It’s no secret that we are working longer and longer hours (an Australia Institute study found that Australians work the longest hours in the developed world with an average of 1,855 hours at work each year, which is 200 hours more than employees of other countries), and for many of us career and life are one and the same thing.

While some of your days and weeks may feel endless, most of us agree that the years fly past, and as we get busier and busier, they seem to go even faster.

This often translates to a feeling of your career driving you, rather than you driving your career, because you just don’t have the time to step back and work out where you are, and where you really want to go. You’re so busy working “in” your career, you don’t take time to work “on” your career.

I believe that every decision we make, every job we have, every person we meet, plays a part in helping shape who we become. But I also believe in actively shaping the career and life you want, just to be sure that you go through life with no regrets.

I was pleased to hear a similar philosophy recently from Cindy Hook, CEO of Deloitte Australia in a keynote speech. Cindy is the first female CEO of a major professional services firm in Australia. She has also recently been listed as a Linkedin “Power Profile” in the CEO category. I was fortunate to also have had the opportunity to meet with her prior to the event, and was impressed with her attitude and passion for helping professional women step out of the shadows and into their power.

Cindy shared multiple pieces of wisdom on what it takes to step up in your career, and have the courage to go after the big stuff, so as to ensure you have a “No Regrets” career.
I thought I’d share some of her wisdom, and add some ideas of my own.

Preparation is EVERYTHING

Cindy spent 12 months – that’s right a whole year – preparing to put herself forward for the CEO role. She said she worked endlessly and tirelessly on articulating and refining her value proposition – what would she bring to the role, and the firm. She also spent a lot of time getting clear on her own values, ie what she wanted to be known for and what would guide her, and on honing and communicating the vision she had for the firm.

Given the importance of the opportunity, she wanted to have no regrets about not giving it her absolute best shot.

While “winging it” might work sometimes, for the stuff that really matters, you just can’t over-prepare. Take your career seriously, and you will find yourself being taken seriously by the people who can help you.

Get Your Mind in Order

Cindy hired a coach who helped her with the mental and emotional preparation she needed to make sure she could handle the process, whatever the outcome. She also prepared herself for how she would feel, and what she would do if she didn’t get the role. She had her Plan B in place in case Plan A didn’t work out.

Getting an external perspective on career planning and performance is valuable at many different stages in your career.

Play To Your Strengths

Understand your skills and strengths and do your best to match them to your passion, because together they make for a heady combination.

The Gallup Organisation State of The Global Workforce reports regularly reinforce that people who have the opportunity to use their strengths on a daily basis are more engaged at work (and happier outside of work). Make it a priority to get to grips with your strengths and how you can use them in your work.

Embrace Change

Cindy told us how she had embraced change throughout her life and career, right from the point of moving to California at an early age, becoming a partner at only 33, and then moving to Australia to pursue her career here.

The only certain thing in the world today is change – in many industries it’s happening at a rapid pace. You need to get comfortable with it.

Take a Risk

It’s important to empower yourself to take calculated risks during your career. Cindy was feeling stagnant in her career and saw the opportunity to move to Australia as a way of shaking up her career. She said everyone told her she was making a mistake, moving somewhere much smaller than the US. However, she took a calculated risk – she could see that Australia was hungry for female leaders – as well as following her gut, which told her it was a good move.

Build a Strong Team Around You

The people around you are everything. Cindy is passionate about closing the gender gap and enabling women to reach the top of her career. She has a team of people who support and champion her efforts, and she is optimistic about creating diverse workforces that encourage innovation and creativity in business.

I founded SmartWomen Connect with this very point in mind – to help professional women build a resilient community of people who can help them succeed in their career, and be there for them during the high points AND the low points.

Remember Who You Are

It’s important to go back to your foundations – remember who you are – and I would add to that in encouraging you to rediscover the passions and talents you had in the past – you never know what reviving them will do for you, and your career.

Cindy is an incredibly inspiring leader who is a strong advocate for changing the face of work for women in Australia.

Cindy, if you’re reading this, I’m right there with you – watching what you are doing, learning from you and being inspired to move out of my own comfort zones and step into being a powerful leader and voice for women too.

Thank you for the gift of your wisdom and leadership.

I fully intend to have a “no regrets” career, and life.

Do you? Let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear from you.