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Do People Choose an HR Career, or Does an HR Career Choose Them?

The Chapman Consulting Group’s November/December 2009 poll surveyed 135 HR Leaders across Asia Pacific Japan on how they embarked on their HR career.

33% of respondents admitted to having fallen into their HR careers by accident, with no real intention to pursue the HR profession. “The HR field is home to people of all backgrounds, and the barriers to entry for this field, at least in Asia, have been low. Formal HR studies aren’t always seen as a precursor to an HR career”, said Chapman. While this in itself cannot be categorised as negative, it also helps to explain why HR in the past has not necessarily been seen by many as ‘a serious career’ relative to more traditional career paths that have required a more rigorous entry process, such as accountancy, law and medicine.

27% of respondents started in another discipline but then actively sought to switch into HR. This category of individuals is interesting in that, unlike the 33% of respondents who simply fell into HR, this 27% had taken careful steps to make the transition. “These individuals come from a wide range of backgrounds, for instance legal professionals, engineers, accountants, sales managers and even bankers”, said Chapman. “They shift from their original field often after realising they have a particular talent in an area of HR such as recruitment, training, talent development or compensation”, he added. “Owing to their previous business-focused careers, they often evolve into the most sought after HR practitioners of all – those who with an HR mind but who can think commercially and make business-minded decisions.”

12% of survey participants were much more structured in their approach and planned their HR career as soon as they began working. Many of these individuals had studied non-HR related courses at university, including most commonly Commerce/Economics/Business, Arts or Social Sciences. Then, upon beginning work, they had immediately gravitated towards the field of HR.

A further 28% of those surveyed had planned their HR career at an earlier age during their studies. For these people HR had always been their preferred clear track. While many universities now offer dedicated HR majors and specialisations during undergraduate and postgraduate studies, India and Australia have long been the two most prominent countries in the region offering HR courses. “The number of HR courses has been climbing in Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand and China in recent years”, said Chapman, “so we expect the overall proportion of these career-minded HR professionals to increase in the future.”

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