Rock Your HR Career: 7 Rules for Re-inventing Your Career in Human Resources

by Jeff Carroll

The phrase “reinventing yourself” seems to be popping up all over lately.

In fact, Fortune magazine just did a big cover story about it a few months ago.

As the economy struggles to recover, there is one thing we can all agree on:  job security no longer exists.  In fact, job creation is at its lowest point since 1980, and jobs continue to disappear at an alarming rate.  This is true of all professions, including HR.

In fact, just a few days ago, I was doing executive coaching session with a senior HR executive, who lost her job and is now “in transition.” Tired of the corporate grind and constantly looking over her shoulder for the ax to fall, she asked me how she could “reinvent herself” without starting completely over.  Her concern was, “How do I pursue a new career direction in HR without sacrificing all the skills and experience I’ve worked so hard to achieve?”  Interestingly, her real underlying question was “Is this even possible?”  She was confused and wasn’t sure whether she should do.

The options she considered included :

My response to her:  “You clearly have a lot of options.  And it can be confusing to sort through all of these.  But I’d suggest stepping back and following some rules…and all these rules begin with “RE.”

Rule #1:  RE-treat

Get away!  Get out of the office, out of your house!

Change the scenery so you can clear your mind and disengage for even a couple of hours.

There’s no choice here.  This is a must do if you’re ever going to reinvent your career.

Rule #2:  RE-flect

Grab an article or book on career reinvention to read.  Or pull out your resume and go back through all the HR jobs, projects or roles you’ve been a part of whether during work or outside of work.

Then, write down the good, bad and ugly and be alert for some common threads of passion.

Obviously, since we all seem to be busy, busy people, both mentally and physically, this is easier said than done!

But, this is an essential part of the reinvention process and, guess what, we’re not very good at it.

Rule #3:  RE-assess

Typically, when you’re contemplating some degree of career reinvention or new career direction, you’ve been thinking about it for awhile. It doesn’t just happen overnight!

It mostly starts off as a soft, muffled voice and gets louder and louder until you can’t ignore it any longer.  So, track that inner voice…when did it begin, what was happening at the time, and what have you’ve been doing when it repeats itself, possibly asking you, “Is this all there is?”  If this sounds familiar, welcome to the party…we’ve been expecting you…you’re not alone!

Rule #4:  RE-brand

I guess the first question should be, “What is my brand?” Obviously, you have to get an idea as to where you’re at before you can start to figure out whether or not you need to re-brand.

For most of us, our re-branding could result in a 45 degree, 90 degree or maybe even a 180 degree change in what we’re currently doing.  Everybody re-brands differently and a lot depends on where you want to go.

So, to start off, get some 360 feedback on your current brand (and your proposed new brand) from colleagues, friends, family and any others in your close circle to help you clarify what you new direction should be.  .

Rule #5:   RE-position

Re-branding typically leads to re-positioning or re-packaging. The Madison Avenue ad agencies have certainly taught us all lessons about this with the overused phrased: ”new and improved”.

So, here’s what needs to happen, you need to pull from your list of background skills, aptitudes, competencies and learning experiences that when re-positioned will be very attractive to the market, industry or company you are trying to build credibility in and sell to.

You are now a free agent offering a special value proposition to a targeted market that’s looking to buy!

Rule #6:   RE-launch

Ah!  Where the rubber meets the road!  How do you get your new message out there?

You can initiate an online social media campaign with emails or through Linked-In, Facebook or Twitter.  All good, all helpful but my favorite horse to ride (and you can’t ride them all) is direct face-to-face networking through people you know or through people who can refer you.

No cold calling here!  Just meeting with people and letting them know where you want to go and how you can solve problems or create solutions with the power of your new brand.

Rule #7:   RE-connect

One of the most empowering moves you can make in reinventing your career is joining and connecting with a support group of people who’ve been down the road you are headed towards.  Typically, these are called mastermind groups.

A mastermind group is a group of people who come together to mutually assist each other in their pursuit of career success.  The idea is that the members of the mastermind group each provide insights, suggestions, vital skills and knowledge that other members may lack. They bounce ideas of each other and offer help and advice so that they all may become successful in pursuing their dream.

