Why Choose a Human Resources Career?

Human Resources is a tough profession, at best…

I’ve been in this line of work for many years, and I can speak directly to its challenges. Most recently, I was invited to speak to a class of MBA students about human resources. The instructor’s guidelines were, “Just let them know what you do and how your work fits into the needs of the company.” I like to speak, and I have fun speaking.

The students were responsive, we had a good dialogue, and I heard that the take-aways were helpful. Shortly after that class one of the students contacted me to see if I might meet with her. She liked my talk and thought HR might be a good fit for her.

That got me to thinking…

 …Why would anyone chose to work in human resources today?

 

If you stop a total stranger on the street and ask them what they think of human resources, you aren’t likely to have a positive comment. That has always bothered me.

 

Most of the human resource professionals that I know are kind and caring. They want to do a good job. Choosing a career in human resources can be a comfortable entry into the business community for people who aren’t particularly interested in finance, find marketing and selling uncomfortable, and aren’t necessarily technical or mechanical. We start out thinking we can make a difference in the life of the employee. We start out ready to help.

So what happens?

Let’s look at the generic job description for a mid-level human resource professional:

  1. Will draft and implement corporate policy and procedures. Oh this is fun. Everyone loves policies and procedures.
  2. Will develop salary scales. Of course, every employee feels s/he is fairly paid and is most appreciative of the newly drafted or edited salary scales.
  3. Will write position descriptions. Tell me one person who agrees that everything they do is captured in their position description.
  4. Will develop and manage the employee benefits program. And, who can’t complain about insurance plans?
  5. Will develop and manage performance standards.

Oh, this is getting more fun by the minute.

 

Is it any wonder that the average employee doesn’t much like human resources?

I was wondering what I would say to this young woman who heard a positive message in class, but might face a different reality. So, despite that awful job description, here’s how I decided to respond to her query.

People go into human resources, because, like many professions, there are hidden gems and moments in time that make all the rest of the work worth it. Find these gems and you can send a different message about human resources. As a human resource professional you are there when the new enthusiastic employee starts and you can make that really good – you can send the message that this is “a good corporate family for you.

” You are there when a young woman tells you she needs FMLA because she’s having her first child. What a delightful moment to share. You are there when some employees are so vulnerable, struggling with personal issues in their lives and they need some time off or even just an ear. You can really listen and reinforce that message that this is a “good corporate family for you.” You can coach employees – help develop new leaders.

That’s a pretty good contribution to any company. I’ve been there at the end of someone’s employment, even when it wasn’t their own decision and that isn’t always easy, but it can be positive.

Most employees, whether they leave voluntarily or not, are uncertain and hope that someone cares about their future. If they leave involuntarily, that counts even more. Employment with your company may not have been a good fit, but I have known many employees who leave employment involuntarily and later find the right place for them – the right corporate family.

It’s good to be in human resources when you realize that you have been a part of the most vulnerable points in an employee’s career, and you cared enough to make a difference. That can happen.

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