many, this involves understanding the aspects of your work and home life that you enjoy, and what you do not enjoy
  4. Build a support system: The most successful women realise they can’t operate alone or do everything themselves. Building a support system helps to focus your time and energy on areas critical for your success, and let go of those that maybe aren’t as important.
  5. Get comfortable operating in imperfection: Being perfect isn’t always possible. Get comfortable operating in imperfection, that way you’ll become more comfortable taking measured risks.
  6. Expand your universe: Look for ‘sponsors’ that will support you professionally in your career, and people that will challenge you and push you forward towards new experiences.

You can listen to Jodi Detjen and Kelly Watson’s recent webinar on the book here.

Kath Greenhough is Senior Manager of Consulting Services, Australia & New Zealand at Skillsoft

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