I spend a lot of time speaking to early career professionals who are looking for advice or wanting to further their development. And one of the pieces of advice I find myself giving all the time is “Don’t ask permission”. But taking ownership of your own career path is easier said than done. Here are five steps you can take today to start making progress.

1. Write Your Future Resume

What do you see yourself doing in the future? Write it down. I find it useful to write it in the format of a resume or a bio. Something that walks back through your experience from the fictional and aspirational future (written in present tense), backing all the way to the current job and role that you are in today.

Write the final job first and then think about what experiences you might need to get that job and make that your second-to-the-last role. Repeat that until you have walked back through a progression of roles or companies that take you where you want to go. Don’t forget to add in education, training, non-profit involvement, or anything else that will be a part of your future, idealized career. There is something powerful about writing it down.

2. Invent Your Path

One of the things you will notice about your resume activity is that you might struggle naming some of the roles that you might want to have. Sometimes getting experience and being seen as ready for promotion isn’t a matter of title (marketing specialist leads to marketing manager leads to marketing director), but rather of actual job contents.

And of course in the future, the contents of the job are going to be different. 30 years ago, who have thought we’d pay to take rides with strangers or spend a significant part of our marketing budget on pay-per-click advertising? So, you have an opportunity to invent a job or two along the way. Take advantage of the blank sheet of paper to design a job or role that would give you that experience.

Take advantage of the blank sheet of paper to design a job or role that would give you that experience.

And remember, some of that experience might come from volunteer work or even entrepreneurial efforts. Don’t limit yourself. You are writing fiction, so make it worthy of a New York Times best seller award.

3. Research and Network

Look at that fictional resume you wrote for your future self. What questions arose when writing it? Did you wonder what people had done before they became a Chief Marketing Officer? Did you invent a position, but now you wonder if that role exists in some companies today? Are you curious how much education a financial analyst needs to work on a big merger and acquisition agreement?

When asked for their expertise, most people will be generous.

These things are knowable and worth researching. Look up people on LinkedIn in the roles to which you aspire and look at their career progression. Contact people in your network who might know the answers or have ideas of where to look. They could be people that work at your company (check out the leadership page on your company website, if you don’t know people outside your own team or group), or people in the community at large. When asked for their expertise, most people will be generous.

4. Tell Someone

Just like there is power in writing something down, it is amplified in the sharing. This is why sites like BucketList.org exist. They figure you are more likely to do things, even crazy things like climbing mountains or learning Mandarin, if you share your dreams with others. Find people who will be supportive and share some of your ideas with them.

If you don’t have people in your immediate circle of friends and family who are likely to empathize, find a group like HeartSpark, or a professional coach to help you listen and refine your ideas. Or join a networking group, like the Leaders in Heels community, BizWomen or your local rotary to find a group of like-minded folks to help you grow.

5. Believe

At the heart of all of this is believing in your potential and what you have to offer a potential employer or entrepreneurial opportunity. I’m a big believer in positive affirmations and visualization. By affirming yourself and visualizing where you will go, you breathe belief into yourself. This starts the wheels of destiny in motion.

Believe that your career is something you get to build.

So let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you. Be deliberate and bold. Don’t settle for the next rung on your chain of jobs or tasks. Take ownership of your professional story. It can be refined by experiences and reshaped when you want it to be. It may have imperfections, but at the end it will be yours.


Jennifer Davis is a senior executive, industry presenter, business leader, mentor and volunteer. She is the vice president of marketing and product strategy for Planar Systems, a global leader in display and digital signage technology. More information about Jennifer is available at her website: http://atjenniferdavis.com/#homeinfo

It’s the week before Christmas, and all through the office, people were wailing “I’M TOO STRESSED TO TALK….I’VE GOT TO SHOP IN MY LUNCHBREAK….I’VE STILL GOT THINGS TO DOOOOO”.

That’s how the poem goes, doesn’t it?

Like some (most) of us, you are probably beginning to panic about preparing gifts, lunches, family events, incomplete work tasks, the office secret Santa and annual leave. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the gifts, lunches or family reunions (although I do maintain that any dessert covered in brandy custard constitutes a Christmas pudding). I can however share my top five office de-stressors that may help you to manage any pre-holiday melt-down that you’re thinking of having this week.

