Your Career Q&A: Making Career Choices and Changes

 

By Martin Yate March 5, 2019
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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. 

I am interested in pursuing a career in HR, so much so that I have joined SHRM [Society for Human Resource Management]. While I have transferable skills, my college degree is in another field, and I have no HR experience. To help build credibility, I plan to study for and earn an HR certification.

However, before I invest in the cost and time of certification, as well as embark on a new career, I want to be sure that this is indeed what I want to pursue. I have read all I can about what to expect, but I am still unsure about what aspects of the day-to-day HR job might be most and least desirable. I have a career book that states that I should interview at least 10 professionals in the new field before making a decision, but I only know one HR professional, whom I've spoken to. I have tried to join a local SHRM chapter, but it appears that I do not qualify for membership at this point. Due to confidentiality reasons, I prefer not to post the question on SHRM Connect.

What would be your advice for getting this kind of information so I can move forward?

You're right to consider all of your choices. Here are some you may not have thought of before.

Test It Out

Since we spend most of our lives performing our chosen profession, getting objective input on our options is smart. There are bound to be career choices you've never considered inside and outside the world of human resources.

Take a couple of aptitude tests. Your contact in HR can probably make some recommendations. There are plenty of tests available, but there are two types of aptitude tests:

  1. One helps employers determine aptitude in candidates.
  2. The other helps individuals get a better focus on careers that might best suit their particular skills and abilities.

You want the second type.

I've taken many of both kinds of tests, and of the ones that help you make better career choices, I'm most impressed with the MAPP career assessment test. It is built on the assumption that we like to do the things we are good at, and we are good at the things we like to do.

An Unexpected, Real-Life Example

A young man I knew asked me for help. He came from a family of bankers, and they were determined that he would follow in the family tradition.

They repeatedly got him into the best schools, and he repeatedly flunked out and developed emotional, physical and addiction problems.

The week after he approached me, his family and I celebrated Thanksgiving together. During our holiday time together, I suggested we take the MAPP test. I explained that while he needed to think of all the proposed career options that matched what he liked to do, he should think of them not as a goal but as a starting point. Using an random example to illustrate the point, I said that if the test suggested he should be a cook, then that could mean slinging hash or owning a restaurant or a chain of restaurants, or even having his own TV show.

He took the test, and, wouldn't you know it, his third-ranking career was a cook. After reading the rest of the report, he said, "Yes, that's it. I can do that, and I like to cook." We talked more about where it could lead, such as becoming a restaurateur, owning a bakery or becoming a pastry chef and then opening a pastry shop. A few months later he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America.

Ten years later, he is a pastry chef on a cruise ship, traveling the world, learning his trade and saving his money, because he intends to open his own pastry shop in another couple of years. As he said, "Pastry only needs cheap ingredients, has great profit margins and has none of the miserable hassles of restaurants or bread."

Seems like his financial genes came into play after all.

He may not have considered this career without an aptitude test. If you use MAPP, chose either the Starter or Career Seeker version.

Your Career and the Changing World

Once you have a clear focus on what you'd like to do, search online for commentary on the impact that artificial intelligence and robotics are going to have on your existing or new profession, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Reliable sources predict that the workplace evolution will eliminate about 30 percent of all jobs in all industries and at all levels over the next 20 years. Be prepared.

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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