Five steps to achieving career success

8 min read | Thea Watson, Marketing Director of Hays UK & I and UK Board member | Article | | Career development

Man walking up stairs with high white walls on each side and sky above

Discover the ultimate recipe to what makes a successful career. By following these five easy steps, you can reach your career goals.

Are you a talented professional but you’re not progressing as you’d like to? Success at work requires a continued personal commitment to achieving your career goals. You need to have a desire and ambition to be able to succeed in your career - and this doesn’t just mean impressing your boss!


How to achieve a successful career at a glance

The exact definition of career success will vary from person to person. But clearly outlined career goals will always set you on track. Match your goals with relevant development opportunities and a healthy amount of self-reflection to gain maximum benefits.

To start seeing concrete evidence of short-term and long-term success in your career, you need to consider your personal take on the five questions below.

You can also contact our experts who are always happy to help with any questions related to your professional progress.


Questions to consider when seeking career success

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.

Check in with your progress regularly, by drawing up a list of realistic targets for the next few months. These targets will help keep you on track for your long-term goals. Repeating this practice regularly will keep you aware of when to set new goals, as well as any need to adjust your strategy if it’s not working. 

If you’re hoping to move up within your current organisation, speak to your manager about progression. Having an open conversation will help you find out how you can take steps in the right direction. Or, if you’re hoping to change career paths, jobs or industries, consider speaking to an expert in the relevant field to glean some insights.

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 career 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 your skills in your day-to-day role. Whether it’s training new starters or liaising with different departments within your organisation, ask for opportunities to demonstrate your skills. If you don’t feel that your skills are being put to good use, be honest with your boss. 

Combining the use of your core skills with the chance to prove your potential will set you up nicely to move on or chase an internal promotion.

3. Are you continuously developing?

Be honest with yourself. Think about any areas of your job you struggle with and how you can develop the skills you need.

For example: what’s your typical working day like? Are there any particular tasks that take longer because you find them 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. They still take inspiration from the best examples within their industry to allow them to grow and develop continuously. Work with any mentor figures on this point and remember to:

  • Ask questions around your weaknesses
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone
  • Add to your technical skill set

A dedication to continuing professional development leads into a determined and dedicated mindset. That mindset is what got all successful leaders where they are today.

We highly recommend our free My Learning platform, which offers courses across coding, compliance and software, to name just a few. The platform also highlights current in-demand skills, so you can make sure you’re staying ahead of the curve.

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?

Take time to think about the problem objectively before taking any action. In doing so, 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. You will always have to face obstacles on your career journey. Current and future employers are far more likely to focus on how you dealt with an issue than with what actually 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. Remember to look beyond your immediate team too.

The key is to look for opportunities to build rapport. If face-to-face meetings aren’t possible, internal webinars or presentations can be a great ice-breaker. Or even message someone directly, congratulating them on a piece of work or high-profile project they’ve done.

Within your network you might be lucky enough to find a mentor to turn to for guidance and support. Identifying relevant people within your network will help with your personal development no end. Building relationships with senior stakeholders can also provide invaluable inspiration for your own career journey.

It’s also more important than ever to ensure that your online presence matches the person you are on your CV. Make sure you update your LinkedIn profile regularly to ensure that it accurately reflects your experiences and skills. Use a work-appropriate photo and keep posts professional. Take your profile as an opportunity to shout about your expertise and achievements.


What you need to remember about aiming for a successful career

Commit to holding yourself accountable when pursuing career success. By maintaining consistent motivation within a suggested structure, you will constantly grow as a professional. That commitment and motivation will help you reach your career goals.

For more career success tips and resources, make sure to browse our career advice page.


About this author

About Thea Watson

Thea understands what makes a successful career. She is responsible for the UK & Ireland marketing team and the global marketing strategy. She was appointed to the Hays UK & Ireland Board in July 2017, following joining the UK business in the summer of 2016. 

Prior to her current role, Thea 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 to support Canada, US and four Latin American countries.

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