This year’s CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition will be my third. It will be my first time on a CIPD BlogSquad and there’s no bigger gig than ACE (no pressure then…). To say I am chuffed is something of an understatement. This is important to me, not just because I love running around exhibitions, meeting new people and listening to great speakers, not because I love writing, but also because it confirms to me that I belong in the HR world.
Let me explain.
I’m a solicitor by training, and until 2010, I was a practising employment lawyer. I spent the following 3 years lecturing in employment law, before moving into HR. In 2015 I was admitted to Associate Membership of CIPD through the Experience Assessment process. So I’m never quite sure how my knowledge and experience matches up to that of someone who has studied their way to their CIPD membership. I mean, who is this Maslow chap anyway?
Although I may have felt a little out of place initially, I’m really not that unusual. For lots of people, the HR profession is not their first port of call. A 2013 CIPD study on social mobility in the HR profession found that 70% of respondents began to consider HR as a career once they were already working (only 4% thought about it when they were at school or college!). Respondents had moved into HR from “customer services, operations, finance, marketing, media, IT, engineering, recruitment, social work, nursing, retail, insurance, catering and hospitality, civil service, education, or armed forces backgrounds, to name just a selection” (page 17).
Stepping into a new profession part way through your career, is daunting. But I’ve come to realise that there is no “right” way to get into HR. The important thing (as with any career change) is to be getting stuck in developing skills and knowledge to progress in the new work type, whether that is by going back to college or by learning through doing.
Whatever your background or route into HR, ACE has something for everyone.
If you are coming to ACE for the first time, whether that be as a student, a career-change entrant into the HR profession or otherwise, you’ll have a great time! It can be tricky to choose conference sessions when it’s all new and everything seems essential, but the sessions have been organised into 5 streams to help you to choose what fits with your own career needs.
Walking into the exhibition hall is a teensy bit like arriving at a Christmas Market. Bright lights and a lot of noise, just without the mulled wine (although it’s only a matter of time before some quirky exhibitor gives that a go). Where do you start? Why on earth are some of them in costume (yes, really)? If you so much as make eye contact with an exhibitor, does that mean you have to buy their stuff?
Relax! The exhibitors are there because they want to tell you about their amazing products and services. See what’s out there, gather cool freebies and enter all the lovely competitions. It’s a great way to find out what products and services HR departments might ever want or need to use, even if you’re in no position to buy.
When you get into your conference sessions, don’t expect to remember everything you hear or capture it all. Enjoy the sessions as an experience rather than a lecture, and note down any “wow” moments as they happen. You’ll get a notebook for most sessions (many of which will have copies of the speakers’ slides already printed in them, to save at least some of your scribbles).
Chat to people if you’re so inclined. Ask the person next to you how they got into HR. You never know what you might hear. But it’s equally ok to have a quiet moment on your own – even if you have been told that you should “network”.
If you’re staying overnight on Day 1, keep your eye out in the next few weeks for evening events, by following @CIPD and using the #cipdACE17 hashtag on Twitter. If you don’t want to spend the evening in your hotel room, there’s sure to be a get-together that will take your fancy.
And keep an eye out for me and the other Blog Squadders. You’ll spot us a mile off. We’re the ones with a wild look in our eyes, carrying multiple devices and mumbling about WiFi connections, battery life and upload speeds….
If you are not working in HR but it is of interest to you for some reason (perhaps you are considering a career move, or you would just like to know more about HR), why not come along to the exhibition? As well as all of the exhibitors attempting to ply you with freebies and consumables, there are demos and presentations on a variety of HR topics and IT’S FREE!!
The HR profession takes all sorts, and is a better place because of it (well I would say that, wouldn’t I?!). Everyone welcome to the profession. Everyone welcome to ACE.
See you there!