Fighting for the First Rung on the Corporate Ladder

Linda Murray, Athena CoachingClimbing the corporate ladder rarely happens by accident. Sure there are some people who are blessed with luck, where hard work and opportunity collide, and rise almost by accident, but most of us need to take deliberate and targeted steps.

If the Workplace Gender Equality Agency survey tells us anything about the climb to the top, the undisputed facts are that women find the ascent steeper and more challenging. Only 9.2% of executives in the ASX 500 in 2012 were women. As reported by The Parliament of Australia only 12 female CEOs were represented in the ASX 200 and a total of 12 in the ASX 500 during the 2012, and even more telling is that 63.1% or almost two thirds of ASX 500 companies have no females in key executive management roles. How do you tip the scales in your favour and increase your chances of achieving your goals and gaining the career progression and recognition you desire? The key is to record your goals and the steps required and develop a career map. In simple terms a career map is a detailed plan of your long term professional goals and the clear targeted actions required to achieve them.

Your map needs two distinct steps, starting with honest personal assessment of your professional identity, whether your current role, company or industry is where you feel you belong and whether your strengths, skills, values and personality are aligned with where you are and how you see yourself.

After identifying the internal factors, the external factors require attention. Your goal is to learn as much about the individual role within your company or networks you aspire to or you may have come to the realisation that you are best suited to an alternative industry. Either way, the same processes apply. Find people who are working in the type of role you aspire to and learn from them in an endeavour to find out how they achieved their position, what skills they possess and the benefits and disadvantages of the work they undertake. Don’t be afraid to be direct in your questioning, as your approach acknowledges your interest and admiration in their achievements. ‘What advice would you offer and who else should I be talking to’ are simple yet valuable questions that will give you direction and focus in your own career mapping.

Those in senior levels were once where you are, and possibly sought help from mentors to achieve their own goals, so most will be flattered and pleased to share their time and journey with you in an informational interview session.

“It’s a dream until you write it down, and then it’s a goal.” – Anonymous

Once you have assessed the internal and external processes required and spoken to those who have already climbed to the summit, you can begin your individualised plan tailored to the identified values, needs, strengths and desires.

An elevator pitch is essential, and once you can succinctly describe your dream role and why you are the perfect candidate, move onto an expanded version of around 2 minutes which highlights your experience and areas of speciality and skill.

Your phone or address book is the next resource to identify anyone who may assist you either with advice, contacts or referrals. Use these contacts and increase your networking in a targeted way. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is current and clear about your aspirations and link with groups or people who may assist you to achieve your goals.

Utilise your research skills and the information you have gained to customise your pitch or application for any position on your path. Ensure you tailor your resume and cover letter to each role instead of using a generic set of information that may not highlight how you fit a particular position.

Creating a career map requires strong personal insight, the discipline to carry through on your goals and the self-confidence to believe you will achieve them. The process of mapping the way to your career goals creates accountability and provides motivation.

“Maps are essential. Planning a journey without a map is like building a house without drawings.” – Mark Jenkins, The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival, and the Soul of Adventure

What becomes apparently clear after looking at the statistics, if we are to increase female executive management in ASX 500 companies we definitely need a map.

Linda Murray, Athena Coaching
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