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Career Circle: Best Path for Advancement

The Career Circle Blog Series focuses on developing your HR Career Strategy through Career Search, Company Integration, Company Advancement and Independence.


When it comes to advancing your career, choosing the appropriate role within your company is crucial. The ideal position could lie within the HR department, or it might be in another department altogether. The choice largely depends on your specific career goals and the direction you wish to pursue. It's worth noting that an internal career move can lead to various outcomes: it can be a step forward, a step back, or even a side step.

A Step Forward

A conventional approach to career advancement involves taking a step forward. This often entails moving up within your organization's hierarchy, such as ascending to a managerial position or transitioning into an executive role. If your career strategy involves acquiring additional responsibilities, pursuing such a path is generally the most effective way to achieve your goals. Typically, these advancements occur within the same department where you have established expertise and experience.

The traditional career advancement path often requires a considerable amount of time to achieve, particularly in smaller companies. If the desired role is not available within your organization when you are ready to move up, you may need to explore opportunities outside of your current workplace. Additionally, it can be beneficial to consider advancement options beyond your current department. If your skills and experience align with another department's requirements, it's worthwhile to keep an eye out for potential opportunities in that area as well.

By identifying the specific promotions or roles you aspire to, you can actively work towards building your career within your current organization while staying aligned with your overall career strategy. This approach allows you to stay on track and seize the right opportunities as they arise.

A Step Back

The concept of taking a step back in your career may initially seem synonymous with a demotion, but it is not necessarily so straightforward. It can indeed involve a decrease in pay or a lower pay grade, which can be seen as a demotion in that sense. However, from a broader perspective, a step back can also present valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth.

While the title or compensation may take a hit, stepping back can offer the chance to enhance one's knowledge and experience in a new area of business. This shift can contribute to an individual's overall business acumen and provide them with a more comprehensive understanding of different aspects of the organization.

In particular, if your ultimate goal is to progress into a leadership position overseeing multiple departments, taking a step back can prove beneficial. It allows you to become more familiar with a department in which you may not have previously worked but may potentially lead in the future. By setting aside pride and being open to taking a step back, you can pave the way for multiple steps forward in your career trajectory.

While a step back may involve certain aspects that resemble a demotion, it can also offer valuable learning experiences and contribute to long-term professional growth. It is essential to maintain a broader perspective and prioritize personal development and future career prospects over immediate concerns about titles or compensation.

A Side Step

As a recruiter, I often advise candidates that a lateral move can be a favorable choice for their career development. Opting for a lateral move can present valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth while also aligning with their overall career strategy.

It's crucial to evaluate individual skills, interests, and long-term career goals when determining the best career trajectory within HR. A lateral move can offer the chance to gain experience in different areas, broaden one's skill set, and eventually pave the way for advancement in the chosen specialization.

Let's look at the different career paths in HR and identify the best career trajectories for them.


In the traditional HR career path, it is essential to cultivate a strong foundation of HR experience, knowledge, and leadership capabilities. Prioritizing opportunities to expand your HR knowledge becomes paramount. Once an individual feels confident in their HR skills, the next step is to pursue a role involving people management.

People management can take different forms within HR. One approach is through project management, where an HR professional takes on the responsibility of managing a specific project along with the team working on it. This allows them to exercise their leadership and organizational skills while collaborating with others to achieve project goals.

Another avenue for people management involves transitioning into a managerial position, overseeing a team within the HR department. This step requires not only expertise in HR but also the ability to lead, mentor, and guide a group of individuals towards shared objectives.

To progress along this career path, it is crucial to seek out opportunities that provide exposure to both HR-specific knowledge and people management experience. This might involve taking on challenging projects, pursuing additional training or certifications, and actively seeking leadership roles within HR teams or projects.

By combining HR expertise, continuous learning, and demonstrated leadership capabilities, professionals can advance within the HR field and enhance their overall career trajectory.


Within the specialty career path in HR, the key focus is on honing expertise in a specific area of HR. This specialization entails concentrating on one particular aspect of HR and dedicating efforts towards developing specialized skills and knowledge in that area. Although the trajectory may involve progressing into leadership roles similar to the traditional career path, the distinction lies in the concentrated focus on a specific HR domain.

To pursue a specialty career path, it is crucial to identify the area of HR that aligns with your interests, strengths, and long-term career goals. Some examples of specialized HR areas include talent acquisition, employee relations, learning and development, compensation and benefits, HR analytics, diversity and inclusion, and HR technology.

Advancement within the specialty career path often involves progressing into leadership roles within the specialized area. This might include becoming a subject matter expert, a team lead, a manager, or even a director within that specialized HR function.

Specialty career paths offer the opportunity to become an expert in a specific HR area, allowing professionals to provide specialized insights, solutions, and value to their organizations. By focusing on skill development and pursuing leadership roles within their chosen specialty, HR professionals can thrive and excel in their careers while making a meaningful impact within their specialized HR domain.


In the HR technical career path, acquiring a deep understanding of various types of technology becomes crucial. Exploring opportunities within the Information Technology (IT) department can be an excellent strategy to gain the necessary technical experience.

Within HR, technology plays a significant role in areas such as HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems), data analytics, automation, and digital tools for recruitment and talent management. Therefore, developing technical proficiency is essential to effectively leverage technology in HR operations and initiatives.

By venturing into the IT department, HR professionals can gain exposure to different types of technology used in the organization. This exposure can provide valuable insights into the technical aspects of HR systems, databases, software applications, and IT infrastructure.

Working closely with IT professionals and collaborating on projects involving HR technology integration or enhancement allows HR professionals to enhance their technical competencies. They can learn about system configurations, data management, software implementation, and IT processes relevant to HR functions.

By pursuing the HR technical career path, HR professionals can become proficient in utilizing technology to streamline HR processes, analyze data for strategic decision-making, and enhance employee experiences. Their understanding of technology and collaboration with IT colleagues positions them as valuable contributors to driving digital transformation within HR and the broader organization.


If your ultimate career strategy involves reaching the C-Suite, developing a strong business acumen is imperative. It's important to note that not all companies have a Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) position, particularly smaller organizations where roles such as Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), or Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) might have oversight over HR.

To position yourself as a strong candidate for executive roles in organizations without a dedicated CHRO, gaining experience in various areas of the business is highly beneficial. This broader perspective enables you to understand the interplay between HR and other functions, enhancing your ability to contribute strategically to organizational goals.

Consider seeking opportunities to work cross-functionally or taking on projects outside of HR that expose you to different aspects of the business. This could involve collaborating with other departments, participating in interdepartmental initiatives, or volunteering for cross-functional teams. By doing so, you not only expand your knowledge but also demonstrate your ability to work effectively in a multidisciplinary environment.

By gaining experience and knowledge in diverse areas of the business, you become a stronger candidate for executive positions where a comprehensive understanding of the entire organization is valued. This demonstrates your capacity to align HR strategies with broader business objectives and make informed decisions that contribute to the overall success of the company.

When aiming for advancement within your company, it's crucial to decide on the specific route you want to pursue. Identify the desired role or position you aspire to and understand the skills, experience, and qualifications necessary for that position.

Once you have a clear target in mind, focus on making yourself the obvious choice for that role.