If you want to change career to work in HR, this episode of HR Coffee Time is here to help. Learn from 3 HR professionals who all made the switch from different careers into the world of HR. Charlotte Treverton-Jones, Daniel Moczynski, Natalie Saunders and Rachel White, share their experience and tips for making a successful change. They also talk about the plus points and challenges they’ve encountered since settling into their HR careers.

Key Points From This Episode

[02:01] HR Business Partner, Charlotte Treverton-Jones explains how she changed career to work in HR

[05:39] Charlotte shares the positive aspects of working within HR as well as the challenges she has faced

[07:58] Charlotte’s advice for anyone thinking of changing their career to work in HR

[09:22] Employee Engagement Advisor, Daniel Moczynski shares his career change story

[12:50] How networking has helped Daniel with his HR career

[14:43] Daniel’s opinion on the positives and challenges of a career in HR

[16:37] Daniel’s advice for anyone thinking of changing their career to work in HR

[24:20] Creator of HR consultancy firm ‘Morpho Advisory’, Natalie Saunders shares her career change story

[20:58] Natalie shares how she made the leap from employment law to HR

[31:12] Natalie’s advice for anyone thinking of changing their career to work in HR

[24:20] HR Advisor, Rachel White shares her career change story

[35:14] Rachel’s opinion on the positives and challenges of a career in HR

[39:52] Rachel’s advice for anyone thinking of changing their career to work in HR

Useful Links

Rate and Review the Podcast

If you found this episode of HR Coffee Time helpful, please do rate and review it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

If you’re kind enough to leave a review, please do let Fay know so she can say thank you. You can always reach her at: fay@brightskycareercoaching.co.uk.

Enjoyed This Episode? Don’t Miss the Next One!

Be notified each time a new episode of HR Coffee Time is released and get access to other free career tips, tools and resources by signing up to receive the free weekly HR Coffee Time email.

Transcript
Fay Wallis:

Welcome to this episode of HR Coffee Time. It’s wonderful to have you here. I’m your host Fay Wallis, career coach and the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching, where our mission is to help HR and people professionals have successful and fulfilling careers without working themselves into the ground. This week’s episode is the second part of a two part series about changing career to work in HR. The episodes are a little different to normal, because usually the topics for the podcast are aimed at people who already worked in HR. But I’ve been contacted by so many people for advice over the past couple of years, asking how they can change career to work in HR. But I really thought it was about time I created these episodes to help. So if you’re a regular listener to the show, and already have an established HR career, I still hope that you’ll enjoy hearing the career stories that are coming up.

Fay Wallis:

If you’re new to the show, and listening to these two episodes, because you’d like to change career to work in HR, I really hope that their episodes are going to help you. Seven HR coffee time listeners kindly responded to an email from me to say that they’d be happy to share their career change stories. Last week, you met three of them. This week, they were about to meet four more; Charlotte Treverton-Jones, Daniel Moczynski, Natalie Saunders and Rachel White. They all come from different career backgrounds. And they talk us through how they made the jump to work in HR, what they enjoy most about their HR careers. And also they touch on the challenges that their HR careers have brought.

Fay Wallis:

The first person you’re about to meet is Charlotte Treverton-Jones. Charlotte is an HR business partner. And she works for a global manufacturing company, which has approximately 300 employees. Here’s her story of how she changed career to work in HR.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

So I spent 15 years as an Executive Assistant before moving into what I’d call a pure HR role. I did the thing of leaving school, going to university, doing what was expected and realising actually, this is not what I wanted to do at all. And really enjoyed organising and diary management. So moved into that type of career, absolutely loved it, and spent that time working across a few different industries in wealth management, local government education. And then the most recent and probably the most exciting one was working in professional rugby, that was a very much a whirlwind. So that was what I did before I moved into that pure HR role.

Fay Wallis:

And I bet you’ve got some great stories from your time of working in professional rugby. But I won’t ask you for them all now – don’t worry. So having had your EA career, and then deciding to move into an HR role; how did you make the change?

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

So the final two roles I’d had as an Exec Assistant in education and in rugby had been pretty hybrid that had been that mix of EA and some HR as well. And I really enjoyed the HR aspects, and I was spending more and more time doing them. And so I approached my employer, the rugby club at the time and said, I’m getting lots of experience, but not matching that with any qualifications, would you be prepared to support me? Put a bit of a document together for them gave a presentation, and yes they approved it. So I started my level five, did that in a fast track way and got that completed, and then looked to move into an HR role.

Fay Wallis:

It’s really interesting to hear how many people are mentioning the fact that they studied for the qualification. I love the fact that you put a whole presentation together for your company to try and convince them to fund that training, what a wonderful thing to have done. And when it comes to actually then making the leap. So you had managed to secure some HR experience in your EA role. You had got a CIPD qualification – how did you then actually go about finding the role that you’re in now?

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I’d concluded the qualification. And unfortunately at that point, my role at the rugby club had come to an end and a new group of people had come in and very often in sport, they like to move everybody else out. And so I really spent time on Indeed and on LinkedIn, looking at how roles were described looking at job descriptions. And it became quite clear to me that although I’d been operating at an advisory level in my previous two roles, the likelihood of me moving into an HR environment at that level. I probably wasn’t going to be successful in doing that because just the way in which the job descriptions were were worded, I thought I’m not certain. Perhaps that was me holding myself I’m back? I’m not sure. But when I got my role at the company where I am now, I actually started out as a HR Administrator. So I went in at a more administrative junior level, but found that simply through hard work and showing I was capable, within six months, I’d become an HR Advisor.

Fay Wallis:

That’s great to hear, well, congratulations on such a fast promotion. And now that you’ve made the change, and you’re in your HR role, it would be great to hear what you like most about working in HR.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

What do I like most? There’s just lots of things that I like, I think er, can I have two?

Fay Wallis:

Absolutely.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I’d say the variety, I tend to plan my days, I use Outlook really effectively. But I love the fact that some days I’ll come in and that plan will work. Other days I’ll come in and that plan, yeah, I won’t see that plan for two months, because something else will have happened and other priorities will have changed. And I love that, I love how unpredictable HR can be. The second thing I would say that I love about HR is people. I don’t think you can be in HR and enjoy it if you don’t like people. They are; well, we are fascinating and frustrating and amazing. And I’m just really curious about how people respond in different situations and what motivates them. I think that’s a really, really interesting part of the role.

Fay Wallis:

What are the challenges that you hadn’t anticipated?

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I think the biggest challenge I hadn’t anticipated is how emotionally draining it can be. And I think you have to be really aware of when that emotional tank and that resilience is is becoming drained. You need to know when to take a holiday. In our team that I work in – I work with a team of another two colleagues who are fantastic. And we will say to one another, you have compassion fatigue, you need to take a break. So it’s being aware of what can top up that emotional tank. And making sure it happens for yourself as well.

Fay Wallis:

It’s so important. And I find it’s very easy to put yourself to the bottom of the list when you’re working in HR, because you’re so busy looking after everyone else. So it’s fabulous to hear that you’re in such a supportive team and you all look out for each other like that.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

Definitely. I mean, I consider myself really fortunate the team that I’m part of, but you’re right there, Fay, I think if you allow yourself to become drained, and you keep putting yourself to the bottom of that pile, you’ll either burn out; well, you will burn out ultimately. But also, I don’t think you’ll actually be able to do your job very well. And you won’t enjoy it.

Fay Wallis:

And for my final question for you, Charlotte, it would be great to hear what advice you would give to anyone listening today who was thinking of changing career to work in HR,

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I think there’s a few things I’d say. Really make sure you understand why you want to move into HR. At the company I work for we have we made the offer to employees to come in, spend time in other departments to see if you want to move around. And we had a colleague come because she thought HR was being sympathetic and drinking lots of tea. I’d like to drink a lot more tea than I do. But I very often don’t have the chance to.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

So really understand what – why you want to move into HR and what HR is about. I believe HR is about achieving the business goals through its people and providing good work. That’s what matters. That’s what really, you know, infuses me and makes me come to work each day. The second thing I would say is do your research. Get your qualification – your CIPD qualifications, but stay up to date, stay current, keep up to date with employment law, attend podcasts, listen to your podcast Fay because that’s helpful. But listen to a range of different sources, read People Management, and stay current and stay curious because that’s how you, I think how you really perform well in HR.

