Is the real key to succeeding & getting ahead in the HR profession that you essentially need a certain blend of skills & the right type of personality?

From being an HR Advisor to an HR Manager, Senior HR Director or a Chief Executive Head of People, all of these roles call for a certain blend and combination of both soft people, hard business skills and other personal qualities. If one has either an in-balance of more than others, or some which do not come, can be freely articulated or flow entirely naturally, it can invariably make things more difficult and hence problematic in the workplace if you wish to be an effective operator as a practising practitioner.  

These are also the hidden personal qualities not always put or found in the job description or person specification.     

To get to the point, a successful and senior level HR professional often needs to wear many different hats, being a key area of business, such as being a Social Worker by caring for and looking after the employees, a Mediator by balancing the often competing interests of Managers and employees, a Diplomat when explaining that the organisation cannot provide the salary increases and career progression initially envisaged, but able to still keep people happy and motivated to work, but also being a level headed business decision maker when it comes to the bottom line when laying off employees in order to save the organisation. 

Although many of these things can be difficult for most people to demonstrate in all aspects and right measures at any given moment in time, so they come across naturally, if one has neurodiversity, you also do not automatically pick up on or accurately read them either, and they can be even more difficult to show on the right level. 

I feel that I have identified the key issue here, but are these skills and personal attributes that one is either born with or not, or can they indeed be learned and taught behaviours?      



  • In reply to Andre:

    In my experience talent shines through.

    You are describing lack of drive rather than talent. If someone doesn’t have the drive to make the best of the opportunity they have been given then success will not follow.
  • In reply to Keith:

    In my view, I feel it boils down to the fact that I am a late starter in HR. The vast majority of people enter the profession in their 20s and 30s. I entered at 40 and that also explains why there are already HRD's at my age, 45. I have less time on my side until I extend it into my 70s and 80s. It is more difficult to start out in a new career later on so is there an element of truth is this as well. that my age may be a factor as most are all younger than me who work on the same level as an HR Administrator as they started out far earlier?           

  • In reply to Andre:


    Harshly you can choose your excuses or you can make the best of the opportunities you have. Others have said how they have joined the profession late and got on ( Dave P for one). Late joiners may not get to the very top but they can and do progress well beyond entry level roles.

    The key as I have said on several of your posts (including this one) for me is understanding why your current organisation have not promoted you or recognised your talents, how you have used your undoubted impressive academic qualifications to good effect for your employer and how you motivate yourself to do a great job in a job you feel is beneath you.

    Those are all things you can affect and all can have a positive impact on your career and job search.
  • In reply to Keith:

    To be promoted there must be a vacancy and none have arisen. When they did, I did not apply and they always took external candidates.
  • In reply to Andre:

    How I view it is this. Most JD’s & Person Specs for HR Advisor’s and HRBP’s ask as an essential requirement for several years relevant experience, so in effect you must already be one and be carrying the current JD in your present role in order to become one. Few trainee HR Advisor or junior HRBP roles come onto the market.

  • In reply to Andre:

    Andre said:
    there must be a vacancy and none have arisen. When they did, I did not apply

    Isnt that the nub of the issue. When opportunities arose you did not apply. 

  • In reply to Keith:

    And very wisely as well to avoid disappointment and then possibly triggering a resignation when they would have declined me. Generally, I find that applying for a new role in a different organisation is the best way forward.
  • In reply to Andre:

    On that as so many things we appear to disagree.

    Letting your current organisation know you are keen and want developing shouldn't in any way lead to a resignation. At the very least it should lead to a discussion about opportunities etc. Successful organisations recognise internal talent and develop it, successful people are recognised as having talent and given opportunity.
  • In reply to Andre:

    I disagree with this and it isn't the case in all business. In my company we were recruiting for a junior software developer we had external candidates come through with industry experience, but then received an internal application from a member of staff who was currently working in our languages department. She had been learning to code in her own time for the past two year and wanted to make the move into software development. We interviewed her along with the external candidates and she was offered the role even though she was the least experienced applicant. She was offered the role not only because of her knowledge of the company but the passion and dedication she demonstrated in her learning outside of her role. One year in and she's has continued to increase her developing skills and is highly regarded and respected by the seniors in her team. For us as a business we not only have a talented developer (which are so hard to find) but we've retained talent in the business.

    We've also had other employees who have not been successful in their internal applications but after providing feedback to them on why they didn't get the role, we've implemented personal development plans to aid and help them progress / develop and move forward in their career aspirations.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Agree 100% with Keith. Not getting an internal appointment shouldn’t automatically lead to a resignation and is a great opportunity to exchange on what career evolution IS possible, and how to get there. Much easier than by being interviewed for an external company by people who know nothing about your observed strengths and weaknesses.
  • In reply to Andre:


    Are you not doing yourself a disservice and making assumptions about an outcome, which as HR we spend most of our time advising people not to do.

    In regard to job specs if you are an internal candidate, you have the opportunity to speak to the recruiter and inform them of your interest.
    In my experience if an internal candidate does not reach all the criteria, but they have been seen to having the drive and the ability, that will be taken into account, as an internal candidate knows the organisation and there is already a mutual trust.

  • In reply to Keith:

    From my own personal experiences, it can actually be easier to advance career wise by just joining a new employer. You can sell your role more than it is (without exaggerating) and they do not know you / you are more of an unknown quantity which can also have its advantages as well with no internal company politics.

    You have a fresh start in a new organisation with different people in another area who do not know and take you on face value alone.
  • In reply to Sarah Mackie:

    Concur very much with Sarah's experience. When working with the start-up of Eurotunnel - we had to recruit 3,000 staff principally in Folkestone & Calais over 18-20 months - many of the jobs simply didn't exist in other companies. This meant recruitment was very much on "open profiles" where company-specific skillsets had to be acquired within Eurotunnel. In France, this was in an area where unemployment was close to 20% so many of the recruits came with totally different skills and esperience.

    Over the years, many of the people recruited for one type of job were able to apply for other types of jobs because they had the appropriate skills to move across. I remember one of the train drivers (trained by us) later became head of pc support in France because of the unused other skills already he had.

    My experience, like Sarah's is that internal mobility is usually actively preferred by companies since you are dealing with known quantities and can save the cost of external recruitment and training, minus much of the risks associated with recruiting an unknown, untested person.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Agree Ray.

    And to be totally honest I would be asking some pretty searching questions if someone who NEVER got promoted internally and always moved every few years to get in.