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What's Your Career Management IQ?

A man is using a laptop to fill out a job application.

Best-selling 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.  

It is not an employer's responsibility to guarantee you employment; it is your job to manage the trajectory of your own career. You must take time to get your career management skills up to speed.

Here's a three-question career management IQ test, based on three submissions from readers whose names have been changed to preserve anonymity. See if you can recognize the problems and solutions. 

Challenge 1

I hold a bachelor's degree in HR management and a master's degree in HR development. I completed these degrees out of my love and passion for helping people; it was also a dream come true, as I was the first from my family to earn college degrees. But it has been very difficult to get a job in HR or even to get some much-needed experience. What advice or help could you offer me for getting a job in this field?


Challenge 2

What are potential reasons for a recruiter and hiring manager to "ghost" a candidate after conducting seemingly positive telephone interviews? 


Challenge 3

I am an HR professional who had to resign from my career to take care of a family emergency. Unfortunately, although I am very honest both on my resume and during the interviews, it has been extremely difficult to get back in the workforce. Any suggestions or tips?


Do you have a solution for each of these readers? Compare your thoughts with mine below:

Solution 1

Jack has an advanced HR degree, but he is having difficulty getting work in HR.

He may not have had any internships nor joined the workforce while he pursued an advanced degree. Internships are the new first jobs; college students today should be getting real-world experience as interns. 

Another of Jack's problems could be that his resume doesn't get results. He lacks job-search skills and he needs help learning how to turn job interviews into job offers.

I suspect that, like many college students, Jack probably never visited his school's career services department. He obviously has the HR knowledge; he just needs to stop everything for a couple of weeks and work on his job-search skills. 

Solution 2

I assume Veronica was "ghosted" by a recruiter and hiring manager after what she felt were successful telephone interviews.

Now, it could be that her interview went just fine, but she wasn't the right person for the job, and the recruiter and manager didn't take the time to respond. However, ghosting implies that she got no response to numerous follow-up inquiries, which should tell her that what she thought was a good interview was not.

My take is that she was ghosted because her interview chops are subpar. I advise her to learn more about how the businesses at which she's applying work (i.e., how they make money), and how her target job ties into this corporate-profit imperative. She should then customize her resume to the job by identifying the hiring manager's needs and detailing what she brings to the table in each area. And then she should bring her interviewing skills up to speed.

Solution 3

A lot depends on how long Paul has been out of the workforce and what he's done to maintain professional skills. When returning from a long absence, you won't often get back into the workforce at the same level, so be sure to target the right job, and don't give the canned answers you used when you interviewed years ago. Times have changed.

Paul mentions being very honest in his resume and interviews, but his results tell me that he may be saying more than he needs to, and he may not be putting the employment gap in the best light.

A job interview is a sales pitch. The goal is to sell yourself as effectively as possible without lying. In other words, whatever you say must be defensible. 

When Paul writes that he's "honest," I can just hear him saying, "Well, I haven't done [this particular HR skill] for five years." Instead, he should identify the hard skills required to deliver in that area and make sure he has brushed up on those skills. Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) members can help with practical advice, so Paul should go to his local SHRM chapter meetings every month!

Then he'll be able to say, "It's been a while because of family care issues, but I have kept abreast of the changes in this area [identifying what and how] and their application in the real world [giving a real-world example that he learned from SHRM colleagues], so I'll get up to speed quickly."

Whether you have big issues or small concerns, please e-mail your queries to Martin at We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!


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