At a Crossroads: Advice for Taking the Next Step in Your Career 

Policy Letters of Advice - Debate 2023

Dear Advice-seeker,  

I have been where you are, and I hope that the below can be of some help.   

Taking the next step can mean many things to many people; for me, taking the next step means that leap to take your career to the next level. Unlike other sectors where there are more clear paths to promotion, in heritage you often must move between organisations to build the experience and career that you want, and each change can be a daunting step.  

Firstly, really look at that job description. If you can do 70% of what they are looking for, it’s worth applying. Aside from professional qualifications and technical knowledge, most jobs come down to building strong working relationships, good time management, and personal effectiveness. The roles that stretch us and give us a chance to learn and grow are often the most satisfying roles, and the ones that give the most professional development. Women especially tend to underestimate their suitability for roles; be clear on the value your transferable skills have, and how they are relevant to this new position.  

Secondly, be clear on where you want to be ultimately. Success looks different for different people; do you want to be running an organisation? Do you want to make a meaning contribution to your field? Do you want a role that gives you an ideal work / life balance? Once you have a clear idea of what success looks like, really analyse if this role will get you closer, perhaps by building your connections and experience, or by offering you greater professional exposure. If it builds into that bigger picture, then it’s full steam ahead. If it doesn’t build to that bigger picture, what is it that excites you about the role? This could be as simple as it will paying you more money, but I strongly recommend that you don’t apply for something just because it feels like the thing you should do. If you’re considering a more senior role, it’s likely that there will be more times when the job is tough and having your clear ‘why’ about taking that step will be vital to carry you through those moments.  

Finally, know your worth. This new role might offer you some amazing career prospects, but it also needs to properly compensate you for your work. The heritage sector is notoriously badly paid, but you don’t want to quickly come to resent not being paid more. If the role doesn’t offer you that pay you deserve, is it offset enough by the other benefits or opportunities the role will offer? If you can’t get more money, can you get more annual leave? Can you agree on a date to review you pay on performance? Know what your needs are so that if you’re offered the role, you’re prepared to negotiate for what works for you.   

I hope that the above is useful, and I wish you the best of luck in making this decision! 

Polly Martin

CEO, National Trails UK