A little bit of this and a lot of that.  Sound familiar?  If so, you are probably a Human Resources Generalist or have been one in the past.  Negotiating the company’s medical insurance renewal in the morning and then darting off to give an employee orientation a few hours later.  Arguably, Generalists are the most overused and under-appreciated members of the Human Resources Profession.  Generalists wear multiple hats including but not limited to recruitment, payroll, HRIS, benefits, performance appraisal, employee relations, compensation, training, holiday party planning, flu shot clinic coordinating…okay you get the idea!

How do these people not go off the deep end you may ask?  Good question.  Most of them are very good at multi-tasking and are experts at prioritizing.  The smaller the company, the more the HR Generalist has to do and know.  Most are very attune to what’s happening in local and federal government.  Many stay on top of legal news by subscribing to numerous attorney email blasts.  A new law passed?  Yeah, we got your email Mr. Attorney…yours and the ones from the 800 other law firms that just downed our servers.  Oh, and SHRM too, of course…every Monday around midnight when you send our iPhones dinging as we’re settling in for the night.

Understanding the peaks and valleys of a hectic schedule is absolutely essential to being successful as a Generalist.  You have your “tasky” type work that takes up a majority of your time and then during the down times you can work on project work.

So what’s the draw to becoming an HR person who at the end of the day is not sure which direction is up?  It’s been said by many that the best place to start your HR career is as a Generalist.  It helps establish a broad HR knowledge-base and serves as a jumping-off point for either pursuing a career in HR leadership or zeroing-in on a specialization like benefits, employee relations, HRIS, etc.  However, there is a healthy number of people who are Generalists throughout their whole career—especially those who work for smaller companies where mobility is limited.  Another benefit to becoming an HR Generalist is that you have the opportunity to make a measurable difference to your organization and its employees—you can see the work you’ve done.  You hired that person.  You helped them enroll in benefits.  You helped your company save a ton of money by shopping different benefit plans.  The impact a Generalist has can be far-reaching and measurable.

This year—serve yourself a little extra turkey if you’re an HR Generalist.