Traditionally, being employed full-time with a single organisation has provided the most job security. But HR professionals at all levels are showing a keener interest than ever before in contracting vacancies or moving into consulting, as they look for flexibility and career-enhancing roles.
Earlier this year, HRM asked if most workers would be contractors in the future. Research showed that “flexible opportunities, such as contractors and interim appointments, rose 25.8 per cent over the year and now make up well over a third of all roles in HR.”
But setting up on your own is not a decision to be taken lightly and requires forward planning, a well-established network of contacts and a professional pedigree now demanded by top-tier organisations.
So, what do people who have made that move, from full-time to consulting, think about their decision? What challenges did they face and how do they try and stand out in an increasingly crowded field?
Making the change
Chris Steinfort was warned against entering the crowded consultancy market, but after a long and successful career spanning private and public sectors, he was ready for something different and established his own business earlier this year. Steinfort, who is President of AHRI’s Victorian Council, also recognised the trend of organisations increasingly relying on a virtual warehouse of freelance talent.
“This is the way the world is going and I wanted to future-proof myself against that,” he says of his decision to leave Australian Red Cross, where he had been HR Director for eight years.
Traditionally, a permanent job within an organisation represented a low risk option, but in today’s market, argues Steinfort, if that company restructures, you might lose your job. In comparison, when you run your own business you can spread the risk by working for a number of clients.
“I thought this was a good time to run my own business as a long-term option. I am very interested in the changing nature of work, including through the impact of technology and the popularity of portfolio careers. I want to be an active participant in that change.”
To make a success of an independent consultancy you have to keep up-to-date with new HR tools and theories, and grow your network, says Steinfort.
“I don’t think an organisation owes you anything. So even when you work inside an organisation you need to develop yourself, you need to develop your own network … and not be dependent on anyone else to do that for you.”
However, he thinks the HR profession needs to catch up with others such as accountancy by embracing industry accreditation. He is keen to put his AHRI certification on his business cards and website because “it validates my skill set”.
“Being a member of AHRI is about being part of a profession,” he says. “I feel belonging and commitment.”
(Take your HR career to the next level with the AHRI Practising Certification Program. Enrolments for the October intake (APC unit 1, distance learning) close on 22 September 2017.)
Managing Director of Kapability Solutions and 2015 AHRI Medal winner, Dr Kim Schofield, agrees. A former senior HR executive in the private and public sector, Dr Schofield says one of the biggest differences between working for someone else and working on your own in consulting is having to market yourself.
“There is a lot of corporate downsizing at the moment so there are a lot of HR people setting up on their own. AHRI certification gives you a point of difference … it demonstrates you have a range of HR knowledge and experience and know how to use it.”
This is an extract of a longer story that appearing in HRM magazine this October.