I was in NYC, last week, for a workshop with young, adorable and very fun HR professionals. All of them were high-performing, high-potential leaders with big hearts and big ideas.
And it was weird to be on the other side of the room acting like an adult.
I used to be one of them. Frustrated at work, but still sorta hopeful. Wondering how to make an impact with limited budget and resources. Hoping that I get a decent raise, but more importantly, craving public appreciation and admiration for a job well done.
I hit the same HR-related obstacles and roadblocks that many human resources advisors face around the world: skepticism, hypersensitivity to the bottom line, and institutional sexism. I couldn’t fight the big fight from the inside. I left to start my own thing.
Walking around my old Pfizer stomping grounds, last week, I asked myself — is it better to work on human resources issues from the inside or be an HR pundit?
That’s not a simple question.
I have to say that I miss being part of something big. I miss having a regular paycheck and benefits that show up with very little effort on my part. I miss infrastructure. I miss someone organizing my travel and giving me paid time off based on my tenure.
On the other hand, being an HR advisor (VP, Director, Manager, Business Partner) isn’t very aspirational. Your salary is always capped. You can only earn so much. When you reach the top, that’s it. And there’s also the issue of being a true business leader. As much as I protested and insisted otherwise, I didn’t know how to turn $1 into $2 when I worked in HR. Sure, I had the promise and potential of someone who was sharp and confident; but just because someone has peanut butter and jelly doesn’t mean they know how to make a sandwich.
I have to say that being outside of HR is better than working in human resources. I run a successful consultancy. I train the next generation of leaders. I can intervene when this current generation of HR leaders screws up. Then I can go read at Bryant Park on a sunny afternoon because I’m the owner of my schedule and I have a few hours to kill.
And let’s face it. HR is never considered an insider, anyway.