Wednesday, August 19, 2009

HR as a profession

I have multiple requests for informational interviews and emails asking for advice on HR as a profession. I had a pretty pat answer but am currently rethinking it.

I ask more probing questions about interest in this work especially when people use the 'I like people' perspective.

So would you, HR practitioners, recommend HR as a profession? If so why? and if not, why not?


Steve Boese said...

I would recommend HR as a profession, mainly due to the fact that the only enduring, sustainable competitive advantage organizations can possess is a talented, engaged, aligned, and happy (yes I said happy) workforce. HR, when it is at its most effective, can be instrumental in achieving all of those objectives. Technology comes and goes, products and services fall in and out of favor, but the ability of an organization's people to deliver value to the customers remains a constant. All successful organizations are about people, and HR can be a real difference maker in ensuring lasting organizational success. Great question Dee!

HR Minion said...

Even though the job market is slow right now, I would still recommend HR. There are a lot of exciting things that HR is going to have to be at the forefront off so there is a lot of room for innovative and enthusiastic people.

Kelly Mitton said...

Steve makes a great point in that workforce and culture is a sustainable competitive advantage.

HR is also a transferable field making the job switch to a different company or industry smoother than other professions may be.

I started out 3 years ago in HR because "I liked people". I have come to realize it is much more than that, I am motivated by the opportunity to inspire, create and motivate change. I really feel that HR as a profession has some great things coming & it's definitely where I want to be.

Allyns said...

To be in an HR profession I believe you must have a strong desire to contribute to the positive wellbeing of the employees, the company and yourself. I always recommend HR as a profession for folks who do say "I like people" but explain that the reach of "like" extends far beyond. Will you “like” to spend hours investigating unethical behavior, sexual harassment issues, speaking with employees and providing coaching, while remaining compliant with federal, state and local laws, etc.? The wellbeing of people can be a great puzzle to solve, if you’re up to it! The wellbeing of the company is one that is a challenge as well. When the board, president and partners are challenging you, can you stand up with confidence and execute goals? And lastly, can you handle those tough days – terminations, disciplinary action, layoffs, etc? Think about your wellbeing and ability to handle tough situations and keeping sane. If you can answer yes, than your “like” of people will be helpful. When I entered the HR field 12.5 years ago, I didn’t know what it entailed besides “keeping things confidential”. There is so much more and I love it!

Jennifer V. Miller said...

OK, Dee, you can always count on me to shake it up a bit :)

Here's a counterpoint to those who've already posted. I’m a former HR generalist (note: “former”) and one of the reasons is that I found it draining, not energizing to play in the HR space. Allyns has summed up the job requirements beautifully. It goes so far beyond an “I like people” mindset.

To me, the HR function can at times be extremely thankless—from employees with an entitlement attitude all the way up the line to executives who dump the tough decisions on their HR staff. For example, when I was an internal trainer, our VP of HR confided in me that she’d just returned from a meeting with the company President and 3 Operations VP’s. They’d made some difficult decisions, then turned to the HR VP and said, “Bonnie (not her real name), we know this is gonna stink, but you’ll take care of it for us, right?”

Now, having said all of that, all jobs have their “occupational hazards”. There is no perfect job. To Steve’s point, it employees are the one enduring aspect of organizational life. The HR function, when properly valued and executed by the organization, offers real opportunity to make a difference.

Jenn Barnes said...

Oh, heck no. Just say NO! :)

Laurie said...

I recommend HR as a career path for lower-income women without a bachelor degree who want to enter into a corporate workforce. It's a smart place to start, doesn't require much more than good administrative skills and common sense, and allows you to see other career options like marketing, sales, and communications.

If you're looking for an opportunity to get your degree and need tuition reimbursement, you can't start in a better department than HR.

Lisa Rosendahl said...

I'd recommend HR for the person who is collaborative, critical thinking and can take many pieces of a puzzle and put them together.
To Jennifer's comment above, yes, it can be a very thankless, babysitting kind of a job that can make you very "droopy" at the end of a long day but the flip side is that it can be a great position to work from in influencing and impacting change. Granted, not all HR departments operate that way and some are VERY administrative and inner looking but working in an HR department that is forward thinking and respected by colleagues and peers can be very rewarding. I don't know if this is what I want to be when grow up but for now, I appreciate the variety of work and in my particular situation, the opportunuty and support to do things differently in terms of process improvement, developing staff and honing my leadership/supervision skill with "live subjects and truth be known, I really don't like people

Deirdre said...

Steve, thanks. You mentioned points I hadn't considered - the constant. I shared that with one of my interviews today.

Shauna, I like your wording of innovation.

Kelly, I am glad that you are enjoying it. I look forward to hearing more.

Allyns, thanks! You are absolutely right. That goes with 'seeing people at their worst' and can you handle it? I don't know if people know until they are smack dab in in.

Jennifer, boy are you right. Sometimes we are simply the whipping post.

Jenn, I hear you and I shared your experience too.

Laurie, I agree - it's a great place to get some experience and have someone else foot the bill.

Lisa, wow, it's like you read my mind. I have used 'baby sitting' before albeit highly paying. I am not a fan of people, but I love problems. That's what makes it fun for me.

You are all terrific. I will share some of the feedback I get too.

adowling said...

I came over to basically say what Allyns said. My SVP of HR said the other day “When I interview for HR positions and the person says they are in HR because they like people, that’s enough for me; not hiring them”. I would recommend HR to some people as a profession. Some people just aren’t cut out for it. Like Jennifer said, it can be thankless but I think HR is what you make of it. It can be fun when you are working with the Training department on a new project that’s going to excite the staff. It can also be a serious bummer when you have to fire that person you had lunch with today because their productivity is rock bottom. For me, HR is great. There’s always something new going on, always something more I can learn, always something I can do to help my company grow. But that’s due in part to the HR Management team. In a former life I worked for a company that thought HR was strictly a paper filer, policy policing, drag of a department.

Readers Digest: My job is great, my former job sucked. If you are interested in HR talk to as many people in the profession as you can and research the companies you want to work for, research like hell to make sure it’s a place you want to work.

Michael Krupa said...

What an interesting topic. I imagine that with our economic problems and layoffs that being in HR right now might not be very ideal but hopefully changing soon. I think there are some really great companies to work for in HR and some really bad companies so for me it is not so much about the work of HR as how the company views the role of HR. As a HR Technology person I would encourage anyone looking to start a career in HR to think about their comfort level working with HR Technology. HR professionals are now being asked to provide HR Analytics information to senior management and the days of having a dedicated HR reporting team are going away just like when we had dedicated HR data entry people. My 2 cents.

Deirdre said...

April, that's a great point - is a proactive community or a reactive processing center? That will make a difference.

Mike, thanks for stopping by. People have to understand, be comfortable and dare say enjoy technology to be in our field. So many of our projects are tech-related - paperless office, online benefits and payroll, etc. You need to 'get it.'

Awesome all - thanks so much.