13 years ago I was about to graduate with a business studies degree. I had 2 weeks work experience in Personnel (courtesy of my dad), an HR related dissertation and a great deal of enthusiasm. I soon got a job in a small cleaning company as their HR Officer, I was delighted – my graduate career had begun! Unfortunately it wasn’t quite the glamorous entry into the working world I had perhaps dreamed, after 4 months of 6am starts and long hours, I realised the future of the company was in doubt. Whether it was my youthful innocence or ignorance, I didn’t panic, I would get another job. I did, I walked into a recruitment agency on the hunt for some temp work and several interviews later this was the start of a very enjoyable and successful 10 years in recruitment.
So fast-forward to 2014, how do you start your career in HR? As with almost any career in this highly competitive job market, experience (related work experience – great), experience (anything in the world of work – think transferable skills) and experience (extra-curricular activities – sport, volunteering – think team work, commitment etc.)… and lots of enthusiasm.
Outstanding people create outstanding businesses and HR operates at the heart of organisations; it’s a professional career that demands integrity, confidentiality and a high level of interpersonal interaction. Commercial awareness is essential; your studies help you build knowledge of the sector but you need to be able to apply this to the real world. More employable candidates will be proactive and engage with industry professionals; work experience; events, talks, conferences, exhibitions and open days – network, network, network and consider that 1 in 3 graduates get a job somewhere they have worked before.
HR covers a wide range of activities but essentially they are all about generating performance through people – HR generalist, recruitment, resourcing and talent planning, learning and talent development, organisation development, employee relations, employee engagement, peerformance and reward. The list goes on…diversity, international HR, corporate social responsibility, consulting etc. As a graduate, the more experience you can get in any of these areas will be great but successful HR professionals often fall into one of the above, so be flexible, see what you enjoy and take opportunities as they come your way.Some organisations have graduate training schemes and many big businesses have entry level HR positions – opportunities will arise for those who are willing to work hard and get involved – start somewhere and prove yourself to be hard-working.
Get to know the industry. The CIPD is the professional body for HR and their current membership stands at over 130,000. Keep up to date with what is happening in the world of HR through websites such as Personnel Today, HR Grapevine, HRM Guide and HR Magazine.
But where to look for a job? The websites mentioned above all have links to job sites and are definitely worth a browse. Almost every company will have an HR function in one form or another so the list of potential employers is endless but where to start? Who do you want to work for? Industry? Location? Salary? Role? Create a wish list – be flexible but realistic – can you get there every day? Do your research, familiarise yourself with companies you are interested in, sign up to email job alerts, have a browse through websites such as HR Jobsite and Jobted. Be prepared! Update your CV and start thinking about what recruiters will be looking for in terms of your application. Use your university careers service – do you know how they can help you? GSM Careers offers careers advice, practice interviews, employability seminars, skills development, information resources CV & application checking etc.
Personally I would recommend a career in HR; as an HR professional, you are in a unique position to help create inspiring work places – hopefully as you are looking to start your career in HR, these words excite and inspire you – they are backed up by stats as well! According to the Frazer Jones Global HR Workstyle Report 93% of respondents are satisfied to be working in HR and 72% would select HR as their chosen career if they started again. 66% of all HR professionals declared their job satisfaction to be excellent or good. We spend a lot of time at work, do your best to make it a place you are happy and fulfilled.
And so to finish, I will repeat myself – experience within HR, general work experience, enthusiasm, commitment and hard work. Hopefully food for thought and good luck entering the world of HR!