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Working in HR? If you could start again, would you?

Steve Bridger

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Community Manager

22 Nov, 2017 15:59

You're looking at me quizzically... 'Odd question', you're thinking. 'Why ask that?'

No agenda... I was just thinking out loud... those of you who are HR (or L & D) veterans; with all your experience and expertise - if you knew then (at the start of your career journey)... what you know now, would you do it all again?

Maybe you are relatively new to the profession. What would you do differently? 

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  • Interesting question Steve and funnily enough one that cropped up in conversation the other day between me and my HR colleague.

    I guess for me I followed the family line as my Dad had been HR Director for a number of years. I distinctly remember some informal 'take your daughter to work' occasions and being fascinated at the conversations I would hear (well one side of it at least).

    In an ultimate commitment to the profession for my Year 7 project I said that I wanted to be a Personnel Manager when I grew up. This even included me sticking my dad's old IPD card in as an example of professional development. So could I say that I wanted to join HR even as a youngster? Quite possibly so.

    Eventually after an English degree I headed to my dad's office as an unpaid intern, with the intention of working across all departments. However, having started with HR I ended up really relishing it, applied for a 6 month role at another company and the rest as they say is history.

    Who knows whether I would have always chosen HR (despite Emma in 1997 thinking this would be the case)? However, the knowledge you can gain, the advice that you can offer and genuinely seeing lives change for the positive makes it all worthwhile for me. Undoubtedly there are tough days and tough years (especially with redundancy), but I still remain proud of my profession and excited for what changes are yet to come.
  • In reply to Peter:

    If I could 'love' as opposed to 'like' this message Peter, I would. Thank you for all your contributions too, it makes the world of HR that little bit easier.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    13 Dec, 2017 10:25

    In reply to Emma:

    Fantastic post, ... and good to have you back contributing to the forums.

    Your story is perhaps the first I've heard of someone truly saying 'they want to work in HR' when they grow up.
  • In reply to Emma:

    I can think of no adequate reply Emma, except a very sincere: "Thank you".
  • This is a great thread! I've loved reading all of your stories.
    I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I went to 6th form and left with a secretarial qualification (in the days when typing lessons still existed on a type writer). I worked in a bank as a clerk for a while, then when I was made redundant from that job, I trained to be a croupier and worked on the ships. When I returned I dabbled in other admin/PA jobs and met my husband and started a family. I then trained to be a homeopath - but this never really took off as I went on to have a third child, which meant I couldn't really work from home any more. I then went back to work part time as a PA and then fell into HR when I landed an Office Manager role. I started by doing the admin for the lawyers there, then decided that if I'm going to be working in HR, I'd better qualify, so went and did my level 3, then level 5. I left that role after 3 years because as an outsource company, I never got a sense of the company culture that I was advising, so I went for an internal HR role as an assistant.
    Unfortunately, as soon as I took on that job (fixed term contract), I was diagnosed with cancer! I tried to work in between surgeries (didn't have to have chemo), but as you can imagine, I wasn't my best self. The HR Manager there decided to "restructure" the HR department, and I had the chance to either apply for an adviser role, or part company - I took the latter. I was in no place for the challenge of being an adviser at that time (and I knew deep down it was her way of getting rid of me and yes, it still leaves me with a bitter taste). The whole experience knocked my confidence, so I took a local admin job in an estate agents - I was bored stiff!!!! After a year of that, I finally gained confidence in my body again to not let me down again and decided that I would try to pursue my HR career once more, so went for an assistant role in my current company. I quickly climbed to adviser, then my lovely manager retired and the company promoted me as manager! All this within a year of joining!
    I'm like one of the previous posters on this thread, I suffer with imposter syndrome on a daily basis - I really lack confidence and never feel as if I am good enough for the role. But I fight it each day and just try to do my best - after all, I have to do something for a living!
    I'm not sure if I will be doing this for the rest of my working life (probably another 20 years left), but until I think of something else to do in its place, or when I finally get found out as an imposter - I will carry on.
    I'm standalone now and would very much like to work in a team as it can be quite isolating sometimes - I feel sometimes as if I can't form tight friendships at work because one day I might need to make that person redundant or something like that.
    I find that you need to be quite poker faced some times and I find that difficult.
    I'll stop now! Otherwise I'll end up writing a book!!!
  • Great thread! I stumbled across HR too. I left school at 16 not knowing what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to work rather than go to college or university. My first job out of school was a clerical assistant at the local council and I continued with admin type roles for a few years. Moved to the private sector in 2008 as a receptionist in the company I work for now, when my then manager approached me a year into the job and said "we have money left in the budget, would you like to do your CIPD level 3" and the rest is history, I'm now working towards my CIPD level 7 (second year) and have moved up into HR Advisor, so you could say that I became hooked :)

