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This week's column addresses why it is necessary—and desirable—to keep your HR skills sharp. 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.
Question 1: How important is ongoing education in the HR profession? I have my bachelor's degree and am working on my HR certification. Is that enough? I know networking is important but I can't get my employer to support my ongoing professional education by allowing me to attend professional conferences and other development opportunities.
Question 2: I have two and a half years of work experience in human resources and currently hold the position of HR administrator at a manufacturing facility. I started out as an HR assistant and have been working as an administrator for the past year. The person I replaced was an HR generalist and I have been doing all of her duties under the administrative title. I also have completed a 60-hour program covering all the fundamentals of HR and hold a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in education. My question is: How would I go about getting a promotion and getting my pay status changed to salaried?
In a professional world almost entirely lacking in job security, intelligent career management requires that you develop skills that both increase your value to a current employer and make you a more desirable job candidate to other employers.
Skill development not only makes you competitive in the job market, it also helps you climb the ladder of success.
Promotions don't come as a result of your potential, although being known as someone who always strives to grow and achieve does play a role; nor do promotions come as a result of academic credentials or professional certifications, although these also are part of the equation. Rather, your potential, academic qualifications and professional credentials should come together with the hard skills needed to do the job that is the next step up the professional ladder. For example, one skill required to move into supervision and management is being able to hire the right employees, because supervision and management both require getting work done through others and that cannot be achieved if the right candidates aren't chosen.
So if your goals also include upward mobility, your first step should be to examine the sequence of job descriptions that describe your professional growth path in HR, noticing the changing skills required as responsibility increases, with the goal of deciding what is the next natural step upwards for you.
The second step demands complete objectivity as you analyze your chosen target job description for the skills and experience you lack. You could compare the job description for the next step up at your company to similar job descriptions at other companies. Your findings then become the focus of a skill development program necessary to achieve your goals.
Then as you study, read and take classes, you also seek out and volunteer for projects that will give you the experience you need. Only when you have the required experience can you expect to be a real contender for that target job.
Sometimes you will find that there really is no upwards career path with your current employer. In this case, you will need to quietly revamp your resume and begin a confidential job search for an opportunity that will offer upward mobility.
When you are evaluating future possible jobs, one key criterion should be how an employer sees ongoing educational support, and asking about educational support in the interview tells the employer that you are serious about your career. The response will also tell you something about your likely experience with this potential employer.
If your earnings lag far behind your contributions and hours worked, then your employer, which does not support ongoing professional education, is actually sending you a coded message about your perceived value. Allow me to decode this message: "We will work you to the bone as long as your skills are relevant, but will not support your efforts to maintain skill levels that make you a desirable employee to us or anyone else. You are something to be used and discarded."
Oh, and about attending conferences? The best chance you have to convince an unwilling employer to fund a trip to a Society for Human Resource Management conference is to create a strong link between why you want to go and how the company will benefit. Leave out any comments about networking and instead focus on how the session topics will help you stay current with the HR issues that can impact your company's bottom line.
At the same time, as a SHRM chapter member, those local monthly meetings will also keep you up to speed and build that most important asset: a relevant professional network.
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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