These things I know…..

I’m speaking at a myHRcareers networking event this week. If you haven’t come across these guys, it is worth checking them out. One of the things that interests me is the chance to speak to people earlier on in their careers about HR, the world of work and what to expect (and avoid).

I kind of fell in to HR, as a lot of people did. And I made my way based on the good and the bad advice that I received from the good and bad managers around me. I never felt I particularly fitted in to the networking events or the branch events. They just didn’t seem to be people like me or who thought like me. I’m sure there were opportunities, I just never found them.

In looking back, and in preparation for Wednesday night, I thought back to the things that I’ve learnt about HR as a career and what that means.

1) Most people will have to do a whole lot of shit jobs, before they get to do a meaningful one. Most HR jobs are pretty tedious, in tedious companies, with tedious managers. You just have to realise you’re earning your stripes. Keep your head down and hold on to your dreams. In time you’ll get the opportunity to do something where you can make a difference. Remember the reason you want to, when you get there.

2) You’ll work for a lot of people who you don’t respect. The fact is that our profession is littered with more ineffective, unintentionally dangerous and damaging rejects than the QC department at Durex. That’s the way it is. Learn from them, remember what annoys you, what frustrates you and resolve to do things differently when you get the chance.

3) Nothing that you learn during your studies will help you in your employment. That doesn’t mean it is worthless; it just doesn’t help. Learn by speaking to others, listening, observing, trying and failing. You will make have less failures than you have successes, but you will remember them twice as clearly. That’s a good thing.

4) The difference between a great HR person and a rubbish HR person, is that a great person can tell you why they do their job as well as what they do. Never forget the why. And if it doesn’t have people at the heart of it, you’re a rubbish HR person in disguise.

5) This isn’t heart surgery. Nobody dies. That means that you can relax, have a little fun, be human and make people laugh. Trust me, they’ll love you more for it and it won’t cost you anything. Your reputation isn’t built on how far you can get the broom up your own arse; but if you really want to, there won’t be a shortage of people volunteering to help you with it.


  1. Sarah Storm · September 22, 2014

    Hi Neil, As someone whose career to date has been in HR I found most of this blog quite depressing. Was that your intention? My sense is that this would make any young person run a mile from the profession! Points 1 and 2 can just as well apply to any job. Fully agree with your third point and the fifth point, together with the statement about having people at the heart of what we do. And it would be great to see that being at the centre of a positive vision for the HR community!

    • Neil · September 22, 2014

      Thanks for commenting Sarah. Depressing? I’d say it was realistic, yes. I get a lot of people new to HR contact me and ask me why their reality is so different to the one that is portrayed by so many senior professionals. Why the talk is of talent, engagement (pick any other buzzword) and yet their reality is of forms, administration, employee disharmony and general grind.

      The truth is that many jobs have this, yes. But not many other professions have the obsession with constantly saying how strategic they are and trying to disassociate themselves from the reality of most “ordinary” HR people. Which in itself is completely demotivating and depressing for the young people trying to cut their teeth in the profession.

      So my question to you is this, which part of what I said isn’t true or if it is true, why shouldn’t people be made aware?

  2. Pingback: September: Is great HR about insight or intuition….? | My HR Careers
  3. Jacky Hilary · October 9, 2014

    Hi Neil

    I agree with some of what you say but take issue with parts of it.

    Some years back, I worked with a now-eminent professor. His take on HR was “You’re here to keep us honest” – a remark that has stayed with me. Recently I worked with a small charity, several of whose employees told me how glad they were that I was there and how much they had felt the lack of credible HR input. I didnt do anything remarkable. I kept my door open most of the time, kept my head down, simplifed recrutiment processes, rewrote contracts of employment, dealt with what came at me, assisted unconfident managers. People noticed.

    Finally, I did my CIPD training in the early 1990s at Anglia Ruskin University while working in a grim job in a grim local government HR department. 20+ years on, I still rely on what I learnt from the late great Colin Dixon about employment law. On L+D, Stewart Morgan gave me a light bulb moment in helping me see that learning is an emotional as well as cognitive process. We had excellent input on resourcing too and a guy who did a module on budgeting, whose abiding message was not to be fooled by those who try to tell you budgets are objective. I paid for this course myself (with a chance inheritance) and got my money’s worth.

    • Neil · October 12, 2014

      Thanks for commenting Jacky. Which bits do you take issue with? I’m not clear.

      • Jacky Hilary · October 14, 2014

        Primarily that nothing you study on your CIPD will be useful. As I wrote, I have not found that to be the case.

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