Getting Into HR Admin: An Interview With Lisa Thomson
10 October 2017
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up can often be a fairly difficult task. Once you’ve settled on a university course (or another pathway into work), the challenge often then becomes getting enough experience to balance your time spent hitting the books. It can take extreme dedication and a clear passion for your chosen industry to get a ‘foot in the door’.
Our HR candidate, Lisa Thomson, has both of these qualities in spades. Lisa is an incredibly focused individual, who has worked incredibly hard to acquire relevant HR experience whilst she pursued her degree.
“I first came across HR Consultancy when I got made redundant back in 2009,” she says, “Although I was lucky enough to find a full time position, HR Consultancy has been a company I have kept my eye on. I had been working in an admin role for a number of years and as part of their reward system they put me through a HNC distance learning course. I enjoyed learning new skills so I decided to leave full time employment to peruse further education.
"I started off doing a HND in Business where I realised that I was really interested in business development, strategy and HRM and I began to see how my admin skills were transferable into these areas.
"In the admin role I was in and the organisation I was working for made me realise that I was passionate about people and training and development. I’m also a real stickler for process and policies so I felt that moving into HR would be the ideal progression path for me as it has the combination of both I found that Glasgow Caledonian University offered courses in HRM and International Business and I found out about credit transfer through SCQF and used that to gain entry into third year of a BA Honours degree."
Lisa initially came to our recruiters as a potential candidate for administrative work. However, our HR recruiters Linzi Murphy and Monica Lochrie were keen to utilise her potential within the market. Combining her solid experience to date with her HR studies, our recruiters were able to secure Lisa a temporary contract within a HR admin role.
“The experience has been great. There was lots of communication from both Linzi, Monica and other members of the HR Consultancy team even before this opportunity came up. I didn’t feel like I was just another faceless candidate, I could tell that they were looking to help me find the right role - not just any role.
"I wouldn’t have got the job without Monica and Linzi – they essentially vouched for me and helped me pull out and identify skills and experience that I hadn’t recognised. This has, in turn, has helped me really improve my CV. Without their backing, I don’t know if the client would have even looked at me. And now I have the great balance of experience – how things really operate within an office and a HR environment – and the learning from university so I feel much more prepared for what’s going to happen and be expected after university.
"Being in the workplace has also influenced my university choices. The experienced HR staff were able to advise me on which modules and topics would be of the most use to me once I finish my studies. I wouldn’t have known this without their help. I’ve also been able to make some valuable connections with people in industry which will help me greatly with my fourth year dissertation.”
Initially, Lisa’s temporary contract was for four weeks. The company were so impressed with her work ethic, that she was invited to extend her contract before returning to university to get her Honours degree.
“At university, I think students often think short term, and pick up bar or retail work but I knew I wanted to have relevant experience that would give me a broad range of transferable skills. That’s why I was initially pursuing more administrative or office work – to continue to build and expand knowledge on how different businesses run and potentially have the chance to speak to their HR departments.
“It can’t be stressed enough how important networking in the field that you’re going to be working in and making connections so that, when you finish your degree, you already have people and skills you can rely on. Now, I have the title of HR administrator as well as the skills on my CV and that’s going to really help me when it comes to applying for graduate schemes.”
It is clear from talking to Lisa that she is incredibly enthusiastic about the HR market, its processes and the people. She is passionate and focused – she knows why she is learning and what she’s aiming for. She’s conscious of her own personal brand and how potential employers could view her.
“Now that I’m heading towards completing my degree, I’ll hopefully be a high flying businesswoman whilst I’m in my thirties – I’m ready to break that glass ceiling.
“I want to have a PhD one day – mainly so my wee boy can call me Doctor Mum,” she laughs.
Lisa is clearly a people person; friendly and chatty with her head screwed on. Does she think that will help her in the HR market?
“I always think of HR as the ‘parent department’ – you have to be firm but fair. You understand and empathise with the problems but you also have to take an objective look at them. You have to support both the employee sitting in front of you – whatever their problem may be – but also keep in mind the policies and procedures of the company. It’s a fine balance.
“HR is also a very busy role. You have to be reactive. You don’t really get the chance to sit and work through a ‘to do’ list because something could happen that you have to be involved in. What I’ve learned from my contact work is that you have to always appear calm and like everything is under control – even when you have so much work to squeeze into the day.
“Your HR team has to be right and on the same page. If they’re not gelling and getting on, that can spread out to the whole company. The overall company culture stems from getting the right employees in.”
And what advice does Lisa have to offer aspiring HR candidates?
“It goes without saying that you have to like people to do this job. You have to be able to quickly establish relationships and be able to juggle a varied workload.
“Be confident to reach out and make connections and aim for as much relevant work experience as you can. Using a recruitment agency really helped me to secure my temporary role, and now I have that on my CV to help me stand out from other graduates.”
Lisa left our office to embark on her first day of studying towards her BA Honors degree. We have no doubt that she will be a great asset to the HR market in a year’s time.
If you would like to speak to us about a career in HR, we’d be delighted to have a confidential chat with you and offer our advice. Click here to meet our team and get in touch.
Written By Linzi Murphy