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Human Resources/Career Move from Sales to HR


Dear Sir !

I was working in Sales profile for last 4 years. I have done PGDM in Sales and Marketing to get more exposure to the field.

I am basically a Mechanical Engineer. In my first job I have been given the assignment of Sales as a Sales Engineer. Previously I didn't like the profile as I was a technical student but slowly I got interest on the field. I left my job to pursue my PGDM. At the time of choosing the specialisation I was very much interested on HR but my experience was in sales and due to fear of not getting a good company at placement.

I got a very good job in Sales afterwords and I was enjoying it. Due to some personal reason after 2 years of service I have taken a job in HR. I am really very much interested in HR. But sometimes my thoughts go on thinking that how much I can grow in HR? If I would be in Sales still I would be growing at a faster pace.

My teachers even my seniors in office told me that I am perfect for an HR job, but at the same time they mentioned that I am very good in Sales also due to my interpersonal behaviors and manners.

I am bit confused about my career path. i love HR as its of my interest but at the same time I love sales also as it gives me opportunities for more and more challenges and reputations in market. HR and Sales are equal for me and I can perform in any one of these.

I am very much loyal to my company and don't want to leave it for any other career option. Kindly help me.

Dear Manish
I understand your confusion. At the same time it is a good place to be in - to have a liking and capability for two fields. It gives you an opportunity to experience both.

Having said that the way to resolve the dilemma is to think through what is it about Sales that you like & what is it about HR that you like. The second aspect is what are you seeking in your career currently and going forward.

The reason for asking this is that each stream provides a different reasons to be happy about. It has to be a mix of what one values. For example in Sales the relative traveling is likely to be more than in HR. For someone who enjoys traveling and gets energized by it, Sales would be better. Interpersonal skills are required in both to do a good job. So that is not necessarily the criteria for choosing one or the other field. Similarly, some enjoy being of service far more than others. In HR the service component is relatively more than in Sales. If a person enjoys being of service more than others, then the person could consider HR.

In most setups, incentive is a key part in compensation for a sales role. Also, sometimes the market values a sales role more than an HR role. So, if money is a key criteria for an individual, and the person is confident of getting business and enjoys it, then Sales would be a better option than HR.

Growth is a function of how the person learns and how the person contributes. So, growth can happen in both Sales & HR. If a person is average in learning and contribution, then given the number of Sales roles, the person is likely to have more growth opportunities in Sales than in HR. However, if the person is doing an excellent job of learning and contribution, then HR can provide a better growth path since there is still a dearth of good senior HR people.

So, you need to think through and articulate for yourself what is it that you like about each of the streams (Sales & HR) and what your priorities in life are - what gives you a kick. If you can articulate that, it will be easier for you to decide which stream to build your career in.

Having said that, even if one chooses one kind of a career initially and then wants to switch to another, it is not impossible though it does require taking a few steps back. For example, if someone is in HR and wants to move to Sales, chances are that the person will have to focus on business development related to HR - e.g. placement, HR consulting, training programs selling etc. If someone is in Sales and wants to move into HR, chances the movement will be to administrative roles of HR or focused on training.

Again, what roles are available will also depend on the duration after which one seeks a shift in career. At early stages the role opportunities will be higher. At later stages, they will be relatively lesser.

Hope this helps you to think through some more. Do revert with your thoughts & clarifications. I will be happy to respond further. All the best.  

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Pankaj Bhargava


Questions related to choice of career, inter-personal issues at the workplace, performance management issues, structure issues, compensation structuring issues, culture building issues, linking HR with org. strategy


22 years in HR and Org. Development, designing & facilitating interventions, leading an HR team of an Indian multinational & facilitating multiple organizations across industries to build the desired culture to serve business need

HR magazine of TISS (an HR institute of repute - Tata Institute of Social Sciences)

B. Tech (Chemical Engineering) from IIT Mumbai (one of the most reputed engineering school in India) and PGDM (MBA) from IIM Kolkata (one of the most reputed management institutes in India).

Awards and Honors
Was awarded the Gold Medal for excellence in HR by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce at IIM

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