Human Resources From the Inside Out

Book review by Sally Gelardin

Book Review:
William M. Kahnweiler, Ph.D. and Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D. Shaping Your HR Role: Succeeding in Today's Organization (2005, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann). $32.95

There are many reasons for career professionals to read Jennifer and William Kahnweiler's new book, "Shaping Your HR Role: Succeeding in Today's Organizations." Here are just a few of them:

  • Human Resources is a close relative to career advising. Like career advisors, HR professionals are service-oriented professionals who work for an organization or as a consultant. Both can serve as client guides, mentors, client advocates, helpers, trainers, and group process facilitators.
  • Many of us wear both hats. Many career advisors have served as HR professionals, and some HR professionals have career advising responsibilities, especially if their organization does not have a separate career office.
  • Both professions require adaptability and versatility. If a career office does exist within the organization, then career advisors can provide the most benefit to their clients by working closely with HR personnel.
  • We work together. If and when institutional decision-makers choose to lay off employees, they may decide to carry out the process partially or totally in-house, rather than seek the assistance of outplacement services. Both Human Resource personnel and career center personnel are usually involved in this process.
  • The two professions can build upon each other. Counselors and counselors-in-training may choose to become HR specialists at some point in their career, and HR specialists may choose to expand their competencies by becoming a Career Counselor, coach, or Career Development Facilitator.

For the above reasons and others besides, it can be beneficial for career professionals and counselors-in-training to learn how to succeed as an HR professional. To learn more about the field, this book is a good place to start.

Authors Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, Ph.D. and Bill Kahnweiler, Ph.D., are pros in the field. With a combined experience of over sixty years, they "walk the talk," as Bill says. Bill is an Associate Professor and the Director of Human Resource degree programs at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta. Jennifer runs a career consulting firm for professionals and organizations.

The authors combine theory and practice as they guide readers down the HR road, providing overviews of opportunities and challenges, roles, paths to success, ways to access what you "bring to the table," suggested actions, and pathways to pursue. They focus on current issues and future trends for HR professionals and in the workplace. Instead of giving a "how-to laundry list of keys to success," the Kahnweilers' approach is "thoughtfully pragmatic." That is, they provide tips to help the reader both think and act, which models their view of the Human Resource role as a "balancing act". They guide the reader to make rational decisions, as well as honor who you are in developing your HR role.

Another outstanding feature of the book is the focus on context. Because organizational life has become more complex, stressful, and unpredictable, HR professionals are forced to play multiple roles throughout each day. The Kahnweilers provide a roadmap to help one understand and implement these roles quickly, cost-effectively, and creatively.

Illustrating the text are tables and diagrams, exercises, worksheets, references at the end of each chapter, examples of HR career paths, and a list of HR and HR-related professional associations. Included in the Appendix is an explanation of the interview that the authors conducted with HR practitioners to probe for thoughts, ideas and experiences that contributed to each interviewee's personal success.

Readers become acquainted with the HR field through an "HR Career Success Model," developed by the authors. It provides a framework that simplifies the complex art of dealing with people and organizations. This model is based on three elements:


Gain knowledge -

      of self, field, and organization;


Apply knowledge -

      access knowledge, choose appropriate roles, show value, earn trust, honor boundaries;


Achieve results -

    provide opportunities for both individuals and the organization to win, believe passionately about HR, market by customer, demonstrate impact, and resolve value conflicts.

To learn more about the field, the Kahnweilers suggest a variety of routes, including: undergraduate courses in HR; masters degree programs in Human Resources, Organizational Development, or Leadership; developing mentor relationships; earning HR certification; forming study groups; and joining professional organizations.

One career practitioner reported that she regularly goes on interviews to keep up with what employers are looking for in their workplace. In keeping with this "hands-on" approach, we career educators and practitioners can enhance our services to our students and clients by becoming knowledgeable about our sister field of Human Resources.

A good place to begin learning more about the field is by reading Shaping Your HR Role: Succeeding in Today's Organization. One might also consider sharing career development and HR competencies by forming a study group or "Lifework Book Club." Conducting an informational interview with an HR professional with this book as a guide might be another option. One could also consider attending an HR conference, writing an article for a professional publication, or presenting a workshop in your area of expertise to HR professionals. For additional ideas on how to establish a presence in the HR field, contact Jennifer and Bill at www.myhrsuccess.com .

Sally Gelardin (Ed.D. in International and Multicultural Education) is a career educator and counselor who teaches the CDF curriculum. She authored the Job Juggler Lifelong Employability Skills distance learning program and designed the first online CEU course approved for CDF's by the Center for Credentialing and Education. The online component is also approved by CCE to be incorporated into the CDF curriculum. Dr. Gelardin is author of "The Mother Daughter Relationship: Activities To Promote Lifework Success" (2004, CAPS Press) and originator of Lifework Book Clubs. Contact her at: (415) 312-4294 / sal@jobjuggler.net / www.AskDrSal.com / www.jobjuggler.net/cceceu/1dontdrop.html.

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