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Not everyone wants a promotion

As an HR recruiter, when discussing career aspirations, I always find it interesting when (senior) people say that they don’t want to be an HR Director. They have the experience, and they have the personality, but they simply don’t want the “big” job. Actually, given the infinite capacity of humans to develop themselves, there are plenty of other big jobs in HR. It all depends on what you make of them.

I was chatting with a “rock star” learning and development executive the other day. He has been implementing a huge change programme in a large organisation for the past couple of years, and in 2017 he may be looking for a new challenge. He had been an HR Director in a smaller company in a previous role, but he was adamant that he wanted to stay in L&D until the end of his career. I sat listening to this incredibly experienced and passionate individual, and a long-held belief of mine was strongly reinforced:

Content is king, we go to work for the job, not the title.

If someone believes that their unique skillset might be diluted by taking on different responsibilities, it cannot be said that they have plateaued – they are simply expanding their field of play (that actually has no boundaries). Being honest with yourself and deciding that you want to take an inch wide, mile deep approach is increasingly the way forward across all sorts of industries.

I am also a big believer in that you are only truly content when you are doing “your thing” at work. For example, not everyone wants to deal with the administrative (often disguised as strategic) obstacles that an HR Director role can throw at you, draining their energy and taking them one step away from their people. Others thrive on this, but find the more creative parts of HR a challenge. Many will be happy to work on areas where they are less naturally strong, but others will prefer to focus purely on their strengths. You can’t be good at everything, and there certainly will be aspects of any role that you can do without.

Just because you don’t want to be an HR Director doesn’t mean that you lack ambition. People go into HR to touch the lives of others, and if your gifts are such that you can touch others in a more effective way in specialist role, then you have every chance of making yourself indispensable to your fellow colleagues. In a world where the gig economy is increasingly focussing people on a particular area of expertise, this specialisation is something that every middle manager should be looking to attain. If learning and development is your thing, then immerse yourself in it. You and your company will be better for it.

To me, not wanting a promotion (for the right reasons) is often the sign of a candidate that fully understands the value that they bring to the table. They are confident enough that there will be a demand for their skills for the rest of their career.

Not everyone wants a promotion. Some people are exactly where they want to be.

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