Jun 6, 2007

Life after head of HR



If one becomes a head of HR in 20 years (I know of people who are achieving that milestone in 8-10 years !) what does one do after that, asks Prasad.

We have seen 'solutions' found by particular individuals. They include, inter alia, moving into larger firms, moving into regional/global roles, starting one's own firm, HR consulting, becoming an OD/Leadership Development specialist and branching into a totally different fields. Some people also become CEOs/Heads of other functions, though they constitute only a very small percentage of the population that we are talking about. Of course, there is always the possibility of 'retirement on the job' where one stagnates, disengages and still continues on the job. If we look at solutions 'within the organizations' (like moving into larger firms, moving into regional/global roles etc.), it would be interesting to examine if they really solve the problem (by providing positions of increasing responsibility/complexity/contribution) as compared to merely changing the context (by providing a different sort of mandate/experience). Some combinations of the above solutions/options might lead to something very similar to 'portfolio living' that Charles Handy talks about. We also need to differentiate between the solution(s) found by a particular individual (or individuals) and the career options available to bulk of the population that we are talking about. So where does this leave our senior HR professional. In some cases this could lead to some sort of a 'career crisis'. It is interesting to note that this career crisis might also coincide with a larger midlife crisis which brings in additional dimensions.

What do you think? I like the concept of portfolio living....

In 1981 British oil executive Handy quit his job to "go portfolio," a term he coined for what he believed would be the trend for many workers going into the twenty-first century, that of being self-employed, part-time, or temps of one sort or another, with a portfolio of many skills and a collection of clients needed to make a living. This is the flea that flits about between the elephant of large organizations, landing here and there but never desiring to become attached to any of them. In a combination of memoir and essay celebrating the independent life, in a love-hate relationship with government and big business, Handy waxes on the wealth disparity created by capitalism, the superficiality of the so-called new economy, and the balance of freedom and loneliness that comes with living the portfolio life. This is not another "how to start your own business" book, but rather one man's struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in work, latching onto elephants when needed, but mostly flying solo without a net.

David Siegfried