19

Career Advice needed - how do I take a step back?

Jacqueline

| 1963 Posts

Chartered Member

13 Jul, 2017 08:54

Hi all

I'm hoping the collective wisdom of the forums can offer me some advice.  When I started in HR, I worked my way up from HR admin roles to HR Adviser.  I then took a sideways step to be a HR Analyst for 11 years - it was a great role full of variety, dealing with HR Systems, reward, benefits, pensions and some really interesting projects.  But after 11 years I felt I'd exhausted the possibilities of the role so last year I again went sideways into an IT role, supporting Payroll systems.  That role didn't turn out as I had hoped as the projects that I was brought in to do didn't happen, so I was left doing minor system configuration day in day out which was very dull.  So  after 17 months there, I rather hastily took a new role about two months ago, back in HR but completely focussed on Data Protection and Data Governance. 

Now I feel I have made a horrible mistake.  I thought I would be getting back closer to the business and employees by moving back into HR, but I feel further away than ever.  There is a huge amount of work to be done to get data governance up to the organisation's standards and all the work to be done to get the People Function GDPR fit but there's no support or resources internally to undertake the projects.  Work on these things should have started months ago but it's been left until I started - I think they think I'm some sort of magic wand they can wave to fix all these problems.  Unfortunately I don't share that view!  I'm stressed to the point of tears most days and paralysed by the feeling of being so overwhelmed with work I don't know where to start.  I have little contact with my boss who is too busy to offer any support and he is relying on me just to get on and deal with all this.  I've talked to him about how I feel but he's made it clear that there will be no extra resource.  He's a nice chap but he's busy to the point of abruptness and I don't get the impression that he'll manage to give the support I need.  I've certainly had no feedback on how he thinks I'm performing which means that I automatically assume I'm not doing well enough.

I'm realising that I thrive on variety - focussing on one particular thing day in , day out really isn't suiting me at all.  I think I've taken a wrong turn in my career with my last job and this one and I need to find a way back to more generalist HR roles that really add value and excite me.  So my question to you all (finally, after all my moaning!) is what sort of roles should I realistically look at?  I haven't been a generalist HR Adviser for over 12 years, but my HR Analyst role had a lot of generalist elements such as advising managers, hearing grievances, investigating potential disciplinary cases, managing projects, delivering change, supporting redundancy programmes, due diligence for TUPE transfers etc.  I've also done voluntary HR work as a school governor, hearing grievance cases, advising on job shares and restructures and looking at pay and performance. Is it realistic to aim for a HR Adviser role, or should I go back to an administrator level and work my way back up?  I'm know I'll have to take a salary cut  but it would be a struggle to drop to an administrator salary.  There's a small pool of opportunities where I live so I can't afford to be too choosy.  And a second question is that if you were recruiting a HR Adviser or HR Administrator, how would you view me?  Does it look really bad to have changed jobs under two years ago and then two months ago and now be applying again or is it ok for me to say that I've found that such specialist roles don't suit me and I want to get back to generalist HR as that's where I find my job satisfaction?

Many thanks for reading my long story.

Jackie

  • Keith

    | 10212 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    13 Jul, 2017 10:47

    Hi

    Are you sure this isn't just an induction crisis - perhaps you have reached the stage of "knowing how much you don't know" but need to move through this and past it to see that actually you can make a difference here? Especially if this is a reasonable sized company and after helping fix this you would have internal opportunities. Often in the first months we do feel over whelmed and swamped (is that mixing my metaphors?) but when we know more we realise we are doing better than we think.

    I would force the feedback issue with your manager if you can - get reassurance that you are doing OK and what he needs. This hopefully will boost your confidence.

    Your CV will be weakened by another move so quickly - if you had gone from the last job back into mainstream HR then its more easily explainable. But the narrative (which is what I tend to look at first) will be confused. Not irreparably damaged by the two quick moves and the jumping around tends to look either confused or desperate.

    As for moving back into HR - the "easiest" way may be on a contract as part of a HR IT systems team as part of implementation. Then trying to impress and move sideways.

