Getting Ahead By Debrett’s

From the very first interview to handing in your notice, your behaviour will be noticed by the powers that be. Mind your manners, look the part and negotiate successfully to ensure that you climb the ladder with style and grace.


Notorious for striking fear into the hearts of even the most self-confident, interviews are a genuine opportunity for candidate and prospective employer to weigh each other up.

Immaculate presentation is essential, but gauge the formality of the company before donning your three-piece.

Do some preparation, but remember that the interview is about you and not what you know about the organisation.

Select a few relevant facts instead, and explain how your experience is appropriate for the requirements of the job.

Don’t be afraid to enthuse about your achievements, but be honest and never name-drop.

Always ask questions; they provide a good opportunity for creating a more natural conversation and assessing the chemistry between you.

Thank the interviewer warmly.

Whatever the outcome, your response should be gracious. Never burn bridges.


Being smart is strategic and professionalism loses impact without professional-looking clothing to match…

Make sure your dress fits in. If everyone else comes to work in jeans, then don’t insist on wearing a suit.

If the office policy is to wear suits, then you must do so.

Check what colleagues wear and take the lead from everyone else to see if ties are de rigeur.

Think about the day ahead: meetings with clients may require some more thought than a quiet Friday.

Inappropriate dressing is very counterproductive. Girls who wear very short skirts, sheer fabrics or low-cut or cropped tops may find that their professionalism is called into question and they may not be taken seriously in the workplace.

If in doubt about the propriety of a certain garment, then remember that if you have to think about it, then it’s probably not appropriate.


Policy can vary from company to company, but wherever you work, be assured that dress-down policy does not mean that ‘anything goes’.

‘Smart casual’ is an often-used expression. This usually means smart denim; no sportswear; nothing that might be construed as beachwear, such as shorts.

If you feel more comfortable wearing a suit, then you could do so. But remember that refusing to join in and conform to a dress-down policy may be construed negatively by an employer or by fellow colleagues.


As a general rule, there are very few workers who believe that they are over-paid. Asking for a pay rise is a tricky issue that requires tact and thought.

Bide your time and keep an eye on your boss. Never ask during busy or stressful times, before a holiday, after a failed project or after any redundancies.

Even with open-plan offices, always book a meeting. You can then be assured some face-to-face time and privacy.

Think about your achievements and goals. Why do you deserve more money?

Research the market and see what you could earn in a similar position at other companies, but never threaten to leave as it may backfire on you.

Give persuasive reasoning as to why a raise is deserved and ensure you give the impression of have plenty of career satisfaction.


Resignations should be dealt with professionally and calmly. Burning bridges will wave goodbye to good references and paths will inevitably cross again.

Managing your resignation from a job must be done as carefully as you would handle any other business endeavour. Always book a private appointment with your boss to let them know that you are moving on. Don’t just drop by their office to tell them such important news.

Be kind and positive when you quit: your manger is no longer your boss of the past but part of your network of the future. People tend to remember just their first and last impression, so be professional.

Emphasise the positive about your time in the company but add that it’s time to move on, you’ve found an opportunity that ‘fits you better’.

Offer to help during the transition; seeking out or training up your replacement.

Accompany any spoken intent with a formal letter of resignation stating when your last day will be; it looks more professional, and will clear up any uncertainties about notice periods.

Resist the urge to quit spectacularly, sweeping into your boss’s office and telling them exactly what you think of them, is sometimes strong; but such sweet revenge soon sours.


Getting the boot is superlatively humiliating, but there is yet more dignity to lose by losing your temper. Settle for the philosophical advantage and serve out your notice with grace.

Don’t react emotionally when you’re told the news – you’ll only regret it.

Don’t attempt retaliation or revenge – it may come back to haunt you. Maintain your dignity to the bitter end.

If you’re asked to leave immediately, do so. Don’t worry about handing over to a colleague, it’s not your problem. Just concentrate on making a quick exit from the building.

If you’re asked to stay on for a few weeks, and you don’t want to, just politely point out to your boss that – by definition – your services are no longer -required, as your post is redundant.

Don’t burn your bridges. You may hate and resent the boss that has dispensed with your services, but you may not have any argument with your colleagues. Make sure you have all their contact details before you leave – professional networking is never a waste of time.

Start looking for another job, getting out and doing interviews – don’t let thoughts of your redundancy fester, as it will eat away at your confidence.

Always tell the truth (to future employers, employment agencies etc.) about your redundancy. In the current turbulent economic climate, job loss is – unfortunately – an increasingly common event, and redundancy does not carry the stigma it used to.

When explaining your redundancy, try and put a positive gloss on it. Explain that your role was no longer required, but that losing your job has given you a chance to rethink your priorities, revise your career plan, explore new options etc. etc.

Keep busy, and don’t let self-pity overwhelm you. Start a new exercise regime, spend some time with your kids, embark on the decorating that you’ve been putting off, do some voluntary work, clear out the boxes of junk in the attic.

Consider re-training, or going back into education.

Stay positive and flexible. Try and see your redundancy as an opportunity, a chance to try something new and explore new talents…


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