Your ONE True Passion in HR — How Do You Find It? Do You Even Need One?

QUESTION: 

I’ve read many of your articles and books and I largely agree with most of them.

However, there’s one thing I’m struggling with. You talk a lot about finding your ONE true passion in HR.

Well, I haven’t found mine!

I’ve been a HR senior director for over ten years and a generalist so I’m a jack of all trades — and love it.

I also love my team and my organization.

But I haven’t yet found my ONE light switch yet — my ULTIMATE CALLING in HR – that ONE BIG THING I’d like to specialize in or become an expert at.  

Do I need one?

If so, I’d like to find it.

Any advice on this?

Thanks,
Carole

ANSWERS: 

Hi Carole,

Great questions and thanks for articulating them so well.

Let me answer each of the one by one.

I’ll start with your…

Question #1:
Do you need a specialty?
_________

Of course not.

If you like being an HR generalist, jack of all trades, by all means do so.

My philosophy of managing your career successfully can be summarized this way…

Life’s too short not to love what you do.

However, here’s my personal bias.

And this is just me.

I’ve worked forever as an HR generalist and will always deep down consider myself a generalist.  But having a specialty has allowed me enjoy my career even more. 

My specialty today now is developing and helping HR folks grow their careers.

This article and this blog are prime examples of this.

And I’m having a blast!

Before that, for ten years, I had a different specialty.  It was growing and developing leaders in manufacturing organizations.  And, as part of that:

I led a variety of leadership development workshops and seminars for middle and senior manufacturing leaders.

I provided one-on-one assessments and follow-up coaching to them.

I collaborated with other experts and external consultants to bring leadership best practices into this group.

And I had a blast doing this too!

From these two experiences, I learned there are big benefits to having one HR specialty.  In both instances:   

My specialty became my unique brand, calling card and differentiated me from the rest of the HR generalist pack.

It was the “one big thing” I became known for and increased the demand for my services as the “go-to” expert in my specialty.

My key clients naturally assumed I was an expert in other HR areas as well.  And this allowed me to expand and deepen my relationships with them.

Finally, it gave me something to “lead with” and “score early wins with” when working with brand new organizations, teams and leaders.

I believe as an “HR generalist with a specialty” YOU will gain these same benefits too.

Let me reiterate, I never hide the fact that I absolutely love being an HR generalist.  But carving out mastery in ONE area of HR has opened doors, built my credibility and provided opportunities that NEVER would have occurred otherwise.

That’s been my personal experience.

Others may feel or have different experiences.

And that’s okay.

In any event, that brings us to….

Question #2:
Why haven’t you found
your specialty?
__________

Here’s one theory.

You may be expecting it to hit you all at once, suddenly — like a bolt of lightning from the sky.

Expecting this to happen is like expecting to fall in love with someone at first sight in a romantic relationship.

Yes, love can happen at first sight.

But for others, love and passion with one person develops S-L-O-W-L-Y over time.   It doesn’t occur immediately like a lightning bolt. 

Such may be the case with finding your calling… or YOUR ONE BIG THING…it may not overwhelm you with its presence when it first appears.

Instead, it may reveal itself to you GRADUALLY over time.

So don’t be frustrated if it’s not apparent to you yet.

That’s said, let’s now address…

Question #3: 
Can you speed up
the process of finding
your ONE thing?
_________

Yes you can.

Try this:  Make it a point to start noticing what excites you on a tiny moment-to-moment level…RIGHT NOW!

There are two places to look:

Place One:
Look at the specific HR activities you engage in and how they resonate with you.

For example:

As a generalist, do you lose track of time or wake up at 5 am because you can’t wait to get started recruiting hard-to-find sales and marketing talent for your clients?

OR…Do you get distracted, play around for hours online seeking out online learning programs you can deliver yourself to the first-level managers in your organization who are crying for help and feel neglected.

OR…Do you feel like Erich Kurchat, who recently said: “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now after discovering the DiSC personality tool during my corporate HR days. Now I equip, companies, coaches and consultants with the education and materials they need to leverage the DiSC assessment with their stakeholders.” Erich has now built a small business around this tool 12+ years later.

All of these may be indicators that, as an HR generalist, there’s one area within HR you’re passionate about.

But that’s not all.

There’s also…

Place Two:
Look at the ONE target audience or group of clients that excites you most.

For example, as an HR generalist, are you MOST turned on working with any ONE of these populations:

Sales organizations
Customer service professionals
Engineers
CEOs and C-suite executives
Job seekers
HR leaders and professionals
Small, non-profit organizations
Brand new start ups
High-tech professionals
Front-line employees in factory locations
…Hundreds of other homogeneous or like-minded groups.

Both of these two places — Place One and Place Two — can provide clues as to your passion. 

What’s important here is to look for the following:

1. Flow: If you lose track of time while doing or thinking about something, you’re often in a state of passion.

2. Failure: If you find yourself persisting despite experiencing failures, then you’re passionate about what you’re doing.

3. Free: If you go above and beyond in doing something without regard for being paid for it, then you may be passionate about it.

4. Distraction: If you pay attention to those things that constantly distract you, it could indicate that that’s something you’re passionate about.

5. Against the Grain: A passion is something you’re drawn to even when your clients or boss aren’t.  If it’s something you’d like to do even if it’s not popular, that might be a passion as well.

6. Irritation: Everyone has a short list of things that really annoy them when done poorly.  If they annoy you too that could be your clue that it’s a passion.

So tune in, listen carefully for these cues.

Here’s the bottom line on all this…

Take some time and find out where your HR passion lies.  Don’t chase it.  Let it find you.

If you find something that brings you joy, why not DATE IT for awhile.  Let that be a PASSION that drives you right now.

And figure out a way to do MORE and MORE of it. See if it works for you.

You may fall in love with it.

Or you may not.

If so, that’s fine.

Seize them as they come… and run with them.

And let that particular one inspire you and be your calling for…right now…recognizing that you may have 5 or 6 passions in your HR career.

That’s just my take.  

What’s yours?  Please add them in the comments below by clicking HERE:

Onward!

###

Want EVEN MORE detailed, real-world, un-sugarcoated strategies for accelerating your career in Human Resources?  Then check out:  UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Strategies For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources.  Get more information by going 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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4 Responses to “Your ONE True Passion in HR — How Do You Find It? Do You Even Need One?”

  1. Chuck Imhoff Says:

    Alan

    When I was in Corporate America I always felt “the broader the better”, however you should have at least one function of HR that you should have strengths….Talent Acquistion, Training, Comp & Benefits, etc.

  2. Alan Says:

    Well said, Chuck. I took a similar approach as you in Corp America…HR generalist, but with a specialty in Learning & Development. Thanks for the share. -Alan

  3. Linda Peterson Says:

    Hi Alan,
    Wonderfully laid out Alan! While talented generalists exist, the HR job seeker is best served by having a STAND-OUT specialty which sets them apart from the masses!
    On Your Side,
    Linda

  4. Alan Says:

    Linda, appreciate the feedback. Thrilled the idea resonated. Hope you are well.

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