Fay Wallis:

Now let’s move on to meet Daniel Moczynski. He’s going to start off by explaining what kind of HR role he has.

Daniel Moczynski:

I’m here as an Employee Engagement advisor for NWH Group based on Dalkeith in Scotland. My role is a bit different from a traditional HR role. It’s evolving every day really. Sometimes I’m based in headquarters, and some other days I’m based in different sites across Scotland and North England meeting and greeting employees. Supporting them on their journey. It’s not just a nine to five job. It’s not only give advice regarding some employee relations, but I’m also a partner for people at all levels. A big part of my job is to create the link between employees and business needs. So what I do – I’m partnering with the key leaders of the business and leading on strategic level; looking into employee value proposition and Talent Management. But at the same time, maintaining a connection with all employees on the floor is very important to me. So there is no problem if there is an employee who wants to see me in Newcastle or Dumfries at five o’clock in the morning, you know, Daniel will be there. So it’s a very hands on role.

Fay Wallis:

Fantastic. Well, thank you for sharing a little bit; well, a lot about what it is that you’re doing. And the reason that you’re here today to talk to us is about your career change, because you had a different career before you started working in HR. Would you be happy to tell us what it was that you were doing before your HR career?

Daniel Moczynski:

Okay, so again, me working in retail and working in hospitality before I’ve done the various leadership roles. And again, all the leadership role was really, I was always passionate while I was doing this roles about people, you know, and people was always, you know, the heart of any business, you know, the people operations. So, while I was doing this, lots of leadership roles, I, you know, as I said, earlier, I start studying in university, then I went to do my CIPD level seven. And with this, I will start looking outside of Tesco because I wanted to work in a different industry. So LinkedIn was absolutely great start for me to look in for the different job search, but also being extremely active on LinkedIn helping as well, because lots of potential employers contacted me and asked if I would like to join them. And you know, that’s really how I end up and and they liked what I was doing before, and they see potential in me to doing something bigger, in this industry, so that did help me.

Fay Wallis:

That’s so interesting to hear. I’m sure that for lots of people listening, it’s going to be a great tip for them. Because I know for anyone who’s not actively on LinkedIn, they don’t always necessarily realise just how incredibly powerful it can be. So in your LinkedIn profile, did you actually write that you were looking to move into an HR role?

Daniel Moczynski:

Well, to be fair, I didn’t cause again, my previous role in the leadership, they were part of the HR because the jobs were more combined, overall. So I didn’t to be fair, I was extremely active in terms of connecting with people; networking, you know, to be fair, this is how you and I, we kind of met as well, in the virtual world. And I think this is the future. So I was never ever into chasing for a job, if that makes sense. I was more into, you know, looking, you know, how can I add value in a different industry because I don’t want a job just to tick the box, I want a job, that’s gonna make a difference. And definitely the job I’m in right now I do feel like I’m making a difference.

Fay Wallis:

It is so good to hear that you really managed to get LinkedIn working for you by doing all of that active networking. I know it’s something that can feel a bit daunting to people. What kind of networking were you doing? So, who were you trying to connect with? And how were you adding value?

Daniel Moczynski:

So pretty much what I’ve done and this is how I started my LinkedIn journey. I’ve searched for this jobs where I see myself in the future like HRBP, or you know, any jobs with engagement. That’s something that’s a broad from my leadership experience. I was very good at it. And I could see how can I transfer them into a typical HR role? So I did have a bit of a random people. And I’ve emailed them and said, “Look, would you mind if we networking if we grab a coffee virtually?” And as much as that sounds a wee bit cheesy, does work because people are there, they want to help you they want to see and you know, grow. And there’s again, a lot of things, I can help other people. So I’m sure you all heard about mentoring, and also the first mentoring when I’m helping other people seeing things from my eyes. And that was also very beneficial for both parties, you know. So, So I cannot stress enough how important this is this, in the new age networking that definitely.

Fay Wallis:

I feel like I should have met you a couple of years ago, Daniel, when I created my LinkedIn course. I think if I had you on video, above it, talking about it, it would help people really realise just how valuable LinkedIn is. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And for anyone who’s interested, I can put a link to the LinkedIn course in the show notes as well. I hadn’t known that about how active you’d been on LinkedIn, even though we’d had a chat before we recorded the podcast together today. So it’s fascinating to hear that. And so for anyone listening who’s thinking, Oh, Daniel, so inspiring. That’s it. I’m going to start really using LinkedIn and looking into doing an HR qualification. I’m sure they’d also love to hear what the reality is now that you’re in your HR role. So, what are some of the things that you like the most about working in HR? And what are the challenges that you hadn’t anticipated?

Daniel Moczynski:

Okay. So the things I like the most – well, I like being a part of the business that’s for sure being part of the whole employee lifecycle. From the moment the employee coming in to journey with us, the moment they leave is very important. Being involved in all the strategic planning and me a HR having a space at the table, I think that’s very, very important. So I did mention earlier, this is no typical nine to five office role as used to be, you know, the HR evolve, become a more partnering, and I believe this is a great opportunity where I am right now to evolve with this. HR is not any more, this corner office, everyone is scared of, you know, HR is part of the business and definitely, you know, can add value. And I love this fact about it.

Fay Wallis:

Brilliant. So they’re all the things that you really like about working in HR. What are some of the challenges that maybe you hadn’t expected to be facing?

Daniel Moczynski:

Well, when changing to a different industry, it takes time to understand that and I think that’s very, very important. I guess, while you are working for one industry, like I work for Retail for 15 years, a lot of the time, you can take this for granted the knowledge and skills that you have, that you build over the time, you know, you know, you don’t even think of them, you have them with you. But if you start a new journey in a new industry, so within NWH this is a different industry than retail. Again, it’s very important to give yourself a time to understand the business, understand acumen, and make sure you you know, your boss gives you this time to digest this different challenges and different opportunity. So this you know, that’s the one thing I would always advise people to just when you’re starting to work in HR in any new industry, new job, make sure you give yourself time to make sure you understand everything.

Fay Wallis:

Well, that brings me to my final question for today, Daniel, which is what advice would you give to anyone listening who is thinking of changing career to work in HR?

Daniel Moczynski:

Well, go for it as simple as this, go for it right. And however, remember to invest in yourself thinking of education, courses, workshops, listening podcasts, you know, everyone with the same amount of time on their hands. So just thinking wisely, how are you going to use this time to benefit you in the future, right, do not underestimate what else you can bring to the table to the HR desk, because you’ve got lots of live experience from your previous jobs, previous skills, which are which are easily transferable. So leadership skills from other industry can give you a good foundation yeah. Yet, I think it’s important to have a good level of understanding of how the function understand the business acumen, I cannot stress how important this is.

Daniel Moczynski:

So I have found that when giving advice or supporting others is nothing more beneficial when using your life examples saying when I was a manager, I’ve done this and I’ve done that, again, if you always been an HR office, sometimes you never actually experienced being part of disciplinary meeting, you only knew the process from the checklist. I mean, this experience when it’s silent in the room, you know, you have to ask the questions, you know, this experience is you know, you cannot learn this, you just have to experience this, then you can coach others. I think that’s great.

Fay Wallis:

Next, it’s time to hear from Natalie Saunders, who moved from being an employment lawyer into a series of senior level HR roles before recently setting up her own HR consultancy firm Morpho Advisory.

Natalie Saunders:

The first HR role that I did was for a building society. And I joined their senior people leadership team, in a job that I didn’t really understand in a sector I’d never worked in before. But it just sounded really interesting. So the job title was Head of People Risk and I thought, well, goodness, I have no idea what, what is involved in that. But when I read the job description, it spoke to a lot of my past experience. And I thought I had transferable skills that would work. And so it came to pass I’d, I managed to secure myself that opportunity. And it was brilliant. One of the things I loved about it was the purpose led nature of building societies.

