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To wonder how (some of) you built a career "at the next level"?

(24 Posts)
gubsbubthemeek Mon 11-Jul-11 09:56:42

I'm a lurker on here but don't have children (joined whilst thinking about TTC).

I've been lurking for months but stuck around because I've read stuff that has changed my outlook on a few things, mostly nothing to do with children! Specifically, my eyes opening up to a world I've never glimpsed before WRT careers and earning power thanks to Xena's posts, and have read the recent thread called: AIBU to think a lot of posters here believe the ONLY reason they are in a well paid is because they worked so much harder than anyone else and good luck...

What I really want to ask some of you is: AIBU to ask what launched some of your careers into the "next level"?

I've been to uni, I have a 2.1 in English, and graduated in 2007, but I'm stuck in a council planning dept job in the north-east on £19k a year and I feel like I'm treading water. I feel like even if I stick here by the time I'm 40 I won't be on enough money to allow one of us to be a SAHP (DH would be a wonderful+ earns less than me, in retail, so it makes sense) OR fulfil the craving I have for more responsibility, to be really able to change things from the top rather than be a tiny cog in a wheel. This job is predictable, boring, maybe there's a route out as project management, but I'm not sure.

And yet I come on here and see people talking about jobs where you have a career, not a job. The pay grades start at £60k a year, not the £22k I see most of my colleagues on.

So, forgive me if I'm naive, but what launches people into that "next level"?

Is it having a SAHP who does all the house stuff so you can concentrate on working overtime?
Is it lucky breaks and timing?
Is it an ability to navigate office politics?
An ability to move (possibly to the south?) - more opportunities?
Is it being ruthless and moving when you see a better position coming up?

I suppose I'm feeling slightly scared ATM because having children isn't something I'm ready for just now, but at the appraisel I had on Wednesday last week my supervisor was talking about "in 4 or 5 years" as if I'd still be ing the dept. I was surprised by my reaction to that -one of sheer terror that I'd still be there, on my pay grade in this job of maximum 21k and still learning nothing new!

I have this week on annual leave and so maybe I just have more time than usual to mull about my lack of enthusiasm in the job I have (which I'm damn lucky to have in this climate!). I feel stifled, as if my potential isn't being used. I hope that doesn't sound dramatic but it's true.

So, tell me, wonderful ladies of MN, AIBU to pry into your experiences and ask what allowed you to launch yourself at the next level of your careers?

senua Mon 11-Jul-11 10:15:45

I didn't go to "the next level". I started at that level. I do what was traditionally a man's job therefore it pays more.
Men=chef, woman=cook
Man=doctor, woman=nurse
Man=maitre de hotel, woman=waitress
Man=accountant, woman=bookkeeper. etc etc

Get yourself a qualification in a male dominated sphere (I would have thought that Realty fits that bill, actually) which also has a recognised career progression pathway (again, transferring extensive Council experience to private sector consultancy is a well-known career path) .

catwoman2011 Mon 11-Jul-11 10:26:34

With a degree already, you could go into teaching by getting a teaching qualification at college.

The pay is ok in primary, better in secondary and because quite a lot of subjects are vocational and open to mature, paying students, college tutors are paid very well.

I work part time in the latter, it works very well around my family life. Once I get my degree (army training gave me NVQ teaching qualifications), I can do private tutoring from home with groups of students, helping them in weak areas after school and in the holidays.

pinkdelight Mon 11-Jul-11 10:45:35

It's strange. I remember feeling like you in my early 20s, never being able to imagine how dh and I would make enough to have a proper home and family, but somehow it just reached critical mass and ten years later we're at the 'next level'. Would say that we are in london and were both private sector to start with so could move faster to take up promotions and opportunities than perhaps is possible in a council. But dh moved into public sector for more structured career path and has soon moved up to senior level. I did a masters and networked like crazy to move up in my field. There is a lot of 'who you know' but i started off knowing nobody and just put myself about a lot. Doesn't come naturally but definitely pays dividends. If you can help others, they can help you. Different in a council though, to some extent. Can you do a secondhand maybe? Or milk them for training?

pinkdelight Mon 11-Jul-11 10:46:36

Secondment not secondhand - flipping autocorrect!

jumpyjack Mon 11-Jul-11 10:52:07

I moved to the next level by changing jobs, putting my hand up for projects and secondments, a stint overseas, and l

gubsbubthemeek Mon 11-Jul-11 10:54:13

senua in that case the project management stuff seems to make sense - definitely male dominated in the type of projects I’ve been involved in. It isn’t something that sets my heart on fire, but is interesting enough and I do get some sense of achievement from it.

