5 seriously empowering career tips from one of the best recruiters in the business

With beauty advent calendars hitting shelves and John Lewis’s seasonal advert on TV, we’re in full festive mode. While Christmas is obviously the season to eat, drink and be merry, once December has passed and we look to the New Year, people’s attention often turns to a career reinvention.

If you’re looking to get ahead of yourself and use the festive period to revamp your CV, we’ve called on James Reed, Chairman of REED, Britain’s biggest and best-known recruitment brand, to share some valuable advice.

James is releasing the third and final instalment in his series of self-help books on January 9 called Life’s Work: 12 Proven Ways to Fast-Track Your Career – a practical and inspirational guide to creating a fulfilling career wherever you are in life.

In time for the so-called ‘Massive Monday’, the first working Monday of January – when there are more job applications than at any other time in the year – this is the perfect advice for people who want to make positive change in their careers.

Here, he shares the five fundamentals of career success so you can get a head start on your career move…
“If you think of your career as being a road trip, ‘having a go’ is the fuel that drives your car and the Five Fundamentals are the rules of the road that you need to know to reach your destination,” he explains.

1. Be ambitious

The word ‘ambitious’ sometimes has a bad press, but I don’t see it as being negative or grasping. To me it means having high expectations of yourself and of the place you work. Where do you see yourself in the future?

What do you plan to give and receive throughout your life and career? One of the currencies you can trade in is ideas, which make up the most precious resource any organisation can have. The more ideas you have and the better you implement them, the more ambitious you can afford to be.

2. Be a powerhouse of positivity

There’s plenty of scientific evidence to show that positive thinking affects every aspect of your life, and especially your career. The more meaningful you believe your work to be, the better you’ll feel both mentally and physically – it’s a virtuous circle. This is allied to having a growth mindset, in which you stay open to learning and developing throughout your life.

You’ve never had as many opportunities to improve and learn as you do now, because the world of self-education – one of the keys to a successful career – is available to you at all times. There are blogs, books and videos on a multitude of topics at your fingertips.

Use them to teach yourself about whatever you want to focus on, and if you struggle with feeling demotivated, read about that as well!

Not only do you have the opportunity to learn, you can also achieve more than you think you’re capable of. On most days we don’t even reach 40 per cent of our capacity, both physical and mental, but I’m sure you’ve experienced moments when you reached a new level just because you had to rise to a challenge. There’s an inner courage within each one of us and we surely have to connect with it. I call it being spirited. This is the spark that ignites the fire that will propel you forward.

3. Understand yourself and your organisation

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have enormous strengths within you, ranging from what you know (being good at maths or art, for instance) to the qualities you have (integrity, curiosity and determination).

Understanding yourself means that you have an insight into what you can offer a job or organisation. Where could you make yourself most useful, and in what way?

Knowing where your strengths lie opens up opportunities for you, because you’ll start to see what a wide range of roles you can claim as your own. There’s no use, however, in being clear on what you have to offer if you’re not equally knowledgeable about the place you plan to work. When you apply for a job, you’re thinking of committing a considerable amount of your time and energy to that organisation.

At a party, recently, I was chatting to a woman who asked me how a particular company was doing, and she was amazed when I took out my phone and looked up their accounts online. Anyone can do this, and if you’re wanting to enter into a long- term relationship with a company (for that’s what it is), you should do your due diligence.

4. Know your supports

Try this for an interesting question. In your career, who’s helping you move forward and who’s holding you back? Your answers will prompt a re- evaluation of who you hang around with and whose company you actively seek out.

There is so much support around us, but we don’t always see it. Close friends and family are obvious, but there are bound to be other people who you’ve met in different contexts and who you might have forgotten.

Think about the clubs you’ve joined, the activities you’ve taken part in, the jobs you’ve done, and the places you’ve studied. All contain potential sources of help and advice.

5. Lead yourself

You may or may not aspire to be a leader of others in the future, but one person you must learn to lead is yourself. That means organising yourself, being proactive, not settling for second best, and discovering what you need to do to have the career that you want. Another way of looking at this is to be self-reliant, self-motivated, self-disciplined and self-aware.

Does this all seem a bit, well, self-centred? Yes, possibly. But who else is going to make sure that you wake up each working day looking forward to the hours ahead? It’s down to you to make it happen and this book will help you along the way.


Now it’s my turn to be ambitious, because my sincere hope for you is that you’ll leave Life’s Work with insights that will help you to power ahead in your own career. I want you to think, ‘I can do this’, or ‘I see how that works now, I’ll give it a try’. If you feel moved to change the way you approach your career in a positive way, you will spot opportunities more easily than you did before.

That’s success in action. You’ll see that each of the twelve chapters is based on a command (you can think of them as the Twelve Career Commandments if you like).

And at the end of each chapter are five bullet points that summarise the key messages, totalling sixty easily accessible, golden career nuggets. If you use them wisely they’ll help you to enrich your career for the better and to change your life for good. You’ll also find a couple of questions relating to what you’ve just read, called ‘And just asking’. These will help you to apply what you’ve learned to your own career and life, so you can start putting your new knowledge into practice straightaway.

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