By Emma Clayton
6 March 2022
Discovering HR as a career
From a young age, Akua was really interested in business, so it’s not surprising that her first degree was in Business Enterprise. But some negative workplace experiences set her on a different path: how to prevent these situations from happening again and find out how to help others avoid them too.
This line of questioning eventually led her to HR – a perfect fit as anyone who’s spent five minutes with Akua knows she’s a ‘people person’ through and through!
The ‘experience vs qualification conundrum’
After completing her Master’s in HRM, she struggled to find her first role – a scenario that many of us can relate to – but Akua also faced additional barriers. For example, after applying for many jobs and not hearing back, she found changing her name to ‘A Richardson’ on her CV meant she got many more responses.
A natural fighter, Akua overcame the barriers in her way and secured her first HR role. We spoke about how HR should better support those wanting to join the profession by embracing their transferable skills and how HR as a whole needs to diversify to more accurately reflect the workforce it supports.
Finding her HR niche
Working her way up the HR ladder, Akua found that she loved advisory roles – partly because she likes finding solutions and partly because of her compassionate nature. In talking with Akua, it’s clear how much people and their workplace experiences matter to her.
Having worked in different sectors, Akua has seen HR from various perspectives, which has supported her professional growth. Her drive to ‘do HR the way it’s supposed to be done’ – HR that cares, develops and supports people – led her to set up People First Initiatives.
Through PFI, she supports SMEs to get things right from a people perspective before growing larger.
Connecting early, engaging later
After joining the CIPD in 2008, Akua was proud to be a member, but she wasn’t aware of all the CIPD offered. When it came time to renew, she worked for a company that didn’t require membership, so she let hers lapse.
A few years later, she joined an organisation that really advocated for their HR team to be involved with the CIPD. Her HRD constantly encouraged the team to attend webinars and use available resources. From this point onwards, Akua really started engaging with the CIPD and making the most of her membership, ultimately becoming a Chartered Member in 2020.
We spoke about the different CIPD membership benefits that have been useful to Akua, namely the employment law resources, the webinars and events, and the networking opportunities. She cites these as being key since we ‘need to be on the ball all the time’, staying up to date with what’s affecting the workplace and its people. CIPD is a ‘one-stop-shop’ to ensure you don’t fall behind.
Akua stressed the importance of personal growth, stating that we can be too task-oriented and forget about networking and our own growth. One of the reasons she loves the CIPD webinars is that they’re an engaging way to access important content plus ask questions in real-time.
Put yourself first
Some members question the value of their CIPD membership, and some feel that what they get in return is limited. To these members, Akua advises: ‘think about yourself and your growth’.
It can be easy to let your membership lapse when your employer doesn’t require it, but we own our careers. As Akua says, ‘it’s not about them, it’s about you’. By retaining membership, you can ensure you’ve always got support and the value you gain from this and the development opportunities offered, you will pass on to prospective employers.
I loved speaking with Akua and thank her once again for her time. If you’d like to be interviewed for future member spotlight blogs like this one, please get in touch with Emma Clayton via LinkedIn or another CIPD Manchester committee member and let us know you’re interested!
About the author
I work as an HR Advisor for Mobica, a global software services company, supporting the HR team and our employees based in the UK, the US and Germany. Since becoming Membership Engagement Lead in 2021, I’ve been enjoying running events and working behind the scenes to further our offering for members and the local HR community, including launching the HR Book Club.