Natalie Saunders:

So building societies are owned by their customers, by their members. So the purpose of the building society is not to go out and make loads of money and then pay it back to shareholders by way of dividends. It’s how to enable people to get a foot on the housing ladder and how to deliver value to members through savings rates, for example. And that for me, really worked because purpose matters a lot to me my work so so that was a role I really enjoyed. And then subsequent to that I went on to do an HR Director role in higher education. And again, I’m a Leeds girl born and bred, the institution I worked for is in Leeds. And it’s one I felt a huge affinity for. In fact, I learned to swim in the swimming pool that that particular university has, and I felt a really strong connection to it and sense of place. And I loved the work that we did. We had a big student body so at the time, it was around 24,000 students, and it was the idea of being able to support young people to follow their dreams and aspirations and make that make that come alive.

Fay Wallis:

Your passion and enjoyment for those roles are absolutely shining through as you’re talking, which I can imagine is going to leave everyone listening wondering, ‘what did Natalie do before her HR career then?’ So would you like to tell us what you did before and then how you made the change to working in HR.

Natalie Saunders:

I started out as a lawyer. And I think there’s a little bit of you can take the girl out of the law, but not the law out of the girl. Because I think that that is a background and set of skills and experience that have continued to serve me really well subsequent to my move into HR.

Fay Wallis:

Okay, so lawyer to HR professional, the fact that you were an employment lawyer shows that you have got lots of transferable skills, but still, what was it that made you decide to make the move? And how did you make it?

Natalie Saunders:

I’d got to a point in my legal career where I probably broadly done most of the sorts of things I was ever likely to do. So there were some areas of employment law that I didn’t have loads of experience of, and probably wasn’t ever going to – equal pay, for example, that tends to be exceptionally specialist, people can make an entire career out of being an expert in in equal pay. So that aside, I’d got to a point where it felt a bit routine. So I’d, I’d, I’d moved around a bit to experience different environments. So I’d gone from a very large, what’s described as a magic circle law firm in London, to smaller firms up here in Leeds, and then ultimately, I’d, I’d founded my own employment law business.

Natalie Saunders:

So I did that in the height of the last recession, when my son was six months, thinking, Oh, I’ll set up a lifestyle business, it’ll be fine. And I’ll I’ll be able to manage the childcare around around this legal business. And it was me a laptop in my dining room in the early days. And it’s it took off in ways I just didn’t really expect I was, I was really lucky. And I you know, with before long, I employed six people, we had premises, the firm built a really strong reputation for not just technical expertise, which is, of course important, but actually the thing I was proud to solve was the client service bit, which we did really well. And I took huge pride in what we did in the firm. And again, one of my lifelong mottos was shaped through my experience of having my own business, which was ‘Life’s too short to be miserable at work’.

Natalie Saunders:

And that really was our motto, which informed how we worked together as a team internally, but also the work that we did with our clients. So we advised a lot of individuals, supported them to navigate what potentially were quite turbulent times in their career. So not just providing legal advice, but providing coaching support, and a strategy to help them get from where they were to somewhere much more positive and empowering for them. And I took a lot away from doing that work, I really valued doing it. All that said, I think had got to a point where I wasn’t learning and developing and growing any more. And I was worried that if that was all I was going to do for the rest of my working life, I might actually ultimately end up feeling a bit frustrated, and maybe even a bit bored. So it was that element of a stretch and growth and learning something new, which informed my decision to take the transferable skills I had and move out of employment law practice and into HR.

Fay Wallis:

So how did you make the leap?

Natalie Saunders:

I wish I had one of those really beautifully constructed answers to this question, which would make it sound like some, you know, really well thought through decision, and I’d had this plan that I intended to execute all along. You know what it was a little bit of luck, and probably more than a dose of boldness on my part. So if you think about the role, it was a brand new role in a sector I’d never worked in, I’d never worked in HR. And I saw the opportunity and I thought I think I can make this work. So I think I am possibly the opposite of what a lot of women are described as being in the in the workplace, which is when it comes to applying for roles, women would typically only apply if they thought they could match a significant number of the criteria. Maybe not necessarily absolutely every box ticked but but most of them, and I wasn’t sure I could tick half of them really, but I did know that I had good experience that I’m quick to learn. And that I would chuck my all at it, that I would be I would work really hard to make it work and perhaps that’s what came through.

Natalie Saunders:

Plus the fact that what I was being asked to do in the first instance was to take a really complex set of new regulations. And make that digestible and help it land in a really culturally congruent way in the organisation. I think because I had this legal background, I was able to describe how in the past I’ve taken complex legal legal regulatory requirements, and made sense of those and simplified them. And I think that probably was a tick in the box in terms of my application, because that gave some confidence that this is somebody that can digest a whole load of stuff, and then turn something out at the other end, which is much more simple and straightforward and is readily understood. And then actually, after a short while, having embedded all that regulatory change, I then grew my area of responsibility and became responsible for the employee relations team and the case management team, which again, that all sat super comfortably with my past experience as an employment lawyer. But it was, I just spotted an opportunity. And so why not? Why wouldn’t it be me, it could be me, it could not be need me. But if I don’t try, I won’t know.

Fay Wallis:

I love the fact that you were so bold and determined and put yourself forward even though you couldn’t tick every single box, because hopefully, that will really inspire someone listening who has seen the perfect role, and may have been holding themselves back from applying because they’re worried they don’t tick all those boxes. And now we’ve learned how you made the switch, it would be great to hear what the best bits and maybe the unexpected bits are of working in HR. So what have you really liked, and what have some of the challenges been?

Natalie Saunders:

If you think back to the motto that I described, in terms of life’s too short to be miserable at work, I think your capacity as an HR professional, to make a difference to the day to day lived experience of people that work in your organisation is huge. And that is a responsibility that I take really seriously. And which people who are that way inclined, will absolutely love because you can really truly make somebody’s experience at work a lot better if you if you do your job really well. And you demonstrate compassion for the people that work in the organisation. And you take a values led approach to how you shape policies, for example, and how you create a cohort of really emotionally intelligent servant leadership, lead managers and leaders in an organisation and your ability to influence that day to day experience, I think is really important and work that I I believe in.

Natalie Saunders:

Because I do think life’s too short to be miserable at work, we spend more time at work than we do with the people we choose to marry and the children we choose to have. So if you’re having a rough time at work, it permeates all your day to day existence. And so I think your ability to make the workplace better, is is huge. And that’s something that I think, I think that’s probably why a lot of people go into HR, because they want to be that positive difference in terms of the things that are more challenging. It’s interesting if you think about progression out of senior HR roles into more senior roles, so for example, the trajectory into chief exec roles of HR people, which is to say, you really rarely see that, and I find that quite interesting. And I wonder whether that is because traditionally HR may have been seen as a slightly underpowered area of the business and didn’t perhaps get the recognition that it deserved for the influence that it could have.

Natalie Saunders:

Now, I think some of that may have changed through COVID. Because HR teams were so pivotal to absorbing loads of change and moving really swiftly in response to a backdrop that was just changing all the time. I think maybe that’s done something to rehabilitate the reputation of HR as a profession. So that, yeah, I do think some people think it’s a tea and tissues job, which is not what I believe HR to be at all, but I do believe there was that perception. I do think COVID has maybe in some instances changed people’s minds, but not as much as I would like. So I think what I would love to see for the profession is far more Chief People officers being appointed into chief exec roles. I do know one great example of this actually, and that was someone who moved out of a senior HR role into a CEO role. And I was so impressed by the distinctive nature of that achievement. I immediately asked that individual to be my mentor because I thought crumbs. He must be absolutely doing something right because he has established his credibility and gravity task outside of HR in a way that people don’t always get an opportunity to do. So I thought there was something really special about what he’d done.

Fay Wallis:

Picking up on what you’ve said about HR having, in the past sometimes been seen as a real tea and tissues function. But the impact of COVID helping so many people realise that there is so much more to it than that, and it can be so incredibly impactful. I completely agree. It’s funny how everything tends to have an upside. So the horrendous downside of having been through the pandemic, and I suppose we’re still in it silently, is that it has really given HR that opportunity to shine and, and prove its worth. So let’s hope that for the future, it is going to be the case that people working within HR are considered and are taken very seriously for those really senior roles. And we start to see them heading up organisations. That’s an exciting future to look forward to, I think, Natalie, could we finish on a piece of advice that you can offer anyone listening who was thinking of changing career to work in HR?

