Q. How safe do you think a job in HR would be? I'm thinking of going from sales (too much stress in these times) into HR as a generalist. I do have a recruitment background. Do you think HR would be a good move to have a career in?
A. "Safe" is an interesting concept when it comes to careers or jobs. Many people want a safe career -- meaning little stress, lots of opportunity, no risk of losing a job, and reasonably good money. Sadly, if you can find that job, a different career will be considered "safe" just a few months after that!
If you asked human resources professionals if their jobs were stressful, they would say "yes!" If you asked if their jobs were safe, the answer would be "no safer than other roles."
Most organizations have HR staff that represent a percentage of the total workforce. If the size of the workforce drops, as you are seeing today, the size of the HR staff decreases accordingly. HR people right now are stressed by having to plan and carry out workplace reductions, also called "reductions in force" (RIF). The number of hours it takes to plan a RIF, and to have it run flawlessly, makes HR more than just a 9 to 5 job. They are trying to help managers eliminate vacant positions and lower budgets. HR people are working creatively to think about how to retain top talent, and develop leadership skills in the next level of managers.
While your recruitment background is nice to have, it isn't the need of the day. And in better economic times, recruiting is also a stressful role. But having said all that, the HR people I know wouldn't have it any other way. Most days, they love the work, and they enjoy being part of the strategy that keeps business successful and competitive. They value the work they do developing leaders, and the results that work brings. They enjoy the challenge of developing the desired culture, and managing change based on the issues of the times.
HR can be a great career, but not as an escape from stress or delivering results.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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