How to navigate your career

The traditional concept of a career ladder or career path is no longer a linear one. The path is now more like a spaghetti freeway with lots of exits and different roads to take. Many of us now have more diverse careers than ever before, working across different functions, gaining new skills and experiences along the way. This isn’t about having a random career and changing roles for the sake of it, but it should be considered, well navigated based on the longer-term ambition.

The trick to a successful career path, is to think about the longer-term. Where do you want to be in 10 -15 years? This need not necessarily be a specific role you have identified, but you might know you want to be a senior leader, manage a big team, or have more of a strategic role. Or of course, you might be quite clear that you want to head up a business unit or be the Sales Director. Which ever it is, once you have identified the longer-term aspiration, consider the skills and experiences you think is needed to get there. For example, if you want to be the Sales Director, you evidently need sales experience. Classically this would mean Account Manager/CDM roles. Whilst this ticks the box for sales experience, you evidently will need people skills to be in a senior role, so look for roles that enables you to do this. Also consider a change in discipline. Taking a marketing role will broaden your understanding of brands, consumers and shoppers and therefore aid in being an effective salesperson as you understand the what and the how. A finance role would also enhance your analytical and numeracy skills, Procurement would give you experience in being the buyer rather than the seller. Being diverse in your career path, not only broadens your skills but it also helps you stand out from the crowd. Demonstrating that you have strategically thought about your career path and looked to roles that give you the skills you need is extremely appealing to a hiring manager.

Once you have defined the long-term aspiration, here are a few tips to help you achieve it:

  1. Create a skills matrix: Consider what you are good at, what you need to work on. Overlay this with what you like doing, what you don’t like doing. Then identify the gaps based on your long-term aspiration. If you have development areas, look to roles that might aid in this. If you identify that you don’t like analysing spreadsheets, then you may need to re-evaluate your aspirations.
  2. Set short-term goals: Once you are clear on the gaps, you can then plan the short-term goals and roles to get you to the longer term. Make sure you continually re-evaluate with each role you take, as you might find you have developed a new skill that might take you in a different direction.
  3. Leverage your network: This is two-fold. Look to your network to seek support, guidance, and sponsorship, but also look at your network and identify individuals who you admire or aspire to be. What have they done in their career that has made you notice them? What can you apply in your career path to perhaps do the same?
  4. Look for roles that make you happy: Be true to yourself. Based on tip number one, life is too short to do jobs that we hate doing! Your career should be fun. We have about 45 years of it, so make sure you enjoy it!

If you want to help in mapping your career development or want to develop new skills to get you there. Contact us at
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