Read Aoibheann's story
It’s hard to believe I’ve nearly completed twelve months on Network Rail’s HR Graduate Scheme. I moved from Northern Ireland to Milton Keynes to join the scheme at end of August 2017. Sometimes, there seems to be the preconception that if you work for Network Rail, then you must be male, wear orange, work on the train tracks/stations or you have an absolute love of trains. Yet, for me, none of these are true. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s the opposite!
Network Rail is much more than what the public may perceive it to be. We are a myriad of people doing a vast array of jobs, and an organisation such as Network Rail develops and thrives on having people with different perspectives and opinions working for it. I don’t need to love trains, but I do need to love helping our employees be the best they can be, as this means they can ensure our railway runs safely and efficiently for the British public.
I studied Business Management at university and was unsure as to what kind of job the degree would lead to. After undertaking an industrial placement year at Michelin Tyres Plc in HR, I knew this was the area I wanted to work in and decided to find a graduate scheme during my final year at university. I received a ‘talent spot’ through the graduate app Debut from Network Rail which prompted me to research the organisation and structure of the scheme. I chose Network Rail’s graduate scheme because it is divided into rotations around the business in HR centres of expertise and in the business areas where the relevant HR generalist teams sit. So far, I have worked in the Safety, Technical, Engineering and Group Digital Railway, Industrial Relations and HR Operations on four monthly rotations. I am due to start a Business Partnering rotation in September with the Infrastructure Projects Signalling team and this will last six months.
Being on the graduate scheme gives me the opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge, but what I also love is the chance to meet so many people across the function and business. I understand this is not something everyone gets the opportunity to do as it becomes very easy to work in silos and only know your immediate team. So, my piece of advice for graduates and, in fact, for everyone in the work place is to go out of your way to be friendly and get to know people. You spend most of your life at work with your colleagues so why not foster great relationships? Hearing others’ ideas and experiences is what generates change and forward thinking. Let others push you out of your comfort zone and hear their perspective.
If you are considering a graduate scheme, ensure you are prepared to work hard, be collaborative and seek out opportunities for development. My typical day at Network Rail is 08.30‐16.30 and will mostly be filled with rotation specific activities, but it also will entail cross‐departmental work that I have asked to get involved in. Effective time management will mean you can get involved in as much as you want to! I am also currently undertaking the CIPD Level 5* qualification and have just completed four out of the six assignments. Ensuring you have the theoretical knowledge to back up practical decisions you are making in the workplace is key. I haven’t found balancing working and studying life too difficult. This is probably because I’m still in university mind‐set. So again, if looking at graduate schemes, I would encourage you to consider what further qualifications are offered alongside the day‐to day work.
* This is a pre-2021 CIPD qualification.
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