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Helen Nugent’s 7 Helpful Hints for Managing Your Career

I was lucky enough to a Women in Finance luncheon in Sydney as a guest of

Hudson.  Not just because ours was the most quoted table in the room, but also because I had the chance to hear from Helen Nugent who is Director of Macquarie Bank, Origin Energy, and Freehills, as well as being Chairman of Funds SA, Swiss Re Life & Health (Australia) and Hudson (Australia). Prior to becoming a company director in 1999, Helen was Director of Strategy at Westpac Banking Corporation. She has also been a Partner at McKinsey & Company and Professor in Management and Director of the MBA Program at the Australian Graduate School of Management.The problem with being one of the few women on the boards of such high profile companies is that her time is often sought to give speeches as a prominent woman leader.  The advantage in her being in the leadership roles she holds is that we get to hear her wonderful words of wisdom.  Like the parallel universe she faced compared to her husband in navigating her chosen path.  And her “7 helpful hints” to managing your career.

Helen’s 7 helpful hints when went something like this:-

  1. Figure out the long term – where do you want to be in 10 years time?  Of the individuals Helen mentors, many are unable to articulate this.  And of those who can, 100% are men.
  2. Pursue your long term aim, but be opportunistic.  Learn to say ‘no’ to career digression; be prepared to take risks; and reach out early to people who can positively influence outcomes for you.
  3. Ask for feedback.  Do it often; ask in a natural and relaxed way; and be a good listener.  Over time a pattern of behaviour will emerge and you won’t have to ask as much.
  4. Work with the right team.  Try to work with high achieving individuals (high achievers know they need a great team to maximize their success) who are personally secure and who value performance based on merit – these people are what Helen refers to as “women friendly bosses”
  5. Build resilience.  Build a stronger outer shell, so that every setback won’t send you spiraling into a productivity pit.  And tell people – in an appropriate and friendly way – when their behaviours need improvement.
  6. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.  Find a way to get your point across so that you get the credit for it.
  7. Over-invest in support – on a personal and professional level.  You can’t do it on your own.

Sooooooo…. Thanks Helen, I get the message: I have some homework to do! 

Have your say – what’s the best career advice you’ve been given to date?  And by whom?


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