Australia Markets closed

Two keys to a successful career, from a successful woman

The two keys to being successful in your career, according to a successful woman. Source: Getty, Kirstin Hunter

Wearing a shirt completely covered in miniature Ruth Bader-Ginsburg faces, it’s not hard to see what Future Super’s managing director, Kirstin Hunter, is all about.

She’s an animal loving, climate change fighting feminist, and she’s passionate about seeing big changes in the corporate world.

Hunter’s made leaps and bounds in her relatively new position as managing director at the budding ethical superannuation fund, Future Super, and its members are all the better for her.

Hunter grew up in Tweed Hills in rural New South Wales where the recession truly hit her family hard. She remembers wrapping up junk mail for her parents to deliver just to get by.

That, she says, is probably what birthed her love of helping the community.

She studied medicine and arts at uni, but took a year off to represent the University of New South Wales’ governing body, and handled mergers at 23.

When she got a taste of business and management, she transferred to law.

Her LinkedIn profile shows she wasted no time hitting the corporate world, holding a position as a councillor at UNSW until June 2008, and starting a job as a solicitor for global law firm, Freehills, later that same year.

While she worked the commercial law scene, she managed to fulfil her ethical side by doing pro-bono work and helping the Indigenous community through legal aid.

Moving to consultancy a few years later with Bain & Co, Hunter was starting to see this wasn’t the best use of her time, and after approaching Future Super’s founder, Simon Sheikh, for a job, she found herself as managing director not long after.

Kirstin Hunter pictured with Future Super founder and CEO, Simon Sheikh (left) and Adam Verway, founder and managing director, Future Super Asset Management (right). Source: Kirstin Hunter

“I know what I’m worth”

Everything Hunter’s achieved sounds like a seamless and easy process. She even had a baby while climbing the corporate ladder.

But, “each decision was agonising” she says, and I suspect it’s because ‘Kirstin Hunter’ was ingrained into every job she did.

Hunter found herself making waves at Bain when she championed their new parental leave and flexible working arrangements.

And, she even convinced her workplace that they should pay her for an extra day of work - without producing any revenue for them on that day.

Why?

“I know what I’m worth,” she said.

“I convinced them that they needed me more than I needed them.”

They’re strong words, and they’re not often spoken by women - even in this day and age. Hunter oozes confidence and clarity, and while it’s admirable, it could be hard to imitate.

“Do women need to take more control of their careers?” I asked her.

“I’m hesitant to lay the blame on women,” Hunter said.

“Because there truly is a systemic issue.”

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that women can do to help themselves get those high-flying jobs.

So what are Hunter’s keys to success?

1. Peer mentoring

Hunter was fortunate enough to have great women’s mentoring programs at her previous workplaces, but given Future Super was so small when she started, there was no such thing.

So she made one, and aptly called it Super Women.

“We’ve got a Slack chat, and monthly meetings.”

What was first run solely by her is now a fully self-sustaining mentoring program, where the women at Future Super pitch ideas for the meetings and organise who will speak on what issue.

They cover everything from how to form your personal narrative - the way you introduce yourself when you meet someone - to how to network.

But what’s interesting is that while most people think of mentorship as being between a senior colleague and a junior one, Hunter and Future Super’s Super Women have found peer mentoring to work better for them.

“And I think there’s something in that,” Hunter said.

Peer-to-peer mentoring, Hunter says, is a little more relatable, because often women in senior positions forget the struggle of trying to land those top jobs.

Hunter’s former job-share partner at Bain, whom she affectionately referred to as her “life-share partner” was just that for her.

Sharing a nanny and a workload, Hunter says her former job-share partner gave her confidence in the workplace - and she was even Hunter’s ticket to Future Super, as she knew Sheikh.

2. A personal board of directors

It’s been scientifically proven that women need an inner circle of other professional women to succeed.

The Harvard Business Review found that women who had a close inner circle of female contacts landed leadership positions that were 2.5 times higher in authority - and pay - than those of their female peers who didn’t.

This isn’t lost on Hunter either, who swears by having a “personal board of directors”.

What is it?

It’s comprised of the mentor you’re given, the mentor you’ve chosen, a peer, and someone outside of work.

This board of directors can seriously help you get ahead.

The mentor you’re given tends to be your boss, while the mentor you choose can be anyone you see fit. A peer is just that - a friend or close colleague - and someone outside of work is what Hunter calls your “exit buddy”.

“It’s for when I feel like quitting, and I need someone to talk to,” she jokes.

But it’s true.

Forbes said your personal board of directors acts as a sounding board to advise you and provide you with feedback on your life decisions, opportunities and challenges.

Kirstin Hunter’s message?

Know your worth.

Talk to your peers about your career.

Take risks to get the job you want.

Form your personal board of directors.

Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.