You may have just graduated from your college or university. Maybe you are impressed with terms like job metrics, employee engagement, performance appraisal or talent management and acquisition. Especially today, where you can download innumerous applications in your smartphone and work from distance. You might also as well be thrilled with the idea “to work with people” (in that case try an undertaker’s place, at least this will keep you sane). I do not consider myself an expert, but before taking your final decision, I would suggest considering the following:
No matter how good you work with excel spreadsheets, in macro analysis or how fast you download data, sooner or later you will come into the position to look somebody in the eyes and tell him that he is fired. You may like this particular person, you may know that he is not so bad, other people should have left long time before him, he has a mortgage loan, two kids or a sick wife. You may have had lunch with him the other day talking about football or your common hobby. Even worse, you may disagree with this decision, not have a solid explanation but you will have to embrace this decision and implement it to the end. If you feel you cannot do this, maybe you should try something easier e.g. sales.
“Personnel ? That’s for assholes!” The famous quote of Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) from The Enforcer (1976) is still alive as a notion in several organizations. You will realize this between the lines in an e-mail text, in a business meeting, even in the elevator early in the morning. Many people believe that you are in this position in order to trap them, to play vicious games behind their back and at the end to fire them. Even worse, sometimes they are right. So, if you follow this path, you must live with this.
Several supervisors, middle managers, directors and CEOs will come at your office (or invite you at theirs, depending on the case) and make complains about one of their subordinates. In most cases they hold the major part of the blame themselves. They have made the wrong choice (possibly despite your objections), they failed to let him know what they expect from him, they didn’t perform any follow up (not to mention a constructive feedback) and now they are asking from you a miracle. The last few years I keep a plastic magic stick in my drawer at the office (don’t mention this to my daughters, they are still looking for it) and I reveal it every time such a case arises. You will realize very soon that managers of all levels confuse HR representatives with Harry Potter. The same people will complain that you are not doing anything to support them. You should get used to the idea that accusations against HR, is the last excuse of every incompetent manager (not in all cases though).
Very often you will meet managers who, at their areas of responsibility, equal from total mess, to disaster. Many of them consider working in HR something very simple and easy and they tend to give you advice on how to do your job. You will hear from them phrases starting with “why don’t you….” You should be patient and polite otherwise you will end up unemployed. In the higher levels of management, in some cases you will have the feeling that General Managers, CEOs, Board Members, Presidents and in general the “big boys”, when they grow up, they want to become HR Managers.
Talking about unemployment, you should consider your position the most expendable in the organization (unless if you become somebody’s “pet”. This will keep you safe, at least for a period). In hard times your job will be outsourced and in good times your position is not considered a first priority.
So, if you still want to follow this path at your career, make sure that you have a strong stomach and try to get used to the feeling of loneliness. From my part, I wish you good luck and all the best.