8 things I wish people would stop saying about the world of work

A rundown of inaccurate terminology and misconceptions

8 things I wish people would stop saying about the world of work
Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

As HR practitioners, most of us probably have a few things we wish others would stop saying about the world of work. Because most people have at least some attachment to the workforce, everyone has an opinion — but not everyone’s opinion is informed or accurate.

The following is a list of things people say about the workplace that irk me. A few of these are minor pet peeves about terminology, but others are more fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of work, careers and the HR profession.

Certificates and certifications are not the same thing

A certification is a professional designation or an industry certification from a vendor. Generally, there are experience requirements as well as certification exams.

A certificate, on the other hand, is a short and generally focused academic credential from a college, university or other institution that generally includes somewhere between two and 15 individual courses. This is generally shorter than a diploma program and different from a certification.

Job change is not the same thing as career change

I don’t know why people often refer to a job change as a change in career. If someone is changing jobs but staying in the same profession, function and industry, she isn’t changing her career simply because she changes employers.

I would even argue that changing industries often doesn’t count as a career change. If an HR professional moves from retail to financial services, I wouldn’t necessarily count that as a career change, although an operations or line manager making the same move likely would amount to a career change.

There is really no such thing as the ‘HR industry’

Unless you’re talking about something like HR consulting or outsourcing — and even that’s a bit of a stretch to me — HR isn’t an industry. Rather, it’s a function or a profession.

An industry is something like manufacturing, retail, publishing or hospitality. If you’re working in an HR capacity in one of those industries that’s the industry you work in, not HR.

There is no such thing as a high school degree

I think this is an Americanism, but I have started to hear some Canadians use this term as well. But I’m willing to bet it isn’t accurate even in the United States.

High schools don’t award degrees, universities do (and a few colleges). End of story.

Not all HR practitioners handle recruitment and not all recruiters are HR professionals

I wish people on LinkedIn would stop ranting and raving about “HR” after they have a negative candidate experience. People act like all HR does is recruitment and every HR practitioner is involved in talent acquisition.

In reality, probably the majority of HR professionals do little to no recruitment, and many career recruiters don’t even consider themselves to be HR practitioners. While I think many of us can agree talent acquisition needs an overhaul in many industries and organizations, that isn’t solely the fault of HR — and many of us have nothing to do with ineffective recruitment practices.

There are more than two generations in the workforce

I may be a little sensitive about this given my own generational cohort, but the workforce doesn’t consist solely of boomers and millennials. To hear commentators, it’s as if generation X doesn’t even exist and everything is about grooming millennials to be the next generation of leaders.

A recent graphic from a news organization made its rounds on social media. Generation X was conspicuous by its complete absence. While we’re a somewhat smaller cohort, there are still millions of us — and many of us are ready to step into senior leadership positions.

Software developers aren’t ‘engineers’

While software engineering exists as a specific discipline, I don’t know why people are suddenly referring to all programmers as “engineers.” I’m not knocking software developers, but engineering is a very specific methodology and body of knowledge that few developers actually follow.

‘Do what you love and the money will follow’ is often bad advice

To be fair, there’s a grain of truth to this cliché — which is really about choosing work that is stimulating and interesting and which a person is good at — but we really should stop telling people they can base a successful career on whatever they enjoy doing. That gives people unreasonable expectations about their careers and can result in people trying to make a career out of something unsustainable.

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