How to progress in your career – as a woman

If you want to progress in your career and achieve advancement to senior ranks, maybe even land a position on a board, you can’t just sit around waiting for opportunities to present themselves to you. With women a minority when it comes to senior positions, it is up to you to take control of your professional future and make sure that you are progressing wisely down the right career path towards your goals.

Take some time to sit down to have a think about what you really want and what you can do to help you get there. Here are eight tips to help you get started:

1. Create a career plan and shout about it
It is important to step away from the day-to-day grind of work and spend quality time reflecting on your career and developing plans for your future. Think about your next career move now and tell people about it. Remember men sacrifice the job of their career while women sacrifice their career for the job.

2. Network regularly outside your usual business unit
You need to view strategic networking for yourself as a key component of your job. It is a great way to meet new people, find out about companies and positions out there, build your contacts and create a name for yourself. Men do this all the time, so it is important that you get out there too. As a spin-off, your employer will benefit as well.

3. Search for career enhancing gigs and ask for them
Keep your eyes out for outline management positions and put your hand up for roles you are not 100 percent qualified for. You will never progress if you don’t take a risk!

If you can see a need in your organisation or that of another, build a business case to fill that need – with yourself. In a sense, create your own job.

4. Take out insurance for success by getting the support you need to balance the scales
Remember that it is about equality of outcomes; not equality of inputs. Ensure the organisation you are currently employed in provides support for the promotion of females, as more often than not women get less support than men.

Ask your employer for a mentor, who will encourage you, offer you advice and provide a different perspective. Men are offered mentors more often, so speak up and ask for one. You should also think about a group of people who may be able to help you achieve your goals. Make a list of six people of influence, make contact and keep in touch with them.

5. Make sure you get noticed
It is easy to blend into the crowd and fade away into the background. Make sure this doesn’t happen by stepping up and standing out. To do this you should develop a good personal sales pitch, that you polish and most of all, believe in yourself. You should work on your brand and image and make a conscious effort to dress for success every day – two roles above where you are now.

You should also work on joining an industry association board or committee or a private board which is preferably paid or a high profile business not for profit to help get you noticed and progress in your career.

6. Reinforce your worth
In your workplace you should never take on a role that you are not paid or recognised for as this will only reinforce the stereotype of women as ‘helpers’ and not as leaders. Remember you have a right to expect access to higher duties and better management of underperformers. It is not your job to carry an underperforming male boss.

7. Publicise flexibility
You should not have to trade flexible work hours for lower status. Check the male models of flexibility in your workplace, encourage men to access flexibility and make sure it is publicised. Make sure your work place conducts an audit of use of flexible options.

8. Measurement is the key
What gets measured gets managed, what gets managed gets done. Encourage implementation of KPIs and targets around increasing female participation at all levels of your workplace and encourage women to be placed on all selection panels to change the look and help in the educating women about what it takes to be promoted.

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