Catwoman, I couldn’t be a teacher – my next door neighbour (almost a second mum to me) was a teacher and it isn’t for me, I don’t have the patience you need! Also isn’t it quite poorly paid until you’re into management anyway? grin

pinkdelight I think you've described my frustration to a tee. I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I feel so ungrateful and would never voice this discontent out loud when I know I should be thanking my lucky stars that I've got a job at all!

jumpyjack Mon 11-Jul-11 10:56:50

Agh. To finish -

and lots of professional development. I'm always studying. I now have a very good job which I enjoy, am well paid, and work part-time currently, but have the option of full-time as soon as I want it.

I'd say flexibility and good networking have been key, along with picking a broad enough area with lots of opportunities.

InFlames Mon 11-Jul-11 10:57:25

Bloody hard work, taking every opportunity with both hands, knowing your area inside out and backwards, passion and enthusiasm. I started on the bottom rung of the ladder and did that while doing BA, MA an first half of PhD. Worked my way up through academia, worked my ass off during pregnancy including writing a major funding bid while 37 weeks pregnant, went back with v supportive DH who works shifts and does childcare in days I'm in office. DS is now 7 months and last week I got a pretty big promotion.

So, apart from bloody hard work and finding exactly what you want to do career wise, the other think I personally think is important is not to view having a child as a barrier or delay to career because others will sense this- getting to the next level wouldn't have been possible unless I embraced it and took the chance- among other factors like supportive DH.

Good luck!

senua Mon 11-Jul-11 11:31:18

To clarify my post: I didn't start out earning mega-bucks (could have, but didn't: see below) but I did start out on a defined pathway to megabucks a decent wage. At your age, I too had the craving for "more responsibility, to be really able to change things from the top rather than be a tiny cog in a wheel." My job, too, was "predictable, boring". It's the apprenticeship you have to serve, I'm afraid.
The fact that your job is not demanding could be a positive; it leaves you free to explore other avenues - qualifications, keeping up to date with periodicals, networking (or TTC!)

There aren't many jobs where the pay grades start at £60k, and if they do then the employer really wants their pound of flesh in return for it and many people burn out under the stress. Be a tortoise not a hare.

gubsbubthemeek Mon 11-Jul-11 13:19:41

so the key is a defined career path. i think that's what i'm missing. i see myself here in this role in 5 years and i want to run away. i've been waiting on something juicy stumbling into my path. i'm starting to realise that this job has made me too comfortable, if there is such a thing?

GnomeDePlume Mon 11-Jul-11 13:34:48

A job can make you too comfortable. What is the next rung up from where you are now? What qualifications do you need for that? Is it what you want? If it is, can you get the qualifications?

Also, you arent stuck. Attitude is important. People do notice negativity or neutrality. At your next review say that you want more. Ask what is available. Ask about career progression.

InFlames Mon 11-Jul-11 14:53:22

Something juicy won't stumble along...

Angel786 Mon 11-Jul-11 15:49:07

I think I was lucky that as a new graduate the market wasn't in the state it is now so getting a job in the city was easier (although still competitive). A foot in the door is the starting point, I had an immediate profession with a clear training plan to qualify. Once qualified then the hard work came into its own to reach the next level and from then on consistent hard work, being proactive (Hate that word!) and enthusiasm will also take you far. From then on worry about the office politics in more detail.

You're fortunate your degree leaves yup really open in terms of career choices, what are you passionate about? Pick a career that really interests you to help you thrive.

Angel786 Mon 11-Jul-11 15:59:14

You not yup even! In terms of next steps you should have a think about what you really want, start a whole new career or consolidate your current position by applying for morevsenior roles internally / with other similar organizations (local authorities) elsewhere. Consider speaking to your line manager about new challenges and responsibilities in your current role to build on your experience.

malinois Mon 11-Jul-11 16:06:10

I think for a lot of people it's blind luck. Certainly was for me; I happened to do a degree and PhD that taught me a lot of numerical skills that lead to well paying jobs. Then I got drunk with some randoms in a bar in Boston and got involved in a dotcom start up that hit the big time. I saw the dotcom crash coming so I cashed in my stocks and arsed around for a bit. Then I joined another company that is consistently blowing the market away. My boss moved on to something else so I walked into his job.

Basically, all luck. I get paid a metric shitload (by my standards at least) for being half decent with computers and knowing a bit of fancy maths. It's not really hard work or long hours, and I get to work from home most of the time, which is nice.