Natalie Saunders:

My best piece of advice to anyone that’s thinking about that sort of career move is, have a go, be brave. Don’t wait until that magical moment, which may never happen, where you think you will take every single, essential and desirable requirement on a job description. Why not try it, try it today, give it a go. See, see how that isn’t, it might be that you need to go through a number of processes until you manage to hone your approach to your application, or refine how you present yourself interview. But what’s the worst that can happen, you might find that you make a move into a career that you find really deeply fulfilling and meaningful. And what a huge privilege that is to be able to do work from which you derive pleasure and meaning. I mean, not every day is going to be like that I’m not, I’m not that much of a Pollyanna. But if you can have a job where in the main, you think you’re making a positive difference, and that impact is felt in a in a really good way through your organisation. That’s job satisfaction for me. And I would want that for everyone.

Fay Wallis:

Finally, you’re going to hear from Rachel White, we had some Wi Fi issues when recording this interview. So I’m afraid the audio isn’t quite as good as normal. But hopefully, it’s still good enough for you to be able to enjoy listening to what Rachel has to say, Rachel swapped her career as PA to the CEO of a charity to start her HR career. And after starting off working in a private company, she now works as an HR advisor for a county council. She starts her interview by explaining what it was that she did before her career change.

Rachel White:

I was the PA for the CEO. So it was a lot of the administrative side of things. But luckily, I helped a lot with the fundraising as well as it was because it was a small charity kind of helped and did a little bit of everything, which was lovely. It really was super interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But I always liked HR, and I didn’t really know how to get my foot into it. And there wasn’t a capacity already that well, we say the need there was the need, but just the size couldn’t quite quantify having the whole HR department in the charity as it was there. And it’s obviously grown a lot more since I was always there overseeing everything. And I had a nice insight into everything. And that’s what kind of made me realise all. Do you know what there is a real need for a lot a lot more structured HR.

Fay Wallis:

So once you had decided that HR was going to be the career for you, how did you go about making the change?

Rachel White:

I ended up going on maternity leave maternity break, and it was from then I thought you know what I’ve got this time I’m going to utilise it. So I then signed up and did my CIPD level three while I was pregnant. And then I did my level five while I was off for the first year. So it kind of gave me a little bit of a kickstart because I thought you know what I’ve got this time, I’ve got more time to kind of enjoy the studying process as well. So I did that. And I’m really glad I did it.

Fay Wallis:

I think it was the best thing. It sounds as if doing that qualification was a real help at then changing career?

Rachel White:

Yes, absolutely. I think it’s been fundamental, I think, nowadays, especially when you’re going even for entry level HR roles, they really do want. It’s been fundamental immune, it’s having that kind of base of knowledge and understanding and just being able to kind of hit hit the ground running as such.

Fay Wallis:

And how did you actually go about getting your first job in HR?

Rachel White:

It was a recruitment company, thankfully. So yep, I kind of reached out to them. They said oh, we’ve got a couple of roles. And to be honest, I was a little bit cautious because I hadn’t worked for a council before I’d always been private sector and obviously the HR is very, very different in their approach. So I was a bit apprehensive but it just sounds so lovely. And it was very the role that I’m in because obviously with the council it’s so big because it’s a county council we cover you know, all of West Sussex I thought I’m going to do it, it’s going to be a change of change of direction, because I thought it’s a good way to expand my knowledge base there, certainly in employee relations. So I went for it.

Fay Wallis:

What exactly is it that you like the most about working in HR in your current role?

Rachel White:

I love that, you know, we work with, obviously, our policy procedures, but actually work with the mission missions and values specific specifically pardon our county council, but it is really about empowering and trusting the employees and using performance management not as a tool to manage out which I know, in private sector, I know, for my experience, that very much was the case, it’s really up, right, we’ve got all these resources, especially in terms of neurodiversity. That’s been one of our, you know, really big aims, it’s how can we empower you? How can we support you, and it is really, the plans are so supportive, and the end goal, really, truly is to get, you know, to get them where they need to be. And I think, for myself, in particular, coming on, it was quite a surprise, just how actually, HR was quite nurturing, they’re quite nurturing within the council, and they really are trying to get the most out of everybody, you know, as as a workforce.

Rachel White:

Whereas in the past, in private, it’s been a quieter, right, they’re not performing, this is a quick way to, you know, quick fix for the company as such. So I think for me that that was it, you know, because, you know, when I first joined the Council, and you looked at all the policies and procedures, and my goodness, they’ve got so many policies and guidance, notes and flowcharts. At first, it was a little bit overwhelming, and I’ve never been to, you know, sickness absence policy that’s got seven or eight documents, and then another eight supporting guidance documents, but it just shows the nature of actually the purpose there. It’s really right, this is all the different ways you can help and support somebody, you know, if they’re struggling, you know, how can we get them in, whether it’s redeployment, whether it’s, there’s just so many different avenues? Actually, we didn’t really explore when I was in private sector. And so for me coming over, it was that it was that switch to the holistic approach that took the longest not that I you know, enjoy doing the cutthroat side of things. It really was different.

Rachel White:

So, you know, when you look at a case, actually, it’s really dissecting each person have, right, every aspect of right water, what do they need? How can we support them, not just a quick basis of right, you’re not performing? Okay. Really unpicking it, and looking at all the different nuances around them and see what how can we help you? What is the root cause? And I think from for myself, we didn’t ever do that, in private, we never really got to the root cause with a person, especially, you know, whether it’s sickness and using your occupational health, and now primarily with the neurodiversity and reasonable adjustments, the things we’re looking into with the council, like the assessments and using companies that really do specialised assessments, you know, especially work based assessments to see how we can best support people isn’t something I’d never really done in a private. So for me, it was just a real mind boggler in a wonderful way, but it was a mind boggling of wow, they do all this. And actually, that’s what I love, because I love helping people. So actually, HR for me in the council, I actually feel like I’m making, you know, an impact. The HR presence is a positive one.

Fay Wallis:

I always feel bad asking you the next question, which is, what are the challenges you hadn’t anticipated? So I suppose I’m not saying directly, what are the bad bits? But in addition to the positives, what are the challenges that you hadn’t necessarily seen coming?

Rachel White:

I mean, it’s still actually, for me, it’s the reputation of HR and even in a public sector, it’s kind of getting, getting that presence and working with them. I mean, for me, specifically, its performance management is still, although the council was absolutely very holistic and nurturing, it still encouraging the managers to come to us before there’s a problem. That’s what I found, I think no matter where it is, there is still this reputation with HR of you know, the policies, procedures, or working against the employees rather than working with and I think you get that no matter where you are. And I know specifically with performance management or absence, it’s kind of encouraging managers to, to come to us and say someone’s pulling their butt off with a surgery, getting the managers to say, okay, you know, what, they have been off for a month, we do need to start the sickness process, but not see it as a negative.

Rachel White:

Whereas before, we still, you know, have the situation of, they’ll tell us a month after they’d been off because they don’t want to start the process, because they still, you know, they still view it as Oh, I don’t want to enter them into this form or sickness process, rather than actually, what we’re doing as soon as they need an occupational health. Do they need any workplace assessments? Do they need a phase return? Is there any way we can support them so that when they do feel ready to return to work, they you know, they’re not trepidatious about it, they’re excited to come back to work, it’s still really hard to kind of get everybody on board with that.

Fay Wallis:

Well, it sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job though. So hopefully that is the challenge that is going to be one that you can overcome in helping everyone realise that you really are there to help. Thank you. I will try. I just wanted to finish off with one last question if that’s okay. What which is what advice would you give to anyone listening who is thinking of changing career to work in HR?

Rachel White:

It’s never a right time to do I think definitely look into COPD for me. It was a game changer. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it also, from studying it, I found out the areas that I liked, like with employee relations, you know, when you study do the assessments, you kind of it really specifically piqued my interest as I thought, You know what, I like this. And actually I tailored, when I did make my jump into HR, specific roles around that. I thought, You know what this is where I’m gonna go.

Fay Wallis:

It’s really reassuring to hear how easy it sounds like the switch was for you. Because I know that for a lot of people, the fear holding them back from changing career is that they just won’t be able to get a new role in a completely different kind of job.

