Positioning yourself as a generalist

by 31 Mar 2009

I’m an HR generalist and I’m considering looking outside my organisation for another role. What is the prospect for generalists like me in this market, and how can I best plan my career and position myself for future career growth?

AOn the whole, the function of HR is much better placed to withstand the current downturn than the last recession. While the employment market is tight, the good news for HR professionals is that organisations value the profession as an integral part of their business.

For generalists like yourself, the emphasis of your career planning should be on developing a skill set that will position you to take advan tage of the economic upturn ahead.

HR generalists really are the “engine room” of many HR departments, in that they are responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of many HR functions. Often an entry-level role, the generalist position can offer a broad overview of the role HR plays within a business.

As it stands, the demand for generalist roles has waned. This is not to say that roles of this type can’t be found, but that many now include the additional responsibilities of some specialist HR functions, such as learn ing and development, talent management or succession planning.

Regardless of whether you are looking for new roles within your cur rent organisation or externally, as a generalist you will need to play up your expertise and experience in specialist areas that are in demand. Di versifying your skill set will make you more employable and the best place to do this is within your current organisation.

As a starting point, be upfront with your employer about your career goals and engage with them to determine which specialisations are and will be an integral part of your organisation’s HR function. In the current economic condition, many HR managers are focusing on strategic HR is sues including leadership, workforce and succession planning and em ployee engagement.

Show the valuable role you can play as a generalist by helping your or ganisation undertake forward planning for when the economy recovers and employers need to be ready to go to market and recruit new staff. In vestigate and keep up to date with the economy on a broader, global and a local scale, work out what the key HR roles are and how they may change when economic growth picks up.

Sitting tight in your current organisation, demonstrating your value and developing the breadth of your HR skill may be a wiser move than looking for a role outside your organisation. However, if you do decide to look for roles externally, be prepared to sell your skill set and consider contract or temporary roles.

It’s an employer’s market and, now more than ever, businesses are looking for employees who can “weather the storm” and demonstrate a strong work ethic.

By Joanne Goldie, senior consultant, Link