As an example of this, I lead a group called the RE-Street Brand” which is career mastermind group that specializes in helping HR professionals “RE-invent” and “RE-brand” their careers for success in today’s uncertain and volatile economy. This group is open to a highly select HR and non-HR professionals.  The group meets twice a month in-person in the Chicago area.  It also sllows members to share ideas virtually through the Re-Street Brand Linkedin Group which can be accessed HERE. It has been very successful in support people as they pursue these seven “RE” steps in career reinvention.

There you have it, 7 rules for reinventing your HR career.

But, in truth, there is no one cookbook or firm set of rules that works in every situation.  However, following the above rules can help you greatly in thinking through the process of reinventing your career for success in HR.

I would welcome your comments, thoughts and experiences on HR career reinvention.  Please post them HERE.

About the Author: Jeff Carroll is an executive coach and currently Director – Leadership Development at Northern Illinois University.  He is also Founder of the Re-Street Brand, a mastermind group that specializes in helping professionals re-invent and re-brand their careers for success in a volatile economy.  Jeff has over 20 years of HR and consulting experience including VP, Human Resources positions for two mid-sized companies.

For those interested in joining the Re-Street Brand mastermind group, you can join it on LinkedIn by clicking HERE or by contacting Jeff directly at

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10 Responses to “Rock Your HR Career: 7 Rules for Re-inventing Your Career in Human Resources”

  1. Mike Merrill Says:


    Thanks for the link to my story in Fortune. This is a very important topic and I appreciate you sharing your ideas about it.

  2. Jeff Carroll Says:

    @Mike – thanks so much for the comment. I thought your article in Fortune was eye-opening and terrific…an obviously was a great inspiration for this article. Much appreciated.

  3. hossam Says:

    Dear Jeff

    Great Advice: I started in HR as a Recruitment Mananger,but the company is International name, run with out any plan of any level, or department. What is your advise in this situation?

  4. Jeff Carroll Says:


    Thanks for your comment. Much appreciated!

    I’m not quite sure what you are asking about specifically. Can you clarify for me?



  5. Big D Says:

    Thanks for the article. Nothing new here.

  6. Jeff Carroll Says:

    Big D

    Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you are ahead of the pack. Any experiences to share?

  7. hossamhussein Says:

    Dear Big D : thanks for comment pack,Actually the company has International present ,when i join i been disappointed because I planned to use the Real HR , since there is no strategic planning with company, no plan for recruiting, Management , They workign out side of budget

    When tried to use planning for hiring right staff for right place with with qualifications ,the management refuses .

    why ? becuase they plan to hire excess staff over the project for some reason.

    My question > what to do in this situation? I’m keeing my mouth shout ,is this right ?

  8. Jane Plank Says:

    Here’s what I did against the 7 “reinvent” steps…
    1. I went to Gethsemane to meditate
    2. Guidance was simple! Do what makes your heart sing!
    3. Makes sense – there is definitely alignment between the field of HR and my gifts
    4. Letting go of what I am not (a bean counter, a librarian, an operations person)
    5. Re-positioning is in progress as look at my consulting company and the HR Market with
    different glasses
    6. Re-launching is in progress-
    7. Always reconnecting

  9. Jeff Carroll Says:


    Thanks for sharing your 7 step journey. How long did it take from starting the retreat to where you are now……..around step 5 and/or 6?


  10. Charles van Heerden Says:

    Hi Jeff, great advice and sound process. Some great points

    The process is quite generic – nothing wrong with it, though for HR people I think there are interesting options:
    1. Get a line job. If you ever want to move back into HR it will add to your credibility.
    2. If you are thinking of consulting, don’t neglect the BDM side. I have seen many HR people struggling with sales.
    3. Change industry – it may be time to consider growing/safer industries if you are concerned about risk. For those that have an appetite for risk – target the volatile industries.

    Lastly, I am a firm believer in 360 feedback, which most HR people would endorse. As result, particularly for HR people (but not exclusively) I think there is another step of validation between reposition and relaunch. Getting feedback is invaluable and would add more confidence for the relaunch.