Mentor Network: How to Decide if HR is the right Career Path for you – Tarryn Fortuin

Choosing a career is probably one of the most important decisions we would ever need to make as adults, and so choosing the ‘right’ career and establishing what’s right is as important. In my view, it is necessary to be cognisant of the fact that this is where you’ll be spending most of your time during a 24 hour period, and at least five of the seven days of the week, surely you can do the calculations? So, making the most informed decision about your career is important. 

As a Human Resources lecturer, I often engaged with my students, especially on the first day of the beginning of each semester, and one of the questions I would pose to them is, ‘ why HR?’

The response I would often get, to name but one example is, ‘I want to help people’.

I would then further probe to understand what ‘help’ meant to them. To cut a long story short, the perception somehow was that HR was some sort of psychology of the mind of which I quickly had to correct. 

As professionals in the discipline of Human Resources and Industrial Psychology, we do help individuals. To be more specific, we help individuals who are employees, but in an organisational context. There are specific areas or functions in which HR is responsible for, in ensuring that we help employees meet and attain the goals and objectives of a respective organisation.

Listed below are 8 functions/areas, not limited to, and a brief description, in which the Human Resource function helps employees:

Human Resource Planning

This function entails making provision for future needs of an organisation, according to set organisational goals and objectives. 

Recruitment and Selection 

This is a process where seniors in an organisation have identified gaps within their teams, and as a result require the HR function to attract and select best suited candidates for vacant positions. 

Performance Management 

This entails continuous evaluation and improvement measures that will enable employees to meet their performance objectives, in light of meeting the agreed upon output between themselves and their line managers. 

Learning and Development

HR is responsible for enabling employees with new skills in order to do their jobs optimally. 

Career Planning

This process allows for career growth for employees; putting the necessary steps in place and enabling vertical moves within their respective fields.


Rewarding employees for their work performance. This could be in the form of incentives, paid holidays, gifts, performance bonuses etc. 

Employee Wellbeing 

Organisations have realised that the mental & physical health of employees plays a huge role in performance and has incorporated wellness programs to assist. 

Employee Relations and Discipline 

It is HR’s function to aid in establishing positive working relationships. HR helps to prevent and solve problems, or disputes between employees and employers. 

In consideration of the HR functions, it is important to ask yourself whether you have what it takes to engage with people on these various engagement levels. Building relationships, and being able to understand the needs of the organisation and the employee is important. Below are a few individual characteristics to consider in establishing whether HR is the ‘right’ career path for you:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Strong ethics
  • Trustworthy
  • Strong conflict management skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Ability to build relationships
  • Impartial and objective
  • You must want what’s best for the employee and their future in a given role

I hope that the little bit of insight has helped in creating some sort of awareness around what HR is and whether you should consider it as a career path for you. 

The nice thing about HR is that you could specialise in one function/area, or you could be a generalist. In order to establish your niche, I do believe that you would need exposure in all areas to be able to make that decision. 

I do wish you the very best in making a life-long decision, my encouragement is to choose a career path that will bring you joy. Also, you are never ‘stuck’, as we grow, so do our interests, and this may very well result in a career change after some time. 

Tarryn Fortuin is an Educator and Organisational Development Specialist, and holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Her purpose is to be an enabler and facilitator of empowering people, developing youth and seeing people reach their highest potential. 

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