What I've learnt during my career about success- Hays careers advice

I recently celebrated my ten year anniversary at Hays and my eighth promotion whilst working here. This career milestone prompted me to take a moment to reflect upon how I had gotten to this point, and the lessons I have learnt along the way about what it really takes to achieve success. Here’s what I realised:

1. Your career progression is not limited by your background or education (or lack of)

I dropped out of university after just one year, when I realised my degree wasn’t going to lead me down the right career path. I have GCSEs but no A-levels, and before starting a career in recruitment, my work experience consisted of unrelated retail management roles.

None of this mattered to Hays, who thankfully recognised my potential and offered me a job as a trainee recruiter. More importantly, none of this held me back from progressing my career further, as I moved from recruitment into training, learning and development, eventually taking on senior roles within our HR team.

So, to a certain extent, when it comes to career success, your background doesn’t need to matter, neither does your education. What matters more is your potential, your ability to recognise that potential, and your level of proactivity in finding out how to really fulfil it.

2. Success comes as a result of hard work and effort

In any walk of life, if you want to experience success, you have to be prepared to work hard for it. This sounds obvious, and everybody knows this in theory, but it was only when I joined Hays that I really appreciated how true this is in practice.

I know, without a doubt, that I was a successful recruiter because I put in the extra hours and effort; be it interviewing that one extra candidate, making that one extra sales call or visiting that one extra client every month. To this day, I like to think I have maintained this ethos of going the extra mile to get results. This is because I don’t want my career to lose momentum; I want it to continue to go from strength to strength. You don’t get anything in life without hard work!

3. Knowledge is power (and breeds success)

When I was younger I didn’t take much interest in politics, business or current events, and as a result I had limited knowledge of the world around me. I couldn’t contribute to conversations, I couldn’t form or express opinions and I lacked confidence in communicating.

Since then, I have learnt that if you want to succeed in a business environment, you need to gain knowledge of the world around you, especially within your field or industry. It’s simple – read the news daily, check out relevant blogs on social media and pick up industry magazines. Make this a habit.

An even simpler but incredibly effective approach towards building your knowledge, is to always be inquisitive and ask lots of questions – you’ll soon learn what you need to know, and it will stick. Your inquisitive mind shouldn’t ever plateau, no matter how senior you get. Remember – true experts never stop learning.

4. Successful individuals lift people up instead of stepping on them to get to the top

My first manager in retail was an amazing role model when it came to leading people and developing a positive culture. He made everyone feel good about themselves, he made work fun and he had faith in everybody’s abilities. As a result I wanted to make him proud, so I worked hard and in turn, I achieved success.

Another manager I had was the complete opposite – he ruled with fear and spent most of his time trying to catch people out for doing the wrong thing. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when he got passed over for a big promotion due to his lack of people skills!

At Hays, I’ve always had great managers who have supported and developed me. They know that having good people beneath them who feel motivated, positive and empowered to do their jobs, and do their jobs well, makes their lives easier and contributes to the organisation’s on-going success. As a result, I try to do the same-encouraging, motivating and developing my team members. This makes for a more productive, fruitful and positive working environment. It also means that I can continue to progress and take on more responsibility.

5. Success is a journey – celebrate the small wins and the big ones will follow

Successful people have goals and ambitions. They have clear ideas of what they want and where they want to be, and they have a plan on how to get there. They dream big but set small goals along the way, and they always celebrate when they reach these milestones.

If you want to be successful, visualise what you want to achieve, consider how you’ll get there and set yourself realistic and measurable goals. Don’t lose track of the end goal, but be mindful that you won’t get there overnight.  Be patient.

6. Successful people ask themselves “what’s next?” but not at the expense of recognising where they are and what they’ve achieved

I’ve been guilty in the past of being promoted and immediately thinking to myself “right, what’s next?” Whilst there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, I can recognise that this kind of thinking can result in you placing too much pressure on yourself, meaning you don’t always celebrate or give yourself credit for your most recent achievement. Just like in professional sport, you need to give yourself some time to recover before you start working towards your next goal.

I’m proud of my achievements to date and I’m very much looking forward to the next ten years of my career. I know the lessons that I’ve learnt about success have put me in a good place to enjoy more career advancement in the future, as long as I don’t get careless or complacent!

Hopefully you found my experiences and insights helpful. For more advice on how to achieve career success, take a look at the below blogs and listen to our podcast:


Michael Jones is the Head of Internal Recruitment and Training for Hays UK&I. He’s worked for the company for 10 years and started his recruitment career at Hays in Australia, joining as a trainee with no previous experience. After four years as a successful Accountancy and Finance recruiter, and winning ‘Best Performing Associate of the Year’, he joined the Training team and transferred to Hays UK&I in 2013. Michael manages a team of sales and systems trainers, supports the National Internal Recruitment team and, over the last six years, he has personally trained thousands of trainee recruiters.