HR can be a great professional background for…well, anything.
Those of you who’ve read my articles know I spent the last 4 years of my life as a recruiter–the last two of those internally for the Estée Lauder Companies, making me one of the gears in the giant machine that is a corporate HR department. You’d think in Talent Acquisition I wouldn’t have been subjected to the more HR-y parts of Global Human Resources, including hours of admin, work on the back end, organizing other peoples’ lives, and most notably, managing emotions and conflicts.
WRONG! Any of you who have ever worked closely with multiple hiring managers at once know that I was doing all of the above, not to mention handling a team that was constantly in flux due to changing priorities during a global pandemic. Eventually, that flux turned to me–and I was laid off from my role in May. After months of searching for a new role, I ended up somewhere pretty unexpected–working as a sales Account Executive for a tech startup.
How did I get that job, one might ask (and I sometimes ask myself during the workday)? It’s simple, really–my HR experience. I currently work at RippleMatch, a tech platform that allows companies to connect to diverse students and connect campus recruitment virtually. I actually used the product while at Estée Lauder, which is how I ended up connecting with the company again. So I sell our product to recruiters–aka, my former self. So my utter lack of sales experience doesn’t really hurt me in the role. In fact, I think I have an advantage selling the product the same way an experienced musician would be able to sell guitars–it’s easier to understand the needs behind the purchase. But aside from that, there are some skills that HR people have truly mastered that will always set us apart, and make us great candidates for many roles that fall outside of our background:
Listening skills: a lot of people *claim* to be good listeners. In my experience, about 20% of the population is capable of listening–really listening, without getting distracted or thinking about how they’re going to respond. HR people are career listeners, whether they’re taking feedback in an exit interview, hearing someone’s frustrations during a check-in, interviewing a candidate, or even just working in a collaborative environment to solve a problem–we listen, and we listen GOOD. And there’s nothing better than getting a prospect to do most of the talking on a sales call.
Organization: Hundreds of thousands of emails, resumes to sort through, payroll that needs to be audited and sent out, decks that need to be created for the monthly meeting–HR people are pro organizers. We are often put into situations where we need to make sense out of a system that is outdated, or we need to pick up slack, or we need to build a project from the ground up. This sets you up to be on the ball, no matter what your new work environment might look like.
Doing things that aren’t your job: In a good way! Need someone to jump in and lead a meeting or activity? We’re there! Need someone to create collateral or find it deep in a closet or filing cabinet? Us. Having trouble with your office key card? You bet we know the person that runs security. And if we don’t know, somehow we can find out. HR people are the plug. You should always be nice to them.
Patience: Literally everything an HR person works on has a component that is tedious, or takes a ton of time. Whether it’s inputting 300 signed release forms into a spreadsheet, repeatedly teaching managers how to upload I9s into the system, repeating yourself on the phone to candidates, repeating yourself at a career fair, repeating yourself to your leadership–these things often cease to phase us. HR people know that great things take time. We’re willing to put the unglamorous hours in.
Teamwork: Lastly, HR people work collaboratively–we are good at handling ourselves in a room with many voices. We won’t complain about there being too many meetings on the calendar, because we recognize the merit of discussion. And if something needs to be done, we can delegate the tasks fairly.
I may no longer work in HR, but at my new company and in roles to come, I’ll be using these skills–and sticking close to our HR team at all costs.