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Rat Out the Boss (Or Why You Don't Get Career Advice from Pop Culture Magazines)

Recruiting MBAs into HR: Tough to Do When They Grab a Copy of "HR Magazine" for a RJP...

RJP = Realistic Job Preview.

So, here's the story behind the title. I'm an advocate for HR.  I like the biz, and I plan on being in it the rest of my life.  With that in mind, I'd like to contribute to greater good by convincing sharp people who are thinking about a career in HR that this is the profession they need to be in.

With that in mind, I've had the experience to run across someone I'll call "Kathy".  Kathy's a smart person, anHRMagTopgraphic MBA who's still trying to figure out what she wants to do.  She's had some cool jobs already, and she's recently been placed in a position on the outer edges of HR.  We know each other through LinkedIn, among other professional points of contact.  As part of my communication with her, some of it face-to-face based on our professions, I've told her she should consider a career in HR.  She's thought about it a good bit, then came back to me this week and told me there's no way she's going into HR. 

The conversation went something like this:

Kathy: I've thought a lot about it, and there's no way I can do a career in HR.

Me: Why?  I thought you liked the idea.  What's changed?

Kathy: Well, I went home this weekend and got HR Magazine from SHRM as part of the membership you encouraged me to do with SHRM.

Me: <cringing> And?

Kathy: I read most of the magazine, and the bottom line is that if that's the type of subject matter that is required to excel in HR, I'm not a good fit.

<five minutes of discussion goes by as I make excuses, asking her "what about the cool blogs" I turned you towards, etc.>

Me: OK, do me a favor, send me the top three observations you have about HR Magazine and how it's influenced your take on whether HR is a career for you.  I need to share it.

So, here's what she sent me:

"What I learned from reading HR Magazine… Don’t work in HR.  Here’s what stands out to me…
 
--I’ve read multiple editions of HR Magazine, and the information always sounds the same – recycled ideas, traditional thinking, dated approaches.  Where is the creativity?  Where’s the applicable and unbiased information that’s going to help me do my job more efficiently and effectively?  Where’s the cutting-edge, making you rethink your job, question your approach, and redefine the industry ideas?  Not in this magazine.

--Keeping up with employment law (yawn) and constantly changing regulations, requirements, and red tape seems too much to handle.  It’s overwhelming.  It’s boring.  And it sounds like it would be a full-time job in and of itself.  I guess I’m not jaded enough for this stuff yet.  Wake up, right?

--If HR Magazine content is a reflection of a day in the life of an HR Pro – 90% employee relations and employment law, 10% recruitment and development – then I pass.  I don’t want to read about how to avoid a lawsuit.  I want to read about finding the best people, growing my people, and providing them with such an amazing employment experience that I don’t have to deal with a lot of ER issues.  Think proactive… not reactive, HR Magazine.  Naïve, I know."

I'm a SHRM member, will be for life.  Fan of China Gorman and the rest of the team there - the more you get to know the people behind the curtain at SHRM, the more you realize how talented they are.

But, can we take the flagship magazine, the one that folks like this MBA look to as our beacon - our Time, our Newsweek, our Sports Illustrated, and sexy it up a little bit? 

Please?  I'm trying to sell this thing out there. 

Comments

Steve Meyer

If we want to keep our seat at the table, we have to think like the rest of the C-suite. This means we have to start thinking "How does HR add value to the final product?" We need to use our traditional development and training role and become proactive in team member development, retention, and experience management. These three core HR functions add value every day to our employees, our company and our customers.

Kerry

I'm a SHRM member and fan as well.

I gotta say--choosing a career based on what you read in an industry magazine seems pretty traditional and dated...but I get the point.

I think the magazine itself should go away. It's 2009. Who reads magazines? I put them right in the recycle bin as soon as the come. I look online, not in magazines.

As for the content...I think SHRM has reached out to HR bloggers, and that's a huge first step. I think the next step is to engage some of those bloggers in developing content. Some of the stuff I read from the really great bloggers ought to be on the SHRM website.

That said...the majority of the HR people I know in real life want to read the very stuff that's in HR Magazine. They're all about avoiding lawsuits and what goes in which personnel file and stuff like that. I hate that they're the majority...but they are, and SHRM has to serve its whole membership, not just the cool kids. It sucks, and it's one of the reasons I'm no longer in HR...but I can see what kind of pickle they're in.

For me, the bottom line is this: I don't look to an association to move the profession forward. I look to the professionals to move themselves forward. If we're waiting for someone in Alexandria to come and save us from ourselves, we deserve the reputation we have. Let's just go do good work, and stop looking for some sort of stimulus package here.

Michelle

I completely understand where Kathy is coming from. The reality is SHRM is publishing HR Magazine for a very large profession with many sub disciplines. On top of that, HR as a field looks so very differently from company to company.

I've had the opportunity to work in HR for a small non-profit and in a few disciplines (OD, Generalist, Staffing, HRIS) at a major corporation. Everyone one of those jobs was very different.

