Three Pathways for Upward Mobility in HR Career

You are doing what again?

Human Resource is a career, not many people outside this field, quite understand. Whenever these professionals talk of their job, they often get confused glances by their family and friends. It gets as hard for HR professionals to evolve in their careers and prove their worth for promotion and new management roles. 

Hiring, grooming and retaining a business’s cadre of rising stars is no small thing. With time, besides hiring and payroll, the discipline of Human Capital Management has come to encompass retention, labor relations, talent development, performance management, and various other functions.

You can use three primary pathways to build your expertise, develop your credentials and gain upward mobility. These can make all the difference in promotion, hiring and make your HR career more marketable.

The Three Paths…

Degree Programs — No good jobs without it!

Education, almost always, has been the key to upward mobility in societies, and professions. It makes it easier for one to move from one social level to a higher one. However, in an ever-changing employment space, it’s important to measure the worth of a static and time-taking degree program, before doing it.

In the HR profession, four things should be kept in mind when deciding on degree programs for career growth:

  • Firstly, take it as a truism — there are no good jobs available with only high school education. Although people in the technical field may sail through with no higher education, provided they have the skills and knowledge; for most professions, pursuing an undergrad is a must for courting a decent job.
  • Secondly, for under-graduation, you don’t have to be much of a hardliner to pursue a degree in Human Resources discipline only. A liberal arts degree could do you as good, so long you develop an analytical and logical mindset towards organizational problems. This view is propounded by many experienced and certified HR professionals.
  • Thirdly, for leadership roles, some organizations may prefer professionals with master’s in human resources or related disciplines. An alternative to this is to possess a globally recognized certification in human resources or talent management (more in next section).
  • Finally, before going for advanced education, especially after bachelor’s, evaluate other options; for instance, opting for certification may be more beneficial.

HR Certification Programs — Quick career advancement!

While knowledge imparted in degree programs is largely theoretical and takes time and money, certifications are a great way to gain practical knowledge, with lesser monetary and time commitments. Most importantly, certifications keep one up-to-date as most professional certifications come with an expiry date, post which they have to be renewed, wherein one is tested on skills/knowledge frameworks latest to the industry. This is the reason that the uptake of certifications has risen not just among candidates, but also employers.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rates among people without any certificates or licenses are nearly double than of those with a certificate or license.

Most notable Global HR certifications

Certifications can be pursued along with formal education or even with your work. You need not take a time-out for these. Professionals leverage HR certification route because it’s quick, and it inspires and infuses credibility in their candidature, and proves to the employers’ their aptitude for constant learning and keeping with the change. Some of the authority HR certification bodies include, HRCI, SHRM, among others. They offer following HR certifications:

  • Professional in Human Resources (PHR) for junior level (by HRCI)
  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) for senior level (by HRCI)
  • SHRM-Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) for junior level (by SHRM)
  • SHRM-Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) for senior level (by SHRM)

As HR struggles to attract, recruit and retain top talent, the profession is reinventing itself into talent management. At its heart, talent management is not just about fulfilling talent needs but also being able to anticipate the need for human capital and strategizing in advance to meet those. Three world-renowned certifications in talent management are offered by the Talent Management Institute (TMI):

  • Talent Management Practitioner (TMPTM), offered for professionals early in their careers aiming to gain a 360-degree perspective of problems and solutions of the global talent industry.
  • Senior Talent Management Practitioner (STMPTM), is designed for HR pros with some experience and looking to step into strategic talent management roles.
  • Global Talent Management Leader (GMTLTM), is a one-of-a-kind international certification offered by TMI in collaboration with the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania. It is designed for senior professionals in the middle of their careers, looking to lead talent management operations globally, and play a critical role in the C-suite.

Experience — Nothing doing without it!

Experience is mandatory for attaining any senior-level position. HR certification and degrees can accelerate your career journey mellowing the impact of experience requirements for advancement. While it is true there is no substitute for experience, possessing experience is no golden key to the top, until and unless your skills, knowledge, and understanding of the field also rise with your experience.

To reach senior-level positions in your HR career, you can wait to gain enough experience, or you can supplement your professional experience with a degree and certification to boost your advancement to management bay.  

The Bottom Line

Should you get a master’s, or a certification, or just stay in your current job to gain more experience?

There is no clear-cut answer to this. Advanced degree, certification, and experience are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Depending on your skills, knowledge, educational level, and where you are in your HR career currently, you may want to do both degree and certification while also gaining experience or you may just bet on one.

If you want to opt for just one to further your career, certification remains the most popular, quick, effective and up-to-date option for success, from the lowest level right up to the C-suite. Educational degrees, though appreciated, beyond under-graduation they are not seen critical so long you have the temperament and knowledge for HR management roles.

What would you choose?


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