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Insights from Sally King on Navigating Your Career

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Insights from Sally King on Navigating Your Career

Sally King, COO of Sharp & Carter, passionately prioritises workplace culture and personal values. While balancing the joys and demands of motherhood, Sally is dedicated to maintaining a fulfilling career that enriches her life and offers her an ongoing challenge. Her journey, marked by numerous career changes, has revealed what is essential for satisfying her professional aspirations. By sharing her experiences and offering advice on navigating career choices, Sally provides a compelling story of how these lessons have taught her to value herself as a female leader.


1. You have been very driven and targeted in your career approach. Where did this come from?

Sally’s wealth of experience as a female leader in the retail sector underscores the importance of adhering to personal values and non-negotiables. She relies on a personal "list" and "recipe" to evaluate potential roles, both during the job search and while in the role, ensuring alignment with her values and consistently enhancing her skill set and development. Sally recommends, "Begin by creating a list of the skills you aim to develop as you navigate your career... and hold this list tight and dear to you, as it will serve as a crucial comparison tool when evaluating potential roles and what they offer you. It should serve as a checklist to ensure alignment with your personal values and the skills or company you aspire to work for."

She emphasises the importance of regularly updating this list: "The funny thing is life happens, so plans change. I wrote my list 10 years ago, and while its contents are still important to me, I recommend updating your list every couple of years throughout different phases of your career. As you grow and your interests evolve and your skillset develops, what is important to you will change. Write your list, hold it dear, and use it as a 'fulfillment yardstick' to evaluate potential roles. Consider if the role ticks off everything on your list. If not, I guarantee you will not be content with your choice.”

"I wouldn't say I have always gotten it right on my journey. As Deborah mentioned, it is those learning experiences that you learn and grow from. You learn what you like and dislike, whether that be about a role, a company, or your leader. As discussed, over time I have developed a “recipe” for navigating my career and deciding what I want to do. Ultimately, it comes down to knowing yourself, your values, what you are passionate about and what you are aiming to achieve."


2. What happened or at what point in your career did culture and values of the business became such a high priority?

Another key theme in Sally's insights is the importance of embodying the values you prioritise to cultivate the culture you want to work in. She acknowledges that toxic cultures are common and, unfortunately, many people have experienced negative, unbalanced and gender-biased workplaces.

Reflecting on her early career, Sally observed, "When I first started out, one of the most important lessons I learned was the significance of values and culture. What kind of environment do you want to walk into every day? Does it align with the factors on my list that contribute to my happiness? Many businesses simply list their values on their website, but for me, what matters most is businesses that genuinely live those values. It is that authenticity that makes the difference and makes you feel valued."

When searching for her role at Sharp & Carter, Sally focused on finding a company with a strong, aligned culture because "it fosters creativity and collaboration. As a leader, it also makes it much easier to lead your team when there is consistency around you." At Sharp & Carter, we foster an inclusive culture of uncommon care, reflecting Sally’s vision for a positive workplace environment. To learn more about the importance of a strong and inclusive workplace culture, like Sally prioritises, read our blog“What Does the Concept of Care Look Like in Your Business?”

Sally highlights the significance of being a champion for change in leadership roles. "You never make a difference unless you are a champion for change. When starting a new role and assessing the culture, take your time to gradually observe the leaders and ask questions of your colleagues before forming an assessment. Rather than approaching it aggressively like a wrecking ball, as to make real change it is about making incremental progress. To facilitate change, pick your battles and drive the things that are really going to matter. These changes will address important issues and once embedded you must hold yourself, colleagues, and managers accountable to ensure you and they lead by example and continue to champion this change."


The Power of Women in the Workplace

Navigating the workplace as a woman can be challenging, particularly when advocating for change, emphasising a positive culture, and staying true to your values is the upmost importance. Sally advises, "Don’t be afraid to take risks. You'll discover what you truly love or don't love, and this builds your identity and sense of being as you navigate through your career."

Sally’s 'list' and 'recipe' approach provides a solid framework for ensuring a role fulfills both personal and professional expectations. Keeping in mind your values, your passions, the culture you aim to foster, and your contributions as a woman in the workplace is essential.

As Sally states, “We have got to contribute, and we have got to feel successful and that builds confidence. If you feel like you are adding value, you feel like you are doing something true to your heart, there will always be satisfaction there. I didn't always perfect this, however I think there is a lot of common themes here that we are talking about; It is about trying to understand your personal “recipe” is for you as you navigate your career.”

Don’t hesitate to reach out to the event hosts, Lyndsay from Retail, or Lauren from HR, or any of our wider team to discuss these themes and how you can develop in your career.

To read more about the event, the themes discussed, and the other panelists, visit our blogBouncing Back as a Woman In Leadership."