I'm a 55-year-old professional who lost a corporate HR position nine yearsago. Since then I've operated a successful retail business. But I have a burningdesire to return to HR. Though a generalist, my major strength is in laborrelations. How can I get back?
-- Owner, wholesale trade business, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
A Dear HR King:
First of all, congratulations for your willingness to reinvent yourself. Ittakes more courage than many people possess.
Your biggest challenge is going to be convincing employers that you havecurrent, relevant HR skills. The field of human resources has changed quite abit in the past decade. Not only have new laws been enacted (e.g., FMLA in 1993,HIPAA in 1996) and landmark Supreme Court decisions been handed down (e.g.,Burlington Industries v. Ellerth and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton), but thevery concept of what constitutes human resources has been altered. Theprofession has shifted from more of an administrative role to a strategic one.
You don't mention whether you have either a Professional in Human Resources (PHR)or a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation, but my firstsuggestion would be for you to obtain one or the other. You can contact theSociety for Human Resource Management for information. Possessing either one ofthese credentials would reassure employers that your knowledge and skills areup-to-date.
I also recommend that your resume emphasize your management skills. Show howyour more recent management experience directly ties into the functions youwould be carrying out as an HR professional. Always, always write a coverletter. Research the companies you are interested in and attempt to reflect thatknowledge in the letter. Tailor what you write to each specific job and, again,emphasize how your management experience would enable you to do the position youare seeking.
Don't go further back on your resume than necessary. Stop, at the veryearliest, at your first HR job. Don't give the dates you received any of yourdegrees, unless they were recent. Unfortunately, age discrimination stillexists, and you want to be judged first and foremost on your experience.
Your best bet for finding an employer willing to give you a chance is eithera very small company or a very large one. Small companies are known risk-takersand, because their employees frequently have to wear many hats, often value morehighly a breadth of experience. Large companies, on the other hand, have morevacancies to fill, and their more narrowly defined positions allow them to hirepeople for their strengths in a particular area (such as yours in laborrelations). On a related note, you also may want to focus on companies that areunionized and would need your expertise. Be willing, too, to start even lowerthan a managerial position. If the company and opportunity are right, you willquickly move up.
Lastly, remember the old adage: It's not what you know; it's who you know.Talk to your friends, neighbors, and business acquaintances. Spread the wordthat you are looking. Join your local association chapter, your city's chamberof commerce, and/or a volunteer organization whose cause interests you. Serve ona board of directors for a non-profit. And network, network, network. Good luck!
SOURCE: Jennifer Garrepy, HR manager, Personnel Management Systems,Inc.,Kirkland, Wash., April 25, 2001.
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The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.