Asphalt with painted arrows pointing in three directions, representing the paths HR pros can take in their careers

How to Get into Human Resources: Your Guide to the 3 Most Common HR Career Paths

By Freddie Rohner, iHire, LLC

There is never just one route to success – where we want to go in life (personally or professionally) often lies at the end of a winding road. For entry-level professionals who want to know how to get into human resources, there are three common HR career paths that have helped many obtain senior roles and provide the opportunity to gain critical skills and build the proper foundation needed to lead a human capital operation.

Some of the positions mentioned below are entry-level HR jobs while others begin outside of the HR department and require a time investment prior to transitioning to an HR role. No matter where your interests lie, there are many types of human resources jobs available and there is no single “right” way to begin your HR career path.

 

Recruiter interviewing prospective candidate

 

HR Career Path #1: Recruiting

Also known as talent acquisition, recruitment has long been a popular point of entry for individuals interested in joining the HR world. Many “head hunters” and recruiting firms employ applicants with little hiring experience because that particular realm relies almost as much on sales, client relations, and account management abilities as it does on the capability to source qualified candidates. This makes it one of the most common entry-level HR jobs.

Once you’ve established yourself with a recruiting firm, you may be able to leverage that experience to find a position as an internal recruiter where you can focus more on hiring and increase your knowledge of employment law, interviewing, salary negotiation, onboarding, and other core competencies that are necessary to make the leap to a generalist role or move on to other types of HR jobs.

 

HR assistant filing paperwork

 

HR Career Path #2: Administration

There are countless success stories that mention HR directors, VPs, and other executives who began their careers sitting at a receptionist’s desk or maintaining files. As with any industry, it’s not uncommon to start at the very bottom, and if you decide to pursue entry-level HR jobs in the administrative realm, you will most likely begin your career learning the basics by taking care of paperwork and providing general support for your supervisor.

If you are currently working in an administrative role and would like to transition into HR, jump at any chance to help with the HR department at your current company. This will allow you to learn about payroll processing, benefits and compensation, open enrollment, PTO, recordkeeping requirements, and other vital areas.

Once you’ve proved your worth, you may find yourself as the top choice the next time an opening presents itself. At the very least, volunteering for HR-related projects will provide valuable exposure and help you beef up your resume so you can begin looking for HR opportunities elsewhere.

 

Staff supervisor helping a team member

 

HR Career Path #3: Staff Leadership

The final option we’ll cover for how to get into human resources is supervisory experience. Many professionals in retail management, food service, hospitality, and even education administration choose to transfer their abilities in teambuilding and staff training, development, and guidance to the HR field by transitioning to similar types of human resources jobs focused on employee relations.

This may take a bit longer to accomplish, but by building a solid management foundation, you will be able to tackle some of the challenges HR leaders face utilizing your experience in how to motivate individuals, inspire improvement, recognize/encourage outstanding contributions, handle conflicts and grievances, and identify/turn around poor performers.

Holding a supervisory role will also give you experience in other areas such as preparing work schedules, monitoring time and attendance, and conducting employee assessments. These are all key capabilities for an HR role, and being able to boast these skills will make it easier to get your foot in the door as you try to launch your career.

 

The paths listed above are only three possibilities. There are many ways to get your foot in the door and lots of entry-level HR jobs to pursue. Regardless of which path you choose, however, the most important thing to remember is to leverage your experience and take advantage of any opportunity to expand your skills so that you can achieve your ultimate goal of joining the ranks of HR management. Paying your dues may not be fun, but it’s necessary to gain the proper professional background required to preside over the many facets that make up an HR department.

 


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