Practicing HR Without a License


I haven’t held a job in Corporate HR in over two years.

As I explained to Peter Clayton on Total Picture Radio, I left Pfizer in 2007. We planned on moving down to North Carolina and I had every intention of finding a real job. Seriously. I have a spreadsheet that outlines every job I’ve applied for during the past two years.

Then this blog happened and I developed a personal brand — something that never really happens to HR Generalists and Recruiters.  I became known as a woman who provides common sense career advice from the perspective of a disaffected HR professional. I also became known as a crazy cat lady. Both observations are true.

Unfortunately, I was recently advised to drop the moniker of Human Resources professional. I was told, “You’re no longer a Human Resources generalist and you don’t recruit, anymore. You’re a critic and you give out career advice. No offense, but you are not HR.”


Never mind that I write a column for The Conference Board Review called HR: You Are Doing It Wrong. Forget that I’m an active member of SHRM and work overtime to influence the national debate on elevating our career field. Let’s ignore the fact that I speak at HR conferences and have several on my docket for 2010.

No, let’s focus on important things. Let’s have an inter-HR disagreement about who is and isn’t part of our profession because that’s what strategic thinkers and leaders do.

And obviously, I’m not HR enough for some people.


After two difficult conversations where I defensively laid out my bona fides, I decided that I was done with this mediocre conversation. A very good boss of mine once told me that I should receive feedback and simply say thank you. So thank you, dear colleague, for the feedback — but dammit, I can’t help but explain why it’s wrong to say that I am no longer worthy of being in HR. (I’m my own worst enemy.)

Yes, I am a writer and a critic. I am also a very good Human Resources practitioner, which is almost sad for me to admit. Some people can make great art. I can plan and execute HR strategies. I see things differently. I don’t wear brooches, I don’t believe in team building, and I don’t ask for buy-in. I’ll never be HR enough for some people in this field, which is why this field needs to change.

I realized that there is one thing I can do, though, to silence my HR critics: I can recertify for my SPHR.

After receiving my SPHR at the ripe old age of 25 and maintaining my expert-level certification for nearly 8 years, I let my certification lapse at the end of 2008. I thought, “If I want to take a standardized test, I’ll take my LSAT and go to law school.”

Unfortunately, if I want to impress the General Foods International Cappucino Cooler Hazelnut coffee drinkers in my field, I need more bona fides than wearing a scarf and a pantsuit.

So I’m taking the SPHR test on December 17th — and I’m tacking on the exam to a trip to Atlanta. I found a testing center, I ordered the books, and I’m ready to go.

I hate being defensive, and I can’t address all the criticism that hits my blog — but I can show a few people that I am the new face of HR and I know my stuff.

Watch out, suckers.

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