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This week’s column delves into how to react when your boss suddenly changes the requirements for your job. 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.
My current employer of 10 years (in the medical industry) has asked that I further expand my HR generalist position by obtaining an HR degree as quickly as I can. I work full time with little overtime. I have taken various college courses in the subjects needed to further my skills to make myself more marketable, and I originally received certification from an accelerated learning certification for billing and reimbursement to get me in the door of the medical industry. With 28-plus years of experience in HR and office management and by keeping myself updated with seminars constantly, I was an easy choice within the company to take over the role of HR and office management. However, I never had the money or time to actually get a degree. Why do some companies want degrees and some don’t care? Aren’t my skills and years of experience proof that degrees are not always the norm? Anyway, my current mission is to accommodate my supervisor and administrator, and I need some helpful direction as to how I can be pedigreed.
Why would a long-term employer suddenly demand credentials (ASAP) that could take up to three years to achieve from an established and competent employee who has been doing the job for 28 years? I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, and you can call me a skeptic if you want, but this e-mail made my stomach turn. There are other ways you can read the employer’s request, but the one that makes the most sense to me, especially with the urgency factored in, is to set up reasons for your termination and replacement with someone cheaper, in repayment for your 10 years of loyalty and hard work.
First, you should enroll in an online degree program as soon as possible, establishing credits for your work experience and your ongoing professional training. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but enroll in a course that allows you to say that you are doing as requested. You can also consider asking why this is being requested, noting as you do so that your reviews have all been exemplary; you can say you are worried that the company is planning to terminate you, but most likely your supervisor will deny it if that is in fact the plan. Then, post-meeting, make sure the interaction is entered into your personnel folder for future use, if necessary.
Simultaneously, get your resume and job search skills up to speed because, at least to me, this smells like a set-up for a layoff. I hope I am wrong, but the worst that can happen if you follow my advice is that you will have acted prudently and in your best interests and you will be more prepared for a job search, should the necessity arise.
There is an issue here for all of us to learn from: We can see the negative possibilities of such a situation quite clearly when our own careers are not at stake, but when something like this happens to us, we tend to “hope for the best” and choose to live in denial. If long-term employees of your company have been getting this kind of treatment, you must expect the same rules to be applied to you—it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. Don’t get fooled about these matters. Age discrimination law has been gutted by the pro-business Supreme Court, and we all need to be alert to this happening to those around us and, by extension, to ourselves.
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.
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