Find Your Motivation — Why Choose a Career in HR?

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If you’re reading this far, you likely have at least a slight interest in what a career in Human Resources could hold for you.

Whether you’re fully committed to a life-long career in HR or you’re just curious, in this blog we’ll explore one of the most important foundations of your career in Human Resources: your motivation. In other words, the reasons why you want to (potentially) pursue a career in the area in the first place.

Working out your motivation behind building a career in HR will help you to find your own place in this growing, exciting and fulfilling field. It will also help the quality of your decision-making, allowing you to make better, more informed decisions.

In this section, we’ll be exploring what HR actually is, why choose to build your career in HR in the first place, and how to tell whether you’re suited to a career in the field. Let’s go.

Why Choose a Career in HR?

We would be lying if we didn’t say that a career in HR is not without its unique challenges and demands. It’s not always a role that feels like it’s giving you a constant rush of endorphins that would come with working as, say, a chocolate taste-tester or professional kitten-petter[MM2] . That said, HR careers are probably some of the most fulfilling that you’re likely to find in an office environment, allowing you to find a mixture of diversity and stability which few other roles come close to matching.

Here are some of the key reasons many professionals choose to pursue a career in HR:

1.   The salaries available

Despite how much everyone may pretend otherwise when it comes to jobs, one of the main factors that motivates a person’s choice of career is how much money they can expect to earn in it.

Whilst fancy benefit packages and a good working environment can go someway to making a role attractive, the nitty-gritty details of how much you can expect to take home each money is often the deciding factor about whether you will follow a potential career. After all, having access to a fancy gym or an office pizza party each month won’t pay your bills.

The Hays Salary Guide 2024, one of the UK’s leading resources for detailing the average remuneration of the most common roles across the economy. When it comes to HR, salaries are pretty competitive for roles up and down the country. Here’s the average salary rate of generalist HR positions in the UK, in the private sector, using data from the Hays guide:

  •     Entry Level – HR Assistant/ Administrator: Average salary £22,625, with a range of £18,000 to £30,000
  •     Intermediate Level – HR Advisor: Average salary £36,083, with a range of £24,000 to £45,000
  •     Senior Level – HR Manager: Average salary £53,083, with a range of £35,000 to £65,000


A group of HR professionals smiling and working around a table

2.   The career progression

Another related motivating factor for a lot of professionals when it comes to choosing a career is how much opportunity there is for career progression.

Room for career progression and growth is essential if you want to be progressing in your career and earning more money, rather than standing still and staying in the same role forever.

However, progression in many roles in the UK economy might be getting harder. A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in 2020 suggested that people are starting further down the career ladder and progressing up it more slowly than in previous years, citing a range of factors, including the growing casualisation of many roles being responsible for this. This has a cascading impact on the career development of professionals overall, influencing the total amount of progression they’ll realistically be able to achieve in their career. That’s obviously a problem.

One way you can reduce the risk of remaining stagnant in a role is to choose a field where there are plenty of opportunities for career development in the first place. Human Resources is one of those areas. With a need for HR professionals in basically every industry – in fact, anywhere people are employed – the demand for human resources roles is unlikely to fade anytime soon. Artificial Intelligence and automation may change the way that these roles are carried out, but the demand for humans in HR roles is likely to stay. It is called Human Resources, after all.

Typical career progression in Human Resources looks something like this:

Entry level roles

  •     HR Administrator
  •     HR Assistant
  •     Junior HR Advisor

Intermediate level roles

  •     HR Officer
  •     HR Advisor
  •     HR Manager

Senior level roles

  •     HR Manager
  •     HR Senior Manager
  •     HR Director
  •     Head of HR

3.   It can be an interesting and fulfilling job

Something that sets Human Resources apart from other professional fields is the breadth and diversity of work that you’ll get to perform on a daily basis.

