Thanks to a global economy, new technologies, as well as ethics and compliance standards, HR has moved from that little office in the back to the forefront of business strategy. Not only is Human Resources a growing field, it is becoming more and more competitive. To help aspiring HR professionals break into the field, we’re offering 5 tips that you can put into practice right away.
Breaking into HR: 5 Tips for Aspiring HR Professionals
Start networking now
Have you ever driven past an H and R Block the week taxes are due? It’s not uncommon to see a mile-long line of last-minute filers spilling out of the front doors. Too many people who are trying to break into the HR profession approach networking like last-minute filers: they don’t start the process until they have no other choice. This is a mistake.
Now is the time to join local SHRM chapters or HR groups and connect with other HR professionals on LinkedIn. If you approach it right—that is, if you are respectful, responsive to feedback and polite—you may even be able to find a mentor.
Find an internship or volunteer
According to a 2007 survey by SHRM, “96 percent of undergraduate HR students who secured employment in HR state that their HR internship was a critical component of being prepared to accept their first professional HR position.” Not only do internships allow you to put the theory you learned in the classroom into practice in the real world, they also give you an opportunity to build your network and establish professional relationships.
If an internship isn’t in the cards, try volunteering with a non-profit or charitable organization. Help recruit and train new volunteers, manage schedules and events and learn how to manage and garner donations.
Learn to speak the language
Envision a cocktail party: there are several groups of three or four people huddled together sipping drinks and chatting. What’s the appropriate way to join in on the discussion? Would you just barge in, interrupt a conversation that’s already going, and start your own? Of course not! Instead, you’d approach the group and take notice of the rhythm, the cadence of the conversation to figure out what the group is talking about—then you might interject your opinion.
Think of HR as a cocktail party. You need to speak the language; you need to understand the larger conversation before entering it. In other words, start reading HR blogs, subscribe to SHRM, read books about HR so that you are educated and share a common discourse with HR veterans.
Reflect deeply on your experiences
As you tweak your resume or LinkedIn profile, don’t forget about the less obvious experiences or skills you have that are applicable to the HR profession. In our perusal of LinkedIn, we noticed one HR job seeker who had experience scheduling show times at a movie theatre, but didn’t list this skill—a valuable HR skill—anywhere on his profile. Have you organized fundraisers, teambuilding events, or interviewed candidates? These experiences are worth bragging about; include them in your resume.
Be patient and realize that you will probably start at the bottom
It is true that pursuing a formal HR education is becoming increasingly important in today’s competitive job market, but simply because you have one doesn’t mean that you will skip the entire ladder—or even four or five rungs. It is likely that you will start in a junior position and have to work your way up. Learn and take on all that you can, even if it isn’t glamorous.