Rachel White:

I had to obviously when I did my switch, I had to accept, you know what, I’ve just got my CIPD, I have absolutely no HR experience. So I was facing that conundrum for I’ve got zero zip, but I do have law, I looked at kind of like how can I promote myself utilising my skill set and say, look, I can do this, but I did go into entry level, I went into HR admin with the perspective of this is where I want to be that I kind of set myself a timescale and that’s why when I got in touch with the recruitment companies, I said, Look, this is where I want to be in the end this this is this my timescale? How am I going to get there, and they said, right, realistically need to go through, you know, HR opposite, you know, role, it’s just kind of mapping out the path, so that it doesn’t look so daunting.

Rachel White:

There’s a lot of, you know, hate my HR recruitment companies that were really great. And they were really good at picking out my previous skills and say, actually, you know, this is well suited to the HR admin role. Because you know, you’re done at this, you’re good at research, you’re good at admin, you’re good at this. And I said, Well, I want to be an HR officer. Okay, right. Once you’re in there, make it very clear at the interview, that is where you want to be. And I think it’s all about kind of having that map out and plan.

Fay Wallis:

And is that what happened? So did you go in as an HR admin and then work your way up?

Rachel White:

I did. I did an HR admin but I stayed there for about a year and a half. And for me, for myself, I want to become a HR business partner, which is why I love working in the council because the exposure to you know, to restructures to everything is wonderful for me and my development, to ramp up.

Transcript
Fay Wallis:

Welcome to this episode of HR Coffee Time. It's wonderful to have you here. I'm your host Fay Wallis, career coach and the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching, where our mission is to help HR and people professionals have successful and fulfilling careers without working themselves into the ground. This week's episode is the second part of a two part series about changing career to work in HR. The episodes are a little different to normal, because usually the topics for the podcast are aimed at people who already worked in HR. But I've been contacted by so many people for advice over the past couple of years, asking how they can change career to work in HR. But I really thought it was about time I created these episodes to help. So if you're a regular listener to the show, and already have an established HR career, I still hope that you'll enjoy hearing the career stories that are coming up.

Fay Wallis:

If you're new to the show, and listening to these two episodes, because you'd like to change career to work in HR, I really hope that their episodes are going to help you. Seven HR coffee time listeners kindly responded to an email from me to say that they'd be happy to share their career change stories. Last week, you met three of them. This week, they were about to meet four more; Charlotte Treverton-Jones, Daniel Moczynski, Natalie Saunders and Rachel White. They all come from different career backgrounds. And they talk us through how they made the jump to work in HR, what they enjoy most about their HR careers. And also they touch on the challenges that their HR careers have brought.

Fay Wallis:

The first person you're about to meet is Charlotte Treverton-Jones. Charlotte is an HR business partner. And she works for a global manufacturing company, which has approximately 300 employees. Here's her story of how she changed career to work in HR.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

So I spent 15 years as an Executive Assistant before moving into what I'd call a pure HR role. I did the thing of leaving school, going to university, doing what was expected and realising actually, this is not what I wanted to do at all. And really enjoyed organising and diary management. So moved into that type of career, absolutely loved it, and spent that time working across a few different industries in wealth management, local government education. And then the most recent and probably the most exciting one was working in professional rugby, that was a very much a whirlwind. So that was what I did before I moved into that pure HR role.

Fay Wallis:

And I bet you've got some great stories from your time of working in professional rugby. But I won't ask you for them all now - don't worry. So having had your EA career, and then deciding to move into an HR role; how did you make the change?

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

So the final two roles I'd had as an Exec Assistant in education and in rugby had been pretty hybrid that had been that mix of EA and some HR as well. And I really enjoyed the HR aspects, and I was spending more and more time doing them. And so I approached my employer, the rugby club at the time and said, I'm getting lots of experience, but not matching that with any qualifications, would you be prepared to support me? Put a bit of a document together for them gave a presentation, and yes they approved it. So I started my level five, did that in a fast track way and got that completed, and then looked to move into an HR role.

Fay Wallis:

It's really interesting to hear how many people are mentioning the fact that they studied for the qualification. I love the fact that you put a whole presentation together for your company to try and convince them to fund that training, what a wonderful thing to have done. And when it comes to actually then making the leap. So you had managed to secure some HR experience in your EA role. You had got a CIPD qualification - how did you then actually go about finding the role that you're in now?

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I'd concluded the qualification. And unfortunately at that point, my role at the rugby club had come to an end and a new group of people had come in and very often in sport, they like to move everybody else out. And so I really spent time on Indeed and on LinkedIn, looking at how roles were described looking at job descriptions. And it became quite clear to me that although I'd been operating at an advisory level in my previous two roles, the likelihood of me moving into an HR environment at that level. I probably wasn't going to be successful in doing that because just the way in which the job descriptions were were worded, I thought I'm not certain. Perhaps that was me holding myself I'm back? I'm not sure. But when I got my role at the company where I am now, I actually started out as a HR Administrator. So I went in at a more administrative junior level, but found that simply through hard work and showing I was capable, within six months, I'd become an HR Advisor.

Fay Wallis:

That's great to hear, well, congratulations on such a fast promotion. And now that you've made the change, and you're in your HR role, it would be great to hear what you like most about working in HR.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

What do I like most? There's just lots of things that I like, I think er, can I have two?

Fay Wallis:

Absolutely.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I'd say the variety, I tend to plan my days, I use Outlook really effectively. But I love the fact that some days I'll come in and that plan will work. Other days I'll come in and that plan, yeah, I won't see that plan for two months, because something else will have happened and other priorities will have changed. And I love that, I love how unpredictable HR can be. The second thing I would say that I love about HR is people. I don't think you can be in HR and enjoy it if you don't like people. They are; well, we are fascinating and frustrating and amazing. And I'm just really curious about how people respond in different situations and what motivates them. I think that's a really, really interesting part of the role.

Fay Wallis:

What are the challenges that you hadn't anticipated?

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I think the biggest challenge I hadn't anticipated is how emotionally draining it can be. And I think you have to be really aware of when that emotional tank and that resilience is is becoming drained. You need to know when to take a holiday. In our team that I work in - I work with a team of another two colleagues who are fantastic. And we will say to one another, you have compassion fatigue, you need to take a break. So it's being aware of what can top up that emotional tank. And making sure it happens for yourself as well.

Fay Wallis:

It's so important. And I find it's very easy to put yourself to the bottom of the list when you're working in HR, because you're so busy looking after everyone else. So it's fabulous to hear that you're in such a supportive team and you all look out for each other like that.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

Definitely. I mean, I consider myself really fortunate the team that I'm part of, but you're right there, Fay, I think if you allow yourself to become drained, and you keep putting yourself to the bottom of that pile, you'll either burn out; well, you will burn out ultimately. But also, I don't think you'll actually be able to do your job very well. And you won't enjoy it.

Fay Wallis:

And for my final question for you, Charlotte, it would be great to hear what advice you would give to anyone listening today who was thinking of changing career to work in HR,

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

I think there's a few things I'd say. Really make sure you understand why you want to move into HR. At the company I work for we have we made the offer to employees to come in, spend time in other departments to see if you want to move around. And we had a colleague come because she thought HR was being sympathetic and drinking lots of tea. I'd like to drink a lot more tea than I do. But I very often don't have the chance to.

Charlotte Treverton-Jones:

So really understand what - why you want to move into HR and what HR is about. I believe HR is about achieving the business goals through its people and providing good work. That's what matters. That's what really, you know, infuses me and makes me come to work each day. The second thing I would say is do your research. Get your qualification - your CIPD qualifications, but stay up to date, stay current, keep up to date with employment law, attend podcasts, listen to your podcast Fay because that's helpful. But listen to a range of different sources, read People Management, and stay current and stay curious because that's how you, I think how you really perform well in HR.

Fay Wallis:

Now let's move on to meet Daniel Moczynski. He's going to start off by explaining what kind of HR role he has.

Daniel Moczynski:

I'm here as an Employee Engagement advisor for NWH Group based on Dalkeith in Scotland. My role is a bit different from a traditional HR role. It's evolving every day really. Sometimes I'm based in headquarters, and some other days I'm based in different sites across Scotland and North England meeting and greeting employees. Supporting them on their journey. It's not just a nine to five job. It's not only give advice regarding some employee relations, but I'm also a partner for people at all levels. A big part of my job is to create the link between employees and business needs. So what I do - I'm partnering with the key leaders of the business and leading on strategic level; looking into employee value proposition and Talent Management. But at the same time, maintaining a connection with all employees on the floor is very important to me. So there is no problem if there is an employee who wants to see me in Newcastle or Dumfries at five o'clock in the morning, you know, Daniel will be there. So it's a very hands on role.

