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Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from Motherwell, close to Glasgow, and my background is very retail management based. I have previously worked for big companies: McDonalds, JD Wetherspoon and more recently as Store Manager in The Body Shop. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2008 in International Marketing, but I wasn’t convinced about which career path I wanted to take. I stayed in Management but in 2013 I decided I wanted to return to education to complete a Master’s degree. This meant I both worked full time (still in Management at The Body Shop who were flexible with me and what I worked) and attended university full time for 18 months where I completed my MBA (Master of Business Administration). Although it was an intense year (and my social life suffered!) it was worth it and I graduated in November 2014, joining the ScotGrad programme in March 2015.

What appealed to you about your ScotGrad placement?

I knew I wanted to go into HR and the fact that this was a dedicated role was ideal for me. Although I had some HR experience it was all within Management roles and I was keen for a role that was specific, and provided experience with elements I had not touched upon before. The fact that the company I was joining had no in-house HR and had outsourced it previously meant there was a complete blank canvas and a massive opportunity to make a difference.

I was also intrigued by the company – as I mentioned before I have always worked in large multi-national companies, so for me to work in a smaller company was going to be an interesting challenge. The fact that Caledonian Plywood were operating in a sector I had never been involved in was also intriguing.

What was your role at Caledonian Plywood?

Initially the role was as the Human Resources Project officer, which was to carry out an in-depth analysis of the current out sourced HR function - but I completed that in my first month. I then undertook all aspects of HR from building a handbook with new policies and procedures to disciplinary, and advising the company on a number of issues. I was also involved in recruitment for all aspects of the business which also meant I recruited a graduate for another ScotGrad placement in our finance department (and she’s still going strong!). 

What did you expect to gain?

I expected to gain further in-depth knowledge of human resources and a full understanding of issues that can affect employees at work as well as having full autonomy for the HR policies and procedures. It was also important for me to apply the theory I had learned at university into practice. 

What have you learned?

Being in a dedicated HR role was invaluable to me, it enabled me to fully understand all aspects of the role and employment law. I was able to introduce a number of policies and procedures that were not currently in place and to develop new contracts and employee handbooks. The company was also smaller compared to the others I have worked with, and the main difference I found was that I spoke to and work with the directors daily - as opposed to previously, when I only heard a name and would never meet senior members of staff. I was also involved in a number of presentations (whether to the directors or to outside companies), and although I had completed presentations at University it is different in a work environment and when it is more formal, so it was beneficial to be able to expand on this skill.

Would you recommend the programme?

I would whole-heartedly recommend the programme to other graduates. The networking opportunities both at the residential course or elsewhere are fantastic, and the experience has been invaluable. I would give one piece of advice though and that’s to be open minded when you join a placement. The role evolves quickly and although there is an initial job description I found my role moved on rapidly as it can be difficult to quantify a job in a specific time frame, and what was in the job description was completed in a short space of time. I’d also advise taking on anything new that you can to learn different areas of the business – although I was in HR, I have also been helping in accounts and trying to learn all areas of the business.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to graduates?

The best piece of advice I can give is not to worry if you graduate and are daunted by trying to find a new job. It’s scary at first but worth it to stick in for the right role. Don’t be disheartened if it takes a while for that role to come along, and don’t be scared to take chances. I know I was worried about the time frame of the placement and possibly being out of a job at the end of the 9 months, but it was the best chance I have ever taken and I am now in a permanent position in a growing company with lots of exciting prospects.

What are your future career plans?

I have reached the end of my placement, however when I was in my fourth month the company decided my role would be permanent. In February 2016, I became the Human Resources Manager. I plan to stay here for the time being but I am always look towards my future career plans, I hope to stay within Human Resources and develop further to become HR Director in the future.

Want to start your own career through ScotGrad? Apply here.