Summer of Biz HR panel imparts key lessons for HR students
By Harriet Riley
‘Never forget the lessons you learn from the people you admire’ was a key piece of advice from our HR panellists earlier in the year.
Maeve Neilson, HR Services Manager at the Civil Aviation Authority, Richard Westney, Independent HR contractor (and Summer of Biz co-founder!), Danni Williams, Senior Consultant at PWC and Kate Fogarty HR Advisor at Land Information New Zealand came together in the new PWC collaboration space overlooking the Wellington waterfront to share their lessons and knowledge from careers in Human Resources with our Summer of Biz students. Here are some of the ups, downs and topsy turns of their careers and lessons they’ve learnt along the way the panel members shared on the night:
- Not everyone on the panel came straight into their career in HR and some have taken breaks in other areas which helped them get a broader understanding of how the business works. So if you’re interested in HR but can’t get an HR role straight away, don’t worry – experience in other areas will even make you a better HR practitioner – “Good HR is learning how to take the people function and use it to make the business run better,” Richard says.
- Resilience is a key skill HR professionals need to when dealing with employment relations issues and you may find your team have quite a dark sense of humour to help release the tension! You’ll also need skills in data analysis, managing budgets and being comfortable working in the grey area – or, as Kate phrases it, being a “creative problem solver”.
- Some of the newer trends they see coming through in employment relations and legislation area are a bit like going back in time for those that have been around for a while. One of the exciting trends coming in is a tendency towards more fluid work environments which use more short term contracting and flexible working to get the skills they need.
- How can you keep up with emerging HR trends? Summer of Biz events are a great first step to making connections and broadening your network. You can also look at industry bodies like HRINZ and legal firms who hold workshops regularly. Attending meetups is another great way to meet people, but it doesn’t stop there – if you meet someone who you think is amazing then the panellists encourage you to ask them for a coffee to hear more about what they do and what advice they might give you.
- In terms of finding your first HR role and impressing your potential new boss, the panellists recommend to just be yourself. The best interviews are when people are themselves, otherwise you’ll end up in the job you’re not meant to be in. And don’t be disheartened by knock backs or afraid to go for roles out of your comfort zone. The panel get frustrated when job adverts say they need someone with 3 years experience for an HR administration role – “You just need someone with a brain and who’s keen to learn,” says Maeve.
- Once you get your first job in HR remember to treat people how you want to be treated. You’ll come across some interesting and difficult situations working in HR but remember to always treat people with dignity and kindness and you’ll go a long way.
Thank you very much to Danni, Richard, Kate and Maeve for taking the time to share their thoughts and wisdom with us all. Also a special thank you to PWC for hosting us and Alyson Garrido for chairing the panel.
If you’re interested in coming along to events like this then just login to your Summer of Biz profile and register yourself for the event. If you’re new to Summer of Biz you can sign up here (it’s free!). You’ll be asked to make a profile and then you’ll be able to register for any of our events throughout the year and see all our internship listings too.