Working in HR? If you could start again, would you?

Steve Bridger

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Community Manager

22 Nov, 2017 15:59

You're looking at me quizzically... 'Odd question', you're thinking. 'Why ask that?'

No agenda... I was just thinking out loud... those of you who are HR (or L & D) veterans; with all your experience and expertise - if you knew then (at the start of your career journey)... what you know now, would you do it all again?

Maybe you are relatively new to the profession. What would you do differently? 

  • Having come from an operational background, 20 years ago I decided that it was what I wanted to do - so I did. Best move ever. I really wanted to be an air traffic controller - but my spacial awareness was rubbish!
  • No question Steve - no regrets, I'd do it all over again.

    The only hesitation I had at one point was when I was finishing a postgrad diploma in "personnel management" at the LSE in 1978-79. I had the opportunity of going semi-pro on the music front, but didn't.

    On balance I believe made the right choice because even with a busy HR professional life I can (and do) still play music. It would have been a bit more difficult doing it the other way around....

  • At the risk of being a bit of an odd one out, I made absolutely no 'choice' to have a career in HR.

    Being born in rural Norfolk, going to University just wasn't an option - you either did A levels and went to work in a bank, or left school at 16 (which is what i did)

    My 'career' from that point was: Trainee Jeweller, Trainee Travel Agent (YTS), Medical Records/Casualty Reception Clerk at the local hospital, Civil servant administering the state pension, Pensions Administrator then Pensions Manager for a large retailer. Next came pensions administrator for a holding company. I should mention that i was married to a member of the RAF, hence the many job changes as he was posted around the country.

    My foray into HR came as a result of taking a temporary data input job in the NHS when he was posted to Lincolnshire. This led to a permanent Workforce Analyst role and being invited to do my CIPD due to a dispute between the HR Director and Finance Director. Following completion of my CIPD, i took my first generalist role, had good feedback on my performance and have stayed in HR ever since.

    So really, I am in HR as a result of just going with the flow. Is it something i would have chosen? - if i'm honest, probably not - my passion is cooking and if i had the chance to chose my career, that is probably what I would have wanted to do.

    But the moral of the story is probably that it doesn't really matter if you don't know what you want to do when you grown up - I still don't and have less than 10 years to retirement!
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    22 Nov, 2017 19:45

    In reply to Teresa:

    HR chose you then, !
  • I was lucky to get into HR - I'd done a careers survey at university that flagged HR as a profession that I might be interested in and then when I finished uni and started temping I was lucky enough to get a long term temping position in a HR department. That led to a permanent role and the chance to do my post grad diploma. So I wouldn't do any of that differently.

    With hindsight, I might not have made the move into a data governance role earlier this year - that was a bit disastrous but it has led to me getting back into generalist HR (I've been a specialist for the past fourteen years) which I am absolutely loving. I've refound my passion for HR just when I was getting a bit stale, so although this year hasn't always been the most enjoyable, it has pushed me out of my comfort zone and led me to reinvigorate my career, so it can't be all bad!

    I firmly believe that every experience, good or bad, is valuable and this year has proved that. That was a bit of a ramble to say that I'm happy with every step I've taken in HR and everything I've learned from my various roles and I still love it as much as I did twenty years ago when I got that first temping job. So no, I wouldn't do anything differently. ;-)

  • Like Teresa, HR chose me. Not knowing what I wanted to do when I left college, I didn't go to uni, and had been working since 16. So when I finished college, I upped my hours to full time and off I went.

    I got my first HR role in a large department store due to me having worked in a cash office when I was a student (it was a dual HR/business support role when I joined and it just so happened that I was put in the HR team, as opposed to the BS team).

    I enjoy HR most of the time, but if I could start again, I wouldn't choose it. Although that might partly be a reflection on the current role I am in (not going so well, been here since June).

