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Career advice!

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Quintuple, May 21, 2011.

  1. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    A'igh't. I've read and received the absolute best advice (personal, professional, practical) here on FSU because so many of you have such a range of experience and intelligence. So of course I have to run all this by you.

    I've been a temp in HR Records for about 7 months at the corporate headquarters of an upscale retailer. I started out doing regular admin stuff, then started taking on projects in work authorization compliancy, HR information systems, and benefits. I managed the unemployment program for store and corporate associates, managers, and distribution and call centers for a while. This is not in the same department of direct HR rep contact for employee issues, but more like the data center backbone, tied to benefits and compensation. I like the peers and managers I've worked with in all the sub-departments, and as mentioned above, they've already given me projects to lead. At this point, I'm looking at permanent positions.

    My direct manager spoke with me this week to say that she's created the new position of Leave of Absence coordinator. Previously, it was split amongst three people and handled completely internally, but this new position is would be singular, as we are going to begin managing leaves with an insurance company. This would be very similar to the unemployment program I managed, but it would be starting from scratch, defining the role, and documenting processes.

    But there's another position open for which the HRIS manager is heavily encouraging me to apply. It's in the field of ensuring employee data integrity, reporting, testing systems, and improving processes and efficiency for all things employee data related. It involves report and databasing software that I've only used as a "reader", but not as a "writer". It also involves strict morning reporting deadlines and some off-hour system testing work. I feel that I'm not at all qualified, that I'd have to be trained in the systems by people who have no time for training (including someone who applied for the job), and that I need more time to understand our particular business systems and business practices in general (both numbers-wise and best practices -wise). But both a project manager and the HRIS manager hinted that they really intend for me to fill the role because of what they've seen from me so far. I was even honest during chat sessions about my limited software experience (of course I'm quick to learn), but they still seem to be pushing heavily for me.

    The thing is, I have no HR or technical background whatsoever, at least formally. Yes, I've been able to pick up everything they've given me across departments thus far, but I really get the impression that the second job is meant to be started right away by an experienced "technical" mind with little or no training. The first job is definitely within my comfort zone in terms of what I've done so far with the company, and my relationships with employees and managers.

    Another wrench: I have a friend in a completely different department, different building across the city, more in the creative product development side. She started out in Product Information and is now in sourcing. Her first job has opened up, and having known me for years, she feels this would be a best fit for my experience and personality. She says that one would get to know the entirety of the actual product side of the company (something we in HR are not exposed to much), which of course I'm really into. I actually have an extensive publishing background, and even some experience in merchandising, buying, design, and sales for an independent fashion and accessories designer. This one seems way more up my alley, and my friend says that the fellow workers are amazing, like her family, very supportive, and after a while in that job, she was actively recruited by many other departments, not to mention that her manager was the best she's ever had.

    Problems: Job #1 is "more of the same", and is on the level of the entire department, which is limited in terms of salary and upward trajectory. Sure, I was good at it, but does doing this work set me up well for the future in this company? It pays a modest amount (i.e. like an admin job), which is not great in the area I live in. But the manager is basically saying, "You've got the job, it's just a formality that I have to post it."

    Job #2 is the scariest and the most foreign to me. I can't even really describe it effectively. The hard deadlines and the pressure to be accountable to many upper managers scare me because I'm inexperienced, and I'm the type to get way too perfectionistic about data and processes, even sacrificing timeliness. I almost fear that I would crash and burn in this job, but for some reason two managers are communicating subtly that I'd be their candidate over two other people (that I sit next to!) with more experience in the company and with the systems. This one pays much more than the other two, I think. But it was "scaled down" from an eliminated position where the previous person might have been "too expensive" or not a good match qualifications-wise.

    Job #3: Sounds perfect, right? Problem: It's not permanent, will not be benefitted. I have more than just a passing need for benefits, and of course "total compensation" is much more important than salary. It also pays the least, dollar-wise. But it sounds like it has the most potential for growth in many other departments, is much more up my alley in terms of talent and interest. They say this temp position is intended to become full time, but there's no calendar on that. I also have no clue as to how salaries progress in this department, and of course it would be changing who I'm surrounded by entirely. I would hope that I'm not stepping on any toes or hurting anyone by switching departments - one side of me says that, hello, I've been a temp for a few months, of course I can explore; the other says that the first two managers are kinda strongly communicating that they want me to stay in the department and ... really want me to stay. The manager for Job #3 has even said, after speaking to my friend, "Sounds perfect! I won't even post the job yet! Have him write to me!"

