Jobs in Human Resource Management can literally give you the power to control the careers of hundreds or even thousands of employees.
Hari Raghavachari started a 2-part series add some clarity to the field of Human Resources (HR).
Part 1: Human Resource Careers: Scope, roles, responsibility of HR Jobs
Part 2: HR Jobs: How to get them? Qualifications & personal qualities
Here’s the second part.
Careers in Human Resource Management (HR Jobs)
Part 2: HR Jobs: How to get them? Qualifications & personal qualities
How to get an HR job?
The two most common entry routes to an HR career are:
– Undergraduate or (in India) an MBA or Masters in HR –> followed by either a functional entry or into an HR specific Leadership Development Program (LDP). You would enter at notch or two below manager level and work your way up.
– Mid-career transition into HR –> in the context of someone’s career development towards senior business roles, or a full transition into HR. Many HR managers / directors would have transition mid-career into HR from other functions in the organization, like finance, operations, or marketing & sales.
Most MNCs will have a healthy mix of the two.
So what could a human resource management (HR) career look like?
For the purposes of this blog, I’ll stay with the scenario of an MNC.
With few exceptions like some company’s Global HR Leadership Development Program (LDP) where one might have an early career international assignment / rotation, most HR careers in MNCs start out local. You would normally have to go through early career rotational positions in administration, employee relations and IT platforms / L&D; with some companies offering business partner assignments at a junior level.
It would take between 5-7 years for you to be considered for mid/senior and potentially international HR roles in any of the above sub-functional areas. In this period, you will have achieved or acquired competence and skills in a combination of the below areas, all underpinned by a solid understanding of your business & industry:
– Professional expertise in at least one area (except administration), with strong knowledge of another; perhaps with some time leading a small group of people. Example – you have specific and applicable experience in the area of mid-senior management recruiting, compensation and retention.
– You are an authority on corporate HR practice, organizational strategy. Example – you are an expert in running corporate / regional LDPs, and could potentially be considered a candidate to run a Global LDP; alternatively – you could be considered for a business partner role in a centralized or center –led global function like Strategic Procurement
– Solid experience in HR led projects or Business initiatives. Example – you have contributed to / led a major HR Information System upgrade for the local subsidiary of the company; or have successfully managed the HR aspects of integration of a major acquisition (including sensitive areas like employee retention or termination when that needs to happen).
Achieving a combination or all of the above is necessary for the visibility required amongst the senior people who evaluate you for global / corporate / partnering roles in HR.
Going further – your career could go one of several ways:
– Senior HR and leadership roles within your companies
– With professional qualifications through your career, into Organizational Consulting
– Executive Recruiting
Options are wide… but like any other career, you’d need to work your way up!
So what sort of a person do you need to be?
Aside from all of the functional and leadership skills for the role, good to great HR people have a certain personality that lends itself easily to HR. The GM of HR in the company I joined at 22, said two things were most important for HR people to have – a sense of humor, and a very thick skin! 14 years of experience later, innumerable interactions (& some unpleasant runs-in :-)) with HR colleagues – I couldn’t agree more.
Alongside skills and personality, you need to be viewed by ALL your co-workers as a sensitive, empathetic yet appropriately assertive leader, and a flawless communicator. HR people are the least understood (therefore often least liked) people in an organization because they’re seen as the messengers and executors of (nearly always unpopular) change – you wouldn’t be jealous of an HR Director when he/she runs an organizational restructuring or job/role/compensation recalibration program.
They hold sensitive and confidential information about employees (compensation and performance reports). They are aware of organizational politics, generally not a pleasant experience. It makes their role in the company inherently secretive, as they have to be extremely careful about what they speak, to whom they, when, why and how! They can’t blab, which sometimes goes against human nature :-). Most of their co-workers will NOT have the maturity to understand, and that’s what makes HR so poorly understood!
Bottom-line – you need to strike the balance in maintaining the relationship with your colleagues, while not losing sight of how sensitive what you know really is. It takes time to build this skill.
After all of that, what does education in / for the field look like?
To start a career at the administrative levels, a degree is pretty much enough. But this blog is intended for career aspirants, so the below would cater to those.
There’s no specific undergraduate degree necessary to start a career in HR – period. However, most large companies in India prefer to recruit their HR staff from business or specialist schools offering specific PG or Master’s or MBAs with specific electives in HR. To enter as HR associate, the path of least resistance would be to aim for one of the Top 10-15 schools in India, where all of the major corporate houses recruit (entry level or lateral) – the IIMs, JBIMS, MDI, IMT, SPJ, FMS, XL, TISS, NMIMS….
There are many who ask me about going abroad for specialized Masters in HR or similar education. Unless you’re very sure that there’s a job waiting for and / or you can afford the attendance costs – this is not a good idea. As previously mentioned, HR is an enabling and fairly local function from early to mid-career levels. It requires a strong understanding of local culture, including native fluency with the local language. Like marketing and similarly culture oriented functions, HR recruiting at the early career levels in any market would prefer local talent.
You need think very carefully about what you bring to the table to compete with the local talent. You “could” come back to India immediately, but would you be able to compete again with Indians who did their Masters / MBA in India, and are preferred by companies recruiting for their Indian operations? Chances are low, therefore wouldn’t your expensive foreign education towards an HR career be a waste?
An HR career can be fulfilling and rewarding, but you need to take the long term view on how you’re going to get there. I hope this blog post offers you an independent perspective on what you will see in this career, and how you can plan it.
