What is your best tip for how to jumpstart your career in HR?
To help you jumpstart a career in HR, we asked HR leaders and People Managers this question for their best advice. From joining a SHRM affiliate chapter to connecting with professionals on LinkedIn, there are several tips to help you launch your career in and stay connected within the HR industry.
Here is what 15 thought-leaders had to say:
- Volunteer With a SHRM Affiliate Chapter
- Embrace the Yin and the Yang
- Match Your Personality With Career Aspirations
- Join An HR Group
- Develop a Baseline Knowledge of the External World
- Focus on Your Relationship With the Business
- Watch & Learn
- Be Open-minded and Say "Yes!”
- Lead With Love and Wisdom
- Start Out in Start-Up Or SMB
- Research Role Requirements
- Partner With Your HR Team for Exposure and Experience
- Jump in and Ask Questions
- Aim for the Job You Want, Not the One You'll Get
- Connect with Leaders On Linkedin
Volunteer With a SHRM Affiliate Chapter
Speaking from personal experience, I can say that I got "the" jumpstart I needed when as a student, I started volunteering with the SHRM Student Chapter. Through opportunities like this, you develop skills including but not limited to leadership, resourcefulness, team management, and unbelievable networking. I swear by this, as this opened up the opportunity for my first job in HR that is what I dreamed of. I have never stopped SHRM volunteerism. Over 20 years later, I continue to appreciate what we as volunteers learn, which makes it easy to encourage others to do the same when you know you are where you are because of SHRM.
PATTY HICKOK, NANA Regional Corporation
Embrace the Yin and the Yang
The first step to preparing for a career in HR is to recognize it is not for everyone. Once you are mentally prepared to be in a career where people praise and condemn you, find that opportunity where you will work with an individual or team willing to commit to your development.
Remember you are looking for an opportunity to work "with" someone not for them. Learn as much as you can by asking questions and volunteering for new assignments. Do not be afraid of the deep end! Each of us has our own story of how we got into HR. Take the initiative to write your own story.
Jeremy Stick Ph.D., SafeRide Health
Match Your Personality With Career Aspirations
HR is a diverse field of study that offers various progression paths. You can be a resource as a subject matter expert, focus on strategy as a project manager, or support a team as a tactical generalist. It is essential to research the different functions and determine what aligns best with your personality and career aspirations. When you can align your passion with your career, you unlock a synergy that can be your guiding principle to success.
Gerrard Roberts, Owens Corning
Join An HR Group
One of the best ways to get noticed, learn about HR, and become a contributor is to join an HR group. By doing so, you’ll meet other HR professionals, gain knowledge, share your own insights, and this can lead to many job opportunities. One of the best ways to getting hired is through word of mouth and people who know you. Join an HR group and watch your career soar.
Nicole Serres, Star Staffing
Develop a Baseline Knowledge of the External World
Spending time on understanding what is going on in the world will lead you towards becoming a more effective HR practitioner, at any level. Develop a habit of maintaining a baseline understanding of world events, fluctuations in the economy, business, the stock market, politics, sports, media, etc.
Having knowledge of this information positively influences your career in three ways. One, as the company shifts or adapts its strategy due to market conditions, you will be able to quickly connect the dots and understand why those actions are being taken. Two, you can engage in a conversation with your business partners on a level beyond the day-to-day department needs. Three, it provides insight and trends that allow you to better predict how employees may respond to changes in the external environment.
Leang Chung, Pelora Stack
Focus on Your Relationship With the Business
Many times, new HR professionals get caught up in the administrative and compliance components of HR. While these are key components to our roles, they are not what the companies need us to do. We need to be business partners first and HR police second.
As a new HR professional, you need to learn everything about the business. What are our key product offerings, who are the competitors, what are our commercial advantages/disadvantages, what is the key stress for the business every day. Without a complete understanding of these topics, you will struggle to provide real business partner support
Eric Torigian, CHRO Solutions
Watch & Learn
Networking with experienced practitioners will introduce you to HR tools and systems that are used today in the marketplace such as HRIS, ATS, Performance Management Programs, DEI practices, LMS, Compensation models, Benefits management, etc. The more experiences and knowledge you gain, the more you realize how multifaceted the HR practice is. Through this experience, you can begin to narrow down and determine whether you want to start off as an HR specialist or a generalist, or whether HR is still a career you want to pursue.