HR is a wide field, covering a huge range of areas: from processing payroll and carrying out recruitment through to running disciplinary and grievance hearings. It’s not an exaggeration to say that you’ll likely deal with a wide variety of tasks on a day-to-day basis. This can make HR a lively, yet fascinating field to work in, where no two days are entirely the same.

Of course, that doesn’t suit everyone. If you like the predictability and routine of roles where you’re just focused on performing one or two tasks,  the diversity of HR might not be for you. If you find that you get bored in a role quickly without variety in your tasks, HR can be a good option to choose.

That said, HR isn’t a completely unpredictable field to work in. It ultimately combines routine with diverse tasks, helping to give it structure whilst also remaining interesting at the same time. If you’re looking to build a long-term career in one field, having a job that interests you is essential. 

Another unique key selling point of HR is the fact that it’s an integral function in an organisation and you’ll be able to see the clear positive impact that your work can have in the workplace. With so many roles in the modern workplace siloed into specific specialisms and alienated from each other, it can often be hard to see the effect that our work has and how different areas link up to one another in the workplace. HR occupies a central role in a company, responsible for managing all of the aspects of an organisation’s most important resource – its people. You’ll interact with every department in your workplace and help to implement a people strategy across the entire organisation.

This can help to give you a sense of real fulfillment when it comes to your job – a rare quality that isn’t easy to find in many careers.

A HR professional looking out into the distance

What does HR actually do?

If you’ve ever worked in an office environment before, you’ll probably have a vague idea of what HR does – but does it actually match up to the role in reality?

You can tell from the name of the department – Human Resources – that HR is focused on the ‘people’ element of an organisation. This short name hides just how wide-ranging the field can be, touching nearly every aspect of an organisation and the management of its people. The department is absolutely crucial to the successful operation of a company. After all, without its people, an organisation is just an empty office or warehouse and a collection of equipment.

The Human Resources Department is responsible for dealing with all aspects of employees in an organisation. This is a huge task, dealing with a variety of different, complex areas. The most common include:

  •     Recruitment and onboarding
  •     Retention and redundancy
  •     Disciplinary and grievance proceedings
  •     Organisational culture
  •     Employee benefits and remuneration
  •     Employee relations
  •     Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI)
  •     Employee training and skills development (technically this is an L&D specialism, but there’s often significant overlap between HR and L&D roles)

As you can see, there’s an awful lot there for HR professionals to get their teeth into. As a result of HR being such a wide field, the field has a number of different types of roles. These are generally divided into two types:

  •     HR Generalists: A type of role that covers most aspects of HR in an organisation
  •     HR Specialists: Roles that focus on one particular area of HR, or one particular

HR Generalists are the ‘all-rounders’ of the Human Resources field. Their broad skill set means that they can perform most tasks that need to be carried out in a Human Resources department. One of the most in-demand types of HR roles, HR Generalists are widely sought after by employers, meaning that positions are relatively plentiful and well-paid. According to the CIPD, the leading professional membership association for the Human Resources and Learning & Development fields, the main aim of HR Generalists is to create and deliver people strategies that help organisations meet their goals.’

In contrast, HR Specialists focus their skills on one specific area of HR. They are considered experts in their specific field, whether it’s a topic like diversity, equality and inclusion, or employment law.  Whilst opportunities in specific HR fields are often harder to come by, they can be particularly fulfilling and rewarding – salaries are often particularly attractive and benefits can be impressive. Being a specialist in a particular field can give you a real sense of fulfillment and accomplishment too. Specialising early on in your career can be riskier in the short-term, but in the long-term can potentially open up more opportunities for you.

Two HR professionals looking at the camera

Is a career in HR right for me?

Only you can truly answer the question of whether a career in HR will be the right thing for you. Other people might be able to give you tips and advice but ultimately, the decision comes down to yourself.

