What I wish someone told me before starting in HR

In this cross-posting from the LinkedIn agency influencer program Alex Delehunt reveals some of the harder parts of a career in HR.

HR has changed, in fact, most of us don’t even have ‘human resources’ in our titles anymore. It’s seen as an outdated description of what we actually do. Whether its People and Culture, Talent Development or People and Performance, gone are the days of just being responsible for hiring, firing and organising training.

We are now influencers of workplace culture, data interpreters and strategic thinkers. Organisations will generally have a Chief Talent Officer or Head of People and Culture sitting on the executive team. Whilst all this has changed, some of the old sentiments still linger that no-one ever told me about in my Commerce degree.

Alex Delehunt

You’ll never be one of the ‘regular’ people in the organisation that you join. Conversations will halt when you enter the lunchroom, people will make comments in the lift like “ssshhh, HR’s here” (even though you’ve told them 100 times that you’re People and Culture, not HR!). Whilst most of it is said in jest, you need to have a pretty thick skin at times. There will also be an unspoken high standard required of you. I mean if you wrote the workplace policies then you must abide by them to the gold standard right?

Sure you can make friends at work but you have to be careful with what you share with them. And vice versa, the friends you make may not feel comfortable with sharing everything with you. There’s always a distance. You will need to have difficult conversations and sometimes it’s with someone who is a good friend outside of work.

My time at university taught me many things; where to find the best chips and gravy on campus, how to schedule my timetable to only have to be there for 2 days and the value of carpooling to avoid paying parking fees. I also learnt a few things about general business from my degree. But I felt like there should have been a disclaimer when you signed up to the HR major. You will never be “one of them”.

Man telling a secret to an astonished woman

It’s not all doom and gloom of course There are AMAZING things about a career in HR. You get to influence people’s careers, provide advice which really makes a difference and contribute to an organisation’s bottom line. You just need to pick your organisation carefully. I’m lucky to work with a brilliant team of other like-minded People and Culture folks. Whilst we don’t work in the same physical location, they’re only a phone call away to bounce ideas off, get advice from or just talk through a tricky situation.

Your role is what you make it. The best People and Culture employees I know are the ones that transcend the traditional HR moniker and really embed themselves in the culture of organisations. They do away with those whispered conversations by changing the culture so there’s nothing to have to whisper about. They are open and honest and can own up when they make mistakes. They act human so they get treated like they are human.

But there are some companies who will have this a stand alone role, so if you’re thinking of going for a role where you’ll be flying solo, think carefully about it. If you’re someone who likes to talk things through then you better ensure you have a great external support network. Pro tip: find an external mentor if you’re in a stand alone role for your own personal development.

Starting a career in HR is the best thing you could do if you’re passionate about people, like making positive change to culture and enjoy variety because I assure you, no one day is ever the same!

Alex Delehunt is a people and culture manager at Publicis Media

To see more pieces from the LinkedIn agency influencer program click the image below.

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