Careers and Enterprise Blog

Transferable skills series- hitting deadlines.


Transferable skills series- hitting deadlines.

Transferable skills series

In today’s instalment of our Transferable Skills series, Jack Bidewell, GradForce Employer Development Coordinator discusses the importance of deadlines and how to navigate them.


The word that, as a student, I dreaded to hear…. Admittedly, on occasion I was guilty of asking for an extension or two to ensure I submitted the best piece of work possible.

Sticking to and completing work by a deadline is a learned skill and I’ve seen first-hand how it has helped me in my professional career. To be successful, I’ve learned that adapting to people’s approaches and expectations is really important- this means adapting to deadlines too.

The importance of deadlines

I can’t stress this enough… In the workplace, there isn’t an extenuating circumstances policy in the same way there is at University.

Imagine yourself as a paying customer needing a service by a set time, would you be likely to go back to a business and use them if the delivery was hugely delayed? I know that I probably wouldn’t.

As the old saying goes, ‘time is money’.

Consistently delivering on time works well for ensuring repeat business. Repeat business often leads to successful outcomes and hopefully, higher profits.

Internally, this kind of reliability can also support your career. Most people in the workplace are given set deadlines, (including your boss most likely). When your superior sets YOU deadlines, it can often coincide with THEIR deadline. I.e., ‘I need X from you Jack, so that I can complete Y’.

Scenario A-

You get an email at 3pm on a Friday afternoon from your boss.

‘Hi Sarah,

Please may you send me the latest revenue report by Tuesday 2nd April so that I can incorporate this into the presentation Joe Bloggs has asked me to write. He’s taking it to the board of Directors on the 4th April.

Any questions just shout.’

The deadline chain is as follows: If Sarah misses her deadline, her boss can’t get the presentation to Joe Bloggs. If Joe Bloggs doesn’t have the presentation, he can’t take it to the board on 4th April. The board is making a decision about budget cuts and these figures may adversely affect the team Sarah, her boss and Joe Bloggs sits in.

Sarah is distracted by the upcoming weekend so doesn’t mark this email as a priority. Monday comes and she continues with other work. Subsequently, she misses her Tuesday deadline, it affects her whole team’s budget for the quarter and reflects badly on her boss and Joe Bloggs- it even poses a threat to her position in the company.

Now, this isn’t to say that extenuating circumstances/ other work priorities can’t supersede Sarah’s revenue report. You’re allowed to be off sick, you’re allowed to question whether you have capacity to take this on, it’s okay to hold your hand up and say ‘Sorry, I am not sure I will be able to do this because of XXX’ or ‘I might need help with reviewing what’s priority in my workload’ but keep an open dialogue with your manager. By managing people’s expectations as far in advance as possible, you’ll earn respect and you may find you’re given more leeway.  Reliability breeds trust and you’ll be valued if you’re consistent. Sticking to deadlines can help your progression as well as supporting the business you work in.

Tips on how to hit your deadlines

One word: planning.

As the saying goes, ‘failing to plan, is a plan to fail’. Best practice is to start your task ahead of schedule. This means you’ll be on the ‘front foot’ and probably, much less stressed.

For me, clearly defined targets set by my employer has enabled me to plan successfully for upcoming deadlines. For example, in a previous role, I was set monthly income targets. As such, I devised monthly ‘sales plans’ where I identified which clients to target, any upcoming fees, which products to pitch, etc. Therefore, all I had to do for the month was stick to the plan, ensuring all my outputs and KPI’s were in line. It certainly made life easier and enabled me to structure my workday. It even made me more efficient i.e. I could respond to ad hoc tasks that cropped up throughout the day because I knew I was on track with my deadlines.

Another tip is to always be realistic. As I was told early on in my career, it is better to under promise and over deliver than the other way round. Work closely with your superiors to ensure that you are open and honest with what can be completed and when. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there are many things out of our control. You shouldn’t be afraid to voice your predictions, or experiences along the way and, in most cases, I am sure this will be appreciated by customers and managers alike.

Frequently in my role, I have had to have honest conversations with clients/ externals ensuring that they have a realistic outlook of agreed work. As an employee, you are the expert in your chosen field. You become a specialist over time and know what you need to do to fulfil your responsibilities daily. Honesty is always the best policy.

In summary

Deadlines can be helpful. Don’t dread them- they can be reframed and used as an opportunity to structure your workload and working day. Hopefully this blog has demonstrated how the benefits of hitting deadlines are multi-faceted. You’ll be able to instil trust through consistency and honesty and it’ll help your personal and career goals.

Have you read our blog on time management and punctuality? This piece has some amazing insights which will help you hit your deadlines too.

If you feel you still need help with deadlines in the workplace, contact us at

Want to find out more about jobs that suit your skills?

  • Go on to the Careers & Enterprise Hub, and under ‘Resources’ click on ‘Labour Market Information’. There, you can ‘explore by skills’ – just click on at least 3 skills, and it’ll show you job roles that match!
  • If you click on the job role, it’ll give you more information about average salary, what the role entails etc.

N.B If you are struggling with a University deadline and need further advice on making a request/ eligibility, or if you need a different type of support because you have a longer-term problem, speak to your Personal Academic Tutor, Course Administrator/Support Officer or Student Support Advisers.

If you study a research degree course you should check your Blackboard for information on extension processes or contact

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