Experiencing a career identity crisis

Certain people ‘pigeonholed’ in their careers

Brian Kreissl

By Brian Kreissl

I mentioned back in September how I will be moving on to another role here at Carswell in the New Year. While I couldn’t say too much at the time, the real reason is because we are cancelling Consult Carswell at the end of the year. Consult Carswell is the online information resource and work tool for HR professionals I’ve been working on for the last seven years.

It will be sad to leave all that behind, but as I’ve mentioned a few times to our subscribers, the spirit of Consult Carswell will live on in many of our other products and services. We will also be able to leverage much of our content in some exciting new publications we’re planning for the future. And I will still be responsible for the other publications my team works on — plus many more.

My new role will be product development manager (PDM) — working mainly on the print side (as opposed to online) — focusing on developing products and solutions for the HR, payroll, occupational health and safety, labour relations and records retention markets.

While my new role will still be broadly similar to what I’m currently doing, there’s no doubt it will be different. For one thing, it’s going to be a lot less hands-on, and I’m going to be relying much more on external authors and freelancers to help get things done. (Nevertheless, I’m happy to report we managed to redeploy all of the members of the Consult Carswell content team internally.)

I am quite excited about my new role, and I’m also happy to have landed on my feet in another role at Carswell — one that still makes use of my HR, legal and writing skills and knowledge. For that, I’m really grateful.

Challenging time for me

But I’m sad about what is happening to the service I devoted most of the last seven years of my life to working on. And I’m also sad to lose my team, although one person will still continue reporting to me in a “dotted line” relationship.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately because this change also takes me even further away from a traditional HR role. I like the fact my current role is a hands-on management role, and as I mentioned before it really feels like I’m still doing HR (even if the rest of the HR world doesn’t quite see it that way).

Recently, I’ve had quite a bit of feedback from several sources indicating it will be very difficult if not impossible for me to make it back into a traditional HR role, which is what I had planned all along. So I now find myself in the position of not really having a viable long-term career plan, which is quite disconcerting to me.

I would even go as far as to say I’m having a bit of a career identity crisis. Just “who” and “what” am I at this point?

I had assumed my next “gig” would be in a corporate HR department somewhere, but I increasingly believe I can no longer put all of my eggs in the HR basket (even though I still think of myself as an HR practitioner first and foremost). Fortunately, I also have pretty strong legal, technology, writing, editing, product development, project management, line management and marketing backgrounds.

Employers still pigeonholing certain people

But the identity crisis I’m currently experiencing can’t be that unusual. Paradoxically, even though the pace of change in organizations and careers is accelerating constantly, the desire to pigeonhole at least some people seems stronger than ever.

That seems to apply to careers like HR, where if you’re out of the game for more than a couple of years the perception is you’ve turned your back on the profession and people don’t know what to make of you. But why is it that a lawyer can do something very non-traditional for years and still call herself a lawyer?

Likewise, a professional accountant can still be thought of as an accountant as long as he’s doing something business-related, and an engineer is still an engineer even in a completely non-technical managerial role. Could it be those professional designations are more enduring for the people who hold them than other designations, say in HR?

Is that because HR is a newer profession or because we haven’t quite arrived as a “true” profession just yet?

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at [email protected]. For more information on Carswell's HR products visit


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