Should I focus on qualifications or experience?

I  am a CIPD graduate and have worked as an HR
generalist for three years since graduation. I enjoy my role but am unsure how
to develop my career in terms of qualifications and greater exposure to
specialist areas. I am considering pursuing a part time HR Masters course which
my company would pay for. Would this be time well spent or should I focus on
experience at work? Also, I have never had exposure to manufacturing and union
issues; I do not have a desire to develop my career in this direction but I would
like to know if will it hinder me in the future.

Lewis, consultant at Chiumento Consulting Group, writes:

don’t get the impression from your letter that any one specialist area has
really grabbed you yet, but it’s still early days. Three years into your
career, continuing in a good HR generalist role will enable you to get a
clearer idea of what is involved should you decide to specialise and
consolidate the solid grounding of your career to date.

far as the kind of experience is concerned, it is worth focussing on real
achievements rather than experience for experience sake. Employers are looking
for people who have actually done things in their career and made things

the longer term, furthering your career will probably mean combining wider
experience with further study but you can postpone the decision of what to
study until you have a clear idea of where your longer term career lies. In the
present climate there is an emphasis on recruiting, motivating and retaining
good people, so these areas might be well worth considering.

you are serious about getting a senior role it may be worthwhile considering a
more general business qualification such as an MBA, which will help to develop
your knowledge of wider business issues.

to manufacturing and union issues is not vital to a career in HR unless you
specifically wish to work in a sector where this is likely to play a large
part, so omitting this experience should not prove a hindrance.

Daniels, director at Carr-Lyons, writes:

qualifications never do any harm as long as they are relevant and you have the
time to complete them. In the final analysis, however, there is no guarantee
that they will make a difference – you may go just as far without a Masters. No
HR professional can be an expert on all subjects. Don’t worry that you have
some gaps – you will always be able to learn on the job if necessary. Make sure
that you keep up-to-date with current HR legislation, ensure that everything
you do is value-added and business-focussed and behave in a professional,
pragmatic and pro-active manner at all times. If you do this, you won’t go far
wrong and you will be doing all you can to maximize your career potential.

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

would try to get the widest range of experience at this stage, so try
volunteering for projects especially those with high visibility or very senior
people to work with/for.

Masters is a good idea for developing your strategic thinking, you would find
it quite different development from your CIPD course. 

it used to be enough to have the CIPD qualification, a lot of people pursue a
Masters degree because they feel they need it in order to stand out from the
crowd.  Sometimes the networking on the course opens up career
opportunities too.

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