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How to begin your HR career?

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According to the HR director at a US-based construction and manufacturing major, “Fundamentally, people want to come to work, do a good job, feel like they make a difference, and be recognized for their work. Our job is to provide them with the skills, encouragement, and opportunities to have an impact.”

This essentially sums up what a HR professional is expected to do. The job of HR is essentially to:

  • Find the right people for the job and the company
  • Create in them a desire to work at the company and enjoy what it is they do
  • Facilitate their endeavor to do good work
  • Ensure they get due appreciation for their work and acknowledging the difference they make
  • Give them recognition and credit whenever and wherever it is due

The key to a successful HR career is to plan well. Choosing the right career path and approaching it strategically are big savers of your energy and time. Below are some key steps that will set you off on the journey:

Choose and navigate a career path

A key fact that endows HR much uniqueness among the variety of career options is the fact that there are a number of potential directions in which you can take your career. Most career lines have just one way to reach the top i.e. the C-suite; in HR, though, there are a variety of routes for professionals to take.

There are a number of job roles available:

  • Recruitment and staffing
  • People and culture
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Training and development
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Employee relations
  • Labor laws and legal compliance
  • HR technology

Planning ahead for your career path in HR is essential if you desire success in the field. A lot of time can be saved by:

  • Shortlisting the list of preferred jobs to target
  • Studying the ladder your preferred job will set you up to climb
  • Determining the skills you need to progress further

The last of these is particularly significant, as it serves as the base from which everything else grows.

Determine your desired job titles

Progressing on the chosen path for your HR career requires you to properly choose the jobs to apply for. Job titles these days are many and are quite confusing, making the choice quite a quagmire. It is essential to focus on the path and start from there.

For most job roles, the path and roles tend to be: Specialist à Senior Specialist à Director a VP. The options in terms of paths include the following:

  • Employee relations
  • Recruitment and talent acquisition
  • Compensation and benefits
  • People and culture
  • HR compliance

Remember that the above list is merely indicative, and should be used only as a pointer, as different companies have different designations and names for their roles. Using the key words along with their variants is a great way to pick up positions and jobs to target.

Research the compensation levels

A step that is often left out is salary research. No experience in HR does not preclude you from the need to know your worth. It is useful to spend some time on salary research websites like Payscale and Glassdoor to know the starting salaries for your chosen path as a HR professional.

Average salaries tend to be as given below:

  • HR coordinator: $49,000
  • HR specialist: $53,000
  • HR manager: $76,000
  • HR director: $106,000
  • VP HR: $149,000

Do not forget to consult more than just one site, so that you can determine a proper salary range. Mathematical averaging and range determination are greatly helpful in the job search.

Study the skills you need

Standing out in the crowd is greatly aided by having the right skillset in your arsenal. It is, however, somewhat tricky to decide exactly what skills are needed, as each path requires different skills. There are, however, a few that remain universal:

  • Communication
  • Employee relations
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership
  • Organizational skills

Once a HR professional is well-versed with the basics, the focus can be shifted to more technical HR skills, depending on the requirements of the particular HR role. As always, detailed research is invaluable.

Get certified

A professional HR certification is a great choice for those seeking an entry into a HR career. It is also a good choice for those who want to supplement their work experience with additional HR roles or to accelerate their career progress. If you are on a full-time job, you could choose to do your HR certification online alongside your current job, or you could pick from regular classroom sessions or distance learning. A certification is excellent testimony to your skills and is often a prerequisite for certain jobs.

Getting a job in the HR field is not merely about being good with people or being someone who is systematic and organized. Sensible thinking and wise decision-making will take you far ahead.

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