Careers in Recruitment and HR

Adrian Phipps, HR Director for Personal Insurance, RSA (graduated 1999)

I am now HR Director for Personal Insurance at RSA, which includes the well known More Th>n brand. I had a brilliant time at Lancaster and it grew my confidence enormously. History teaches you to challenge your way of thinking - to put yourself in other people's shoes, to challenge accepted truths, and to express yourself clearly and with impact. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't put this in to practice - in fact three of the main board directors at RSA are historians! I also got to spend a year in Canada on an academic exchange - living in the buzzy, multi-cultural city of Vancouver was one of the best times of my life. If you are thinking about history at Lancaster then I would really recommend it - the staff are welcoming, down to earth and will really stretch you. If you are anything like me you will never regret your choice!

Mark Dacre, Recruitment consultant (graduated 2009)

I received nothing but the utmost support from the History Department, both in academic and pastoral terms. The staff are so friendly, supportive and engaging, and I hope to keep in touch with several of them in the future. The choice of courses too was really impressive - I do not know one History student who ever complained about their degree! I was also encouraged to go to careers workshops put on specifically for History students, and it was through the university's careers service that I was alerted about, applied for, and obtained an internship as a recruitment consultant. I have now been offered this job in recruitment on a permanent graduate scheme basis, in addition to being accepted onto a Masters in Political Economy at Manchester. I'm really happy with how everything has turned out!

Andrea Steadman, International HR Director (graduated 1994)

Following graduation, I completed a postgraduate diploma with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Since then I have worked in HR in a variety of different sectors including banking, local government and retail. My current role is International HR Director for a B2B technology company that provides expertise in transaction processing. I manage a team of 30 HR professionals providing services to team members in 11 countries. History at Lancaster was wonderful and the quality of teaching from the tutors was outstanding especially from Alan Wood, Martin Blinkhorn and Alan Warburton. As well as enjoying my subject I also learned valuable transferable skills such as: the ability to make sense of vast amounts of contradictory information practical research skills the ability to formulate winning arguments and how to communicate these effectively an appreciation of the factors that have contributed to a country's cultural identity the ability to read really fast ... still a major contributing factor to my work life balance Fundamentally, history sparked an interest in why people do things and this is a continuing theme in my daily work in HR.

Helen Brockington, Personnel Manager (graduated 1985)

I remember well the gloom in the media, whilst I was reading History at Lancaster in the early 1980s. The frequently quoted statistics of large numbers of unemployed graduates. I was lucky that by the time I graduated in the mid 1980s the economy had started to pick up and employment prospects had improved.

My first job was great fun; helping to organise and run courses in conjunction with the British Council for Civil Servants from the developing world. I think the time I spent running the History Society at Lancaster was certainly helpful in obtaining the position; I was used to organising lecture programmes, activities and dealing with visiting lecturers. I got the opportunity to be a tour guide whilst accompanying my delegates on their tours of the UK – my knowledge of British History came in very handy!

I soon decided I would like to work in Personnel and was accepted by J Sainsbury plc to join a graduate training programme. After a short training programme I became a deputy Branch Personnel Manager. Sainsbury’s provided excellent in house training, and also sponsored us through a diploma in Labour Studies. I eventually left the retail sector and moved to an oil company where I became the Personnel Manager and a Chartered Member of the Institute.

Once I had children I found it difficult to deal with the demands of the job and commuting; sadly part-time work was not an option at that time. I resigned and shortly after, we left to go and live in the US. When we returned to the UK I found it difficult to get work in Human Resources and I am now employed as a Lettings Manager for a local estate agency! 

Mark Knapper, Managing Director, Astralis PLC (graduated 1981)

Nearly thirty years after graduating in History from Lancaster, I am working in recruitment as a partner in a headhunting firm. Superficially recruitment might seem an unusual choice although one of the key disciplines you learn in studying history - how to sift through a mountain of data to make cogent decisions and arguments - actually gives you an excellent grounding when comparing people's career histories and choosing to shortlist them for jobs. Beyond that, nearly all of the skills that I use now were learned and honed in my three years at Lancaster - how to get on with people, how to accept that everyone has a valid point of view, how to argue your corner when necessary - all these things make a big difference in life. I was lucky getting into recruitment - I started just two years after graduating and have always thoroughly enjoyed it although the sales aspect does not appeal to everyone and it is most definitely not human resources by another name (as some people seem to think). It might seem a little trite, but academic/intellectual skills are not sufficient and I feel that the air of tolerance that exists at Lancaster was critical in preparing me for an industry which I've always found to be both challenging and rewarding.

Pam Farmer, Human Resources Manager (graduated 1981)

I chose Lancaster because I did not want to study 'Kings and Queens' history. So for me it was revolution, rebellion, Africa, Asia and America. So how did studying revolution and rebellion equip me for life as the HR manager I have become? For the first seven years after I graduated I worked for VSO as a 'Desk Officer' interviewing, training, posting volunteers to their jobs in Africa and Asia. Studying history has given me the big picture and the long view. Most of my colleagues do not have this skill. I know I am valued and relied on for it. In particularly studying revolution and rebellion gave me the tools to work in organisational change and development, my specialism for most of my HR life. So that when my 'big break' came - which was to introduce and embed diversity and equality into my company - knowing about hearts and minds and how leadership and revolution works - and when to recognise and capture change - I knew exactly how to do it and had the audacity to know that I could. Studying history had shown me how.