Working in human resources has long been a popular target for career changers. One reason for this phenomenon could be that human resources departments are seen by many as nearly recession proof – companies always need to hire, fire, train, and manage their workforces, right? But another reason many decide to attempt a career change to HR is the wide-ranging hard and soft skills utilized by human resources specialists create the impression that “anyone can do it,” which simply isn’t true.
For individuals interested in breaking into the HR field, there are three common routes: recruiting, administration, and staff leadership. This contributes to the perception that many professionals are qualified to work for HR. If you’ve been involved in hiring, a career as a recruiter may be attractive. Administrative specialists may be interested in the filing and paperwork aspects of a human resources career. Anyone who has led other team members may be drawn to the workforce management side of HR.
Regardless of your exact professional background and area of expertise, learning how to get a job in HR will involve hard work. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted growth of 7%+ through 2026, a career transition to HR is no slam dunk. If you’re serious about breaking into the HR field and learning how to start a career in HR, read on for tips to help make your dream a reality.
Before you spend a lot of time and effort pursuing a human resources career, it’s important to find out if a switch into HR is best for you and your family. The last thing you want is to achieve the position you’ve worked so hard for, only to find out it’s not what you really want.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, research the HR field, reach out to members of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), and talk to peers and colleagues who may be willing to introduce you to their HR reps so you can conduct an informational interview with someone who works in HR management every day.
A four-year degree is a common qualification for roles in many human resources departments, so you may need to go back to school before you can progress past an entry-level position. Additionally, a fair number of individuals at the manager, director, or executive level hold graduate degrees and many also have special certifications such as PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP.
College courses, graduate studies, and prep work for a national HR-related certification will provide you with focused training in a variety of topics such as hiring/recruiting, staff training, performance assessment, compensation and benefits administration and analysis, employment law, and regulatory compliance. This training will make breaking into the HR field much easier.
There are many options when it comes to HR associations you can join. Aside from the national SHRM organization, there are many state and city chapters throughout the US as well as other groups specifically for recruiters, public sector HR managers, policymakers, trainers, and other specialists.
Whether you are interested in connecting with colleagues from a variety of areas and backgrounds or would like to meet with peers that share your interest in a particular facet of HR management, you will be able to find the precise association that’s right for you.
As with searching for employment in any industry, the individuals that have the most success are the ones who leverage their professional and personal networks. Touch base with the people you know to identify opportunities, obtain recommendations, or simply bounce ideas off.
Keep in mind, working in human resources is about building, maintaining, and preserving relationships, so put those people skills to work to help you get the job you seek.
When launching a career in a new field – regardless of whether you just graduated college or are making a mid-life career change – it’s important to be aware of the fact that you cannot immediately begin at the top. Everyone needs to pay their dues.
With this in mind, you must be realistic in your job search and your expectations. For someone with little to no experience in the HR field, a director’s role is more than likely out of reach. Focus your sights on an entry-level position such as HR Assistant, Recruiter, or HR Representative. Another option is to look specifically for openings with smaller businesses. A lot of HR leaders have cut their teeth at human resources departments overseeing hiring decisions for companies with less than 50 employees.
One final strategy to consider is to look no further than the company you currently work for. Many businesses prefer to hire or promote from within, so if you are currently employed, reach out to the HR department and ask them if they have any openings.
Executing a career change to HR may be difficult, and your transition to HR may not be quick. It will most likely require further study and time spent networking with old and new contacts, but if working in human resources is your dream there is no reason you can’t be successful and find a job you’ll love.