HR=Humans Represent: A Future-Proof Career Field?

Having focused on recruitment for the past 5 ½ years and meeting a lot of job seekers – I didn’t figure there was much that a job seeker could say to me that would surprise me any longer – I thought I had pretty much heard it all. With all the goofy things people say, it get you to thinking – maybe there’s a reason they don’t have a job, how will they land a job, how do they function in every-day life, etc. You ponder this briefly and move on.

Six months ago, I was at a job fair recruiting for talent. This time around, what one job seeker said to me STILL has me thinking. I’m at the event, recruiting for a variety of positions – IT, engineering, administrative. As I am talking with a woman, she tells me that she has twelve years of IT experience, and is familiar with Oracle development and testing – I’m thinking great – we’re looking for that! Then, she tells me “but I don’t want to do IT”. Her reason? You have to keep learning, and subscribing to IT magazines and reading articles because the field changes.

I’m thinking to myself – huh? What?! Maybe you agree with my reaction, or maybe you don’t. Whichever may be the case, let me explain why six months later I remember this woman and her statement. Although we may not work in the same field – her in IT and me in HR – our jobs are similar. IT requires staying abreast in what’s new. Technology is always changing. So does HR – laws are always changing, and HR methods do as well. How could I as a recruiter effectively do my job if I was still only placing ads in the newspaper?

Don’t most careers require individuals to stay current in their field? What type of career field could one simply apply for a position and never learn another thing? How would you even keep your job over the years, much less move up the career ladder?

Six months later, I wonder if that woman found that job she was searching for. I’m not sure it truly exists. I wish her all the luck in the world finding a career field that is future-proof!

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Andrew Krzmarzick

What a terrific question and blog post, Tricia!

I guess repetitive tasks – factory work – might be the closest you could get to doing the same thing…but even then there might by system or equipment changes that might require instruction.

I know this: I wouldn’t want to hire someone who doesn’t want to learn something new…every day.

Richard Gustafson

What an interesting mindset. It certainly seems to me that in an professional field and most technical field you must be a life long learner. The half life of knowledge is shrinking exponentially in almost every field. In a way I feel sorry for her….she is missing the excitement and gratification of learning something new!!

There is a wonderful book called Mastery, the Key to Success and Long Term Fulfillment. I wish I could send that lady a copy.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Good point Tricia – I can’t think of one “future proof” job, but unfortunately I find that the poor performers are those who treat their job as if it is “future proof.” We all need to “sharpen our saw” by keeping informed and aware of new technology, techniques, and training that will give us traction in our careers.


@ Richard – Exactly! Most employers also want life long learners. They’re wanting someone who can move them forward, innovation …. not the same way everyone has always done it. Many employers also require their employees continue growing in their field.

Paul Binkley

Great blog post Tricia.

I would have reacted similarly if I had been in your shoes at that fair. And I agree about the need to keep “sharpening the saw.”

Coming from my Career Coaching background, it seems that this person’s “saw” has lost, or never had, any luster. In other words, she obviously doesn’t enjoy the challenge of IT any more, or at least not the IT she has worked in for the last 12 years.

Naturally, I think the way she framed her situation harms her chances–as a recruiter you may remember her when/if her application comes before you. I applaud her for taking the chance to branch out to something that really does interest her and intrigue her, especially in this economic climate. In fact, if she is the type of person who is comfortable with higher levels of risk and is so committed to her own personal development, she could be a rock star in the right field with the right manager.

It would be a great idea for her to find some support or help with her exploration and presentation. That could come from a bunch of different place: an individual career/life coach, her alma mater, mentor, solid contacts, etc.

Kathy Sciannella

Her expectations were not realistic — I have been in the workplace for over 25 years, and many processes, regulations, and work methods have changed. The reality of work is that change will be a constant. Whether you are in HR (as I am currently) accounting, law, whatever — things will change. Regarding the comment below re manufacturing — that has changed too becoming more computerized and using more standardized procedures — doing less with more.

As someone who is on their fourth career and went back to school at age 40 to retool and acquire updated skills for a changing workplace, any employee who things they get to learn a job once and coast the rest of the way is not being realistic at all. When I coached students (as a career coach — one of my careers), I also told them I know you thing that learning is over since you graduated but my advice is always in any job learn as much as you can and learn new things. That keeps you employable, viable and makes the journey far more interesting!

Carol Davison

Perhaps one doesn’t have to stay current as a history teacher!

As a career management officer my experince is that employees have to dmonstrate comopetency or attending training, complete 40 hours of training annually and acquire continuous medical or education units. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to learn but I did have a few employees who took new employee education annaully as their 40 hour requirement.

Nell Zeitzmann

Interesting. I’ve been doing the same type of work for more than 30 years. I move around quite a bit because I get bored because I find that most agencies don’t want you to expand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told: “we don’t do that here because we’re unique”. I’d love to learn something new at work…I’d love to have the opportunity to push to the cutting edge. Most gov’t agencies, in my experience, don’t want to do that. Sigh.


@ Paul – From a recruiter perspective you’re correct about “the person’s ‘saw’ has lost, or never had, any luster”. I as a recruiter wonder what “type” of employee we would be hiring who makes such a statement. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the IT field as such, you have to wonder if they have an “anti-work” type of attitude, and wouldn’t be happy in any field – IT or otherwise.