    Having said that, I have absolutely no idea what I actually want to be or do! Maybe I'll have an epiphany one day...
  • Johanna

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    Community Manager

    23 Nov, 2017 09:16

    Great idea for a thread, Steve, really interesting hearing everyone's stories!
  • Like many others,, I didn't set out to work in HR. I had a couple of jobs after leaving college before ending up in the Civil Service and working a number of roles. After about 15 years, I had a call to say that the then head of HR (a former boss) had a job for me. The rest is history as have spent almost 20 years in the field.

    Wish I had started working in HR a lot earlier though
  • Yes Definitely but I would maybe make the jump sooner than I did. My degree was in Tourism and Regional Studies and after Uni I started out in hospitality. It was in my first managers post that I came across Cathy who was the HR manager and she give me my first taste of the HR world and I was hooked. It took me another 4 years though to start on my own HR path. Looking back maybe I should have started my HR studies sooner rather than waiting, but the hands on operational experience is something that I also think is valuable to be a good HR Practitioner
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    23 Nov, 2017 09:39

    Terrific response... keep 'em coming :)
  • I had HR forced upon me - having done 2 years of secretarial training and then working my way up to a PA to the MD role, whilst studying for an archaeology degree. My boss told me at the time to ditch archaeology for accountancy which I was quite offended by. Once I finished my degree, he gave me a choice between HR and redundancy. My quite reasonable objection that I knew absolutely nothing about HR did not appear to deter him ("there's nothing to it, you'll be fine"). About 3 hours hours into my new career, the MD of another group company walked into my office and asked me what to do with a sales manager who drank on the job. I said "let me get back to you on that" and managed not to visibly panic until he had left the office - whereupon I called a friend who was a lawyer to ask him to ask one of his employment colleagues what the ... I was supposed to say/do.

    So it did not take me long to realise that I was ever so slightly out of my depth and needed to get up to speed, pronto. So another period of part-time study ensued. I learned on the job, without ever having another HR bod to report into, learn from, or share with, which I still massively regret. I got pigeon-holed into a standalone role, but would have loved to work as part of a team.

    So this is now my third career/ training and I do enjoy it but would not have chosen it. Truth be told I'd be happier in a muddy field with a trowel. I will probably do that when I win the lottery.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    23 Nov, 2017 10:15

    In reply to Anka:

    It can get a little 'muddy' on here sometimes, too! ;)

    We all get scuffed knees from time to time, which is why (I hope) this Community is so valuable - especially for those of you in a standalone role. You've been a credit to the community since you joined us, Anka.
  • I have never regretted my choice and have had a couple of chances along the way to change careers but have always come back to the work I find most interesting and rewarding: HR. In the late 80s/early 90s I worked for a multinational oil company and got the opportunity to spend a few years in sales and then sales management. I did fairly well and got into the top performers club, which gave me a personal perspective on incentive schemes, but I derived much more satisfaction from my involvement in our graduate trainee scheme and from team development activities than from hitting sales targets.

    It’s all about feeling that my work matters. When I was in sales, I had to find motivation by telling myself that all my old colleagues back in head office were relying on me and my sales colleagues to keep the organisation going. I don’t have to hunt for motivation in HR. The links between what I do and the success of the organisation and quality of life of the people of the organisation are obvious.

    I have always found that working in HR has brought me close to the inner circle of any organisation. Even in relatively junior roles, you can be on the inside of planning and strategising. In nationals and multinationals this will mean being close to the local management team. In SMEs it means working at the right hand of the MD or Chief Exec. I have also found there is a special relationship between HRD and MD. You can be the safe person for them to kick ideas around, share concerns, request feedback and generally speak freely in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with the rest of the SMT.

    If you want to be any good as an HR person, you need to know your business inside out, which is your licence to go anywhere and talk to anyone.

    I have never found anything else to match the endless fascination of tending a people machine.
  • In reply to Anka:

    Hi Anka
    Knowing what you don’t know is an excellent way of learning. It’s the people who don’t recognise what they don’t know that are dangerous, like your MD who said there’s nothing to HR!
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    23 Nov, 2017 11:11

    In reply to Elizabeth Divver:

    Elizabeth said:

    "It’s all about feeling that my work matters.

    "I have never found anything else to match the endless fascination of tending a people machine."

    Wonderfully put, Elizabeth.