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HR is a Highway

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Careers often follow paths, but mine has felt like a highway in Montreal – winding and weaving all over the place. Sometimes feeling like I’ve backtracked a bit, then shooting forward so fast I think I missed something. There is no one “HR Career Path”. Like many careers, there are multiple ways to get to where you want to be while deciding what that final destination even is! In the past, a career started as an entry-level job and progressed as you climbed up the ladder of roles with more responsibility and skills required, eventually reaching the top. Career paths look much different today – people are changing fields, working sideways, and sometimes take a step back to acquire fresh skills or revisit those they acquired years prior. Career paths seem to be less focused on the “top” and more focused on personal satisfaction. In human resources, this winding and weaving highway can be overwhelming and confusing. By sharing my experience, I hope to inspire and help guide others along the way.

Like many, I had never encountered HR until I was an adult. It wasn’t one of those jobs you saw people on TV doing in the 90’s. I took a very interesting, but not very useful program in university and I was lucky to get a part-time job at a bank. While working there, I gravitated towards the IDEA elements of the workplace without even knowing what that meant - IDEA stands for Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility. Once I graduated, I had moved into a few different roles, departments, territories, and provinces, yet never found my passion. Still working at the bank, I learned that someone could actually make a career out of a specialization in IDEA (usually in the HR department), and I went back to school.

With a more functional set of skills the second time around, I left the bank for a new career in HR.

  1. My 8-month internship was an amazing learning opportunity, and my primary project was to design and run diversity and inclusion week.

  2. Next, I moved into an HR Analyst role, focusing on data and processes.

  3. Then, as an HR Advisor, I supported the HR teams who supported over 1,500 clients.

  4. I moved next into an HR Research and Writer position, designing webinars, policies, and training.

  5. As an HR Consultant, I now had my own client groups to support.

  6. I added in a role as a Facilitator and Teacher.

  7. Finally landing on my role as Leader of a group of professionals and a company.

The role of an HR professional is to work with groups of people to further an organization’s mission and vision. They do this with a set of technical skills as well as with interpersonal skills. This means that someone in HR may not have a formal education in it; but they could also have a Master’s degree or MBA. They may be a generalist (like myself), or specialize in a function of HR such as compensation or recruitment.

One of the most important elements of a career in HR is understanding the business or industry that you’re in. Since an understanding of the business or industry is so important, many HR professionals come from careers in other fields or other experiences. They combine this experience with the continuous technical learning that happens throughout any career. A lot of the skills required to be successful in a career in HR are transferable. I often say that ‘HR is not rocket science. It’s really about getting the right information and resources to the people who need them at the right time.”

I’ll leave you with some helpful tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Do not get into HR only because “you’re a people person”; there is a lot of data, paperwork, and problem-solving.

  • You will never know everything in HR; learn the foundations really well and build on that.

  • Learn from every opportunity; sometimes you learn what you don’t want to do, and that’s ok.

  • Collaborate, don’t compete; the goal of HR should be to build organizations that eventually no longer need us!

  • Build a network of HR colleagues and mentors; always offer and share what you can.

  • Do quality research, gather your resources, be organized about it; you will need that one thing years from now, so know where you filed it.

  • Celebrate wins! A career in HR is hard, but also extremely rewarding.

As you cruise down your own career highway, don’t get discouraged by all of the twists and turns, or all of the signs recommending you get off at one exit or the next. The LIHR team have all taken routes just as varied as my own and each one brings a unique set of experiences to the work. Book time with any of us using our booking link to further explore how we can help your organization in furthering its mission and vision.

For professional HR advice that you can trust, contact us today! Lisa Isaac HR Professional Services

From the LIHR team and lead collaborator, Lisa Isaac,CHRL, CHRP, Owner & Sr. HR Consultant

Photo by Matt Howard on Unsplash

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