Fay Wallis:

Fantastic. Well, thank you for sharing a little bit; well, a lot about what it is that you're doing. And the reason that you're here today to talk to us is about your career change, because you had a different career before you started working in HR. Would you be happy to tell us what it was that you were doing before your HR career?

Daniel Moczynski:

Okay, so again, me working in retail and working in hospitality before I've done the various leadership roles. And again, all the leadership role was really, I was always passionate while I was doing this roles about people, you know, and people was always, you know, the heart of any business, you know, the people operations. So, while I was doing this, lots of leadership roles, I, you know, as I said, earlier, I start studying in university, then I went to do my CIPD level seven. And with this, I will start looking outside of Tesco because I wanted to work in a different industry. So LinkedIn was absolutely great start for me to look in for the different job search, but also being extremely active on LinkedIn helping as well, because lots of potential employers contacted me and asked if I would like to join them. And you know, that's really how I end up and and they liked what I was doing before, and they see potential in me to doing something bigger, in this industry, so that did help me.

Fay Wallis:

That's so interesting to hear. I'm sure that for lots of people listening, it's going to be a great tip for them. Because I know for anyone who's not actively on LinkedIn, they don't always necessarily realise just how incredibly powerful it can be. So in your LinkedIn profile, did you actually write that you were looking to move into an HR role?

Daniel Moczynski:

Well, to be fair, I didn't cause again, my previous role in the leadership, they were part of the HR because the jobs were more combined, overall. So I didn't to be fair, I was extremely active in terms of connecting with people; networking, you know, to be fair, this is how you and I, we kind of met as well, in the virtual world. And I think this is the future. So I was never ever into chasing for a job, if that makes sense. I was more into, you know, looking, you know, how can I add value in a different industry because I don't want a job just to tick the box, I want a job, that's gonna make a difference. And definitely the job I'm in right now I do feel like I'm making a difference.

Fay Wallis:

It is so good to hear that you really managed to get LinkedIn working for you by doing all of that active networking. I know it's something that can feel a bit daunting to people. What kind of networking were you doing? So, who were you trying to connect with? And how were you adding value?

Daniel Moczynski:

So pretty much what I've done and this is how I started my LinkedIn journey. I've searched for this jobs where I see myself in the future like HRBP, or you know, any jobs with engagement. That's something that's a broad from my leadership experience. I was very good at it. And I could see how can I transfer them into a typical HR role? So I did have a bit of a random people. And I've emailed them and said, "Look, would you mind if we networking if we grab a coffee virtually?" And as much as that sounds a wee bit cheesy, does work because people are there, they want to help you they want to see and you know, grow. And there's again, a lot of things, I can help other people. So I'm sure you all heard about mentoring, and also the first mentoring when I'm helping other people seeing things from my eyes. And that was also very beneficial for both parties, you know. So, So I cannot stress enough how important this is this, in the new age networking that definitely.

Fay Wallis:

I feel like I should have met you a couple of years ago, Daniel, when I created my LinkedIn course. I think if I had you on video, above it, talking about it, it would help people really realise just how valuable LinkedIn is. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. And for anyone who's interested, I can put a link to the LinkedIn course in the show notes as well. I hadn't known that about how active you'd been on LinkedIn, even though we'd had a chat before we recorded the podcast together today. So it's fascinating to hear that. And so for anyone listening who's thinking, Oh, Daniel, so inspiring. That's it. I'm going to start really using LinkedIn and looking into doing an HR qualification. I'm sure they'd also love to hear what the reality is now that you're in your HR role. So, what are some of the things that you like the most about working in HR? And what are the challenges that you hadn't anticipated?

Daniel Moczynski:

Okay. So the things I like the most - well, I like being a part of the business that's for sure being part of the whole employee lifecycle. From the moment the employee coming in to journey with us, the moment they leave is very important. Being involved in all the strategic planning and me a HR having a space at the table, I think that's very, very important. So I did mention earlier, this is no typical nine to five office role as used to be, you know, the HR evolve, become a more partnering, and I believe this is a great opportunity where I am right now to evolve with this. HR is not any more, this corner office, everyone is scared of, you know, HR is part of the business and definitely, you know, can add value. And I love this fact about it.

Fay Wallis:

Brilliant. So they're all the things that you really like about working in HR. What are some of the challenges that maybe you hadn't expected to be facing?

Daniel Moczynski:

Well, when changing to a different industry, it takes time to understand that and I think that's very, very important. I guess, while you are working for one industry, like I work for Retail for 15 years, a lot of the time, you can take this for granted the knowledge and skills that you have, that you build over the time, you know, you know, you don't even think of them, you have them with you. But if you start a new journey in a new industry, so within NWH this is a different industry than retail. Again, it's very important to give yourself a time to understand the business, understand acumen, and make sure you you know, your boss gives you this time to digest this different challenges and different opportunity. So this you know, that's the one thing I would always advise people to just when you're starting to work in HR in any new industry, new job, make sure you give yourself time to make sure you understand everything.

Fay Wallis:

Well, that brings me to my final question for today, Daniel, which is what advice would you give to anyone listening who is thinking of changing career to work in HR?

Daniel Moczynski:

Well, go for it as simple as this, go for it right. And however, remember to invest in yourself thinking of education, courses, workshops, listening podcasts, you know, everyone with the same amount of time on their hands. So just thinking wisely, how are you going to use this time to benefit you in the future, right, do not underestimate what else you can bring to the table to the HR desk, because you've got lots of live experience from your previous jobs, previous skills, which are which are easily transferable. So leadership skills from other industry can give you a good foundation yeah. Yet, I think it's important to have a good level of understanding of how the function understand the business acumen, I cannot stress how important this is.

Daniel Moczynski:

So I have found that when giving advice or supporting others is nothing more beneficial when using your life examples saying when I was a manager, I've done this and I've done that, again, if you always been an HR office, sometimes you never actually experienced being part of disciplinary meeting, you only knew the process from the checklist. I mean, this experience when it's silent in the room, you know, you have to ask the questions, you know, this experience is you know, you cannot learn this, you just have to experience this, then you can coach others. I think that's great.

Fay Wallis:

Next, it's time to hear from Natalie Saunders, who moved from being an employment lawyer into a series of senior level HR roles before recently setting up her own HR consultancy firm Morpho Advisory.

Natalie Saunders:

The first HR role that I did was for a building society. And I joined their senior people leadership team, in a job that I didn't really understand in a sector I'd never worked in before. But it just sounded really interesting. So the job title was Head of People Risk and I thought, well, goodness, I have no idea what, what is involved in that. But when I read the job description, it spoke to a lot of my past experience. And I thought I had transferable skills that would work. And so it came to pass I'd, I managed to secure myself that opportunity. And it was brilliant. One of the things I loved about it was the purpose led nature of building societies.

Natalie Saunders:

So building societies are owned by their customers, by their members. So the purpose of the building society is not to go out and make loads of money and then pay it back to shareholders by way of dividends. It's how to enable people to get a foot on the housing ladder and how to deliver value to members through savings rates, for example. And that for me, really worked because purpose matters a lot to me my work so so that was a role I really enjoyed. And then subsequent to that I went on to do an HR Director role in higher education. And again, I'm a Leeds girl born and bred, the institution I worked for is in Leeds. And it's one I felt a huge affinity for. In fact, I learned to swim in the swimming pool that that particular university has, and I felt a really strong connection to it and sense of place. And I loved the work that we did. We had a big student body so at the time, it was around 24,000 students, and it was the idea of being able to support young people to follow their dreams and aspirations and make that make that come alive.

Fay Wallis:

Your passion and enjoyment for those roles are absolutely shining through as you're talking, which I can imagine is going to leave everyone listening wondering, 'what did Natalie do before her HR career then?' So would you like to tell us what you did before and then how you made the change to working in HR.

Natalie Saunders:

I started out as a lawyer. And I think there's a little bit of you can take the girl out of the law, but not the law out of the girl. Because I think that that is a background and set of skills and experience that have continued to serve me really well subsequent to my move into HR.

