As the famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt goes: ‘Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, “Certainly I can!” Then get busy and find out how to do it.’ Sterling advice, but unfortunately, not the usual default position for most women. Our default position instead tends to be: put our heads down, do the best job we can, hope someone recognises us. Sound familiar?
During our ‘Career Planning: Stepping Up’ webinar, everywoman speaker and Leadership Coach, Pippa Isbell, put forward the case for grabbing the bull by the horns, getting out there and bagging the job we really want and deserve – even if the thought of it does make us a little jittery at first. After all, according to a poll taken during our webinar, 38% of women were desperate for a new challenge while 28% felt actively dissatisfied in their roles. If that sounds like you then there’s no better time to take action. It’s easy to grab that golden opportunity when you know how – it just requires you to be your own personal talent manager. Here’s how in six handy steps…
The first move is to work on your foundations. Ask yourself the question: ‘Who am I and what do I want to do? What role and what circumstances would really make me happy?’ Answer the question realistically, without bigging yourself up too much or being needlessly self-deprecating. This stage of your journey calls for SWOT analysis, too – so check out the everywoman Career Planning workbook (log in to access), which will help you take an in-depth approach to assessing your strengths and weaknesses, motivations and passions and external oppositions and threats. Then write a personal statement of your strengths, i.e.: ‘I’m an instinctive retailer with a strong eye for fashion trends.’ When you write down your personal statement, you’re crystalising your intent and it becomes much easier to say out loud, without fluffing your lines. Having a clear personal statement in your artillery also stops self-deprecation in its tracks. Perhaps you have to make several smaller moves before achieving your BIG goal – in this case, make your career plan SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and include clear timeframes.
Once you’ve done the above you can move on to thinking about filling your skill gaps. If you need a qualification to make the big move, particularly if it pertains to technology or numbers, then you’ll need to schedule in time to do that. You might be thinking ‘How on earth will I fit it all in?’ but it’s essential to prioritise here; consider all options and reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of not studying. Perhaps you could expand your skill set by volunteering for a charity work outside of the work environment – just make sure it’s most useful thing to you. This stage of the journey is a great branding exercise. Whatever you do, make sure your training helps you be relevant and give you skills that mean you have plenty to offer, says Pippa.
You’ve narrowed down your career plan to its broadest route, now it’s time to get digging. Be really curious about the opportunities that are out there for you and have courage. Don’t let the little voice in your head saying ‘I don’t think I can do that’ sway you. Build your reputation: delivering in the job you have now, even if you have eye on something else, is vital. Use your contacts and cultivate your network. To be great rather than just good at what you, you need to be skilled at your job itself and building relations with people. Call upon your personal advisory board – the people you respect and go to for advice regularly, whether inside or outside your company, and get their opinions and advice. Ensure your ambitions are known. After all, how can your boss, mentors, contacts help you if they don’t know what you want to do?
Get your story out there. If people know you’re looking they’ll think of you. Imagine the scene: there’s a big meeting going on about a new role within the company that you’d be perfect for. John in finance knows you’re looking for an opportunity just like this so puts your name forward there and then. Also, remember to ask for what you want. The worst that can happen is that your boss says no and even if they do you can use this as an opportunity to ask, ‘What would it take to make it yes?’ Be brave and you can go forward.
A compelling CV is a must. Tailoring yours to each job you apply for and making sure it stands out is key. There are a number of ways to do that: first make sure to include a customised personal statement summarising the skills you have that are particularly relevant to this role. Include keywords used in the job ad in both your personal statement and where you can throughout your CV. Use a modern, professional format and don’t let your CV spill over two A4 pages. ‘Edit, edit, edit,’ says Pippa. ‘List your roles, qualifications, training, membership and relevant statistics – and leave out the bumph!’ And don’t forget the essentials (you’d be surprised how many of us do it): center your name in clear, bold font and don’t forget to include your phone number, email and postal address.
It’s imperative to really research an organization, division, or department when applying for a new role, even if you’re going for a job internally – a lot of people don’t. Studying your internal role as though it’s a completely new organization is a great first move. Then it’s all about preparing your portfolio and supporting materials and thinking about the image you want to project – it matters. ‘Make a fantastic impression every day,’ says Pippa. ‘Always dress for the next job.’ Next, find out the format of the interview and research your interviewer. Prepare for the questions you’re going to be asked, too. Google’s Top 10 interview questions include: What’s your greatest strength? Weakness? How do you cope with stress and pressure? Why should we hire you? Tell me about yourself. Why do you want the job? And finally, prepare the questions you want to ask. ‘So many people don’t bring anything to the table at this point and it’s really important,’ says Pippa.
One of the most important things to remember working as your own talent manager is that all of the above is not a one-off exercise. To establish the career you really want and to be your own best cheerleader at all times is an ongoing responsibility. It requires constant review and refinement. So set yourself goals, do the research using the above methods, and of course, put your plan into action. It’s a big commitment and one that takes time, but one that can work for all of us when we really put our minds to it. It’s time to be your own best advocate and push for that golden opportunity – you deserve it!