Dear “I want to be in HR.”
How shall I approach this? For starters, I must preface what I write by saying this is my experience. I may be a freak. I may have been lucky so far. I may be delusional. But just like the endless grains of sand, young Weed-Hopper, so are the many paths to, within, and presumably out of Human Resources.
Perhaps a short list of some pros and cons.
I’ll start with the Cons so I can end on a positive note (HR tactic).
-You will sometimes not be invited to management meetings where HR items are being discussed and decided upon. This will be very frustrating and often give you cause to question the intelligence of your senior management team, or at least the Big Leader of that team (Often, less powerful senior-leaders will, in fact, commiserate with HR and see your “value” but they are frequently ineffective in acting on this in the face of the BIG Leader, who is oblivious).
-You will have to beat back the 1970s notion of “personnel management.” Some Boomers still cling to this and will see you as the Commissioner of Parties and ask you to step aside when real work surfaces. Such dinosaurs still exists, and often are VPs, and your fate is to deal with them and add value to your organization despite them, or sometimes, to spite them.
-You will constantly be fixing things, and writing things, and researching things, where the credit will go to someone other than yourself, likely your boss. Suck it up. Big fish eat little fish, be glad you have a job, and try to become a big fish.
-You will be associated with people losing their jobs because you will have to fire people. Sometimes, when it is the Mean Guy who left horrifically scary death threats on a coworkers cell phone, it will be easy (although I did have to call the Police department to be there, I evacuated the building, and I had the location manager and a mechanic with me to take the guy down should he go crazy on us during the term). Other times, when it is a reduction of force, or a location closure, where people are losing their jobs in a much more innocent way…it is very, very hard. This ex-Marine has been in tears on more than one occasion when having to lead such terminations.
-You will often be overburdened with work and without sufficient resources but this is the case for most any professional so you cannot dwell on the matter nor complain. As John Mellencamp sings: “You are young and you are the future, so suck it up and tough it out, and be the best you can.”
-You can effect change. I have taken every executive leader I have worked with out for the Moment of Truth speech. This is where we have a beer, and I say: “I can work better for you and help move things forward if you let me do my job” (Usually there is a fair amount of profanity involved as this makes me seem serious and relatable during these sessions). Once I have the Big Leader on board, I can now start working for positive change.
-You can be a Leader in your organization. People want and need to see someone in management leading, and you will have many opportunities to do this, if you take them!
-You can really add to the business. You can help develop talent, you can help develop culture, you can help improve productivity, you can help with matters of parity and fairness, you can do a lot of positive social-construct type stuff, and not just so the world is a frickin better place, but so your company makes money. Thereby, you make money. You get a company car. You get a bonus. You get stock. Etc.
-You will be a Mutt, not a Thoroughbred, and that is okay. A good HR Person is a mix of many things: One part Coach, one part Attorney, one part Priest, one part Detective, one part Counselor, one part Politician, etc. I like wearing these different hats, keeps the job fresh.
-Yes, something new every day.
In the end, young Weed-Hopper, there are many good and rewarding aspects of being an HR practitioner. For me, at least. I’ve never wanted to be the Sales Guy. Certainly not the Accountant. I lack the knowledge to be the IT Person. I could manage people and be a general manager, but I lack the subject matter expertise of landscaping, or grocery stores, or tire outlets, etc., so being the manager who manages operations could be a stretch…but I think I could do that.
But I like HR. I like being a Generalist especially. Please do not pigeon-hole me in Benefits or Payroll or some other straight line function! Let me be a Generalist, free to dabble in it all. It is a good career, and I have no regrets. Well, one maybe. I should have gone to law school and become a lawyer. Lawyers get it all…Arrggh! What was I thinking?
M.Ed., SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources)