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Five steps to achieving a successful career

By Thea Watson, Marketing Director of Hays UK & I and UK Board member

Are you a talented professional but not progressing as much as you’d like to? Without personal commitment to achieving your career goals, there’s only so far you can go. You need to have constant drive and ambition to be able to continue a successful career journey, and this doesn’t just mean impressing your boss!

In order to achieve long-term career success, you need to ensure you have a personal take on answering these five questions:

1. What is your end goal?

The most obvious but most important question of all. Before you start any role, you should have a clear plan of where you see yourself in one, three or five years’ time. You should always check in with your progress by drawing up a list of realistic targets for the next few months, which will help keep you on track for your longer-term goals. Doing this regularly will keep you aware of when new goals need to be set, as well as spotting the need to adjust your strategy if it’s not working. It’s good to use your boss or your mentor to help you assess these targets (provided that you stay focused within your current role).

2. Are you making the most of your strengths?

It’s essential to channel your strengths and identify your key skills to get the most out of your plan. This should also include your soft skills, such as the way you communicate or how you deal with building stakeholder relationships.

Take any opportunity to apply these in your day-to-day role, or if they’re absent, be honest with your boss and ask for some! For instance, you may have strong communication skills, and are particularly good at teaching others. As such, you should ask your boss for more chances to do this, whether it’s training new starters or even liaising with different departments within your organisation.

Combining the use of your core skills with the chance to prove your potential will set you up nicely for the point where you’re ready to move on or chase that internal promotion.

3. Are you continuously developing?

This is when you need to be honest with yourself. Think about any areas of your job you struggle with the most and how you can develop. For example, what’s your typical working day like? Are there any particular tasks that you take longer with because you find it difficult? How could you improve within this area?

Honest self-reflection and improvement should be part of your everyday work routine, no matter how far up the career ladder you are. The most successful leaders never stop learning and still take inspiration from the best examples within their industry to continuously learn, grown and develop. Work with any mentor figures on this point and remember to:

  • Ask questions around your weaknesses
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone
  • Continuously add to your technical skillset

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This is the determined and dedicated mind-set that got all successful leaders where they are today.

4. Are you acknowledging (and learning from) your mistakes?

Even the most hardened and experienced professionals make mistakes in their roles. It’s how you deal with them that counts. 
When something has gone wrong, try to see the situation objectively and remove the emotional take on it. Answering the following will turn it from a ‘mistake’ into a ‘lesson’:

  • What went wrong and how could it have been avoided?
  • What is the best course of action now that it’s happened?
  • Who do I need to inform or involve?

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By taking the time to think about the problem objectively before taking any action, you will bring the required clarity and perspective to come up with the best possible solution.

It is imperative to accept the fact that things don’t always go smoothly and you will always have to face obstacles on your career journey. Current and future employers are far more likely to concern themselves with how you dealt with the issue than they are with what happened.

5. Are you building and nurturing your network?

Connections are key when it comes to developing yourself. Not just as potential employers but also for a long list of people you can learn from. Identify the most influential and desirable people within your network and try to build a relationship with them. This is harder when the individuals are not within your team, but still very do-able.

The key is to look for opportunities to build rapport. If face to face isn’t possible, then internal webinars or presentations can be a great ice-breaker. You can even be as simple and up-front as congratulating them on a piece of work or high-profile project they’ve done. 
Within this network you might be lucky enough to find a mentor, which is strongly advisable as they’ll often be the person you turn to for guidance and support. This will help with your personal development, building relationships with senior stakeholders, and overall inspiration from this person’s own career journey.

Commit to holding yourself accountable when pursuing the above actions and you’re well on your way to continued. By maintaining this drive within a suggested structure, you will constantly grow as a professional and be all the more likely to reach your career goals.

If you are looking for support with your employment needs please contact your local office.

About this author

Thea is responsible for the UK & I marketing team as well as driving the strategic direction of the marketing function, looking closely at opportunities for growth, positioning in the marketplace and sales support. She was appointed to the Hays UK & I Board in July 2017, following joining the UK business in the summer of 2016.

Prior to her current role she was the Vice President of Marketing for the Hays Americas business, joining the business in 2012. Under her management she built the marketing function from general support to a strategic driver of sales, establishing a central marketing unit supporting Canada, US and four Latin American countries.

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