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Take more risks, don’t over-plan your career and don’t know it all but know who to call – career tips from Ascend speaker and company director, Lynn Ralph

Meek and mild is not how I’d describe Lynn Ralph, board performance specialist with Cameron Ralph and non-executive director of the Sydney Swans and The Sydney Institute.  In past lives she was also a successful investment manager and ran the Sydney Dance Company.  And those in attendance at Ascend in Sydney on Friday would agree: this is a woman who pulls no punches, makes no apologies for her successful career and yet doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Her advice to all women to wise up to what’s really holding you back in your career rang some bells around the room, including an interesting perspective that perhaps it’s time to stop measuring the “business case” and benefits for advancing women in leadership and on boards; because no one has measured the business case of having men run our companies (including the all-men boards that went belly-up in the GFC).

For those of you who couldn’t be there, here some of Lynn’s career tips and highlights from the Q&A:

  1. Take risks.  Focus on the positives in the situation and what you have to gain, rather than what you have to lose.  Read the signs and trust yourself to make the right decisions for you.  What you’ll probably find is that things aren’t as risky as they seem, and that in most cases the universe will provide.
  2. Don’t over-plan your career: at best you’ll be disappointed and at worst you’ll limit the opportunities available to you.  Understand the qualities you like in work and colleagues and work towards achieving that.  Read “What Colour is My Parachute” – it’s an oldy but a goody on how to get the most from your career.
  3. Take responsibility.  Stop worrying about what could go wrong: it usually doesn’t!  So be prepared to go out on a limb and own your actions.  That’s what leadership is all about.
  4. Know what you don’t know and know who to ask.  Lynn says the best company directors are those who “don’t know it all but they know who to call”. So focus on building relationships, creating a good team, and holding onto good people.
  5. Be yourself: it may be the only thing you can really do well and it’s the only sustainable option for career management.  It’s better to be yourself at work or in a job interview and let others decide if that’s what they’re looking for; if you try to be something else then in the long run you’ll probably please no-one (including yourself).
  6. Learn from the past, and don’t live there.  Things may go wrong and if they do, learn from your mistakes and then let go and move on… quickly!
  7. Whatever you do, you must stick to your values and ethics – which may take courage, but it’s the only way you’ll sleep well at night.
  8. Be kind to yourself.  Women can be their own worst enemy, and there are enough obstacles you’ll encounter without beating yourself up.  Recognise your achievements and what you’re capable of and be as kind to yourself as you are to all the people around you.
  9. Say thank you often. It doesn’t cost anything and yet it delivers big payback.
  10. If all of the above fails, get a poodle! (which I would substitute for a beagle!)

And Lynn’s call to action? That every woman take responsibility for asking the question at their next performance review meeting: Am I being paid the same as my male counterparts?

Sounds like a plan to address that 18% gender pay gap… anyone out there willing to give it a shot?


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2 months ago

Jen Dalitz

What are the lessons you’re teaching your kids? We took the opportunity of a holiday long weekend to visit my mum interstate as the timing of the trip coincided with my son’s favourite AFL team battling it out against my mum’s beloved team. Perhaps only those of you with the love for AFL will appreciate why we’d plan a long distance trip around a game of footy, but suffice to say it was a passion project! With every ounce of anticipation, the game was a tough, tight duel and could easily have gone either way. Yet when the final siren sounded, it wasn’t our team that was smiling. It sure is tough for a 10 year old boy to sit within a crowd 41,000+ people all cheering for the opposite side. It was tough for him to see the exhaustion and disappointment on the faces of the players he adores. And yet, it’s so important for him to learn that his team won’t always win. There’s so many lessons in that, but the one I chose to instil is that you won’t always back the team that wins but you’ll always back the team that you love. That’s why I asked him to wear his team colours home the next day, and show his support even when the chips are down. That’s the kind of commitment I want my son to learn and the kind of team player I want him to be. PS. #gotheGiants @GWSGiants #neversurrender ... See MoreSee Less

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4 months ago

Jen Dalitz

I haven’t been here in a while as the writing has been on hold. But I was reminded today that there are things in our life that light us up. That might take us out of our comfort zone but, once you sit with it, bring you both joy and a sense of “I can do this” achievement. These moments are such a gift. So I’m curious, what’s your special thing that lights you up?

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And so, maybe time does change some things. Or women do.

Skavlan Talkshow
– They let me go at 42 because they told me I was too old to represent women's dreams. #kvinnedagen

Watch our talk show interview with Isabella Rossellini here:
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