Is HR a Good Career?
Do you know what exactly a HR professional does?
Would they recommend a career in HR?
I asked the HR professionals interviewed in my book ‘1000 Years of Career Advice’ for the GOOD and BAD things about working in HR:
Read the below 17 honest pros and cons to find out:
- good job security
- it’s very strategic
- good work life balance
- the money is good
- it can be rewarding
- great exposure to senior leaders
- it’s never boring
- lot’s of scope for promotion
- difficult people
- it can wear you down
- tough conversations
- people don’t listen to you
- people are quick to blame HR
- plenty of demands on your time
- you need a thick skin
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #1: Job Security
Ever company regardless of their size needs HR professionals to recruit good people, to decide on employee wages and benefits, and to look after employee relations.
You will never be short of a job if you work in HR as it’s a key part of every company.
HR is evolving as a function who would just hire and fire staff to one who is a real strategic driver of a company’s growth.
There is more demand than ever for HR roles, and this should continue to be the case in the future.
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #2: It’s Very Strategic
HR plays a key role in an organization’s business strategy.
The most successful companies attract and retain top talent.
83 percent of employers believe attracting and retaining talent is a growing hiring challenge.
HR will help them to do through having a great employment brand, increasing employee engagement and monitoring key metrics like employee satisfaction.
All of this takes a well thought out and executed strategy.
Working in HR you will also be consulted by senior management about what they can and can’t do in terms of their team and their own strategy.
You will help senior management solve problems in their teams and add real value by making their lives easier.
In HR, you also get to make decisions that effect the whole company, something that other people in other functions would never be able to do.
You will also be privy to lots of sensitive info and get the inside track on all the various people and issues at all levels of the organisation. Again, something that only HR staff get insight into.
In HR, are involved in the day to day running of the company but you also must look at the bigger picture.
Looking at how the entire organization works and having the opportunity to participate in long-range planning is something that people in other parts of the firm don’t get to do.
Interested in strategy but not sure what jobs to explore? if so check out my post on How to Become a Management Consultant
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #3: Good Work Life Balance
There is a usually a good work life balance working in HR.
You don’t have to contend with working crazy hours, or at weekends, emergencies, etc.
As a person who has worked in Finance for 14 years in various companies, you will always see Finance people still working after 5:30.
Rarely will you see any lower level or middle management HR employees working past 5:30 in HR.
Looking for a job in Finance but want more of a 9-5 job where you can live a normal life outside work? If so, check out my post on How To Become a Finance Director
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #4: The Money is Good
HR employees usually get paid pretty well compared to other parts of a company.
The pay is good for several reasons, they:
- have a tough job. They must deal with people issues all day long, usually with little thanks
- are responsible for everything from hiring/firing, to setting people’s salaries
- provide guidance on employment law, employee rights, etc.
- drive employee performance through performance appraisals
- protect employees and senior management from damaging complaints and disputes
Dealing with people is hard and being at the core of a business is important.
A good HR person is worth every penny they get paid and more!
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #5: Solving People’s Problems can be very Rewarding
HR professionals are great problem solvers.
Finding ways to solve problems which makes people’s working lives better can be very rewarding.
If you can contribute to a workplace which employees like and feel valued, then that is a pretty cool thing to do every day.
Seeing how the people you have hired are driving the company’s performance can also be very rewarding and give you a great sense of pride in your work.
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #6: Great Exposure
There is no other department in a company that gives you such exposure to different areas and levels of the organisation.
You could be involved with negotiating a pay rise for workers on the factory floor, hiring a whole new sales team for a product or region, to giving guidance to a C-suite executive on a personnel issue.
HR functions are typically flatter organisations with less hierarchy, so you get great visibility with and exposure to senior leaders.
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #7: It’s never Boring
HR never stays still.
It is constantly evolving and changing.
Whether it’s new employment law, to new technology to new working practices like the whole office working from home.
People are unpredictable and because HR is people orientated, no two days will ever be the same.
There is no typical day working in HR, you could be doing any of the following any day of the week:
- training employees
- firing someone or reprimanding them for doing something they shouldn’t have
- interviewing and recruiting new people
- induct new employees
- decide how much people should earn
- conduct performance appraisals and decide how they translate into your salary
- sorting out maternity leaves, emergency pay, contracts
- handling workplace grievances and issues
- just being a friendly impartial ear when you are stressed or unsure of something
Is HR a Good Career? PRO #8: There is a lot of Scope for Promotion
There is a very well-defined career ladder in HR.
