Taking a temporary downshift

by 22 Jul 2008

Q. I am an experienced senior HR professional who has been operating in head of HR roles at a global and Asia Pac level for a number of years. Due to personal commitments and the desire to cut back on travelling and wanting to base myself out of Australia, I believe my next role may need to operate at the national or ANZ level. How will this move affect my career opportunities in the long term should my circumstances change and I wish to return to a global role and how do I present myself to the market?

A. Australia will always present limited career opportunities for the senior end of the HR market compared with, say, the US/UK or the Asia Pacific region because of its sheer population. Operating at the Head of HR level in a global capacity will require, in most circumstances, substantial overseas travel which can take its toll after a number of years. You may also find yourself competing in this space with expatriates wishing to return to Australia, so the need to be realistic in your role and remuneration expectations and timing in such a limited market is essential.

When making the move from a global to a national level role it will be critical to focus on seeking opportunities that will continue to stimulate and challenge –allowing you to add value from a HR perspective, while maximising your skills and the profitability of the business.

How you present yourself to the market will also be critical. Going back to the basics will be key to your success and you can’t assume that because you have been successful in the past it will be an easy transition – you need to be prepared in terms of how you are going to the market with your story.

You will need to utilise your network of search firms/specialist HR recruitment specialists/ex colleagues/targeted clients, as well as the traditional media avenues, and take the time to build relationships with this network – being realistic regarding the length of time it may take to secure a role and remaining positive is also important to being ultimately successful.

The search does need to be targeted and will require a variety of activities on a weekly basis and you will need to be clear in terms of what is and is not negotiable –while also being realistic. If you are currently in a senior level position, this can be daunting and, at times unrealistic, because of time constraints, however the investment now will benefit the end goal.

Again, the way you present yourself to the market will be key to your satisfaction in securing the right role. With previous regional and/or global experience you will be more commercially savvy regarding the complexities a CEO needs to face on a daily basis, thereby putting you in a position to add more value to the business.

Ensuring you are still able to utilise this experience by partnering closely with the CEO will enhance your job satisfaction so it will be important to be well researched in targeting organisations that will enable you to fully utilise your experience.

HR doesn’t just present a HR toolkit – it can and should add value from a commercial/financial perspective when aligned closely with the business objectives and key stakeholders. Given your experience as an HR leader at a global and Asia Pacific level you have the commercial acumen to enable you to plan how you will mobilise resources to make an organisation profitable, while also giving you that sense of achievement. Trust is also a key value when joining a new organisation and evaluating this value throughout the process is also vital to the relationship moving forward.

How you present yourself to the Australian market will obviously play a big part in getting the most out of your career in the short and long term. You need to consider your remuneration expectations and realistically measure them with your expectations in terms of lifestyle. Candidates’ personal circumstances are forever changing and the key to success and keeping your career on track will require you to be honest, open and realistic in your own expectations and presenting to the market with this in mind.

You need to continually educate yourself on the most current trends emerging in HR and business to remain competitive, regardless of what the market is doing and the type of role you are pursuing.

By Julie Graham, associate director, The Next Step