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How do you fast-track your career? Industry high-flyers tell us how it’s done

01 Dec 2015 by Miriam Hanna.

Most people want to grow professionally and get to the top. Gen Y in particular are keen to fast-track their way up the corporate ladder – but what is the best way to navigate a competitive market and give yourself that extra edge?  ‘How to fast-track your career’ was the topic of our most recent event, aimed at mid-level PR professionals.  It was our pleasure to have three senior-level industry experts head up the event – Zaman Toleafoa, Senior Managing Director of FTI; James Igoe, Head of Media Relations at Deloitte, and Kate Bosomworth, MD of Speed Communications.  With their truly impressive combined knowledge and expertise, Zaman, James and Kate had a wealth of great advice to share.  The event sparked several areas of discussion, prompted by the interesting questions put to our ‘panel’ by the attendees.  Here’s our pick of the best:

What attributes do you look for when promoting?

Accountability, being organised, demonstrating good judgement and the ability/potential to nurture a team are all important attributes that are considered when promoting.  “When I hear the same name come up from different sources, such as team members, journalists and clients, I feel more inclined to promote,” mentioned Zaman. “Your name can be mentioned in all manner of ways, but the point is they are coming to you for advice or are quoting you as dependable.” he explained.  Kate pointed out that within Speed as part of the wider mix they also actively look for people with a passion, hobby or strong interest outside of work. “The people who have a hobby they are passionate about will put that same passion into their work, and will be more successful as a result. You want an interesting bunch of people to make up a team and this helps create that.” she remarked.

Is promotion quicker in agencies or in-house?

While the perception is that an agency has more levels to progress through, both Zaman and Kate warned about over-promoting.  “There is something to be said about ‘time behind the wheel’ and just having that experience to advise and consult with a client and reassure them that you know what you’re doing.” said Kate.  Simply put, if you are too hung up on titles, it can detrimentally affect how well you can service your clients.  As Kate pointed out, “You don’t want your confidence to take a hit further down the line when you are unable to deal with something simply because you have progressed too quickly.”

How important are training and mentoring when it comes to fast-tracking your career? 

The prevailing message from all three of our experts was a very clear and simple one – you are responsible for your own career, so take ownership of it.  James commented, “Don’t wait for people to offer training to you on a silver platter.  Ask to be invested in and invest in yourself.”  There was a consensus on identifying someone to act as a mentor. “It’s so valuable having that objective view on your career,” observed Kate. “Mentors can also have a role sponsoring and championing your progression.”

Moving in-house gives you an easy life – true or false?

James was very clear that working in-house does not give you an easy life, but believes it comes with a different set of pressures. “You are living and breathing one brand,” he pointed out.  “This ought to increase the strategic nature of your role and increase your access to senior stakeholders, but also changes the expectations of you and opens up the need to navigate internal politics.” he said.  Kate added that while a commonly cited advantage of working in-house is the access to senior level, this can also be achieved in an agency by asking to work on smaller accounts. This said, all three pros agreed that agencies should be mindful of the need to be more flexible in order to retain their best staff.  Don’t assume your agency isn’t flexible – be the trailblazer if you need to!

The take-home advice from the event was to go ahead and ask for promotion and salary increases, and not to wait for them to be handed to you.  Throughout the year, look at the commercial difference you have made in your role and present that with a very clear idea of what you want.

What has been your experience of career progression?  We’d like to hear from you.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.

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