Nearly Two-Thirds of HR Job Seekers Interested in Roles Outside HR

Interest in HR jobs from outside the profession also on the rise

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer August 24, 2023
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​The share of job seekers working in human resources and looking for jobs outside HR has fallen from a year ago but is still disconcertingly high.

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of HR professionals showed some interest in non-HR jobs while browsing listings on Indeed, according to recent data from the global jobs site. That number is down from 68 percent in June 2022.

On the other hand, jobs in human resources are attracting a substantial amount of interest from job seekers working in other industries, with about 36 percent of clicks on HR job postings on Indeed coming from non-HR practitioners.

Indeed researchers examined job-seeker-reported occupations and the posts the job seekers clicked.

"This allowed us to see both how often workers are exploring opportunities outside their current field and identify which sectors are attracting the most interest," said Cory Stahle, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. "While searching outside their current occupation doesn't necessarily mean a person will switch careers, it may indicate that they are at least open to the idea and/or not completely satisfied with their current field. Measuring this openness is an indicator of job seeker preferences and may tell us something about what jobs people want the most and which ones they may want to leave."

HR Burnout Is Real

There are many reasons why people look to change careers, and for many people, it's not one reason but a combination of reasons, said Lindsay Witcher, global managing director at Randstad RiseSmart, an outplacement services and career transition company in Atlanta.

Some of those include "more dependability; more stability; greater economic potential; greater purpose or meaning; more alignment with skills, strengths and passions; more opportunity for nontraditional schedules; experiencing burnout; or life circumstances necessitating a change," she said.

"We know HR professionals experienced burnout due to the increased stress and demands of the pandemic, so it doesn't surprise me that some are doing some career soul-searching and exploring new positions that may be less demanding," said Nicole Belyna, SHRM-SCP, director of talent management and inclusion at SHRM.

"HR pros are exhausted, feeling underappreciated, undervalued and overworked," said Laura Mazzullo, the owner of East Side Staffing, a New York City-based recruitment firm focused on the placement of HR professionals. "It's very plausible that they are trying to find career moves that better allow them to enjoy some rest and time outside of the work grind."

She added that the disconnect of HR practitioners wanting to work remotely and the number of organizations requiring people to come back to the office may be another factor in so many HR pros looking at other careers.

Who Wants to Be in HR?

HR jobs are drawing the most interest from people currently employed as administrative assistants, followed by job seekers working in customer service and sales.

"That makes sense as there are many transferable skills in those professions, such as broad insight into business strategies and operations, a high level of engagement and collaboration with people, strong problem-solving capabilities, and the ability to juggle multiple priorities," Belyna said. "Earlier in my career, I made the jump from retail operations to HR. The sense of urgency and strong business acumen learned in retail environments have proved invaluable throughout my HR career."

Belyna added that even though the pandemic was hard on HR, "the last few years have also been a time for HR practitioners to step into the spotlight more and demonstrate skills and capabilities that may have been overlooked or underused in the past. Having the chance to flex those new muscles paired with their HR expertise can open doors to a broader range of roles and promotions beyond the typical career path for an HR practitioner."

Mazzullo works with people looking to break into HR who see the positive side of the profession with optimism and fresh energy, she said.

"They want to be a crucial part of an organization focused on people and culture," Mazzullo said. "The Indeed data shows me that we have to do more to help experienced HR pros find some balance, need to keep educating executives on what their HR colleagues need from them to succeed, and that we need to keep encouraging people to stay in or join the profession if we want to keep seeing it thrive." 

Nursing Attracts Most External Interest

Certain sectors like nursing and software development consistently appear more attractive than others to workers seeking a change, with nearly half of the clicks on nursing jobs coming from non-nurses.

"Nursing and software development roles appear popular both with those already in them and those seeking a new opportunity," Stahle said. "However, job seeker interest in nursing roles has waned in the last year, with a declining share of clicks on nursing job postings coming from other fields and current nurses seeking other opportunities at higher rates. On the other hand, the attractiveness of software development jobs appears to have picked up, even in the face of mounting layoffs and declining employer demand."

Outside interest in nursing roles comes from a variety of sectors, with the largest being medical technicians (6 percent), community and social service professionals (4 percent), and administrative assistants (4 percent). Interest in making a career change to software development came from tech-adjacent fields such as information design and IT operations, which drew a collective 9 percent of inbound clicks. The Indeed data also indicates that software developers are least likely to look outside their fields, while workers in marketing and legal are the most likely to look at a new profession.

Around 42 percent of workers in software development looked at jobs outside their field, down from 50 percent in June 2022. The nursing sector experienced the largest annual increase in outbound interest between 2022 and 2023. As of June, about 60 percent of nurses looked for a job outside nursing, up from 55 percent in June 2022.

Witcher added that the high rate of nurses looking for their own career change is likely due to the high levels of stress and burnout experienced during the pandemic.

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