Q&A: Ash Russell: “Having an online presence means you’re accessible to the world for networking”

Author: PM editorial | Date: 6 Apr 2016

Hays Singapore’s senior business director gives some top tips for getting ahead in HR

Ash RussellCompetition is common in most jobs, and HR is no different. With an increasing range of HR professionals on the market, it takes more to get yourself noticed, and to develop the skills and attitudes that will prove attractive to potential employers. Ash Russell is a senior business director at Hays Singapore with more than 16 years’ recruitment experience; she gave People Management some tips on how to make a name for yourself in HR.
What are your top tips for someone to get ahead in their job and be noticed?
Build strong relationships with people and influence them. Adding value and insight is really important too. What I mean by that is, if your manager wants to train a certain set of people, you should try to do more than just saying “yes, let’s do it.” Suggest what kind of training might help and give insights and ideas into what will work. Have original ideas and push back sometimes, even if it means saying: “I don’t think this is the right thing for you to do.”
 
Is a career plan with a timeline of goals helpful, or can it be too rigid?
It’s very important. You need to have a sense of direction. You should think about your long-term career objectives: what do you want to get out of your job in the next five years or so? Do you need to study, and if so what for?
 
Things may change over time, so you do need to be realistic – sometimes goals can be unachievable and be demoralising or demotivating. You’ve got to be flexible with your goals throughout your career.
 
Is social media a useful tool in career planning?
I think the HR industry is very tuned in to social media because communication is such an important element. Having an online presence means you’re accessible to the world for networking, which is really important in HR. I don’t know if it will necessarily help you get ahead in your career, but being out in the public domain is never a bad thing. We always recommend that people maintain an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and are active on it.
 
Coaching and mentoring is helpful for junior employees but can senior staff get something out of it too?
If you’ve been in an organisation for a long time, you’re not as connected to the new guys that are coming in and you might become a bit stale or stagnant. It’s good to learn about the new ideas and new types of people that are coming in. I’ve been at Hays a long time, and I’ve got junior people coming in who want to be CEOs within the next couple of years! So it’s good to stay connected to the younger employees and mentoring can help you do that.
 
Do employers look favourably on certain out-of-work experiences?
It depends on the organisation. Those that are advocates for diversity and corporate social responsibility will look favourably on candidates that have relevant out-of-work activities, but for other organisations it doesn’t really make a difference. At a junior level, being captain of a sports team, for example, would make a difference because it shows the kind of person that you are. Personally, I’d look on someone who has been the captain of a sports team quite favourably. The same applies to someone who’s done some travelling.