In the past few months, I have really begun to understand how busy final year is, and as a result the majority of my time with Valerie has been spent over phone calls. However, this has allowed a flexible approach to what we do, and meant that any last-minute topics which come up we are able to accommodate. Valerie was still increasingly helpful, giving me advice on how to manage my dissertation, and what topics would be relevant from a business perspective to include.
Something else Valerie really helped me with was my graduate applications – we spent quite a lot of time talking about the different areas, what a long-term career plan in HR would ideally look like for me, and some tips about what experience I need to get there. Valerie’s advice has really helped me focus on what I want out of a career, and I have found some really interesting jobs which I wouldn’t have considered beforehand!
Overall, my time with Valerie has been really inspiring – she has given me a real insight into what a career looks like as a senior HR director, and has been extremely supportive over the last year. I am looking forward to my next meeting with Valerie, to go through my next steps.
I am extremely grateful for having been a part of the ALMP, as it has boosted my confidence, and allowed me to learn things which will be important for my career going forwards. I would totally recommend it to anyone, as even if you know what you want to do in the future, it’s always worth getting more experience and seeing other perspectives!
Business Management with a Year in Industry
My name is Chloe, and I am being mentored by Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth, HR Director of the BBC. I study Business Management with a Year in Industry, and through this I was introduced to Human Resources. I really wanted to gain more experience and knowledge in the area, so decided to apply for the ALMP programme!
I was put in touch with Caroline, who organised my first meeting with Valerie in the BBC Birmingham office in the Mailbox. Sitting in the waiting room, I was incredibly nervous. I had planned a few topics to discuss, but when I actually got to the meeting, Valerie and I spent the whole time getting to know one another. It was the perfect introduction meeting, as it eased my worries, and we really got to know one another. Valerie explained her background and career, before going on to describe the structure of the HR department in the BBC. We chatted about my university life, current topics which are relevant to HR (the Gender Pay Gap as one example), and my dissertation – which I am also looking to focus on HR. The meeting felt like it was over in 5 minutes, as it flew by because I enjoyed every minute. Valerie is really down to earth, and has great advice, which is really great in a mentor.
Our second meeting took place through a phone call. This call focussed more on my graduate applications, as I wanted advice to help me through the process. Valerie was kind enough to look over my application, and gave me a few tips to improve for my next application. We then spoke about interviews, to prepare me if I got through to that stage. I wanted to specifically discus what questions I could ask interviewers at the end of an interview, in order to 1. Gain some understanding of the department I would be entering, and 2. To make a good impression. Valerie had some really good questions which would achieve both of those, and helped me consider some question topics I hadn’t previously.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the Mailbox office for a day’s work experience. I will be working in the services centre, and I am incredibly excited to gain practical experience in this area, as it is a function completely new to me. Getting hands on experience will help me narrow down which graduate jobs I will focus on/apply for, as I will have additional experience in a wider range of areas, so can use this to benchmark future graduate roles against.
Business Management with a Year in Industry
This final term at university has been a bit of a crazy one, between balancing job applications, part-time work, sports and my dissertation. Resultantly, most of my contact with my mentor Valerie this term has just been via email. However, both Valerie and her business partner Amanda have been continuously supportive, particularly on the job applications front.
Amanda kindly helped me with my presentation for a graduate job interview back in February which I unfortunately did not get a position on. However, on the same day I was rejected from that, I also found out I have got a place on the HR Graduate Scheme with Ford! In my interview for Ford I talked about current issues within HR that I had specifically learnt from Valerie and Amanda, as well as what I’d seen and learnt from shadowing at the BBC’s HR Service centre thanks to them too.
It was therefore great that my increased understanding of HR as a result of this mentoring relationship had finally shown. I’m now looking forward to my next meeting with Valerie in a few weeks’ time, which I’m hoping to focus upon how to progress once I’m in my new role.
Katie Jones, 3rd Year BA American Studies/History
During my first mentoring meeting back in November, it was suggested that I could spend some time shadowing various teams at the BBC’s HR Service Centre. I have now taken up this opportunity, and found the experience to have really increased my current understanding of HR practice.
