HR Generalist or Learning and Development

Dear Forum fellows

I am in my mid-40s (I did not think that mattered until now) and part-way through a L5 HR Management qualification. I have a degree and masters (social sciences) and a wealth of experience in leadership and management roles within education, especially in the area of safeguarding. At the end of August I was made redundant and used some of the money to embark on the L5 course, enjoying so much the processes, procedures and compliance element of my previous roles as well as some experience I had working alongside an HR team on projects. I naively thought that I'd be able to jump into a HR admin type role as I am also a skilled administrator, having worked for 7 years as an administrator at a university. Alas, how I was wrong. I cannot get an interview for any kind of HR admin role. I secured an interview and second stage for a L&D role, but it was part time and I withdrew. I am now a freelance course content writer (safeguarding) and work in an admin role in a huge company (and will use this position to network  as much as I professionally can). I am desperate to move into an HR or L&D career. Your advice:

How do I do this?

How do I get past the CV stage with recruitment agencies? (I feel that they are all looking for 20-somethings, who they can shape and mold, and look past my wealth of experience, people skills, CPD commitment, etc

Is it too late for me?

I look forward to your advice.



  • Welcome to the communities.

    I don’t think it’s too late but I think it won’t be easy. But that’s as much to do with your career history , your qualifications and the narrative you tell/sell as your age.

    Recruiters will be confused by your switch and unsure how long you will be keen to stay as an administrator or to move upwards. They may  see your qualifications and  previous roles as confusing. So your challenge will be to create a great narrative and to keep trying until you find someone willing to take a risk.

    Here’s a previous thread but thee are lots of others.


  • Hi Dee

    I am in a similar situation to you, with a similar background and also aspire to specialise in L & D! During my L5 studies I undertook a voluntary placement in an HR department which confirmed that I didn't want to be a generalist. I am currently volunteering to get experience and also tutoring on the L3 and L5 courses. I have had several interviews for training/learning adviser roles ranging from junior positions to ones that were on the same level as my previous roles but not been successful.
    It is difficult and I'm not sure what the solution is apart from keep plugging on and try all means possible - networking, volunteering, or getting a job which allows you to transfer into the role you want.
    There is definitely a bias towards younger, more mould-able and cheaper recruits but maybe with Brexit looming, plus a decreasing number of younger workers, maybe us 'oldies' will stand more of a chance!

  • In reply to RM:

    Not being deliberately confrontational .... but is there any evidence ( in these days of evidenced based HR) that there is a bias towards younger candidates? Or that they are cheaper ? Or that they are more mouldable?

    We ought to avoid generalisations unless they are backed up with evidence.

    We do see huge numbers of younger candidates on these boards having as much difficulty as you appear to be having?
  • In reply to RM:

    Hi Rubina
    I am in full agreement about the age thing. I know some don't agree, but our CVs indicate how old we are, recruiters don't think we can be moulded and also question why we would want to 'work for this lower wage'. It isn't fair to questions; we should be judged on our skills, knowledge and broad experiences. I have spoken to numerous recruiters who imply that the organisations they are recruiting for are looking for entry level (and they mean young); those who will remain committed. I have remained in most jobs for 4+ years. You won't find more commitment and loyalty.
    Thank you for your advice. I plan to exploit the position I have in the large company I now work in and see what happens there.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Hi Keith

    It would be interesting to conduct some research here. What is the average age of recently recruited HR Administrators (recruited within the last 5 years). I don't think anybody would be surprised with the findings. I bet between 20-28. And whilst I don't have the evidence, my conversations with numerous agencies and recruiters indicate younger is preferable for this job level.

  • In reply to Keith:

    Hi Keith
    Confrontation is no bad thing!

    If CIPD or anyone else has evidence of age bias I'd be glad to withdraw my statements but as discrimination can often be subtle/unconscious it can be hard to prove the case either way.

    I was just speaking from my experience where I've been often interviewed by someone younger than myself who may not feel comfortable with managing someone older and/or more experienced, preferring someone who they can train up instead..

    The other, unrelated issue is where there is already an internal candidate lined up for the role but employers are just going through the motions of 'fair' recruitment procedures - I have found this to be true on at least two occasions where I've been interviewed.


