Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.
I work at a public university as an HR coordinator but was recently reclassified to manager of administrative services, even though I still perform the same duties. As my goal is a career in HR, I don't want to be branded as working in administration so I need to find a position in the HR department with HR responsibilities. My only credentials are a master's degree in HR management and experience in general staff onboarding and consultation recruitment on behalf of my unit. I'm planning on studying for the certification exam, but how do I market myself internally for a bigger role given my limited HR knowledge?
You have a position (new title notwithstanding) that sounds like it already has significant HR work, plus you have substantial academic credentials and real experience. To get ready to move up in the HR department, you need to figure out which skills and experiences you have that the department needs, and which skills and experiences you lack. To do that, look for past job postings for the position you want in your HR department, and then compare them with similar job postings for other universities. Identify the skills and experiences required and determine the ones you have and the ones you need to acquire.
The skills you lack become the content of your personalized professional development program. You can seek advice on the best way to develop these skills from—where else?—the HR department itself.
In the meantime, you should build your credibility and visibility within HR by executing your every interaction with the department accurately, in a timely manner and with collegial goodwill. In other words, become the person you'd like to work with in order to become part of the team. As wise professionals say, "Become today who you want to be tomorrow."
At the same time, write your resume with a focus on the skills you bring to the target job within HR. You may think everyone knows who you are and what you have to offer, but all too often that is not the case. Having a properly prepared, target-job-focused resume eliminates any misconceptions and puts you on par with outside contenders who will most certainly have carefully focused resumes.
You may not have to wait for a formal job posting to be announced. Instead, you can ask for a meeting with someone holding a high-value job title one to three levels above your target job and open the discussion with a statement that you want to join the department doing such-and-such a job and would appreciate any advice that can be offered. You can then give this person your updated resume, mentioning the master's degree in HR management, and you may be surprised at how quickly a job might materialize.
Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.