When I arrived, I spent three hours with Sarah Gregory, who has recently joined the BBC in the role of HR Director of the Service Centre. We first spent some time discussing her own career path, and it was interesting to hear how she too completed an undergraduate degree in a field far from HR, but then did postgraduate study in Business Management which pointed her in the HR direction. As I am also at present considering doing a Masters in Human Resource Management, hearing how Sarah valued this so highly in contributing to her own career path was very beneficial for me. Sarah then walked me through the different processes and teams within the Service Centre. I found I took a fancy more to the work of Onboarding and the Customer Service Helpdesk where my current recruitment experience is more in line, than I did with other teams such as the Freelance and Changers and Movers. I felt this was very beneficial for establishing where I may like my own career path to take me.
In the afternoon I spent a longer period of time shadowing with the ‘Reward’ team – again I found this to be not entirely up my street, but nonetheless, still interesting. I finished the day by having a long meeting with Valerie’s business partner Amanda, who ensured I had a thorough understanding of the BBC’s HR structure. We discussed the feedback I had received from the interview and assessment centre I had just before Christmas – one from which I was unfortunately rejected, whilst the other I have progressed to the final stage. For this final stage I now need to prepare a presentation to do on the day amongst other tasks, and Amanda has kindly offered to give me any help I may need in practicing for this.
As Valerie was not in Birmingham on the date that I attended the Service Centre, I also had a phone call with her the following week to discuss how I got on and generally ‘see where I am at’ with my career progression at this time. This was really reassuring for me at a time where I am starting to get a little overwhelmed with some application rejections and the pressures of third year! With applications for graduate roles still ongoing and two Assessment Centres coming up in the next few weeks, I now hope that I will be able to translate some of what I learnt whilst shadowing at the Service Centre to my performance on the day.
Katie Jones, 3rd Year BA American Studies/History
Today I had my first meeting with the HR Director at the BBC and my mentor for the year, Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth. I arrived to the BBC offices in the Mailbox quite early, so had a good chance to take in the impressiveness of the offices/studio before being taken to the room in which we were to have the meeting.
Whilst Valerie was finishing up in a meeting, her business partner Amanda came and met me and took me for a tour around the BBC offices, explaining how HR at the BBC has changed over the last few years, and explaining the functions of each team as we went. We even bumped into TV presenter Nick Owen!
Amanda and I then went back to the meeting room and talked more about why I was interested in HR, and how I have and can continue to gain the necessary knowledge and experience for a career in HR given that my degree background is far from HR and the world of business. I asked Amanda for some advice on what to expect from a ‘technical interview’ for HR as I have one coming up in two weeks’ time for a graduate scheme, to which she talked through some of the things I could look to do to prepare for it.
Valerie then joined us, and we discussed in more depth my understanding of HR itself. We established that I need to really develop my wider knowledge of how individual businesses work when applying to work in HR for them, as the main reason for HR’s existence is to enable the most efficient functioning of the business towards achieving its goals.
I recently had an assessment centre for a graduate scheme in which I was not successful in gaining a place, and had emailed Valerie prior to the meeting about the possibility of going through the feedback I had been sent following it. We read through the feedback together and picked up that the main thing I need to work on for another assessment centre I have coming up, is to ensure I am asserting myself enough in group tasks. Valerie reassured me that I am doing well to be getting as far as I am with applications, and encouraged me not to get disheartened with negative outcomes, which is something I struggle with!
The meeting ended with Valerie offering me the chance to do some shadowing of the HR Service Team to get more of the direct exposure to HR that I am currently lacking. I am now very much looking forward to hearing from Valerie and Amanda again soon to arrange this.
Katie Jones, 3rd Year History and American Studies
After my practice interview with Amanda in November I had a catch up with Valerie in December and February updating her with how my degree was going and progress on job applications. By this point I was waiting to hear back from 3 jobs after completing online assessments and video interviews. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in those applications but I had one more to hear back from at The Hut Group for a merchandising supply chain role.
After 3 months of waiting I heard in April that I was to have an interview on the 18th. I contacted Valerie for advice and a practice interview if possible. Unfortunately Valerie was on holiday but gave me an email with some hints and general advice for interviews. Again Amanda, Valerie’s business partner, agreed to give me a mock telephone interview and gave me a list of things to prepare beforehand. This included making a PowerPoint presentation about the history of the company, its financial information, reasons for wanting the job and how I was suited to the job. This not only aided the mock interview process but it gave me a chance to figure out a plan in my head about the best method to tackle possible questions. The mock interview was invaluable as it gave me a confidence boost the day before the interview and allowed me to brush up on aspects that I needed to improve.
