Young business woman develops her career - Hays careers advice

When looking to progress in your current role or searching for a new challenge, standing out from your peers or other jobseekers can be difficult. Listen to this podcast to find out how you can make sure that your hard work and talent doesn’t go unnoticed.

Podcast notes:

Sometimes when you’re in a large team or among dozens of applicants, it can be tough to set yourself apart from others. How would you advise our listeners stand out from the crowd and progress up the career ladder?

  • From my perspective, it comes down to two things:
    1. Commerciality – no matter what role you’re in, the understanding of the business, the understanding of how your role can make an impact and what value you bring to the organisation, will absolutely set you apart and will ensure that your employer recognises you.
    2. Hard work – you can’t get away from rolling up your sleeves, getting  dug right in and just putting in the effort. Obviously, somebody can work lots of hours, but if it’s not productive work then it doesn’t go a long way. If you actually do productive work and show your employer you’re committed, I think you’ll absolutely stand out.
  • Outside of those two things it comes down to having a career plan. One that you specifically own. You need to be communicative with your employer in terms of what you want your next step to be, where your passions lie and what you think you can bring to the table. Having a very open dialogue with your boss really helps set you apart.
  • You need to set expectations on both sides, and understand from your employer what success looks like. And that will help you then deliver a better job and be recognised more regularly, because you are doing things that they are looking for.
  • It comes down to having a really good dialogue with your employer and talk about things from an objective stand point – the good, the bad, the ugly.

Read more: Isn’t it time you had a strategy for your career?

You talked about communicating your successes, some of our listeners might feel uncomfortable in shouting about their successes at work. What are your thoughts and advice on this?

  • If you’ve got that open dialogue and you’re talking regularly with your boss, you need to be sharing the good, the bad, the ugly.
  • If you’re clearly saying ‘this went really well but here’s what I learnt’ you can then put things into practice to make it even better. This way you’ve got an open forum to talk more about your successes.
  • On the flipside, if you’re open to talking about what’s not going well and what you’re learning from that,  this shows you know that there’s always great learns that come from failures.
  • If you’re always talking about the good, the bad, the ugly, when the good does come, I think your employer will appreciate those successes more and will then be more open to listening and give you that praise you deserve.
  • An important part is not to let yourself down, make sure that your employer is informed along the way about your journey to achieving those milestones. Sometimes we do a huge amount of work for what may seem like a little output. To set yourself up along the way, make sure that you keep your employer with you along that journey. Don’t bombard them with details – but ensure they are informed so that you get the praise you rightfully deserve.

Many people benefit from having a mentor at work. How can mentorship help our listeners stand out from the crowd and succeed in their career?

  • Having a mentor is incredibly important, I personally have one. What your mentor does that your boss doesn’t, your mentor can be more objective about your career beyond the organisation and help you see the bigger picture.
  • From a mentor perspective, you want someone that you admire, who may be smarter than you, has more experience and a great network. But, to me the most important part thing about a mentor is that they are your trusted adviser. They need to have the credibility to give you advice and help you along your career path. They can help you make the right decisions, sense-check things along the way, but you can only achieve that if you trust them.

For those listeners who have a meeting scheduled and are ready to discuss their career path and promotional opportunities, how would you recommend they prepare?

  • I think those meetings are always tough, especially earlier on in your career.
  • Have regular conversations about your personal development along the way. I think this is hugely important. Your boss may have scheduled quarterly review meetings during which you will have your development conversations, but bosses are typically dropping hints along the way. You need to demonstrate that you’ve proactively listened, captured pieces of information, absorbed that and put into action.
  • There are certain things you need to do during those meetings, be sure about the feedback you’ve been given along the way and demonstrate that you have taken this on board and put into action.
  • If you do have your sights set on a next step, you need to make sure you’ve got the specifics of what your boss is expecting from you to be able to be in that role. So be very clear why you should achieve that position.
  • Your boss needs to know about your ambitions as well – they aren’t a mind reader. They need to know where you have your eyes set, and if they do then they can help you progress that way.
  • It’s about being clear and open outside of your formal development meetings.

Still waiting for that promotion? Here’s your action plan

By following this great advice listeners should hopefully increase their chances of getting that promotion that they feel they deserve. However, if they have been unsuccessful this time around and they decided to look elsewhere, how can they ensure they stand out from the crowd whilst job searching?

  • First and foremost, you have got to get the basics right – ensure your CV is up to date, make sure your social profiles, websites and blogs are  all up to date and everything is consistent.
  • You need to make sure that all timelines are accurate, if there are gaps in your timelines from a career history perspective, then obviously that draws questions.
  • You also want to showcase tangible successes, especially those that are more measurable. People are looking for more than just a list of responsibilities.
  • From an online perspective, you want to give your employers an insight into who you are. Finding  a great culture match between employer and employee is so important these days. You need to give the employer a sense of who you are.
  • Networking is of course important. You can network online, from engaging with future employers and having social presence, and showing people that you are active in your industry.
  • You shouldn’t undervalue how important face-to-face networking is. Attending networking events, booking informational interviews and leveraging your own network is also incredibly important.
  • If your networking and job search activity is getting to the point where your employer may find out, you should have an honest conversation about it. Let your employer know you’re no longer happy here, explain why and that you’re looking elsewhere. Sometimes, if you do make your employer aware of how you are feeling, other opportunities or development opportunities may arise in your current organisation.

Read more: Five risks smart job seekers should take

It’s important that professionals stand out from the crowd no matter what stage they’re at in their career, in order to ensure their continued success. Which quick wins would you recommend?

  • Never stop learning. Demonstrate that your learns are turning into actions that are meaningful to the business. Take full ownership and accountability of everything you are working on. You need to be objective, transparent about your progress and success.
  • If you’re showing that your learning is turning into improvement and progression, you’ll be recognised by your employer.

Read more: 10 daily habits to bring you career success

What’s the single best piece of careers advice that you’ve ever been given?

  • Listen, absorb and then take action. This is sometimes difficult when you’re passionate and excited about what you’re working on.
  • Things aren’t always said to you in a formal way, but your employer is always dropping you hints to help you progress or talking to you about things that are important to them. The more you can absorb and then action, the more your employer will have a connection to you and recognise what you’re doing.

Subscribe to the HaysWorldwide podcast

Did you enjoy this podcast? Subscribe to the Hays Worldwide podcast on SoundCloud and download it on iTunes.


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

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 supporting Canada, US and four Latin American countries. Thea joined the Canadian management board in 2015 and contributed to a number of operational initiatives in addition to her marketing role.

She graduated from the University of Guelph, in Canada and has a post-graduate in Business Communications from Seneca College.