Name: Kathryn Willis
Lives in: London
Studied: CIPD Level 5 Diploma in HR Management
Currently studying: CIPD Level 7 Diploma in HR Management
Why ICS? It allowed her to study in her own time.
When she was growing up, Kathryn didn't have much interest in HR. "My father told that me that HR just sit on their bums all day and don't do anything," she jokes. However, during a work placement through her university, she got a glimpse of the world of human resources and decided it was something she wanted to pursue.
Now, having worked in HR for nearly five years, she knows it was the right choice (and that her Dad's experience was the exception, not the rule). She currently works as a standalone HR Manager at CP Electronics (a UK electronics manufacturer that helps its customers achieve their energy saving and carbon reduction goals) and enjoys the scope and variety that each day brings.
"I do absolutely everything myself, including: payroll, benefits administration, recruitment, retention, training, employment contracts, new joiners and leavers, disciplinaries, policies and procedures, H&S and even the company's social events planning! We have 160 employees at our Wembley headquarters - and we're still growing - so my days are very busy. No day is the same, and I really enjoy the challenge."
"I felt my learning days were over"
Having worked in HR for several years, Kathryn already had a wealth of skills that only on-the-job experience can bring. Yet, she felt it was still important to cement her experience with recognition from the industry's leading professional body, the CIPD. After much research and deliberation, she signed up to earn the CIPD Intermediate Diploma in HR Management via distance learning.
"I heard of ICS some time ago - probably from adverts online - but upon leaving uni, I felt my learning days were over. I vowed never to sit an exam again after having two three-hour exams in one day and my arm aching for days afterwards! But I quickly realised that, if I wanted to better myself and progress, then I would need to continually learn."
"It enabled me to do the qualification in my own time"
The flexibility that distance learning affords was the main reason Kathryn decided to earn her CIPD qualification through ICS.
"I chose ICS as it enabled me to do the qualification in my own time, without having to commit to weekly evening classes. This was a deciding factor for me, as it meant I could fit my studying comfortably around my work and personal commitments.
Being able to do the qualification entirely when I wanted enabled me to complete the qualification within six months, as I could do it faster or slower than was recommended, depending on what commitments I had. In addition, the course itself was very competitively priced, which was another deciding factor in choosing ICS."
"The course is invaluable if you want to progress"
For Kathryn, the Level 5 CIPD course wasn't backbreaking labour, but it wasn't a walk in the park either. It was challenging without being arduous. It was enjoyable, but not effortless.
"The course itself wasn't really easy, but yet wasn't too taxing, so it was a good balance. The handbook was clearly written, and the course content and assessments were well explained. I rarely had to contact ICS, but when I did I would get a swift and helpful response."
As a morning person, Kathryn found it best to study on weekends when she wasn't zapped of energy after work. She also preferred doing her coursework in big batches rather than spreading it out. She would spend an entire weekend cramming in as much as she could rather than doing a couple hours here and there. She says she was motivated by the opportunity to better herself and the belief her employer had in her. Marcus Martin, CP Electronics' CEO, believes that "Customers, markets and products never stop developing - so why should your people?", and it is this ethos which has enabled and encouraged Kathryn to pursue the CIPD qualifications.
"I find it quite easy to motivate myself, but knowing that my employer was rooting for me gave me an extra nudge in the right direction, as I didn't want to let them down!"
Upon completing the course, Kathryn also became an Associate member of the CIPD. Her long-term goal is to become an HR Director, and her CIPD qualification is one more step toward that goal.
"Some employers make a CIPD qualification a prerequisite for getting a job with them, therefore the course is invaluable if you want to progress within the HR world."
"The hardest part is starting"
When asked what advice she would give to other students enrolled on a distance learning course, Kathryn says the key is to jump right in.
"It can be quite daunting when you receive all of the books and course materials in a large box, but take some time to read through the handbook and your mind will be put at ease. I would recommend getting started as soon as possible, even if you only do a little bit at first. The hardest part is starting, but once you start it will all fall into place."
Having enjoyed the course and seen what career progression opportunities the qualification would give her, Kathryn recently decided to enrol on the CIPD Advanced Diploma in HR Management, the highest-level CIPD qualification possible.
"I am eagerly anticipating the start of my studying. I've already received the course documents for it and it is a lot more weighty than the Intermediate Diploma, so it will certainly be a challenge. Challenge accepted!"