Huifen is a lawyer, currently pursing her masters in law at Edinburgh University. She writes about technology and law at aicalico.com
On 21 Nov, I attended a careers masterclass organised by the Saltire Foundation at Edinburgh University. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever attended. I’ll like to share some learning points here.
The speaker, Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris, spoke honestly about how women can succeed in male-dominated fields. This is her professional area of research.
However, I took away great advice applicable to all, regardless of gender or stage of their career. It also applies to people working for themselves or building a startup.
1. No one will ever care more about your career/ growth than you yourself.
This seems like such a truism, yet I saw many in the audience nodding along with me when Dr Doyle-Morris said this.
In our working lives, we often think that hard work and results alone will naturally bring accolades and promotions. Or that one’s line manager or HR somehow has our career progression all written down somewhere.
This is simply untrue. Your progress within the company or even within the industry is dictated mostly by the choices you make and the opportunities you get for yourself. You then have to persuade your line manager/ HR that you deserve that promotion or raise.
The effect of this is multiplied if you are your own boss – there is truly no one looking out for you. Even if you have mentors within the industry, they are not there to create a growth path for you/ your firm.
The following points will help you get going.
2. Get Noticed.
Again, a truism. But no one will know how great your work/ product/ service is if you don’t talk about it!
If you are a working professional, this means claiming the credit for your ideas and results. This can include
- speaking confidently at work meetings and letting your ideas be known. If someone later tries to claim your idea as hers, gently put the person down by saying “I’m glad you agree with what I was saying 10 minutes ago…”
- writing about your achievements in the company newsletter or industry publications. This doesn’t mean that you wait for the communications team to interview you. This means writing the article yourself and sending it for publication.
- having regular updates with your line manager about your achievements.
- making contacts with other departments relevant to your work, and letting them know what it is that you/ your team do. If they later need support from your department, you will be the first point of contact, and can raise your profile as the ‘go-to” person.
If you are self-employed or creating a startup, this means advertising your work and doing the sales pitches, again and again. The above points about industry publications and raising your profile also apply to you.
Now, some of us really dislike talking about ourselves and our work. I am one such person. That is why I started a blog, to practice writing for a wider audience. The other thing I do is to mentor or volunteer so that I am forced to constantly speak with new people, find out what they do, and practice the niceties of social interaction.
You have to draw your passion for what you are doing, and let that enthusiasm show. Practice with family and friends if you are self-conscious about public speaking.
(If you are not passionate about your work, maybe it’s time to re-consider why you are doing it.)
3. Stay Relevant (to events and to people)
This is self-explanatory: you have to know what’s going on in the field. So you read all the relevant publications and attend the conferences.
But Dr Doyle-Morris brought up an interesting point about knowing the people who can make a difference to your career/ startup. Dr Doyle-Morris suggests setting up Google alerts for such people, so that Google does the search work and sends it nicely packaged to your inbox.
For example, know who is your head of department and what they are doing. Then if you ever have the famous “30-second airtime opportunity in an elevator”, you can have an intelligent conversation with the person and leave a positive impression.
The same goes for the movers and shakers in the industry that you work in/ sell to.
Singapore being so small, the odds of accidentally meeting such people are high. Multiply the odds if you attend a conference or industry event.
4. Delegate! Make Time!
By now you are probably thinking, how do I have time to do any of the above?
Negotiate to work-from-home some days a month, to save yourself the commuting time. That was the biggest drain on my time when I was working in Singapore.
Even if you are just starting out your career and have no one to delegate to in the office, you can delegate some parts of your personal life. For example, having some meals delivered to save grocery shopping/ cooking/ washing up time.
Cut the television/ movie watching. Now that I’m living by myself in student accomodation, I refuse to pay the £100+ TV license to be able to watch TV on my laptop. I don’t miss it! It frees you a good few hours a week to get out there and meet people in real life.
More about Dr Suzanne Doyle-Morris here: http://www.saltirefoundation.com/FellowshipProgramme/FellowBios/SuzanneDoyleMorris.aspx
Credit: Dr. Suzanne Doyle’s Blog