Posted on 28th March, 2023

Episode 4: Graduate Talent & Small Business Grants with Bryony Lomax from the University of Derby

In This Episode…

This is the fourth episode of the Visibility Agency Business and Marketing Podcast.

In this episode I speak to our guest Bryony Lomax – whose role at the Careers and Employment Service at the University of Derby, directly helps SME’s to find the right student talent to help their businesses to grow and expand.

We discuss Bryony’s career so far, her experiences of being on the graduate scheme at one of the UK’s biggest car rental firms, Enterprise Rent-A-car and how she’s able to help businesses to identify their talent needs and how she goes about finding the right person for the role.

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Finding the right person to help your business to grow can be very challenging. When you consider the time and resources required to prepare the job description, publicize the role, and then to conduct interview after interview. In this episode, I speak to our guest, Bryony Lomax, whose role at the Careers and Employment Service at the University of Derby directly helps SMEs to find the right student talent to help their businesses to grow and expand. We discussed Bryony’s career so far, her experiences of being on the graduate scheme at one of the UK’s biggest car rental firms, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and how she’s able to help businesses to identify their talent needs and how she goes about finding the right person for the role. All of that, coming up. Welcome to the Visibility Agency Business and Marketing Podcast. Hello and welcome to episode 4 of the Visibility Agency Business and Marketing Podcast. Today’s guest is Bryony Lomax. Thank you very much for joining us, Bryony.

Hi, thank you very much for having me.

It’s great that you’ve taken the time out to join us today. For the listeners who are joining us, this is episode four of the podcast. We’ve had three previous episodes. It’s quite a new thing for us. But go on to YouTube and check out the first three episodes and subscribe, that would be fantastic, it really helps the channel. So Bryony, it’s all about you today. Let’s talk a little bit about you and what you do, and yeah, please introduce yourself to the audience.

So I’m Bryony Lomax, I’m a Talent Development Officer at University of Derby. So I always say that’s just a fancy way of basically saying I help bring in employers onto campus and engage with our students. So that’s either bringing opportunities for our students, either creating opportunities for them or working with employers too. So yeah, that’s me in a little nutshell.


And what do you do outside of work? Is there something that you enjoy the most and your hobbies maybe?

Yeah, I’m quite crafty. I like to make things and do lots of crafty things. I’ve got two kids that keep me busy, but when they let me, we like to do lots of walks. Before the kids, we did a lot of like mountain climbing, like Kilimanjaro and stuff like that. But kids have stopped that. So we’ll try again when they got a bit older.

Nice, nice.

And I previously worked for the University of Derby and I know it’s a really nice place to work so yeah, it’s great that you work there. So tell us a little bit about your career so far and then we’re going to talk a little bit more about your role and the challenges that you currently face outside of children. And so yeah, maybe you could give us a little bit of a brief overview of how you got into your current role so far.

Yeah, so I went straight out of university, so I did business and finance at university. I had no idea what I wanted to do, pretty much like all the students I speak to, and I was like, all I know is I want to wear a suit to work, that’s all I was very set on. So I managed to get onto a graduate scheme, so I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I worked with them for seven years, so I went on their graduate scheme, worked my way up. I pretty much had a promotion every single year I worked with them. Loved it. I absolutely loved working there. Just the whole family feel, everything, I really, really liked it. And that’s when I… So I had a couple of roles, but probably my favourite roles there were being the PA to the general manager. That was really, really interesting. Saw some different sides of the company that you never really get to see, so that was really interesting. And then from there, I went into the talent specialist, so I was a talent acquisition specialist, and that’s where I recruited for the East Midlands and East Anglia. And loved absolutely, loved seeing all like the recruitment side and doing all the recruitment side and working with all my branch managers and area managers to make sure all the branches were all staffed. But part of that role, I had to work really closely with universities as well. So I used to come into universities doing presentations and projects and workshops and stuff like that. And that’s when I started working with the University of Derby a lot and it just kind of coincided that they had a role came up that was an engagement officer and that’s when I came into the university. So I came into the university and then did an engagement role so that was where I helped students and employers. So I was helping students get the jobs and I was also creating the the employer. Then we went into Covid and it was all a bit changed, everything changed and then they changed the role to just employer. So I was just concentrating it on just the employers, so employer opportunities, placements, internships, that kind of side. And then recently, which is how I know you George, is I’m on a secondment with Driven. So it’s ESF funded project where we create opportunities for small SMEs, local charities in the Derbyshire region and we can create 80-hour internships or we can help fund, we give a like a £1,000 towards taking on one of our graduates as well. So it’s lots of opportunities, keeping me busy, that kind of thing.

