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Five Tips: How to Get Into Human Resources

Human resources manager is a perennial top finisher on “best jobs” lists. This is due to its appealing combination of high pay, positive work environment, and ability to make a direct difference in people’s work lives.

Human resources is a popular career for people even if they haven’t been following it from day one. It’s a great career change option; to name just one reason, every industry needs HR staff. The field of HR management also demands a broad and diverse set of skills.

Even if you haven’t stepped on every rung of the ladder to advance, you can still enter above the ground floor. Here are five useful tips about how to get into human resources.

1. Review Your HR Resume

Human resources is a multi-faceted field with many different types of jobs and job responsibilities. The first step in assessing your options is to consider your own background and experiences. You may even already have a decent number of the skills that would be of value in an HR job. These include:

  • Strong critical thinking skills
  • Being a people person
  • Worked well as part of a team
  • An ability to resolve conflicts

These are all aspects of who you are and your work history that employers look for when hiring for HR jobs. When crafting your resume, tailor it to highlight how these skills can help an organization reach its overall objectives and make its employees happy.

2. Round Out Your HR Skill Set

Reviewing your resume also offers the opportunity to identify and acknowledge any potential areas of weakness. Looking at HR job descriptions gives you a great sense of what employers are looking for now. If you fall short in a particular area or competency, seek out ways to gain or build these skills:

  • Volunteer
  • Advanced Study
  • Learn About Relationships

Volunteer — Being altruistic looks good on a resume, yes, but if that’s the only reason you are volunteering, don’t. Helping out, as it relates to human resources, accomplishes several things.

  • Those who volunteer develop a greater sense of empathy. That’s obviously important in developing communication skills and understanding of how people work or don’t work together.
  • Employees can really get a sense of team by helping others out – together. Getting a company behind a cause where all employees volunteer starts with knowing where there’s a need and what a group of people can do best. That could be building a house as part of Habitat for Humanity or choosing a work day where all employees take over a food bank and handle what’s needed for a day.
  • Volunteering in some form always brings out the need to solve problems, but not always as they relate to what’s going on at work. So, people who might be overlooked at work – even though they do a fully competent job – can unexpectedly shine in a different setting. With HR and as managers, knowing that your workforce has skills you might need down the road –or tomorrow – is a pleasant surprise.

Now instead of just checking off a to-do for your resume, when volunteering comes up you can convey what it actually does for you and what it has taught you.

Advanced Study — Any ongoing learning effort to develop relevant knowledge and skills will make you a better employee now or in a future position. A specific degree, like a Master of Science in Human Resources Management, lays out a comprehensive foundation of what the world of work for human resources is like now, with examples and abilities that resonant. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) cites getting an HR education as the top step when pursuing a career in HR.

Learn About Relationships — Relating to work, this skill is primarily about how people handle work and the dynamic of people who work well or work horribly together. Studying relationships in many venues and circumstances provides a better understanding of how things begin, go down the wrong path or how people sometimes naturally resolve issues.

3. Work Your HR Network

Volunteering also leads to networking; you meet others who know you’re helping out. If you’ve ever been hired for a job, you already have at least one point of contact with an HR professional. You may also know others – both from your personal and professional life.

Use these connections to learn more about the field along with potential job opportunities. Word of mouth is huge in today’s work world, in which fitting into a company cultural is key. In fact, Bloomberg Business declared personal recommendations reign supreme when it comes to getting a job.

Additionally, social media offers more opportunities than ever before for building your network. Consider joining an online human resources community, such as SHRM’s “HR Talk.” Actively participating not only helps you make connections, but also establishes your presence in the field. Social media use comes with some drawbacks. It’s easy to send something out the world without thinking enough about it. With that in mind, if you start to get a lot of negative feedback for what you’re saying, stop and examine whether it makes sense or is appropriate in the context of a professional forum.

4. Become an HR Expert

With a “skills gap” and a deficit of talent plaguing today's businesses, employers get creative about filling positions. While you may not currently have exactly what a hiring manager is looking for, you may have the potential to grow into a position under the right circumstances.

Show employers that you’re worth the investment by becoming a student all over again. Read blogs, attend conferences (even if you have to take time off from your current job), and harness every available bit of information into a learning opportunity. The more initiative you take, the more likely you are to attract the attention of employers regardless of your job history.

5. Be Open for Almost Anything

If you’re committed to a job in human resources but can’t seem to get a foot in the door, make it a smaller door. Internships offer a different and advantageous approach. You add invaluable real-world experience, and your understanding of HR will be that much more thorough. You’ll not only be better positioned to land that first job, but you’ll hit the ground running.

The job outlook for human resources managers outpaces the national career average, with a growth rate of nine percent. That’s good news for individuals angling to make the switch to an HR career. But why leave it to chance when you can start taking steps now to find the human resources job you want?


1. 2012 HR Career Brochure.