Careers Advice: Understanding how to effectively progress your planning career

Written by: Anna Rose
Published on: 9 Oct 2017

Anna Rose

When I began my career it took me a while to work out what I would need to do to progress. I was lacking in confidence and quite unsure of what I was doing. I hated the thought of speaking in public and my biggest fear was making a mistake and people finding out that I wasn’t 100 per cent sure of what I was talking about.

It wasn’t long before I realised that not only were my feelings fairly normal but also that I would need to change the way in which I viewed myself and also how highly I valued others' opinions of me before I would progress. This process taught me a lot and I am happy to share a little of what I learnt along the way.

By far the most important thing for me has been my willingness to help. Making sure that you know the people you work with and the organisation you work for is really important - only then can you spot when there is a problem or something that you could help with. Helping others to achieve is not only personally rewarding but it starts to give you a sense of what it means to be a real team player.

Trying new things that are outside of your comfort zone can be a great way of getting to know different people and can help you to discover new skills within yourself that you might not have found otherwise. In local government I would always recommend helping with the elections - it is completely different yet highly rewarding.

I learnt fairly early on that title and status are just names. The most highly regarded planners that I have met have not forgotten where they have come from and they treat everyone with respect. Being friendly and approachable, as often as you possibly can, makes all the difference. Treating everyone equally is not always easy but it can have a major impact on your professional reputation. I have built up a great network of planning friends by simply making the most of every opportunity I have to talk to other professionals. This network becomes a valuable resource and support system as you progress throughout your career.

I think it’s helpful to think about our own expectations when we deal with professionals in our personal lives and translate that into a measure for ourselves in terms of presentation. I like people who smile, make eye contact and have good manners. I think little details like checking your phone or slouching in your chair in meetings can have a lasting impression. It is crucial to remember that first impressions last, so make yours a good one.

Everyone likes certainty. Managing expectations, both yours and those of others is critical to a successful career in planning. Being clear about what and when you will do something as well as sticking to it is essential. Nobody likes being let down and you rarely get a second chance to change their view.

I always think that I’ve been lucky in my career but realise that it has been achieved with a lot of hard work and an ability to deal with setbacks. A career, as with life, is what you put into it and I take stock of what I’m doing on an annual basis to make sure that I’m going in the right direction and doing everything possible to get there.

Anna Rose is head of the Planning Advisory Service