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Neighthan White

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How to Start a Career in Human Resources


Isn’t it weird how many people didn’t understand how important HR was not so long ago? HR was, for many companies, of secondary importance. It was where people went who weren’t serious about climbing the career ladder. That’s changed! It is becoming ever clearer that HR is vital for the successful running of a company.

After all, HR is where people work on team cohesion, re-tooling people’s skill sets to keep them up to date and making sure that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. That’s a cool something to be a part of. For that reason, more and more people are choosing to transition into HR or start their careers there in the first place. It doesn’t matter if they’re working for a recruitment agency or for a large firm.

If that’s something that you’d like to do, then here are some important tips for you to follow, so that it will be so much easier to make that change.

Find a mentor for your move

If you can, find somebody that’s already working in HR to help you make the change. After all, to retool yourself for the HR department takes learning a whole host of new skills that you might not even be fully aware of. Somebody that actually works in the field, however, won’t have that problem. They’ll be able to teach to important books to read, important skills to learn and how to make yourself ready for the change in other ways.

It isn’t just in that regard that they can help you, either. Quite often HR people will know HR people. That means that when you want to make the transition, they’ll be able to introduce you to the right people. That’s naturally an incredibly valuable thing.

Now, naturally, when you’re thinking about switching over you’ll want to look for somebody who is higher up in the organization. That’s where you’re supposed to look for somebody to mentor you, right? Naturally, if you can find somebody that is more experienced and higher up in the hierarchy than you, that’s a good strategy.

Don’t let the idea of mentors being older than you blind you, though. Sometimes getting a mentor who is at the same level as you but just in a different branch can be just as useful. After all, if you want to make a lateral move they’ll know exactly what skills matter, as they’re using them every day. So don’t put blinkers on when you’re trying to figure out where to move. There might be more candidates to take on mentoring positions than you might think.


If you’re going to switch over to HR, you’ve got to realize that you’re going to have to learn new skills. Learn them. There are now plenty of possibilities to do so without having to fork over a fortune by, for example, going back to school.

For example, there are now such online possibilities as edX and Coursera where you can take plenty of courses for free. Even better, as they’re being given by top-end universities you can be sure that they’re on the money (yes, even though they’re free) and that companies that you approach will actually respect them and know that you’re serious.

So what kind of classes should you take? The best courses to take are the ones that head in the direction of psychology and sociology, as they’ll give you a better understanding both of how individuals function as well as groups. In that way, you’ll have a better idea of how a strategy will work before you’ll implement it.

Functional Resumes

Ironically, your experience can actually count against you when you’re trying to break into HR. Why? Because upper management sometimes still believes that the best-suited people for HR positions are people lower down. They might, therefore, look at your CV And assume that you’re over experienced, or aren’t suitable for the job you’re offering.

The best way to sidestep is to change up how you write your CV. CV editing is as important as college writing tasks back at those times when you were a college freshman. For example during your cover letter writing, don’t focus on what you’ve done, but instead on what you’re able to do. Similarly, on your CV focus on your skills, rather than what positions you’ve held.

After all, skills are much easier things for people to apply to an HR position template. So, if you helped manage people, then that is what you should focus on, not that you did so while working as a lawyer (for example).

Start broadcasting your intentions

Of course, you’ll want to let people know that you’re interested in moving over to HR. Only in that way can people take action on your behalf or let you know when there is some kind of opportunity available.

Be clever about how you start broadcasting this information. Your current employer, for example, should not find out about your desire to switch it up from outside sources. Instead, make sure that the first people you let know about your desire to change direction are the people inside your own company.

In that way, if they have any such opportunity available, then they’ll be able to consider you. Of course, there might not be a position available. You might even know that. And yet, it is still important to let them know first.

Why? Because the moment that it becomes clear that you can’t satisfy your desire to move in a new direction internally, those higher up the hierarchy can’t really blame you for wanting to look externally.

Understand that you might have to take a pay cut

If you’re going to transition into HR from another department, then the best you can probably hope for is to make a horizontal move, where you get to keep the same salary and job level. More likely, you’ll have to take a pay cut and accept that you’ve slid down some in the company.

That’s often the cost of making such a switch. At the same time, if you really believe that you can do much better and that you’ll be much better in this new position, then chances are within no time you’ll have climbed back up to your old level and even surpassed it.

Remember, HR has some great opportunities for you to learn a new skillset. This skillset will be useful in your new role, but will also have direct relevance in case your desire is to ultimately enter management.

After all, HR is about many things related to management. For example, you need to be able to manage people, manage different expectations and satisfy numerous different sides in a negotiation and engage in active marketing to bring aboard the people that your place of employment might need. These are all skill sets that will be useful if you do manage to climb to the top of the pile.

Last words

A lot of us didn’t consider HR positions in the years gone by, because we thought it was ‘beneath our skill level’. Of course, now we know better. HR is not easy, it has just been widely undervalued. Now, as we get a better understanding of the human brain and how we think, it’s becoming clear that HR is anything but easy. There are a lot of responsibilities to juggle and a lot of expectations to manage.

At the same time, when something isn’t easy, doing it well can be extremely satisfying. That’s definitely true of HR. For watching your company’s different teams work well together and the group outperform the individuals, that is really quite satisfying – even if people don’t realize how important your role was in creating that atmosphere.

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