Qualified to succeed

Roisin
Woolnough finds out how gaining extra qualifications enhanced Claire Hunnam’s
employment potential

Claire
Hunnam, recruitment manager at Midland Mainline, has been gathering HR qualifications
at the rate of one per year. Three years ago, she embarked upon her first
course – a Certificate in Personnel Practice (CPP) – and went on to put a
Certificate in HR management and a Diploma in HR management under her belt. She
is currently studying for a Masters in HR management.

All
this has taken place through afternoon study and evening classes while holding
down a full-time HR job. Hunnam thinks her studies have been a major factor in
her quick ascension up the ranks. “I definitely wouldn’t have progressed as
quickly without it.”

Study
leave

Hunnam
joined the rail company in 1999, but not in its HR function. “I was in a
secretarial and marketing position, but felt I wasn’t challenged enough,” she says.
“I came across an advert for an HR assistant in the company and went for it.”
Part of the deal with the new job was that Hunnam would have an afternoon off
each week to study for her CPP at Derby University, and that Midland Mainline
would pay the fees.

Understanding
HR

The
course, which entailed an evening class as well, covered the basics of HR, such
as training and development, and recruitment and selection. While Hunnam found
it useful for learning about her own area of interest – recruitment and selection
– she found it even more helpful in terms of understanding other HR
specialisms.

“I
got to know what my colleagues are doing in their roles,” she says.

Skills
for the workplace

As
the company was willing to continue funding Hunnam’s studies and giving her the
necessary time off, she decided to gain more qualifications.

“The
only way to get on is to get these qualifications,” she says. “Having them
shows commitment, motivation and the ability to meet deadlines. It also
benchmarks the HR profession in terms of skills and qualities. I have learned
management, leadership and communication skills, all of which have helped me in
the workplace.”

Her
next qualification concentrated on wider corporate issues with modules on
marketing, finance, general management, IT, HR and the business environment.

“It
made me much more business aware,” says Hunnam. “I now look at problems and
issues from a business perspective, thinking about how things will impact on
the business and how much it will cost. I didn’t think that way before.”

Generalist
knowledge

Hunnam
thinks it is vital that HR professionals do not focus exclusively on their own
area of specialism. The diploma she has just completed looked at every aspect
of HR, which she found that very useful in broadening her overall understanding
of the sector.

“I
specialise in recruitment and selection, but would really like to do some more
general HR and get involved in employee relations, training and development,”
she says. “I have been noticing more specialist job vacancies, but I think
employers look for general knowledge. You need a good overall knowledge as an
HR professional.”

Networking
among peers

The
opportunity to network with other HR professionals, sharing ideas and
experiences, has also been invaluable to Hunnam.

“I
now have contacts in all sorts of companies, at all levels,” she says. “It is
very useful for research or when thinking of doing something new in the
company. You can ask others how they do it in their own company.”

She
also hopes the qualifications will boost her pay prospects. “I think it
increases your earning potential.”

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