    OK, advice I've gotten so far:

    - Friend who does nebulous-information-systems stuff says to go for job #2 because it's the most challenging, I'll learn the most, and it's the most lucrative.

    - Therapist (of course!) says go for job #3 because in the end the other two might make me miserable since they're not where my interests lie.

    - Friend who's a designer, teacher, and knows the creative corporate world very well says to go for job #1 and not even bother applying for job #3 because I'd be shooting myself in the foot.

    - Friend who's an ultra-corporate-climber says go for job #2 because it's the most challenging and lucrative, but maybe #1 because I still have to establish my reputation as a full timer and I've already shown I can do it, and don't even bother with #3 because it's career suicide to jump departments from managers who really want and know you and that it'd be starting all over again.

    I guess you can fill in all the blanks about what you know about companies, manager intent, compensation departments, and negotiating within a company. Everyone agrees that if #3 started as a full time job, it would be absolutely the best bet, but this is a deal breaker. I'm most drawn to #3, but I really don't want to screw myself in the company, have them never convert me to full time, and potentially throw my current good name away.

    I tend not to operate or believe in the corporate-game model. I'm actually really honest and straightforward in interviews, and don't keep any cards close. So far, I've found that has gone appreciated and valued, but I can definitely see how that might set up a pattern of always getting the lowest offer and taking the most work.

    I have an outline for a plan for now - tell me what you think:
    - Apply formally for both job #1 and #2. There's no political backlash in that because we're really the same department and both managers are aware that I'm interested in both and that each-other is interested in me. Of course, there's a potential that I might raise the ire of two other co-workers if I get #2, but I'm not counting my chickens before they're hatched.
    - Send in my resume and a "loose" letter to manager #3, but make it clear that I'd like to just chat for more information about the position first. Once I find out more, mention that I'm also looking into other positions in my current department.
    - If I do end up getting any offers or more than one (and hopefully at the same time!), be honest with manager #3 that I'd really prefer that position, but the offer doesn't quite compare to the others. That might be dangerous because it could be a concrete temp position with no room for negotiation (apparently, the previous temp is going to be filling the exact same job, but permanent), but it doesn't hurt to mention it, and I can always decide to take an offer anyway even if it's disadvantageous.

    Of course, all of the above with the mention that I'm definitely at a point in my life where I'd like to be a grown-up with a work-life balance and a cottage and a kitty and a garden and time and money to travel, blah blah blah. So:

    #1 - Not enough compensation to afford me luxuries, but benefits. More status quo with an upgrade.
    #2 - More than I've ever made, but probably the least work/life balance, most craziness.
    #3 - Least compensation, no benefits, but most work/life balance, more interesting work and networking possibilities.

    Now, I would not be saying all of the above without even having applied first if all three managers didn't seem to be communicating that they want me in their positions ...

    AAAAACK! Thoughts? Suggestions? Chuck it all and become a zamboni driver, right?
  2. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    Quintuple...I would love to help you, but I can't somehow face reading such a long message without being paid.

    Maybe your situation would be helped by editing your message. Reduce it to its essentials. Maybe then it would shed more light on things for you as well as for readers of it.

    Either way-I hope all will go well for you. And best wishes!
    Integrity and (deleted member) like this.
  3. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    I didn't find it hard to read Quintuple, but I don't know what to tell you.

    Given that work/life balance and a decent salary are important to you, you might evaluate where each job could potentially lead you to in five years time. If the 3rd job is the most interesting but might not become full-time, how hard will it be for you to find another job that pays better and still allows you to pursue what interests you? If you succeed in Job# 2, will it open doors for you? What are advancement possibilities of Job #1 - could you lead to somewhere more interesting?

    It looks to me like it comes down to short- and long-term priorities and only you know how to weigh them in making your decision. Good luck with it!!
  4. Bostonfan

    Bostonfan Well-Known Member

    I can't help thinking that the concerns you have about job #2 are temporary. I had a similar entry into HR where I came in at a time when they converted to an HRIS database (this was eons ago), and I had no background in it. But I was smart, computer literate, and a quick learner. I was freaked out about jumping into a job that I had little training on, but those feelings went away within a month as I quickly caught on to the job as I was doing it.

