Championing better work and working lives calls for a wide range of skills and experiences. Many people have successfully transitioned into senior positions in the people profession, using the experience and transferable skills they’ve gained from completely different fields. The skills you already have could help you make the move into a career in HR, L&D, OD, or other areas of the people profession - read on to find out more.

What types of roles could you transition from and to?

People who chose a new career in the people profession usually have relevant skills and experience that can act as a stepping stone to move into a full people role. The key to successful transitions at a more senior level is to gain relevant work experience in complementary fields.

This could include:

  • working as an employment lawyer before transitioning into an inā€house legal role at a large organisation, eventually becoming Head of Employee Relations
  • taking the lead as an engineer on technical training in the organisation, before transitioning into a wider learning and development role
  • working as an executive coach with a background in Occupational Psychology, eventually becoming Director of Organisational Development.

What transferable skills are suited to the people profession?

The Profession Map sets out the core knowledge and behaviours you need for a successful career in the people profession. Some examples of these, which could help you transition into the profession, include:

Valuing people

Bringing the people perspective to business decisions is a vital part of people professional roles. People professionals have a key role in building a sense of shared purpose, and giving people a meaningful voice on matters that affect their working lives. They advise and coach managers and leaders and enable them to build their own people management capability.

Passion for learning

It’s important that people professionals take a wide perspective of their learning. From being curious about the wider world of work and connecting to others in the profession, to asking for feedback. A learning mindset also helps people professionals to seek opportunities to test new ways of doing things, to continuously innovate and improve their work, as well as contribute to the development of others.

Working inclusively

People Professionals have a key role to play in working collaboratively and inclusively, as well as encouraging, facilitating and setting up cross-boundary working, building high-trust relationships, and managing conflict constructively.

Evidence-based practice

Working in an evidenced based way involves using the right data and the right information in a structured way, to inform the decisions you take and the work that you do. People professionals often need to analyse and solve problems in order to understand business problems that needs resolving, and be able to use the evidence in their work.

Business accumen

Its vital for people professionals to understand organisations – their purpose, future direction, priorities and performance – as well as the external influences and trends impacting them. Experience in understanding business models, financial literacy, strategic planning, and supplier management will all help you in having a successful career in the profession.

Situational decision-making

Situational decision-making is about making effective and pragmatic decisions or choices and considering the specific situation or context, thereby avoiding a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Given the ever-changing nature of work, decisions need to remain flexible enough to adapt to new insight, circumstances or changes, and people professionals should be diligent about evaluating the impact of decisions made in order to inform future practice.

There are many more areas of knowledge and behaviours that will support you in having a successful career in the people profession. You can find out more by exploring our Profession Map

How to transition into the people profession and get professional recognition for your experience

Assess your knowledge and behaviours

You’ve decided you want to make a career change and join the people profession – congratulations! First, it may be useful to assess yourself against the core knowledge and behaviours expected of all people professionals, set out in our Profession Map. This will help you to pinpoint areas of development to support a successful transition into the profession. 

Get professional recognition for your experience 

CIPD membership can help you to gain professional credibility and recognition for your many skills and abilities. You can become a member either by studying a CIPD qualification, or by having your professional experience assessed. Our experience assessment is about demonstrating you have the knowledge, behaviours and impact required for the CIPD membership grade you want to achieve. 

What can membership do for you? 

CIPD membership is internationally recognised in the people profession. It showcases your knowledge and demonstrates your commitment to the highest professional standards. We’re your partner throughout your career in the people profession. We’ll support and encourage your ongoing development and learning, making sure you’re professionally recognised for your skills and abilities. As a member you can benefit from: 

  • Professional credibility and recognition for your skills and abilities. 
  • The support and shared experience of almost 160,000 people professionals in the worldwide CIPD community. 
  • Boost your career prospects and earning potential. 
  • Exclusive member benefits to add impact to your work every day. 


Career transition success stories

Find out how people at different stages of their careers and working lives have transitioned into HR, L&D and OD&D careers.

From teacher to L&D manager

Sorcha Bangham explains how she decided upon her career transition from secondary school teacher to L&D Manager

From food marketing to talent coaching

Rachel Brushfield describes transitioning from a career in food marketing to going freelance as a talent coach

From the NHS to Head of HR

Andy Winks talks to us about his move from working as an NHS manager to becoming Head of HR at the Imperial War Museum

From marketing to a career in HR

Becky Hosken describes her progression from marketing to a career in HR

From talent acquisition to an HR Consultant

Lisa Farthing describes how she moved from a career in talent acquisition to becoming an HR Consultant

From an HR role in the Army to the Royal Mail

Lee Cox talks through his transition from his HR role in the Army to working for the Royal Mail

From management consultancy to working as an HR Director

Lindsay Allen describes the transition from senior management consultancy to working as an HR Director

From the military to wellness coach

Alasdair describes his transition from his role in the military to becoming a performance coach and wellbeing consultant

From the Army to a career in HR

James tells of his transition from his role in the Army to a career in HR

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Why work in the people profession?

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Career options in the people profession

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Career guidance

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