    I have definitely had some challenges while working in HR but that's what I love about my job, no two days are the same. I've met some lovely people along the way. Would I have chosen HR leaving school at 16? Yes if I knew then how fascinating it would be, but I certainly don't remember the careers advisor at school recommending roles like this and when you're 16 who really knows what they want to do.
  • In reply to Samantha:

    Hi Samantha, I too wish that I had known about HR at school. Two years ago I got back in touch with one of my best friends at school and guess What? - she too works in HR as a HR manager and she fell into it too. So maybe there are certain types of people who get drawn towards this profession despite the lack of direction from the educational establishments. You have to be a People person and genuinely like people to be able to do this job. Had I not been a People Manager I might have been a teacher, lawyer or a Forensic Anthropologist. Reminiscing aside two years ago I tried desperately to offer a HR placement to a HR student in my HR team- I tried the CIPD, colleges and Universities but kept coming up against major obstacles and I had to give up. There appears to be a disconnect between people who want to enter our profession and the channels they can use to be able to do so even when they have taken to trouble to study. Maybe I am wrong but all your stories seem to be one where someone gave you a chance to come into the profession. After I went to the GLC had my manager not promoted me at 21 and given me my own section to run in HR I probably would not be writing this post.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    20 Dec, 2017 11:18

    In reply to Caroline Veronica De Silva:

    There is a element of my job that feels like 'forensic anthropology' ;)
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    I left school with one GCE and only intended to join the RN as a radio operator.  Which I did.  

    I travelled the world, spent my 18th birthday on a remote tropical island beach, with two armed guards at either end in case of sharks.  On one ship we visited two Japanese ports, the first allied ships to visit since WWII.s  I visited the worlds most remote inhabited island and I served with a guy who'd been torpedoed twice in succession in the war and another who'd been captured by the Japanese.  

    I've been a scaffolder - which I hated.  But that took me offshore and to the remote Shetland Isles where I spent an interesting 3 years.  And I later bought my 1st house for cash.

    I was an outdoor/life-skills tutor and worked with disadvantaged young people and this meant many days and starry nights out on hills in variety of weather conditions and multi day/night canoeing expeditions.  I'm a qualified Mountain Leader and hold a number of canoeing qualifications. I've canoed in the most remote, uninhabited eco-system on earth - the Barren Lands in Northern Territories in Canada.  I've competed against Cree indians in their annual games, and made friends with Cree hunters  who have spent their entire lives living off the land in roadless forests of the far north.  I've spent many, many nights living in Igloos and gazing at the Northern Lights.

    I've also been a Tour Guide and worked for commercial expedition companies.  I've lead brain surgeons, atomic scientists, members of foreign governments and many others on expeditions, and once lead a husband & wife on a walk of a couple of miles near my village. The couple were major UK  terrorist targets and I was joined by four well armed royal protection police (machine guns, pistols & grenades).  And afterwards we all had a tea and coffee in our house - and I had a 'tour' of the three armoured Mercedes cars.

    I spent ten years in Eire, where I learned to milk cows, farm,  make potein,  drive and operate farm machinery,  learned to build houses - and got paid to lead long distance walks in the most incredible  locations.  I also became a drystone waller & hedgelayer and got asked to go to Holland as a representative of Eire to teach/demonstrate  hedgelaying. I also became an English language teacher and taught English to many asylum seekers from the Balkan wars,  One couple we taught became very special friends & we've learned their  terrible story.