1. Prioritise

Explore what tasks need to be completed immediately, what can be completed in the short term, and what tasks can be classified as long term. Be fair in your assessment – don’t set yourself up for failure by prioritising ALL outstanding work tasks as immediate needs if they really aren’t. On the flip side, don’t leave ALL tasks to be completed on your return after holidays.

2. To-Do List

Now, while some of you may now be thinking “but I get more stressed out if I don’t complete things on my to-do list” hear me out. I’m a big fan of the to-do list, not necessarily for marking things off, but as a strategy to keep us on track. If you change your ideals on what a to-do list is, then you can create a tool that will help you set and achieve small goals. For your pre-holiday to-do list, you should be listing those tasks only that you prioritised as either immediately needed or needed in the short-term. Any long-term work tasks should not be included in this to-do list as it will quickly appear overwhelming and the usefulness of the tool will diminish.

By doing what you can ahead of time, you will be minimising stress in those last days or hours before you leave for holidays, as well as ensuring that any important details aren’t accidentally left out.

3. Timetable

Similar to the to-do list, a timetable can become a tool of direction and guidance. Remember back to your schooling days when you used a timetable to help you ensure that you were spending enough time studying each subject? A timetable in the lead up to a holiday from the office can be useful in the same way. While I don’t recommend such strict timetabling as to account for every minute of every day, I do stress that it is important to structure what limited time you have so you can get the most out of it.

4. Create any handover documents ahead of time

If you are working in a job where you will need to handover any work tasks, clients or customer files while you are away, DO NOT LEAVE IT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. This task is often prioritised incorrectly, and completed as a last event before you go on leave. By doing what you can ahead of time, you will be minimising stress in those last days or hours before you leave for holidays, as well as ensuring that any important details aren’t accidently left out. Obviously, not everything will be able to be added to a handover document a long way in advance; however, it is generally possible to add any last minute details to an existing document as they arise. By doing it in a controlled manner, you will likely find that the quality of details is better, and you will not experience the dreaded feeling of oppression that comes with having to do last minute handover documents.

And finally –

5. Have another rum ball!

Well – it IS the silly season …..

Featured photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc

Lauren Maxwell Lauren Kremer

Lauren is a Rehabilitation Counsellor and Career Development Consultant, with close to 15 years of experience across the two fields. She is the founder of Headstrong Women, a specialist women’s career development service, and thrives on innovation and creativity to empower women to reach their potential. Find out more at www.headstrongwomen.com.au or on Facebook.

According to recent analysis, it has been found that Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs earn higher stock market returns than those with male CEOs.

With the number of women entrepreneurs on the rise, an increasing number of companies are looking to hire female executives and bring them into the boardroom as they acknowledge the fact that women are capable of delivering tangible and intangible advantages to the company’s bottom line.

However, despite the mounting evidence that women add to the strength of a business, it can be hard for some female leaders to manage the social complexities of the workplace and make a place for themselves as leaders.

Here are a few tips to make your presence felt in what may still be considered largely male bastions:

1. Build a rapport early on

Building a rapport with your new colleagues is extremely important in any work environment. There will surely be at least a couple of commonalities between your male colleagues and yourself, so make the time to figure them out.

Learning about their interests and understanding that men can sometimes be less expressive as women may help. Give your new colleagues time, seek their opinions and insights, and ask them about certain industry-related concerns.

2. Feel and act confident

You were hired for a reason and the company recognises your skills and experiences will benefit the business. Don’t be shy about giving your opinions, your colleagues (male and female) should respect you for this.

And remember it is perfectly okay to say ‘no’ to certain projects if you think your plate is already full. Taking on more work than you can handle will ultimately end up hurting not just the quality of your work, but also the company. Work on the projects you’re really interested in giving your time to and do a good job at them and appreciation and success will flow your way.

3. Play to your strengths

According to experiments conducted at Michigan State University, it has been suggested that women should ‘play up on masculine abilities’ if they want to succeed in male-dominated industries. Qualities such as assertiveness, independence and ambition should be played up more as opposed to being warm, supportive and nurturing.

