What factors should female leaders ponder when considering a career change?

What factors should female leaders ponder when considering a career change?

A step into new territory can be a daunting prospect, and although it can be all too easy to stick to what you know rather than face the fear of failure, a move into a new role or industry could prove hugely rewarding.

While patterns of job applications suggest that women are more likely to err on the side of caution, preferring to be near to or completely qualified for a role before applying – the comfort provided by years of experience is unlikely to provide further opportunities to ignite personal growth.

Your professional career is the ultimate test of adaptation and fortitude; the rewards for both candidate and company after a successful career shift are endless. Berwick Partners’ HR specialist Jane Firth shares the nine things that female leaders need to consider when thinking about a change in career.

1 Know what you want to do and why

It sounds obvious but understand your motivations, what drives you, challenges you and makes you happy. Think about where you want to be in 5 years time. Your next role should tick more of these boxes than your current role. Knowing this early on will enable you to prioritise sectors, roles and opportunities suited to your needs and will give you a point of reference when it comes to making the decision to apply.

2 Understand how you can add value

You have earned your stripes and now it’s time to use them. Think of yourself as a product and realise what you bring to a firm looking to hire, including your strengths and transferrable skills that will make them want to ‘buy’ you.

This is also where your approach to leadership and vision, not just your track record, will make you an attractive prospect. Look past your certificates and qualifications and think bigger picture. What is your motivation? What do you want your legacy to be? What else will you be able to contribute to the business?

3 Think about who would want you? What size of organisation? What sector?

With the job market awash with offering from fast growing businesses, established blue chip companies, third sector organisations and agile start ups – where would you be best placed? Place yourselves in the shoes of these businesses and analyse their strategic needs, it’s important to consider which brands will be seeking someone like you.

4 Does your CV need a revamp?

There is a good chance that your CV needs some TLC. Before getting in front of people, the form and content of your CV provides the opportunity to connect with decision makers on their level, so use their language.

The accomplishments that you’ve delivered that relate to this particular business’s it values are the currencies you should now deal in. Focus your CV and your application on these things. It’s the positive impact of what you delivered and how you approach situations, not the task, that’s essential.

5 Utilise your personal networks

You have spent your life building your network. Dust off the little black book and re-establish old connections, use your current contacts, speak to recruiters and join new groups. Engage with them to help you gather intelligence, bounce ideas and benefit from their support throughout the process.

6 Use your previous, alternative sector experience to your advantage

There is increasing recognition of the value of a fresh perspective in senior management. Rather than thinking that a lack of sector experience will hinder your success, look to communicate how your experience in an alternative field could bring a fresh perspective.

The knowledge you have gained through previous successes, challenges and experiences will create a more rounded boardroom, be sure to emphasise this. Your ability to bring a fresh set of skills and new perspective may well prove to be a winning commercial combination and a risk worth taking.

7 Look before you leap 

Internships and work experience are not just for those in the early stages of their career. Explore the possibilities for getting a glimpse of the role, sector and organisation that you’re interested in shifting into before committing. The benefits of gaining holistic view, rather than taking the constructed external outlook as gospel, will help you to make a more detailed and informed decision.

8 Don’t expect your new employer to match your salary

You are vastly talented and experienced in your own field, but side stepping into another career or sector may require a personal financial sacrifice. Make sure your salary expectations are realistic, and be sure to discuss progression plans with prospective employers at an early stage – understanding the routes to training and progression should give you an idea of your future movement within the firm.

9 Identify the gaps and how you will plug them 

You have done your research, tapped into your networks, worked out where you want to be and spruced up the CV. It will be clear if you are missing something that could blight your chances.

Whether it is educational credentials, experience or connections, you will need a strategy to solve it. The onus may be on you to fix this ahead of applying, or to build it into a future development plan with the support of your new employer.


About the author

Jane Firth is the HR lead for Berwick Partners in London and the South East. Her 15 years’ experience in executive search has seen her place senior management and leadership roles within fast growing SMEs and scale-ups.

Prior to joining Berwick Partners, Jane spent 15 years working for a leading global recruitment agency with the later years focusing on recruiting senior HR roles.  She has a successful track record of recruiting across FTSE350, SMEs, Partnerships and owner-managed businesses.


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