Smart career moves for smart women: How to succeed in career transitions

Businesswoman working at desk, making career moves

Article by Dr Susan Doering

Smart Career Moves for Smart Women: How to Succeed in Career Transitions is written for women who want to take charge of their career progression and move up to the next level in their career path – whether to team or department head, a new function, or company leader, or simply taking on increased responsibilities within your current role.

It is also for those who are thinking about a new direction in their working life and are trying to decide exactly which direction that should be.

We look at some of the unwritten rules about navigating the workplace: working with colleagues, managing your boss, and what to watch out for when you lead a team. We also explore the option of moving out of the world of employment and going it on your own – an idea that more and more women are finding attractive.

You can learn to look forward to career moves, rather than be daunted by them. It is never too late to take steps towards having the kind of career and life you want and being the person you want to be.

Here are some of the vital steps to making a smart career move:

Decide who you want to be

Developing self-awareness and recognising what we really value in life is central to making good decisions. We can only do this if we allow ourselves to take the time for self-reflection and not always just continue on the same path, but rather stop to ask ourselves: ‘is this the path I want to take now?’ One of the themes running through Smart Career Moves for Smart Women is finding out who you want to be, and that can change over time.

Every career move should give you a sense of satisfaction and meaning in your life which makes you happy to get up in the morning and go to work.

Start thinking about your next career move early, whether it’s going to be within your organisation, to a new one, or to a different work environment altogether. Plan and prepare meticulously. Get back to basics: what do you value in life? Be clear about who you are and where you want to go.

Do your research and identify your options

Recognising that we have choices is often a revelation. On a simple mind map you can create branches which go off into exciting directions, so allow yourself to include out-of-the-box options. Grasp the idea of new ways of working: agile working in a new team and hybrid working arrangements are just some of the options that you can explore.

Be smart – get support

Everyone needs sponsors and supporters in a career move, and these include, of course, your partner or spouse and other family members, but also trusted friends, a mentor in your organisation and a career coach. Each has a role to play in your next career move. Do not be afraid to ask people for their ideas and support. You need sponsors who will advocate for you in your move. Get them to make the necessary contacts and build bridges with the right people. Your supporters are vital in providing both the practical and the psychological support that you will need. Practical support may mean, for example, finding childcare solutions, and psychological support means boosting your confidence and offering encouragement. Your network can come up with perhaps surprising suggestions that may even lead to interesting job offers.

Plan strategically

A career move requires meticulous strategic planning. In considering your options, ask yourself what each move will bring in terms of future opportunities. Where will you learn most? What kind of organisational setting will suit you and your lifestyle? Which will offer the kind of work tasks where you can develop your competence and skills in the direction you want to go? Talk to as many people as possible who can give you the information you need to get a clearer picture of what awaits you after making the move.

Be prepared to learn

In every career step, we will have to learn something new, such as an additional skill or something complementary to the skills already in our portfolio. Being open to learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge and insight will not only ensure we are ready for our next challenge when it presents itself, but also allows us to grow as individuals, builds confidence, and ensures we can keep up with ever-evolving professional settings.

Be confident

Finding your self-confidence to make the move is perhaps the most important thing of all. Remind yourself of your goal: go back to what you value most and what you know gives you joy and satisfaction. This will reinforce your will to make the move happen. Remind yourself of your abilities and what makes you special; make a list of the times you overcame your self-doubts and succeeded in your goals. Be proud. When things didn’t go as well as they could have, then tell yourself: “That was then. This is now. I can do this.”

You’ve made the move – stay smart

To make your career move successful you need to navigate the transition phase of those crucial first 90 days to get an idea of how the system really works. Build trust with your boss, co-workers, and clients by showing you are prepared to learn from them. If you have chosen hybrid working, you need to develop acute sensibility as to what is going on under the surface, as you may miss out on crucial inside info if you’re not around to take part in those ”water cooler chats”, so make sure not only to attend the meetings that matter but also to catch up with colleagues informally.

Dr Susan DoeringAbout the author

Susan Doering is an international career and leadership coach who operates globally, coaching individuals to achieve professional success and facilitating career development training courses for private and public sector organisations.

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