30 Years in HR: part 1, the start.

On July 1, 2012, I worked 30 years in HR. In a series of blog posts I looked back on those 30 years. What did I do? What (if anything) did I learn? Did I change (a little bit..), did HR change (not a lot).


It started with an advertisement placed by Philips Electronics on January 22, 1982. I had finished my university study (Psychology) in December 1981. Philips was looking for “Four psychologists or sociologists for a fast career”. This appealed to me and I applied.

At Groningen University I was trained as an experimental psychologist. My thesis was on “The influence of diazepam on driving behavior“. I liked statistics and applied research. Personal computers did not exist in those days, so I had spend many days at the computer center of the university (where they had one big computer) waiting for my output (most of the time in vain, as I had made a typing error on one of the punch cards). My application letter was typed on the typing machine I received as a present from my parents at my high school graduation.

Was my choice for Philips a conscious choice for a career in HR? Probably not. The term Human Resources Management was not used yet. In the advertisement Philips called it “The Social Sector…”. In my study I certainly had followed some courses in industrial psychology, but what the work in the “Social Sector” meant, I had no clue. In my short letter to Philips (January 24, 1982) I wrote that I was looking for a job with a big company where I could learn a lot. Not as a specialist, but more as a generalist. “A good attitude for problem-solving I have already learned during my study”.
After an extensive selection process (interviews only) I was chosen as one of the four and I could start on July 1, 1982.

Philips had indeed managed to select four eager psychologists/ sociologists who were interested in a fast career (“To give you an indication of the speed: after approximately four years you can be the leader of the Personnel department of a company with 500 to 1000 employees!”). On July 1, 1982, we reported to the headquarters of Philips Personnel in Eindhoven (for Dutchmen: the famous “Willemstraat”).

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