There is life after HR
Sometimes careers take us in directions we don't think of
Oct 7, 2014
By Brian Kreissl
I am a firm believer in having a long-term career strategy mapped out and in periodically re-evaluating your progress towards relevant career goals and objectives. But I also believe people’s careers often have a way of taking them in a direction they hadn’t initially considered.
At times, the momentum taking your career in a certain direction can be so strong it’s nearly impossible to swim against the current. No matter how much you wanted and planned for a certain career, others may not see it that way and have a completely different path in mind for you.
You can either try to swim against the current or decide not to fight it and swim with it instead. While it’s worth being tenacious up to a point and refusing to give up on your dreams, sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel. The realities of the job market, our own innate talents and abilities, specific opportunities that open up for us, the need to earn a living and how others perceive us all have an impact.
But before giving up on your dream career, I would recommend people exhaust all of the usual channels such as networking, continuing education, volunteering, internships, attending conferences, blogging and being active on social media forums. You really have to satisfy yourself that you’ve tried your best before giving up on your dreams.
Relevance to HR careers
This is highly relevant for HR practitioners, both in terms of their knowledge and understanding of employees’ careers generally and in terms of their own careers. For one thing, as I mentioned in the past, many people, even in this day and age, kind of “fell into” their careers in the HR profession.
Things are starting to change but the reality is very few high school students these days dream of a career in human resources. People still often end up working in HR as a second or even third choice of career, frequently after doing something else for awhile.
I personally never set out to become an HR professional. But when I realized that becoming a lawyer wasn’t in the cards for me, I decided on a career in HR because I wanted to use my legal background at least to a certain extent and I wanted to do something related to business.
I also wanted to do something that focused more on the human side of business as opposed to raw number-crunching. (I actually considered a career in accounting until I took my first accounting course and hated it, although I didn't mind some of the accounting and finance courses I took later on.)
Some recruiters and hiring managers are guilty of penalizing people whose background and experience aren’t 100 per cent focused on the job they’re applying for or who admit they may decide they want to do something different in the future. Given what we know about careers, it’s unrealistic to expect people to stick to one thing for the rest of their lives, and I don’t believe the only good candidates for a role are the ones whose education and experience are completely focused on only one field.
The whole idea that careers can sometimes take us in a completely different direction from what we had envisioned is also relevant to HR practitioners who end up leaving the profession or never manage to break into the field in the first place. The HR profession is definitely changing and some practitioners will find themselves on the outside looking in at some point in their careers.
While I understand what it feels like not wanting to waste one’s knowledge, experience, education, time and money spent on a career and profession, I believe HR practitioners need to know when it’s time to throw in the towel. There is life after HR and having an HR background can be good preparation for all sorts of careers.
Just off the top of my head, careers that could potentially make use of knowledge, skills and competencies gained as an HR practitioner include: marketing, corporate communications, general management, executive coaching, training, law, project management, psychology and social work. There are also roles (like mine) that involve developing, marketing and managing products and services for the HR market.
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Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.