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 an HR generalist at a luxury retailer. Previously, I was an HR assistant manager at a different company, and then my current company hired me as its first HR coordinator.
I am at a crossroads, as we've been experiencing change, and I feel as though I've been demoted twice, as our company has grown but my responsibilities haven't increased proportionately. I manage HR coordinators and HR associates both onsite and remotely, but I feel like there is a ceiling right now holding me back from opportunity. I am ready to take on more responsibility, and I feel stagnant in my role with no promise or even any indication of growth. I am very anxious for my next move. I feel ready to take on an HR manager role or to proceed into an HR director role at a startup. I currently work for a startup and can't imagine going back to a corporate setting.
My current supervisors know where I stand and how I am feeling, and they have mentioned they are afraid to lose me but aren't sure they can offer the same value to me as I've given to the company. My director is doing everything she can to feed me more opportunity and more initiatives to lead but isn't able to offer me clarity on what my growth trajectory looks like.
That being said, I'm also thinking about going back to school to get my master's degree in HR-related curriculum, as I know this is a requirement for any sort of elevated role, especially at this point in my career.
Please help! Would love any advice or guidance you may have.
Your educational quandary is one that many people face, so let's start there. Whether it is a degree or professional certification, both are equally important to growth and stability in an HR career.
I would not advise you to go back to school full time. It is far better to achieve the degree more slowly while you pursue your career advancement. You can still put the master's degree on your resume with an anticipated graduation date, which will make you discoverable in recruiters' resume database searches when an advanced degree is a requirement. And it demonstrates that you take the extra step to stay current.
Now let's address job security. It is management's prerogative to have people leave on its timetable, not yours, so you need to do everything you can to protect the job you have. Given that you have already discussed the situation in detail with your director, it might be worth making sure the director knows how much you love the job and company. Whenever one of those special assignments comes along, say, "Thank you, this just what I wanted." Halfway through completing the project, be sure to say thank you again and tell her how much you care about doing a good job. When the task is completed, thank her one more time for the opportunity and for being a wonderful mentor. Compliments work and will help you be seen as more committed and loyal.
Internal promotion opportunities are tied to the skills and commitment you obviously have, but also to the good fortunes of your employer. You are with a startup and enjoy the environment. However, the words "startup" and "certainty" rarely appear in the same sentence; instead, the traits associated with startups are usually adaptability and a high tolerance for uncertainty. It is good that you recognize this and your boss knows you understand that you need to wait for those times of good fortune. Your patience also contributes to job security.
Next, let's discuss making a strategic career move and being ready to take on greater responsibility, with elevated titles and, we hope, earnings to match. New employers base hiring decisions almost exclusively on credentials versus potential. So you need a resume that demonstrates the needed credentials to get interviews.
This requires an objective evaluation of your skills against the prerequisites for your target job. As the actual work performed under certain job titles changes from company to company, pay particular attention to the underlying job description. Analyze how employers prioritize the skills and experience they need and how they express those needs. As a rule of thumb, you need about 70 percent of the skills required in a majority of job descriptions that fall under your target job title to give you decent odds for getting interviews. The more you can demonstrate experience to back up those skills, the better your chances.
After you have completed your analysis, and you feel your target job is achievable, you should read Your Career Q&A: How to Plan and Execute a Stealth Job Search for your next steps in making this important strategic career move.
Have a question for Martin? 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. We look forward to hearing from you!
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