Nice. Yeah, I heard that Enterprise Rent-a-Guide is a really nice company. I think when I was at the University of Derby, I was told that they had a really good placement scheme. So maybe that’s why you joined that company?

I’ve always had a really big work ethic. Even through my university, I was always working working like three jobs over the summer holidays just to pay for university. So like working with like a big family feel, like I wanted that kind of customer service, family feel kind of, you know, in it together kind of thing. And the enterprise just gave me that. It was so, it taught me so many skills. And I was really, really, you know, there’s definitely be some lows there, there’s definitely some massive highs there, but I wouldn’t be who I am now without that place. And I think it was the customer service that kind of got me there because I grew up in the Peak District, the only kind of jobs in the Peak District for a teenager, there was just tourism, kind of customer service. So I was like, yeah, I can do customer service. I do it all the time, kind of thing. Nice.

So that’s, it’s like sales, customer service, go hand in hand. Awesome. Yeah, my background was in hospitality as well, and I think it is a really good kind of grounding for, you know, going into the world of work, you know, into kind of an office job and working with clients, because you’ve had to deal with people complaining about their food, it’s being late, you have to deal with the kitchen. Oh, I’ve been through all of that. So yeah, I know what you mean.

Yeah. And then going and taking that to the extreme, like going from dealing with all customers, dealing with different situations in customer service, and then going into branches, and then having somebody that’s damaged the car and then basically saying, I’ve got to take a thousand pounds off you. And you’ve got to have those difficult conversations. And it really helped me have those difficult conversations with customers because I already knew how to do them. Yeah, sure. No, that’s,

yeah, it must be, I can’t imagine telling somebody that. So, yeah, but okay. So, in terms of the University of Derby then and working with employers, what would you say is like the reason why working at the University of Derby in this kind of role is unique and interesting? What, you know, for other people who might be thinking of working at a higher education.

So like coming into the university to work?

Yeah, in general, kind of about your role, why is it unique and interesting,

kind of the industry of kind of higher education and supporting the community? Why would you say it’s interesting?

I think especially since Covid, our students like all over, this isn’t just University of Derby, this is all students. They need a bit more confidence, a bit more coaching. And that’s where we are, I’m really enjoying at the moment, we’re helping support more students that need it more than ever. So we’re just, and that’s the bit where we are having to do more interview prep, more CV help, that kind of side, because their confidence has gone down since COVID. So that is one of the sides that is really good. The other side is that University of Derby is a really nice, like, I just, the students at the University of Derby are so nice and I’ve met some amazing people and when I went to university I didn’t really speak to my academics that much. I went down south, a long way from home and I never really looked at University of Derby and then I came back and now I talk to all the academics and they all know who their students are, they help them through their job choices, it’s just a different kind of feel and it’s just really that kind of commitment to their students is massive and I think that I never saw that at my university when I went to uni, but the commitment they give to their

students at University of Derby is really big, it’s really nice. Nice, yeah I did feel like it was a very warm environment to be fair when I went there and I subsequently studied in Paris, I did the Erasmus programme during my time so I left for six months and I saw the difference let’s say. So the University of Derby, I came back with a fresh perspective on actually how nice it was. So when you’ve got a comparison like you have, you see the difference.

Yeah, definitely. I think it’s…

Yeah, but what you said, sorry, what you said about COVID, to come back to that a little bit, is about students needing more support. I totally see how that’s important because people are finishing university and their first roles are online. I mean, we run a remote And, you know, our team, you know, there’s a girl that joins us in September, as you know, and she, you know, this is her first role completely online. And it’s a real challenge, you could say, to kind of bring those skills that you would normally learn in a in-house environment. And clearly, you’re supporting students with having enough skills to be able to be attracted to employers, right?

Yeah, it’s that kind of engagement side that we’re always trying to get those students to be engaging with our events or, you know, even if we put a job offer we want them to apply for it and that’s trying to make sure that they will apply for it. It’s all good as finding all these jobs and creating all these jobs but we need the students to actually apply for it. And so it’s making sure that they have that confidence. So the team in our careers and employment service, they work really well with our academics and go into lectures and talk to the students. So it’s not just we’re just putting a job online. There’s so much more behind just putting a job out there for our students. And I think that’s the bit they really do do a lot for our students to try and get them to feel like they can apply for this job.

