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The perspective that I’m going to share with you is for people like myself who typically work in larger organizations as part of a HR team, strategies for sole operator HR practitioners may be quite different – indeed I expect they will be. So most of the posts on this topic will talk about networking, sitting various HR qualifications, gaining relevant degrees etc to pull you up that income ladder. I won’t be talking about any of that, I don’t network, I don’t believe in certificates, and while I would be interested in pursuing another masters degree its again not something I’m going to tell you you need to do. The one thing that has guided me to have I think what many would view as a very successful early career is that I don’t do what others do, indeed one of my guiding catchphrases is ‘If everyone is running one way, run the other, you’re more likely to succeed’. And I’ve alluded to this in earlier posts, some may question the wisdom of studying gender studies at university and being the only male in the class – I on the other hand question the wisdom of studying something like management in a class of 400 students (in a university where 400 students is a very large class). So the things I do to earn more in HR aren’t actually about HR, the skills I look to improve on are so I can do better and different from my peers – the best kind of race for your career is a one horse race (you just need to make sure you are that horse).

So look around your HR team, and reflect on what attributes or abilities you admire of your teammates, then find the gap. Finding the gap is everything, because while they’re your teammates they’re also your competition for the next promotion or pay rise. In every team you will have go to people for specific HR roles or projects, say for example ‘Mary’ is amazing at change management, why would you waste your time getting better at change management when you know that whenever a change management project comes up ‘Mary’ is going to be picked (of course as an HR practitioner you still need to have and maintain a good level of knowledge around a number of HR areas). You can’t wait for opportunities you need to make them. And in truth often the things that will get you that promotion, pay rise or respect, aren’t HR knowledge’s. Microsoft Excel for example, knowing how to use this software has gotten me so many jobs and opportunities within HR, about seven years ago I bought a book on Excel and that $70 investment has made me hundreds of thousands of dollars since then. Indeed today don’t even buy a book, just get on Youtube, and as an added bonus here’s your first tutorial on Excel for HR:

Another skill I picked up in an HR role was video editing (please note I have improved quite a bit since my Excel video above), while I’m not expecting a call from Peter Jackson anytime soon, within an HR environment this skill has earned me tens of thousands of dollars in the past twelve months or so. Now to be fair I’ve only used my video editing skills in one HR role, however it took me 30 minutes to figure out the fundamentals of the editing software and as I said above its about making opportunities. I don’t know if this particular skill is one I will use in future HR roles, but for the time I invested in learning that new skill, its paid handsomely – and most importantly it created difference between my colleagues and myself in terms of skill sets. Indeed so much of the work of HR is done on a computer screen, yet traditionally HR people don’t place any focus on getting better with the tools right in front of them.

I won’t go on because I don’t want the message to get lost. My advice is simply this, consider picking up a new skill that will help differentiate you amongst your HR colleagues, think about what IT skills you might be able to add to your skill portfolio, or can you improve your writing skills with some after hours creative writing or blog style writing etc. And once you’ve picked up another skill, don’t stop there, pick another one up, and another…and I think you know where this is going right.

Brendan Lys
By Brendan Lys

Operating at the intersection of Human Resources and Data Science, I leverage extensive specialist experience within Human Resources, with the methodologies and approaches of Data Science. This focus on the discovery of actionable insights from data, has been applied to areas such as: remuneration & benefits, workforce planning, recruitment, health & safety, diversity, and training. But what does the application of data science to HR challenges and opportunities actually look like. Within an HR framework the data we work with typically comes directly from our HRMIS, an advantage of using data science methodologies is that we can bring in additional data either held within the organization or from external sources - data which is out of reach from a pure HR analytics approach. Consider for example position descriptions, these contain a wealth of data that we typically ignore as its not in a analysis ready format. A side project I'm working on currently (April 2019) is using text mining on job descriptions to provide insights into which job family the position may fit into. The insights of my work have been enjoyed by organizations across a diversity of sectors including: Government (Australia and New Zealand), ASX and NZX listed companies, utilities, not for profit and higher education.