Perfect Image’s Talent Acquisition Lead, Craig McGeough,  speaks to Technical Operations Manager, Chris Hayes, to find out everything you need to know about getting noticed by IT employers and creating a career plan that works.

Most of us are clear that we want to progress in our careers, but most candidates that I speak to don’t have a career progression plan. It’s easy to see how the question of progression can appear fraught with dead-ends and mixed messages to those not blessed with direct input into strategy or future hiring plans. The usual questions I get from candidates who are not clear where they are heading are, “How can I make myself stand out?” or “How do I know what managers are looking for?”

The one question that worries me most?

“What role should I be doing next?”

In an industry awash with recruiters it is easy to be bombarded with advice, but how do you know what constitutes good or bad advice when you don’t have clarity of vision about where you are heading? With that in mind, I sat down with Chris Hayes who leads the Technical Operations team here at Perfect Image. I wanted to get his take on what he has done to progress his career, and what he looks for when adding new talent into his team.

An introduction to Chris Hayes

Chris has been at Perfect Image for 8 and a half years, working his way up from 1st Line Technical Support, through 2nd and 3rd Line Support. Then he moved into Infrastructure Project Delivery before taking the reins managing the Technical Operations Team in our Network Operations Centre, which puts him in a great position to share his advice.

Making yourself stand out

Chris Hayes: Before my first role in IT working in 1st Line Support at Perfect Image, I was working in office administration and not particularly having much sense of direction or fulfilment. I was spending my spare time working in dance music and when I finally decided to follow my passion for IT, I naturally found it difficult to get my foot in the door. A friend of mine told me that Perfect Image was hiring, and I believe the following steps really helped me stand out from the other 140 or so applicants that applied:

  • I wrote a covering letter that screamed ‘Give me a chance!’ I made my letter bespoke to Perfect Image, I showed I had done my research into the business and explained what had caught my eye. I outlined my strengths, my passion and the certifications I had started in my own time.
  • I followed up on my passion. I decided IT was going to be what I dedicated myself to and I was determined to make sure people could see I was serious. I did my research on what was available and sensible. I started doing learning and certifications in my own time. I also detailed in my cover letter what further certifications I wanted to pursue – particularly as I knew Perfect Image was a company who paid for their staff to undertake certifications.
  • I had a plan. I made sure both in my interview and throughout my time at Perfect Image that I knew where I wanted to go. Use those around you, ask questions, read industry articles and if, like Perfect Image, you have regular 1-2-1 and appraisals, make sure that as well as ensuring you are on track for success in your current role, you are always working towards progressing on your plan. If you don’t have a plan, now is the time to start your research!

How do I know what managers are looking for?

CH: For me, there are no substitutes for drive and passion. At Perfect Image, the thing that made me want to work – and what I believe still makes us stand out as an employer – is our ability to harness that drive and passion from our staff and use that as fuel to progress people up the ladder throughout their career. I’m a good example of this, but there are so many others across the business that started in ‘entry-level’ roles and, through following their passion and drive, learning and listening from those around them and taking opportunities when presented to them, are now at the top of their fields. My advice would be:

  • Passion is harder to train than knowledge. Drive and passion will always shine through during interviews. Sadly, so does someone simply chasing their latest job. Whilst the latter won’t stop you getting hired – if you can show your drive and passion you will be remembered for the right reasons. We can train technical, it’s very hard to train passion into someone…
  • Be patient. Sometimes the timing might not be working for you. Maybe you feel you are ready for something new and you are standing still. Use that time wisely, become even better at your current role, try and plug gaps ahead of you by shadowing, helping out if needed and by doing self-learning based on the requirements of the role ahead of you. Make sure you are the only option the business should consider when the time comes. Make it difficult for them to turn you down.
  • Willingness to learn. IT is an everchanging world. If you then factor in the different clients, industries, environments that we deal with on a day to day basis it is hugely important that you are, also that you are seen to be keen to learn. Never be afraid to ask a question, however a great piece of advice I was told was “never ask the same question more than twice”. This feeds into my second point, always carry around a notepad/laptop to make notes on things you will need to come back to, points of interest, learning points and make sure to follow these up to plug gaps in your knowledge.

What role should I be doing next?

CH: Only you can answer this. I hit a crossroads in my career when I was working as an Infrastructure Engineer delivering projects to clients but wanted to pursue a managerial route. I was doing well in my role and had followed the traditional path but I wanted to change tack. I thought there might be a role coming up so I followed my own advice above and made it happen. The right role for you is the one you are most passionate about.

This has been said a few times already, but you need to follow what you love, not what you feel you should be doing, not what your peers are doing, nor necessarily what the company would like you to do. Do your research, try and get a handle on what you want to do and whether that is perceived to be a move up, down, diagonal, horizontal it doesn’t matter as long as you are happy it is progressing your career as you want it to go.

At Perfect Image, there are lots of examples of people who have moved outside of the normal parameters to follow their chosen path so even if you not lucky enough to be in a business that will give you full backing to do so, there are many companies out there that will.

Key Takeaways

  • Present the best of yourself at all times
  • Constantly learn and work towards your goals
  • Make it clear that you know what you want, and you are working to get there
  • Find a business that will encourage that passion and will allow you the tools to flourish

If you know what you want, follow Chris’s advice and start your planning today to make it happen. If you don’t know what you want, you just know it isn’t what you’re doing now, then there is no better time to start thinking about what that may look like and making it happen!

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss anything in this article, please give me a call on 0191 238 0111 or email me at

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