Working at a law firm doesn’t necessarily mean being a lawyer. As well as our legal teams, we also have Business Development, Finance, HR and IT teams, to name just a few, all working together to keep our business running smoothly.
We’re well-known for offering apprenticeships in departments across the firm – both legal and non-legal. A HR apprenticeship is one of the opportunities here at Gowling WLG for those looking to kick-start their career in this rewarding, people-focused field.
We spoke to Sophia Cox, who completed her apprenticeship earlier this year and is now a permanent member of our HR team as an Early Talent Advisor. Here she talks about her experience and what advice she’d give for anyone looking to pursue a career in HR.
1. Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship over university?
After completing my A Levels in August 2017, I was unsure which path to take so I followed the ‘traditional’ route and enrolled on to an Event Management degree at university. I quickly realised that I prefer to take a hands on approach to learning and therefore made the decision to leave university after my first year and seek an apprenticeship. In addition to this, the prospect of gaining vital work experience whilst studying a recognised qualification and progressing within my chosen career was a significant advantage over continuing to study at university.
2. What made you want to pursue a career in HR?
I enjoy working with others and building relationships, which is what initially drew me to Human Resources, as it is very much a ‘people’ industry. I was also attracted to the variety of sub-teams that make up a HR department and therefore the variety of work you could be involved in to understand your interests. Joining the HR Operations team meant that no day was the same as I was able to support both our internal clients within the firm and also my colleagues within our sub-teams such as Early Talent, Reward and Benefits, Learning and Development and Corporate Responsibility. Following completion of my first apprenticeship, I was grateful to be given the opportunity to commence a further apprenticeship in the Early Talent team, studying for my CIPD Level 5 qualification.
3. What were your main responsibilities as an apprentice? What did a typical day look like for you?
Whilst in the HR Operations team no two days were the same. A typical day for me included anything from updating the HR database with contractual changes; responding to queries through our query management system; supporting the L&D team with their training events and courses; on boarding new starters and administrating leavers; arranging interviews; and sifting through applications for the vacation schemes.
When I moved to the Early Talent team, one of my main responsibilities was working on the creation of a bespoke virtual vacation scheme in light of the pandemic and working remotely. I also developed and implemented our 2020/21 vacation scheme marketing campaign, including identifying key areas for marketing and advertising. This included managing and attending attraction initiatives such as ‘speed networking’ sessions at virtual university fairs and answering students’ questions. I also helped to manage a high volume of candidates through the selection process, using the ATS system, Oracle, and setup and delivered the virtual assessment centres.
4. What were the main things you learnt?
Personally, leaving university and undertaking an apprenticeship is the best decision I could have made for myself, as I have gained numerous soft skills and had the opportunity to find my passion and progress within my career. One of the main things I have learnt so far is that building good relationships with your colleagues and stakeholders is invaluable, as cultivating a supportive and collaborative environment helps everyone to collectively achieve their goals and increase success. I have also learnt that, for me, the best way to learn and develop is to push myself out of my comfort zone. I have quickly realised that by taking on responsibilities outside of my comfort zone such as presenting at a large conference, you build your confidence through engaging in new and challenging experiences.
5. What advice would you give to someone looking to do a similar placement?
My advice would be not to feel afraid to challenge the ‘norm’ and explore a variety of career paths rather than solely university. Many small and large organisations offer apprenticeships in nearly every possible career path, including legal apprenticeships as an alternative means to qualify as a Solicitor. Apprenticeships are a fantastic route to study a qualification and earn whilst gaining invaluable work experience, which will aid your career progression.
If you are interested in learning about an organisation and gaining work experience in a people-related job, I would highly recommend exploring HR apprenticeship opportunities and studying a reputable qualification such as CIPD. Finally, part-time jobs in customer service roles provide you with many transferable skills such as communication, organisation and time management that are invaluable for an apprenticeship.
6. What does your new role involve and what are your career aspirations?
After completing my apprenticeship with the Early Talent team and achieving my Level 5 CIPD qualification, I was very grateful to be offered a permanent role in the team as Early Talent Advisor. My role includes the responsibility of managing our attraction and selection process for the vacation scheme campaign, and supporting our current and future trainee cohorts from offer stage through to qualification.
Personal development is essential for success and therefore I want to continue to develop my skills as Early Talent Advisor and continue to stay up to date with industry developments and my learning. I have a passion for working in Early Talent and supporting people through the early stages of their career, so I aspire to progress within the industry and make a positive impact on those who are aspiring to a career in law. Finally, I am passionate about apprenticeships and the opportunities they offer for both beginning your career and as a route to continue career progression through working and studying, so I aim to continue to advocate the apprenticeship route.
Visit our apprenticeships page to find out more about the opportunities we offer.