The Career Farm Podcast Episode 81 - How to develop your career in an organisation, with Alison Temperely

Whether already in a career or planning to start a career in Professional Services, who couldn’t use the sage advice of a mentor for guidance on how to take the next step?  In this episode I spoke to Alison Temperley, the author of Inside Knowledge: How Women Can Thrive in Professional Service Firms, about doing exactly that.

Alison has over thirty years of experience in working both for and with professional service firms, where she started life as a chartered accountant.  She currently leads the design, delivery and coaching of global women’s leadership programmes for Linklaters and Allen & Overy, and co-leads the global programme for Bird & Bird.  She was also the coaching designer and joint programme director for the EY EMEIA women’s leadership programme for 8 years, working with Cranfield University.

With a Master’s Degree in Organisational Psychodynamics, she combines practical business experience with an understanding of the driving forces that shape the careers of those who work for partnerships. Her business experience ranges from senior client-facing roles to the Head of Career Development for PwC’s EMEA tax and legal practice.

That's quite a  CV! So I was really looking forward to finding out more about her new book and her advice on developing a career in a large organisation.

Alison’s Journey

Alison was able to take advantage of the range of opportunities which exist at big professional service firms, which gave her options to explore and the ability to change direction within the firm.

Realising her true satisfaction was in finding ways to get the best out of people, skill areas once thought of as “pink and fluffy” by some, she specialised in helping people shape their careers.  Firms realise that soft skills in areas like leadership, client relationships, and developing yourself and others are vital to a successful business and value them accordingly.

Practical advice on developing your career and thriving in an organisation

Inside Knowledge: how women can thrive in professional services firms, by Alison TemperleyDrawing on her industry experience in career development, she wrote Inside Knowledge, which explains how both men and women can achieve their long-term goals and avoid many of the pitfalls she has observed.

In some areas, she gives advice more particular to the unique issues women face.

Some might surprise you, some may be all too familiar.

Alison offers strategies you can put into action today....

Take an organised approach to developing your career

Set up a development file where you collect appraisals, feedback and other relevant information, just as you would do for an important client.

This organisation is at the heart of giving your career the attention it deserves, an ongoing process.

Know what you’re aiming for

Start thinking early about what you will be assessed on—at the beginning of the appraisal year.  Be proactive in gathering your own evidence long before you walk into that appraisal meeting and both you and your manager will get more out of the process.

Knowing what you have done well and less well, along with what you want short-term and long-term career-wise is key, with a balance of emphasis across the four aspects.  Don't spend too long focusing on what you could have done better; make sure there's enough time to cover your achievements and longer-term goals!

Don't get stuck

There are other issues specific to women as well, including what Alison referred to as getting stuck being the “good girl,” doing the work that is key to an organisation’s success but tends to be “unseen.”

Two solutions if you are caught up in this situation:

  • Either suggest that it is time somebody else does these crucial but unseen jobs, or
  • If you must do them, make sure that the value of those jobs is appreciated and recognised.

Talk about your ambitions

Alison stresses how important it is for both men and women to talk about their ambitions, something she has observed that is often more difficult for women to do without fearing being branded as “pushy”.  There is a balance to be achieved and an awareness that professional firms want good, ambitious people of both sexes.  It’s up to you to talk about what you have already achieved and what you want to achieve in the future.

Be aware of the politics

Politics is unavoidable, especially in consulting partnerships.  It is key to understand the environment around you.

Determine where the real power lies in an organisation and what the actual agenda is.

Keep communicating

Your manager is not a psychic. He or she will be relying on you to provide as much information as you can about yourself.

It’s all about taking responsibility and being a proactive communicator. Make sure the right people know about what you have achieved.

Other advice we cover in the podcast:

  • Finding a mentor and establishing a development network
    (if you'd like to find out more about this, check out Podcast 22 - "creating your personal boardroom")
  • Understanding the difference between 'supporters' and 'sponsors", and why you need both!
  • Why you need to think carefully about the alliances you make

There's so much valuable stuff in here, we could have talked for hours!

Thanks again to Alison for sharing so much of her expertise and experience.


Contact Alison at:


Inside Knowledge: How women can thrive in professional services firms, by Alison!

Your Brain At Work, by David Rock


"We should always three friends in our lives; one who walks ahead who we look up to and follow, one who walks beside us who is with us every step of our journey, and one who we reach back for and bring along after we've cleared the way" Michelle Obama

"Forget pretty, be magnificent" Angelica Houston

A great tool to help you with your career planning

As I mentioned on the podcast, this Summary Sheet download is a great way to start planning the next phase of your career.

Filling in the sheet will help you to create a framework that you can use to consistently evaluate different career options.

It will also help you to gather the evidence you need to perform better at applications and interviewers - employers and managers love candidates who have done some career thinking and know what they want! Hope you find it useful!

Click Here To Get The Summary Sheet