I have been working in HR for 10 years. I am in a relatively senior role and
would like to move on. I’ve got a solid CV and great qualifications. However, I
really only have experience in one specific industry sector – IT. I would like
to move into something new, but do not feel very confident about moving into a
completely new sector. On the other hand, I don’t want to be typecast by
staying in IT. How important do you think experience of more than one sector is
in building a career in HR?
Grant Taylor, consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes
Depth of experience in a particular business sector is important as it helps
you to climb the career ladder effectively in that sector. It is more difficult
to gain promotion in a new business sector.
The best way to move to a new sector is in a similar role, as you offer
experience of operating at that level, even though you lack an understanding of
the business sector. The ‘something new’ you are looking for can often be found
with a sideways move to a new sector. You will also feel more confident
operating at a level of seniority you are used to.
It is important for your development to gain experience in a range of
business sectors as they all operate differently, and the type of staff you
will work with will vary greatly. This develops your ability to adapt to
different challenges and draw on experience from different environments, so you
will broaden the knowledge that you have in dealing with HR issues on a grand
Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS consultancy
You say that you have great qualifications, but what are they? If you are
not CIPD qualified, this should be something to consider.
To my knowledge, HR professionals with experience of a number of different
industries have more to offer than someone with experience of only one sector.
Having said that, your lack of confidence needs to be overcome. Your experience
in IT probably involves you recruiting in areas where there may be a skills
shortage, developing innovative compensation packages and being reactive to a
constantly changing environment. To be successful in an IT human resources role
requires a strong personality, business awareness and the ability to think
beyond traditional boundaries. If you can sell your strengths, a move out of
the IT sector should not be a problem.
Doug Knott, senior consultant, Chiumento
There is a strong body of opinion, with which I concur, that HR management
skills are transferable across sectors. In fact, the challenge of working in a
different environment can help to keep your interest levels high and your wits
Unfortunately, this view is not shared by many of those making the decisions
in the recruitment market. The more senior your position and the older you are,
the more difficult you will find it to change sectors. I would strongly
recommend that you gain experience outside of the IT sector so that you do not
become typecast and you can demonstrate your ability to operate in different
In order to assist with your job search outside IT, you should consider
using a skills/competency-based CV which markets your generic HR management
skills and places less emphasis on your chronological career history.
There is strong evidence to support the theory that flexible HR professionals,
committed to ongoing personal development, can successfully move between
sectors. As long as you match this description, you should be confident about
making the transition.