When I reflect on my HR career I remember all the amazing people and experiences that helped shape me into the HR professional I am today. I also recall the not so amazing aspects but they too have played a part in my development.
Starting out in HR was quite daunting; I found it tricky to break into the industry. As a Sales Manager I enjoyed the ‘HR’ responsibilities of managing a team and as I learnt more about HR I knew it was something I wanted to do but getting an entry role with little HR experience was almost impossible.
So I did some unpaid voluntary work at a friend’s company to gain experience helping with the administration of training programmes. I went to my own company’s head office and assisted the HR Director with filing, interview notes……anything to gain some exposure. Embarking on the CIPD level 3 I asked the other students if they had any tips for securing a role in HR. Eventually one of them, a HR Manager, agreed to interview me for a HR Assistant position she was advertising and I got the job! It was low level HR and payroll but I loved it. The HR Manager and I worked together to improve the company. We created a handbook and developed the company’s core values and I learnt a great deal. Although I loved the job and the company there was little employee turnover, few disciplinaries or grievances and things seemed to just tick over. Great for the MD but as a HR newbie, eager to gain experience I felt that I had to seek a new opportunity.
In my next role I worked alongside an HRD with a passion for recruitment. He showed me there is more than just matching the candidates’ experience to job descriptions. He taught me the value of attracting the right people to the organisation, finding candidates who could take the company to the next level and the importance of retaining talent. By the time I left I had gained valuable experience that I would use in future roles. Another colleague who had an impact on the way I work was a HRBP who role modelled professionalism, precision, attention to detail and having high standards. Other influencers were the Head of HR who put the ‘human’ back in Human Resources with her caring approach, love of development and employee wellbeing; colleagues who worked hard to encourage women into the technology or engineering industry; the CEO who showed me I was capable of more than I thought by allowing me complete autonomy to setup and manage the HR department within her company.
I remember my early HR career as being occasionally confusing. Fumbling my way through the acronyms, googling words like ‘PIP’, ‘OH’, ‘LTS’, ‘ER’! I felt that I should know everything, as HR, we are expected to be the experts but starting out as a generalist and being exposed to recruitment, learning and development, employee relations, talent management etc. made me feel like a jack of all trades, master of none. Thankfully I quickly realised that HR professionals are not superheroes, we don’t have all the answers but we should explore options to find the best outcomes that will add value whilst ensuring we are maintaining professional standards.
My advice to anyone starting out in HR is to use experiences to gain knowledge and skills. Even the tasks you may feel are mundane in your first roles will provide you with a foundation for your career. Learn what you can from the people you meet along the way. Nearly everyone I have worked with in HR has had at least one specialism and if you can watch and learn from them you will start to gain the tools and attributes you need to be a highly successful HR professional.
HR Manager Vualto Ltd