Human Resource Management is a growing field. It’s also becoming more and more competitive, but that doesn’t mean aspiring HR professionals should be discouraged from pursuing it. It simply means that you’ll have to take strategic and proactive measures if you want to distinguish yourself from the pack. While our tips are by no means comprehensive, there are five critical steps anyone who wants to pursue a career in HR should take.
Breaking into HR: 5 Tips for Aspiring HR Professionals
We wouldn’t go so far as to say that finding an entry-level position in the HR field is impossible without an undergraduate degree—but it is extremely rare. And even if you are lucky enough to find a position, opportunities for advancement will be limited. The first step, then, is to pursue an education.
Keep in mind, though, that not all HR programs are created equal, so start by doing your research. A recent guide published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) points out that “Until recently, there was no standard on what courses should constitute an HR major”; for that reason, many of these programs “may lack the business emphasis required of HR professionals.” Before you apply, ensure that the curriculum is consistent with industry practice and that it aligns with SHRM standards.
Use internships and real-world work experiences to your advantage
According to a recent SHRM publication:
- 67 percent of U.S employers offered jobs to their interns at the end of the internship
- 76 percent of HR practitioners require between one and five years of HR-related work experience to secure an entry-level HR job
As you pursue an education, look for internships. Real-world experience will not only give you a sense for what HR professionals do, it will help build your resume, give you credibility, and may even land you a job.
Don’t stop at internships
Internships are important, but it is equally important to get involved with the people in your college or university program. Speak to your professors about research and TA opportunities; network with your peers and join your school’s SHRM chapter. In addition to this, attend HRM conferences, submit articles to publications, and look for opportunities to present your scholarly work.
What to look for in an organization
Before you start applying for your first position, do your research: Every company has a unique management philosophy, work style, environment, and HR department. Since you’ll be administering these programs, ensure that the company’s ethics and practices align with your own. Browse the company’s website to see what kind of story it tells about itself. Doing this will not only save you and the company time in the long run, it will help you make a more informed decision about where you do and don’t want to work.
Where to look for jobs
Finding a company that “fits” can be tricky, so we suggest turning to your local business journals and HRM publications for advice. Business journals often publish information about workplaces. Fortune and Business Ethics both publish annual lists of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” so look for these. Newspapers and magazines are also a good place to look since they often profile local companies.