Get ahead by taking control

Girls Get AheadThe Sunday Times has unveiled the results of a poll which was conducted to establish the realities for working women today (www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/style). One in six women found that a man at the same level was being paid more and only 1/3 complained. 2/3 say that their boss holds them back or does nothing to help their career. 42% of women feel excluded from decision making.

These statistics would be shocking but for the fact that they haven’t really changed, certainly over the 20+ years that I’ve been working, and probably since women fully entered the workforce. Things may improve in the future but the changes will probably be gradual such that if you are working today, you may not really feel the benefit.

It’s easy to complain about your lot but to be honest, that won’t get you very far. And whilst I applaud those who are pounding the streets to secure major changes for all, in the meantime, here are a few steps you can take to get in control of your own career.

  1. Set personal goals. Don’t spend time looking at others, or the world at large, when it comes to career goals. Decide what you want to achieve and then work out how to get there. Your goals need to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Instead of bitching that there are no women on your Board, focus on becoming Department Head by the end of 2015. Slowly, slowly catchy monkey.
  2. Take your life into your own hands. It’s so easy to complain over coffee or to slip into being a victim. If you are working for a Boss that doesn’t support you, get into a position to make a change. That may be within your firm, or it might be time to move on. One thing we certainly do have more of in 2014 is choice.
  3. Get aligned. If you want to get ahead at work, you need to be on the radar of the movers and shakers. Do you have a boss, mentor or sponsor who is steering you through the politics and difficult decisions around your career? If not, identify one or two people with power today and get to know them. You need to be on the inside when it comes to decision making, not the outside.
  4. Help others. Support those around you and help your colleagues or team members to climb the ladder. Give credit where credit is due, and if you are the Boss, guide your employees in the way which you know is right. If your staff are not ripe for climbing the ladder, help them to move on.
  5. Have a sense of perspective. It is very easy to become consumed by career and life in the office, especially when things aren’t going too well. Make sure you have personal goals in your life as well as career goals. Take a great trip every year or complete a triathlon. Make time for your friends and family every week. You’ll reach a time in your life when you’ll wonder what all the career angst was about and you’ll be glad of friends and hobbies to fall back on.

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