My advice to Kathy is to think about the role or purpose of HR and if that sounds like interesting work, then find the right job and company (because company makes a big difference) so that you can practice it your way.

As for HR Magazine, I think it needs to revamp. Consider a more decentralize approach. One magazine will never meet everyone's needs in this diverse field.

Jess Booth

Funny you mention the impressions she got from a HR magazine- not sure if you guys saw this article in the States but it kinda made my blood boil- but also think about what we are doing in HR at the same time.

The article in question is called "HR Departments: I've never really understood the point of them" and I've blogged about it here if anyone is interested.

http://hrclubsydney.com/2009/10/05/hr-departments-ive-never-really-understood-the-point-of-them/

I'm really passionate about HR- I just want people to understand the fantastic work we are capable of.

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61700395

Replied to an MBA thread on FFOT the other day. Might be a good link to forward to "Kathy". Harvard Business Review did a piece of MBAs who chose HR, allthewhile being encouraged not to by other MBAs/HRs: Why Did We Ever Go Into HR?

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61700395

Apologies. The code for my links must not have worked.

FFOT: http://www.fistfuloftalent.com/2009/09/why-is-an-mba-a-kiss-of-death-if-applying-for-a-position-in-hr-or-corp-recruiting.html

HBR: http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/2008/07/why-did-we-ever-go-into-hr/ar/1

twitter.com/davecarhart

As someone who is an MBA student and committed to a career in HR/human capital I've seen a lot of this in my conversations with other people. The interest in HR among MBA students (from what I've seen so far) is focused around talent acquisition/management, organizational design & M&A. Interest in comp/ben, labor unions and compliance related areas tends to be lower.

I just joined SHRM and haven't had a chance to read my first issue of the magazine yet, but now I'm intrigued by what my reaction will be. I'll have to leave another comment after I've done so (although exams next week come first!).

Anne Freedman

The solution is for Kathy -- and the rest of you -- to be reading Human Resource Executive magazine, if you'll forgive the biased plug. We focus on the creativity and strategic business solutions -- or aim to, anyway -- that highlight the transformation of HR leaders to business leaders. http://www.hreonline.com

John Hollon

Nothing quite like a shameless plug for HRE.

twitter.com/StephenMOwens

Don't you think this has more to do with the fact that an MBA can earn significantly more money in almost any other discipline than HR?

Think about it. If a person wants to move into HR from another discipline, gets an MBA to further their skills (maybe with a concentration in HR), spends $10k-50k on a degree, graduates, and in HR we expect them to take an entry level position making peanuts?

Really? We tell every other department to go out and find the best fit, pay what it takes to get them. Not in HR. Usually, we have a $30k/yr employee screening out candidates who could bring $100k/yr talent.

I don't think most companies HR staffs want MBA's in their department. It might upset the old applecart. That's why we don't really focus on the things that would lure them from finance, marketing, M&A, etc.

JoblessInSeattle

I recently had the same discussion with my wife, who likes HR, but hates HR administration. She's not a happy generalist. SHRM is a good resource for the Generalists/Administrators. I think your friend, like my wife, would be a better fit in a Center of Expertise designing policy, directing strategy, and thinking big picture about a defined area.

Paul Vercher MBA, MS, SPHR

Late to the party but, BRILLIANT post Kris!

There's no doubt that the editorial staff at HR Magazine tries hard to put out a quality product. However, if we expect cutting edge analysis, research and reporting from this publication (which I do and am not receiving) we need to look at a few key factors.

1) Resources. My guess is that SHRM simply does not have the necessary captial that would be required to accomplish a radical overhaul and redesign of this publication's mission. With that overhaul would come professional journalists with a deep knowledge base in specific facets of human capital management; strategic partnerships with leading institutions that are conducting the cutting-edge research and analysis which will move this industry forward; and funding that would be required to sponsor, sanction and conduct comprehensive, topical industry research.

2) Strategic Partnerships with Leading Institutions. As a human captial leader, I have an extensive reading list that ranges from "critical" to "on-going". I long for a publication (think an HR publication that's part Harvard Business Review and smaller part Wall Street Journal in it's approach) that will stretch the envelope of my industry knowledge base and keep me up-to-date with critical industry issues that I need to be aware of. As a leader, I desparately need new, well researched ideas to stay in front of the issues, not just react to them. I long for a comprehensive HR publication to provide this thought leadership. Some come closer than others. None have the full suite.

3) Thought Leadership. If SHRM expects to be the premier representative of our industry, I expect to turn to them for more than just best practices. I need cutting-edge, disciplined, research-backed focus on new ideas that have the potential to make me a better human capital leader. My employees expect it; my officers demand it.

As written HR Magazine gives me a special-interest-group feel for an industry that I am passionate for. I need more. A cutting-edge industry publication, should SHRM choose to embrace this approach, enables me to keep (not earn) my "place at the table".

Keep fighting the good fight...

Mulberry Alexa

let's join our hands together to stop this kind of wrong doings. It may risk lives in the future if we just let them continue.

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