7 tips for my younger self

I was talking last week to someone about the advice that I wished I’d had as a younger professional, the things that I’ve learnt over the years that if I’d had a mentor or advisor would have been really helpful counsel. Would I have acted on it? Who knows, I would probably have been too head strong to listen. I guess when you look back with hindsight and experience, things seem so much simpler than they feel in the moment.

Should they prove any use to anyone else, here’s the advice I would have given myself:

  1. Confidence isn’t competence – You’ll come across people in the workplace who have (or display) a confidence that can be overwhelming. They tend to rise faster, but not necessarily further. Confident delivery will only get you so far, don’t confuse it with competence. Don’t be put off by those around you that shimmer with this veneer.
  2. Curiosity is king – Be inquisitive, seek to learn, ask questions and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. You’ll be surprised at how many meetings I sit in where people (including myself) nod and opine without really understanding the detail. Don’t be afraid to ask as you learn, you’ll be amazed how much people will share.
  3. Always have a plan – No matter how long you’re in a job or role, you always need to have a plan. What do you want to get out of the role? How long are you staying for? What is the next step and when are you going to take it? Nobody else will be managing your career, so make sure you are all over it every day.
  4. Learn to suck it up –  As you progress your career, you’ll encounter situations and people who make you want to scream. Learning how to navigate these situations and managing these people will serve you well. See it as a challenge, see it as a project, whatever it takes to make sure you learn and will never repeat.
  5. Just say yes – Everyone is busy, everyone is up to the eyes. But saying yes to opportunity might just give you the inside track to something more exciting. Every bone in your body will want you to lower your head and avoid eye contact, but the reality is that as you move up, you need to stand out.
  6. Don’t steal the limelight – Similar to the confident ones, you’ll meet people who are brilliantly adept at being at the right place at the right time to claim success – often yours. Don’t be tempted to follow their example, they’ll get caught out soon enough. Delivery is key, so focus on making sure you’re doing the hard yards.
  7. Have fun – As well as this being your career, this is also your life. And you won’t get these years back. So make sure you’re enjoying yourself, having fun and sweating the right stuff. For most of us, nobody dies if we get things wrong. So taking life with a pinch of salt and learning to enjoy the ride is key.


The four HR essentials

You can read as many competency models as you like, but from my perspective there are four characteristics that really separate a high potential HR practitioner from the rest of the field.

Credibility, Commerciality, Context and Creativity.

Credibility is about your ability to build meaningful relationships, it is about interpersonal skills, stakeholder management, follow through and influence developed through action. It is about being able to place yourself in the position of the other person.

Commerciality is more than being able to read a P&L, it is about understanding the economic context, understanding demographic pressures, it is about understanding the levers of your individual business’ performance.

Context is about your complete understanding of the employee cycle, it is about your knowledge of how things fit together within the field of people management  and your ability to think systemically about these elements. It is about being able to explain, “why”.

Creativity is not about post it notes and marker pens, but your ability to create new and meaningful interventions, it is about being open minded about solutions and being relentless to discover better. It is about the constant desire to be more than average.

It really is that simple, these four things will set you apart, they’re the thing that every leader tells me they’re looking for and they’re built on the your personal development and intellectual capability. And whilst it is simple to explain, in the heat of the moment, in the muck and the bullets it can be hard to remember.

So if you want, feel free to borrow this.