After completing a three-month career transition program with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, Amy Roberts discovered her true calling as a career transition coach. She recounts her journey of moving out of corporate HR and offers advice to other women looking to make a career switch.
By Hailey Eisen
When Amy Roberts graduated with a degree in business and a specialization in human resources in 1998, she was driven by the desire to help people. Little did she know it would take over fifteen years, a layoff, a personal epiphany and two career changes before she could achieve that goal in the way she had imagined.
“Originally, I got into HR because I thought I would be helping employees, but it ended up being something different,” she reflects. “It was more about business, and it just didn’t meet my core values.”
Back in those early days, before she learned that integral lesson, Amy was focused on one thing: finding an entry-level HR Assistant job. After a grueling and unsuccessful job hunt, she ended up taking a job at a recruiting agency, thinking it could help her acquire some experience and build up her resume. Unfortunately, her strategy didn’t work out quite like she had hoped.
“Back in the day, HR departments didn’t want to hire agency recruiters,” she explains. “They saw my job was very salesy — it was commission-based — and they felt it wasn’t really proper HR.”
She spent nearly ten years in the field before catching a break and making the move into corporate HR, thanks to a former supervisor.
“She made some introductions and I got my break working in HR in internal talent acquisition,” Amy recalls. “Instead of working for a number of different companies, I was suddenly recruiting solely for one. So, it required a change in mindset. In this environment, I had to make the switch to working with internal clients — and that meant becoming savvier when it came to office politics.”
After five years in that position, Amy was ultimately recruited herself to a large food and beverage corporation. Just eleven months later, however, she was laid off due to organizational restructuring. While it was a difficult time to say the least, it came with a silver lining — as part of her severance package, she was offered a three-month career transition program with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge. The program offered her access to webinars, workshops, and one-on-one coaching — and she took full advantage of the opportunity.
Because she had yet to find alignment between her passion and her work, Amy was looking to refocus. “I was ready to make a complete career change into the not-for-profit sector, so I approached the career transition program with the intention of revamping my resume and networking with people in that industry,” she explains. “During those three months, I did lots of workshops, webinars, and met with a coach. By the end I was amazed at how many connections I had in the not-for-profit industry — and I approached them all with a clear message that I was looking to explore opportunities in that sector.”
It wasn’t long before doors opened up for her. She was offered volunteer opportunities at such organizations as the Canadian Cancer Society, ALS Society of Canada, and various hospital foundations, and she used those experiences to pick the brains of the people that worked there and to be introduced to others in the non-for-profit industry. It was through these conversations and her volunteer experience that Amy realized the not-for-profit sector might actually not be the right fit for her from a career perspective, after all.
“After talking to people, I realized having a job in the not-for-profit sector can have the same challenges and frustrations as any corporate job, and I didn’t want that. I enjoy volunteering, and I didn’t want to jeopardize that passion by making it into a career,” she says.
She went back to her coach and explained her reservations. The two started talking and eventually the conversation came down to one key question: What originally pulled Amy toward HR?
“When it came down to it, I realized I ultimately wanted to help people. So, my coach probed a little further: ‘What skills do you have to do that?’” she recalls. “I knew what companies were looking for. I knew what made a great resume. I had strong interviewing and networking skills, both within and outside of an organization. And that’s when a lightbulb seemed to light up above my coach’s head: ‘You could do MY job!’”
The suggestion made a lot of sense to Amy. She’d be able to apply her background in HR and actually focus on achieving her lifelong dream of helping people. She began to retarget her efforts and, when a recruiting job opened up with LHH Knightsbridge, Amy jumped at the opportunity.
“When I went into the interview for this role, I decided to be completely transparent and let them know that while this position wasn’t my long-term goal, I did see the company as my long-term home,” she says. “I committed to giving the recruiting job my best efforts, which would also provide me with the opportunity to build credibility and a reputation within the organization and, hopefully, segue into the career transition field.”
The move happened much sooner than Amy had expected. One year to the day that she was hired by LHH Knightsbridge, an internal posting came up for a career transition consultant. She spoke with her supervisor and got her support and endorsement, applied, and got the job. Two years later, she couldn’t be happier.
Having found her dream career, Amy reflects on the journey to get there. That journey taught her invaluable lessons, and provided her with insight and experiences she draws upon every day as she helps others navigate their career transition challenges.
“So many people get caught up in the things they’re supposed to do in their career,” Amy says. For Amy this represented two alternatives — the corporate HR option and the not-for-profit career path — neither of which turned out to be her destiny. “For me, the big aha moment was realizing that just because I was good at something and had done well at it in the past, didn’t necessarily mean I liked it, or wanted to continue in that direction.” Amy also realized that if you are not in the right environment, you may kill your passion by trying to turn it into a career.
For these reasons, she always encourages her clients to keep both their goals and their values top of mind during the transitional job search process — and not be afraid to express them, when necessary. She also believes in making your career ambitions clear when leveraging connections and pursuing networking opportunities, both within and outside of the industry you hope to enter. Even if they don’t seem directly connected to your desired field, you never know who someone might know.
“And while it may take some extra effort to form and nurture these connections, it is well worth the value they provide when you’re aim is making a career transition”.
We’ve partnered with Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge to bring inspiring and insightful interviews with leaders that can help you navigate your own career aspirations. Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge helps companies simplify the complexity associated with transforming their leadership and workforce so they can accelerate results, with less risk. As leaders in Talent and Leadership Development, Career Solutions and Executive, Interim and Mid-Level Search, the company helps organizations find new talent, and helps their employees navigate change, become better leaders, develop better careers and transition into new jobs. Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge has the local expertise, global infrastructure, and industry leading technology and analytics required to simplify the complexity associated with executing critical talent and workforce initiatives, reducing brand and operational risk.
To learn more visit www.lhhknightsbridge.com.