Name: Matt Corbishley
Occupation: Director of HR & Workforce Development, Ashgate Hospicecare
What did you study at University?
I initially studied for a college Diploma in Business & Finance and went on to university to obtain a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management
What extra-curricular activities did you get involved in at University that aided you achieving your career goals?
I've always loved outdoor activities. My move to Derbyshire and then Sheffield meant that I was fortunate enough to have the Peak District on my doorstep. Hill walking, climbing and later cycling became an important way for me to relax mentally, re-energise and often provide moments of clarity and inspiration for my studies. It also gave me space (and still does) to think about what I really want to achieve in life and what's important to me.
How do you think the activities you attended at University/Students' Union have supported you?(e.g. in gaining skills, confidence, experience etc.)?
There are clear links between these activities and personal & professional development. I think spending time with people who have encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone (physically and mentally) has had a huge impact on my own confidence and assertiveness. I am definitely a 'glass half full' person! They are also experiences which have helped me succeed in overcoming some big challenges at work and at home by breaking them down into achievable goals or milestones - the equivalent of telling myself 'just one more mile' or 'just reach that next hilltop' in order to get through a gruelling bike ride!
What was your first job after leaving University?
My first job, aged 20, was as an office assistant for a small financial consultancy in the City. I enjoyed the work but not the culture and knew the environment was not right for me...so I moved to one which was.
How long did it take you, from leaving University, to achieve your career goals?
Like many people, I didn't really know what I wanted from a career until I was in my early twenties. I was 25 when I made a conscious move into HR, and decided to fund my own study for a Certificate in Personnel Practice at evening class. I completed my PGDip aged 33 and became Head of HR, then Director aged 39.
What was the career path you took from leaving full time education to achieving your career goals?
My 18 months at a financial consultancy provided valuable experience, and a springboard for me to try working life in another sector. I moved to work for a subsidiary of Royal Mail Group, remaining in the City before taking a promotion as a Revenue Control Manager. At that time I was house-sharing with friends in London, one of whom was working in HR. Having already decided I'd outgrown my existing role, and after many nights out discussing careers and futures, I decided HR sounded like a good fit for me. My employer was very supportive, facilitating job shadowing for me and it was at this point I began studying in the evenings for a career in HR. A restructuring process provided me with an opportunity to move into HR within the same organisation - I haven't forgotten the importance and value of supporting others in their development as a result.
I then moved from London to the Peak District to take a more senior HR position in the NHS and it was here I enrolled on an MSc programme. I then worked for the Police, in Higher Education and as a consultant in the voluntary sector before working for Ashgate Hospicecare in my current role.
What is your typical work day like?
I'm not sure I have a typical day anymore. Ashgate Hospicecare is an organisation of around 250 staff and 600 volunteers - smaller than many of the companies I've worked for and consequently my role is an incredibly varied one, which is great. As the HR lead I am involved with every aspect of HR and development of our workforce but as a Director, I am fortunate to be involved in every aspect of developing our strategy, which I really enjoy as it stretches and challenges my thinking. I get to meet a wide range of people both internally and externally and am lucky to be involved in everything from developing innovative, collaborative bids for funding, to working on employability and volunteering initiatives with the local college.
How well prepared were you when leaving University, to feel confident in finding and applying for jobs?
When I left I felt like my head was bursting with exciting ideas, models and plans, but University did not equip me with the skills to successfully apply for jobs. I consider myself fortunate actually that I had already gained some of that experience prior to University. I'm delighted now to have been able to recruit several graduates and many apprentices into our organisation to ensure we can tap into that rich vein of innovative thinking. Supporting graduates with the transition from education to work is critical and I'm glad that is more widely recognised now than it was 10 or 20 years ago.
On reflection, is there anything you would have done differently to prepare for the world of work?
I would have welcomed more career guidance and support, not aged 15 (which is when I received it) but between 18 and 21, which is personally when I think I needed it most. Things that many people take for granted - how to construct a CV, how to prepare for an interview, were simply absent for me. I probably should have listened to the advice of family members who understood the world of work better than me!
But would I change anything now, or any of the experiences I've had? Absolutely not.
What advice would you give to students who aspire to careers in a similar field to yourself?
I would say seek people out who are already in the field you wish to work in. Don't wait to be asked or invited. Social media is a great way of making brazen introductions and asking for a few minutes of someone's time. Internships are great if you can get one, but I would advocate volunteering as a fabulous way to gain experience in your chosen field.