To work in HR and enjoy it, you’ll probably need to have a number of specific personality traits:

  •     You’re good at multitasking: HR roles can call for you to juggle multiple, different tasks at the same time.
  •     You’re resilient: You’ll sometimes be dealing with emotionally-charged issues like grievances which can take a toll on your mental health if you’re not prepared
  •     You enjoy interacting with people: HR is a role devoted to people. In fact, it’s often called the ‘People Profession’. To build a successful HR career, you’ll need to enjoy talking and interacting with people from all backgrounds.
  •     You’re professional: HR deals with many confidential and sensitive issues. You’ll need to be able to maintain a strong sense of professionalism and ethics constantly.
  •     You’re a good communicator: Sometimes, HR will need to communicate important information to employees, so having good written and oral communication skills is very important.

How to find an HR career that suits you

If you’ve read the above and you’re inspired to develop a career in HR, the next step is to actually work out where you would like to work in the area. As you can see so far, HR is a wide-ranging field and there are lots of different areas you could work in. Trying to find answers to some of the questions below can help you to discover the direction you want to go in.

1.   Find what fascinates you

As professionals, we’ll find that we’re drawn to particular areas and subjects in our work more than other ones. In HR, there are a lot (and we mean a lot) of different areas that you could potentially build a career in. You could even build a career from not specialising in any particular area at all. Finding the unique thing (or things) that fascinate you about a career in HR before getting into the industry can help you to better plan your development and journey. Ultimately, this can help you make better, more informed choices about your career progression and save you time, money and effort in the process.

Find what you’re passionate about. What is the specific thing that made you interested in exploring a potential career in HR? Was it the idea of doing a specific task that you’re passionate about, like improving diversity, equity and inclusion? Or was it exploring intricate areas of employment law in more detail? Perhaps you were drawn to HR by the idea of helping people fulfill their full potential through recruitment and training? Whatever the area, finding the thing that fascinates you about HR will help you to gather your thoughts about where your new career could potentially lead to, giving you an ambition to work towards.

A HR professional using a mobile phone and laughing

2.   Explore what you’re good at

Everybody has those things that they have a unique knack for. Maybe you have an intimate understanding of spreadsheets and actually enjoy creating formulae? Perhaps you’re a gifted communicator and are able to influence people? You might even find that writing reports about subjects comes really naturally to you. Whatever it is, exploring the talent you have in a particular area, and seeing how it fits into HR can help you find a place for your potential new career. Usually the place where your interests and what you’re actually good at align is the area that you end up pursuing as a career choice.

Of course, if you’re really interested in a topic area but you don’t have a particular skill in it just yet that’s fine. Most skills can be taught, and experience can be gained through practice.

3.   Research. Research. Research.

Information is one of the most crucial tools that you have at your disposal when it comes to developing your career in Human Resources. When you’re at the very initial stages of planning your job progression, it makes sense to gather as much information as you can about the field, roles, responsibilities and salaries before you make any firm decisions. After all, if you were about to buy something expensive like a car, you’d probably go through a long process of researching possible models, their pros and cons and potential costs before you charged ahead and bought something blindly. The same idea holds true when making decisions about your career. Do your research ahead of time, slow down and think carefully.

In terms of resources to consult, the CIPD website is perfect for giving you an overview of the field and the types of roles available. Industry publications like HR Magazine, People Management and Personnel Today are useful for finding out about the latest news and developments in the Human Resources world too.

Conclusion: Think. Think. Think some more.

If you take anything from this section, it should be the need to think carefully before you make any serious, long-term decisions. Choosing and pursuing a career is one of the biggest decisions you can make in  your life. It makes sense to treat it with the consideration that it deserves. You’re the only person who can really say whether a career in HR is right for you, so it’s down to you to do the work to find out if you’re suited to it.

Use these questions below to guide your exploration of whether a career in HR is right for you:

  1. What am I interested in specifically in HR?
  2. What do I enjoy doing?
  3. What am I good at?
  4. Is my personality suited to working in HR?
  5. Do I want to be an HR Generalist or a HR Specialist?

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