Q. What’s the best way for a finance manager to move into HR? My employer is supporting me in this, but as we already have a good full-time HR manager, there is little scope for me to get involved in day-to-day HR, other than being a line manager. What jobs would you advise me to look at given my experience in finance and my desire to move into HR?
A. This is a very interesting, but not unusual scenario. In a talent-short marketplace individuals are more frequently demonstrating their desire to be commercial and grow their career portfolio, and many people are embarking on major career changes. In fact, it is well-known that moving forward, future generations will have at least four career changes in their life. So in many ways, you are a pioneer.
Career transition is a lot more common than many realise, there are whole professions and businesses that revolve around this phenomena. The key elements in moving from one distinct discipline to another involve the following steps.
Firstly, research your prospective profession in detail. This can include information-gathering interviews, industry-based special interest groups, reviewing reports available through the media and speaking to recruitment consultants that specialise in your chosen area – in this case HR recruitment experts.
Take a thorough look at your transferable competencies/skills, knowledge and experience and assess how these match with those of your desired profession. You will find that there are key technical competencies that you will need to develop, however the core commercial business competencies will most likely already be in your suite of offerings.
Thirdly, set yourself a realistic timetable and plan of transition as these changes don’t necessarily happen immediately. It is not unreasonable to allow yourself up to six months.
Finally, take the journey! During this period my best advice is to speak to as many people as you can. network, network, network! Collect as much intelligence and advice as possible, then learn and adjust your résumé and your delivery in interviews to reflect your offerings in the new career direction.
Now for your specific situation, consider the following:
The beauty about HR is that there are many specialist subject matter experts, and many such roles would have direct relevance to your financial and commercial talents, knowledge and core competencies. These include remuneration and benefits, HR information systems, system implementation, or specialised consulting in one of these areas.
So what does this mean for you?
Without knowing your exact background and expertise I am making some assumptions in my answer. There are two quiet obvious options and there will no doubt be many others that are not quiet as obvious. Outlined below are the two obvious options and an action plan to get you started.
The first option is to look within. Obviously as you have a proactive employer who is supportive of your aspirations, my advice would be to speak with the HR manager, as they are often under resourced and extremely busy. Talk to them about what you have to offer and there may be some pressing projects that you may be able to assist them with. This has a three-pronged effect of giving you risk-free exposure to HR experience, the business retaining a valued and motivated employee and HR gaining an additional resource.
The second option is to look beyond. The other side of the coin is to look at the external marketplace, some of the specialist areas already mentioned are definite options for you with your transferable skills and competencies. The remuneration and benefits specialisation is one that is in high demand. Sound operators who have the capacity to consult at an executive level within businesses, as well and developing financially viable and commercially astute corporate solutions, are gold in today’s marketplace.
Remember it will take some time and requires perseverance, but enjoy!
By Sue Ritchie, manager, Victoria, HR Partners, a Digby Morgan company