One in every four HR practitioners (26%) regrets their choice of career to such an extent that, if given the opportunity to start again, they would choose another profession, according to a survey by Personnel Today’s sister publication IRS Employment Review.
Although most (60%) were happy with the decision they made to go into HR, one in seven (14%) admitted that they were not sure what they would do if they could go back to the very beginning.
The survey asked 109 senior HR professionals to explain how they came into HR, what had affected their career progress, and what advice they would offer anyone considering a move into HR today.
Among those who said that they would not choose HR second time round, the most common reasons were the lack of esteem in which the profession is held, and a concern that HR is not more widely viewed as integral to organisational success.
One respondent said he wished he had opted for finance or the law, since both were held in higher regard. He added: “I would also be earning double what I am now.”
The survey also found that almost all HR practitioners questioned scan the jobs market either frequently (30%) or at least some of the time (64%).
…but it is certainly not down to money
Three out of four practitioners (73%) surveyed began their career outside HR. But most of those who were in personnel or HR from the start were designated trainees.
Among the first jobs listed by those taking part were shampooist and electronic systems engineer. The only common starting points were PA or secretarial roles (11%), clerical or admin posts (11%) and customer or sales assistant jobs (8%).
Not surprisingly, when asked to list the three main attractions of a job in HR, the most common reason given by respondents was that they wanted to work with people (44%).
Although some (38%) clearly saw HR as an attractive career, a surprisingly high number appear to have drifted into the profession, either as a natural progression from their previous role (31%) or “by chance” (28%).
Very few people (12%) embarked on a career in HR because of the esteem in which it was held, while just one in 100 (1%) was attracted by the money.
Asked what they would look for in someone wanting to enter the HR profession today, most (89%) said business experience was important, while more than half (51%) felt that academic qualifications were not vital.
…and experience is the key
Senior HR practitioners tend to be well qualified. Nearly half those surveyed (49%) had a first degree and one in five (21%) a postgraduate degree. Although these were in subjects as diverse as botany and land use planning, most were HR-related.
The great majority of those taking part had some academic grounding, with just 19% boasting nothing above school-level qualifications.
But respondents felt strongly that a good hands-on grounding in generalist HR was the most important factor for those wanting to advance their career, with respondents preferring generalist HR experience (87%) to academic qualifications (43%).