There are many valid reasons for choosing a career in Human Resources as an Advisor, Business Partner, or HR Manager.  However, there are a number of common reasons for choosing a HR career which can sometimes result in a poor fit between a person’s capabilities and interests and the role requirements.  Let’s take a look at them. 

1.  “I am a ‘people person’ ” So you love talking with people, meeting new people and helping people?  Well, that’s great.  But it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be good at or enjoy a HR role.  

The HR function exists as a partner to the rest of the organisation to support the achievement of business strategy. Therefore HR Business Partners need to have strong business acumen and an interest in business performance (profits, growth, sustainability etc). 

Sure, HR professionals need to communicate well with, influence and have a genuine interest in people (but hey, doesn’t the same apply for most jobs?) but they certainly do not need to fit the stereotypical ‘people person’ mold*.

2. “I am not good with numbers” If you chose HR as a profession because you believe you are not good with numbers, you might need to think again.  HR professionals currently, and increasingly, need to be numerate and work competently with data. 

As trusted advisors to senior leaders, HR people need to talk the accounting and finance language of most businesses.  They also produce, analyse and communicate HR metrics which executives use for making critical business decisions, and use talent analytics to help businesses extract maximum value from their talent budget.  Numeracy is increasingly a core competency required of HR professionals.  HR people not being good with numbers is a myth that needs busting.

3. “I have always had an interest in HR stuff” Here is a common scenario.  A person has always had an interest in HR work but their career experience to date has been in an entirely different profession and they have no HR qualifications – but are keen to make a quick switch into a HR role.

Well I have long harboured an interest in engineering but not for a moment in my stint in a HR role in a construction firm did I ever think to put my hat in the ring to take on a role designing and constructing a major tunnel.  After all, you need specific qualifications and experience to do that kind of work and let’s face it, I would present a safety risk to fellow employees and the public if let loose on that type of project. 

So how is HR any different?  Having an interest is not enough (but is important).  You need HR knowledge, experience and expertise to be a value adding HR Business Partner.  People can’t just give it a go on a whim.

4. “I enjoy or am good at administration” There is a big difference in the work and competencies required of someone in a HR Administrator role as compared with a HR Advisor/Business Partner/HR Manager role.  HR Business Partners etc need to be able to advise, coach and influence managers and support them to deliver on complex and strategic HR initiatives and challenges.

Just because someone enjoys or is good at a HR Administration role (which of course are important and valuable roles) does not necessarily mean that a HR Advisor/Business Partner role will be the right fit for them.

Many people can and do make a successful transition between the two roles but it takes time, development and experience, especially if you have not completed any HR study.  A realistic job preview can help ensure that people make an informed decision about whether or not such a career path is right for them and their organisation.

The Wrap Up This post is in no way taking a swipe at the HR profession – quite the opposite.  We should be proud of our profession and the value we add to organisations.  There are of course many good reasons for choosing to become a HR professional, and if your reasons are valid and well thought through you will likely have a fulfilling, challenging and exciting career.  But if you go into a HR Advisor/Business Partner role for the wrong reasons it might not work out how you had hoped.

* Check out the Linkedin group ‘HR Business Partners – Not People People’ on this very topic.

AuthorMichael Sleap
CategoriesHuman Resources