However, sometimes being a good leader entails being more dependable and accessible than overconfident. The former traits come naturally to most men, while women are more intuitive, collaborative, and good communicators, which are also exceptional skills to have in a good leader. That’s where the advantage is.

Capitalize on your advantages and create an inclusive work environment which supports your team and strengthens it.

4. Build a support system

You may want to touch base with the other women in your organisation or other employees who inspire or encourage you. Just knowing that there are people in similar situations or who support you will bring you comfort and support that you may need.

5. Keep Learning

Irrespective of the professional stage you’re at currently, or the dizzying heights of success you touch in the future, never stop learning. The world is always changing and so is the industry. Your knowledge and skills need to change and upgrade to if you want to keep up. Manage your time and life in a way that creates maximum opportunities to learn for you.

Include learning in your everyday routine. Take night classes, or attend conferences and workshops. Read books, articles, and/or blogs. Learn more about what inspires you and the things you’re expected to know. Doing so will enable you to grow, which will reflect in your professional life and attitude.

All said and done, women continue to rise through the ranks to sit in boardrooms, run businesses independently and launch successful startups. The future looks bright as we continue to move towards equal opportunity for all.

Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC, which offers invoice factoring for small businesses. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow. Prior to CBAC, Andrew founded an annuity financing company relieving tort victims of financial hardship.

Image credit: le temple du chemisier

When you have young children, going to your office job can sometimes make for a really nice change of scenery. Being among co-workers instead of children can feel like an entirely different world. For example;

  • There’s no requirement to tidy up after everyone else, clean up their spills or wipe their bottoms.
  • There’s no piercing ‘muuuuummm’ requests stabbing at your eardrums every four minutes.
  • You can go to the toilet and no-one will follow you into the cubicle and try to climb all over you.
  • There are adults there, with adult things to say, and nice sophisticated conversations that do not involve the words bum, fart or undies.

It can be really quite lovely.

When you have young children, going to your office job can sometimes make for a really nice change of scenery

But while you may circulate in this whole other world, and even relish in it, you are not entirely inconspicuous. There are clues to the parenting world in which you also exist. You may try to cover up as much as you can in the name of professionalism, but there are some tell-tale signs.

Here’s 10 that might sound familiar:

  1. You look in the bathroom mirror a few hours after you arrive only to find that your top is on inside out.
  2. You have baby wipes in your handbag.
  3. You gasp at your phone when caller ID shows it’s the daycare centre calling, imagining the worst-case scenario.
  4. You only wear jewellery which cannot be broken with a swift yank of a small hand.
  5. You randomly laugh out loud when recalling something cute your child said that morning.
  6. You work super-productively because staying back late is not an option.
  7. You have narrowed the possibilities of the stain on your black pants to be either snot, toothpaste or vomit – none of which would be yours.
  8. You spend your entire lunch-break running errands.
  9. You have a strange nostalgic smile on your face when your co-workers complain of hangovers from bars and clubs they went to last night.
  10. You probably consume more coffee than anyone else in the office.

However, there are some things your co-workers may not know, and might not want to either.

Like how when you sat down at your desk to begin the day at 9am, you had already been up since 5am. You bathed, dressed & fed multiple people, did two loads of washing, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed, walked the dog and managed the school drop-off without forgetting the show & tell. Give yourself a pat on the back for this, but perhaps don’t expect your colleagues to – they will find this information excruciatingly boring.

Another thing they might not want to hear about is how the pictures on your desk represent the little people who give your life a depth and meaning you have never experienced before. They are the reason you are doing all this. They are your little rays of sunshine and you wouldn’t have it any other way … and you simply can’t wait to get home for cuddles, giggles and to pretend to be the pirate queen of the dining table ship.

But you don’t need to tell your colleagues that, keep some stuff to yourself. They know enough already.

What do you share with your co-workers about your life as a parent? Share your comments below.

Sally Miles Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a wife and mother to two children and spends her working hours as a publisher at a global education company.

Featured photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc