"If I had known I was going to be in HR so long, I would have started to get serious about the profession sooner."
Noted HR expert Michael R. Losey says he's heard this story a number of times. His advice: Get serious about your career now, before it's too late.
Losey, author of Tomorrow's HRand a past president of SHRM, suggests HR professionals follow these truths to advance their careers:
1. You can't do HR with an empty head. The HR profession includes a body of knowledge. You need to master that knowledge through HR education, certification and continuing personal development. You can't learn this profession from your ‘in basket' or by constantly putting out fires.
2. What you declare matters less than what you deliver. HR professionals need to constantly think how to add value to their employer. Speak up, and offer your two cents to management.
3. You think with what you know. To add value, you have to solve problems. That requires a combination of education and experience.
The best HR people define problems, generate alternative solutions, evaluate the alternative solutions, determine the "best" solution, take actions to mitigate the disadvantages of the best solution, and follow up to evaluate results.
4. You don't needif nothing is going to change. To advance your career, you need to go beyond simple "management." Becoming a leader means learning how to influence others toward a goal. That means challenging the process when needed, inspiring a shared vision, inspiring others to act, and modeling the way.
5. "I can run this company." Losey says HR professionals often ask him when they'll know that they've truly become a strategic partner at their organization. He says, "When you get up in the morning, take a shower and say, ‘I could run this company.'"
Know who your "customer" is (management) and what it wants from you. Become a personal confidant to the CEO.
6. Never have to remember how you told the story. Credibility and ethics are essential to successful HR. Play a strong role in promoting and modeling good ethics. Stand up for what is right, and stick your neck out.
7. Don't contribute to every other person's career development and skip your own. Take time out to plan your career and finances. Stay professionally current. Make sure you know your aspirations (write them down) and make sure your organization knows your aspirations, too. Plan your finances and build your own golden parachute.