100 Tips For Crushing Your Career in HR — Here are Tips #1-5…

by Alan Collins

Today, I’m going to start sharing my top 100 tips for crushing your career in HR.

To keep from overwhelming you, I’ll be piecing these out in small batches over the next 6-12 months.

They’ll be in no particular order.  But all will be actionable.

Hope you enjoy these nuggets.

That said, let’s get started with the first five.


Tip #1:  
Become a collector of golden
HR experiences.

The more experiences you have, the more valuable you become in your career as an HR professional.  Here are 14 experiences to start with that are PURE GOLD — that you should look to add to your portfolio over time:

(1) HR generalist experience where you are the primary HR contact, go-to advisor and member of the leadership team for a business, function or organization.

(2) HR specialist experience in at least ONE major HR key function like talent acquisition, organization development, total rewards, HRIS or labor relations where you are known as the expert and provide counsel and specialized expertise to the organization in that one area.

(3) Experience leading an HR team of direct reports where you set the HR agenda for the group, deliver HR services through that team and model the way as their leader.

(4) An international HR assignment…if you are a US citizen, you are living outside of the US (e.g. Brazil, Russia, India, China or elsewhere) while delivering HR in that country.

(5) Start from scratch experience either launching a new brand HR function, or supporting a brand new facility, greenfield location or high tech start-up as an on-site HR leader with limited resources.

(6) HR experience in a fix-it, turnaround scenario where you’re working under pressure to support a messy operation with declining revenues that’s on life support (troubled industry, major product/service problems, morale issues, major cost cutting, workforce challenges, etc).

(7) HR experience in an hyper-growth business (think: Apple, Amazon, Uber…er, maybe not Uber!) where you’re working in a charged up culture that needs to attract key talent quickly, maintain high levels of motivation and establishing new or innovative HR practices to drive exponential growth.

(8) HR experience in a mature business (think: United Way, Ford, US Steel) where you’re challenged to retain key talent, raise engagement levels and maintain high levels of motivation in an entrenched culture, as the business has matured and leveled off.

(9) HR experience in a scale down scenario such as a divesting the business, selling the company or closing a plant/division where mass terminations will occur for an entity that will no longer exist.

(10) HR field experience in a stand alone role located away from the main headquarters – e.g. a manufacturing plant, distribution center, call center, field sales office — where you can test, experiment or implement new HR innovative practices far removed from HQ.

(11) HR headquarters experience in a role located in the main corporate office of the organization where big-time corporate politics happen and the top business decisions are made impacting the entire enterprise.

(12) HR consultant experience where you market and sell HR services, delivering HR expertise on a fee-basis to generate revenue and income.

(13) Line experience outside of HR where you’re responsible for running a business with P&L accountability.

(14) Change management experience leading a major HR/business change project likely to encounter major organizational resistance (e.g. new HRIS implementation, changing the compensation program, introducing a new performance management process, culture change initiative, re-organization, etc.).

Each of these 14 of these assignments is unique.  Each provides a a different type of experience you can draw on throughout your career.  Again, the more you of these you have, the more marketable you are and the more career options you’ll have.


Tip #2: 
Lead with or without the big HR title.

You don’t need a big title to make a difference in your organization.  You can lead by driving a new initiative, coming up with an awesome ideas or by coaching and encouraging your teammates to be at their best.

One of the most powerful people I know is a Field HR manager, not corporate VP.

He is:

Before this he was the only non-executive member participating in a cross-functional team to revise the company-wide employee engagement survey process.

He has just five years of HR experience but understands the career game.  His strategy: “I’m open to just about any HR leadership opportunity that will help me grow, provide visibility and add impressive bullets I can put on my resume or LinkedIn profile.”   


Tip #3:
Whack your commute.

For years, I traveled over 3 hours round trip every day on the Dan Ryan expressway to my HR gig in downtown Chicago.

When I arrived at work, I was stressed, tired and exhausted.

I also wasted a ton of time sitting in my car, screaming my lungs out at stupid drivers and stalled traffic.

One night after a brutal snowstorm, it took me 5 hours to get home. Tired, sweaty and very pissed, I asked myself why was I being so stupid.

I finally decided to get off my duff!  And I moved closer to work — where I could walk 13 minutes to my job.

And my life changed dramatically.

This alone saved me 6 weeks per year in my commute.

I used that extra time to write my first book, Unwritten HR Rules.

The point:  Commuting long distances to get to work is absolutely not worth it. Work near where you live. If you can, make it within walking distance.

Imagine freeing up an extra 2 hours a day.  And then using that time to work on a project you’re passionate about that will help your organization or your HR career.

Time is precious.

Don’t waste it on the highways.


Tip #4: 
Leave your business cards at home.

I haven’t used business cards in six years.

When asked, I ask people to send me an invite on LinkedIn (or I’ll send them one).

Try it, if you haven’t already.

It’s easier to keep in touch with them.  You don’t have to keep track of business cards.  It reduces your administrative work in loading that person into your contacts list.  And your online updates on each other are easily viewed.

Welcome to the 21st century.


Tip #5:  
Know when your interview starts.

It actually starts when you pull in the parking lot.

Karma is a bitch.

See below.

That’s it!  These are the first 5 tips in the series.

95 more just like these will drop on this site periodically over the next six months.  Some will be short tips.  Others will be major pieces of advice.

However, I promise you:

Just tips and wisdom you can ACT ON!  So grab what you need.  Ignore the rest.

Stay subscribed to Success in HR so you don’t miss them.

Let me know what you think in the comments below by clicking here.



Want more strategies for THRIVING in your career in Human Resources?  Then check out:  UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Strategies For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources featuring FREE EXCERPTS that can be downloaded HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals  including UNWRITTEN HR RULES.   He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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3 Responses to “100 Tips For Crushing Your Career in HR — Here are Tips #1-5…”

  1. Linda Says:

    Another ‘Outta the Park’ Home Run Alan!

  2. Josephine Winfrey Says:

    Hi Alan:

    As usual, great advice. I have 9 of 14 of #1. I’ve always looked for opportunities to add to my HR skill set. I find recently that a lot of HR people are specializing. I don’t know if that is a trend but in my opinion, they are pigeon holing themselves for other opportunities. Am I wrong?

  3. Bamike Fadipe Says:

    Dear Alan,
    I appreciate your consistency in impact in this industry. Hands on tips that are real and very practicable!
    Thank you.