How to grow your career opportunities in the year ahead

It’s a new year, which is a great time to reassess your career and determine how you want to grow it. The number one reason we see female leaders let new career opportunities pass by is that they’re too focused on being great at their job to take the time to apply for the next step. So to avoid that number one pitfall: be ready ahead of time!

So how do you do that?


What’s Most Important To You? What do you want more of? If you can’t be sure what you’re chasing, when opportunities do fall in your lap, you’ll be unsure if they’re a good fit and will more likely take the “I’m too busy just now” option.

Here is a list of questions to help you start 2016 with some considered Career Planning:

  1. What would make me proud in 2016? (Better balance, doing a great job, smashing KPIs, recognition, more $, dream job…?)
  2. What worked well in 2015?
  3. How can I do more of that in 2016 – what would that look like?
  4. What can I say no to, to allow room for more of the fun stuff?
  5. In a list of what I want to do this year, where can I get double-ups? (eg exercising with a friend might tick your social and fitness goals)
  6. I’m usually last. How can I bump me up?
  7. What’s my moving-up strategy?

You CAN HAVE IT ALL – just not all at once… so get clear on what’s most important


There was an email doing the rounds a couple of years ago with a list of what every girl should have. It went something like this:

Every girl should have

  • A friend she can call on ANY time
  • A party dress she feels beautiful in
  • Someone who will be honest with her
  • A work outfit that makes her feel invincible
  • A resumé ready to land the next big opportunity

Hopefully your holidays will have been full of friendship and shopping. But is your resumé ready? Is it a one-size-fits-all that’s unconvincing for THE right role? Or is it tailored to what your audience wants to see? You can check out a couple of our Before & After Resume Examples HERE, including our notes explaining what we changed and why.

Your audience is the most important factor in making your resume a standout. This doesn’t need to compromise your authenticity or the truth. Just be sure that the elements of your experience that are most attractive to the reader are the parts that stand out the most.

When your resume is an appropriate fit for you AND for your market, apply the same formula to LinkedIn. While you’re in there you’ll inevitably connect with a couple of people, congratulate a couple of people, read and share a few articles… ta-dah!

Not only is your LinkedIn profile now on-message but you’ve just boosted the likelihood of your profile getting noticed! That’s powerful reward for effort!


Where are you headed and what skills do you need to gather, to get you there?

As you’re building your career the skills you need to gather, to be an effective leader are clear. As you progress the most consistent skill I find female executives are working on is influence.

In part this is striving to accumulate advocates and supporters more than mere mentors – people of influence who speak highly of you when you’re not in the room. (So of course, being GREAT at your job is critical). The key challenge here is learning to identify who the influencers are.

Take a minute now to think about who they are in your business. They’re not necessarily the most senior people… Who are they?


It’s possible to be great at your job and still be wallpaper. That’s the opposite of a strong exec presence. This was the hottest topic of the last 6 months. Women particularly want to know how to get more recognition for the capabilities they already have.

The winning combination here is to have a clear understanding of what you value, a clear understanding of what the organisation values and great communication skills. The result is being heard.

Add in being really strong in your area of expertise and you’ll attract the attention of the influencers of the business.


Check your career progress periodically. What kind of goal – setting works best for you? Are you a reach for joy or a run from fear type? How will you remember to check in?

Are you a big diary user or do you ignore your Outlook reminders? If you do set a meeting with someone who will ‘keep you honest’ every 3-6 months and have a conversation about which of your career efforts are moving you forward.

The boss is rarely the best person for this discussion since they’re most invested in you staying put. Unless of course they’re particularly encouraging of strategic career growth for their team members AND interested in where you want to go, not just where they think you should go!

You no doubt take pride in doing a great job at work, or you wouldn’t be reading a career article! MY wish for you this year is that you’ll also dedicate time to career planning so that YOU benefit as much as your boss does.


Cath Nolan is MD at Gender Gap Gone and Director at With a background in individual and organisational development and branding, Cath and her teams run programs that help people live the careers of their choosing. If you would like an email with the Questions To Kick Off The Year, click HERE and tell us where to send it.