HR career Q&A: Taking a less senior role to move sectors

Q Would I damage my reputation if I took a less senior role in order to move sectors?

The HR expert’s opinion

Presumably you have a lot of experience and depth within HR in your current sector – looking for career breadth can be a great way to widen your skills long term. Sometimes the best way to take a career step forward is to take one step back.

Are you at the stage where you feel you have learned all you can? Are you looking to gain valuable new skills and experience in a very different type of sector that could lead to a better job? If you are prepared to take this riskier strategy that would most likely involve a short-term loss of salary and possibly status, and are clear in your mind what new skills this sector change would bring to you, then I would go for it.

Be sure you have really considered exactly what new skills you are looking to acquire long term by making this sector change. Ensure you have some savings set aside to allow for a temporary lower salary and make sure you have a strong desire to move to this new sector. Loss of status or “reputation” is often only a perception held and controlled by you.

Esther O’Halloran, HR director, Paul UK


The recruitment expert’s opinion

We would never advocate that someone should accept less than they’re worth – in reward or responsibility – simply to move sectors. Don’t be ashamed of what you earn: you’re worth it and potential employers will often assume – albeit perhaps incorrectly – that there must be a reason for someone being willing to accept less.

If you plan and handle it carefully, and get the right advice from the right recruitment experts, there should be no need to take a drop in salary. The only exception might be if you’re planning a move to the third or charitable sector where it’s widely appreciated that monetary reward is less attractive and it’s the “total reward” on offer that is attractive.

There’s a growing appreciation of the HR skills and experience that are transferable from one sector to another and an increasing number of high-profile examples of HR professionals who’ve done just that – often from the private to the public sector.

The simplest way is often to look for one of the growing number of interim opportunities where employers are looking to hire someone with specific experience and skills. It might only be short term but it can lead to full-time offers and invaluable experience.

John Maxted, chief executive, Digby Morgan

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