My Journey to HR: Progress Report & Career Change Tips
Note: I'm waaaaay late to the above meme. Forgive me.
It's about 90 days since #MyJourneyToHR began, so I wanted to do a quick check-in -- where's my head at, what roles I'm thinking about, and share a few tips if you're looking to make a career move.
Where's My Head At?
I'm optimistic, with moments of panic sprinkled here and there.
This May marked 10 years since I graduated from college. In that time, I spent time in several industries - politics, social media marketing, wine retail, life coaching, and now the tech industry.
I helped win one of the top congressional campaigns in the nation, ran my own business for four years, became a wine buyer (and lover), and sought out the opportunity to work in tech companies from the perch of New York City.
In my darker moments, when my gremlin is being an asshole, I go to a visceral place of fear. Did I screw up my career? Did I do things in the wrong order? Did I make missteps?
Once that energy passes, I move into a place of possibility. Over the last decade, I've learned to adapt to new cities (Washington, DC, Chicago, NYC), new industries (see above), new roles (I had NO idea how to run a business before I did), and cultivated a ton of skills along the way.
I'm insatiably curious and a self-starter, which I feel like is a strength. I consider myself a multipotentialite (thank you, Emilie Wapnick), yet struggle fitting a jack-of-all-trades background into the sometimes myopic, role-obsessive nature of business.
I flutter back and forth between I can do anything to am I qualified for anything?!
All that said, three months after I started purposefully exploring the world of HR, I'm feeling even more eager and thirsty for more. Somewhere along the way, I heard that reading 3 books about a topic would make you an expert compared to 99% of the population. Is it true? I dunno. But I do know a lot more about HR than I did 90 days ago.
I can hold a conversation about employee engagement, the importance of strategic HR (high-five to Dave Ulrich!), employee onboarding, and what innovative companies are doing in HR. Do I have enough knowledge to get a job in HR? I don't know. Maybe not. But I'm working toward it.
What Roles I'm Thinking About
This is one area that feels tricky. My gut instinct is that the role is important, but the company culture and what the leadership believes about HR is even more important. I could land a phenomenal HR role, but if I'm at a company that resists innovation or doesn't "believe" in the strategic value of HR, I imagine it would leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. Does the company believe HR should just do admin and be quiet or do they believe HR is a core partner in meeting overall business goals?
I'm at a company right now that I believe is doing great things when it comes to HR. As I've been reading and learning about the field, I sit down and analyze the actions of our People team, from the perspective of an employee. It's important to remember there are many lessons to discover from wherever you find yourself.
Okay, back to what kind of role I'm looking for. In the past, I got into industries or roles, thinking it would be glamorous, only to have a rude awakening. For me, it only took one time to learn this crucial lesson. HR isn't sexy. There will be parts of the job that I loathe (to some degree) and that's okay.
So I'm trying to look at HR in a very clear-eyed way. Since I'm not quite sure what role to pursue (yet), these are the areas piquing my interest:
- Employee onboarding
- L&D / Career development
- Talent Management
- The hiring process (interviewing and selection)
All of these areas seem to be part of what I'm learning is strategic HR (as opposed to administrative HR). I doubt a newbie would be able to land a gig in any of the roles above, without first learning and mastering the administrative side of HR - classifying employees, compensation and benefits, compliance, job descriptions, staffing, etc. I could be wrong, but that's my intuition at this point
My inkling is that Strategic HR is seen as "sexier", while the administrative side - which is absolutely vital to the functioning of the business - include the tasks and responsibilities that anyone starting in the field needs to learn. You gotta pay your dues, as they say.
Phew! So that's what I'm thinking about in terms of roles. I'm hoping to get more clarity about this as I interview professionals in the industry.
Tips for Making A Career Move
I'm going to keep this brief, but here are the key takeaways I've picked up from the last 90 days:
- Tell people about the move you want to make: Be vocal. Make it known. Own it. It may feel a little embarrassing or awkward at first, but push through it. This way people can help you along the way. You don't have to make this move alone.
- Reach out to people in the industry: Reading industry books is vital, but there's nothing like finding people who are actually working in roles you're eyeing. Scour LinkedIn connections, think about friends or past co-workers. Check out LinkedIn's Career Advice feature, to help connect with industry folks.
- Power Search Twitter: Find hashtags that are industry-relevant and influential thinkers (i.e. for HR - #HR #HRTribe #HRTech, etc) -- this will help you get a pulse of the topics that are relevant, as well as a great opportunity to network.
- Legit online learning is your friend: Legit is the key word here. Look for online learning courses that are backed with legitimacy. They will give you a peek into the industry and help to provide clarity about what it is you may want to pursue.
- Hire A Resume/Personal Branding Strategist: Making a career move is different than moving to a role that's similar to the one you're in now. It's important to find someone who will help connect the dots between what you've done and what you hope to do. If you're looking for someone to help transform your resume/cover letter/LinkedIn profile, I HIGHLY recommend Erica Breuer. She's an all-around fantastic person AND knows her stuff. She's been a gem to work with.
- Read, Read, Read: Buy or checkout books from the library, ask for recommendations from people in the industry, scour professional organization websites, and the top blogs in your desired industry.
- Join A Professional Organization: For HR, there's the Society for Human Resource Management. Regardless of the industry you're looking to enter, there's probably a similar type of organization dedicated to excellence in the field. Join it.
- Have Patience: Making a career move won't happen over night, but if you work at it, I'm confident you'll be able to make it happen. There will be days when you feel overwhelmed. That's okay. It's part of the process. As Dori from Finding Nemo says, "Just keep swimming".