How to take risks during your career

19 September 2016 / Published in Business

Recently we proudly sponsored and hosted a Young Women in Finance panel discussion in the ASB Cube on the theme of taking risks during your career.

We invited four successful business women with a wealth of career experience between them to share their tips with our packed audience:

  • Anna Curzon, Managing Director of Xero New Zealand
  • Lillian Grace, CEO of Figure.NZ
  • Susan Peterson, Independent Director
  • Carolyn Steele, Independent Director

Taking risks and embracing opportunities

“Try to say yes more than no” was Carolyn’s advice as she believes you can learn a great deal from opportunities that do not seem to be the most obvious fit. While now a self-proclaimed “soccer mum”, Carolyn became a trustee of the New Zealand Football Foundation despite not having a large football background, an experience she says has given her a fresh perspective. She says that if you’re given an opportunity and get a gut feeling of “If I don’t take this, what will happen?” it’s a good indication that you may want to think hard before passing it up.

Lillian emphasised the need to follow your instincts and not feeling tethered to your previous decisions, noting that her initial decision to study towards being a PE teacher was one she made in her teens. As she hopes in ten years’ time she will be a different person to today, she advocated evolving and adapting.

Anna kindly reminded the room that, with a few exceptions, “no-one is going to know you in a hundred years so you might as well enjoy what you’re doing now”. For her, it’s important to follow where you get your energy from and do what you love. When assessing whether your current role is the right one for you, Anna compared it to being “like a relationship, you have to assess what you give versus what you get”.

Susan encouraged the audience to “centre your life around what you want to do”. She also gave the sage advice of following areas where there is natural growth and benefiting from the natural tailwind that will take you with it.

Carving your own path and doing what’s right for you

Lillian aptly pointed out that “nobody cares about my life as much as I do”. She stressed the importance of being the curator of your own experiences and remembering that no-one’s life is affected by your decision other than your own.

The importance of being authentic was emphasised by Carolyn: “Don’t follow a template of who you think you should be. When you’re done climbing the corporate ladder, don’t forget to look at the wake you leave behind you – the people you’ve impacted, the things you’ve done. That’s the most important part – it’s the legacy you leave behind”.

Anna encouraged going with the flow and placing greater emphasis on following your passion rather than chasing titles and stressing out about what you think you need to achieve. She highly regards the value of being different: “When you’re in a room and you’re different to everyone in that room – whether it’s your age, sex, race – think ‘this is awesome, I bring a new and unique perspective’”. Finally, Anna suggested writing down your intent and making decisions that lead to those goals.

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint… just remember no-one gets out of this alive” reflected Susan. Her experiences also taught her to always ask for what she wanted and to back herself. She also conceptualised career growth in graph form by plotting breadth of experience on the X-axis against expertise on the Y-axis and aiming to grow the area under the curve.

Relationships and finding work-life balance

“Try to hang out with good people” was Susan’s advice, noting the importance of mentoring and having people around you that believe in you and that you trust. She cautioned against letting your career overtake your personal life: “Don’t let your job impact your personal decisions. Don’t put off starting a family or doing something because you think you’ll fall behind. Don’t romanticize the perfect timing for these milestones because things happen and you can’t plan for it”.

Anna commented “You don’t need to negotiate … it’s your responsibility to educate your peers and leaders about your world and responsibilities. You need to inform to get support in order to manage your life, career and children”.

“Your perspective is valid, not what you think society dictates” was Lillian’s perspective, adding that it’s all about confidence and relationships when it comes to going back to work after taking time out. “If the employer doesn’t value you, then they don’t deserve you”.

Carolyn noted that existing relationships are the most important thing when trying to re-enter the workforce after taking some time out. These are the people that can vouch for you because they know you and your capability and give you flexibility so you can balance your work and family. She says “the biggest obstacle is having the confidence to back yourself … you have to keep telling yourself  ‘you’re awesome’”.

ASB is proud to support the Young Women in Finance network. To be kept updated with future events, connect with Young Women in Finance on LinkedIn.


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