Life of an HR Generalist. Is It Right For You?

I’m a generalist. That’s right. Jack of all trades, master of none. I love my job because I get to use my brain in a variety of different ways on any given day. There are never dull moments. However, there are certainly moments when I’m knee deep in parts of my role that are less interesting to me. (cough, open enrollment, cough) These are important areas for an organization to manage well, but I’d never again take a role where I’d have to focus 100% of my time on that area. Because specialization is not the life for everyone. So if you’re contemplating life as a generalist, take a gander at the list below to see if it might be for you.

The HR Generalist

Variety keeps you sharp.

The role of HR generalist is rarely focused on any one part of their role for too long. If you thrive on variety, it could be for you. In order to stay up to speed on all of the facets of HR, it requires a fair amount of reading, connecting and the like to get you where you need to be. Your brain should always be working.

Generalists are rarely focused on any one part of their role for too long. If you thrive on variety, it could be for you. In order to stay up to speed on all of the facets of HR, it requires a fair amount of reading, connecting and the like to get you where you need to be. Your brain should always be working.

Broad experience = Broad value.

Being in a generalist role can often times give you broader exposure across an organization. More access means more opportunity to have an impact and add value to the business and to the lives of those impacted by it. That’s certainly not to say you don’t get that ability in a specialty role but it’s almost built into your description as a generalist.

There can be too much of a good thing.

You may love recruiting. That’s great. But recruiting all day every day could lose its appeal after a while. It is nice to be able to think differently for a few weeks before jumping on the next job. Walking away from a certain type of project gives you the benefit of fresh perspective when the next requisition inevitably appears and you’re recruiting once again.

With the good, comes the bad.

Even in HR, no role is perfect. We all know that in our heart of hearts. Even if you spend 95% of your time doing what you love, there will always be the slightly less riveting or potentially painful 5%. Let’s face it, to be able to love a huge part of your job is pretty sweet even if it’s not all of the time. We spend so much of our time at work that it would be a real shame not to enjoy it. Do your best to focus on the wonderful parts of your job even when you’re trapped in a project that is less than joyful.

At the end of the day, you’re not locked in. In today’s world, you’re not required to stay in one role, one company or one industry forever. If an HR generalist role sounds appealing, give it a whirl. At worst, you’ll end the wonder you had about that type of job and send you packing back to Benefits and Comp (or your chosen specialty!). At best, you took a risk that landed you in the right gig, but at minimum you learned about how to engage, relate and work with people. These are skills that are valuable to any and every front line manager and workplace leader.

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Kelly Poulson

Kelly Poulson

Kelly has spent her career helping people kick ass and become better versions of themselves. Coaching, training, recruiting – you name it, she’s done it, and in a variety of industries ranging from advertising to behavioral health to tourism and beyond. Be it supporting new managers in their journeys from uncertain supervisors to rock star bosses, helping lost newbies zero in on what they want from their careers and find their inner confidence to ask for (and receive) that promotion, or enabling leaders to be more self-aware in their management styles and more skillfully interact with those around them, she’s done it all. Outside of pushing to make people and organizations better, Kelly spends most of her time marathoning Netflix programming with her mutt, Dexter. www.kellypoulson.com Connect with Kelly.

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  1. AvatarMonique Estrella says

    How do you break into HR? I am having problems even finding an HR assistant without experience. Thank you in advance. I too would like to be a generalist one day, I enjoyed your article!

    • AvatarKelly Poulson says

      Hi Monique! Thanks for reaching out. There are a variety of ways I could suggest but some of that depends on your work background. Why don’t we connect on LinkedIn and we can chat from there?

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