    But given you great earlier experience if you keep applying and subject to enough roles around you will get back mainstream eventually - just don't be in too much of a rush to accept the first thing - a third mis step would be hard to explain. So stay put while you look, look at roles and culture carefully and also benefit from the great experience you are getting

    Best of luck
  • Jacqueline

    | 1963 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2017 11:28

    In reply to Keith:

    Thank you for sharing your perspective, Keith. Your points are all excellent and very rational and I do agree with them. You might be right about it being an induction crisis and I think to some extent that it is. Unfortunately the deadlines and volume of work are real and unmoveable, so there's no breathing space for me to find my feet. And the concerns you express about me changing jobs are exactly what I've thought to myself - the narrative looks very odd and as a recruiter I would be thinking exactly the same.

    But I can't keep on going, feeling as I do about it right now. I can't bear the thought of going into the office every day - I feel sick and dizzy the whole time I'm at my desk and I can't focus on doing any work as I'm convinced everything I'm doing is wrong. Out of work I can't let go of the dread about work. Somehow I have to find a way through it for the sake of my mental health. But I'm not sure how at the moment. Gosh, reading this back I sound really sorry for myself! Anyone got any good suggestions for building resilience in this sort of situation?
  • Owen

    | 451 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2017 14:35

    Hi Jackie

    If I were you i'd be inclined to put your last position (the IT role, supporting Payroll systems) as more of a HR IT role, that shows you as having dedicated HR-relevant IT skills, rather than a non-HR role. That way you were there a year and a half gaining valuable experience.

    Next comes your current role. I believe that almost everyone has at least one role on their CV that is a 'mistake' (mine was a stint in local government that lasted just over 9 months). It sounds like your current role is yours. Decent recruiters will recognise that, particularly if you call it out in your application.

    That's my tuppence on your circumstances regarding your recruitment circumstances. I'd also say this about GDPR:

    GDPR is important and some people believe it to be a massive risk. But do you remember the fears that were peddled when National Minimum Wage was implemented that didn't materialise (where HR people were being told that they'd be sued and fined and black-listed if they didn't apply NMW?)? It's the difference between recognising a hazard and the risk of that hazard occurring. GDPR is a hazard and must be done, but it doesn't have to be hugely risky. We're going through it* in my own (multinational, US-headquartered) company and I keep trying to remind people that for there to be any action taken against us it would require 1) an employee to take issue with how we process their data informally and then 2) formally via a grievance if they didn't like the outcome of step 1, 3) for us to deal with that grievance in a way that wasn't accepted by the employee, 4) the employee to go through a grievance appeal, 5) for the employee to be so unaccepting of the company's processes that they put in a complaint to the ICO, and 6) For the ICO to find any merit in the complaint. I suspect 7) would be the ICO contacting us to investigate, rather than immediately taking us to court. So to me the risk isn't actually that high even though there is a hazard that is could happen.

    Feel free to pm me if you think I can be of any help.

    Good luck!


    * I'm currently writing this to avoid doing work on GDPR...
  • Jacqueline

    | 1963 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2017 14:40

    In reply to Owen:

    Thanks Owen - you are a breath of fresh air blowing through my murky brain! ;-) You're right - instead of trying to deliver everything (my organisation has defined 16 requirements to meet GDPR and 47 'products' that we have to produce to show compliance), I should just focus on delivering what we can actually manage and what impacts most on our applicants and employees (like decent information notices and understanding when we need to ask for consent) and risk accept the rest. I think I might draft a new plan for my manager that says 'this is what is reasonable to achieve' rather than my gold plated version. Now I just have to find a slot when he's free to talk to me...
  • Owen

    | 451 Posts

    Chartered Member

    13 Jul, 2017 15:05

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Hi Jackie

    Glad to be of help :-) Hope you get some time with your manager soon as he see's the merit of this approach!
  • Steve Bridger

    | 7078 Posts

    Community Manager

    13 Jul, 2017 15:09

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Hi Jackie,

    Terrific, thoughtful responses from and who both make some really insightful comments.

    Knowing you a little bit as I do (!)... I think you have knowledge and experience in an area of HR that will only grow and is increasingly important. I do agree with Owen that you would want other people to view your recent roles through a 'data' lens (vs simply IT per se).

    I always thought the "HR Analyst" role suited you down to the ground - so much so that you often popped on here to effectively mentor others who were finding their way. If I could only 'magic up' a way of translating the support you have given others into a currency that would support you now. I'd glad you chose to post this here.

    Our careers (if that is even what we should call 'it' these days) is not a linear, always upwards 'escalator'. We meander and pause, take missteps and 'wing it' for much of the time. I do agree with Keith that you should press your manager for some of his time. Are there also individuals in other parts of the organisation who might be 'champions' of GDPR? Can you prioritise a few small projects (perhaps with their support) that might demonstrate some impact in the next 6 to 12 months?

