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What does it mean to work with people?

Anna's story: Getting into a Career in HR


Q: First of all, why did you decide to take on an HR role?

I’ve always really enjoyed working with people — my first job was working at Pizza Express as a waitress, and I just loved the people element. I loved it when team members came to ask me questions about how they should handle customer queries, and I loved it when customers asked me for recommendations. I’ve always been the one in my friendship group that others comes to with problems, I’m always giving out advice — so I think it just made sense!

When I was starting to think about jobs and my career, I asked my mum what I should do and she recommended looking into HR. I did lots of research online and found that I liked the sound of the kinds of roles I was coming across. I did a placement year in between my second and third years of uni, half HR and half recruitment, and loved it — and then after uni, I landed a job that was pure HR.

Q: How has working in HR developed you as a professional, and as a person?

It’s given me a really good understanding of the structure of a business, wherever I go onto work — I’ve had such an insight into how a company actually runs and operates. It’s also taught me a lot about how to get the best out of people — because you hear so many stories of problems, and you’re working with experts in the business so you get to learn from how they go about solving them all.

On a super practical note, it’s made me really aware of how not to get another business into trouble, because you’re so much more aware of employment law and how badly things can go wrong — so you always play by the rules! It’s also developed my analytical skills hugely, because I was always encouraged to look at the numbers and use data to make decisions, rather than acting on instincts.

Q: How does working in HR make you feel empowered as a key part of the business?

You do the hiring/inducting/training of all the people who then go on to become rockstars in the business — so you really feel that you are setting people up for success! Without you there to support, they wouldn’t excel. You also enable and fight for employees at different points along their personal journey — whether that’s helping a mother return to work part time, or helping someone else take a sabbatical or take paternity leave —so you’re facilitating really important life decisions for people.

Q: Do you have any tips for someone looking to get into a career in HR?

Keep an eye on recent legislation that impacts HR, as it can be a really good talking point in interviews. Practise your attention to detail — even if that’s playing a silly spot the difference game on your phone! And start to be more inquisitive about the HR operations in your part time job — how does it work, who’s in charge? It will give you a great insight into the workings of any HR department.

Q: What different pathways can a career in HR lead to?

Any! You’re gaining skills that help you work well with people, and people are always going to be part of a business. You can’t replace people completely with technology, so there will always be a demand for your skill.

You could go down one of the 5 specialist pathways within HR and become a real expert; or equally, you could go into a sales role because you’re used to dealing with people and managing people’s expectations; or a finance role because of your analytical skills and attention to detail. Anything really!

Q: Any final thoughts around why HR is a great place to start your career?

HR professionals are often the most supportive part of an organisation — so if you want a manager who’s going to be a mentor figure who’s really invested in your development, you often can’t do much better than an HR professional. Everyone in the department wants to help you learn and grow.

Another great motivation for working in HR is that if you’re passionate about diversity and equality, it’s a good place to be embedded in the organisation — because it’s where the policy comes from. It’s the easiest place to be a change maker.

Finally, if you’re inquisitive and don’t always take things for face value/want to dig, it’s a good place to be! You can often uncover all sorts.

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