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Knowing your value - advice from Cpl's HR Director

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You might ask yourself what does a HR Director do?  I ask myself that question every day, as no day is ever the same. Ultimately, I am responsible for everything to do with our people and making sure the experience they have while working at Cpl is a great one.

I report to our CEO and I make it my priority to make her life simple when it comes to people related matters and make her aware of issues when they impact our team dynamic or threaten our brand.

I am a member of our leadership team and I am one of 6 females, out of a team of 13. I love my job. I love the variety and the people I work with – my own team (pictured at our annual party above) within Group HR are a great group.

My parents raised my 5 siblings and I to understand the value of hard work, to stand up for what we believe in and to be confident and outgoing. I am married to Paul and I have 3 children, Conor, Roisin and Áine.

As HR Director of the largest recruitment agency in Ireland, I am confident in the value I bring to the organisation, but I didn’t start off like that.

I didn’t always know my value and it took me some time as I progressed in my career to understand that my self-worth came from me and I had complete control over that.

5 Steps to knowing your own value

Knowing your value can be an emotional subject.

I am sure you can recall a time when you didn’t feel valued, respected or appreciated. Getting to grips with knowing your value can be hard to get your head around.

Knowing your value and self-worth are linked. Self-worth is defined as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person.” I think that’s just one part of it, the other aspect is understanding the impact you’ve made in any given situation through your contribution, and contribution is key.

The following five key points and examples also resonate with me, and I hope will help you focus your thoughts and provide clarity on your value inside and outside of the workplace.

1. Be comfortable with who you are

To know your value and feel valuable you have to actually like yourself.  Self-esteem is having confidence in your abilities. You are comfortable with who you are, the work you deliver and your sense of professionalism. You like and have great relationships with people.

Without positive self-esteem, it’s hard to recognise your value. The first time I remember my sense of self-esteem was when I was 14.

My parents were interviewed for a feature in the Irish Press about the strength of their marriage, their love for each other and how long periods of time apart defined their relationship (my dad Brendan served as a lighthouse keeper for 56 years.)

A family photo had to be given and my mother decided to give the annual family communion photo. On the day of publication, I can only describe it as blue murder in our home.  Somebody had to walk and get the paper from the local shop and I was chosen. This was the day I developed resilience.

I was embarrassed by the family photo on page 2 of the national newspaper. I was afraid of what people would think of me and my family.

I’ve found that over the years my self-esteem has been underpinned by such experiences.

This has taught me to:

  • Be nice to yourself
  • Focus on your goals and achievements
  • Take the task in hand
  • Focus on what needs to be done
  • Deal with the challenge head on
  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes, celebrate the small stuff

2. Have clear values

If you have clear values, you’ll have a greater sense of clarity and confidence in who you are and what you stand for. This can be in your personal life as well as in business. This confidence will be reflected in:

  • How you interact with people
  • The decisions that you make
  • How you deliver in your role

I strongly believe that people who believe in themselves stand out.

I aspired to be a geography teacher, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t do well enough in my leaving certificate and I opted to do a one-year business course with French in Blackrock College of Further Education instead.

When I left school in 1986, the unemployment rate was 17.1%. It was doom and gloom, and when I was sitting my college exams 12 months later things hadn’t improved.

I was asked to attend an interview for an office clerk with a large company in the health sector, myself and two other girls from my year were sent off.  We were told how privileged we were to be selected and that only one of us would get the role. The interview went well and two days later I was offered the role.

I said I would consider it and come back to them – much to my parent’s horror. How could I possibly think about turning down a job for life, a salary and a career?  Well, I did and I declined it. I wanted something different, I wanted a bit of excitement and to have different experiences.

Two weeks later, I headed off to London for the summer, which turned out to be a very long summer indeed. At the age of 18, I was confident in my values – that I had more to offer and that by having the right attitude I could be successful. I wanted better opportunities for myself.

3. Believe you are good enough

Did you know that men will apply for a job when they meet 60% of the criteria but women will only apply when they have reached 100%?

My first job was with an American company that made lead asset batteries for fighter aircraft. I did my HR degree at night for 3 years, it was hard work and I admire anybody who combines both.  I progressed my career over the years and had a couple of HR jobs.

Then I landed my dream job.  Management Trainer for Associated Newspapers – The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and The Evening Standard.  I didn’t know what a management trainer did until I read the job description, but I knew I’d picked up some of the skills in other jobs. I sold my skills well at the interview, even though I didn’t meet the 100% criteria.

I couldn’t believe the opportunities that were unfolding all through my positive attitude and willingness to work hard.  I often wonder if I had taken that job in Dublin where it would have taken me.

To get to where you want to go believe in yourself, don’t put yourself down and embrace a challenge. I was a fixer, a doer and I felt I could achieve anything.

4. Recognise the skills you bring to the table

When you know your skills, you can approach any situation with confidence and full belief in your ability.

In 1993, I returned from London, and after a couple of years, I found myself working at Irish Nationwide Building Society as HR Manager. It was the worst move in my career and I don’t speak about it that much.

However, I can talk freely now as they no longer exist. There was a toxic culture and each day going to the office got tougher and tougher and I had to make a call. I walked out after 6 months.

The culture was taking its toll on me and making me question my worth, I felt incompetent in my role. No job is worth that and I’m proud of the decision I made.

I quickly secured a new role with PwC as HR Manager for one of their divisions, but during my probation I had a blip, I am not sure of any other way in which to describe it.

I woke up on the 4 August 1999 and saw an article on the front page of the Irish Times. “Judge threatens building society chief … and the imprisonment of Sharon Vize.“

I quickly learned that INBS had used my name on a litigation case that went wrong for them, but I was in the firing line. For 4 months, I endured solicitors, barristers and court hearings to get my name removed from the documentation.

I’ve never experienced stress like it but I never for one second regretted my decision to leave. Luckily this crisis was short lived and was sorted.

Know your skills, know what you are really good at, stand true to yourself and you will reap the benefits – even during difficult times.

5. Find a job that is exciting and fulfilling

When your work is fulfilling as well as financially rewarding, you are more inclined to be committed to your work. When you love what you do, you are prepared to do more and to become more.

I had an amazing career at PwC, I was given opportunities to learn and grow, I travelled across Europe, I worked with like-minded professionals and got great exposure to HR issues that were regarded as world class in the industry.

I supported an organisation that grew from 500 people to 2500 and I made some great connections but in late 2009 the economy was in trouble. The company went through significant change and I decided to leave and take stock.

I’ve been in Cpl for the past 8 years. During this time I’ve had 2 different roles, one client facing and now Group HR. I negotiated a 3-day week in Dublin and 2 days working at home in Wicklow, but I am flexible with a big F. I never allow my colleagues or peers to question my contribution, it’s there 150% of the time.

I make my arrangement work, I am committed, I am mad about what I do, and I strive to be a role model for my team, my colleagues, and most importantly my kids.

I never thought for one minute when I left secondary school in 1986 that I would excel in a profession that I had never even heard of.  I am proud of the values that are important to me and I believe that they grounded me as my career progressed.  I took a risk at 18 and it paid off in the long term.

Looking for a role that aligns with your values?

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