Make it happen because no one goes to bed at night worrying about your career.

I spend a lot of my week listening to people discuss their careers & lives: their first job, the path travelled to their current role, what they like about it, what’s challenging and what’s next?

This year we have worked with barristers, farmers, retailers, lawyers, engineers, and executives from organisations in the performing arts, museums, finance, construction, insurance, mental health and aged care. I love listening to people’s stories and the choices they have made along the way.

It’s safe to say that the people I meet in these programs are top of the pops and future leaders of our nation’s key institutions and corporations. They are well educated, hardworking and have leadership ambitions. Some are pure genius, terrifyingly charismatic and have leader in their DNA, but that’s about 5% of them.

The rest are focused and committed people trying to do big jobs – lead large teams, bring about change and keep their own lives, health and families on track. They seek mentors for inspiration, accountability and support to define and meet their own professional goals. They are looking for tips on how to progress their careers, manage challenging people and situations, and stay focused on the organisation’s vision.

The thing that strikes me about most of us, and the chosen emerging leaders in this group, is that we spend quite a lot of time worrying about our careers, but not much time doing anything useful to improve them. I guess career planning can fall into the same category as diets and exercise, we all dream about that magic pill that enables you to run a marathon without much training or lose weight without changing our diet.

So, here’s my tip: no one goes to bed at night worrying about your career. Your boss is rarely planning your overseas post to Paris with a bonus, the tap on the shoulder for that board role only happens to the same 50 people in Australia and that start up selling green suede stilettos will not get investment until you ask for it.

You need to make these things happen and there are plenty of people willing to help once you ask, including your boss, mentors, or people from your broader network, but they are not mind readers and may not know that you are desperate to move to digital marketing when you have been in finance for ten years. I know we can all get overwhelmed by the apparent brilliance of other people’s careers and lives, but we all have choices and when you break things down into smaller goals, they become achievable.

Four years ago I bought this business and started to run in half marathons. Possibly they were connected. Both involved serious anguish, self-doubt and too much introspection for months leading up to the event or the decision to buy the business, but once I passed that threshold, it was fun and exciting. I realise now that once you commit to your plan and say it aloud you just get on with it, people support you. With the business I set goals, sought a lot of advice, got myself a mentor, actually three and the results have been positive. We have a terrific team, have moved premises to the city, exceeded our financial targets and built an online platform one2one to support our programs.

Perhaps the running has followed a similar pattern. Five years ago I trained for a 9km fun run with a few friends, terrified that I wouldn’t be able to finish. It’s hilarious to think that anyone would care about that fact, but the fear of failure holds us back from doing lots of hard, challenging but sometimes fabulous things. I finished, sprinted to the finish line, and was hooked. I’ve since done 4 half marathons and am now training for the full 42km in November. I’m almost 48 so it’s definitely a mid-life crisis thing, but it gets me out of bed, stops me drinking too much and I love the physicality of running and the events. I enjoy the setting of these short term goals and planning to achieve them.

So have a go, make it happen and try just one of these ideas in the next week to kickstart your career. As my mum used to say ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’

  1. Set goals & make a plan. Ask yourself what you need to feel happy and successful? Do you want to be working in a different role in 12 months’ time? How can you make that happen? Make a plan.
  2. Get advice, seek mentors and ask for feedback. Do some preparation before you fling yourself on others, it will be a much more constructive meeting. Look for people who have the skills, experience, interest and time to assist you. Access programs in industry organisations, people in your own organisation or McCarthy Mentoring if you want access to experienced mentors with executive experience.
  3. Identify your strengths. What motivates you? What gives you energy? Are you currently in a role that uses your strengths? If not can you change or develop other skills?
  4. Expand your networks. Who in your workplace or industry knows you and would support you for a promotion? Do you have a profile outside your immediate business unit? Do you have sponsors or mentors in your organisation? Have you considered joining an industry or professional organisation? Identify 3 people you should meet to progress your career
  5. Communicate and share your goals, strengths and plans with your team, your partner, boss, mentor and network. You will be pleasantly surprised at the response.

Best wishes,

Sophie McCarthy

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Mentoring and coaching: What’s the difference? Does it matter?

At a meeting this week in Sydney a senior HR professional responsible for tens of thousands of employees commented to me that there is still a lot of confusion around mentoring and coaching and when should one be offered as opposed to the other.

Does the newly appointed CEO, grappling with an inexperienced and demanding board need a coach or a mentor?   Which approach is most useful for the 30 something lawyer trying to make partnership who needs to build their profile and client base? What is most appropriate for the mature employee of a telco who wants to explore new ways of working as she approaches retirement?

Regardless of titles, people want support and advice to progress their careers and lives.  Some need inspiration to think big and long term, others benefit from accountability or constructive criticism to make change. Most of us want a trusted sounding board to test ideas and plans before executing them. It is a timeless practice to seek wise counsel on life’s big decisions – how to secure a new role, manage personal and professional relationships, clarify a career path, perform a leadership role to the best of your ability, combine work, family and life.

