Q: Can you share advice for starting a career in Human Resources?
A: The good news for the human resources jobs market is that demand for HR workers is up and jobs that had been cut during the Recession are coming back.
Human Resources professionals contribute to business viability and success through the strategic management of human capital. Jobs in this field range from HR generalists to specialists in areas such as workforce planning and development, HR development, total rewards, employee and labor relations and risk management.
In the Human Resources industry, there are a few criteria that all employers look for:
Education – There are Human Resources professionals with a wide variety of educational backgrounds. However, many HR positions require candidates with a minimum of a four-year degree. Candidates with Bachelor’s degrees and a major in business, marketing and communications can be well-positioned for careers in Human Resources, especially if they’ve taken courses that cover topics such as management, recruitment, training and compensation. Internships during college or participating in co-op programs are a great way to break into the HR field, too. A master’s degree can be helpful, particularly one that specializes in a specific area of Human Resources or in a field that can be related to HR, e.g. an advanced degree in communications, marketing, sociology or education.
Relevant experience – It’s a bit of a Catch-22 and it can make it difficult to break into the Human Resources sector, but employers prefer to hire HR staff with previous experience. If you’re trying to transition into an HR role, or switch from one type of HR position to another, consider these tips:
- Take on additional tasks in your current job that take you in the HR direction, e.g. take on payroll duties
- Talk to your boss or your recruiter and let them know you are interested in an HR role and ask what you need to do to be prepared when an HR opening occurs. If they don’t know, they can’t help you grow your career in HR.
- Investigate opportunities to work part-time in an HR role and part-time in another role until you gain experience
- Take a good look at your resume, or ask a professional for advice on making your previous experience applicable to HR roles. For instance, a background in accounting can be desirable for certain HR functions if you can show a way to bridge that experience.
- Consider taking time out for an HR internship
- Consider getting an HR or business graduate degree
- Network with people who work in HR and join online networks of HR communities.
Above-average communications skills – Good communication skills are necessary for all types of Human Resources roles. Since HR professionals handle confidential information, and must be comfortable interacting with employees at all levels, companies often seek people who are mature and experienced professionals—especially for higher-level positions in HR.
Strong track record – Employers look for candidates who can show a successful career track record, which includes demonstrating longevity or loyalty to past positions and employers, as well as good career progression with regular promotions and growth in responsibilities over time.
About the Recruiter
Jessica Salerno Incerto has 10+ years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry. As a director and member of the management team at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), she oversees career placement, client consultation and management and training. Jessica is also a member of NEHRA’s Diversity Committee.