Aiming to work in employment law

I was an area manager for a large UK restaurant business for four years,
until I decided six months ago to move into HR. I was given the opportunity to do
so by working on several small projects with the prospect of an HR position
when one became available. Now, due to a downturn in business, I have been made
redundant. I’m going to take a year out to get my CIPD qualification and, if
possible, specialise in employment law. How can I build on my experience to get
this qualification, and what are my employment prospects likely to be once I’ve
completed it?

Claire Coldwell, consultant, Chiumento

If you are keen on a career in HR then taking a year out is a great
opportunity to gain your CIPD qualification. This will make you more marketable
to a future HR department and also provide opportunities to network with other
HR practitioners.

If you want to specialise in employment law, you will need to work in a
generalist HR role first, as most employers like to see a track record with a
breadth of HR experience.

In order to build on your experience, you might consider part-time work
related to employment law or attending relevant courses on the latest employment
legislation.

You may also wish to consider voluntary work, such as with the Citizens
Advice Bureau or trade unions, where you can gain useful experience of advising
people of issues relating to work and employment.

Once you have completed your CIPD studies, your prospects will be enhanced
and the combination of an HR qualification with your management skills and
experience will mean that you are well placed to take a field HR role, for
example. An HR practitioner who has direct experience at the front line is
valued as they understand what life is like in the real world, so don’t play
down your area management experience – this is your USP.

Ultimately, your employment prospects will depend on the professionalism and
thoroughness you bring to your job search, so maximise your opportunities for
building strong networks while you are studying.

Jo Selby, associate director, EJ Human Resources

Given the state of the market at the moment, if you have decided that you
want to complete your CIPD, now is a good time to take a year out to complete
the qualification. There are many places that offer the course, but you need to
decide whether or not you wish to do the Masters. There are differing views as
to whether it is beneficial to be working while studying so you can put into
practice what you are learning – you may wish to consider taking a part-time HR
role while you are at college.

Once you have completed your course in 12 months’ time, hopefully the market
will be more buoyant and as such there will be more opportunities available.
But with the qualification under your belt, you will certainly be more
attractive to employers.

Margaret Malpas, joint managing director, Malpas Flexible Learning

There are full-time CIPD programmes and you could look for one that does
employment law as one of the electives. You may find you’re quite a mature
student on a full-time course. If this is not for you, you could look at
flexible learning. Your experience will be valuable in any CIPD programme, but
unfortunately you do not have sufficient length of exposure to do the
qualification solely using experience (known as PAC). You need five years’
managerial HR experience for this. You will then be very marketable.

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