Make your delivery career thrive: a practical guide

By Barry Traish, head of role, agile delivery

All images by Barry Traish

People often ask me for career guidance. That advice should be tailored to the individual, but there are some things which I always suggest. 

I’ll start with general principles and move onto specific actions.

Take charge

For many people, their careers are like buses – they get on the first one which comes along and, if it stops, they get on the next one.

But another way is to decide where you want to go, and get on the bus that will take you there, changing buses where necessary. Your career will benefit if you invest some time to think about it, take charge of it and have a plan.

Illustration of a hand grasping lightning, and the words 'take charge'

You need to understand what you want from your career in digital – what are your values and motivation? Do you want a challenge, money, status, a grade, or to help people? Be honest with yourself.

What’s stopping you?

Some people struggle with self-limiting beliefs. They limit their opportunities by only applying for jobs in their current role or current team, division or organisation. They focus on advancement rather than lateral moves. 

And some people don’t think they’re good enough. There’s evidence (and actual research) that a woman won’t apply for a job unless she has all the specified skills, but a man will apply if he has one of them

Illustration of a red traffic light and the words 'what's stopping you?'

Some people lack motivation, not wanting to put in the work, but forget that a £10k promotion, along 20 years, plus pension, could be worth £300k over their lifetime. People still talk to me about ‘time served’, but jobs these days are usually awarded on knowledge, skills and experience.

Be resilient

Some people get a rejection and give up. It’s important to develop some resilience. 

Since I failed the interview to become a casual admin assistant 25 years ago, very few steps forward in my career have been gained on the first try. But at each rejection I’ve sought feedback and then worked out how to close the gap. 

Illustration of a character holding up a stone, with the words 'be resilient'

If you can’t see the benefits of failing, you need to read Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck. It will change how you think about pursuing your ambitions.

Be a learner

Understanding your own skillset, and the gap between that and the job you want, is important. 

Many people think that being good at your current job makes you right for the next step up, but usually additional skills are required. Gaining them can be a challenge unless you step outside your comfort zone. 

Illustration of symbols going into someone's head, signifying learning

A new, stretching job can provide the fastest learning curve. I can’t claim to learn something new every day, but I do every week, through reading, listening, working with great people, and trying out new things, which sometimes fail. 

Build your support team

The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people who will help you. People at work, home or other organisations who will give you candid yet constructive feedback. People who will help you rehearse for interviews, train you, or introduce you to others who can help. 

Tell them you want opportunities to increase your experience – they might not have anything today, but will think of you when they do need someone, or recommend you to someone else. 

They can score your application before you submit it. A mentor with more experience than yourself is invaluable. Bond and connect with influential people who can support your growth. 

Illustration of a team of people standing on each others' shoulders, with the words 'build your support team'

Ask people if they will be in your self-development network. Your boss and their boss certainly will – it’s probably already in their job descriptions to develop you. Suddenly, there isn’t one person trying to advance your career, there are a dozen.

Be prepared

You never know when opportunities will arise, and lots of opportunities to impress are informal or ad hoc. The answer to being asked for your CV should never be ‘it needs updating’. 

Illustration of a person holding an umbrella, and the words 'be prepared'

You should also know your elevator pitch – how you sell yourself in under 60 seconds. If you only know your skills gaps when a job opportunity arises, then it is too late to fill them.


Be positive, be confident, be humble.

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