A common route for ambitions HR professionals would be:
- Manager/Team Leader
- Business Partner
- Vice President of People
- Chief Human Resources Officer
For more on each of these roles and how to become a HR Business Partner, check out my post on How To Become a HR Business Partner
Is HR a Good Career? CON #1: A lot of your time can be spent dealing with difficult people
Inevitably, you will end up spending the majority of your time with the 1% who cause problems.
Some people want to pick holes in processes and rail against management, others will file complaints about their managers or direct reports.
Anything that management or employees are unhappy about, HR usually gets to hear about it.
The happy motivated employees who are a joy to deal with you often don’t have much to do with.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #2: It can wear you Down
As mentioned above, dealing with difficult people and tricky issues all day long can takes its toll.
You’ll have to juggle employment law, company policies, complaints, investigations and demanding people.
Disciplining, or firing people is never easy, but it’s part and parcel of your job as a HR professional.
Re-organisations, implementing new systems, and ways of working are all complex things to do in any organization and often the finger gets pointed at HR if things go wrong.
You also have to chase managers to do make sure people’s appraisals and performance reviews are up to date, which can be tiring and tedious.
For all these activities that they HR function performs, management and employees don’t always appreciate your efforts.
Sometimes working in HR can be an emotionally draining and lonely place if you don’t have the support of senior management behind you.
You definitely need to be a positive, resilient individual if you are working in HR.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #3: You must have Tough Conversations
In HR, you will have to have many tough conversations:
Restructuring – telling people that they no longer have a job or have to reapply for their job.
Firing people – firing people is not a nice thing to do, but even worse if you like that person or have known them for many years
Telling management they can’t do something – management may want to hire or fire people asap but can’t because of local employment law or union representation
Promotion isn’t happening – having to tell someone the promotion they were promised isn’t happening now due to budget or a change of policy is also not a nice conversation to have.
Often HR are the bearer of bad news to good hard-working employees.
HR is not for the faint hearted. If you are a people pleaser you will struggle in HR.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #4: Sometimes people don’t listen to you
Sometimes people won’t listen to HR.
For whatever reason they don’t rate HR or see them as administrators who add no value.
Managers will go against company policy or hire the wrong person despite you telling them not to.
Senior management will make grandiose statements saying people are our greatest asset, but then all they care about is sales, profits or a reduction in costs in meetings with you.
HR can propose all the new innovative ways of solving the company’s issues in the world but if you can’t get managers and employees to buy into them, your efforts are all a bit futile.
Senior Management can sometimes see you as a barrier to getting things down and try to sideline you in everything they do.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #5: Ambiguity
There is a lot of grey area and ambiguity in HR.
Seldom will you have an issue that has a black and white answer to it.
This can be a good or a bad thing depending on the situation
Senior management may ask you to do things that are within the law, and even in line with company policy but that you are uncomfortable doing.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #6: People are quick to blame HR
HR can find themselves being the punching bag for an organization.
‘I didn’t get my pay rise because of HR’, or ‘HR have told us there is a re-org happening’, or ‘My contract hasn’t been signed yet because of HR’
HR tends to get a lot of blame for issues at work.
Many people don’t fully understand what HR actually do, and they see them as the perennial bad guy.
You can also get employees ranting and raving about something outside of work, refuses to go through the proper HR channels, and then gives HR a hard time about doing nothing.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #7: Stress
Stress is an issue for HR Professionals.
There are always issues of some sort hanging over your head.
You have to do everything by the book and if you don’t there is always a fear that someone will take a grievance against the company.
HR are always involved in high profile complex projects that are key to the companies performance.
If something goes wrong in these projects, and you should have done something different then it can eat away at you.
People in general can cause you stress. In HR you are constantly working with all types of people and their issues, it’s does have it’s fair share of stressful moments.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #8: There are plenty of demands on your time
The pace is non-stop.
Issues will always pop up even if you are out of the office.
Usually a HR manager will have to deal with a large department or a large geographical area, so you can be dragged in all directions.
Is HR a Good Career? CON #9: You need a thick skin
People can sometimes see HR as the friendly ones who encourage and handhold the business when they need it.
In reality, you are making hard decisions, implement policies that people may not like, and be surrounded by management and other departments who can be quick to point the finger of blame.
A good HR person must be fair, professional and try to keep their emotions in check at all times.