    The other thing is that opportunities will pop up in the future with this company. I agree with whomever advised you that jumping departments might close an avenue with the current department that you're working in. Given the lack of permanence of job #3, I'd stay put for now, and gain as much experience and tenure in that department as possible.

    I also think you don't have enough information at this point. #2 job scares you. So be honest in the interview about your concerns. There may be factors you're not considering when it comes to getting acclimated to that job that they'll provide to you if selected.

    I'd advise applying for jobs #1 and #2, get as much information as you can and then make the decision that feels right to you. #3 will be there again in the future (or even something better).

    JMHO. Good luck
  5. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    Are you under 40? If so, I'd recommend the scary one. Make a plan with yourself that you'll devote 6 months to doing whatever it takes to get up to speed and be successful, then work with the boss to make sure you've got the proper work/life balance planned in. While there will be extra hours involved up front and when they're doing software upgrades, there will be long stretches when things are running smoothly, your schedule will be predictable, and you can spend your time thinking about improvements.

    To set yourself up for success, make your training needs clear up front. Get a schedule of training seminars from the vendor. Most vendors offer a course for HRIS system admins and that's the one you'll need. Make nice with the systems folks who are responsible for the system and see if you can shadow them to help you learn by overhearing. Systems people tend to be very helpful if you can 1) fit into their schedule, and 2) bring food to any meetings. Learn the upgrade schedule, when requests for enhancements need to be submitted and in what format, and how they handle systems problems.

    The reason I recommend #2 is marketability. There are lots of HR people, fewer HRIS people, and fewer still who can work effectively with systems people to make HRIS systems work better.

    Good luck, seems you've got some good choices.
  6. Cherub721

    Cherub721 YEAH!

    I really like this plan. You see no issue in applying for both #1 and 2 and you're not being disingenuous with #3 because you truly do need a lot more information about them, including what kind of upward mobility is available within the company and what exactly your duties would be. Who knows, if they like you, they could decide to make that a permanent offer. If they don't do that, then I'd go with a permanent job at your current company, because what you are looking for is stability.

    I think #2 sounds best overall, although I totally understand your concerns about work-life balance. #1 may have challenges you didn't foresee, since it will involve basically designing the position and, it sounds like, outlining new policies. I could see that adding up to extra hours too. It seems like with #2, it's a pretty straightforward job, and once you learn it, it should go relatively smoothly. The fact that your managers are pushing you towards the job means they think it is well within your abilities, so don't sell yourself short.
  7. Louis

    Louis Well-Known Member

    What Aceon6 said.

    HRIS is a good area to be in. To my knowledge, there is not a lot of formal educational training in this area, so I wouldn't worry too much about your lack of previous experience. Success or failure in this position is probably based more on general leadership / personality traits than on a specific skill set acquired through formal training. My guess is that your managers see some of these "soft" skills in you that they don't see in your coworkers who have more technical knowledge.

    See what you can find out now about opportunities to ramp-up your skills (preferably free or low cost), and go to the interview prepared with a plan of action in case you are offered the position.
  8. sk9tingfan

    sk9tingfan Well-Known Member

    Just a note of congratulations. This choice is a great problem to have! :D
  9. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    Hmmmmmm. Thanks, everyone. Sorry if I'm my usual long-winded self.

    I think I'm going to stick to my plan outlined and still get more information about each of the three jobs. If I happen to get #2 and actually feel like I can do the job without setting myself up for failure, I agree that it sounds like it has the most valuable skill set development, and I'll become somewhat of an indisposable part of the company. #1 would make everyone happy, but it is sort of "settling". And you're right, #3 might be offered again in the future, in a better situation (that particular brand is facing the most budget pressure right now anyway), and it sounds like it doesn't necessarily require anything more than admin skills. Although I do want to know the creative branch of the company more and network with people I might like, #3 would give me the least future leverage, and #2 would give me the most. I just have to play it right.

    I mean, who knows, it may even end up that after all this I get offered only #1 or none at all, but I'll probably find out in a few short weeks! Thanks for your advice and well wishes. I should see it at three great opportunities rather than a burden of choice!
  10. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    From my own personal experience, I have found jobs that seem indimidating can sometimes be the best ones. Because even if you are in the deep end, you can surprise yourself with what you can accomplish and will probably thrive in that environment.
  11. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Keep us posted. please.
  12. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    An update for those who are interested: No friggin' updates.

