How do I get into the field of Human Resources?
November 17, 2013 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I am currently a program assistant in banking, but I am considering trying to get into HR. How can I successfully achieve this goal? (details inside)

Here is a link to my resume (with the details taken out): Resume. I know it needs a ton of work, but I am including it to give you an idea of my background.

My current position feels like a dead-end, and I a think that HR would be a good fit for me. I am absolutely willing to start at the bottom as an assistant or administrative assistant, but I will be going up against people who have degrees in HR for entry-level positions. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to compete?

I am planning to take some classes, but I am unsure of if I should go through a university or through a professional organization like SHRM. I am also considering joining a local chapter of SHRM, but going to meetings will be difficult due to my current job schedule.

I have done quite a bit of searching online for suggestions on "breaking into HR," but I have always received fantastic advice from people on metafilter. I welcome any suggestions (including ones from people who think that going into this field is a bad idea.

Thank you!
posted by aka_anon to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The path of least resistance for you is probably the HR department at your own bank. Irrespective of any positions posted, or even if there are any openings, you can start by conducting informational interviews with folks in the department. Take someone to lunch or coffee, ask them about what their job entails, their advice for how you can get into HR, any suggestions for your (polished) resume, and the like. Close off most, if not all, of these informational interviews by asking who they think you should talk to next.

Joining appropriate groups on LinkedIn - and participating in the discussions - is a good way to establish a presence in the HR field, make some (potentially useful) contacts, and perhaps learn about job openings before they're flooded with resumes.
posted by DrGail at 11:23 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think they've tried to professionalize HR positions but they're all still pretty randomly filled by someone w/ a BA in psychology who moved up. Some of these ppl come from a background of working at recruiting chophouses.

One guy I know with a super well paying HR job with the govt was a trainee with Enterprise Rent a Car for a year. He was a mediocre student, friendly enough, not super distinguishable and probably not looking for an HR job specifically.

I think you'll just have to throw your resume out there, see what sticks.

I wouldn't do a masters in HR, btw. They're cash cow programs.
posted by discopolo at 11:29 AM on November 17, 2013

Why do you want to get into HR and is there a specific specialty that you are thinking about or generalist type role?

Recruiting coordinator positions are usually pretty easy to grab at larger corporations, they basically spend their day scheduling interviews. They are generally looking for people who are good with details and talking to people.

HR assistant could be something anyone could get depending on the company. For some companies that means generalist, for some that means file clerk.

Do you want to be in HR because you like people? Generally, I think this is a terrible reason to get into HR. A lot of your general people interactions aren't positive, neutral at best to performance talks and firing people to being the department that everyone hates depending on the company*. Unless you want to specifically do recruiting or maybe organization development or training. The rest of us spend a lot of time dealing with systems and spreadsheets not people just like most jobs.

*Read a lot of the posts here in which people talk about the HR people they have interacted with or their particular HR department in their company. Most of the posters aren't saying some good about them. Are you ok with that? Even if you are really good at your job and praised by your managers you are going to have to do things that the general office doesn't like sometimes (lots of times? depending on the company). I'm not saying this to scare you, I say this to be real. It can be hard sometimes, it is much harder to be friends with people at work, if at all possible. I really like my job but I work for a company that respects HR, I came home and cried a lot at my last company.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:00 PM on November 17, 2013

Response by poster: @ magnetsphere

The why I want to get into HR question is a bit difficult to explain. I think that someone must have planted a seed in my head years ago by suggesting HR, and it has always been at the back of mind as an option.
*Of all of the areas of business I know of, human resources seems like one of the most interesting.
*I think part of it is the fact that it seems like women regularly go quite far in the field.
*I feel like it is an area of business that, given my background, I could succeed in
*I want to be able to make enough money that I can take care of myself without going into massive debt going back to school. I feel like HR would give me that opportunity.
*"Liking people" is not the reason why I want to go into HR. I'm not a misanthrope by any means, but I'm also not that person who loves everyone and never wants to be alone.

As for what area of HR I am interested in, I am interested in being a generalist, at least for now. I love variety at work, but I could end up specializing down the road.

I appreciate your insight into the more negative aspects of HR, which do concern me. In fact, a few people to whom I mentioned my plans to responded negatively, which honestly took me aback. I have never had a negative impression of HR, but I am beginning to realize that a lot of people do, and I would prefer to go into the field with my eyes open.
posted by aka_anon at 6:18 AM on November 18, 2013

I spent 15 years in HR and can offer some insight. MeMail me and I'll help you if I can.
posted by Twicketface at 10:50 AM on November 18, 2013

I work in a niche area of HR (training and development), and I agree with discopolo that most HR people are not really specially trained. You seem very qualified to be an HR assistant. The advice to get on LinkedIn is good. You could also look for a local HR professional organization and attend meetings to meet people and learn more about the field. This would be way cheaper than a class, and puts you in touch with people in the field. This is a great way to get contacts for informational interviews. If you can do a good job as some kind of volunteer with the professional organization, that can be a good way to develop a reputation with people who could hire you.

Also, don't be afraid to just tell people (professional contacts, friends, family members) what your professional goals are. Some people may respond negatively, but others will want to and be in a position to help you.

HR is typically a lower-status area of any organization, and that's regrettably why women are more common/successful. But if your goals are "get a good paying job I don't hate" rather than "work my way up to CEO" that probably doesn't matter. That may partially explain the negative reactions you're getting.

About your resume - it would help to showcase any situations where you measurably improved something, stepped outside of your role in a good way to make something new happen, or accomplished a significant (within the framework of that role) position. Also highlight your skills, by listing common software you have used and other general skills you have (customer service, communication, conflict resolution, etc.).

Good luck!
posted by jeoc at 6:40 PM on November 18, 2013

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