This week is National Careers Week (NCW) – an annual celebration of careers guidance and educational resources across the UK. The vision is to provide focus for careers guidance activity at an important stage in the academic calendar to help support young people leaving education. The ethos of the initiative is to empower positive change through careers education, but there is an important message that often slips through the net – and that is to take charge of your planning.
The biggest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership is at the first step into a managerial role. More men get promoted to this milestone than women – in fact, for every 100 men, there’s only 85 women. There are many different reasons for this, and one very simple reason that we can act upon.
At the beginning of their careers, most men make some sort of career plan, yet far fewer women do the same. Research shows that men consistently focus on positioning themselves for the next move, whilst women tend to focus on their current performance.
Systemic and societal changes aside, there is one change that we can make ourselves – and that is the decision to have a plan. Not only is this a practical step, it also represents a considered and powerful movement to take charge!
As a young woman, the biggest difference you can make for yourself is by doing these three things:
- Make a plan for where you want to go and what do you want to achieve
- Better understand – your own strengths, preferences, resources and any gaps you need to bridge
- Take self-awareness, self-confidence and communication skills seriously – these tools will help you throughout your career as well as in your personal life
Start taking responsibility for your progress as early in your career as you can.
Spend time considering what it is you really want, understand your strengths and weaknesses by analysing what you’re best at, what your transferable skills are and what you’re proud of. There are likely to be decisions ahead of you that will involve commitment and sometimes a longer-term outlook, so think about what interests you and what activities you want to see more of as you move forward. This involves consideration of your personal life goals as well as professional, so think about your work-life balance aspirations and your attitude towards financial gain.
Being curious and proactive in your research of future opportunities will help with your planning. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and further afield to ask about the reality of careers you are considering. This will help bring to life the ideas that you’re forming and add an extra dimension to your plans.
And, once you have explored and analysed the options and paths available to you, put pen to paper and get started on an action plan!