Finding a Job in HR: Utilizing Experts

As someone who focuses on helping those in the Human Resources profession find jobs, I spend a great amount of my time speaking to candidates. Whether in person or through my blog, I emphasize to job seekers all the different strategies and tactics they should take into consideration or apply in order to increase their chances of career success. I base it on research, as well as my personal experience as a HR/Recruiting professional.

I’m also a job seeker as well. Even though I’m actively consulting, I’m always on the lookout for the right corporate opportunities. My philosophy is work with, not work for, meaning the reputation of the people with whom I conduct business with matter as much as, if not more so, than those of the overall organization. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t organizations out there that don’t align with that philosophy and I would wish to work with.

The point I’m making is that even when you’ve secured work, you should never stop actively positioning yourself for the next great HR job opportunity. Continue to review your core competencies, define your value proposition and professional belief system, and build relationships that matter. Much like top athletes continue to build and improve upon their core strengths in order to remain competitive, job seekers should do much the same in terms of their employment fitness.


Speaking of top athletes, one of the ways in which they strive to be better is by utilizing the expertise of others. Coaches, personal trainers, and other specialists serve to enhance an athlete’s skill sets. They do this in several ways, for example by:

  • providing specialized services which can serve to raise a person’s performance levels. For example, a sports nutritionist is a person who’s focused on diet; using their advanced food and drink knowledge as a way to provide an athlete with a competitive advantage.
  • being able to identify and address barriers to success that the athlete may not be aware of. In baseball, a pitching coach helps pitchers maintain proper form. They do this by spotting inconsistencies in their mechanics, or working with them to ensure the correct pitching form is consistently maintained. 
  • providing incentives and motivation beyond what the athlete is able to do on their own. This can help a person push beyond their normal limitations, potentially raising their baseline performance levels.


For job seekers, having the right people in your corner gives you additional ways to be better. As with athletes, coaches can provide effective knowledge and tools to help you achieve career success by amplifying your strengths, minimizing weaknesses, and providing the motivation to perform at a high level.

Let’s explore several expert relationships a HR job seeker can utilize. They are mentors, a personal board of directors, and professional coaches.


Mentors are those that, whether formally or informally, provide professional guidance to those that are seeking it. In a business setting, mentorship programs often take the form of senior members working with less experienced ones. Depending on its nature, mentorship programs can confer several advantages to a person: opportunity for knowledge transfer; an insider’s perspective on how an organization runs, both formally and informally; as an aid to succession planning efforts; as a psychological support system.

For HR job seekers, mentors can help in much the same way as I described above. Professional organizations such as SHRM, ASTD, or CIPD have formal mentorship programs. Informally, you can look to your advocates or other associates for opportunities to create informal mentorships. Be sure to seek out and partner with those that want to actively help you toward your goals.


In October of 2010 Priscilla Clarman wrote a Harvard Business Review piece called, Forget Mentors: Employ a Personal Board of Directors. In it she talked about having not one, but several people provide career guidance made better sense in today’s rapidly changing business landscape.

“Just like any good board, the people you choose should have different contributions to make to your thinking. You might want to include your boss or a colleague you admire — or both. If you are a senior manager, consider search professionals, academics, or consultants with expertise in your specialty. The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view. Putting only buddies on your board won’t help you grow and develop.” ~Priscilla Clarman

While Priscilla makes the case for utilizing a PBoD instead of a mentor, I don’t believe you need to have either one over the other. It all depends on your needs in the moment.

I have a PBoD. It’s a informal network composed of myself and two other professionals. Both are located in the United States; one is a HR Director based in the South, the other is a Controller on the West Coast. The variety of their experiences and backgrounds helps to provide fresh and diverse perspectives, as well as a mutually beneficial support system. We’ve helped each other address organizational and personal concerns, in addition to providing a much needed laugh when going through challenging times!

Because multiple people are involved, a personal board of directors amplifies a HR job seeker’s ability to learn and grow as a professional. When constructed well, it can provide yet another resource to tap into.


Much like my sports metaphor, professional coaches are experts at what they do. Depending on the type of services offered, a professional coach can be highly specialized or provide general guidance and support. They can offer services to help you improve in specific business related performance measures, areas which may not fall neatly within a business context (e.g., life coach), or to tackle issues which prevent you from taking your talents to the next level (for example, utilizing a leadership coach in preparation for a move into higher levels of an organization). Depending on the individual, coaches can also provide insight into a particular industry or role.

Professional coaches can help job seekers by providing individualized expertise and services. As with any service provider, make sure that they’re capable of performing the services that they claim. Do your research, ask for references, and be clear on what services they will/will not provide, and at what cost.


Utilizing an expert or experts can help HR job seekers better navigate the job market. Whether a mentor, personal board of directors, or professional coach, having people in a position to help you with strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities can be invaluable.

As with anything related to your job search, it’s important to be discriminating. Look to partner with those that are able and willing to help you be better, not just be a cheerleader for you. Also, as with professional athletes, sometimes the work needed to be better at what you do isn’t fun. You benefit most by having people in your corner that provide honest (if not always nice) support and advice.

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