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Top tips for building a successful career

20 Jan 2021
Kerry Phillip 2

Kerry Phillip

Legal Director, Vodafone Business

As we head into a new year, it is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.

For many, our current work situations feel somewhat static amid the changing pace of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean our careers have to be. There are still ways that we can network and learn new skills.

Let me take you through some of the ways in which I’ve helped better my own career over the years - all things that can still be achieved in a COVID world.

Tip one: “Only connect!”

These are the powerful words that close E.M. Forster’s Howards End – words I keep returning to.

Our connections with others are fundamental to building a successful and happy career.

That’s my first tip: get to know the people you work with. Listen to their stories. Take interest in their lives. Care about their wellbeing, their work-life balance and their success.

It has been too easy during the coronavirus crisis for relationships to become ‘transactional’, where conversations only happen when something needs to get done, and usually between people who know each other already.

This is not enough. Instead, the focus should be on nurturing existing relationships while expanding network circles with a greater variety of personal connections.  

I regularly look to the guidance of Personal Boardroom founders Amanda Scott and Zella King, who describe three types of roles our connections should play in our personal networks:

  • Information roles – connections who offer fresh insight and ideas
  • Power roles – connections that offer access to new people and resources
  • Development roles – connections that challenge and encourage you

Take a pen or scroll through your LinkedIn. Ask yourself, are there people in your network clearly fulfilling those roles for you?  If not, who could your current connections introduce you to?

Tip two: Dive for the deep end

And trust yourself to swim.  Apply the skills you have to challenges outside your comfort zone. Draw on the expertise of your contacts. Volunteer for difficult projects. Embrace new challenges. Go for that amazing job you saw – even if the job description asks for something you think you don’t have.  

You never know quite where it will lead.

I have taken on a variety of new projects and role extensions during my career, often wondering if they might be a stretch too far. But without exception, they have always proven fabulous opportunities to learn and gain new skills.

Putting your hand up might feel uncomfortable at first, but you will reap the benefits in the long run.

Tip three: Work hard – but make sure it is recognised   

“Who is she?  What is she famous for?” 

After my first year in a new role – a more senior position, in a team with serious issues to fix – those were the words a previous CEO used when discussing me and my performance at the annual talent review. 

I had been working hard to develop a strategy, put new tools and processes in place and get the team firing on all cylinders. I was doing a good job.

Naturally, I was devastated to hear what the CEO had said in that meeting – but I learned a valuable lesson that day. Hard work is important but it’s not the whole story. It is just as important to get the recognition you deserve for all that hard work and effort.

For me, that particular story ended well. After a few days of feeling like an idiot, I got myself a mentor, found a high-profile project to run and set up regular meetings to update the CEO and CFO.  

When the next talent review came around, the CEO was very clear who I was and what I was famous for. 

I make sure to apply that lesson not just to myself but to all the people I work with and make sure that those who have put the work in get the recognition.

If you are looking for a new challenge or interested in a career at Vodafone, visit our opportunities site.

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