Q. I was made redundant two years ago from the position of HR manager for a hotel, prior to that I was a personnel officer working for a museum; I was there for seven years. I hope to return to the field of HR. I have registered with various agencies and have had very little response. I know that two years is a long time to be out of the profession, but with the eight years experience I have it is such a shame to let my talents go to waste.
A. Returning to the market after some time out can sometimes be problematic in the current competitive environment but with your level of experience it is definitely possible. With employer confidence levels in Australia reaching their highest in five years according to a recent employment survey, the candidate-short market continues to challenge employers to be smarter in order to meet their staffing demands and will therefore mean they should be more flexible to an HR professional returning to the market.
A good start would be to demonstrate a willingness to familiarise yourself with current employment legislation and the more recent changes which have occurred. This can be achieved by studying association websites and looking up websites of workplace law firms such as Harmers.
Preparation and research is key to looking at the current opportunities that would be suitable for your existing skill set. This can be looked at from two angles, firstly clarification of your own transferable experience and abilities. This can be achieved by analysing your own skill set and having examples to hand of your achievements and also difficult scenarios which you have handled while using best practice HR. Secondly, you should thoroughly research the actual market and the specific remit of each of the current openings. You will then be able to closely match your experience to the roles you apply on by highlighting evidence of the elements that apply to their criteria. On each application it would be advantageous to tailor your CV for the specific position, again highlighting any areas of interest.
I would also recommend looking at the contract market to re-enter the workplace. This can be viewed as either a temporary solution or a longer-term career choice which offers increased flexibility in your working patterns. In the shorter-term, there is always the option of looking at roles which are slightly lower in remit and title than your prior role as an HR manager and this could fast-track your return to the market. Once you are in a position where you can demonstrate your ability in a role there is the possibility this can lead to other roles within an organisation, extensions to the existing contract or an increase in your responsibilities. A great deal of businesses are looking more towards the contract market to fulfil their requirements and this might suit your requirements in the short- or long-term.
Reading that you have already registered with some agencies it might be worth contacting the agents you have met with and asking their advice as to the current market and which level of position, industry sector and type of role would be most suited to your experience. For example, if there was a role with a strong bias to remuneration and benefits and this suited your skill set you could highlight this on your application, including more detailed examples of your experience. The consultants should also be able to assist you with the layout and content of your CV, and again, how best to tailor this to focus on your relevant experience for each position.
Attending networking events would also assist your search and again familiarise yourself with the current market. This might also lead to fellow HR professionals notifying you of current opportunities in their own, or other companies. While looking at your own contacts it would be advantageous to obtain previous work references and have these close at hand while you search. This would sufficiently demonstrate your ability, existing experience and specific achievements in previous roles. Ideally these will be have gained from your previous HR directors and also business leads, where you successfully partnered their area of the company.
On a final note, your attitude with regards to your conduct in interviews and applications is extremely important. You should always remain confident and focus on the occasions where you have previously added value to an organisation. Make sure you highlight your commitment and ability to be a major asset to your next company. Be diligent in your applications and keep a note of all the roles you have applied for, follow these up with update calls where necessary. Finally, remember it could take some time to find the right role so keep persevering and remain positive throughout. Good luck.
By Neil Mirtle, contracting consultant, HR Partners