Career development can often be challenging as it won't be a linear process, you won't always get the job you want, you might find yourself going down a path you hadn't intended to and getting stuck. Sometimes getting unstuck can feel like too much effort and so you might just accept where you are despite feeling unfulfilled.
I was late moving into my Human Resources (HR) career at 30. I'd had previous experience of working in sales and customer service roles, recruiting and managing but had to effectively start over if I wanted to get into HR, namely as an administrator. This meant taking a pay-cut and relinquishing autonomy and responsibility but it was a sacrifice I was prepared to make as I was set on a career in HR. Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to move forward.
If at first you don't succeed..
Be creative, find ways to get the knowledge, experience and opportunities you need to progress your career.
It took me 18 months to secure a HR administrator role, despite having a degree in HR and circa. 12 years of previous work experience. I easily secured interviews but was repeatedly rejected on the basis that I was over-qualified and under-experienced. At first this was de-moralising but then it became a personal mission, I was determined to get into HR no matter what. I kept on applying for HR entry-level roles and even at the interview for the HR administrator role, the HR Director almost didn't offer me the role as he said I would be bored within 6 months. I exercised all of my persuasive powers to convince him to give me the role which he did in the end and 6 months later I was so bored!
At this point, it just so happened that the HR Manager and HR Officer had resigned and so I saw an opportunity to ask for the HR Officer role. The HR Director declined on the basis of my lack of experience. Not to be deterred, I proposed keeping the HR administrator role on and taking on half of the HR Officer role. Again, this took a lot of persuasion and luckily he signed off on it. Suffice to say, once I'd had a run at the HR Officer aspect of the role, I was able to convince the HR Director to give me the other half of the role and backfill the HR administrator role.
Have a Strategic Career Development Plan
Have a clear career plan which will act as your guiding star whenever move around. If you're not sure how to map this out, engage a coach who will help you to have clarity, identify goals and specific actions.
I moved on from my first HR career step due to a redundancy office closure and into another HR Officer role but with a regional remit. I really enjoyed the role, the people and getting to know the industry but it soon became apparent that I had a big experience gap that I wouldn't be able to fill in this role, namely dealing with complex employee relations (ER) issues. I was enjoying working in HR and wanted to develop broader skills and experience so I knew that I would need to leave and gain the experience elsewhere so I chose to leave, with a heavy heart, for a role that would give me that experience (in a highly acquisitive business). I spent two years working on acquisition integrations, redundancies, performance / conduct / absence issues and then decided I'd had enough as this type of work is energy draining when you're doing it day in and day out. I'd earned my ER stripes.
I realised that the part of my job that I enjoyed the most was working with and coaching managers and leaders in the business, really getting to learn about the business commercially and understanding what key people initiatives were needed. I least enjoyed the ER side of the job so with this in mind, I decided that business partnering (BP) was the way forward and sought out BP roles moving forward. I also decided that I didn't want to get pigeon holed and restrict future opportunities so I also decided to ensure that I worked in a different industry each time, preferably with a European or Global remit, I progressed in my career.
Sometimes You Just Have to Jump Ship to Get Ahead
If you really want the development, growth and career, and it's not forthcoming where you are, go look for it somewhere else.
Throughout my career I've worked hard, took pride in my work and the service I've provided, always keen to learn and grow. Where growth opportunities haven't been available or forthcoming, I've tried to influence this and if there still hasn't been an appropriate opportunity. I've moved on quickly and professionally. I appreciate that this can often be difficult for people but my advice is that whilst you might experience discomfort and uncertainty whilst moving to another organisation, it will pass. Tap into your support network, get a coach and/or mentor to help support you through the transition. Keep your eye on the end goal - greater personal and professional satisfaction.
Crafting Your CV
Think about the story your CV needs to be telling to recruiters and hiring managers, check that it's not having the opposite effect.
Whilst I was intentionally moving around often and between different industries as part of my strategic career development plan, I was acutely aware of how this might be negatively construed on my CV (long before the gig economy) where short employment stints were frowned upon. I moved away from the traditional (at that time) CV layout and instead concentrated on highlighting my personal strengths, qualifications, training, awards, key project deliverables. My CV still honestly reflected by career timeline but with less emphasis. As time went on, my earlier career was reduced to a few lines and my BP experience was expanded upon. My CV needed to tell a story until I could sit in front of an interviewer and explain my strategic career journey.
Top Tips for Getting Ahead
Build personal resilience - don't be deterred by the rejections or lack of sponsorship, keep on going as you will get to where you want to get to. Sometimes we think we're facing the right door but often it's another door that will take you to where you should be.
Understand your core values - getting to know your core values (your ingrained principles, your fundamental beliefs), that guide you will help you when making decisions about your career, i.e., type of role, culture of an organisation, non-negotiable (for example - long working hours, no flexibility).
Know your key strengths & be comfortable owning them - be aware of your key strengths and wear them like a badge of honour when applying for roles, at interviews. If you're struggling to identify these, ask your manager, peers, family, friends - identify common themes.
Act with honesty & integrity - be transparent about your current knowledge, skills & behaviours, don't over-egg them or they might come back and bite you. When talking to recruiters and hiring managers, focus on the positives of previous roles and companies, don't bad mouth them - it's a small world, especially if you're sticking to the same industry.
Develop emotional intelligence - xxx
Invest in ongoing personal & professional development - try to do some learning every day, even if it's only for 10 minutes. This could be reading an article, book, listening to a podcast, developing your IT skills, shadowing a colleague, whether this is inside or outside of work. Keep moving the needle.
Don't be afraid to go backwards in order to move forward - if you can't see a clear path ahead, sometimes you may need to go around or even go back in order to move forward. Don't feel embarrassed or disheartened, remember it's a step closer to where you want to be.
Come up with solutions, don't just present problems - organisations favour individuals who are able to solutionise. This doesn't mean ignoring problems, it just means don't get fixated on the problem. Understand the problem and look for solutions. Being able to evidence this at interview will be beneficial.
If you're thinking of a career or business pivot, or struggling with a career transition, and in need of some support, get in touch with me on 07791 863092 or at email@example.com.