Someone at the shops sneezed, coughed or stood too close to me. I’ve probably got Covid.
Everything came to a standstill as we cancelled plans, obsessed over case numbers and held our breath walking past strangers.
And with hiring freezes pretty much the norm across organisations, a lot of talent acquisition roles dried up.
Rebecca Powell was made redundant from her TA role early on in the pandemic. But, before you could say ‘toilet paper shortage’, she’d donned a mask and jumped into the people & culture world.
After getting a taste for P&C at Payright, she then moved to IntelligenceBank, where she now heads up People & Culture.
Rebecca agreed to chat with us for our Moving from Talent Acquisition to People & Culture podcast (she’s generous; we’re persistent) and we’re so glad she did.
She gave us all the juice: what it’s like moving from TA to P&C, why you can never ask too many questions and how making a career change in your 40s can be just what you need.
When the opportunity came up to support Payright’s growth strategy, Rebecca put her hand up straightaway. Though a P&C role at its core, it ‘was heavily focused on helping a scaling business to grow.’
That played beautifully to Rebecca’s TA strengths, while giving her – and the organisation – huge scope for learning.
‘The priority for them was recruitment and then they felt the rest could follow,’ she explains. ‘For the most part, being able to bring people in and add that immediate value to the business…they were going to learn as they went – so I had that opportunity and space to learn as well.
‘It wasn’t really something I made a deliberate or conscious choice to do…it was a happy accident, really!’
Every cloud has a silver lining, right? 🌥
Community and support
It’s a common theme with the P&C’ers we talk to: community is everything.
Rebecca says she’s the first to consult the oracle.
‘I feel like the last 2 years the HR community [has really come] together and people are looking out for each other – possibly more so than ever before,’ she enthuses. ‘And I’ve taken advantage of that…it’s been a community I’ve leaned heavily on.
‘There’s always something…you haven’t dealt with before…because people by nature aren’t predictable.’
No. No, we’re not.
Oh, she (imposter syndrome, not Rebecca) loves to shimmy in, create havoc with your confidence and occupy far too much space in your head.
To anyone who’s never felt her unwelcome presence: we salute you. To everyone else: we hear you.
Rebecca says her early days in P&C were a ‘head bend’ of challenges strewn in her path. While her degree in marketing and Japanese is perfect for her current role, she felt completely unqualified back then to advise on issues such as employee performance.
‘I found myself in those early days really having to scramble [and] read up on employment law,’ she recalls. ‘Because even if you’ve told your boss you’re not an expert in this stuff, you’re still seen as the…go-to person [and] they defer to you…’
Rebecca’s career advice? Don’t be afraid to ask for help (there’s that community again).
‘I had such imposter syndrome…and a couple of people reached out and helped [me] tackle that,’ she says. ‘There’s still days…where I’m having to make tough calls, but I’ve…developed those resiliency tools to help me get through it.’
And always remember: no one knows everything.
‘One of the most important lessons I got taught by my HR community was…to do no harm,’ Rebecca tells us. ‘That’s the one thing you take with you all the time, that will guide everything you do.
‘So even if you’re not getting exactly right, if you’re leading with that at the front of your mind, that will still help you get through it. That ability to communicate and just continue to probe [and you’ll find] the solution is generally right there.’
And even if imposter syndrome does rear her pushy little head some days, at least you know how to shoo her away.
Asking questions (and listening to the answers)
Rebecca says she’s had to shift her mindset from problem solver to something akin to a coach. And, even though she believes the change was ‘the biggest challenge for…the longest time’, she also says that ability to question was developed during her TA days.
‘If someone’s coming to you with a problem…you need to be probing further, finding out more about what it really is,’ Rebecca explains. ‘…and that’s what we’re great at in TA – whether it’s taking briefs…screening and interviewing…that’s where we start.’
Your job is to keep asking questions, listen to the answers – but actually let others fix their own issues. (Let’s be honest: we all prefer implementing ideas we’ve come up with ourselves, anyway).
Rebecca’s career advice here?
‘It’s just listening…asking more questions…and ultimately getting the manager or employee…to come to the solution themselves. You can never ask too many questions…’
Sure, big business has been doing P&C for years. But the smaller guys? Not so much.
That means leaders in those organisations haven’t necessarily had much in the way of leadership development.
Which is a positive for you.
As Rebecca says: ‘there’s so many companies on this learning journey themselves…and they’re happy to have someone along with them. It’s an easy way of giving [leaders] that coaching without needing to have a formalised leadership development program.’
This avoids a situation where HR is seen as the ‘police person’ that everyone ‘defers to…and passes the buck.’
P&C, therefore, starts playing a significant role in helping leaders, well, lead.
Rebecca says: ‘…this is how I can…just make some changes…and hopefully help my leaders build the skills they might be lacking.’
And, by engaging with leaders that way, you’ll build the roads for people to explore themselves (and stop seeing HR as the compliance cops who love nothing more than a rule book).
‘It’s not controls, it’s pathways and avenues,’ Rebecca assures us, ‘[and]…sometimes they need a bit more steering…and you do have to take them by the hand…[but] once they get on and realise the benefit, it really changes that perception [of HR].’
Don’t ever think moving from TA to P&C will squash all the positive parts of your job – it won’t!
Back yourself and your skills
Rebecca is a firm believer in the journey from TA to P&C – at any age.
‘I’m in my 40s [and] one would think that at this age you’re not going to change that much, but actually I suspect there’s quite a lot more ahead,’ she muses. ‘I never thought I would see myself in an HR role, ever – and now I’ve got director of P&C in my title!
‘You’ve got great skills and resources as a TA person that will absolutely benefit you,’ concludes Rebecca.
And, for more advice from Rebecca (and 5 other P&C professionals) on making the move, get on to our Moving from Talent Acquisition to People & Culture podcast series.
Don’t trivialise your TA experience, exile that imposter syndrome – and go for it! 💪🏻