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Navigating Your HR Career Path

As the global HR profession continues to evolve in 2023, we at ChapmanCG believe it is more important than ever for HR leaders to take charge of their own career paths.  Believe it or not, many of the highest achievers in the profession struggle with this topic. Therefore I would like to highlight five ‘tips for success’ as a starting point which may be of value to HR professionals at any level:

  1. Build Resilience 
  2. Create and Curate Your Personal Brand
  3. Build a Strong Mentor Network
  4. Revisit “Time Management”
  5. Ask for New Experiences 

Build Resilience: The Value of Learning and Teaching Moments 

I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

“Invictus” by William Henley

As the captain of your career, you shape and live with your choices.  Therefore, taking a deliberate and mindful approach to steering through waters rough as well as calm is key.  In our experience, some of the best, most successful HR and business leaders adopt the mantra “Learn when you fall and teach when you rise”. Instead of measuring career progression in wins and losses, we suggest measuring it in learning and teaching. Doing this allows an individual to take positive steps and build strength from experiences that could otherwise erode their confidence.

I recently spoke with Diana Khaitova from Creative Center for Leadership, and she suggested that she values resilience above all other leadership attributes. “One common trait of the most successful people I have seen is that they are resilient: they recover quickly during the down times and gain strength for the next push. They learn valuable lessons about themselves and their lives that they share with others when they bounce back.” We recommend that HR leaders take the view that “no experience is wasted”. Of course, it is often easier said than done, but the act of turning both good and bad career experiences into learning and teaching moments can be a real paradigm shift for even the most experienced HR professionals. 

Create and Curate Your Personal Brand

Whether you are a new employee or well established in your organisation, do prioritise your own self-development and personal brand internally and externally. Growing your brand allows you to influence how managers, peers, and other stakeholders perceive you. A solid personal brand boosts your visibility, confidence, and performance in both the organisation and among potential future employers. 

A strong personal brand can help in many ways:

  • Career advancement: A clear and consistent personal brand can help demonstrate your strengths and unique skills to important stakeholders internally as well as potential employers externally.
  • Networking: A solid personal brand can help you build a professional network that supports your career goals.
  • Reputation management: By taking control of your brand, you can better manage your online reputation and present yourself in a positive and unique way. 
  • Increased confidence: Having a clear personal brand can also increase your confidence and sense of purpose, helping you make better decisions about your career and life.

Always ask: “What do I want to be known for?”

Build a Strong Mentor Network

You may have noticed that great business leaders at the top of their industries have something in common: almost without exception, when asked about their success, they think back and give credit to the great mentors they have had along the way. Mentorship is incredibly important when differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘great’. 

The positive news for HR leaders is that the global HR circle is very well-connected and relatively easy to access. Get involved in your local HR community, join HR conferences, attend virtual networking events, and weigh in on conversations on LinkedIn. Not only are you keeping current with industry trends and market indicators, but you are also putting your name out there and building your profile and international network.

Your success in HR today is more than the knowledge and experience you directly possess; it’s the knowledge and experience you have access to.

Lars Schmidt, Founder of Amplify 

Throughout our careers, assignments, titles, roles, and corner offices come and go, but the relationships we build along the way endure over time. Develop your relationship-building skills, be curious, learn to forgive and apologise, share the credit and take the blame, seek new friends who are both like and not like you, keep in touch with your network, offer help to others when they are in need, and graciously receive support when you are in need. Create and nurture your network of relationships.

HR mentors are great in terms of best practices, troubleshooting, and career advancement, but it is equally important to have mentors from the non-HR space who can broaden your perspective and build up your “toolbox”. 

Revisit “Time Management”

As we progress in our careers, managing our effectiveness includes time management and dealing with distractions.

Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.

“The Organised Mind” by Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin

Time management skills are worth refreshing, particularly as recent advances in neuroscience can tell us so much more about the best way to get the best from our brains. For example, the notion of multitasking has been debunked by Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, who suggests focusing attention on specific tasks for short periods to ensure success. Similarly, Peter Bregman, a renowned leadership specialist, recommends 18 minutes daily to refocus and reflect, which generates positive outcomes in productivity.

Another critical aspect of time management is knowing when to take a break. Experts know that taking time out boosts your performance and concentration. For example, taking at least 30 minutes off at lunchtime could help you to concentrate more effectively in the afternoon.

Time is our most precious resource, and it can be easy for a day, week, or month to slip by. We need to be purposeful and protective of how we spend our time. No matter how big or small, I think it is important to begin each day with a sense of purpose and end each day with a sense of accomplishment. 

Stephanie Nash, Vice President HR, Asia-Pacific, Ingram Micro

 Ask for New Experiences and Role Rotations 

Always seize an opportunity to learn and develop a broad range of skills, personally and professionally. These skills will not only elevate HR professionals (and the HR function) in front of business stakeholders but will provide personal development opportunities which remain transferable throughout your career.

The world is changing so quickly that we can remain relevant only if we constantly learn. The willingness to go out of our comfort zone and experience the unknown is no longer only for those setting out on an expedition. It is the attitude the HR professional of today needs to have to survive. As Steve Jobs said, we need to ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’.

Manojit Sen, Chief Human Resources Officer, Jera Global Markets

If given the opportunity, consider leaping out of HR to take on another function or a non-HR-related business role as a form of role rotation in your organisation. Be proactive in seeking out new responsibilities and challenges. Evaluate your current skills and identify areas for improvement. 

My four years in the sales organisation were invaluable; I learnt how to assess and take risks, and greatly increased my comfort level in business topics. I reckoned if I don’t take a risk on myself, who would?

Wendy Foong, HR Director, APAC Inchcape Plc

In the case of a business role, you may make a more significant impact if you have a well-rounded understanding of your company’s business and its people. You may also benefit from having mentors who are outside of HR. Another route which we commonly see and believe is beneficial is a rotation between HR generalist and HR specialist positions.  From a ‘resume attractiveness’ point of view, the generalist/specialist experience mix is always a positive one for HR professionals. In addition, consider volunteering for particular projects and cross-functional teams that open up new possibilities and learning experiences to help you better understand business practices and inspire creative solutions.

In Conclusion

While much of this is not ‘new news’, we find that even the best HR and business leaders can neglect their own career well-being.  In our daily lives at ChapmanCG, we talk to hundreds of HR professionals around the world, and we see ample opportunity for new initiatives for those who want challenges and growth. Our best advice is to take charge of your career and enjoy the process!

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