    We  lived next to a self confessed murderer.  And if anyone in Eire wanted to know where we lived we just told them who our neighbour was!.   I was interviewed about him on TV, and spoke on on Irish radio too, in spite of threats from his lawyers!.

    Oh, I mustn't forget that somewhere amongst all this I went  to uni as a mature student &  became an management trainer, then HR manager - wouldn't have missed that experience either.  

    But would I choose it as a career?  Not a chance - because if I had, I'd have never had the wonderful experiences I have had, nor met some of the amazing folks I did- and you can't buy those experiences!

  • Like many others here I didn't set out to go in HR when I was younger.

    Throughout most of my younger years, I wanted to be a teacher, never settled on what type of teacher until University, but a teacher of some form. When it came to picking a course and University, I decided to go down the TEFL route and train to become a TEFL teacher. I went through University and training - perfect, until I was in a classroom and realised this wasn't what I wanted any more.

    So for a long time I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself so, I took a job in a call centre for a few years. It wasn't until I moved to a processing labs customer service team did I really flourish and learn where my skills lay. I outgrow that role, even when my manager made me her right hand lady with more of a work load, she could see I had outgrown the role. So she sat me down and asked me what I really wanted to do.

    This gave me a chance to really have a look and see what I wanted to do and where I could be proactive within the organisation. So I told her HR, from this she arranged time with the HR team (who were small - but gave me as much work and help as they could). From here I enrolled in college for my CIPD Level 3. I was told I could do Level 5 if I wanted, however I wanted the basics before going completely into a new area.

    From here I gained my first HR administrator role, which was great, however due to personal circumstances, I needed a role closer to home. So I found a HR Generalist role within the 3rd sector in the City Centre and working through Level 5 CIPD and championing Health and Wellbeing, Safeguarding and really couldn't be happier.

    If I could go through it again I would, I love HR and everything good and bad with it. I just wish I did HR at University instead of teaching but hey its all a learning curve.
  • Thanks so much for posing the questions Steve, and for everyone's responses. I'm re-starting my career and have chosen HR so it's great to read about so many happy careers
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    5 Jan, 2018 16:54

    In reply to Liz:

    It's been a really fascinating read for us (at CIPD), too.

    Good luck with this new journey, Elizabeth... and it's good to have you here with us.
  • I don't usually reply to posts as I tend to learn more from what other members are posting. I fell into HR through a PA role which required me to undertake administration of the staff contracts and documents. Whilst doing this I found I preferred dealing with the staff and contracts as opposed to my PA duties and undertook the CIPD Level 5. I am now in a standalone HR role whilst very challenging I do thoroughly enjoy it. I am now looking to start further training to develop my skills further.

    The only thing I would perhaps do differently if I could do it all again would be to move to a HR position in a team before moving to a standalone role. Having said that I find the CIPD website invaluable in situations where I am truly stuck.

    :)
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    9 Jan, 2018 10:09

    In reply to Amanda:

    Thanks for sharing, Amanda. So many have said they have 'fallen into' HR. That often seems to be the way.

    Keep sharing, folks; this is the thread that keeps on giving...
  • I decided at school that I wanted to go into HR, I enjoyed the people aspects of Business A level, and went on to university to do a degree in Organisation Studies & HRM (unaccredited, because no-one had told me that was important...) A manufacturing company gave me a chance as a HR Assistant on a fixed term one year contract, but by the end of the contract I'd come to the conclusion that actually HR probably wasn't for me. I moved into education, working in schools and colleges as academic and pastoral support, then for a student housing charity as an accommodation officer. I was then lucky enough to secure funding to do a full time PhD, looking at nursing education. I'd intended to stay in academia, but struggled to secure a research contract, so when a job came up at a local manufacturing company for a training manager, with a specific focus on apprenticeships I decided to give it a go, and here I am! I've been working in L&D for two years now and I absolutely love it. I got here in a roundabout way, but I wouldn't change it for the world.