Considerations for Pursuing a Career in HR
By Jori Hamilton
Image Source: Pexels
July 2 2021 - Over the last couple of decades, human resources (HR) has undergone some significant evolution. What was once considered a job in personnel administration now reflects the increasing complexity and richness of the workplace. HR professionals are respected by businesses as an essential aspect of managing employee relationships, ensuring legal compliance, and influencing a company's ability to be an innovative competitor in its industry.
This means that whether you are graduating or considering a job change, HR can offer rewarding career paths. However, that's not to say that it's always easy to know how best to go about it. As with any career, it takes some consideration to proceed positively.
So, let's review some of the primary areas to consider when you're looking at pursuing a career in HR. What elements can make a difference to your path, and how can you best prepare?
Generally speaking, your first step on the path to a career in HR is taking courses. The good news is that there are generally no prescribed educational paths here. Often, a career in HR is more dependent on the types of skills and experience you possess, rather than a specific type of degree. However, some courses are both desirable for employers and useful for you as an HR professional, and it's worth considering these.
Some of the educational routes available include:
- Bachelor's Degree in Human Resources
Some universities offer a specialized HR degree program. These don't necessarily need to be taken in-person, as many are available online. A program will take you through the practical and theoretical aspects of most HR-related roles, as they are designed to reflect the fact that this kind of Bachelor of Science program can help students follow varied career paths. This includes those pursuing generalized HR management careers or something more specialized like benefits and compensation management. Usually, you'll find areas of focus will include technical elements such as labor legislation and regulations, alongside softer skillsets like people management and communication.
- Professional Certifications
Often, individual professional qualifications alongside a degree can make for a more relevant path. Though certifications are not generally mandatory to get a role, they can demonstrate that you have a level of knowledge and credibility in specialist subjects that are relevant to HR departments. This is particularly useful if you're looking at HR management positions. These certifications are usually provided by independent professional organizations such as the Human Resource Certification Institute and the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans. However, it's important to understand that some certifications require you to already be in at least an entry-level position in an HR department before qualifying.
There is a tendency to think of HR as a single, all-encompassing position. However, as the workplace has developed, so too have the types of roles that professionals can see themselves engaging in. Particularly if you're aiming to join the HR department of a large corporation, it can be wise to consider what areas you can see yourself specializing in.
Some HR specialist roles to consider include:
This is an increasingly complex area of HR, and in larger companies, this is often a specialist role in and of itself. Applying the right recruitment strategy can help to ensure that a business can not just attract the most appropriate candidates for a position but also retain them. You can excel in this area by using tactics that involve leveraging updated branding to reflect the values that candidates are increasingly cognizant of, like sustainability. It may also include expanding beyond just college campus job fares and visiting trade shows. In an increasingly digitally-focused world, your social media savvy can also be a valuable asset in recruitment.
- Talent Development
It has become clear that a primary contributor to retention is making sure that employees feel nurtured in the companies they work for. As such, a talent development role centers around designing and implementing protocols that help workers progress in their careers. Specialists in this area are responsible for creating development plans for each department in the business, and sourcing training programs that are appropriate. As such, you'll need to develop skills in identifying the soft and technical abilities required for certain types of roles and implement them through multiple methods - including elearning and mentorship.
The Right Industry
Few industries don't require HR expertise, which means that you can be meaningfully involved in industries that are personally interesting to you. As such, you should also bear in mind what kinds of skills, networking opportunities, and experiences are most suitable for the sectors you want to work within.
Some areas could include:
Whether you have a love for movies or have a deep love for music, there are opportunities to engage as an HR professional. In entertainment fields, you'll usually find that contributors are independent contractors - around 55% of employees operate on a freelance basis. Therefore, you'll need to hone your skills and experiences to meet these needs. Develop communications skills for circumstances where you're unlikely ever to meet employees in person. Gain expertise in the tax and benefits regulations in respect of those that are temporary employees of the business.
- Non-Profit and Charity
If you want to pursue a career that means you're contributing to an organization that makes a difference in the world, working for a non-profit or charity may be the way to go. But these businesses also face HR challenges. Primary among these is the notoriously high turnover rate - often due to the sector's inability to offer high salaries. As such, you should develop experience in creating talent development and retention strategies, or recruiting staff who prioritize the organization's values rather than high salaries.
Pursuing a career in human resources can be a fulfilling and lucrative prospect. However, it's a hugely varied field, and it's worth taking time to consider what qualifications will help you to thrive, the types of roles that are of interest to you, and even the industries you are keen to contribute to. With some planning and focus, you can forge a positive HR career path for yourself.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, recruitment, HR, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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