Career coach: Changing roles

I have recently moved from a specialist recruitment role to a managerial HR position. To be completely honest, I feel that I know all about recruitment, but my understanding of general HR issues is limited. I feel I need support to make a successful transition from a functional expert to a managerial role, but don’t know where to start.

Remember that moving up the career ladder from functional expert to more ‘generalist’ leader is not as simple as being given a bigger office and a new job title. It is perfectly natural to feel you need support you will need it to make a successful transition.

First, accept that your new role is a step-change, not an extension of what you’ve been doing, and be willing to ask for support from others. New colleagues and peers can help you understand some of your new challenges. Seek out a senior colleague you can trust. If internal support is scarce, look externally for advisers, such as mentors or coaches, who can help you make the transition.

The most important shift when making the change from specialist to generalist is to change your way of thinking. At their early stages in a career, individuals are rewarded for their individual contributions and technical expertise. Instead of thinking about how your individual successes contribute to the organisation, think about how you can best add value through your team – making sure you have clear performance objectives that reflect your role as a people manager.

A large part of your new role will involve the coaching and development of your team. So ask yourself how you can help your colleagues achieve their objectives instead of how you can personally make it happen – your role now is to deliver value through the collective expertise of others.

Learning to let go is key. You will need to relinquish the ‘doing’ and learn to trust that others can do the work. While it may be tempting to fall into old habits and revert back to what is familiar, think about your new objectives and priorities and the benefits they will bring. Your responsibilities and skills will change and you must give more time to networking, influencing and contributing to strategy.

You will need to develop different skills in your new role, but the barriers to this transition are quite subtle and are more likely to be interpersonal or emotional in nature. To be successful, you must make some form of personal transition if you are going to succeed. Remember that it will take time and you are not expected to have all the answers at once.

By Adrian Starkey, head of executive coaching, DDI

If you have a question for our panel of career coaches, send your question to


Comments are closed.