Oh, sure. No, it’s just a really, really important job that you do. You know, it’s people’s futures at stake and you’re there helping them to go out into the world and apply for those jobs and it’s invaluable advice, to be honest.

It’s really different because like people say to me, like, oh, I don’t know what I want to do. And I’m like, I still don’t know what I want to do. Like, it doesn’t matter. I think that’s the big thing. Going into careers, I never thought I would work in careers, but to see students actually go and get a job and send me an email saying, I got that job because of our interview prep, or I’m so happy with my internship and all that, that’s the bit that I love about this job.

I can imagine. Okay. So in terms of the biggest challenge that you face or have faced in your career as a general rule, what would you say that has been?

I thought about this and I was like, there is one definite situation that came up. And when I was a PA at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, I was really trying to get my next promotion and there’s not really a promotion that you can’t be like a senior PA or anything like that. So I had to go out of the PA kind of world. And I saw the talent acquisition specialist and I was like, I want to be one of them. And the job came up, and I applied for it. And I went into my interview, and she asked me a question like, what’s your biggest weakness? And I said, oh, I know. And I said, oh, my confidence. And I meant in myself, like I don’t believe in myself. I know I can do it and I will be absolutely fine, but I don’t believe in myself at the time. And so she rejected me because of that, because of what I said. And then I had to do another, I think it was about four months. And I had to work next to her, like she literally was opposite me every day, kind of thing. So I had to prove to her every single day that I could do this job, like, why didn’t you give me this job? So I finally like persuaded her to let me come to a career fair and show her that I do have the confidence, I can do this. So I managed to get into a presentation and say, I’m doing the presentation, you’re not doing it, let me do it. Let me prove to you I have this confidence. I don’t you thought I didn’t have And yeah, and then she I did the presentation and then that night she opened the applications again and I applied for it again But that was probably the biggest thing was like Something I didn’t believe in myself but it showed me that I do believe in myself because I proved that I could do it. And in a way, it was good for me because I had to prove to myself that I did do it.

Sure. And in the end, you got the role. And I think that’s a story maybe you should tell to your students, that it’s perseverance, it’s showcasing your skills and trying to find that strength. Yeah, it’s tough. Yeah. In the early days, it’s tough. And experience gives you more confidence. And it’s, you know,

I remember asking my general manager, like she was like, oh, Briony, you just need more confidence. And I was like, yeah, but how do I get more confidence? And then by the time I finished Enterprise and moved to university, like we’re still really good friends. Janine is so, like, one of my massive mentors. And I said to her, I remember thinking, I remember asking her, how do I get confident? And then at the end of my time at Enterprise, I remember saying to her, confidence isn’t just about me, it’s about how I surround myself with good mentors, good managers, good colleagues. It’s not just about me just creating me being confident, it’s the team around you that you create, and that’s the difference that a good team, good management, that kind of side can create a confident employee.

Absolutely. Yeah, I agree on that. In terms of the best part of your career so far, or kind of the best role, the best kind of task that you do or projects that you work on, what would you say, you know, makes you really happy about your work? You’ve kind of touched on it a little bit, so I can imagine what you’re going to say.

So yeah, like the PA role was really good. I got to organise some amazing events, like for massive 500 people kind of events, which were really cool. That was quite a cool role. I probably, I would really enjoy my current role. Like I’m helping local charities that would never be able to get an intern or help somebody do their kind of strategic planning and that kind of side. And the difference having this intern in their charity or their local business is making a massive impact in their business. So that’s really rewarding. There’s a local one that we’re helping at the moment called the Grand Pavilion. And it used to be my in my town. It used to be like going out like nightclub and it closed down and I so I have so many happy memories of this building but now it’s a charity and they’re doing all like theatres and stuff like that in this building and I’ve managed to get them an intern and it’s making a huge difference to this building, to this charity and that’s what I’m really enjoying at the moment is really helping those kind of people and like companies like you like that’s how we met. Having these graduates and meeting local businesses that I probably wouldn’t because in my old role I had bigger companies like Rolls-Royce and Enterprise Rent-A-Car and stuff like that. I’m really enjoying meeting the small companies and the smaller kind of two people kind of teams on that kind of side as well.

Yeah, because having support in a small organization, in terms of making the costs work and everything, but trying to get support in terms of having good people to help is everything. As you touched on before, it’s about, you know, to be a competent employee, but also a competent kind of company. You need a good team. It’s not just about one individual or whatever. You know, you need support and it makes a big impact.

