Upside-down, inside-out and back-to-front: the best bits of Sideways to the Top

Posted in: Bloggery

The overarching finding from the women profiled in Sideways to The Top is that they all had the self-confidence and courage to take charge of their careers. Digging deeper, there were at least five common
characteristics of success across these stories.

  1. First, these women were clear about what they wanted in their career, they were highly mobile and seized opportunities.
  2. They were passionate about their careers and worked extremely hard.
  3. These women had parents who raised them to believe that anything was possible. Then they had supportive life partners whilst they were pursuing their careers, to make progressively senior appointments possible.
  4. They developed strong professional relationships with influential people who could support them throughout their career.

They were not afraid to leave an employer that was not supporting them or moving their career forward. They either found organisations that valued them and provided them with on-going career development opportunities or left and found another organisation.   A number started their own businesses.
The lessons to take out of this book are therefore:

  • Be clear about what you want to do with your career and relentlessly pursue it. Once you know what it looks like, you’ll start to see opportunities.
  • Provide your children with a home environment that encourages them to pursue their goals.
  • Choose your life partner wisely. You should look for a partner who will support you and encourage you, who will take on a fair share of the family responsibilities, not someone who may be threatened by your success or who has an old fashioned view about roles at work and at home.
  • Be excellent at your job, so that you will be recognised, and will have a strong record of achievements to help you when it is time to move on.
  • Develop effective,reciprocal relationships with individuals who can influence or move your career forward. Don’t rely on formalised “artificial” mentoring programs. Take charge of your own mentoring.
  • Develop strong professional networks within and outside your current employer and industry. Draw on these networks for insight and advice when making important career choices.
  • Research the organisation but also the CEO when looking around for another role. Look at where the women are located in an organisation – are they in key positions of power working on important strategic issues? And what systems and processes does the organisation have to indicate to you that they are serious about fostering diversity and inclusion across the company?
  • Finally, think seriously about making sideways career steps, not just looking for the next promotion upwards where you are today. Sideways moves may give you the breadth of business experience and leadership skills you may not get through pursuing only upward promotions in a specialised area.