Career coach: Will EU enlargement provide career opportunities for UK HR directors?

Fiona Brady, of HRHR Consultancy Services, highlights new
possibilities for careers in HR offered by the biggest enlargement of the
European Union in its history

Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta,
Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are expected to join the EU bloc on1 May 2004.

The growth will have an impact on most organisations that operate globally
or Europe-wide, but also on those who are UK based looking to export or
offshore some or part of their business to Continental Europe.

This is going to present great career opportunities for UK HR professionals
looking to enhance their careers. Early anecdotal evidence indicates that the
core human resource skills in many of the new EU member states mirror those
required in the UK.

The effect of EU enlargement

Any HR director looking to enhance their career will no doubt be excited at
the enlargement of the EU, and the challenge of managing the people issues
associated with a UK-based company setting up shop in Slovakia, or one of the
other countries poised to join the EU later this year. After all, a few of
these states are predicted to become new tiger economies.

Still, be warned HR: move fast if you want new experiences and jobs in these
emerging economies, because the opportunities won’t last.

The simple reason is that big firms such as Sony and Peugeot are currently
flooding to these countries, lured by low commercial property and house prices,
and highly affordable labour. But in doing so, they drive up labour costs, and
property prices spiral.

Within three to five years, these economies will not be as attractive to
large companies as they are at the moment. Good opportunities for HR will
dwindle, and fast.

The career options

Cranfield research recently confirmed that "A window of opportunity is
opening up for international HR professionals in emerging EU territories, but
it’s a small one.

"As more of the traditional personnel tasks are automated and the
function is reorganised along global or regional business lines, practitioners
have the chance to move on to higher things. But it is vital that they seize
the moment and step through that window in the next two to five years, before
all the transactional work disappears".

Just what are the career options at HR director level? Is it consultancy,
interim, permanent contracts or EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) roles?
How do you know which road to take? We always advise people to start from
within. What do you want to achieve? What are your main objectives?

Often completing the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) log can help you navigate your
personal goals within career objectives.

The next step is your approach to looking for a new role. This is where the
main changes have occurred in a tight market. With decreasing opportunities at
HR director level, you will find that the search and recruitment agencies may
want to receive your CV, but won’t do much with it. This is where your personal
networks and focus is paramount to achieving your ultimate goals.

There is no doubt that to find the right role you have to be proactive,
focused and realistic.

The main differentiator between those who get offered a position and those
who reach the short-list is down to flexibility, evidence of CPD and
application, along with the ability to sell your achievements.

Whether you are considering consultancy or changing permanent jobs, the
opportunities in an enlarged EU look set to soar. While challenging, they may
be a passport for your future career development.

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