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Career profile: Zoe Mitchell, head of HR, Graduate Prospects

Posted on from Changeboard

Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Zoe Mitchell, head of HR at Graduate Prospects. She discusses her career path, from starting out as a chambermaid in her dad’s hotel to winning HR manager of the year.

Basic details

Name: Zoe Mitchell

Job: Head of human resources

Current employer: Graduate Prospects

CV in brief:

  • Present Head of HR, Graduate Prospects, Manchester
  • Nov 01-Oct 03 People Resources Manager, Delta Hotels, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • May 98-Oct 01 Human Resources Manager, Hilton Hotels, Leicester
  • July 96-May 98 Quality & Service Manager, Jarvis Hotels, Newcastle upon Tyne

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

Graduate Prospects provides careers advice and job and course opportunities to students and graduates. Providing a range of advice and services, our aim is to help students and graduates to make informed choices about their career options. We are the UK’s official graduate careers website.

I am head of HR and responsible for recruiting and retaining the right people to create, develop and produce our print and online portfolio.

Who do you report into?

I report directly to the finance director.

Tell us about your team

It’s a small one! It consists of me and an HR administrator.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

Seeing people develop and move on to bigger and better things, be that that internally or externally.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

At the moment, it’s about ensuing our people are ready for the changes ahead. The recession has required us to refocus and I need to make sure that the team are equipped with the skills and motivation to drive us forward.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no such thing as typical as a generalist HR manager. However, it always starts with a walk round the building to say good morning to as many colleagues as I can. At the moment I have a lot of recruitment in progress, but I deal with everything in the HR cycle.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

My background up until Graduate Prospects was hospitality. After the birth of my daughter, and relocating back to the UK, I made a conscious decision not to return to hotels. Graduate Prospects were recruiting when I was looking to go back to work, I felt a good vibe at all stages of my interview process, and 10 years on I am still here.

Perks and downsides of your role?

Perks – it’s a very varied role, so always interesting.

Downsides – are few and far between.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

Above all, be approachable. It’s also important to be a good listener, be able to adapt quickly and find solutions and be able to remove emotion from a situation and see the facts.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

I fell in to HR. In my first role after university, I took personnel and training on as an extra responsibility and loved it. The rest is history.

What were your best subjects in school?

English language was probably my favourite alongside home economics. I went to college in Bradford and university in Newcastle.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

From the age of 14 I worked for my dad as a chambermaid in his hotel. However, as soon as I was 18, I made sure I worked in the bar!

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

Not really. My childhood dream was to be a hotel manager like my dad. In hindsight, I’m glad I fell in to HR.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

Applied for a job in Canada, was interviewed over the phone by three different people and then they offered it to me. My husband and I sold all our worldly goods and moved to Vancouver!

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I was HR manager of the year for Hilton UK Central and North region in 2001. Albeit a long time ago but I remember it as if it was yesterday!

Do you have any career regrets?

None at all!

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now? 

If you want to work in HR, get to know the HR team in your company. Take every opportunity to get involved, seek out work experience and don’t be too proud.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Professionally, take every opportunity to better yourself.

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? Decaf skinny latte, tea is the devil’s drink.
  • Jam or marmalade? Neither.
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Beatles.
  • Mac or PC? Ditched my PC when I got an iPad.
  • The Guardian or The Times? If I ever buy a paper it would be the Guardian for the travel section.
  • BBC or ITV? Ooooh the BBC. Better drama.
  • M&S or Waitrose? Sainsburys! It’s more convenient.
  • Morning or night? Morning. If I lay in past 10am I feel like the day is over.
  • Rain on snow? Snow, it’s prettier!
  • Sweet or savoury? Savoury, followed by sweet, followed by savoury, it’s a vicious circle!

Favourites

  • App: Twitter. I’m a tweeter.
  • TV show: Greys Anatomy -  Patrick Dempsey, need I say more?
  • Band: Barenaked Ladies, pure class.
  • Song: Breakout by Swingout Sister. Makes me sing out loud.
  • Book: Charlotte’s Web. I read it when I was younger, and I’ve read it with my daughter. Beautiful story and never fails to make me cry!
  • Sports team: Liverpool FC and Ferrari. I like red!
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: a couple of bottles of prosecco with good friends.
  • Place to eat: The Keg Steakhouse in Vancouver.
  • Holiday spot: Madrid. Amazing city.
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: Just say no: Cast of Grange Hill.

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