Do I need wider business experience?

I have worked in HR since I graduated nine years ago. I have
completed my CIPD studies and have a Masters degree. Although my career has
steadily developed I’m beginning to feel that my lack of "real"
business experience outside HR may be slowing my progress. Any suggestions?


Margaret Malpas, joint managing director, Malpas
Flexible Learning, writes:


I am wondering why you classify your HR work as "not
real business". There is much that can be contributed via HR to managing
risk and adding value to the business, so I wonder if this is a useful area for
you to think about.


However, one thing you could do is ask for a secondment to
an operational area where you currently work. I think you would find this a
mind expanding exercise. 


Vic Daniels, director at Carr-Lyons, writes:


There will always be some employers who feel that HR professionals
will benefit from some time in the business. but where do you draw the line?
You have completed your CIPD studies, successfully finished a Masters and given
your all in an HR role for years – and still they want more! In your case, I
would say enough is enough. unless your employer is prepared to second you into
the business for six months.  I would
let it go and focus on the HR.


Peter Wilford, consultant at Chiumento Consulting
Group, writes:


If you want to stay within the HR function, but would like
to progress to a more senior level, having an understanding of general business
issues is central to the role. An MBA can be a way of getting this. It might
also add weight to your application if you choose to move to another company.


If you are happy working for your current employer, you
could approach them about a secondment in some other part of the business. This
would very quickly give you an appreciation of more general issues and also
allow you to use the skills that you obtain to add more of a business focus to
your CV. If you are going to do this make sure that you have well-developed
reasons for doing so and can demonstrate the benefits to the organisation. Also
that you have a finite time on secondment and that your job is guaranteed for your


Another, less risky, option would be to be more proactive
about getting involved in more general and broader business meetings at work.
Understand why you are not involved at the moment. Do your employers know that
you are interested? Work on your profile within the company to show that you
have credible viewpoint on general business issues.


Finally it is essential to have an understanding of the
external business market place, so keep up to date by reading the financial
papers and relevant books and articles.

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