    Job #3 was never posted, not even in its temp form. I spoke with the manager, who seemed fun and knowledgeable. He did understand my need for a permanent position and said, "No no, get yo' bennies." I still don't think he has someone in that non-existent position to this day.

    Job #2 didn't go to me, my more experienced co-worker, or the temp who was working the job. It went to an outside gal who actually turned out to be awesome, and I'm glad I don't have the job, because they overwork and underappreciate her (and underpay her! - it turned out to be just slightly above the regular HRIM job scale).

    Job #1, the job I've been doing for the past YEAR now (I had my one year anniversary as a TEMP): I applied in June right when it was posted, interviewed the next day. The two recruiters were terminated, I checked in with my manager in August, she did that horrendous thing with her hand over my face, "Shh shh shh, BE PATIENT." And still nothing. I've since taken on the major project (administered program set-up and documentation with the vendor starting in July, with a go-live in early September).

    Right now I'm the only one in a company of 20,000+ active employees administering leaves of absence (and all the benefits, payroll, and HR performance management that goes along with it) and Workers' Comp requests. This is down from 3 people who were doing it with all the info and systems consolidated; whereas now the vendor has more added work to our plate rather than taken it away.

    So, about 50% of the regular HR field has quit, and only a few of those positions have been filled. In my immediate group, the guy who's been the unofficial historian of benefits and systems for 11 years quit for a better job after weeks of uttering, "I'm gonna jump out a window," his psycho benefits friend took off one day after a bad audit and hasn't been back since (yet her position is still hers!), MY BOSS left one night and never came back and is still on the books, and 2 of my immediate co-workers have found other jobs. So they've hired 3 temps that I'm training while I have to do my regular work, and they're being paid the same as me.


    (In the meantime, I applied for job #4 with the company; a creative job that would be right up my alley. Turns out they never hired for it.)

    Today, I finally had a meeting with the person who now controls my destiny - the big VP over all our small groups. I updated my resume, brought my original letter and application, wrote a job description for the position I've filled for the past 4 months, and went through the platitudes of saying that I love working with the team, am happy to take on a variety of tasks, am dutifully working through the program transition with the vendor and appreciate all our business partners, etc. Everyone in the office sent me off to this meeting with big wide grins and demands for me to update them, and to choose a place to celebrate, etc.

    I came out of the meeting with the following message: "Sometimes we don't know things, and it's hard. As is life. I am trying to open a position. I hope you're interested and apply. Yes, apply as usual through the internet with recruiters. When it's posted. When it exists. Because it doesn't yet."

    So of course I'm sending out applications starting tonight. And I'm going to the sample sale for holiday presents, and I might utilize that weird health savings account they're mandated to hold for me since I have no benefits to get laser eyes. But I feel no qualms about getting another job and quitting with no notice. They're not allowed to give recommendations anyway.

    Yes, I understand that times are tough and I should be grateful to have the job that I do. But this is disrespectful of my time, contributions, and expertise. I'm so bad at wielding what little power I have, and at this point, even if they were to offer me something, it's already too late - I'm pretty embittered. Feeling like a doormat isn't the best morale booster for your employees, ya know? I'm going to focus on finding another less ridiculous company to work for, and the only way I'd take a counter-offer would be if it were a significantly better offer that's back-dated. Harrrrrumph.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2011
  13. KHenry14

    KHenry14 Well-Known Member

    Clearly they are doing all this to you because they are saving money by doing it. If they can get a good temp worker to work on the cheap and without benefits, they save money. They run the risk of you walking of course, but they are willing to run that risk. And this scenario is all to commonplace. So you are doing the right thing by looking elsewhere. Because, guess what, those positions will never open up.

    BTW, a single person handling LOA for 20K employees is crazy. The good news is that people with LOA experience is a marketable skill if you want to pursue that.
  14. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    Hopefully some of your co-workers are willing to give you references - at least the ones who have moved on? That whole situation sucks, but at least you did get valuable experience (good as well as bad) out of it.
  15. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

    Well, it got worse. 14 jobs in 3 departments (including mine - we're small groups that work very closely with each other) were eliminated/moved half way across the country. They say it's a time zone preference, but it's totally so they can pay 1/3 of the salary to people in a less metropolitan area. Ironically, I'm not on the block, because I technically don't even have a position. The whole presentation of the announcement was pure unbearable b.s.