Our series continues. This time I am very pleased to introduce you to Alison Chisnell, an HR Director with an exceptional skill juggling her career in HR, being a Mum of twins and sharing it all via her blog "The HR Juggler". Alison’s blog became an exceptional source of inspiration for many professionals and you are more than welcome to find out more about secrets of juggling by clicking here. Alison is also an active member of connectingHR community and contributes to the HR sphere via twitter. You can follow Alison here.
Let’s enjoy HR beginnings of Alison Chisnell.
I never really knew what I wanted to do when I was growing up: careers advice at school tended to point me towards professions that used languages, because that was my most obvious academic strength; but I never fancied being a translator or interpreter. My parents were a teacher and police officer respectively and whilst I knew that I did not want to be either of those, I had little concept of the range of different types of roles and options that were available.
So, I remained open-minded, slightly concerned that I might be too academic for a “proper” job and went to university to study German and Theology, because I thought it would be interesting…which it was! And somewhere along the line of doing a few summer jobs, having a much more career focussed boyfriend who got me thinking about life after Uni and a knowledge that I liked and was good with people, I decided to give HR a go. Fortunately for me, I am the youngest of three children and was able to persuade my elder brother to facilitate a summer placement in HR at his company in my final year at University, which in turn led to a graduate job…phew!
I consider myself to be a lucky person, in my choice of career as in many other things. Looking back at my younger self now, I can also recognise that doing things that I am interested in intellectually and remaining open-minded about where things are leading are key elements of what have always motivated me, just as much then as now. I have never had a five year plan and when I sat down with my very senior, first ever boss, before starting my first HR job, I was mightily relieved when she said that she had never had one either and didn’t consider it a pre-requisite for working in HR.
There are two things that really strike me when I think back to the very early days of starting in my first HR job. Firstly, remembering how I felt when sitting down with my boss for the first time to set objectives. I had no idea how to achieve what was being described, felt that it was probably quite beyond my capability and experience, but I was willing to give it a go and was, in hindsight, quite fearless and undaunted in agreeing to whatever was asked of me. I recall quite clearly saying “OK, yes….I don’t know how to do that, but I’m happy to try” and feeling hugely excited, inspired and motivated by the challenge of finding my own way to do things in a supportive environment.
Secondly, I vividly recall the nature of some of the objectives, especially those around my personal development, which really set my expectations for what HR should be about. In my personal development plan, I was targeted on work shadowing a different one of the managers in my business for at least one day a month. This meant that I went out on the road with the engineers, visited the network management centre, attended team meetings, sat in on interviews, listened in to calls and from the very earliest point of my career, strived to understand the nature of the business that I was supporting. This desire has absolutely stayed with me and I always enjoy stretching my brain to understand exactly what makes the business people around me tick, what their priorities are and what decisions they have to make on a daily basis.
So, that is how my HR career began: an interest in people, an open mind, an attraction for things I find mentally stimulating, a willingness to have a go and a mandate to get involved in and try to better understand all the different parts of the business.
I’ve really enjoyed trawling through the memories and trying to make some sense of them in this context….thank you for letting me share, I hope I can play a part in inspiring you to do the same!