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? 

  • My "first" career was in electronics in the RAF, after which I took some "time out" as a semi-professional musician and using those electronics skills to fix guitar-amps, electronic (musical) organs and disco-rigs. That led to a Christmas-day meeting with a trainee physiotherapist in a Folk-club (the Black Horse at Telham in Sussex) which led to a 2nd (real) career in the Ambulance-service, a wedding, three children and three grandchildren! A sojourn into private-sector international medical transportation was great fun and that was where the HR-stuff started, working around "moonlighting" NHS Dr's and Nurses shift-patterns, qualifications, organising people, interviewing etc. etc. Then it was back to the NHS for a while as a unit administrative manager at a physically disabled children's school/hospital, then running a multi-agency project placing people with disabilities into (real) work; just prior to the DDA becoming law. (Much more HR!) Funding changes caused chaos a month before the project's renewal, leaving sixty-some people with no support and me working 18-plus hour days trying to patch up the holes.... until stopped by a heart attack at 49.

    A year of not being allowed to work, acquiring clinical depression, and studying (stress, depression and HR) led to career 3; HR "full time".

    So I sort of staggered into HR thirty-some years ago, by default, wandered around doing it by accident for ten years, and then realised it was my job some time later.

    Would I do it again?

    Apart from the Heart Attack and the Depression (which lurks around permanently), I guess I would; but I feel I am better at it (if any good at all) for having been through the disciplined tensions of the cold-war RAF, the mayhem of my time as a musician (and yes, I still play too), the years learning about people in the worst hours of their lives during my time as an Ambulanceman; the humbling but rewarding years working with children and adults with disabilities and MH problems and, yes, I guess even learning about being one of those "patients" myself.

    So would I do it? Yes.

    Could I do it? I'd have to be bl**dy balmy!

    But it's still fun :-)
  • This is a really great thread, I am not alone in the 'HR chose me' side of things, but looking back I wish I had chosen HR at the point when I had money and time to burn!
    I did a journalism degree straight from school, quickly realised I didn't want to lie, cheat and steal for a living (being 18 and naive I didn't think I would actually get taught to do that.....!) but was too far in to change or quit - especially with no real idea of what I did want to do.
    Then saddled with my debt and degree with no experience, I got an office job with an Employee Assistance Provider - basically typing up case notes! Here comes the familiar thread - they had no HR and I got 'volunteered' to do the admin. I twisted their arm into paying for me to do an ILM course and it really sparked my passion for people.
    I very quickly found myself another job doing HR admin for a local branch of a national charity, working with a great team. Here is where I wish I would have taken the chance, backed myself financially and professionally and done my CIPD (A mixture of self-doubt and imposter syndrome if I'm honest....)
    Personal matters then took over, as I married and had two children in fairly quick succession - something that I wouldn't change a thing about, but that left me working part time (my choice) and then redundant after a restructure whilst I was on mat leave. The less said about that the better as I am still ever so slightly bitter about it and wish I had more in me to fight it, but my son was only 3 months and I was all over the place.
    My next move was a bit of payroll temping (a good string to my bow, but not where my interest lies) and then to my role here - at another local charity - much smaller than my previous. You may wonder about my affinity to the 3rd sector - being brutally honest its mainly to do with the availability of part time flexible HR work!
    I middled along for a year, bored out of my brain as the HRM would not let me get involved, but then I had the wonderful fortune of having Robey Jenkins (RobeyJ) turn up and he changed my (professional) world! He encouraged (ok, practically forced) me to do my level 5 and offered me so much professional knowledge and ideas that I started to gain confidence and a real passion for good HR.
    I am now a standalone in the same organisation, as he has upped and left me - but he did recommend me for his job, so I am gaining some valuable HRM experience, albeit in a SME charity, before I consider my next move.
    If I could turn back the clock, I would still come into HR but I wish I knew at school that HR was even a thing - it wasn't even mentioned in my careers advice.
    I may have entered the profession much earlier, and not wasted half my career putting myself down as I 'only fell into it'.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    23 Nov, 2017 13:58

    In reply to Angela Jellyman:

    Angela Jellyman said:

    "I would still come into HR but I wish I knew at school that HR was even a thing - it wasn't even mentioned in my careers advice."

