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What you need to know to start a career in HR

hr best practices hr certification hr essentials team management Jun 12, 2023

Are you looking for an amazing career that puts you at the intersection of business and people? Then a career in HR might be a great fit for you! It can be quite lucrative and rewarding, with a variety of specialties and, very often, room for growth. It’s a broad career path with ties to operations, finance, and the C-suite. Sound interesting?

If you think human resources is what you want but you’re not sure what to do next, check out these tips to help you start a career in HR.

Why Choose a Career in HR?

Even though you may already know you want to pursue a career in human resources, it’s important to take a moment to think about why this interests you.

For many, the reason may be a desire to help people. However, that isn’t the only function of HR. In fact, HR is generally responsible for 60 % or more of the overall budget of their organization. Human resources works with the most important asset a business has: its people. Without highly skilled, top talent, businesses fail.

Helping people is surely part of the job of human resources, but the business must come first. The role of an HR professional is to guide employees through the employment relationship in a way that serves the business, even when this isn’t aligned with the needs of the employee.

For this reason, HR can be a great profession for someone who has also enjoyed business classes in college or has held previous roles in finance or office management. HR will get you more connected to the people in a way that complements your other skills.

What Does It Take to Get a Job in HR?

The two most important resume must-haves to get a job in human resources are education and experience. It isn’t enough to say you want to be in HR.

The competition for HR roles can be fierce, and most hiring managers will weed out resumes without those two key components. Education and experience can both be hard to obtain if you’re just out of school, in another field, or working full time already, but it can be done.

Expand Your Idea of Experience

You may be wondering how you can get experience in human resources if you need to have experience to get started. Experience doesn’t have to be from a paid position. It can be gained through internships, although they too can be difficult to secure.  Network with everyone you know to find an place to connect.  An internship can provide valuable insight into the field. The manager you will be working for will spend time teaching you what you need to build up that experience if you’re able to.

Another option is to consider volunteering for an organization you are committed to. Is there a non-profit in your area that could use help with employee files, recruiting, benefits or other HR activities? Why not offer to help for a few hours a week. Although unpaid, you can add this to your resume the same way you would any other position and the experience you gain will be valuable in helping you understand the functions of an HR department.

HR Education Goes Beyond the Classroom

Like many fields of study, one can obtain degrees in human resources including an Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and even a Doctorate. For many entry-level human resources positions, an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree is probably sufficient.

As your career advances, particularly to management, a higher degree may be required. Often HR professionals will have Bachelor’s degrees in related fields such as business or finance and then use on the job experience to move ahead in their human resources careers. A degree in HR is nice to have, but it isn’t required.

Certification is another option besides degrees to help you get the education you need to land a job in human resources.   There is an entry level certification called the aPHR that gives you the basics.  Future employers will want to see that you have completed basic education in compliance, recruiting, training, performance management, and compensation. These are the key areas of HR and a basic overview in each will be enough to get started. Look for a program that will provide information in each area, as well as a certificate at the end of the program you can list on your resume.

Opportunities in human resources range from the HR generalist, where you may work on a little bit of everything, to specializing in just one area of the employment relationship. Do your homework and meet with a variety of HR professionals, from entry-level to leaders.

Be sure to understand the role and confirm that the career will align with your goals and strengths. Outline a path to build your resume and network now to find the connections that will drive your HR career into the future.

HR Topics offers Test Prep courses for all levels of HR Certification.

For HR Professions –  

For Entry level HR Team Members – 

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