How to shine

The panel discussion, Women in the workplace, how to shine? was one of several events held here as part of International Women’s Day on 8th March.  The panel was made up of eight women in senior positions across a range of sectors, from the civil service to the circus, and here I have made an attempt at presenting the most useful tips for career planning and progression that we can all use.

What does success mean?

All panel members spoke about what success means to them, and whilst there was a myriad of answers the things that predominated were:

  • Being content in yourself
  • Feeling you’ve made a difference
  • Respect and influence

Career planning

None of the panel said that they planned their career paths from the offset, but once they attained some success they started to identify what they wanted to do in the future and what they needed to do to get to there.

Instead of looking at the next job look at what role you want in several jobs time and what skills and knowledge you need to develop to get there.  But accept that sometimes you may need to move down or across in order to get to where you want to be in the future.  You may also change your mind in 5/10/15 years’ time, and where you think you want to be may not be where you will want to be, so remember to be flexible.  Reassess your end goal regularly, and your progress towards it.

Personally I have found the action planning technique really useful when I have been planning my life (not restricted to my career).  In action planning you identify where you are now, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there.  For much more detail have a look in the Learning Zone, available Organisational Development (do a quick search for action planning).

Top tips for career progression

Take time to rest and recuperate – we all work hard and this can make you dull and worn out, taking time for yourself can rebalance you and allow yourself to be the best that you can be at work.

Gain breadth, get transferrable skills.  Identify your skills and skill gaps, and try to gain experience.  Have a look at what you do well and identify how this would transfer in to different roles.

Be enthusiastic and passionate about what you do.

Look ahead and plan how to get there.

Identify the decision makers in your organisation, this is particularly useful in the private sector.

Don’t be afraid to take risks and stretch yourself, you can always retreat to your comfort zone if necessary.

Say yes, if people are asking you to do something it is because they think you can, even if you aren’t convinced.  You can always give it a go.

Learn from your failures, and demonstrate this learning.

Mentors can be a great help, choose someone who inspires you to be the best you can be, and guides you through difficult times without telling you what to do.


I got a huge amount out of this session (so much more than I have space for here), and would encourage everyone to keep an eye on the City University events listings and attend anything that interests you (with your line manager’s approval if it is in work time, of course).

And if you want to hear more about it do come and ask.  I have many many pages of notes.

2 thoughts on “How to shine

  1. Really interesting post Rachel, I don’t think you should ever forget any of these tools and ideas. I am a big believer in collection job descriptions that interest you, particularly in an organization you would like to work in (and it doesn’t have to be a library) what skills, knowledge and experience are they looking for and what have you got, and where are your gaps. And then create a plan to fill them. So when you are ready for your next job at the right time for you, you can go for it.

    And my 2 great tips, which I have pinched from others.

    – don’t fake it until you make it, fake it until you believe it.
    – if someone suggests you should try and achieve something, they are demonstrating belief in you, and we are always more like to trust the belief others have in us, than we are in ourselves. So go for it and see what happens

    1. I must confess that I have a collection of ‘dream job’ JDs that I have used in the past to identify areas for my development. And for inspiration too when I have felt stuck. Not, I must emphasise, that I feel stuck here!

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