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


Ben Eubanks said...

Krista, I'm working on a post or two along the "new HR" vein, and you've hit some EXCELLENT points here!
1) Learn something every day. Not an option. Not a "nice-to-have." Do it.
2) Do it, even if it's only to get some credibility with non-HR peers.
3) I agree. I'm only a local member, because it's pretty expensive, but it's even more valuable to have a network nearby!
4) Here's the thing: some people don't want to join Twitter. They should anyway. Even if they never tweet a single time, they can still use it as a learning resource for links and stuff. I have friends who do that well.
5) Again--this is not negotiable.
6) Same as #4. Some people can't blog/write, but they SHOULD be reading.
7) Yep. Make your own reputation online (don't let it be random!).
8) It's still amazing how many people can't operate Outlook or other MS apps. They're the standard. Know them well.

Again, great post, Krista!

Krista Ogburn Francis said...

Thanks, Ben! We could also add: find a mentor or mentors (though perhaps that is implied elsewhere).