I started working in Human Resources a bit by accident.
As a member of the IT department, I was teaching software training for employees at our firm. Over time, I took on more of the “soft skills” training classes, and my role in new employee orientation grew. I became close to the HR Director as I shared my impressions of the new hires and made predictions about who would be a superstar, and who wouldn't make it past the first week. When a new HR Manager position opened up, the HR Director recommended I apply for it. I got the job, moved into HR and never looked back.
One of my first tasks was to hire an entry-level HR Assistant for our department. I had a senior recruiter with over 20 years’ experience helping me, and she taught me how to write the job description, told me about the skills and abilities we were looking for, and generally guided me through the entire process. I posted the position and eagerly awaited responses.
Once I had a good stack of resumes and cover letters, I took them to the senior recruiter and asked for her assistance in selecting candidates to interview. She went through the stack in about 2 minutes, ruthlessly culling anyone from the pile who had a typo or misspelling in their resume or cover letter. I didn't understand why she removed some of the people who looked like great candidates to me. I asked her what criteria she was using to separate the Yeses from the Nos.
“Oh,” she said. “I get rid of anyone who says they like people or they’re a people person. Because after working in HR for twenty years, I can tell you, this job will make you hate people. And I don’t want to do that to anyone.”
I was shocked. And confused. After all, I’m one of those who had said I wanted to be in HR because “I’m a people person.” Obviously she hadn't been involved in recruiting for my position!
t of all, I was disappointed. She was someone I admired and thought would be an excellent mentor for me. But her jaded attitude put a bad taste in my mouth and I vowed not to end up like her.
Fast forward 15 years.
At times, layoffs, a long recession, and new technological challenges have taken their toll on me. Especially in my previous role as a hiring manager, and my current role as a career coach, I struggle when the number of bright, talented people outweigh the available positions. I become jaded when management says “Do we have to do that? After all, they’re lucky to have a job.” And when I hear about people struggling economically with unemployment and see the impact it has on everyone in the family, part of me wishes I was back in a classroom, teaching someone how to format a document and create a spreadsheet.
But I’m not. Because I am a people person. And despite my mentor’s advice, I have remained one because I think HR is the perfect place for people who like people.
People are a never-ending, ongoing puzzle. Figuring out why they do what they do will always fascinate me. And if people behaved rationally, calmly, and logically all of the time, well, I am guessing HR wouldn't be needed very much, and I’d be out of a job.
Why did you get into the HR profession? Why do you stay?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: For 15+ years, Andrea Ballard, SPHR, has brought a unique, common sense perspective to the business of HR. A former HR Director and Training Manager, she advises companies on how to design/implement flexible work life programs to attract/retain top talent. A certified coach, she helps women create a balance between motherhood & career. She is the owner of Expecting Change, LLC, blogs at Working Mother and is on Twitter as @andreaballard.
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