And I think that’s probably what I’m in at the moment. My Driven team is amazing and that’s where shout out to all my Driven team because they, it feels like a family and that’s where, like, that’s what I love at the moment is I feel like a really good team kind of thing.

Okay. So in terms of your message to the next kind of generation of people, I mean, you could maybe give advice to people who want to kind of come into a role similar to you and what you’d have done different to get there quicker, or maybe you just want to give some advice to young people who are, or to employers maybe, of how to find a good fit for their company. Maybe that was too many questions in one. Maybe let’s focus on the first one, which is advice for people, you know, coming into your industry? Let’s focus on that one.

Yeah. Well, I don’t know. People don’t choose to really go into careers. A lot of the people I work with all just kind of happen to come into it. It seemed like a good role or we’re all from like a recruitment background, that kind of side. So I just think probably for the next generation, don’t put pressure on yourself. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to do, like everything just works out, like different opportunities will come up and it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a set plan kind of thing. I’d probably also like to your other question about businesses like with the younger generation, people they have so many skills and so many things that they can bring to businesses and don’t be scared to take on a graduate or an intern just for six weeks or something like that. Like that can make a huge difference to your business and bring a different element to your

business. Yeah, absolutely. In terms of, I’m going to throw you a sidewall now, in terms of kind of as an employer, you know, recently we’ve hired more of a team. So I think from a, you know, people listening to this podcast, they’re going to be business owners, they’re going to be marketing managers. You know, they’re looking to kind of recruit students to their teams. In terms of the, how you feel, so in terms of internships, for example, you know, I would say that employers, that their view maybe could be that, you know, that they’re bringing someone in fresh, and you mentioned those skills, what kind of skills would you say that they can bring? Because I think in terms of our role, I think there are certain specific skills that could be brought in, in terms of technical skills like graphic design, video editing, things like that. But I think account management and things like that, you would have to spend a lot of time with that employee to kind of, you know, it’s a two-way relationship, right? The intern wants to learn that the employer needs to get some level of return on investment. So what would you say to that question, which you might get asked a lot, but let’s put it here because I think it’s probably people want to know.

Yeah, let me, remind me if I haven’t answered it, but I’ll say, while you’re saying, I wanted to say this, I did. One of the companies I’m working with is called Heej Windmill. It’s a charity that I work with in my local area. And they had an intern come and work with them for 80 hours, so like three months kind of thing. And a lot of the, so there’s nobody paid at this charity, it’s all volunteers. And at one of the meetings, the chairman got asked, why are we taking this internship? Why do we need this intern? We don’t need it. It won’t make a difference. After Georgia did a presentation to the whole of the, so the intern was called Georgia, after she did the presentation to the whole of the volunteers and after her internship, that person that said why, came up to the chairman and was like, I am so sorry, I can see the difference what Georgia has done. And that’s the biggest hurdle is to show the difference what an intern could do. But as you were right, you have to, it does take a bit of time, it does take a little bit of thinking because like what can this intern do, you can’t just get them to show up and just do a bit of filing for you. You need to get them a project, you need to get them to really hone in on their skills. And the university had tons of students and that’s where like we have a variety of kind of different skills and different opportunities that students can do. So we’ve ranged from one, I can’t say the technical word, it’s like an insect one, where they have to name and look at insects every single day. And we had loads of applications, loads of students wanted to do that. And then we go back to we had a historical one, so people looking at archives and that kind of side. Or I’ve had one that said, oh, they want to just make a website. They want to upgrade their website, but they don’t know how. So they’ve had a student come and do that. So it is looking at what a student can do and what kind of what you need. And then coming back to university, is this what a student can do? So we have had to turn employees around and go, like, we’ve had someone that say, I need a website. To create a website can take time. It’s a long time to make a website. If you are willing to pay for a website and then they design it and do it that way, then we can do that. So we don’t mind kind of going around with the employers going like, we can make this work. We can tell you what the skills that the students can do as long as you tell us what you need and then go from there really.

Yeah, and I think that defined brief is going to be important for everything. It’s that communication of what are you actually looking for? Is it possible or not? And as long as you’re honest with what’s possible, then that will work, won’t it?

And a lot of them do change it with the student as well. So the student will come and be like, I’m really into videographer, or I really want to do more financial, or I want to do more the business strategy, or something like that. And that’s where they have to be quite open as well, to open to changing their job description a little bit around the student as well.

