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HR - to specialize, or not to specialize?

As HR professionals progress in their careers, they often face the decision of whether to specialize in a particular area or remain a generalist. The choice can have significant implications for salary potential, career trajectory, and job satisfaction. To gain expert insights into this topic, we turn to Megan Gallagher, a senior HR recruiter at Robert Walters, who shares her advice on making the right career move:

Early-stage HR professionals should adopt a 'try before you buy' approach. Gaining experience across various HR areas allows individuals to identify their strengths and interests.

Researching Specialization Options:

It’s vital to thoroughly research the different areas of HR specialization to make an informed decision. Take the time to delve into the various functions within HR. Learning about each domain will help you assess where your skills, interests, and passions lie.

Consider Personal Factors:

When deciding whether to specialize, take personal factors into account. Think about your working style, technical skills, the size of your ideal organization, and your long-term aspirations. Understanding these elements will help you determine if specializing in one area aligns with your goals and interests.

Market Considerations:

Assessing market conditions is a crucial aspect of career decision-making. It’s very important to understand the implications of specialization on future job opportunities. While specialists can often find themselves in high demand, it's essential to consider the potential impact of economic downturns on job prospects. Conduct a thorough analysis of current and future market trends before finalizing your specialization decision.

Transitioning Back and Forth:

Although it may be slightly more challenging, it's not impossible to make the move back into a general HR position. Leveraging your industry knowledge and past generalist experience can be beneficial during this transition.

If you are considering transitioning back to a generalist role, it can often be easier to do so internally or within the same industry sector. Utilize your industry knowledge and network to showcase the value of your past generalist experience. Additionally, consider upskilling or undertaking additional qualifications to bridge any knowledge gaps and stay up to date with current best practices.

Overall, I recommend that individuals to gain diverse experience, thoroughly research specialization options, consider personal factors, and analyze market conditions before making a decision.

Always remember that transitioning back and forth between specialization and generalist roles is a possibility, with the right approach and leveraging experience.


Ultimately, the choice to specialize or remain a generalist should be based on self-awareness, market dynamics, and a desire for continual growth and professional development. By considering these factors and seeking advice from industry experts, HR professionals can make informed decisions that shape successful and fulfilling careers in the dynamic field of human resources.

View our latest HR jobs here.

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