Dear HR: It’s not you, it’s me. We had a good run, we did some important work together, and now I’m ready to move on. Don’t take it personally.
After twelve years as a Generalist and Manager, through all the ups and downs that come with this job (and frankly, any job), I’m calling it quits with the only career I’ve ever known to explore a future in Product Management.
Why would I choose to leave an established and gainful path to take a leap into an unfamiliar field in which I only have tangential experience? Surprisingly, the answer is simple.
I wanted more.
I had involvement but I wanted (more) influence. The limits of HR’s authority are varied and well-documented, and don’t warrant repeating here. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great leaders who value the input and counsel from HR. But at the end of the day, my reach only went so far. I wanted more. I wanted more than lukewarm support and the scrapped remnants of a budget. I didn’t want to settle for antiquated technology when I saw new and progressive solutions on the market. I wanted employees and supervisors to see me as a valued consultant instead of the police. I wanted to have my voice heard and my recommendations adopted and celebrated as a necessary piece of a strategic plan for the organization’s success. I wanted actual change. I wanted to be the change.
I was bored.
I had worked in recruiting and onboarding, L&D, comp & ben, compliance and regulatory. Employee relations. Engagement. Projects. I had hired, trained and coached hundreds of employees. Hundreds. And I won’t underestimate the value in each of these activities. HR professionals strive to help employees have the best experiences possible in the workplace. We inherently believe in that mission. But we must help ourselves too. And while my career continued to progress, personally I hit a wall. My work felt transactional and static; my impact felt small. I realized I was largely performing the same tasks I had done a decade earlier, albeit in a different and larger environment. While I continued to find meaning and draw energy from connecting with managers and employees, the unchanging nature of my work left me feeling unfulfilled.
I knew the industry had evolved over the last few years, but in this fast-paced world, was my work product and contribution keeping up? And even more concerning – was I missing something?
Concurrently, the opportunities for learning and tackling new initiatives lessened. In the pattern of learn-execute-maintain, I spent more and more time in the maintain phase which heightened my feelings of unfulfillment and became the catalyst for my exit. I reflected on my last few years in HR and realized an important trend: I kept getting more responsibility but I wanted something different. I needed a new challenge with a greater impact for myself and for others. I needed to do something different.
I had a glimpse of what that impact could be.
During my work in a past role, I had an opportunity to partner with IT on a ground-up software development project. We conducted stakeholder feedback, gathered requirements, tested the application, facilitated training and evaluated the program. It was hard work. It was fast paced. I learned a lot in a short amount of time, and we moved quicker than most projects I had worked on. I had the joy and satisfaction to see a brand new product (something we built!) up and running on every computer. It was thrilling to change a process and introduce a new philosophy—something that affected each of our 1800 employees. As I contemplated careers beyond HR, I came back to that project again and again for inspiration.
So I’m on a new adventure.
I decided to test the waters by coming to work at a start-up. I left the traditional HR sphere, and I’m learning the technology side of things here are career.place. Why career.place? As an HR tech company, it’s a perfect fit as I pivot into this new field. Supported by a passionate team (and led by a former Product Manager!), this company is empowering me to leverage my strengths and industry experience from the last decade to learn the ropes of product management.
Not only am I able to grow and build my skill set, I’m putting my energy into something I believe in, something to make a difference. No more sitting by the sidelines, no more settling, no more hoping to gradually invoke change. I’ll be actively working to capture the customer needs and perspectives as we tackle a looming challenge in our industry – how to make hiring more inclusive, unbiased and effective.
Wish me luck as I change course. I know I’ll miss the feeling of being a champion for employees, but I’m excited to translate that experience into becoming the champion of a product, particularly one that has the ability to have a large-scale and important impact. I can’t wait to see where this road may lead.
So, thank you, HR, for the learning and the lessons, for the development and the connections. After all, there’s a whole new world out there and it’s mine for the taking.