The key to success...

The key to success...

29 Nov 2021

Black Leaders

News & updates from Black Leaders

View Profile

This informal CPD article on The key to success was provided by Asma Nafees at Black Leaders, a Black Leadership Community for Professionals working in Healthcare.

"“Successful people build each other up. They motivate, inspire, and push each other”"


As I walk through life as a (relatively) senior leader within the NHS, reflecting on my career to date and the route to where I am now, my first generation Pakistani mum’s words echo in my ears - “the company you keep dictates who you are”, this is equally true in personal and professional lives. Your first step to success is surrounding yourself with good people - your circle should be your cheering squad, pushing you beyond your own barriers to keep progressing; as well as the ones to call you out if you’re being irrational. I am ever grateful for an amazing circle of strong women, all of us on a constant journey of development, be it in personal or professional lives.

Here are some tips for those looking to progress their career within Healthcare (and wider):

Broaden your knowledge

An excellent way to broaden your knowledge is taking the time out to observe one of your organisation’s Board meetings. Due to Covid/lockdown, most meetings are online now, and accessible via Youtube, Zoom or MS Teams. These meetings are generally open to the public, and you can email the Trust Secretary requesting meeting login details and meeting papers. You will learn a lot just from seeing how people engage, the key priorities of the organisation and the language they use. Your presence will also alert your organisation that you are someone who is proactively seeking to develop. All Trust Board meetings are open to the public, so if you don’t feel comfortable doing this with your own organisation, for whatever reason, you can always select a neighbouring Trust.

Network and raise your profile

As a BAME female born to first generation immigrant parents, I didn’t have the benefit of professional parents who could help with drafting my personal statement for University, interview preparation, or wider career advice. They came from a space where survival was synonymous with “put your head down and work hard, be grateful for the job you have”. Therefore, networking and building contacts had not been on my radar, however, I realised it is even more important for people of our background. Conversely, it is probably this same work ethic from our parents which drives us to work hard.

This can be done in a number of ways:

  • LinkedIn – connect with people on LinkedIn who work in a similar field and/or within the same organisation, be active, post articles, share thoughts – but always in a professional way, don’t treat it like Facebook even if others do!
  • Your organisation is likely to have a BAME network - get involved. This will build your network, allow you to influence decision-making and raise your profile. If there are schemes like Reverse Mentoring or “A day in the life of”, where you can engage with your wider organisation, make sure you get involved. This will raise your profile within your organisation, and give an opening to help get your name out there.

One of the other common themes I have found with BAME individuals like myself, is that our cultural upbringing sits on the premise of being humble. We do not find it easy to shout about our successes, but being able to make others aware of your achievements is fundamental to career development. My advice would be that if you have a degree or are over-qualified for your role, ensure you make people aware of your background. Similarly, if you have been involved in a workstream that has been successful, talk about it.

And my final comment on raising your profile is that we all work hard, but if you have an opportunity to work with senior leaders/managers, make sure you bring your A-game to make it a gold-standard output. This raises your profile in the organisation. It’s all about increasing your profile... getting recognised for your amazingness by the wider organisation.

Training and Courses

Consider asking someone to Coach you and/or Mentor you – experienced people who can help guide and steer you, help you navigate the system – coaching and mentoring are two different skillsets, so do have a quick look on google to understand the distinction. You can ask someone senior within your organisation (or wider) if they would consider mentoring you - on a base level it’s flattering to be asked, and even if someone declines due to capacity, they now know you are someone who is looking to develop. A BAME Mentor may also help with discussions around pushing through BAME specific barriers. If you do get yourself a Coach/Mentor be sure to drop that in conversation at work so that people know you are looking for development /growth, and being proactive about it.

Line manager support - when you are trying to get support from line managers regarding development opportunities, don’t be afraid to be assertive (in a professional way), ensuring you are discussing development in your PDR and keep pushing to get approval for training and development opportunities. Also ensure PDR objectives are aligned to your long-term career goals for that mutual benefit to the organisation and your aspirations.

The application and interview process

You may be aware that NHS jobs applications and the shortlisting process works on a matrix approach – to ensure you are shortlisted, always spend time on the personal statement and match it against the Job Description and Person Specification so that you make it easy for the shortlisting manager to tick off the criteria you meet – this simple exercise will increase your chances of being shortlisted in a competitive environment where one job is attracting 50 applicants. Also ensure you detail your specific experience against the criteria.  

If you are looking at changing specialism areas, review and discuss the transferable skills that you can bring to the role you are applying for. Don’t talk yourself out of applying for a job because you don’t 100% match the specification – moving jobs is often about progression/development, no one will ever 100% meet a JD.

If a job adverts provides an opportunity to speak to the recruiting manager informally, take up the offer and arrange a call. If the advert doesn't, find out who the relevant person is and request a call. Even if it is not possible due to the capacity of the recruiting manager, you will have demonstrated proactiveness and enthusiasm on your part. Think of this as a chance for you to sell yourself, treat it as mini interview: arrange a call, give your name and current role, enough information so they remember you through the process.

 Think of a couple of intelligent questions to ask so that you are remembered – a good one is “what will success look like for the successful person 6 months into the post”. It demonstrates that you are trying to understand what will help you hit the ground running. It also allows you to tailor your application and interview preparation to draw in the insight you receive from the recruiting manager.

Review the NHS Academy Leadership Model (here) - this is a useful document to understand the steps to development and the skills you should demonstrate in day-to-day work. It will also help with providing a steer on terminology to use in applications forms, behaviours to model and the day-to-day work experience you need to gain, so that you are noticed for the right reasons.

Behaviours at work

You will all be aware of the basics regarding professional behaviour, good timekeeping, office attire, alongside this some other things to be mindful of:

  • The first 12 weeks in any job are the most important, this is your time for maximum impact as you make your first impression, the reputation you build in those 12 weeks stays with you for your lifetime in that organisation.
  • Smile, be personable, and approachable. We will all have good and bad days, you just need to find the balance between keeping the moaning/ranting to friends outside work, and anything inside work remains constructive and professional. 

If you are treated unfairly, challenge it in writing. Ask friends to sense check what is happening to ensure there is a real issue versus just having a bad day. This links back to having that good circle of people around you who will be your voice of reason in emotive/stressful situations. Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity are an absolute right for everyone.

Final thoughts…

The final thoughts I want to leave you with is that, yes, as BAME people we do (unfortunately) currently have to work twice as hard to be noticed, but we also need to work smarter on the networking and profile-raising aspect. Understanding the system, and how to navigate, and being part of BAME development groups like Black Leaders in Healthcare means that our children and the next generation won’t face the same battles we did. Generations to come will have BAME role models to look up to and aspire to be like. Work hard, progress your journey, and then reach down and help others. We should not behave like crabs in a barrel, but a mutually supportive network, whether in a formal network or informally supporting those around us.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Black Leaders, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

Black Leaders

Black Leaders

For more information from Black Leaders, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

Want to learn more?

View Profile

Get industry-related content straight to your inbox

By signing up to our site you are agreeing to our privacy policy