Yeah, absolutely. Because then that person coming with that creativity, you want to harness that creativity. And you might have a brief that you think is good, but if you can tweak it slightly, as you mentioned, then you could potentially get a much better piece of work at the end of that project. So yeah, that sounds good. Yeah, I think one thing for me, I mean, I don’t consider myself too old, but I think TikTok is something that, do I use it? I do, do I really get it? No, and I think maybe the younger generation coming through are gonna understand. So, as a marketing agency, you know, we’re trying to look at the latest technologies, but I’m not necessarily the target audience for those technologies. Neither are, you know, maybe some of our clients, but their customers are. And, you know, an intern maybe and younger people could certainly bring that understanding because they are the target audience. They are using those channels. So, yeah, marketing-wise, I think that could be a good one.

I could definitely fill probably our roles with marketing roles. That is probably the most thing that we get asked is, can I have a marketing intern? Can I have a marketing intern? Can I do something to do with my social media or something like that? And there are tons of students who will just happily do that. They don’t have marketing degrees or anything like that, but because they have those skills already to do a bit of social media, a bit of Instagram, that kind of side. They will do it. Maybe not to the best, to the marketing students and that kind of side, but they do have a lot of those skills already.

Yeah, they can be developed as well. It’s about communication and trying to understand what looks good. And maybe some challenges you have, we certainly have them, is if the isn’t this, this is what good looks like, then it’s going to get confused down the line. So as long as the person, the employer is clear on what’s good, then the intern can adapt, I assume. Okay, in terms of, so we’re getting close to the end of the podcast. So in terms of three individuals that you’d like to give a shout out to, do you have those to hand?

I did. I probably mentioned one. So, Jalene Schofield is probably my biggest, she was my mentor, she was my general manager, so I was her PA. She was a massive kind of, she helped me so much in my like younger kind of career, so massive shout out to her. That’s probably one that she’s always influenced me, like proper women in leadership, making sure that women like really try to strive to go higher and don’t let people say no to you, those kind of things. I probably would say the other thing is Cassie, my current manager, she’s really been like one of the happiest. And then I don’t think there’s any one massive that’s other than inspirational kind of thing. I like to kind of more stay local and just kind of like see what kind of my managers are kind of. I think a manager is a massive role and to kind of make such a difference to their team and impact their productivity and how people feel and that kind of side. And I think those two people really made, you know, they made an effort to come and say hello or in the morning and those kind of things. That makes such a difference to a team and it can be the tiniest little thing but it makes such a difference.

Nice, nice. Okay, we’ll make sure to tag them in on any marketing promotions. You don’t have to do that. connect with them. Okay, so in terms of the audience, how can they get in touch with you? Maybe you’re available on social media, an email address, a website, is there something you want to

let people know? Yeah, so LinkedIn is probably the best way to get in touch with me. The university website has a massive page all about how businesses can get involved with the university and that can go into kind of the projects that we’re working on as well, so how me and you George met, there’s lots of information on our website. So I think it’s just and LinkedIn as well, so that’s the other way. Nice, yeah we’ll put all of those in the

description so people can very easily click on those. Bryony, thank you very much for your time, it’s been really interesting talking to you and thanks for sharing your career and your story and how the university helped. I really think that our audience will get a lot of value from that and hopefully they’ll get in touch with you and start exploring some projects and help their businesses to grow because we’ve worked together on this and you’ve supported us in terms of hiring and our business is certainly growing. This is why we’ve been able to put on a podcast. We have certainly got more time now to dedicate to our marketing. And you’ve certainly helped with that. So yeah, thank you.

And I’m sure you can help others.

It is a massive careers team and they can help with so many different businesses and different needs. So get in touch. It’s a really, really, really useful thing to do.

Awesome. Okay.

Thank you, Bryony.

Have a nice day and see you soon.

Thank you, Bryony. Have a nice day and see you soon. Thank you, Bryony. Have a nice day and see you soon.

All right, bye.

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Episode 6: How Personal Branding Helped JCD Cleaning To Grow with Chris Guilfoyle

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Episode 5: How To Hire A Virtual PA from a Virtual Assistant Agency with Catherine Harrison

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Visibility Agency Digital Marketing Podcast

The Visibility Agency® Digital Marketing podcast is produced by Visibility Agency®, A Digital Marketing Agency Providing Maximum Visibility, Minimum Stress.

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