How to … plan your career – and reach your goal!

How to … plan your career – and reach your goal!

Blog by Carol Rosati, coach and founder of Inspire

Carol Rosati OBE is the founder of Inspire, the global network for board-level women.  An experienced head-hunter, she now works as a coach, a diversity campaigner and a Non-Executive Director. We are delighted that Carol is contributing to our series with a blog based on the highly popular workshop she ran at our Annual Conference in May.

I used to be a head-hunter in a very male world and had an epiphany one day when I stood up to speak at an event and realised that, apart from the waitress, I was the only woman in the room. Fast forward 10 years and Inspire, the network I created as a consequence, stretches across four continents reaching over 8,000 of the most prominent women across the globe.

It has given me a unique insight into the different ways men and women manage their careers and represent themselves. And some of the practices we women can adopt to improve our chances of success on the male playing field. In this blog, I’m going to help you ask – and then find answers to – the questions: “What’s my journey? Who can walk it with me? And what do I need to do to reach my goals?”


GROWing your career plan

A good framework I like to use as a coach is the GROW methodology.  It starts with defining your Goal and then looking at the current Reality of where you are now and how far away you are from where you want to be.  Then you look at Obstacles and the Options available to overcome them.  Finally, you convert the options into a Way forward – the practical steps you will take to reach your goal.

Let’s take these on one by one.

Goal setting can take quite some time and often the things you start with don’t end up being the final goal at all.  So, begin by asking yourself the following questions: What do I want to stop doing?  What do I want to do in the next six months?  Where do I want to be in five years?

Next, one of the most important – and often the most difficult – parts of the process is assessing the Reality of where you are now, honestly.  Are you happy with your current situation? Do you want to be there in six months?  And what are the real challenges in your life – the Obstacles that threaten to derail you along the way?

Then the fun part begins – exploring the Options and opportunities available. Firstly, who can help you move forward?  You aim to become more visible so never stop building your business network – think of it as investing in your career. Start by creating your own advisory board of peers, allies, champions, buddies, mentors, sponsors and, if possible, a coach.  Generally, I have found that men are good at aligning themselves early on with individuals who can help them along in their careers and we women need to get better at it.  When thinking about what kind of help you need, consider that “a coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you and a sponsor talks about you”. In all cases, the best way to get one is just to ask. People are often flattered and happy to help as long as you are clear about what you are trying to achieve, are respectful of their time and are committed to your goal.

So once you have an idea of where you want to go and what you want to achieve, what are the practical steps for getting there?  Based on what I have learned in the recruitment and coaching world, the Way Forward is all about being proactive, visible and vocal.


Silencing self-doubt

Let’s start with something you should stop doing:  comparing yourself to others! We typically compare the worst bits of ourselves to the perceived best bits of others, yet you have a blend of skills, successes and experience that is unique to you.  I am sure we’ve all heard the statistic that when considering applying for a job a woman will worry about the 5% she can’t do rather than focussing on the 95% she can, whereas men expect to get the job if they are a 40% fit.  As a head-hunter, I can honestly say that is 100% true!

Eradicating self-doubt is the first step in your action plan and the way you communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, is key.


Become vocal about your achievements

Firstly, hone a powerful ‘sales pitch’.  Women tend to avoid promoting themselves or over-selling their capabilities, preferring to be judged on their performance alone. Even outwardly confident, polished and highly regarded women admit to anxiety and imposter syndrome, believing their success has been down to luck.  Self-belief stems from knowing and accepting who you are, whilst remaining authentic, having faith in your capabilities and learning how to tell others just how good you are, without waiting to be asked.

So it’s time to silence the doubting voice in your head and celebrate your successes. Your sales pitch should include all the things you’ve achieved that you are most proud of and the skills you have acquired along the way.  Think about: “what do I want to be known for? What makes me different? And why would people, clients or employers want to work with me?”  Write your pitch, learn it and then put it away ready for when you need it.

Be bold about communicating effectively and skilfully:

  • Learn how to tell others just how good you are, don’t wait for the recognition
  • Edit out soft, less assured words like “I think that …” and “would it be possible…?”
  • Celebrate your successes with others
  • Tell people what you need and how they can help


Positive body language

However, it’s worth remembering that in any given situation, as much as 55% of our communication is non-verbal. And it’s a unique and powerful tool to speak volumes without saying a word.  In her TED talk, the social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how your own body language can profoundly change the way you see the world and the success you have in it. She advocates striking a Wonder Woman pose, for example, to make yourself feel more powerful before a stressful situation.  Find your own power pose and use it to boost your confidence.

On first meeting someone, eye contact, a firm handshake and a smile immediately convey positivity. Then the way you stand or sit gives your head space away – so relax, open up and own your territory, and use your hands to express yourself rather than hiding behind them. The next time you are talking to someone, look at the person’s feet – are they totally absorbed in what you are saying, keeping their options open or desperately trying to escape?! Learning how to read people is an essential skill and you can use your body to include (e.g. by mirroring), exclude or close someone down. Non-verbal communication can have a fundamental impact on your ability to control a meeting, manage teams or perform well in interviews.


Being visible in ‘those’ meetings

Finally, one of the situations, where you are most likely to use all these tools, is a meeting. We’ve all been there … unfortunately, women are more likely to be interrupted, spoken over or have their ideas stolen, sometimes feeling like they are invisible.

But you can use your voice and your body to be seen and heard. Slow down and lower your pitch; watch the tone – be direct and business-neutral; and if interruptions continue, sometimes the only tactic is to hold up your hand.  Use posture to command your space too, so that others have to pay attention.  Get some allies – learn the meeting rhythm and have people reinforce your ideas.  And, importantly, if you see bad behaviour, call it out!


Career plan checklist

So to conclude, here are my tips for success:

  • Take time to make a career road map – it’s one of the biggest journeys you will go on
  • Network and communicate – tell, don’t ask (apart from asking for help!)
  • Stop comparing yourself to others – you are your own unique blend
  • Fine-tune your sales pitch and get into the habit of sharing one thing you have achieved on a regular basis
  • Command your space and use your voice to become more visible
  • Find yourself a mentor, a sponsor and if possible a coach – each of these will fast forward your career


More information on supporting your career journey can be found here