  • Elizabeth

    | 1813 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    13 Jul, 2017 15:16

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Hi Jackie

    I am the lead on GDPR for my organisation, and the approach I am taking is that it is impossible for this to be delegated to one person. The management team needs to take responsibility for compliance in their own areas. I will provide them with the tools.

    Once managers understand that they must take control of their own areas, with you supporting, advising and guiding them, there might be a change of heart on the resource available, or you might be able to shift responsibility to where it should rightly sit, which is with the data controllers around the organisation.

    Step one of this has been to attend team meetings and management meetings in all areas of the business to run briefings on the GDPR and what it will mean. (What I am finding is that there are many people who aren't aware of the demands of the Data Protection Act and it is all coming as one almighty shock, but that's another story).

    Step two is for each function head to map and audit their own data and data handling processes.

    I am lucky in that the MD understood from the start that this has to be a shared endeavour. Reading your description of your experience with this project, I would guess that level of knowledge doesn't exist in the organisation and that is where I would start.
  • Anna

    | 975 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    13 Jul, 2017 16:11

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Jackie, you're getting some good practical advice from colleagues here which I know you'll follow. I can't add to that but wanted to say that the symptoms you describe are of extreme stress - I recognise them because I was once in a very similar situation (at least as far as your feelings/emotions go). You may want to point out to your boss that you are experiencing severe stress and the implications if that continues.

    You may also find this website (owned by our illustrious head Prof Cary Cooper) useful - you'll see the LHS menu has an item on building resilience: www.robertsoncooper.com/gooddayatwork

    Good luck, I know you're a very capable lady and you'll move through this!
  • Elizabeth

    | 1813 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    13 Jul, 2017 17:17

    In reply to Anna:

    Well done, Anna. I noticed the "sick and dizzy" comment but concentrated on the practical (or, in other words, easy) stuff.
    Jackie - I can only send you very best wishes. I hope you'll come back to the forum so we can at least provide moral support.
  • Jacqueline

    | 1963 Posts

    Chartered Member

    14 Jul, 2017 08:11

    Thank you all so much for your words of support and practical suggestions. It makes so much difference in a situation like this to feel that there's a band of people out there who will happily give sound, independent advice and encouragement. These Communities are an amazing place. Steve, how long have the Communities been up and running now? I know I've been posting since about 2004!

    I'm determined to stick things out and try and improve things one step at a time. The first step is to change my reaction to the job and the problems. Then I'll be able to get a better view of what I should do next. ;-) Anna, thank you for the link about resilience - I will go and have a look.

    Thank you again everyone!

    Jackie
  • Steve Bridger

    | 7078 Posts

    Community Manager

    14 Jul, 2017 09:19

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Jacqueline

    "These Communities are an amazing place. Steve, how long have the Communities been up and running now? I know I've been posting since about 2004"

    !

    Jackie... you were there at the beginning! After a 3-month pilot in 2003, we launched the Community in January 2004. We are closing in on adolescence ;) 

  • Steve Bridger

    | 7078 Posts

    Community Manager

    14 Jul, 2017 13:01

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    By the way, Jackie... I found this to be an incredibly honest and useful blog post about 'imposter syndrome'.

    stelladuffy.wordpress.com/.../
  • Jacqueline

    | 1963 Posts

    Chartered Member

    5 days ago

    Hi all

    Thank you for your wonderfully supportive posts - I thought I would give you a quick update. After another couple of weeks, things didn't get any better for me and on 1 August I handed my notice in. The company agreed to let me go without working my notice (and actually made my last day 31 July).

    Today I was offered a generalist HR Adviser role, giving me exactly the experience I wanted. It's only a 9 month maternity cover position but it's a brilliant start and the pay is much better than I had hoped for given I was taking a step back. I'm really relieved and I feel like I have a great opportunity to make a fresh start and grow my career again.

    Jackie

  • Lesley Weare

    | 57 Posts

    Associate

    5 days ago

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Hi Jackie

    That is great news - I can almost hear the relief in your post. Good luck in your new role.

    Lesley
  • Anna

    | 975 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    5 days ago

    In reply to Jacqueline:

    Thanks for sharing your good news Jackie. It's funny how things have a way of working out...
More Content