Women in Planning North West – Plan Your Career: The Nine Pieces of Key Advice Every Professional Needs to Hear
International Women’s Day 2018
Jill Bell – Chair | Women in Planning North West
Sara Todd – Deputy Chief Executive | Manchester City Council
Victoria Hessen – Managing Director | Gladman Developments
Rob Haslam – Planning Director | Savills
Vicky Hughes – Head of Town Planning | Blayze Group
The packed-out event featured those fresh onto the Planning scene as well as some more experienced professionals, all eager to hear advice from inspirational speakers from across both the private and public Planning sector. Jill, Chair of WIP NW, kicked off the evening by laying out the objective of the evening; to encourage all those who attend to achieve their goals, whatever their goals might be: “it might not be reaching the top, it might even be reaching the end of the week, or overcoming a small personal challenge.” Following Jill was Sara who discussed her role in City Council during the devastating Manchester terrorist attack in May, and how her experience and knowledge gained over her career had informed her action. Sara also shared advice gained from her career in the public sector. Victoria followed, discussing the lessons learnt in her career to reach Managing Director of Gladman Developments from her MA in Town & Regional Planning. Vicky and Rob teamed up for the closing session, Vicky using her insight of working with Planning organisations for the past fifteen years and Rob with his experience working in both the public and private sectors.
1. “People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou
Sara Todd emphasised how important it is to be kind and understanding in the workplace and how key it is to recognise when a co-worker needs to talk, and to put everything down to accommodate that. Victoria followed up on this with “having a sense of humour and being kind are two of the most important things I’ve learnt in my career.”
Victoria Hessen highlighted the significance of not worrying about where your career is going; “more often than not, if you work really hard, things will happen in the right way to you.” Victoria recounted reading every ‘business book’ she could get her hands on, and how, when she came across the advice “serious women in business don’t wear cardigans” she thought it was time to give them a miss!
3. ‘Imposter Syndrome’
‘Imposter Syndrome’ is that nagging doubt in your head that you can’t do something, that we’ve all experienced. Victoria’s response to this is “call yourself out! You’ve earned your right to be here!” The panel also agreed that people are rarely born with confidence, but it can be learnt over time perhaps with the help of a mentor, which will be essential when it comes to selling yourself in a job interview.
4. Write Your Goals Down
“Writing your goals down will make them seem more real to you and then you’ll be more likely to go on and achieve it”, Victoria emphasised. Begin with the “end” in mind, then formulate a plan around how you’re going to get there. Continually reviewing your goals is also important; they may change or the route to get there may adjust (and that’s fine!) Whether they’re small goals you want to achieve by the end of the week, or larger goals you want to achieve in the next decade!
5. Feedback is Key
Vicky Hughes expressed how essential feedback is from all angles (your manager and your peers) in your Learning & Development journey; “if you can be critical of yourself, although it can be difficult, it’s incredible what you will learn. Asking for feedback is imperative for your progression. If you are able to do this, you’ll be putting yourself in a great position.”
6. Word of the Evening: Mentor
Mentoring was a consistent thread throughout the whole evening or, as Rob Haslam calls them, ‘Career Crushes’. “Find someone whose job you’d love to do,” says Rob, “take them for a cup of tea! No one is too mature for career coaches.” Rob was keen to point out that mentors are not just for professionals just starting out, but for all levels of experience; Rob has known Senior Management, including Chief Executives, who have mentors “as the learning journey doesn’t finish.” The entire panel also concurred that a mentor outside of your business, and even outside of your specific sector, would provide fresh insight onto your progress.
7. Take Control
Remember, you can’t control everything; “you can’t force your employer to promote you and you can’t force your employer to give you a pay rise. Look at what you can control and focus on that. Take personal responsibility for your career – it’s you who decides how you want it to pan out.” Rob followed on from Vicky to point out “as a manager, employees who are willing to look at new areas of work and develop new projects are of great benefit to me.”
8. Personal Brand
Vicky Hughes: “perception is everything and you can influence it – you need to understand what everyone’s perception of you is to inform your development in the future. Finding out what makes you unique is essential to this; what is your differentiator and how will this benefit your employer?”
9. Time Management
During the Q&A towards the end of the session, an attendee, someone who Rob has previously managed, described a time management technique that Rob has recommended to her; “separate your tasks into categories and then block out time to complete them. Keep your e-mail shut when you’re focusing on a task and work out when your most productive hours are; if it’s in the morning, do the strategically-focused tasks then.” Sara also shared how she always took half an hour for lunch to regain headspace from the day which is always blocked out by her secretary.
“It’s okay to enjoy the job you’re in! You don’t always have to think about the next thing – it’s as simple as that! Your goal doesn’t always have to be reaching the top, it could be about reaching the end of the week, or reaching your dream project.”
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