Fay Wallis:

Okay, so lawyer to HR professional, the fact that you were an employment lawyer shows that you have got lots of transferable skills, but still, what was it that made you decide to make the move? And how did you make it?

Natalie Saunders:

I'd got to a point in my legal career where I probably broadly done most of the sorts of things I was ever likely to do. So there were some areas of employment law that I didn't have loads of experience of, and probably wasn't ever going to - equal pay, for example, that tends to be exceptionally specialist, people can make an entire career out of being an expert in in equal pay. So that aside, I'd got to a point where it felt a bit routine. So I'd, I'd, I'd moved around a bit to experience different environments. So I'd gone from a very large, what's described as a magic circle law firm in London, to smaller firms up here in Leeds, and then ultimately, I'd, I'd founded my own employment law business.

Natalie Saunders:

So I did that in the height of the last recession, when my son was six months, thinking, Oh, I'll set up a lifestyle business, it'll be fine. And I'll I'll be able to manage the childcare around around this legal business. And it was me a laptop in my dining room in the early days. And it's it took off in ways I just didn't really expect I was, I was really lucky. And I you know, with before long, I employed six people, we had premises, the firm built a really strong reputation for not just technical expertise, which is, of course important, but actually the thing I was proud to solve was the client service bit, which we did really well. And I took huge pride in what we did in the firm. And again, one of my lifelong mottos was shaped through my experience of having my own business, which was 'Life's too short to be miserable at work'.

Natalie Saunders:

And that really was our motto, which informed how we worked together as a team internally, but also the work that we did with our clients. So we advised a lot of individuals, supported them to navigate what potentially were quite turbulent times in their career. So not just providing legal advice, but providing coaching support, and a strategy to help them get from where they were to somewhere much more positive and empowering for them. And I took a lot away from doing that work, I really valued doing it. All that said, I think had got to a point where I wasn't learning and developing and growing any more. And I was worried that if that was all I was going to do for the rest of my working life, I might actually ultimately end up feeling a bit frustrated, and maybe even a bit bored. So it was that element of a stretch and growth and learning something new, which informed my decision to take the transferable skills I had and move out of employment law practice and into HR.

Fay Wallis:

So how did you make the leap?

Natalie Saunders:

I wish I had one of those really beautifully constructed answers to this question, which would make it sound like some, you know, really well thought through decision, and I'd had this plan that I intended to execute all along. You know what it was a little bit of luck, and probably more than a dose of boldness on my part. So if you think about the role, it was a brand new role in a sector I'd never worked in, I'd never worked in HR. And I saw the opportunity and I thought I think I can make this work. So I think I am possibly the opposite of what a lot of women are described as being in the in the workplace, which is when it comes to applying for roles, women would typically only apply if they thought they could match a significant number of the criteria. Maybe not necessarily absolutely every box ticked but but most of them, and I wasn't sure I could tick half of them really, but I did know that I had good experience that I'm quick to learn. And that I would chuck my all at it, that I would be I would work really hard to make it work and perhaps that's what came through.

Natalie Saunders:

Plus the fact that what I was being asked to do in the first instance was to take a really complex set of new regulations. And make that digestible and help it land in a really culturally congruent way in the organisation. I think because I had this legal background, I was able to describe how in the past I've taken complex legal legal regulatory requirements, and made sense of those and simplified them. And I think that probably was a tick in the box in terms of my application, because that gave some confidence that this is somebody that can digest a whole load of stuff, and then turn something out at the other end, which is much more simple and straightforward and is readily understood. And then actually, after a short while, having embedded all that regulatory change, I then grew my area of responsibility and became responsible for the employee relations team and the case management team, which again, that all sat super comfortably with my past experience as an employment lawyer. But it was, I just spotted an opportunity. And so why not? Why wouldn't it be me, it could be me, it could not be need me. But if I don't try, I won't know.

Fay Wallis:

I love the fact that you were so bold and determined and put yourself forward even though you couldn't tick every single box, because hopefully, that will really inspire someone listening who has seen the perfect role, and may have been holding themselves back from applying because they're worried they don't tick all those boxes. And now we've learned how you made the switch, it would be great to hear what the best bits and maybe the unexpected bits are of working in HR. So what have you really liked, and what have some of the challenges been?

Natalie Saunders:

If you think back to the motto that I described, in terms of life's too short to be miserable at work, I think your capacity as an HR professional, to make a difference to the day to day lived experience of people that work in your organisation is huge. And that is a responsibility that I take really seriously. And which people who are that way inclined, will absolutely love because you can really truly make somebody's experience at work a lot better if you if you do your job really well. And you demonstrate compassion for the people that work in the organisation. And you take a values led approach to how you shape policies, for example, and how you create a cohort of really emotionally intelligent servant leadership, lead managers and leaders in an organisation and your ability to influence that day to day experience, I think is really important and work that I I believe in.

Natalie Saunders:

Because I do think life's too short to be miserable at work, we spend more time at work than we do with the people we choose to marry and the children we choose to have. So if you're having a rough time at work, it permeates all your day to day existence. And so I think your ability to make the workplace better, is is huge. And that's something that I think, I think that's probably why a lot of people go into HR, because they want to be that positive difference in terms of the things that are more challenging. It's interesting if you think about progression out of senior HR roles into more senior roles, so for example, the trajectory into chief exec roles of HR people, which is to say, you really rarely see that, and I find that quite interesting. And I wonder whether that is because traditionally HR may have been seen as a slightly underpowered area of the business and didn't perhaps get the recognition that it deserved for the influence that it could have.

Natalie Saunders:

Now, I think some of that may have changed through COVID. Because HR teams were so pivotal to absorbing loads of change and moving really swiftly in response to a backdrop that was just changing all the time. I think maybe that's done something to rehabilitate the reputation of HR as a profession. So that, yeah, I do think some people think it's a tea and tissues job, which is not what I believe HR to be at all, but I do believe there was that perception. I do think COVID has maybe in some instances changed people's minds, but not as much as I would like. So I think what I would love to see for the profession is far more Chief People officers being appointed into chief exec roles. I do know one great example of this actually, and that was someone who moved out of a senior HR role into a CEO role. And I was so impressed by the distinctive nature of that achievement. I immediately asked that individual to be my mentor because I thought crumbs. He must be absolutely doing something right because he has established his credibility and gravity task outside of HR in a way that people don't always get an opportunity to do. So I thought there was something really special about what he'd done.

Fay Wallis:

Picking up on what you've said about HR having, in the past sometimes been seen as a real tea and tissues function. But the impact of COVID helping so many people realise that there is so much more to it than that, and it can be so incredibly impactful. I completely agree. It's funny how everything tends to have an upside. So the horrendous downside of having been through the pandemic, and I suppose we're still in it silently, is that it has really given HR that opportunity to shine and, and prove its worth. So let's hope that for the future, it is going to be the case that people working within HR are considered and are taken very seriously for those really senior roles. And we start to see them heading up organisations. That's an exciting future to look forward to, I think, Natalie, could we finish on a piece of advice that you can offer anyone listening who was thinking of changing career to work in HR?

Natalie Saunders:

My best piece of advice to anyone that's thinking about that sort of career move is, have a go, be brave. Don't wait until that magical moment, which may never happen, where you think you will take every single, essential and desirable requirement on a job description. Why not try it, try it today, give it a go. See, see how that isn't, it might be that you need to go through a number of processes until you manage to hone your approach to your application, or refine how you present yourself interview. But what's the worst that can happen, you might find that you make a move into a career that you find really deeply fulfilling and meaningful. And what a huge privilege that is to be able to do work from which you derive pleasure and meaning. I mean, not every day is going to be like that I'm not, I'm not that much of a Pollyanna. But if you can have a job where in the main, you think you're making a positive difference, and that impact is felt in a in a really good way through your organisation. That's job satisfaction for me. And I would want that for everyone.

Fay Wallis:

Finally, you're going to hear from Rachel White, we had some Wi Fi issues when recording this interview. So I'm afraid the audio isn't quite as good as normal. But hopefully, it's still good enough for you to be able to enjoy listening to what Rachel has to say, Rachel swapped her career as PA to the CEO of a charity to start her HR career. And after starting off working in a private company, she now works as an HR advisor for a county council. She starts her interview by explaining what it was that she did before her career change.