  • In reply to Keith:

    Hi Keith - why would I be a 'risk' more than a younger person, say, just out of uni?
  • In reply to Dee:

    Hi Dee

    I've found the same when talking to recruitment agencies in particular - they are only interested if you are 'good to go', and there are many out there who are.

    Sadly, there is a suspicious attitude towards older career changers, plus stereotyped notions such as that we are slower to learn, lacking in technical skills and, (perhaps) that we will not be so accepting of authority.

    As I said, with the decreasing numbers of younger people due to curbs in immigration and a falling birth rate, perhaps Government and employers will take steps to address these issues.

  • In reply to Dee:

    You are potentially more of a risk because you potentially have a confused or not typical CV. Therefore when faced with lots of very well qualified candidates who have a more understandable cv it’s a question for them to go with type or take more of a risk on you that’s why your narrative is so important.
  • In reply to RM:


    To me there is a world of difference between a recruiter ( either in house or agency ) going for a candidate who already ticks all the box and that being age discrimination or some other unfair practice.

    Where there are already multiple candidates who meet all the requirements it’s hard to see the justification for a recruiter to put forward a “wild card” no matter how much it’s good to give people chances. Recruiters are tasked with meeting specific criteria that we as HR people or line managers give them.

    So those seeking to break into HR or any other career need to work hard. Not necessarily because of age but because there are already numerous well qualified and often experienced candidates already there.

    Good luck. People do make successful career changes. And people do move into ( and out of) HR.
  • In reply to Keith:

    And just for clarity I am not saying age may not be a factor. But I am not convinced it is by any means the main factor. And even if it is as you can’t change your age it’s far better to focus on those things you can change , networking, your cv, your narrative, the types of jobs you apply for etc etc.
  • I am wondering why you're applying for HR Administrator roles, when you clearly have experience and skills that would perhaps make you more suitable for more senior HR roles? I wonder if recruiters are assuming you will quickly get bored and want to progress to more senior level roles and that you would not stick at an admin role? You come across to me as genuinely over-qualified for an entry-level HR role.

    If your background is in education, there's every reason to suggest that a jump into L&D may be the more logical path, but it's not the only one open to you.

    I would think carefully about how you present your career change. What does your past career bring to your CV and why are you making the change? Focus on what you are looking to get out of your new career, not why you left your old one (redundancy).

    Oh and don't focus on getting through the recruitment agency gatekeepers - career changers nearly always do better going direct to employers and hiring managers. Agencies want an easy cookie-cutter client that ticks all the boxes the employer looks for. Hiring managers will often recognise there is no such thing as the perfect candidate (especially if they've been looking for a while), so they may just consider that CV that doesn't necessarily fit the mould, but has another quality they are looking for.
  • Hi Dee.
    So sorry to hear that your age is perceived to be a problem. In our organisation, we view experience above professional qualifications (for any role, not just in HR).

    Given your experience in safeguarding, if you've not already considered this then I would suggest expanding your search beyond agencies and looking at the charity/not for profit and international development sector which is working hard on improving it's position on safeguarding. You may find that you have an opportunity to look at Compliance jobs rather than just HR. In smaller organisations, the compliance/safeguarding may fall between HR and operations and so is an opportunity to utilise your leadership and management skills.

    If this is something that is of interest to you, check out the Guardian charity jobs section and also Bond.org.uk for jobs in the sector - you might be pleasantly surprised.
  • In reply to Lesley:

    Hi Lesley

    Thank you for your contribution to this conversation. I agree about the recruitment agencies and have re-directed my energies directly to employers. I have also re-worded my CV so that it leans more towards L&D. Let's see.
  • In reply to Janet:

    Hi Janet
    Thank you for your response.
    I have already begun to look at the third sector and education (of course) and I have recently had a positive conversation with a hiring manager about a role which combines my experience in education with HR (mainly compliance). So, I think this is where I will direct my energies. I am going to quit going for 'entry level' positions and work hard to prove that I have the skills necessary for a position which better suits where I am at now. I have held senior positions in education for over 10 years and know that I have a lot to offer.
    Thanks again.