getting-into-HR

How to Begin a Career in Human Resources


Updated By Staff Writer on March 30, 2020

It’s not all about getting a degree, it’s about getting experience that helps qualify you.

Getting into a Human Resources career is a great undertaking for anyone looking to start a career with lots of room to grow. HR covers a wider spectrum of duties than you first might think. To better prepare you for what your HR career might entail, we’ve complied this guide on how to begin a career in HR.

Things You Might Do at Your Job

One of the first things you should know about being in an HR career is the duties you may be asked to perform, and the roles you might find yourself in. Not all of these responsibilities may be in your role, as it will depend on the size of the organization and their needs.

Your responsibilities could include:

  • Hiring and recruiting
  • Training and coaching
  • Communication and employee relations
  • Leadership development
  • Policy and performance recommendations
  • Organization development
  • Salary and benefits
  • Team building
  • Payroll

In an HR career, you act as a support role to make sure the organization runs smoothly and successfully.

Steps to Get into Entry-Level Jobs

Get a College Degree

One of the most common steps in getting into an HR position is to earn a college degree. A degree program is a great place to start; the courses you take in your degree program will help give you the generalist HR knowledge that you’ll need in your career. Many college programs also partner with businesses and organizations, allowing for internships to give you valuable work experience. It’s also a great place to meet and mingle with other like-minded individuals and help each other achieve your goals.

College courses give you a taste of what you can expect from an average day on the job, as well as help prepare you for more out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. These classes will also teach you how most businesses are structured and why an HR role is so important for them.

You don’t have to go into an HR-specific degree program in order to get a job in HR. You can go into a related subject, such as another business degree, or other degrees such as humanities, marketing, psychology, or communication. All of these focus on understanding people, and could set you apart from other job candidates. It should be noted that with any degree in an adjacent field, you may need to get some experience to help you transition into Human Resources.

Work Your Way Up the Corporate Ladder

Another step for getting into an HR position is by working your way up the corporate ladder. While this may seem like the long way to get into a career you really want, the skills and experiences you gain by starting out can make you uniquely qualified to deal with your company’s workers.

Get An Internship

If you can, get an internship. You can get a great feel for how a company operates, as well as get valuable hands-on experience. While you’re working your way up to your desired HR position, learn as much as you can. Find a mentor in HR or a manager of people who can share their people experiences with you. Take notes, talk to people who have more experience, and make sure you keep an open mind as you learn.

While you’re working, keep track of your accomplishments. When interviewing, you can call upon these to prove your worth to the company, especially if you’re applying for a higher position and they want to see if you can handle an increased workload. Your personal achievements can be what separate you from someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience.

Create Relationships

Regardless of what career path you choose, it’s a smart move to create relationships to further your career. The adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is very true in the business world, especially in the HR department. These connections can help you later down the line with finding a job or moving into an opening.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals who could help you, especially if it’s at an organization you want to work at one day. Many business professionals are interested in helping students reach their full potential. In this day and age of social media, asking questions and gaining insights is easier than ever. You can even join local HR groups such as SHRM to make connections.

Your Real Role: What to Expect

While the name “Human Resources” may suggest that you are a “people person,” the career is more of a business function. Your career will focus more on understanding businesses and applying people strategies to help the organization function. Consider yourself a strategist, putting people and systems into place that will result in the best outcome for the organization as a whole.

Your first few jobs may feel underwhelming, especially once you have a degree. But the skills and information you learn in these entry-level positions are foundational for the rest of your career. The more experience you get in other positions, the better qualified you’ll be when that HR opportunity occurs.

Growing a career takes time; keep learning new skills and building relationships and soon enough, you could have that position you’ve always dreamed of.


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