Learning to think critically and about the application of what we were learning has really helped in my career

Matt Neal standing outside the shop Harrods.
Matt Neal
Postgraduate alumnus
Human Resource Management with CIPD pathway MSc
Matt Neal, who is from the UK, graduated from his masters in 2020. He is now working at Harrods as an Employee Relations Specialist and has previously worked with the producers of Ben & Jerry's, Magnum, Solero and Vienetta.
Matt Neal standing outside the shop Harrods.

For me, the course was really important in choosing where to study

I spent time reviewing different modules and offerings at various universities before making any applications. I really liked the fact that the department offered the opportunity to do a company project.

I visited the University and really liked that it was a city which had a homely feel. I spent time exploring the city as well as the campus as I wanted to be able to get out and enjoy my time away from my studies, so the feel of the place was really important to me.

I used the Goodwin Centre a lot which was so close to the department

This made it easy to go and get some exercise done either before or after lectures. This was a good way to make friends as well. A couple of my housemates and coursemates were members, and it was really nice to get out of university for the day and get some exercise done and then have the rest of the time to do other things.

I made the decision to move into a house share with a group of friends who had been studying at Sheffield already

I thought this would be a great way to meet more people and immediately be able to have a social group. It worked out really well and the six of us all became really close. It was definitely the best decision for me. I am a social person anyway, but I definitely had to be my most outgoing self and this helped me to settle in outside of my studies and course.

I felt nervous because of the number of other students on the course

I found the fastest way to get involved was in lectures. seminars and tutorials. That's the best advice I could give to others, for social reasons and to get the most out of the course - I made myself vocal and got involved with the different themes and topics to drive an exchange of knowledge and information. I found it really helpful for me to share my experiences and encourage others to share theirs too.

The different modules really required us to think critically and to think about the application of what we were learning, rather than just repeating it in essays and exams

This has really helped in my career - working in HR, and with the majority of that time working with Employee Relations, there can be a lot of grey areas, it definitely isn’t all black and white! So I need to be able to use my skills and experience, my knowledge and the context of situations to help advise on the best way forward. If I wasn’t able to approach matters with a critical view and determine the best outcomes, there would be negative impacts for the company I work for and the employees.

I absolutely loved the Industrial Relations module that we got to study!

The engagement of the lecturers and teaching staff was great, we were able to have discussion in lectures and in seminars, where we discussed literature and current themes, with a focus on the landscape of industrial relations, the differences between the UK and other countries and how current industrial relations had come to be today. I enjoyed the topics and themes so much, I ended up basing my dissertation topic on trade unions in the UK. Finding a topic I was genuinely really engaged with made the dissertation process so much easier as well, so I was really grateful we were given the opportunity to study this.

My most memorable moment at Sheffield was finding out that I was awarded with the Top Performer for the MSc Human Resource Management with CIPD pathway

I worked really hard throughout the year and genuinely gave every module my focus and attention. There was a lot of time spent on revision for exams and my dissertation and it was made even better when it paid off. It had been a difficult year with covid and being able to deal with that and still succeed felt great. 

In my first role after graduating, I worked with the producers of Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum, Solero and Vienetta

During the course of my masters, I applied for a graduate scheme with Unilever and started working for the company in October 2020. I spent the first 8 months working as an Assistant Manager for internal and external communications for the UK and Ireland. Highlights during this time were helping to create new HR policies for the company and being involved in the internal rollout and external promotion of inclusive cultures and policies.

I was then offered the role of People Partner, supporting the supply chain workforce at Unilever’s ice cream factory. This involved working with the producers of Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum, Solero and Vienetta. I was one of the main HR support for 350 people working on site and would be involved with all aspects of HR - recruitment, ER, policy, pay, performance. I was fortunate enough to be involved with a restructure project and was involved with the trade union negotiations.

In late 2022, I moved to Harrods to work as an Employee Relations Specialist

I now work with managers across several functions. I provide support for around 2500 employees. I work with managers on all ER matters, focusing on disciplinaries, grievance, policy work, appeals, training and development. No day is the same and I get to work on a wide variety of cases and complex issues, being able to share my knowledge and continue my own development every day. 

Having limited HR experience prior to completing the MSc and then being in a Specialist HR role within 3 years of graduating feels like a significant achievement

I wouldn’t have expected to be able to progress through roles and to find an area of HR that I am so passionate about so quickly into my career! I think, as well, having the resilience to be thrown into different roles where you are still learning and being able to succeed is something that I am really proud of.

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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