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ImageIf you have a question for our Career Coach, E-mail Helen at careers@ReConnectAfrica.com

Dear Helen

I am actually working in a field that is somewhat adjacent to the very field of work in which I want to work, which is Human Resources Management. How do I go about prospecting for HR opportunities while I am still employed here? I hope to hear from you.

Maurice, Ivory Coast

Hi Maurice

You haven’t stated exactly which field you are working in at the moment so it’s rather difficult to be clear what your transferable skills might be and what might therefore be the best area of Human Resources Management for you to target.

Taking the decision to move into Human Resources (HR) from an unrelated discipline is becoming increasingly popular. HR is a function that is present in almost all organizations so you do have a wide range of options, both in terms of industry sector and the type of job role.  Bear in mind that any HR function will reflect the size, culture and needs of the organization and that the approach that is taken by an HR function will also differ across organizations.  For some organizations, the HR department is seen as a strategic function that works closely with the management team to identify, develop and retain the best talent needed.  For others, HR is an administrative function largely responsible for all the processes involved in recruiting staff, addressing disciplinary and grievance issues and administering pay and/or benefits. 

A career in HR can be diverse and challenging. Bearing in mind your interest and skills, you should consider whether you want to work in a generalist role or become a specialist.  The main areas covered by HRM are recruitment, training and development, compensation and benefits and employee relations.  There are also a number of more specialist areas including change management, graduate recruitment, international and expatriate management.

Depending on the skills you have acquired to date, it is possible to move across into a career in HRM before being qualified, but this can be a highly competitive area. Employers often expect a qualification for middle and senior management roles and, without this, you may need to consider an administrative or assistant level opportunity to gain experience within an HR environment.  A good starting point will be within your own organization where people will be familiar with you and may be more ready to offer you a chance to cross over into HR at a higher level.

If, as your question suggests, you have to look outside your present company, it is important to be as discreet in your search as possible.  Make sure that companies do not contact your manager or company for a reference unless they have made you a firm job offer and you have accepted it.  Avoid doing your research for a new job while at work and use the opportunity now to find out more about the work of your own organisation’s HR department to help update your knowledge.

If you do decide to look elsewhere, improve your chances by studying for professional qualifications.  Many institutions offer a range of qualifications with full-time, part-time and flexible learning courses. If these are not available in the Ivory Coast, consider distance learning courses with overseas institutions.  Professional HR associations such as the IPM in South Africa (www.ipm.co.za) and the Chartered Institute of People and Development in the UK (http://www.cipd.co.uk/mandq/wheretogetqualified) can offer further information on where to study.

Once you have some relevant qualifications, you will find many more jobs are open to you. Use all the usual resources, such as the press, recruitment websites and agencies as well as your network of friends and family to help you identify potential opportunities.  Check ReConnect Jobs on a regular basis as HR opportunities are posted from time to time.

Try to increase your knowledge of what's happening in the world of HR by staying up to date with the latest employment issues and browsing websites. At HR manager level and above, commercial acumen and experience are seen as really important and you should use your experience outside HR as a valuable asset to joining the profession.

At very senior levels in HR, chief executives normally look for people who are problem solvers or solution providers. To progress in this profession, you need to be able to show you have influencing and leadership ability as well as the ability to listen, be questioning and open.

All the best!


Voted Candace Business Woman of the Year 1997, Helen Dupigny is a Director and co-founder of Working Plus, (www.working-plus.com) a Careers Management and Diversity consultancy and creator of the award-winning ‘Six Steps Career and Personal Development Programme’. A Sierra Leonean based in London, Helen is also the author of ‘Vicissitude’, a guide to making life and career changes.

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