My decision to pursue a career in HR was born out of a period of my life where I was feeling a lot of pressure. I was determined for my CV to not be littered with short stints at jobs with no clear direction. I was also aware of just how aggressive the job market was and had zero desire to repeat my previous job hunting expeditions (see Why I Chose HR? For context.) Here I was stuck with yet another dilemma:
- I had no HR experience.
- I had no ‘real’ knowledge of what HR truly entailed.
- I had no relevant qualifications in business or HR (excluding a GCSE and an As Level in Business Studies)
Having decided that I knew HR was the career path for me I started to look into how I would make myself more attractive to potential employers. I knew that my finance experience would give me a minor edge above the competition as it would show that I was business focused, but I still needed to secure some kind of HR experience or knowledge to truly ensure that I could secure myself a start to my career. I made the decision to obtain my Level 3 CIPD qualification in Human Resources Practise. I was taking a risk both financially and time-consuming by doing so but I figured that if I did the course and realised that HR wasn’t for me then I at the very least wouldn’t be stuck in yet another job that I didn’t enjoy. So I did some research, found a provider that was entirely remote learning and dusted off my pencil case and sticky notes.
I spent the next year spending the hours of 09:00 to 17:00 trapped counting petty cash, filing patient notes and processing purchasing requests. I would then spend the evenings researching interview techniques, creating non-discriminatory job descriptions and learning the basics of employment law. Every six weeks my weekends would be engulfed by course deadlines, the painful process of referencing, proofreading and constantly checking to make sure I had covered all areas of the assessment criteria. In twelve months I was qualified and in eighteen I had finished paying back the money that had been leant to me to pay for the course.
Of course, just gaining my Level 3 wasn’t the end of it. I still needed to find an actual job. I applied to eight HR Assistant roles, received six rejection letters, had one unsuccessful interview and then finally found success. After a two hour interview with the Finance and Operations Director as well as the founder of the business, I was offered the role of People, Finance & Operations Assistant – quite the mouthful of a title and even more of a handful of a role.
The position was in a start-up and involved me having to work harder than I ever had to prove myself, but having been stuck in two void-of-progression roles previously I was determined to show not just my boss, but myself, that I could succeed and thrive in their business. So I grimaced through the petty cash, bank reconciliations and cash flow planning, reminding myself that a successful HR professional should also understand the basics of finance to be able to effectively support the company. I embraced the office management side of things, ensuring that the stationary was always stocked and liaised with the cleaner and pest control companies when we had some unwelcome visitors. In return I had made my first hire within a month, I had planned and executed work social events after two, and had supported managers with difficult dismissals by the end of month three. Within six months I was promoted to the People & Culture Lead, the equivalent of an HR Generalist.
There is no doubt that I was fortunate to secure myself a role that allowed for such fast progression but I didn’t just get there through chance. I made the difficult decision to make a major change and then proceeded to commit to that change for over a year. I dealt with rejection, failure and doubt, both self as well as from my peers. I had to push myself way out of my comfort zone. My experience taught me that no one should just ‘accept’ the situation they are in. If you don’t enjoy your job, look into why and do something about it, life is too short to be stuck doing something you don’t enjoy. I studied part-time whilst working full-time, spent eighteen months living as frugally as I possibly could and I then put myself out there again and again until I managed to prove to someone that I could and would be part of the team to help take their company to the next level and if I had to, I would do it all over again.