Career Advice - Underemployed

I have been in the HR field for six years, after transitioning from another field (software engineering). I passed the PHR exam in January 2012. I have not worked above the level of HR Administrator, but in the exempt-level HR Administrator position that I held for two years, the job was what I would describe as mini-generalist. I am now working as an HR Assistant, a position I moved into a few months ago to get back into a more well-rounded HR role after working with training programs for two years. I find that I am under-challenged and basically treated as a secretary and I regret taking this job. My original plan was to stick this out knowing that there is someone else in the office who plans to leave in about two years so I should eventually be able to advance. The problem is that, at the moment, two years seems like a long time and I don't know that I can wait it out. I would appreciate advice regarding how to gain employment as a Generalist having never held the title - it doesn't seem to be easy to do. (I am fifty years old, by the way). Thank you for your ideas!


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  • First, Congratulations on passing the PHR!  That test is not easy and I should know - I took it twice.  Also, Happy Birthday, I just turned 50 this year myself.  Hopefully you will be getting feedback from others on this forum (SHRM's forum is good also) because the more input you get is probably a good thing because no one has all the answers.  That being said, I would absolutely do the following, Network, Network, Network.  The more folks you meet and communicate with in regard to what you are looking for the more you increase your chances of finding a HR job opportunity.  I would not wait in the hopes of someone leaving at your current employer.  It is more than appropriate to put together a great resume and start sending it out to those job openings that meet your career needs.

    Also, I would recommend putting an job search plan and start working it.  Fortunately, you have a HR position now and that will of course help you in trying to find another more challenging HR career.  As you know, there are a number of books that have been written (and will be written) on how to go about conducting a job search.  I would recommend searching Amazon, BLR, and SHRM to find a book that you think will help you in creating your search plan.  This book(s) will provide invaluable insight, suggestions, resources/tools, etc. to help you in your search.  Beyond this, it's key to keep a positive attitude and understand that no one owes you anything.  In my HR career, I have met more than a few job candidates (and employers) that do not understand that the employee and employer relationship is very much a 2-way street. 

    You will succeed if you believe in yourself and maintain a proactive, persistent approach.  From personal experience, when you run into problems that stymie you, reach out to family, friends, professionals, etc. to help you in those areas that you need help in.  No one is perfect and I know there are lots of good HR people out there who are in this profession for the right reasons and want to help people advance in this field.  I hope I have helped and if you ever have other questions or need additional advice don't hesitate to contact me at  I wish you well!

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