HR Uppers and Downers
While HR professionals have varying degrees of interaction with an organization's employees, all HR people can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that the work they do has a direct impact on people every day. HR professionals like helping employees navigate through tough problems and get back to normal on the job. Whether it's helping an employee overcome a performance problem or fix an expensive and stressful medical claim, there is an inherent satisfaction in these types of tasks.
They also enjoy the ability to interact with different groups of people; HR professionals may be working with employees in many different parts of the company. Organization development specialists may act like internal consultants helping different departments in a company work better together. This means they might be working with a sales team one week and a product design team the next. So there is a ton of variety in their day-to-day tasks.
In his role at Bank of America, Phil Skeath likes the diversity of projects. "Each time I am on a new project," he says, "I find myself identifying general concepts I learned in my educational experience, adapting them, and applying them to a specific issue in the Bank."
They also like contributing to the business and bottom line. For example, one of the most common issues CFOs are facing in 2005 (according to CFO Magazine) is the rising cost of healthcare. HR and benefits professionals who analyze how to lower these costs can save a company millions of dollars. Talk about making an impact.
For most HR professionals, the positives of working in HR (such as extending a job offer to a very excited job candidate) are enough to outweigh the drawbacks (in the opposite category, downsizing or laying off employees). Otherwise, they wouldn't be there in the first place. But no job is perfect. Even rock stars have to deal with annoying paparazzi and screaming fans. While it's highly unlikely you'll be chased by reporters working in HR, you may be chased by unhappy employees. One of the toughest things about working in HR is providing a service many employees take for granted. No one says "thanks HR" every time they get a paycheck. But if something goes wrong, if employees don't get paid, if benefits disappear or new employees aren't trained properly, you may end up with a mailbox full of angry callers to contend with.
Like many professions, starting out in HR you may also have your fair share of administrative work. Many HR careers may begin with processing paperwork for new employees, or entering and maintaining resumes in an online database. This might seem like menial work, especially if you've just received a college degree, but don't walk away too quickly. These roles, while tedious, provide a great learning opportunity and a chance to prove you're ready for more responsibilities.
HR also suffers from some common misconceptions, like being a touchy-feely profession or being female-dominated; we'll go into some of these misconceptions and how to deal with them later in this guide.
Ready to help your colleagues and organization perform better? Before you determine what type of HR role you might best be cast in, it's important to understand that HR as a function isn't the same in every organization.