H Aria Asks, "Why Do You Work in HR?"

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I took a career assessment in high school, and it told me that I was supposed to become a teacher, writer, minister, attorney, or G-man. (The assessment clearly hadn’t been updated since the 1960’s, and I had to ask my parents what a G-man was.)

The only one of those that appealed to me was writer. Who wouldn’t want to become a world-famous novelist, right? Being a G-(wo)man sounded really cool at first, but then I realized I’d probably have to deal with dead bodies and get shot at and stuff. No thanks.

I went to college and believed the counselors when they said it didn’t matter what my major was. When I graduated with my English degree (you knew that was coming), I was totally unprepared to start a career.

I never planned on pursuing HR since I’d never heard anyone say anything good about it. Ever. I’ve been with my company for 13 years, and I was a bit put off 6 years ago when the CEO encouraged me to take on HR.

My response was on the order of, “HUH?”

I’ll never forget what he said. “You know everything about our projects, our work process, our clients, and the experience of being an employee here. We need HR to understand all of that.”

A few years later, as business went from boom to bust in mere months, I kept replaying that conversation in my head. I’ve had to layoff over 50% of our staff during the past couple years, as well as formulate strategies for other cost reductions and our basic survival. Not to mention still keeping all those day-to-day HR gears turning.

This job is nothing like I thought it would be, and the pay sure isn’t commensurate with the level of commitment and responsibility required. I don’t doubt that I could make more money as an Executive Assistant at a large corporation than I am as a Generalist at a small engineering firm, but then I’d probably have to dress better.

Sometimes I’ve no idea if I’m doing HR the “right” way (whatever that is), but, like many of you, I’m at least trying to do it in a way that doesn’t make other people go “HUH?”

What about you? Was HR your career goal? How did you get here?

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H Aria wanted to be Princess Leia when she grew up. Instead, she’s an HR Generalist, which is almost the same except without galactic adventure, Han Solo, or, well, everything else. But she does have brown hair and a smart mouth.

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