WeAreTheCity speaks to Kay White, Author and the Smart Career Moves Mentor for Corporate Women, about her career.
Kay is also one of the keynote speakers at our upcoming WeAreFutureLeaders conference on 24 May.
Kay White is known as The Smart Career Moves Mentor for Corporate Women and is the Author of two Number 1 best-selling books (The A to Z of Being Understood AND It’s Always Your Move).
Kay shows experienced corporate career women how to own and leverage their skills and experience so they more confidently navigate their career paths towards promotion, more recognition and more rewards (all without losing themselves along the way).
Drawing upon the highs and lows of her own +20-year corporate experience in insurance broking at Willis, London (starting as a Secretary and leaving as a Divisional Director) Kay brings her passion and experience for the energy of language, the art of influence and persuasion and making strategic, considered career moves to her clients.
Kay and her husband live close to London with three rescue Lurchers and much of Kay’s inspiration comes from walking the hounds, early in the mornings, in the local countryside. Playing the drums (occasionally guest-spotting in a heavy rock band) and Water-skiing, Kay keeps herself flexible with Yoga and Pilates.
At the conference, Kay will explain how to influence others and learn how to use the power of the business case in order to get what you need. Discover the full agenda for the day here.
WeAreFutureLeaders, now in its third year, is a conference aimed at women (below Director level) who wish to progress in their career or who are preparing for promotion. This is not a conference that labours about the lack of women in leadership positions, this full day learning event where our guests will gain real tangible skills that they can take back in to the workplace the following day.
You can find out more about the conference and book your place here.
Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?
I’m known as the Smart Career Moves Mentor for Corporate Career Women and author of 2 number 1 best selling books – The A to Z of Being Understood and the recently released It’s Always Your Move.
I started my career as a secretary working for the international insurance broker Willis and left there 20 years later as a Director for the Global Property area. It was a twisty turny path! People saw for me what my next move might be before I did for all my career moves. I didn’t pay attention in the way I now encourage my clients to do.
Via a number of routes and stops/starts, I got to where I am today by investing in myself to develop the skills and confidence to enable women to make the most of their career opportunities and back themselves. It’s not a straight line and I still have moments of frustration and doubt but I come back to why I set up my business. To support corporate career women who, like I used to, underestimate their skills and experience and to show them how to leverage themselves without losing themselves. That’s where more satisfaction, job opportunities and rewards are found!
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not consciously. I do however have a limited ability to be stuck for very long. I get frustrated and then it’s time to do something rather than think about it. I moved from secretarial to broking when I got ‘bored’ and moved from broking to a career break when I got so frustrated I figured if I didn’t make a move, a move might be made for me.
I started my business focussing on entrepreneurial business women but realised that it’s corporate career women who light me up and who I really know I’m meant to work for! I love being a ‘secret’ member of their team helping them to plot and plan a career move or a way of being better rewarded and more satisfied and valued. It’s what I’m built to do and I’m really good at it. My clients get promoted, paid more money and feel more grounded in their skills and abilities.
What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?
I was told I’m a natural speaker and once I got my legs to stop wobbling, found I really enjoyed it. I think it’s such a gift for an audience to give you their time and attention and I always want to respect that and thank them by giving them TONS of value – stories, ideas, strategies, exact words and phrases to use straight away to support their career progress.
Do you have a favourite experience from your career?
Yes! In my insurance days, I wanted to go to live and work in Paris and negotiate business from there. I’d had some private French lessons but wanted to accelerate that by living there and working my way through an intensive course. I was prepared to use holiday to do this. My boss was French so I prepared my ‘ask’ which was to ask him to pay for the course and my travel and accommodation if I used my holiday.
I prepared my words using the formal ‘Vous’ in French. When I started, blushing and short of breath with nerves, he immediately said “Non Non Kay, tu/tois” we’re friends. The non formal way! I hadn’t prepared, didn’t know my verb endings that way BUT, I asked. I kept going and he said Yes. Yes to the course and the travel if I paid for the accommodation and took the holiday. We both won. AND I asked and kept going! Lessons I bring to my clients all the time!
What do you think WeAreFutureLeaders guests will gain from your talk?
Understanding how to position what they want to say so it’s heard – my talk is about Influencing Skills, which is a fascinating subject and in the 20 minutes I have with the WAFL guests, I’m going to give the women things to say which have an immediate compelling effect on the listener/readers attention.
The guests will also have a way of thinking about the way they go about their business which focuses on what others want…not just them and how to switch in and out of where you focus and why! A lot to pack in within a short space of time but we’re all up for the challenge… 😉
What are your top three tips for success?
- Be responsible for your own career success, don’t expect others to care as much as you should
- Ask for what you want and keep asking
- Invest time in building a network of relationships to support you AND who you can support
What has been your biggest challenge during your career?
When I felt so stuck, frustrated and angry about my day to day work as an insurance broker. I couldn’t see my way out and if someone like me had been there to ask me the questions to unlock my thinking, it would have made it all a lot less scary and huge. That’s what drives me in my business and it’s how I support my many women clients who are on the cusp of a leadership role or who find themselves struggling with the leap from management to the C-Suite.
Which female role models are you most inspired by?
Those who are honest about how tough it can be to balance things and how things aren’t often in balance! They sway in and out and I also really connect with those who are being themselves – that word ‘Authentic’ is used a lot but you can feel when someone is trying too hard or projecting an image that isn’t them. Being comfortable with your own skills, stories and abilities is inspiring and I aspire to be more and more like that too. Brene Brown / Amy Cuddy / Oprah Winfrey for example, all had hugely different beginnings to where they find themselves now but they’re more themselves than ever because that’s what they need to be to connect and inspire others.
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?
The set up. The conditioning we have as women growing up about ‘girly’ about being bossy and the connotations rather than being inspired to take a leadership route. I also think men need as much support and coaching to see how they can block/assume/put down women. As I say “would you want your daughter/wife/niece to experience that kind of BS” and we all know the answer….
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
Quotas on Boards to speed things up AND then a commitment by companies to close the pay gap by a deadline or fines are imposed. I don’t see how otherwise it will happen…certainly not in my lifetime nor my niece’s – she’s 23.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
“Your career is just that. Yours. A husband isn’t a career move – the marriage or the job he has might not last. Future-proofing your financial and emotional stability is your responsibility Kay so pay attention to the opportunities you see go by and say “Yes” before you’re ready or if you don’t see them, go make them.”
That was me talking to me which is the advice I’ve taken, albeit not as a younger me, as a more mature me!