By Diana Parkes

how to have your best career

When we are born we are already unique – both on the outside and on the inside - what we look like and what we are like in terms of personality and temperament. Through our utterly unique life experiences and contexts in which we find ourselves, we develop uniquely which determines what matters and why it matters, what we value, what we believe in and what we want. Even identical twins brought up in the same home and attending the same school have different life experiences – different relationships, different perspectives, different responses. This means that we seek and are satisfied by different things in life. One of the characteristics that many of the women I interviewed had in common was great clarity on their personal values (integrity, authenticity, time at work versus home), what they wanted out of work and where their boundaries lay.

The expression ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’ is a cliché for a good reason. After all, it seems that when we reach what we thought was our ultimate destination, we set ourselves a new point to aim for. The destination turns out to be a direction to head in, not an end point, so the experiences and feelings we have on the way are what really matter – those are the things that we need to try and make as good as possible. This is why you need to understand what works for you, what matters to you, what will tick your boxes in a working environment and equally, what to avoid.

However, our culture currently has fairly narrow definitions of what success means in the world of work and they tend to focus on destination points – job role, salary level, symbols of status. So, while these can provide direction, you need to look at what you want to get out of the journey in order to really have your best working life.

Knowing who you are and what you need from work enables you to be much clearer about the type of work, the type of culture, hierarchy and support system as well as location, working hours, and so on that will combine to give you the best experience. You will know what to look for in an organisation / boss / role and, almost more importantly, what to avoid. You can dig deeply into what is published about an organisation, what the figures really say, and you can ask questions that will solicit the insight you really need in an interview.

‘For me it is more about women defining what their measure of success is and not letting others define it for you. Be very clear about what you are willing to do and not do to get there. Recognising that that can evolve over time. What you thought were your aspirations when you were 25 are not necessarily the same aspirations you have at 50. You can still define what success means for you at that point in time.’

Peggy Montana, Director. Shell

The real challenge though is to read your own DNA for success - to get under your own skin and articulate what your values, beliefs, attitudes and motivations really are. We can think we know but my experience is that, when given the appropriate assessment tools to structure, prompt and articulate thinking, people are often very surprised (and often relieved) and subsequently make different choices.

So, I’m going to help you think about and explore who you are and what matters and give you some tools to challenge what you may believe so far. For some people it will take great courage to follow the new and personal path. But, you are the only person that will live your life, so doing it the way “they” want it or that society says is best, or that you think your family will recognise and applaud, rather than for you, is a waste. And in doing what uniquely fits your needs for success and happiness has the potential to create new models for success that other women, men, our children and future generations will then comfortably be able to adopt.

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