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.

Outdoor lunch. Finished the new Jon Ronson book. • #nyc #skylines #parksandrec

A photo posted by Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) on

Being an owner and a creator isn’t easy, but for me, there is no other way. I’d rather be an external human resources consultant than an internal human resources advisor.

And let’s face it. HR is never considered an insider, anyway.


  1. It’s a shame that we keep losing internal HR talent to the external HR consultant world.

  2. Spot on, Laurie. As someone who’s been on both sides of the corporate fence, I can relate to your post. I have to say, I’m much more appreciated by organizational leaders as a Consultant than I ever was as an employee.

    Which is sad, really. Aren’t people supposed to be a company’s greatest asset?

  3. You continue to hit the mark with me. As I toggle from working as a consultant for someone else right now, wanting to go out on my own, and interviewing at 1pm for a global company.
    Feeling always like an advisor. Thanks for the note — that was huge!!!

  4. Hi Laurie,

    I am pleased the external world works for you – it doesn’t work for me and, while I am probably going to look delusional, I have managed to get the partnership relationship working internally (yes, it was a LOT of hard yards).

    I think it is a matter of realising what works for you and making sure you get there but I am not sure there is one approach that is, objectively, better than the other…

  5. It is always hard to disassociate yourself with something that you first start out in with your career. I can see how it may sound appealing to pursue a simple HR career, however, reaching out and becoming your own individual and aspiring to be something more may be scary but worth it in the end.

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