Mentors and coaches bring different skills to these relationships.  Mentors are selected in our practice for their experience and interest in developing people; some also have psychology and coaching qualifications.   It is their executive experience that mentees want access to.  How did they succeed in the big roles? Where did they fail? What path did they take to get there?  Did they feel lonely? How did they feign confidence when they didn’t feel it?

Mentoring encourages reflection and discussion and the agenda is set by the mentee.  The mentee’s manager in most cases nominates them for a mentoring program and may offer the mentor a broad brief on the person but is not involved throughout the program.  In a coaching relationship the agenda is set by the manager and the coach reports to the manager throughout.   A coach has undergone training to become accredited and has a set of tools and frameworks they draw on to help people reflect on their performance and set goals.

The purpose of coaching and mentoring also differs.  Coaching is offered to address a skill set or competency that needs improvement or correction, such as delegating, public speaking, managing teams; whereas mentoring supports people in career transitions.  It offers people a confidential and independent adviser with whom they can discuss a broad range of professional and personal issues. In our experience mentoring is offered to emerging leaders or valuable employees to develop their leadership skills as a part of succession planning.  This may be at a time where the company is being restructured, sold, or taking a new direction and mentoring can support people through this period and assist them to clarify their goals.

Another key difference is the time frame.  Mentoring is mostly over a much longer period, the majority of our programs are 12 months and meetings are monthly, as the emphasis is on reflection and implementing change incrementally. Coaching is often fortnightly for 4-8 meetings, it is more intense and focused on skill transfer.

In terms of outcomes, from an employer’s perspective mentoring is measured in terms of retention, promotion, expansion of role and higher leadership and engagement scores.  For coaching there are distinct targets or milestones that the coach works towards.

Over the past decade in Australia we have seen the development of executive coaching, a hybrid of coaching and mentoring which is offered to more senior people to help them address workplace issues and challenges and transition to senior roles.   Many executive coaches have executive backgrounds to draw on, accredited coaching skills and use a combination of coaching and mentoring hats to support and develop people.   Many of our mentors wear both hats and swap depending on the mentee’s circumstances, needs, goals and profession.

This is where it can get confusing, but the earlier points about timing, purpose and the relationship between coach and manager are still distinctions and if you are an employer or manager and considering development for your people reflect on the aim of the program, for the individual and the company, their needs, the stage of their career, and the method that will be most appropriate for them.

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Jobs of the future

mentoring leadership

Jobs of the future will be more flexible, agile, networked and connected according to the latest CSIRO and Australian Computer Society’s report into the future of our workforce. All industries will be affected by automation and there will be more demand for people with science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge in future.

“We have an economy in transition and we need to upskill our current workforce to they can anticipate the jobs of the future,” said one of the authors. “They will need to develop skills, capabilities and aptitudes which complement (not compete with) artificial intelligence, computerised systems and robotics.”

The report also states there will be an increase in casual workers and  “the ideal job within a large organisation may not be awaiting an increasing number of future job seekers. This means individuals will need to create their own job, requiring entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes.”

Perhaps the role of the mentor may have even greater significance as education, the ability to adapt to change and accelerated learning paths become ever more important?

Click here for for the full report Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce: Megatrends and Scenarios for jobs and employment in Australia over the next twenty years





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Having a Working Mum is Good for You

leadership mentoring

This month Harvard Business Review put out a media release announcing new research that looked at the outcomes for adults raised by working mothers. It found that women do better in the workplace if they had a mum who worked outside the home before they were 14 years old. Specifically, they performed better, earned more and had more powerful positions. Men didn’t change in that they were as likely as sons with stay-at-home mothers to hold supervisory positions and earn comparable salaries. They did however, contribute more at home.

The findings were based on a survey of 50,000 adults aged 18 to 60 in 25 nations worldwide in 2002 and 2012

Read full media release Having a Working Mother is Good for You, Harvard Business Review, 18 May 2015


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Pathways to CEO

Research by AFR Boss magazine and the University of Sydney Business School shows almost one third of S&P/ASX 100 CEOs are male and studied economics, business or commerce.

The research explored career paths, degrees undertaken, gender, nationality and the roles the CEOs had before they took the top job.

Yet, as with our clients, there are many who buck the trend and have taken a variety of paths – conventional and unconventional – to get where they are today. The full article interviews four S&P/ASX 100 CEOs about the career paths they have taken and the choices they have made:

1. Gail Kelly, CEO, Westpac
2. Greg Roebuck, Founder and CEO,
3. Stuart Grimshaw, MD and CEO, Bank of Queensland
4. Patrick Houlihan, MD and CEO, Dulux Group

Source: Boss Magazine, AFR, September 2014, Volume 15 p18




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