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The three C’s for success

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An expert in career management, Ronald Tay, executive director and APAC talent partner at UBS AG, shares 3 attributes for career success, whether you’re a HR professional or a new entrant.

Human Resource professionals are often positioned to be career experts and called upon to coach either young entrants or key talent in their career planning, and individual development plans throughout the year.

As the saying goes, “children of cobblers seldom wear shoes”, and taking this opportunity as the year ends, let’s reflect on what some of the key drivers that affect our careers as human resources professionals are.

In my 15 years in strategic planning, training consultancy, talent development and also teaching career management modules at local universities, I have come across countless successful professionals and recently interviewed over 20 of them for my book, Career Conversations. Through these conversations, it was evident to me there are five attributes which I have coined the ‘5Cs’ to career success present in all successful individuals: Clarity, Commitment, Courage, Communication and Connections.

But for the purpose of this article, I would like to showcase three specific attributes HR professionals should consistently work on to reach the peak in their careers.

1. Clarity

Clarity is a precursor to success. How will you know you’re successful when you’re not sure what success means to you? Clarity often leads to focus. Focus is likened to the channelling of sun rays via the magnifying glass – it will burn through any obstacles that stand in its way.

Focus and clarity combined will help any career professional proactively set their priorities right, maximise their time and effort on the most high-impact tasks and be able to justify any sacrifices they would have to make in order to achieve those goals.

As a young HR professional, I was faced with many tempting offers but it was that clarity of purpose and knowing what I was truly passionate for that affirmed my decision to remain in the HR field. Some of these actions can beneficial as a self-reflective exercise to be done every year to maintain clarity of purpose:

Start with clarifying your values: The most important thing in life is to know what the most important things in your life are: your values. You must understand exactly what you want and what matters most to you.

Getting your personality-career fit right: Getting a good fit between your personality preferences and career choice is half the victory to success. Even within the relatively focused field of HR, more people-oriented personalities may lean towards recruiting and learning functions, versus more reflective types who may strive in operational and analytics.

Create a long-term vision for yourself: This should be at least three to five years from now and should clearly describe what your HR career would be like at that point in time. Use the ‘5Ws1H’ (who, what, where, when, why and how) to be as specific as you can to detail elements such as what you will do doing and how much you will be earning. Most importantly, you have to convince yourself “how” this vision is aligned to your values and “why” this long term vision is important to you.

2. Communication

Highly successful HR professionals are typically very captivating communicators and storytellers. They know how to talk about their firm’s HR agenda, mission, values and visions in ways that inspire others to follow and support them. They also know how to negotiate and advocate for themselves and for others powerfully. In short, they become true HR partners and advocates to the business.

Persuasive communication is not easy, but the concepts that lead to persuasive communication are pretty straightforward. If you put these into practice, they will help you immediately:

Have a clear goal every time you speak: If you start with a clear goal for your communication opportunity, your preparation will be quicker and of better quality.

Make the benefits to your audience the common denominator in your message: Listeners only tune in to their favourite station – WII-FM (‘What’s In It For Me’ FM). Make the benefits the highlight of the message and address how your message concerns them.

Be authentic and sincere: When you deliver your message, speak in your own voice and with your own style. Being sincere is equally important. Show the audience you care about the topic and include stories and examples of how you personally experienced or felt about the topic.


Finally, highly successful professionals understand that they cannot achieve their successes by themselves. They invest time and energy in building mutually-beneficial relationships, trusted partnerships and friendships that last over time. The irony of it is that in the busy humdrum of managing our scarce resources, many of us seem to have lost the human touch in HR.

Connect actively: Having great connections is not about boasting to others how many friends you have on Facebook or the phone contacts you have. A unique “touch” can come in the form of an invite for a coffee or sending an article or video link resource that would be helpful. Start attending industry seminars and training courses, participate in professional blogs or networking events aimed to exchange best practices within the community.

Listen as if your life depended on it: Listening is a key skill HR professionals have to excel in. People do not care how much you know unless they know how much you care. To listen as if your life depended on it ask questions, maintain eye contact, put your mobile devices away from your view, and mirror the facial expressions of the person you are listening to.

Make others look good: Great people connectors are never stingy with their praise and always look out for opportunities to put the spotlight on others rather than themselves. Having a healthy level of self-deprecation by joking about your weaknesses, and at the same time, highlighting the strengths of others is a sure way of allowing others to see you as an authentic and attractive person.

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Asia's only regional HR print and digital media brand.
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