Career Woman

The highs and the lows: Making your own career luck

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To progress in any industry regardless of what career you want to pursue, it’s no secret that you need to work hard in order to achieve success.  Everyone’s career goals are personal to them; some seek a specific career that reaps financial rewards, whilst others have more of a passion about a certain area – such as ensuring a customer’s needs are always met – and therefore work their hardest to get there.

Career development simply isn’t linear. From studying the number one course for supply chain at Pennsylvania State University in the USA to undertaking my first professional job role at a food and beverage company working in a customer-facing role, to my role as President of Global Supply Chain at a FTSE 250 company, my career hasn’t followed a direct path.

Career movements are not always linear

Often, a step up in a career could start with a sideways move. It’s important to remember that a career step-up is unique and different for every individual. Not everyone will see ‘success’ or ‘a career peak’ in the same way.

“A sideways move could mean transferring to a different position but staying in your current company, or joining a new company but keeping a similar job title, salary or even responsibilities. What makes it a lateral move is that the new position could give you an array of new skills you need to make that step up, or the new organisation could be far more profitable or in line with your career aspirations.

By looking at the bigger picture and removing the need for instant satisfaction or gratification, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits further down the line. Your path to the top could actually be a lot faster than if you keep your career moves linear.

Gain experience to create opportunities

Hands-on experience is vital to move up the career ladder; it’s not just about knowing the theory, it’s also about doing it in practice. The discussion of whether experience or a degree is more important has been ongoing for a number of years. These days we’re seeing experience outrank education in terms of what employers are looking for more and more often.

In order to continuously keep learning, place emphasis on networking. In order to move through the ranks, it’s important to keep an eye on the bigger picture. Not only does networking with other people within the industry open your eyes to new opportunities, but it also helps you meet people who may currently — or soon will be — hiring for a new role and if they’re not, they could even introduce you to another employer who is.

Stay up to date with upcoming conferences and events in the industry to attend and, take it one step further, look for opportunities to speak at these events too. Not only will you be able to deepen your knowledge by hearing from other people, people will also start to recognise you. By showing what you bring to the industry, you’ll become someone who businesses and employers want on their team.

The internet is full of opportunities to deepen your experience without leaving your laptop; whether that’s creating a blog, interacting with other people on LinkedIn or contributing tips-led articles to industry publications. Better yet, if you know the area you want to hone in on in your career, keep this the focus of your online networking activity. Don’t underestimate the power of networking online.

Aim high to gain responsibility

With the aim of moving up the ranks, employees need to seek and gain more responsibility in their role. Once you know your career goal, be vocal about what you want from a business, and use this to your advantage when seeking higher levels of responsibility within your role:

To get to the next step of my career, I knew I needed project management skills, so I worked out the next position I needed to be in so that I could get these skills under my belt – and I was open with my leadership team about my ambitions to get there. I also followed this open approach on a personal level – I was noisy within the company about wanting to work internationally; I wanted that for myself and my children so that they could experience diverse cultures. Whilst it’s not about causing a commotion, if the leaders within your company aren’t aware of your ambitions or where you want to grow your skills set, you can’t expect these responsibilities and opportunities to be handed to you.

Being open with your line manager and seeking responsibility requires confidence; for many of us, speaking up about not only our career goals but our personal goals too, is a big step outside of our comfort zones. Keep a lookout for confidence focussed workshops, or seek a mentor to support you through these difficult conversations so you’re able to aim high and achieve big.

Across any business sector, there’s no doubt that the more education and experience you gain, as well as keeping up to date with industry changes and progression, the more you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.

Keep up with the latest technologies whilst continually seeking to expand your knowledge. Whether that’s working to get an advanced degree or professional certifications. keep your personal career aspirations in mind whenever you seek to make a lateral career move.

Whether you are at a crossroads in your career or want to achieve your long-standing ambitions and make the life and career you have always wanted, mapping out a clear career plan is a great place to start. Seek advice from mentors and don’t rule out lateral career moves, and your route to the top will become a lot clearer.

About Debbie Lentz

Debbie Lentz is President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group. She joined Electrocomponents plc, a global multi-channel provider of industrial and electronic products and solutions, as the President of Global Supply Chain in 2017. Debbie is responsible for leading the further development of the Group’s supply chain capability to provide an innovative and sustainable market-leading service for customers and suppliers. The Group offers more than 500,000 industrial and electronic products, sourced from over 2,500 leading suppliers, and provides a wide range of value-added solutions to over one million customers. With operations in 32 countries, Electrocomponents trades through multiple channels and ships over 50,000 parcels a day.

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