After graduating from university, I got a job as PA to the directors of my
current company. It was a lucky break as I secured the new role of head of HR
six months later. I had no formal training, but had an external mentor and am studying
for a post graduate personnel management qualification sponsored by my company.
Unfortunately HR is not seen as very important by many of the managers and
my role has come to mean implementing what has already been decided upon. It
feels like paper-pushing and I am becoming frustrated – and to top it all I
have lost my mentor due to financial restrictions.
I realise I have only a limited amount of experience and am nervous about
leaving as I feel it would be hard to find another company that would give me
day release to study my course and support me as I have been in the past. What
can I do to improve the situation? I have tried talking to my managers, but
nothing comes of it.
Jo Selby, associate director, EJ Human Resources
Keep your options open for the moment. If you really do not want to leave
your current company, you will need to find an alternative way to influence
However, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of moving to another company
with a different view of HR. At this stage, you may wish to consider moving to
a role where you work as part of a team and report to experienced HR
professionals. This will potentially give you more structured development, and
hence you should not need an external mentor.
While many organisations support professional studies and you should not see
that as a barrier to moving, you may need to consider evening classes.
Peter Wilford, consultant, Chiumento
The situation may not be as serious as you think. The company has
demonstrated a certain amount of commitment to the function by creating a head
of HR role and funding your study. There should be scope for a productive
conversation with your managers. Ask them what was envisaged of the HR role and
prepare a case outlining what you can contribute.
Consider asking one of them to be an internal mentor, both as a way of
getting access to their thinking on HR and as a forum for debating your own
Also, demonstrate that you understand the implications of legislation or HR
initiatives and propose ways of dealing with them.
You may have to forgo your status as head of HR and take a role as an HR
officer or equivalent. Also consider a role as number two to an experienced HR
manager in a company that encourages staff development and would support your
Margaret Malpas, joint managing director, Malpas Flexible Learning
It’s not at all uncommon for the personnel function to be perceived as
purely administrative, which is a pity as it has so much to offer the business
in added value and reducing costs. However, as you have developed your role
from an administrative post, it may be even more difficult to influence things
with your current employer.
It’s often difficult to move into a managerial role where you are known.
They have obviously been good to you, though, encouraging you and sponsoring
If you decide to move on, you will face new challenges and these provide
opportunities for further development.
I wouldn’t get too hung up on the day release aspect of your diploma as
there are other study methods which do not involve so many days off work.