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Human Resources

Forget the Great Resignation, it’s time for the Great Reimagination

December 16, 2021

People no longer have to switch companies to seek new challenges, says Stephany Foster, QIAGEN’s head of HR. Skilled employees can benefit from changes in the work world.

Skilled-labor shortages across the globe – in industries from tech to trucking – have human-resources (HR) departments in a flutter about recruitment. At QIAGEN we have employee-referral programs, proactive recruitment and recruiting partners to help us find skilled people externally. But we also make a point of nurturing employees to give them the means and the confidence to raise their hand when vacancies come open – even in fields new to them.

I have switched roles both the old way and the new. I once left a professional services firm for a start-up airline. It failed, but I learned enough to move to QIAGEN and build the internal audit department. While there, I seized the chance to move internally into HR and eventually lead it, quite a leap from the finance world.

portrait of Stephany Foster
Stephany Foster joined QIAGEN in 2005 as Head of Global Internal Audit and became Sr. Vice President, Head of Human Resources in 2019. She also steers the Diversity and Inclusion program at QIAGEN. Prior to joining QIAGEN, Stephany worked in internal audit at Morgan Franklin and Independence Air. She holds a master’s degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a Certified Internal and Information Systems Auditor (CIA / CISA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
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Fierce competition for good people means that employees no longer necessarily have to switch companies if they want to do something new.
 

The Great Resignation

As companies worry about the “Great Resignation” that has seen record numbers of Americans quit their jobs, employees should focus on what has been called the “Great Reimagination” open to them: A big career change no longer requires quitting one company and moving on to the next. People keen on changing jobs could well find their current employer more amenable than they expect to providing a new opportunity, good people being harder and harder to find.

The first trick is to ask. While working in finance, my responsibilities had grown to include QIAGEN’s diversity and inclusion initiative, an experience I hugely enjoyed. I worked closely with the then head of HR. I told her if there was a chance to switch to HR, I’d be open to it, as I’d like to try something new. The post of vice president of compensation and benefits soon became vacant. Combining my background in numbers with my interest in HR, it was a great fit.

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No company will give you the opportunity that your current employer will – I’m talking from experience, not just as head of HR.

The Great Reimagination

Companies value employees for their institutional knowledge. Getting them up to speed in a new area takes less time than with external recruits. Also, people switching internally help break down those dreaded departmental silos that impede communication and an all-embracing company culture – and even cashflow.

The Great Reimagination is upon us and communication is key to taking advantage of it. If you want to make a change, say it and get your name out there. You never know when an opening might become available. I had used my regular development meetings to signal that I was interested in doing something different – I was quite open that I was looking for new challenges within the company. So when I grasped a new opportunity as it came up, it wasn’t a surprise.

So the second trick is to network – but also to be patient until the right chance comes along. When somebody announces they will be leaving the company, it helps HR to know whether someone from a different department might be interested in the post.

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The best way to become an internal candidate is for an employee to let their manager and HR know that they are looking for a new opportunity. Only at that point do people become a potential fit
 

Make your own luck

The bigger the potential career change, the more important prep becomes. My move from finance to HR was a pretty big leap, but I had been able to prepare for it by taking on the diversity and inclusion project that involved HR colleagues. This helped me build new skills and grow my network beyond finance. It also helped me to discover new opportunities – and to be in the right place at the right time. This is the third trick: to know that you make your own luck.

The last trick is to remain flexible. I like to think of a career as more of a jungle gym than a straight path. Sometimes people have to take a step back before being able to take two steps forward. My move into HR was a lateral one – it was more important to me to do something different than to “get ahead”.  Taking a pay cut might sometimes also be a clever move in the end. So the Great Reimagination can also be a long game – but it’s always a creative one.  

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