If you’re the do-it-all leader of a one-person HR department, you’ve become the consummate HR generalist.
But now you want to direct your career path toward a larger organization with a bigger HR department. Solo HR generalists make up an important talent pool for big HR departments, but you’ll need to sell yourself a certain way.
Learn what large HR departments look for in professionals who want to make the leap from a small company to a big one. It can be a daunting transition.
“The hardest adjustment is the lack of access to top,” says Tracy Koll, HR director for Simmons Bedding Company in Atlanta, who began her career in a two-person HR department. “You can go from daily access to the top executive to no seat at the table. It can be a culture shock.”
Here are some practical tips to help you prepare for the big career move:
Practice ways to sell your generalist experience to a large HR shop. “The beauty of being in a one-person shop is that you understand how HR interacts with every department. In interviews, say that you can apply that concept to a larger business,” says Koll.
Be ready to dispel preconceived notions about one-person HR shops. “Sometimes, people in large organizations think small shops have less sophisticated HR processes and systems,” says Bill Kahnweiler, an HR professor at Georgia State University and co-author of the book, Shaping Your HR Role.
Another stereotype: Solo HR practitioners don’t remain up-to-speed on the latest HR trends. So, brush up on the latest HR practices, especially those in vogue at large companies with big budgets.
One other concern of big HR departments: Can HR people accustomed to running their own shows learn to become part of a team with little or no power to make final decisions? Be ready to put the interviewer’s mind at ease.
"Savvy interviewers will want reassurance that you know how to deal with the politics and bureaucracy of a large company, or can learn to make the transition seamlessly,” says Kahnweiler.
Talk to HR people in big companies. Seek professionals that have the kind of job you want in your chosen industry. Ask them about their duties and the differences between practicing HR in small and large organizations.
Finally, be realistic. Not all small-shop HR professionals are suited to work in large corporations. Be brutally honest with yourself.