Navigating your way to a successful career

navigating your way to a successful career

On Tuesday 11 December, our founder and MD, Delia Porter, met a group of business students from Kingston College to give them her insights and words of wisdom on how to navigate the world of work.

Know what you want

Having transitioned through a diverse range of roles, she highlighted the core elements that both attracted her to the jobs she went after and put her in a winning position to progress to the next. She had no clear career path in the traditional sense of there being a defined position at the end of her journey, but she did have a clear sense of direction in terms of developing her core competencies that have led her to be a successful business woman. With her rounded expertise and experience, including the ability to pitch for what she wants, she is well placed to walk into a variety of different jobs and roles. Knowing what you want, is the first step to being successful.

However, it’s not always easy to walk into the job that you want. There are always external factors – some you can anticipate and plan for, but others you may not be able to foresee. If you’ve set your goal on a particular type of job and you have passion and perseverance, then the chances are you will find a way to make it happen.

Use your network

Delia also highlighted that it’s important to reach out to people who may be able to help you. Although there is a lot of talk about (and action towards) democratising opportunities, at the end of the day it’s still very much about who you know and how you connect with people that will land you the job of your dreams. You need to be bold and ask for help; and accept help when it is offered. Then, take a step back and review whether it is taking you in the direction that you want to go. Developing a network of relevant connections extends your reach and helps you to discover opportunities that would otherwise never reveal themselves. You may need to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time to do this, but it will pay off in the end.

Communicate clearly

External factors include competition and, as in business, you need to understand yourself and your competitors in order to be able to differentiate yourself. Developing good communication skills will always stand you in good stead. Being able to clearly communicate why someone should employ you, or if you are working for yourself or building a business then why someone should buy your product or service, is essential if you want to stand out from everyone else. To do this well, you also need to understand how you will give your employer (or customer) what they want; converse with them in a way that will resonate with what they want.

Make time to reflect

Think laterally about how you can achieve your end goal and if you’re not yet sure what that end goal is, then try working in a variety of industries and roles. Work out what you do and don’t like and build on what you like doing whether that is using certain skill sets and knowledge or working with or helping a particular group of people. This may sound obvious but if you don’t take time out to reflect, you may be swayed by factors that are not ultimately going to help you progress. Your perfect job may not exist, so remember you will ultimately be happier and learn and achieve more in environments you enjoy being in and in those situations, you are more likely to be able to carve out your own dream job.

Different types of employment

It was no surprise that Delia drew on statistics – from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) – to highlight the number of people working in different types of employment.

Those working in the public sector account for roughly 16% of the working population whilst roughly 33% work for large corporates and another 33% work for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). Roughly 14% of the working population are self-employed (and have no employees), leaving roughly 4% of the working population creating jobs, not only for themselves but for a third of the working population!

The above figures do not differentiate between for-profit, not-for-profit and charitable organisations. However, you get the picture: there are choices.

Forewarned is forearmed!

If you want to try a variety of roles in different industries, then the SME sector is a good place to look. However, whichever sector you go into, be careful not to get pigeon-holed into a role before you have really discovered where you want to take your career; be prepared to make sideways moves before moving up the ladder. Forewarned is forearmed as they say, and this will help you to steer your career in the direction you want to take it rather than where other people want you to go.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset versus being an entrepreneur

Delia moved on to highlight the difference between having an entrepreneurial mindset and being an entrepreneur. Having an entrepreneurial mindset is about recognising opportunities in the marketplace and understanding how and when to capitalise on them, whereas being an entrepreneur, in the true sense of the word, is about taking financial risks in the pursuit of making a financial gain. There are lots of opportunities for people with entrepreneurial mindsets in different types of organisation – there are far fewer entrepreneurs.

The pros and cons of being your own boss

As a founder and business woman herself, Delia also talked about the pros and cons of running your own business. Her top tips included: being aware that control is a fallacy – you might be your own boss, but you have many other people to answer to e.g. customers, investors, employees etc and you are at the mercy of political, macro-economic and environmental factors against which no insurance policy will give you complete cover and peace of mind; know your numbers and measure what matters (rather than measuring everything and do nothing with the data); find good and trustworthy people to work with (suppliers, employees, customers); and learn how to delegate well.

A job is for now, a career is a journey

Lastly, Delia re-emphasised the importance of taking time to reflect, not just at the beginning of your career but throughout your career. In addition, reflect on the important things in your life and whether they are aligned with your career aspirations. You may not be able to do and achieve everything you want to – you may need to prioritise and sometimes compromise – but you can always make an informed decision about the choices you have. It’s not easy, so when you need to, seek help and moral support to get back on track.

Free – The Psychological Selfie®

If you’re looking to find out more about yourself, then the Psychological Selfie®is a free tool that you might like to try. It will help you to really understand your personality, wellbeing, drivers and values, know how you are likely to be perceived by those around you and enable you to reflect, learn and grow. Find out more here.

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