Hungry for more? Read these interesting articles on Human Resources.
Many who sign up for an MBA program do so with an eye specifically on one goal – international work experience. It’s a great career move for many reasons.
One, considering the astronomical sum spent on acquiring an MBA degree in, say, the US or Europe, it makes good financial sense for Indians to find work overseas, so that they can repay student loans.
Another reason to work abroad post-MBA, for a few years (if not longer), is to start building an international career, or at the very least, to get some exposure working in a culturally different set-up.
This is an invaluable asset in your resume as it speaks to your ability to work in a global environment while also suggesting that you have the soft skills and survival skills needed to make that happen.
Today, most companies and industries work in an international environment, and having a manager with overseas work experience on board makes you a top candidate for a plum post.
Optimising Your Overseas Job Search After MBA
With an MBA in hand, the world is indeed your oyster but landing a suitable job overseas takes strategising, planning and foresight. Here are some guidelines that will maximise your chances when you put yourself out there.
Hone Your Interpersonal Skills
Working in a new culture demands strong interpersonal skills and the soft skills needed to get along with a variety of people. Remember, you are not on home turf and this brings its share of challenges at the workplace.
Leaning on your interpersonal skills is a good way to gso as employers look for soft skills like the social perceptiveness, active listening and excellent written or oral communication.
Strong interpersonal skills are also critical for networking, and networking and communication are key ingredients for success in an increasingly connected world.
Since a large percentage of Indians who acquire an MBA degree abroad are proficient in English, this helps plenty when looking for jobs overseas, when competing with candidates from other countries where English is not their first language.
Research Market Trends
At different times, different countries or markets exhibit a greater or lesser tendency to hire talent from overseas. These trends change over time and directly influence your quest. On similar lines, industry too reflects the same trends.
Traditionally, domains such as technology, finance, consulting and manufacturing are partial to hiring international applicants. Aligning your goals with market trends will, naturally, increase your chances of hitting pay dirt.
Often, larger companies are more open to hiring culturally diverse candidates as they are more global in their outlook and also have international operations, so they can place these candidates in field offices across the geographies.
But don’t give up on smaller firms. While they may seem reluctant to hiring international candidates, that can change quickly if convinced that you will be an asset.
Maximising Your Strike Rate
Another valuable tip is to use a three-pronged approach and build a long list of target companies you would like to apply to. These three ‘prongs’ would be: companies n the US, companies in other countries and your home country.
Also, although you may have a very specific job profile in mind, remain open to other opportunities that are available.
Choosing The Right Country
When selecting your MBA program, think not only of the reputation of the business school you hope to enroll with but also of the state of the economy, job scene and your specific career prospects in that country. Of course, you can always move to a job in another country after you get your degree but it always helps to be aware of your chances.
The US is every MBA hopeful’s first choice and rightly so. It boasts the largest number of business schools and the world’s best, apart from a handful outside its borders.
Although the UK sees a steady stream of Indian students every year, questions are being raised about its MBA programs (as the cost of a UK MBA is much higher). The country’s new visa regime and the growing uncertainty about getting MBA jobs in England are further deterrents but the country remains a good choice for shorter duration, one-year MBA programs.
Apart from the biggest MBA brand in the UK, London Business School, there’s Cambridge’s Judge Business School) and Oxford’s Said Business School) for you to consider.
Canada is not as popular as USA when it comes to MBA programs but it offers a strong bait to MBA students – work permits ranging from 1 to 3 years. But here’s a country that’s finding itself on an increasing number of MBA hopefuls’ lists in India – Singapore.
The top MBA programs here are National University of Singapore and Nanyang apart from INSEAD’s Singapore campus. This means you can still get a top-notch, global MBA degree in Asia and reduce your overall cost.
Besides, Singapore is only a few hours from India and you can easily get by with English, making it an even more tempting choice among Indians.
Overcoming Cultural Challenges
Candidates who work abroad after their MBA studies face many more challenges than those who work in their home countries.
Many feel homesick, at least initially, and most others wrestle with adjusting to a new culture. We have some advice to help you avoid taking cultural missteps that could derail your plan to work overseas.
Hop, Skip or Leap?
There are two ways to pursue an international profile with your new-found MBA status – you either change both your industry and geography in one go (leap) or one of the two (hop and skip), and take baby steps.
For many, opting for a new industry as well as an overseas posting could be overwhelming, what with all the adjusting it entails. It might be more prudent to choose a posting abroad but stay the course in a familiar career domain.
That way, you can use all your work experience to succeed at your new job and impress your new employer. Another option would be to work with a global company in your home country and then seek a foreign assignment in time.
Watch Out For The ‘U’ Curve
Typically, when you start living and working in a new country, you are feeding off a euphoric high as you are enamoured of your new environment, people and workplace.
But soon enough, feelings of homesickness filter in and the challenges of living in a completely alien environment and culture begin to overwhelm you. For many, this levels off and they begin to climb out of the ‘U’ curve.
To get you through this tough time, develop a strong sense of self-awareness and a keen cultural awareness. Be aware of your feelings and remain sensitive to the people around you. Also, just wait it out.
Individuals who have studied and/or worked overseas more than once are especially adept at making these adjustments.
If you are still finding it hard to adjust to a new culture, give it at least six months before you decide to make a move or else you can hurt your long-term career prospects.