Many HR professionals are stuck in the old-school mindset that HR career success comes from following some kind of rigid, carefully laid-out career plan. Some companies have even taken years to develop carefully constructed "HR career paths" or "HR career ladders" for their HR folks.

This is all a bunch of bunk. And this is the biggest career mistake just about every HR professional makes.

That approach may have worked in the past, but it won't in today's workplace.

Talk to any successful Human Resources leader with 10-15 years of experience who is happy and satisfied with their HR career so far - including yourself. Ask them where they saw themselves at the beginning of their careers and a large number of them will tell you it was not necessarily what they are doing today. And it didn't happen from following some career plan they put in concrete.

The truth is there is no ONE established career pathway to the top of the HR summit. You can get started anywhere in Human Resources. You can have an masters degree in IR from Illinois. Or an MBA from Harvard. Or an associates degree from a local community college. Or, like a boss of mine, start your career as a marketing analyst and find your way into HR. It doesn't matter how or where you put your foot on the HR career path. But it does matter how you take the next steps, and then the next.

So planning some structured career path isn't the way HR careers work anymore. Linearity is out. The human resources career is now a checkerboard. Or even a maze. Or a spider-web. It's full of moves that go sideways, forward, slide on the diagonal, even go backward.

The sheer churn and pace of change within businesses resulting from economic downturns, globalization, and increased competition creates so much ambiguity these days that you cannot manage your career with a set-out plan. No one can predict what type of businesses and career opportunities will be available in 5 years' time and so trying to plan your career like you did in the old days is futile.

Here's one thing you should do to avoid this mistake:

Be open and flexible. Instead of being guided by some rigid career plan develop an internal 'compass' to guide your career decisions and then build in some flexibility so that you can take advantage of HR opportunities that pop up. Rather than say "My next move will be to a plant HR generalist role in Chicago" then I'll move into a "staffing manager role", when there's no guarantee that these roles will be open or if if it will even exists when you're ready to take it.

Instead, make career decisions based on how it will increase your personal portfolio of HR skills and strengths...and the extent that it will give you a unique story or experience that differentiates you from rest of the HR pack. The point here is to make decisions driven by what you can do to make yourself more marketable, instead of trying to follow some overly structured career ladder that makes no sense in the ambiguous, ever-changing world around us.

This is one of many career strategies you should take to recession-proof your HR career during tough times.

From India, Hyderabad
Hey Padmaja, Which US website have you taken the article from? Looks like a good reading source for HR articles... Rgds, Ranjit
From India, Mumbai
Your thoughts are intresting , I agree with you in toto. If I look at myself 5 years down the line.......its totally true atleast in my case. I have also seen many people reaching the top without sufficient stuff - stuffed in them but have/had the capacity to market themselves probably in the art of 'resume writing' and ' facing interview skills'.
There are no fixed formullas for success and it comes at its own. I personaly believe that it all depends on your fate, karma, opportunity, and time. Its also true that in todays ever changing hr roles, we should develop our own compass and guide ourselves for what-ever job offers we have......have to be more flexible in recessionery times.
It was a nice reading for me........keep posting.........take care..........

From India, New Delhi
Dear Padmaja.
I am today running a HR consultancy services since 5 years offering to very spefiic and niche markets after exposing myself to long years of exmployment in marketing, advertising, labur management and in service sector. Whaterver I have learnt in my employment arena I am practicing today.
It was not so called plan like "structured well defined career path" as some may state. Whatever responsiblity came over in my career journey so far I took it and made the best of it. Most importantly one
should be good at management and marketing skills ad only then one can be successful in business.
finally i am considered opinion one should absolutely flexible and willing to move around and look for slightest opportunities to tap on it. Mostly opportunities are disguised in the form of problems in our career journey.
All the best.

From India, Pune
when the HR person themselves dont have a career plan they why do they ask questions such as
why do u want to change ur job
why u selected this field
what are ur future plans, where do u C urself after 5 yrs,,
what made u choose this course
such questions the HR ask the candidates and make the candidate feel as if he is good for nothing,, isnt this an act of foolishness on the part of HR,
i hope u will agree with mee,,,
HR on one hand themselves start coming into the field because they cannot prove their worth in other fields and then start asking questions to candidates about their decision regarding career ,, wot a HR mindset u people have ,great,,

From India, Pune
Dear Padmaja,

I strongly believe that it is important to credit the source/author for any work that we share on this website. For the reference of the readers, the article posted here has been written by Mr. Alan Collins and is available at:

From India, Ahmadabad

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