Jo H.

Head of Skills Development
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Jo H.
Taught Postgraduate
United Kingdom

My employment

Head of Skills Development
University of Leeds
United Kingdom
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Head of Skills Development in the United Kingdom

There are challenges in every job, the key is learning how to overcome them.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

University of Leeds Research and Innovation Service

What do you do?

Event and Hotel Management, as well as several customer service roles, were a great foundation for my career in Higher Education. When I joined the University of Leeds, I was looking to continue my education and thanks to a supportive Director, and a little bit of naivety, I took on a part time work-based learning MA while working full time in my first role. Fast forward nearly 20 years and I am still at Leeds as there is always someone new to meet and something new to learn. I like new and innovative and have had various corporate and professional development roles, including teaching, and supporting MBA and MSc students, managing strategic partnerships with M&S and Arup and leading cross University business engagement projects.

Now I lead, design, and develop knowledge exchange and capacity building initiatives to inspire and accelerate academic research impact activities and increase institutional collaboration. Working with our experts across the University I also support businesses to recruit our students and graduates. I am a certified coach and mentor and really enjoy helping others realise and achieve their goals.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

That killer question “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” well I’m convinced that most people haven’t a clue! That includes me, what I have always tried to do is focus on what I enjoy and what is important to me at the time. When I graduated for York, I knew I wanted to move back to Leeds and just started looking for something that interested me. I love a new challenge, enjoy helping others and can’t sit still for very long. So, when the ‘perfect role’ didn’t appear I volunteered, took a couple of part time jobs, and carried on the search. Having had several knock backs with the words ‘overqualified’ and ‘underexperienced’ I eventually found a role in a hotel as a Conference Assistance, two months later I was promoted to Assistant Hotel Manager.

Then priorities changed and I wanted to buy my first house (at that time it was cheaper than renting!), I needed a higher salary, I also wanted to learn more about the industry so targeted global hotel chains with speculative applications (CVs). I was called for an informal interview at Novotel, secured a role in their conference office, and bought my first house. Fast forward eighteen months and I was ready for a new challenge. Given that I was settled in my house I knew I wanted to stay in Leeds, so I researched organisations in the area, identified the University as somewhere interesting to work and started applying. Twenty years later and more jobs than I can count and I’m still here and enjoying it.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

I really didn't know what I wanted to do when I graduated and just started looking for something that seemed challenging and interesting (see above question).

Describe your most memorable day at work

Every day is different, it is hard to pick one. The reason I have stayed at Leeds for so long though is that there is always something new to learn and someone new to meet.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

There are challenges in every job, the key is learning how to overcome them.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

York Women's Football Team - Social Secretary and Tour Representative: Teamwork, Communication, Project Management, Organisation, Creativity.

Played in a Brass Band and competed nationally – Band Representative (joined the committee): Teamwork, Listening, Drive and Dedication, Responsibility.

Lots of part time customer service jobs: Communication, managing challenging situations, Problem Solving, Teamwork, Finance, Customer Service.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I want to continue in Higher Education, making a difference, establishing new initiatives that enable colleagues to achieve their goals and accelerate knowledge exchange which leads to positive economic or societal impact. .

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Focus on what you enjoy and always be open to talking to and learning from others.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

Anything at all.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I am open to connecting:

Next steps...

If you like the look of Jo’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Jo a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Jo to be your mentor.

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