Saturday, August 29, 2009

So You Want to be in HR? My Suggestions

HR professionals are often approached by people wanting to get into the profession. We also meet HR newbies wanting advice and guidance to move ahead.

I love mentoring new HR professionals, so I’m happy to offer advice, most of which falls in to these categories: Find your voice and use it. Get connected. Embrace life-long learning. And new on the scene: start creating your digital resume.

How do you get started in HR? Well, sometimes the perfect HR opportunity does fall from the sky with no prior planning. It happens. However, it’s more likely that you will have to demonstrate you’re serious about the profession before you land the dream job or launch into HR rockstardom. Here are some ways to show that you’re serious:

1. Continual learning:

If you have a degree in an unrelated field, such as psychology, don’t rely on learning HR via Google. Go to seminars. Take classes. Try your community college to get started quickly and inexpensively while you figure out long-term educational goals. Don’t stop with Intro to Human Resource Management; take a business class, Intro to Accounting, Economics, etc. You will be taken more seriously with business coursework under your belt.

If your degree is in HR, you still need the habit of lifelong learning. Employment law constantly changes, management theory evolves, recruiters are always onto something new. There is no such thing as mastering HR once and for all; if you don’t enjoy the need to constantly learn new material, this is probably not the field for you.

2. Get certified: Consider testing for your PHR. Even if you aren’t yet eligible, start studying and using the information now. And expect to stay up on a ongoing changes over the years.

3. Network: Join SHRM. If it’s too pricey, check to see if your local chapter allows joining without a national membership. If that doesn’t work, look for other professional and business associations. Or hey--start your own.

4. Join twitter. I am a huge twitter fan for many reasons; two of the more compelling for you:

-The opportunity to connect with people that might ordinarily be outside your circle: VPs of HR, HR Directors, SPHRs, CEOs, SHRM officials, nationally known HR bloggers, great minds on the cutting edge of the new HR. They are almost without exception approachable and delighted to share thoughts and expertise.

-Constant exposure to HR, recruiting, talent management articles, blogs and ideas. If you connect to a decent-sized group of dynamic HR professionals, you are virtually swimming in a sea of creativity and new information, an evironment that continually challenges you forward.

5. Join LinkedIn. Don’t just join; connect to others, give and get recommendations; join groups and discussions, share your reading list.

6. Blog and read blogs: If you enjoy writing, try your hand at blogging. Whether or not that’s for you, develop a list of HR and business blogs to follow and read. Look for authors that challenge the HR status quo. Don’t just read, jump in the discussion. Find your voice, add your comments.

7. As you tweet, blog and chat on LinkedIn, remember all this content is searchable. You are building your ‘digital resume’, your online career portfolio. Does this sound scary? I hope not; it can be exciting. The sky’s the limit!

8. Bonus tip: While you explore social media and emerging technologies, don’t forget your ‘old school foundation,’ e.g. MS Office Suite. Employers want you to efficiently solve real world challenges through technology; e.g. how do we get these 400 names on name tags without retyping them one at a time? True story: I ask candidates about Word skills and they often quickly say they are intermediate or advanced. So I ask how to do a mail merge. More often than not, they answer, “A what?” Lesson: don’t forget the basics. Get good at them so you can handle those everyday challenges.

In my last post, I mentioned that new HR folks often define their jobs as “helping people.” If you take the time to involve yourself in the HR community in some of the ways I describe, you will quickly learn that yes, we help people, but the profession is so much more. If you implement some of my suggestions, you will probably find yourself moving in a direction of greater understanding of the evolving HR profession, greater visibility within it, and bigger and better opportunities.

Good luck!

Want advice on your new HR career? Email me and I’ll give you my two cents and/or look for someone else who can help.
flickr photo by Gary Hayes

Five Weeks Into My Search for an HR Assistant

Looking for an HR Assistant in 2009 has been interesting to say the least!

I ask candidates to share their favorite HR discipline and the most frequent answer is, “Helping people.” I’m sure they really do love helping people; so do I. But helping people is not one of the established HR disciplines. (I'm also thinking: if you want to help people, start with me, your future boss!)

Seriously, don’t tell me you love people, explain how you will advance our organization’s business objectives through your mastery of benefits, compensation, technology, etc. Show me you 'get' what HR is, that your understand your role. Tell me how you'll crank out the work, 'cuz there's a lot of it.

Why do I bring this up? Because if applicants were doing more of activities recommended in my next post, they would have the HR foundation to give an answer that has me thinking “yes, yes, yes” instead of “next, next, next.”

Another angle is the social media boom since I last hired an HR assistant. This time around, I check out web footprints of promising candidates. I stay away from FaceBook, but I google to see if they blog or are on LinkedIn or Twitter.

What am I finding online? Not as much as you’d think. No carousing, profanity, offensive behavior….but not much of anything else, either. Most had a LinkedIn profile, but none was especially robust or active. Some applicants’ information was outdated, most had few connections and few if any group affiliations or other signs of life. I found a couple people on Twitter, one person who started a yahoo HR group, and no blogs, not a single comment on anyone else's blog, either.

This was a bit surprising to me. I meet so many earnest people who want to get into HR and profess to be absolutely passionate about it. Yet many of them don’t seem to be taking advantage of the technology that would connect them to HR leaders, colleagues and groups at great advantage to their careers.

As you can imagine, I have some thoughts about that and also five tips (plus a freebie) for developing your young HR career. More about all that in my next post: So You Want to Work in HR?

flickr photo by Michelle13