Rachel White:

I was the PA for the CEO. So it was a lot of the administrative side of things. But luckily, I helped a lot with the fundraising as well as it was because it was a small charity kind of helped and did a little bit of everything, which was lovely. It really was super interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. But I always liked HR, and I didn't really know how to get my foot into it. And there wasn't a capacity already that well, we say the need there was the need, but just the size couldn't quite quantify having the whole HR department in the charity as it was there. And it's obviously grown a lot more since I was always there overseeing everything. And I had a nice insight into everything. And that's what kind of made me realise all. Do you know what there is a real need for a lot a lot more structured HR.

Fay Wallis:

So once you had decided that HR was going to be the career for you, how did you go about making the change?

Rachel White:

I ended up going on maternity leave maternity break, and it was from then I thought you know what I've got this time I'm going to utilise it. So I then signed up and did my CIPD level three while I was pregnant. And then I did my level five while I was off for the first year. So it kind of gave me a little bit of a kickstart because I thought you know what I've got this time, I've got more time to kind of enjoy the studying process as well. So I did that. And I'm really glad I did it.

Fay Wallis:

I think it was the best thing. It sounds as if doing that qualification was a real help at then changing career?

Rachel White:

Yes, absolutely. I think it's been fundamental, I think, nowadays, especially when you're going even for entry level HR roles, they really do want. It's been fundamental immune, it's having that kind of base of knowledge and understanding and just being able to kind of hit hit the ground running as such.

Fay Wallis:

And how did you actually go about getting your first job in HR?

Rachel White:

It was a recruitment company, thankfully. So yep, I kind of reached out to them. They said oh, we've got a couple of roles. And to be honest, I was a little bit cautious because I hadn't worked for a council before I'd always been private sector and obviously the HR is very, very different in their approach. So I was a bit apprehensive but it just sounds so lovely. And it was very the role that I'm in because obviously with the council it's so big because it's a county council we cover you know, all of West Sussex I thought I'm going to do it, it's going to be a change of change of direction, because I thought it's a good way to expand my knowledge base there, certainly in employee relations. So I went for it.

Fay Wallis:

What exactly is it that you like the most about working in HR in your current role?

Rachel White:

I love that, you know, we work with, obviously, our policy procedures, but actually work with the mission missions and values specific specifically pardon our county council, but it is really about empowering and trusting the employees and using performance management not as a tool to manage out which I know, in private sector, I know, for my experience, that very much was the case, it's really up, right, we've got all these resources, especially in terms of neurodiversity. That's been one of our, you know, really big aims, it's how can we empower you? How can we support you, and it is really, the plans are so supportive, and the end goal, really, truly is to get, you know, to get them where they need to be. And I think, for myself, in particular, coming on, it was quite a surprise, just how actually, HR was quite nurturing, they're quite nurturing within the council, and they really are trying to get the most out of everybody, you know, as as a workforce.

Rachel White:

Whereas in the past, in private, it's been a quieter, right, they're not performing, this is a quick way to, you know, quick fix for the company as such. So I think for me that that was it, you know, because, you know, when I first joined the Council, and you looked at all the policies and procedures, and my goodness, they've got so many policies and guidance, notes and flowcharts. At first, it was a little bit overwhelming, and I've never been to, you know, sickness absence policy that's got seven or eight documents, and then another eight supporting guidance documents, but it just shows the nature of actually the purpose there. It's really right, this is all the different ways you can help and support somebody, you know, if they're struggling, you know, how can we get them in, whether it's redeployment, whether it's, there's just so many different avenues? Actually, we didn't really explore when I was in private sector. And so for me coming over, it was that it was that switch to the holistic approach that took the longest not that I you know, enjoy doing the cutthroat side of things. It really was different.

Rachel White:

So, you know, when you look at a case, actually, it's really dissecting each person have, right, every aspect of right water, what do they need? How can we support them, not just a quick basis of right, you're not performing? Okay. Really unpicking it, and looking at all the different nuances around them and see what how can we help you? What is the root cause? And I think from for myself, we didn't ever do that, in private, we never really got to the root cause with a person, especially, you know, whether it's sickness and using your occupational health, and now primarily with the neurodiversity and reasonable adjustments, the things we're looking into with the council, like the assessments and using companies that really do specialised assessments, you know, especially work based assessments to see how we can best support people isn't something I'd never really done in a private. So for me, it was just a real mind boggler in a wonderful way, but it was a mind boggling of wow, they do all this. And actually, that's what I love, because I love helping people. So actually, HR for me in the council, I actually feel like I'm making, you know, an impact. The HR presence is a positive one.

Fay Wallis:

I always feel bad asking you the next question, which is, what are the challenges you hadn't anticipated? So I suppose I'm not saying directly, what are the bad bits? But in addition to the positives, what are the challenges that you hadn't necessarily seen coming?

Rachel White:

I mean, it's still actually, for me, it's the reputation of HR and even in a public sector, it's kind of getting, getting that presence and working with them. I mean, for me, specifically, its performance management is still, although the council was absolutely very holistic and nurturing, it still encouraging the managers to come to us before there's a problem. That's what I found, I think no matter where it is, there is still this reputation with HR of you know, the policies, procedures, or working against the employees rather than working with and I think you get that no matter where you are. And I know specifically with performance management or absence, it's kind of encouraging managers to, to come to us and say someone's pulling their butt off with a surgery, getting the managers to say, okay, you know, what, they have been off for a month, we do need to start the sickness process, but not see it as a negative.

Rachel White:

Whereas before, we still, you know, have the situation of, they'll tell us a month after they'd been off because they don't want to start the process, because they still, you know, they still view it as Oh, I don't want to enter them into this form or sickness process, rather than actually, what we're doing as soon as they need an occupational health. Do they need any workplace assessments? Do they need a phase return? Is there any way we can support them so that when they do feel ready to return to work, they you know, they're not trepidatious about it, they're excited to come back to work, it's still really hard to kind of get everybody on board with that.

Fay Wallis:

Well, it sounds like you're doing a wonderful job though. So hopefully that is the challenge that is going to be one that you can overcome in helping everyone realise that you really are there to help. Thank you. I will try. I just wanted to finish off with one last question if that's okay. What which is what advice would you give to anyone listening who is thinking of changing career to work in HR?

Rachel White:

It's never a right time to do I think definitely look into COPD for me. It was a game changer. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it also, from studying it, I found out the areas that I liked, like with employee relations, you know, when you study do the assessments, you kind of it really specifically piqued my interest as I thought, You know what, I like this. And actually I tailored, when I did make my jump into HR, specific roles around that. I thought, You know what this is where I'm gonna go.

Fay Wallis:

It's really reassuring to hear how easy it sounds like the switch was for you. Because I know that for a lot of people, the fear holding them back from changing career is that they just won't be able to get a new role in a completely different kind of job.

Rachel White:

I had to obviously when I did my switch, I had to accept, you know what, I've just got my CIPD, I have absolutely no HR experience. So I was facing that conundrum for I've got zero zip, but I do have law, I looked at kind of like how can I promote myself utilising my skill set and say, look, I can do this, but I did go into entry level, I went into HR admin with the perspective of this is where I want to be that I kind of set myself a timescale and that's why when I got in touch with the recruitment companies, I said, Look, this is where I want to be in the end this this is this my timescale? How am I going to get there, and they said, right, realistically need to go through, you know, HR opposite, you know, role, it's just kind of mapping out the path, so that it doesn't look so daunting.

Rachel White:

There's a lot of, you know, hate my HR recruitment companies that were really great. And they were really good at picking out my previous skills and say, actually, you know, this is well suited to the HR admin role. Because you know, you're done at this, you're good at research, you're good at admin, you're good at this. And I said, Well, I want to be an HR officer. Okay, right. Once you're in there, make it very clear at the interview, that is where you want to be. And I think it's all about kind of having that map out and plan.

Fay Wallis:

And is that what happened? So did you go in as an HR admin and then work your way up?

Rachel White:

I did. I did an HR admin but I stayed there for about a year and a half. And for me, for myself, I want to become a HR business partner, which is why I love working in the council because the exposure to you know, to restructures to everything is wonderful for me and my development, to ramp up.