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Get ahead, don’t lose your way

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If you know how to realise your ambitions, you can develop your career successfully

You have big ideas and ambitions for your career; you’ve done well so far and are ready for your next move. It needs purposeful thought.

Every move you make is a defining moment - each time, you gain something. You build on your career and experience with each role. Every time you make a change you could shine or fail, so take steps to ensure you shine.

»Build personal credibility: be authentic, be the leader you want to be, treat everyone how you want to be treated and motivate all around you. Help others to shine and they’ll remember you for life.

»Create a supportive network: build a network steadily over your career. This isn’t about “the right people” - it is about people you respect, who can support, challenge and steer you. You will be enhanced and supported by people with whom you can share failures and successes.

»Create a personalised learning plan: figure out what you need to learn, from whom and how to learn it. Do you need to go on visits, shadow people or take a course? Learn about what it takes to be in the next person’s shoes. This will give you a feel for the future.

»Know what you love: create personal goals and career around the things you love. Pursue them relentlessly; this will help you radiate joy in whatever you do.

Top tips to realise your big amibitions

● Build personal credibility:
● Create a supportive network
● Create a personalised learning plan
● Know what you love
● Be prepared to adapt
● Plan ahead
● Challenge yourself
● Understand your role models
● Have time to think


Be prepared to adapt: whether you are moving to another team or level in the same organisation or to an different employer, you need to adapt to unfamiliar cultures and ways of working.

Plan: the danger of being a good deputy is that you may not be encouraged to develop or move on. Make plans and be clear with your boss about them. Think about your next job, even if you have only just started a new one. Search for these roles and match the job description with your strengths and skills; if there are any gaps, think about how can you fill them.

Challenge yourself: successful leaders take on increasingly challenging roles; if they can do, it so can you.

Understand your role models: learn how they make decisions, how they act in different situations and what makes them great. It is equally valuable to learn from poor role models - think about how you would do things differently.

Make time to think: everyone needs this. Make an appointment with yourself, go for a walk or do whatever helps you think. Stick to this and don’t let it get pushed aside by the next problem.


Dr Suzette Woodward is campaign director for Sign up to Safety. She is a paediatric intensive care nurse by background and has worked for 30 years in the NHS, progressing to becoming an executive nurse leader and a national patient safety expert.
She will be speaking on Making Your Next Move at the Nursing Times Deputies’ Congress on 16 October in London. Book your place at

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