I’m 24 years old, single, an AB Psychology graduate with magna cum laude honors from a good school, and now employed in the HR department of a multi-national pharmaceutical company as an HR assistant in the compensation and benefits section. I really want to pursue an HR career and my career goal is to be head of the HR Department reporting directly to the president of an organization. This is a long way off. Am I dreaming? What career path should I take? Please advise.
I congratulate you for having a personal vision and a clear and specific career goal. These should give you focus, and energize you to make your forward movements to achieve your vision and your goal.
’m not sure if it was Confucius who said that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first steps.” You’ve taken the first steps with your school achievements, working in a company with an HR Department, and being assigned to the Compensation and Benefits section.
There are at least five ways that you can do to achieve your vision and your career goal: 1) develop expertise in an area of specialization in HR; 2) great performance which should make you visible in the organization; 3) develop and strengthen your EQ (Emotional Quotient); 4) develop a strong network, inside and outside your organization, and 5) continuously develop yourself.
1. Develop expertise in an area of specialization. The career path for you to take now is a professional/technical career path. After achieving expertise in one HR field, pursue a management career path. This is how it usually works. The professional/technical career path is made up of four stages: apprentice, independent contributor, mentor and sponsor. The objective of a professional/technical career path is to build your expertise in one particular functional area. This starts you off as an apprentice. In this stage, your immediate superior coaches you on how certain tasks are to be done. You work as a member of a work team and you are given certain roles to perform.
Depending on your rate of progress, you move on now to the independent contributor stage. You are assigned projects, are given specific responsibilities and are expected to deliver results. . If you show promise and potential, you are given a mentor. Mentoring could be an informal or formal arrangement. If you have a good relationship with your boss, he/she could be your mentor. He/she shares knowledge and skills to prepare you for his/her position. You are given challenging assignments from which you develop more skills. If you are in the right career, you learn the ropes fast and your interest in the functional area increases.
Since you are interested on a management path, it is here where you seek lateral transfer to other functional areas in HR. The HR field is classified into HRD (Human Resources Development) and HRM (Human Resources Management) which covers training and development, organization development, career development and succession/talent development); etc. HRM covers Compensation and Benefits; Recruitment, Selection and Placement; Performance Management; Job Evaluation; Employee Relations; etc.
It’s highly desirable to be exposed to different fields in HR so that you can choose which one to specialize in. Once you have chosen the right field in HR, say Training and Development, then you seek training assignments so that you can develop and hone your competencies. From training assistant, you progress to conducting internal training for employees (such as customer service), usually as a part of a training team. Later, you become a stand-alone trainer. You hone your competencies in training needs assessment, designing a training module for specific target groups, developing/adapting training materials, making powerpoint presentations, conducting training, doing evaluation of training, and writing a post-training report with recommendations.
You are now ready to start your management career path. The next step would be to qualify for an HR manager position. The usual route is to seek promotion in your company. If this is not the case, because there is an incumbent who is your boss, you apply for HR Manager position in another company.
2. Great performance. Whatever tasks is required by your position, always exceed the standards. Do not be contented with just meeting standards. You must stand out so that you become visible to your boss, to your peers in your section, to the head of HR, etc. Your having graduated with magna cum laude honors in a good school (as you describe it) shows that you have what it takes to satisfy this second criterion.
3. Develop/strengthen your EQ (Emotional Quotient). This refers to your ability to manage your emotions, your thoughts and your behaviors so that you can influence and motivate people to work with you in achieving common goals, getting their cooperation, collaborating with others, etc. EQ can be developed and enhanced by thinking of win-win solutions, listening attentively and with empathy when people are speaking to you, treating every one with respect, etc. There are many good books on this topic that you can invest on.
4. Develop a strong network, with people inside and outside your organization. It is advisable that you get to represent your company in annual conventions of two prestigious organizations in HR: People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) and the Philippine Society for Training and Development (PSTD). These organizations are good sources of leads as to what companies have good HR systems, what the good companies are with values-driven cultures, what companies have vacancies, who are the people who can open doors for you to get job interviews, etc.
If your company is a member of these two organizations, or either of them, ask your boss if you can represent him/her if he/she can not attend. When you do get to participate, meet as many people from different companies, actively participate in learning sessions, volunteer for committees (so long as these do not affect your work performance. Update your network regularly. As important, be in the network of other people. Find out how you can provide information to those in your network.
5. Continuous self-development. Seek to develop your self-awareness to know your strengths and areas for improvement in the areas of character and personality, professional development, etc. Invest in good books, attend seminars and workshops (both company-sponsored when you are scheduled, and those you invest in with your own funds to attend, such as growth programs), enroll in the graduate school and finish a graduate course, etc.
God bless you.