Experience versus qualifications

by 30 Sep 2008

Q I came into an HR role with my current organisation about five years ago without any formal qualifications. While this has never been a problem in the past, I am now looking at other roles in HR and I fear this may become an issue. Can I sell myself on experience alone or should I be looking at formal training?

A. In the past, career advancement without holding a formal qualification was commonplace and while moving up the ranks in this way today is not unheard of, it’s recommended that at some point that you obtain a formal qualification to make sure you measure up in a competitive candidate market.

Formal HR qualifications such as a Bachelor of Human Resources Management or a Post Graduate Diploma in HR will equip you with a broad range of skills and knowledge and a solid platform on which to build and advance your skills and your career.

The limitation with on-the-job training is that you can often build up strong experience in one area of the profession, while neglecting others.

For example, your current role may have a sole focus on learning and development or recruitment. Therefore you may not have the experience or knowledge to develop an organisation’s retention and engagement strategy. Arming yourself with some form of professional education will allow you to access best practice in the industry and also build your network of peers –which can be exceptionally useful.

Before you start enrolling for courses, however, you need to consider your career goals. Is it progression into a more senior role that you are seeking? Or is it a change in sector?

Roles of a senior or executive level are almost certain to have a qualification requirement. These roles demand that HR professionals bring a commercial outlook and add value to the organisation through hiring, development and retention strategies.

If you are looking to change sectors, you may be able to transfer your skills or supplement any missing skill sets with additional qualifications.

When considering further education, we are spoilt for choice by the wide variety of education options offered. Many education providers offer a huge selection of courses and part-time study options, which can mean study doesn’t have to impact on earning a full-time wage.

Increasingly, larger universities are offering online tuition in their major degrees, which can hold appeal for people who have limited time and wish to study from the comfort of their home.

Organisations are also offering a number of benefits – including flexible study options, compensation or funded further education – as part of their retention strategy.

If there are specific skills you would like to improve try a search for suitable training workshops. At LINK HR Consulting we run half-day to two-day sessions in areas such as employee engagement and retention, best practice recruitment and behavioural interviewing.

The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) – the professional industry body for HR professionals – also offers a wide range of professional development courses, including diplomas and essential short courses.

AHRI holds an annual conference and various networking events where new innovations and best practice in the industry are shared. These sessions are also of value to learn from other HR practitioners in different organisations.

If you are serious about advancing your career in HR, start off by finding a recruiter who specialises in HR. Specialist recruiters understand the industry and will be able to guide you and provide an honest opinion to help you achieve your career aspirations.

By June Parker, general manager HR consulting, Link Recruitment