My path to human resources was not the usual career path. The company where I worked was able to transfer me to human resources after an auto accident rendered me physically disabled. I was also provided the training and support I needed to succeed. It is not something I would recommend to anyone.
Steve has been a friend for many years, and I was thrilled that he offered to share his thoughts.
There are a variety of ways to view this. It is easy to get into HR. Many people begin their career in recruitment. This is a great place to gain experience and learn the nuances of working alongside people, sourcing talent, adding people to an organization, and making them better.
It isn’t easy to get into HR as a generalist. It shouldn’t be this difficult, but it is. Ironically, we expect “experience” to be a generalist but are reluctant to give HR newcomers a chance. We do the same things as other professions.
HR should be more open to welcoming new people into the profession. We hear too often about people “falling into” HR. This is because many people have experienced the ‘fall’. It would be even more wonderful if HR were a choice and not something that happens by chance.
It is important first to know yourself. Before you can pursue a generalist or specialist role, it is important to understand your strengths, personality, and approach. No matter what stage in a person’s career, self-awareness is more important than choosing one type.
I like the generalist aspect of HR because it allows me to gain a wide range of experience and be exposed to many people at all levels of the company. Specialists are those who can be more narrowly focused. Both specialists and generalists are both valuable tools for practicing HR.
Think about what you are looking for in a job. If you feel comfortable working in the data/numbers area, you might consider roles such as HR data analytics or compensation analyst. You might be more comfortable explaining your skills and work to others. This is why organizational development, learning and development, and other roles are good options.
The key to this and all other roles is to ask, “Can I leverage my strengths to add value for the company and the workers?” When you do, you truly give your best in all your endeavors.
It’s true. Be a voracious reader. You must be a voracious reader. The field is constantly changing. It is not enough to be able to master the basics of HR101 and then remain in your current position. Read blogs about business and HR. You can take most books and pull information/experiences related to practicing HR.
Podcasts are so in-demand that I would recommend subscribing to them and listening. This is another way to keep your mind and ears sharp. It is important to continue learning, both professionally and personally.
I wish someone had explained to me the importance of having a network with peers. It was not explained to me that it was important to have other professional contacts. Networking is not just about job hunting. It’s a fundamental business skill. Having peers, you can turn to for help with your questions is invaluable. Reaching out to other people can help you get more done than trying to figure it out yourself. Being part of a group can make HR more effective.
Steve, thank you for sharing your experiences. To learn more about Steve’s HR philosophy, visit his blog Everyday People or pick up his best-selling book HR On Purpose!. You won’t regret it, I promise.
There are many ways to get into the human resource profession. All of them require understanding yourself and how you can add value to organizations.