Am I limiting my career prospects?

I have spent my entire working life – almost 20 years – working in HR. I
still find it rewarding and challenging, but I’m beginning to feel slightly
guilty about not getting wider business experience. I can see the arguments for
doing this, but I’m happiest doing what I’m doing. My perception is that
staying in HR will not damage my career prospects unduly in the future. Do you
agree?

Sarah Rendell, consultant, EJ Human Resources

I would agree you are not necessarily harming your future career prospects
if you are happiest working within an operational HR role. However, if your
long-term aspirations are to reach the top of the HR career ladder, you may
well need to develop an understanding of other areas of business.

Whichever option you choose, you must do it because you want to do it rather
than because you feel you ought to. If you are sure you would like to remain in
an operational HR role, there is no reason to feel guilty about your lack of
‘wider business’ experience.

If your career comes to the point when you are no longer challenged, the
skills you have acquired through what seems to be a generalist HR role can be
used to create fresh opportunities for you. You might specialise in a
particular area of HR and to develop in-depth knowledge of a specific field.

Clive Sussams, recruitment consultant, Malpas Flexible Learning

There is no doubt that you have a wealth of experience which will be useful
to prospective employers. Equally, as the role of HR changes, many companies
are seeking professionals who have been exposed to line management positions in
other areas of business.

I do not feel that there is any need for you to feel guilty as you have
developed a specialist career which has value to an employer. It would be
useful to consider how your personal skills could be enhanced so you are more
influential in business decisions. Embarking on additional qualifications such
as an MBA would emphasise how you are broadening your knowledge in order that
you can be seriously linked to the business.

Take stock of your career, skills and experience and how best to use them in
a rapidly changing workplace. It is particularly important to work closely with
management, understand their expectations and use your expertise to help drive
through best practice.

Claire Coldwell, consultant, Chiumento

Staying in HR will not necessarily damage your career prospects – it depends
on how you plan your future development. Doing a job which you enjoy is an
important consideration, but you also need to ensure you are continually
updating your skills.

Does your boss see potential within you which he/she believes can be
realised by wider business experience? This experience will give you a user’s
perspective on the whole HR function and a broader understanding of business
issues, particularly of a commercially strategic nature.

One way to get a better understanding of business while continuing to work
in HR is to take an MBA. There are lots of flexible courses available that
could be combined with your current role.

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