    We're trying to change that,

    Everything else we can blame on  ;)

  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    23 Nov, 2017 14:01

    In reply to Peter:

    Peter said:

    "A year of not being allowed to work, acquiring clinical depression, and studying (stress, depression and HR) led to career 3; HR "full time"."

    I would never wish that on anybody (except the HR bit)... but by 'eck we've been truly blessed as you've shared your knowledge and experience in this area (not to mention employment law in general). Thank you, Peter.

  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    I can think of nothing polite to say to that Steve. But thank you, and all the colleagues who share their own knowledge and insights here.

    Damn, that thing you got in your eye yesterday seems to have migrated to mine......
  • In reply to Peter:

    @Peter - now I know who to get in touch with for future maintenance of my 1965 Fender Princeton tube amp.....
  • I am another one of the "HR chose me" team but I do not regret it in the slightest. If I had known earlier what HR really means and entails, I would have chosen my career path differently though and studied something HR-related right away. Even if "common sense" seems to be the main skill to guide you through all the HR challenges.

    It's fascinating to see how the role and perception of HR has changed over the years.
  • In reply to Ray:

    Ah, yes! A sound like no other, and can warm your hands at a cold gig too! :-)

    I used to have a twin reverb solid-state and a Vox AC30 tube, unfortunately traded both many years ago. 'Seemed like a good idea at the time :-) Now use a little Champion solid-state. Not the same, but not a bad sound for home and practice. Miss the sound of the Strat' through the AC30 though: That was a match made in heaven (or somewhere) :-)
  • I always wanted to work in HR and feel very lucky that I managed to get a 'Personnel Trainee' role in retail not long after I left High School without having to go to university first. My managers at that role were fantastic and really made me enjoy working in HR.

    Looking back, I wish I hadn't been so demanding - I wanted to do everything right away, I needed experience first!

    Having only worked in HR for a few years, I am really grateful that I can always look through these discussions and read some really good advice and read different opinions from people much more experienced than I am (especially now that I am standalone!).
  • In reply to Nicola:

    Like many others, I just happened to drift into HR and liked it and stayed and got given more responsibility and joined CIPD and suppose did well and largely enjoyed it all.

    So part of me emphatically says ‘ no regrets ‘ but part of me does speculate about what might have been.

    With hindsight / knowing what I know now but didn’t all those years ago, I think I’d have done okay in academia or the law and perhaps had to endure far less work-related stress. My late mother always said I was far too sensitive to be happy as a ‘Personnel Manager’ and with hindsight again she was probably at least partially right - she was very clever and perceptive herself and rather well-placed to know about such things.

    Having to be instrumental in changing - and very often (eg via the incessant redundancies) shattering the lives of so many colleagues never came easy to me and took its toll in all kinds of ways. But at the same time I suppose I enjoyed it and derived great satisfaction from getting pretty adept at damage-limitation in this regard. However, in reality / if truth be known I was probably happier as a solitary thinker, planner and problem-solver but seemed always to get caught in, swept along and buffeted by the turbuent currents of industrial and workplace change.

    In danger maybe of killing the plant by pulling it out of the pot and trying to inspect its roots, so I’ll stop rambling now....
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    24 Nov, 2017 05:35

    In reply to Debora:

    Debora Allleyne De Gazon said:

    "Even if "common sense" seems to be the main skill to guide you through all the HR challenges.

    It's fascinating to see how the role and perception of HR has changed over the years."

    You are so right, Debora. Common sense, empathy, consistency...

  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    24 Nov, 2017 05:42

    In reply to Nicola:

    Yes, ... I know many many people here use the forums to validate or get a different perspective on their own views - especially those of you in standalone roles.

    I'll actually be showcasing our community to a few dozen CIPD colleagues later today. I'll tell them how the discussions often call out the worst in employers... but bring out the best of HR!

  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    24 Nov, 2017 05:43

    In reply to David:

    20,000+ posts later... the rest is community history. Thank you, David.
  • I do not regret getting into Personnel but with hindsight I would have been better off financially had I become an Accountant or a solicitor.

    Hopefully I would have escaped finance and got into HR later on and I would hope I developed an Employment practice rather than any other area of the law, albeit I suspect some partners in legal practices make more money than their partners specialising in employment law.