Aparna Ranganathan, Smart Energy Water
Be Open-minded and Say "Yes!”
Every new role creates an opportunity to learn and grow as an HR professional, even if it is not your immediate passion. My coaching to aspiring HR professionals has always been the same, have your first position be within the operations of the business. It allows you to "walk a mile" in your associate's shoes, it builds empathy, credibility, and understanding and ultimately supports your ability to become a better business partner, due to taking the time to build up your business savviness. The more well-rounded you are, the more successful you will be in the long term. It just might also open a door that would not have been previously without your additional experience.
Jennifer Martin, PetSmart
Lead With Love and Wisdom
Put aside any limiting beliefs you have about HR. The business has changed. People know their value. You have the opportunity to stand out by creating employee communities vs. managing workforces. Be the professional that leads through progressive change with your heart. Wisdom is just as valuable as a skill set these days. Listen, coach, offer empathetic solutions, tell your team how much you appreciate them, express your gratitude to your executive team. Be the people pro that is loved by everyone and you will be indispensable.
Marta Voda, SaintMaven
Start Out in Start-Up Or SMB
If you want to have broad exposure and experience in Human Resources, which is a huge umbrella of disciplines in and of itself, a good place to start is working in start-up or small and medium-sized businesses. It's a great way to compel yourself to get the generalist fundamentals down and hone your knowledge across benefits, labor law compliance, hiring, performance, employee engagement, etc, because smaller companies usually only have the bandwidth and budget to have 1 or a couple of people, which requires you to own the whole department. From this exposure, you'll get to know where your strengths and passions lie, and then you can start building your HR career to specialize in those specific areas.
Angela Nguyen, Core Catalyst
Research Role Requirements
The best advice I could give for jumpstarting your career in HR is to research the requirements for the various HR roles out there. Then, match your skills and experience to your top job picks. Build a simple plan for your development including gaining experience, mentors, formal education, etc. Remember as you journey through this cycle of researching skills and learning (no matter what role you reach), never stop this cycle. It only will this cycle serve you well throughout your career, it will also be real practice for creating your very first custom development plan of many!
Meigan Ward, BTI360
Partner With Your HR Team for Exposure and Experience
If you're looking to jumpstart your career in HR and you're a professional in a different job function, my best recommendation is to partner with your HR team on their current initiatives. If you're passionate about developing people in your department, work with HR to learn about the company's people development strategies and how you can make an impact. If you love to network, partner with the recruiting team by attending recruiting events. Forming a partnership will get you exposure to the different areas of HR and give you the skills and experiences to highlight on your resume or bring to an interview.
Cheney Ferrell, Axon Enterprises
Jump in and Ask Questions
I started in Recruiting and I asked, "why are we doing it this way?" I was then able to change the way the company recruited talent, which led to other projects in different areas of People and HR, that launched my career into consulting and scaling HR departments for growing companies. Don't be afraid to ask questions and try new things. People change and businesses need to change with them. By asking questions and having a solution-oriented mind, you can get so much more out of your HR career than you ever thought possible.
Kelly Loudermilk, BuildHR, Inc.
Aim for the Job You Want, Not the One You'll Get
Embrace the journey of climbing the corporate ladder within HR but be laser-focused on developing skills and experiences that will make you successful in your ultimate dream job. You'll start as an assistant or coordinator - but that doesn't mean the experiences you have won't matter as a VP! Focus on building your toolkit and being known for delivering value and you will jumpstart your career in no time!
Joey Price, Jumpstart:HR, LLC
Connect With Leaders on LinkedIn
When I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Business HR I wanted to make sure that HR was a career I wanted to pursue after college. I started to utilize LinkedIn as a networking platform and sent personalized invites to HR professionals around my area asking if they would be open for a 30-minute coffee chat or informational video call.
Importance of Personalized Invites and Tips:
- The person you are sending an invite to might have thousands of pending invites. There is a higher % of them accepting your invite if it is personalized.
- A personalized invite gives an opportunity for you to tell who you are/why you’d like to connect as well as establishing rapport through a commonality. i.e. Same hobbies or same university.
- After you connect with them, follow up with a thank you and set expectations on when to connect again.
Angela Truong, Microsoft