Crafting a practical career path

Last year, my son finished university and kicked-off his career at a professional services firm. It made me realise how quickly time goes by, but it also prompted me to reflect on my own 30-year path.

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When I set out as a freshly qualified Chartered Accountant, I had no vision of what my career would look like or that it could lead to my current role as Chief Risk Officer at ANZ.

"When I set out as a freshly qualified Chartered Accountant, I had no vision of what my career would look like or that it could lead to my current role as Chief Risk Officer at ANZ.

How did I carve my own niche?

Like my son, I made my first steps in the corporate world at a large professional services organisation.

These organisations – which traditionally offer corporate and government clients everything from accounting to auditing, consulting work and legal services – are important platforms for a successful career.

Why is this? There’s a strong emphasis on training, teamwork, network building and taking responsibility – and this foundation played an important role in how I have approached my career.


If I recall anything about the very early stages of my career, it was being totally immersed in training. There was education about the purpose of the organization and sessions on the nature of the work I would be carrying out.

There was instruction around what was expected of me, but also how the organisation conducts the work based on values and expected behaviour.

It made my head spin to be honest.

But the disciplined process instilled in me from the very start a level of professionalism and an appreciation of the bigger picture.

I could clearly see, if I took time to ensure my colleagues and my teams were clear on their responsibilities and of the role they played in the organisation and its purpose, we would all benefit.

We were always working in small teams which meant we were mixing with different personalities and styles, and it was implicit that results would not just be driven by me.

The ultimate lesson from this was an understanding about teamwork and a healthy appreciation you’ll always have to rely on other team members to achieve big things.


This focus on teamwork has remained a critical part of my mindset and approach to my professional life. I find it a fairly practical approach.

After all, unless you want to be self-employed, you have no choice but to work in a team environment. Teamwork is also a great way of drawing the best out of those you work with.

This mentality was ingrained in me early in my career and I feel it set me up well. Not only for only work, but for many situations life has thrown my way.

You're only as strong as the weakest link in your team, so you've got to help others get up to where they need to be. If you can do that, everyone benefits.                                                                           

What does this mean in a practical sense?

On a basic level supporting others from the get-go pushed me to have challenging conversations very early on in my career.

Having these challenging people-type discussions taught me how to approach them in a professional, measured and empathetic way.

Taking ownership

As scary as it was, from very early stages of my career I was in the driver's seat.

A week after my initial month of training in my first job, I was tasked with going to a client's premises and talk to customers on a valuable account.

This is very distinct from being a passenger and hoping the person in control knows where you're going - it's up to you to find the end destination.

I was lucky to be given a range of tools and resources, but ultimately it was up to me to be accountable for my development and career progression.

Tapping into the network

Large global organisations like ANZ will often present opportunities to explore other parts of the world and work in different locations.

The encouragement to look beyond the borders of the city, the state, the country you're in and be willing to broaden your horizons has been actively pushed throughout my career.

For an organisation, it helps build the global brand. In turn, it helps build up the transferable skillset of staff.

I originally started working in Ireland before coming to Australia. In many respects I think it's important to spend time elsewhere – anything from six month to ten years. It will help provide more global context to an industry.

Investing in a solid foundation early lays the groundwork for a more fulfilling career, regardless of industry. Developing core skills from the outset enables you to be agile, adaptive and well-rounded and will provide the confidence to handle any environment.

Kevin Corbally is Chief Risk Officer at ANZ.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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