Listen when opportunity knocks

Senior HR officer Sophie Baggott explains how she is making the most out of
what public sector has to offer

During her two-and-a-half-year career in HR, Sophie Baggott has risen up the
ranks to the role of senior HR officer in the employee relations and equalities
team at Hertfordshire County Council. The public sector, she says, is an
exciting place to work and provides a lot of opportunities for career

"I like the variety of work available in the public sector," she
says. "There is such a huge range of jobs and I get exposure to all the
different parts of HR."

Despite having worked with only one employer, Baggott has experienced some
of the variety of work in personnel management. This started with her MA in
Human Resource Management and CIPD, which she studied at Gloucestershire
University. "I studied with a lot of people who had practical experience.
This experience helped reinforce the idea that I wanted a career in HR. By
studying with these people, I found I was getting a good insight into the
practical side HR as well as the theoretical."

On successfully completing the postgraduate course, Baggott found there were
not many suitable HR jobs available. She started to look for graduate trainee
posts, as most jobs that were advertised were either administrator roles or
roles for people with at least two years’ experience.

Baggott landed a place on Hertfordshire County Council’s graduate trainee
scheme, which offered her the opportunity to experience various disciplines
within HR. Having completed her CIPD qualifications and her MA, she was able to
progress quickly through the trainee scheme. After a year, having done stints
in recruitment learning and development, equalities and employee relations,
Baggott became an assistant HR officer in the employee relations and equalities
team. "I knew that I didn’t want to specialise too early on and this post
came up just at the right time."

At the start of 2003, Baggott was an assistant HR officer, and by the end of
the year she was a senior HR officer. Baggott says this was due to a
combination of acting up and department changes. "I suppose I was moving
forward quite quickly as I was able to make the most of the development
opportunities within the department," Baggott says.


Baggott’s team is a part of the corporate HR team and comprises of six
people out of an overall HR function employing around 230. The corporate HR
department provides support to all operational HR departments within the
council, including adult care services, children, schools and families,
Hertfordshire business service, environment community information, corporate
services and fire and rescue. Her team supports HR across the organisation, so
she deals with a combination of day-to-day issues and policy. "I deal with
a lot of the day-to-day queries. I also provide guidance on legislation and
write policies and procedures. This gives me a feel for other aspects of HR and
helps me to see the practical side of what we do," Baggott says.

The council is also launching a new HR system next month. Baggott says the
system will help to simplify HR processes and will hold all the data the HR
function requires for reporting and operational tasks. This will enable better
data management, she says.

Career development

With a variety of HR experiences on offer within the council, Baggott says
that the organisation is proactive in helping employees gain the experience
they are looking for. "This organisation is good at developing people and
supporting you. Some of the training is formal – for example, in the past when
I have needed to develop my knowledge on a particular area, such as TUPE, I
have been able to attend formal training courses. On the other hand, I have
also been able to learn in a more informal way, such as shadowing dismissal
appeals." Baggott says that communication is a key attribute for her job.
"I have to be able to deal with all levels of people from HR colleagues to
union officials, employees or county councillors, so I need to be able to
communicate on all levels."

And what about the future? "I am still at the early stages of my
career," she says. "My main aim is to open myself up to new learning
opportunities and develop my experience in a generalist way."

Advice to others

– Network with others that work in local authorities so that you can share
best practice

– Open yourself up to new learning experiences, to broaden your HR

Baggott’s CV

Nov 2003   Senior HR officer, employee relations and equalities, Hertfordshire
County Council

Sept 2003  HR officer,
Hertfordshire County Council

Jan 2003    Assistant HR
officer, Hertfordshire County Council

Sept 2001  HR trainee,
Hertfordshire County Council

2000-2001 MA in Human Resource Management & CIPD,
Gloucestershire University

1997-2000 BSc Psychology, Reading University

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