Allinabinbag Mon 11-Jul-11 16:10:14

Malinois, I'm not sure that doing a PhD in maths qualifies as blind luck. It's a well-known route into City/top spec IT jobs (I have lots of friends who did PhD Maths/started training to be actuaries/accountants, then got lured).

It may well be luck that your boss moved on and you were in the right place at the right time, I did the same, but, again, it's not lucky if you can't do the job in the first place.

noviceoftheday Mon 11-Jul-11 16:22:23

A career won't happen to you if you don't take any proactive steps to build one for yourself. You are in control of your own destiny so no point saying the thought of being in your current job in 5 year time makes you want to run away. You should be deciding where you want to be in 5 years time and working towards it. So you need to know where you want to be in 12 months time, 3 years time and 5 years time. Then set yourself objectives to achieve each of these timeframes and how you're going to achieve it. This is what I have always done and have reviewed and changed objectives/targets each year.

malinois Mon 11-Jul-11 16:43:59

allinabinbag Physics actually smile What I meant to say is that I never planned it that way, I did it because it interested me and I never thought of the consequences. I don't consider myself to have a career, just a job. It happens to be one that pays well, but if I'm still doing the same thing in 10 years time, that's fine by me. My job is a very small part of my life, I simply do it to finance the interesting stuff.

For me it was simply luck, being in the right place at the right time, happening to have studied the right subjects at uni and meeting the right people. I think this is the case for a lot of people but it's something that many find hard to admit.

fiorentina Mon 11-Jul-11 17:32:14

I'd add that you need to make yourself stand out a bit more. Whilst a great achievement, so many people have a degree, could you do any further training in your own time? I studied part time for several years to gain additional marketing qualifications that whilst not specifically needed for my job, added to my cv, showed I was a motivated individual etc. I worked hard, volunteered for projects that weren't within my specific job description but used them to get myself noticed by other departments/staff and learn from them.

I also spent a lot of time learning more about my industry, reading lots of trade press/websites and making time to go out and meet our clients so I got a far better feel for what we were trying to achieve.

Make it clear to your manager you want to achieve great things, ask for their advice on where they see your career going, any qualifications you could work on, new projects you could be involved in, and consider if perhaps the private sector may have more opportunities.

I'd say I have got where I am today by being proactive, if I wasn't happy with a payrise, I'd ask for more, if I thought I was capable of promotion, I'd say. I am not over pushy, but I've made it clear I work hard and I want to go places, and see my role as part of my career, not just a job.

Good luck!

Angel786 Mon 11-Jul-11 17:35:30

Also don't be shy about publicizing your achievements, typically women are weaker than men when it comes to talking about our achievements, justifying / requesting pay rises and promotions etc.

Allinabinbag Mon 11-Jul-11 17:43:41

Yes, Malinois, I was just trying to point out that a tremendous amount of hard work goes into getting a PhD and whilst many won't get you very far in the UK, maths and science are excellent choices and you can take them in lots of directions (IT/City/teaching/research).

That would be my tip for success actually, do something that opens lots of doors rather than just one door. I retrained in a subject which could have lead to many different career paths, and indeed, I could still jump ship if I fancied a change.

AbsDuCroissant Mon 11-Jul-11 17:45:52

I'm still quite early on, but so far it's been pretty good.

I kind of accidentally "landed" in my profession while completing professional qualifications part time - I was just looking for temp work, and then a role came up. Partly it was luck - I had a fabulous and VERY supportive (female) manager who 1) made me permanent 2) helped me network and develop a network and 3) gave a lot of public encouragement for work that I did. as my next manager was a complete bitch from hell, I now see how bloody lucky I was having my first manager as the first manager I had in my professional life.
As for stuff within my control - grabbing every opportunity and saying "yes" and being enthusiastic about everything I was given to do, no matter how boring as it could lead to something more interesting and for some of it, it has given me a really good grounding and background knowledge that I would miss if I didn't have it. I was also really nice to everyone (even people who drove me crazy), but was able to stand up for myself when required. I agree with telling people that you want to progress - it can be scary, but at the end of the day, if you don't ask, you don't get.

Another thing was knowing when something (like my role) wasn't working and I wasn't developing, and moving on.

I would recommend, if at all possible, to try and find a "mentor" to help you. Ask/read (e.g. autobiographies, articles etc.) about other people's career paths and see what you can learn. I also agree about reading around/researching stuff related to your role. It always impresses (well, I think it does at least) if someone knows beyond the minimum and has a broader knowledge base.

Angel786 Mon 11-Jul-11 17:49:18

Steven covey - 7 habits, you can find a summary on,ine. Lois frankl also has a book aimed at women. Lots of it is common sense but no harm in refreshing...

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