A career in HR offers a wide variety of opportunities and one of the very few recession proof careers. Earning potential continues to be high and HR offers the opportunity to specialise in specific areas or become a generalist practitioner. A real selling point of a career in HR is that you can join at any point. So you may be a student or graduate looking to get your first role or someone looking for a career change, the opportunities are endless.
There are a number of routes into HR but probably the most popular is through graduate entry with many companies offering graduate schemes and management training programmes. Useful degree programmes would be business, management or psychology. If you are currently undertaking a degree programme I would advise on undertaking an internship or placement within HR as recruiters now look for commercial experience coupled with a degree. Graduate recruiters also increasingly recruit from their internship and placement programmes so getting this experience under your belt whilst studying is really important. There are also routes through apprenticeships which are becoming an increasingly popular option for many looking to combine work experience, the opportunity to gain industry recognised qualifications and work experience. If you are currently working and looking to move into HR a strong administration or customer service background would be beneficial. You will need to look to demonstrate transferable skills including communication, organisation and the ability to multi task.
It will be essential to work towards industry related qualifications and the professional body for HR is the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) which you will need to become a member of. It’s possible to enter HR without a professionally registered qualification and work towards the Level 3 Foundation/Certificate in Personnel/HR practice. If you are looking to progress to a more senior HR level such as HR Advisor or HR Officer it is expected that you will have level 5 or level 7 which is a degree or postgraduate level.
The entry level routes into careers would be HR Administrator and HR Assistant, where typical duties would include maintaining personnel records, sending and chasing recruitment references and organising interviews.
HR is typically very competitive field to get into. It is therefore essential to establish contacts and network. Work experience is absolutely critical so you may want to offer your time voluntarily to get your foot in the door. You could also look out for a temporary role or project work within HR which often involves being involved in projects on a 3-6 months basis which will give you great exposure to how HR operates.
The skills necessary in HR are vast which goes above being a people person. Business awareness, negotiation and influencing skills are required to implement organisational changes and policies. Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to develop relationships with people at all levels are also essential. Keeping up to date with employment law and the ability to interpret and explain employment law within the business context to managers and staff are also essential.
Melissa is a careers advisor and passionate about helping people to achieve their career goals and increase their employability. She lives in Cheltenham and enjoys travel, cooking and fitness.