Deborah has a degree in political studies from the University of Leeds. She works as a human resources generalist for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in the North East of England.
I secured a position on Enterprise Rent-A-Car's graduate management trainee programme shortly after graduating. I worked through my training manual and up the management ladder. I was promoted to assistant manager and within four months of that promotion, I was promoted again to a branch manager. As a branch manager I was empowered to make my own decisions about my business, including marketing strategy, growth, profitability and staff development. It was in this role that I discovered I had a natural flair for staff engagement, training and development. I set my sights on an HR position and completed the CIPD Certificate in HR Practice (CHRP) in my own time while working as a branch manager. Once an HR position arose in our regional head office, I combined my practical knowledge of the business with my new theoretical knowledge. So although I didn't initially set out straight from university to work in HR, it is the perfect fit for my skill set.
Surprisingly, my degree has been very relevant in my current job, although not obviously so. Within a political studies degree, you are expected to do a large amount of self-study and to persuade others of your case using theories or sources as evidence. Time management and prioritisation skills are also very important to my role, so my education has been really beneficial. On a daily basis I have to use my persuasion skills, whether it's to senior management on a new initiative, training a new employee or ensuring legal compliance. My degree taught me to know my audience and to be succinct in my delivery.
There is no typical day within my role, which is what I love the most. Because I'm a generalist, I work within recruitment, training and general HR. This means in one day I switch between functions several times. For instance, I could be interviewing one minute, taking a call from a manager to coach them through a difficult conversation with an employee the next, and then addressing a progressive discipline scenario.
As I develop more experience and knowledge, I am involved in formulating strategy for the department and the business as a whole. I am ambitious and currently see my next career step as an HR manager's role. I would like to run my own department, develop and encourage my own team and ultimately enable my region's employees to drive performance in the areas that are important to our business - great customer service, growth, profitability and employee development. However, what I have learnt is to be flexible and to seize the opportunities that come my way.
I really enjoy the diversity and variety of my role. I can be out marketing and building links with local universities by attending a career fair or doing an employability presentation and then move to designing or running a training class. Every day and every hour is different and I love that. The challenge is to remain focused on consistently improving our regional and our branch performance.
The best things about working in this sector are the opportunities and variety. I graduated seven years ago and since then I have been promoted four times. No one day is the same when working with customers. They provide an environment that is never dull and one that is always challenging.
The most successful HR practioners really stay close to the business that they work in and become a true business partner. It is reasonably straightforward to learn theory, rules, regulations and HR best practices, but what sets out exceptional HR professionals is that they are able to put all of this into working practice for their business. The only way to find out what works for your business is to know it inside and out. So my best bit of advice is to get some general business experience first. At Enterprise, I have been able to learn how the business functions on several different levels, which allows me to be much more effective and realistic about new initiatives.
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