Why We Get Into Hr Essay

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First Person BY MATTHEW D. BREITFELDER AND DAISY WADEMAN DOWLING Why Did We Ever Go Into HR? Two recent Harvard MBAs who chose human resources as a career explain why it’s the next big thing. on a career path that others don’t quite understand. When we chat about our jobs with Harvard Business School classmates, six years after graduation, they often smile bemusedly and nearly always ask the same question: “You’re doing what?” Both of us are in the field of human capital management, helping major companies select, retain, and groom their cadre of rising stars. Translation: We work in HR. WE HAVE EMBARKED A career in human resources isn’t the typical destination of a Harvard MBA. We’re supposed to be employed as strategy consultants or investment bankers or, in the true spirit of the degree, general managers. We once had jobs like those, but we don’t now, and we know what our classmates are thinking: “It’s a work/life balance thing.” “They don’t have the stomach for ‘real’ business.” “If you can’t do, teach.” And, of course, our favorite: “If they’re so interested in helping people, why don’t they just go into social work?” Well, the answer is simple – and we relish providing it. HR today sits smack-dab in the middle of the most compelling competitive battleground in business, where companies Peter Murphy hbr.org | July–August 2008 | Harvard Business Review 39 First Person Why Did We Ever Go Into HR? deploy and fight over that most valuable of resources – workforce talent. Don’t laugh. We share your healthy skepticism. We, too, have become a bit cynical hearing companies grandly proclaim, “People are our greatest asset!” only to watch most of them show little true commitment to developing and leveraging those people’s abilities. We are also aware of the less-than-flattering stereotypes of HR professionals – you know,

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