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Breaking into a career in HR? – A graduate’s perspective to finding your way

For those born to be doctors who asked for a stethoscope for their 5th birthday, knowing what subjects to study at school, what qualifications were needed and what career path to take was a clear and obvious choice. For the rest of us who weren’t always 100% sure what direction their career path would take, choosing subjects, courses or degrees mainly came down to three things:

  • What do I currently enjoy?

  • What am I good at and can achieve positive results in?

  • How can I ensure that I keep my options open?

If, like me, you followed this thought process then it is very likely that the realisation of wanting to work in human resources came post any ‘big decision making’ in regard to academic study. Upon leaving university I was somewhat oblivious to challenges I would face but quickly discovered that simply ‘being a people person’ didn’t provide you with a golden ticket into the world of HR. Immediate rejection came in the form of a) being underqualified and not having enough direct HR experience and b) being overqualified for entry level HR administrative jobs. At this point then, how can you get your foot in the door and break into the field of HR?

Don’t panic

In 2015,, a leading careers exploration website, revealed that 44% of undergraduates did not know which industry they wanted to work in once they graduated. There’s a lot out there and feeling daunted by the whole prospect is totally normal. Having identified that you’re passionate about human resources is a great start so feel comforted in knowing that you’re already ahead of the curve! Finding a job takes time and perseverance with every application and interview, which then can become a valuable learning experience.

Get experience & know your skills

HR is a field which encompasses a multitude of factors. Previous positions or experiences which you may not have linked to HR could have in fact revealed your natural industry abilities. Any roles which have highlighted your organisational and planning abilities, collaborative or leadership skills, flexibility and adaptive nature, or problem-solving and strategic thinking are all worthy of mentioning and using as HR related experience. These skills can arise in all industries and environments so make the most of your surroundings and do everything you can to do HR wherever you are.

Be flexible

Getting an initial foot in the HR door is key and therefore not being too specific or picky will definitely work in your favour. I personally fell into the trap of only applying for graduate schemes when I first left university. Large schemes of course have their strengths and weaknesses and knowing which environment is right for you is a very personal preference, but this point is just to remind you that there are other options out there. I battled on with lengthy application processes going through the different stages and rounds of interviews and aptitude tests for months without ever considering direct entry jobs. When I did finally widen my job search I realised that there was so much more opportunity available to me. Likewise, being flexible in terms of pay and location will expand your job pool. Small sacrifices at the beginning of your career could pave the way for significant gains in your future.

Build your network

Talking to like-minded HR professionals who have gone through the same challenges and obstacles that you are facing now and learning from their experiences is invaluable. Our MyHRCareers network prides itself on bringing together HR professionals to exchange knowledge, ask questions and share ideas.

We try to address the lack of opportunity typically provided to those starting out in their HR careers and run a mentoring programme which is returning on October 24th. If you are interested then please do sign up here!

Written by Louise Michael, Veran Performance


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