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A positive path to developing your career

Don’t let your career pass you by, says everywoman’s Kate Farrow – take a proactive approach to progression


During my work in developing others and supporting organisations to make the most of their talent, I often meet people for whom the idea of planning their career is totally alien.

The opportunity to have good-quality career conversations with our line managers, mentors and role models often comes few and far between, so putting some thought into your next career move or a skill you would like to develop ahead of time will stand you in good stead for the next opportunity that comes your way. Rather than seeing your career as something that just “happens” to you, you can explore ways of navigating skilfully through your next career move.

Talent exploration

Begin by considering your talents and areas of interest. What do you most enjoy doing and why? What activities are you drawn to and get satisfaction from? Ask yourself:

  • When have you been most committed, passionate and enthusiastic?
  • When have you been at your most creative?
  • When have you been most sure of yourself and your decisions?
  • What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
  • When have other people considered you to be most successful?
  • When have you enjoyed your work most?
  • What talents were you relying on, and using, in these situations?
  • What would you take a very strong stand for?
  • If money was of no concern, what would you be doing?

Looking at your answers to these questions, are there any themes coming through that can help you identify your ideal next role?

Research and planning

Once you have your talent exploration themes, it is time to research what roles are available to you within your organisation, where you can put your talents and skills to best effect. Once you have a “big picture goal” for your career you can start to map out how you will get there, including how to fill any skills gaps you have. Your next step is to start building and activating your network to help you work towards your goals.

A note on developing your skills…

Don’t only think of skills development as having to be provided by your employer or learnt in a classroom. The internet is an obvious place to start, as there are many free resources. A mentor can help you build a needed skill, and if all of those avenues are a challenge, look for extracurricular activities you can do beyond your day job. There may be an internal network you can join or start, such as a women’s network, or a charity that is close to your heart. By volunteering, you often have more autonomy and can build skills that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to in the workplace.

Your “personal advisory board”

Your personal advisory board is the group of people that you surround yourself with and whose advice and guidance you trust and appreciate. When thinking about whether the people around you are part of your personal advisory board, the litmus test is if this person would take a call from you and agree to meet up – if not, think of how you might be able to make the relationship stronger. You should continually nurture your personal advisory board, so when you do need to reach out for advice and guidance, it’s easier and there hasn’t been a huge expanse of time since you last made contact. Easy ways of doing this include remembering birthdays, congratulating them on work anniversaries on LinkedIn and sharing relevant articles or blog posts with them. Try not to let more than two months go by without making some kind of contact.

A final note…

Your career path does not always have to take a straight trajectory upwards within your organisation. Sometimes, to learn new parts of the business, new skills or to keep your energy and motivation high, you may need to take a sideways move. Don’t always assume you need to move up to reach ultimate success. Picking up knowledge and skills from different parts of the business can make you a more attractive candidate when reaching senior leadership roles, as your bigger-picture vision of the business will be a great asset.

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