I was updating my LI profile the other night and realized that I have been in HR for over TEN years. A decade in a profession that can be incredibly rewarding, frustrating and sometimes soul-crushing all in the same day.
Over the last decade, I’ve learned some important lessons from observation and personal experience. That’s what this series will be about. This series will not be about crazy HR stories or bad HR people, it’s about my observations and moving the field forward. I hope this series is enlightening, funny and maybe you learn something.
Make sure to check out lessons one and two:
Lesson Three: Don’t Close Doors
My first job in HR was the headquarters of a large multi-state company. I was excited to be working downtown, excited to dress “professionally” every day and most of all excited to be working for a company with over 10,000 employees. When I set out to get my first job in HR, I targeted large companies because I believed these organizations would provide diverse experience and promotional opportunities.
Ten years later, I still see the advantage of large companies but I’ve realized a few things:
- It’s not fun wearing formal business attire every day
- Dry cleaning is expensive
- My experience in smaller companies has been just as critical to my career development as my experience at large companies
Career Development/Promotional Opportunities
At small companies there can be limited opportunity for promotions because there are less spots. But you have a better opportunity for day-to-day exposure into other areas of HR. At one small company I worked for, my day could be spent focus grouping a new recognition program, conducting some phone interviews and working through an employee relations issue. At larger companies, those may be handled by three different people in three parts of HR.
But, the opportunity to dive deep into the sub areas of HR is missing at many small companies. Have an interest in international HR? Or HRIS? At a large company you will have an opportunity to dive deeply into your interested area. I spent two years in HRIS and learned a great deal about how the talent management system supported the global company I worked for at the time.
It’s a fact that large companies tend to have deeper pockets, they may guard those pockets closely but they are deep. One of the benefits to working for a large company is access to information. One example, is salary surveys and market research data. I couldn’t spend thousands on surveys, which forced me to grow my local network.
At one small company, I was tasked with developing a recognition program. I spoke to a lot of great companies but I didn’t have the budget for the latest cutting edge HR technology. Instead, I reached out to my network, cobbled together some internal resources and put together a home built system. That is one of the best lessons I learned working for a small company– when there is not a lot of money you have to get creative!
At small companies, HR is much more visible. You will see the outcome of your decisions (or lack of decisions) on a regular basis. The people you pass in the hallway aren’t lines on a spreadsheet. I’m not saying that HR at large organizations is out of touch with the day-to-day. But it is harder to remember there are people behind row after row of Excel cells.
Unfortunately, sometimes HR pros at smaller organizations can get a little too close to the day-to-day. When you know everyone’s name and background, it can make impartial people decisions difficult.
My HR career is better because of the diversity of my experience. If I had shut the door to an organization due to something arbitrary, like size, that would have been a terrible mistake. I’ve learned skills that are transferable between organizations and positions. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity to do the same.