As a result of Valerie and especially Amanda’s help I was successful in securing the graduate job at The Hut Group and I start in August. Without their expertise and advice, the interview would have been more difficult as many of the things I had practised with Amanda came up in the real interview.
Since receiving the good news I have had a phone call with Valerie again to catch up and give me some words of wisdom not only about the world of work but about tackling exams in my final year at Birmingham. I am scheduled to have a final face to face meeting with Valerie and Amanda in June.
My ALMP experience has been great and I cannot thank Valerie and Amanda for their support and advice during what has been a stressful year juggling the work load of final year as well as applying for jobs. Valerie has always been an email away and is always quick to respond and if she has been unavailable then she has put me in contact with her colleagues such as Amanda to help me out. The scheme has been extremely beneficial not only to help me to secure a graduate job but also it has given me a confidence boost to succeed in my future career.
Within the first week back at University for my final year I already had an email from Valerie’s Secretary Lottie arranging my first meeting. In mid-October I went to the BBC offices in Birmingham where I was greeted by Valerie’s business partner Amanda Brettell. Amanda showed me around the offices and we had a quick chat about uni and my career aspirations whilst Valerie was finishing off a meeting with a client.
Although I was apprehensive, Valerie instantly put me at ease by welcoming me with a big smile. Continue reading
Back in Oxford
I was invited back down to Oxford so I could learn more about the different roles within HR. My visit was extremely exciting and I was able to spend the morning with the frontline team who answer all the telephone calls and emails directed to the HR department. I learnt a lot from the frontline team, and was able to listen to the calls first hand via the training headset they use to train staff how to answer the variety of queries they are asked. I was surprised at just how varied the phone calls could be, from reference requests to telemarketing etc. A member of the team also went through the case management system and how emails and telephone queries were categorised and logged. I really enjoyed sitting with the frontline team and believe that if I want to really understand HR I would have to sit on the frontline to gain the breadth of knowledge and experience needed to be a good HR generalist. Continue reading
As a final year student I have been focusing on finding and applying work experience and graduate jobs. One of my applications has successfully reached telephone interview stage, however I really wasn’t sure what this would entail, so I decided to email Valerie and ask for her advice.
First Phone Call
My mentoring first started in early October when Valerie’s Personal Assistant Charlotte emailed me to introduce herself and arrange my first phone call with Valerie. I was a little nervous about the phone call but I had no need. We introduced each other and discussed what we both wanted to get out of the mentoring scheme. Valerie suggested that I do some research into the Dave Ulrich model, which they use at Amey Services and talked about me potentially visiting her office in Oxford.
The first time I met Valerie was in early November at the University of Birmingham, as she was due to give a talk to a group of MBA students. We met for coffee with Kerrie before hand and I was invited to join a round table panel, giving me the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about Valerie’s role and the Amey services. Afterwards, I attended the talk and learnt a lot about HR, for example, idea staff ratios, the key aims to providing a successful HR service and also the challenges that HR face. Valerie shared her personal experiences of how she got to her current position and explained that it will be hard work, but also worth it, and to take any opportunities that you are given.
My visit to Oxford
In mid-November I was able to go to Oxford to spend the day with Valerie and other members of the HR team. We had a mentoring session first thing in which Valerie showed me the Intranet system that all the employees use to request holidays and submit claim expenses etc. We also went over some of the company statistics that Valerie uses to identify areas that may need improvement or equally are working well. I then got to meet the general enquiry team and learn about the SAP system they use to log and take calls and emails. After lunch I met with the recruitment team who went over my CV for me and gave me interview and application tips. I was able to visit some of the other sectors within the HR team and learnt a lot about the different roles. Afterwards, I was invited to attend a CIPD conference at Oxford Brookes where Valerie was key note speaker. Valerie’s personal assistant is currently studying for her CIPD qualification and so I learnt a lot from her and from attending the event, such as the types of assignments and what the course entailed. At the end of the day I had a catch up session with Valerie on the train, as she was also coming back to Birmingham. She gave me some great advice on the types of questions I can ask to impress in an interview that would also help me to understand the HR system of other companies. I loved my day at Oxford and learnt so much, but also was able to help their recruitment team by informing them about ways that other companies were recruiting graduates and giving my opinion on the use of social media to recruit new employees. I will hopefully be returning to Oxford again soon.