I had always played with the idea of working in HR since I was around 18 (the age of personal statements, University applications and pressurisation to make serious life choices) and thus, chose University and a degree in Sociology to procrastinate and further avoid making such decisions. I am fully aware that Sociology has nothing to do with Human Resources and have no excuse for making this my degree choice.
However, at the age of 21 when I finally realised it was time to grow up, I once again considered Human Resources. As do a lot of people who don’t work within HR, I thought this pretty much involved being a “people person” – giving counselling advice from the comfort of an office and listening to juicy gossip. Now, although the latter is fairly accurate, there is a lot more involved.
If you are considering a career path into HR, I would firstly research into the role (which you are technically doing now – so good start!). There are a few areas which you can go into, from Learning & Development which involves constructing and delivering training to employees, to Recruitment, such as screening and holding assessment days, to where I sit, in the HR Administration team.
On a day to day basis, I deal with employee administration post recruitment, so when they officially become an employee of the business. This can involve promotions, salary review administration, bonus administration (please don’t fall asleep) etc… The more interesting part of my role is giving first level policy advice to our employees. These consist of phone calls ranging from simple questions about contracts and benefits, to bizarre questions from line managers about their employees who smell. This is the part I most enjoy and I hope eventually to move up into a HR Advisory role, so that I can deal with the more complex queries that don’t involve stinky employees.
So, let’s look at the Pros & Cons:
- There’s quite a clear career path to move up into once you know what you want to do. So from HR Administration, there’s room to move into a HR Generalist or Advisory role and potentially progress from there into a HR Manager role (if you like being responsible for other people) and then a HR Business Partner role. You could even move into a HR Director role from there if you’re looking to go big. You can also earn good money! Ching-Ching!
- People who work in HR make the best Managers, by choosing HR as a career it does give you great skills for becoming a good manager and keeping your employees engaged. A lot of people think managing employees is easy , but being a good manager is actually really hard!
- A good career path if you like problem solving. Even when I think I have heard all the employee problems I possible could have, I always get a query that throws me slightly and I don’t know the answer to.
- HR is nearly all women – potentially a con if you’re a girl, but if you’re a boy, definitely a pro.
- Everywhere has a HR department, so you can apply anywhere!
- Not necessarily a great career choice if you aren’t interested in listening to people’s problems. You often will find that employees call you simply to have a rant, or to cry down the phone hysterically for a good twenty minutes, if this isn’t for you, don’t go into HR.
- HR isn’t very black and white. If you don’t know the answer to something and it isn’t written within a policy that you can refer to, it is sometimes a matter of opinion and common sense. However, advising an employee incorrectly can potentially result in a nice big employment tribunal. So no pressure! Just read up on your employment law
- HR is hard to get into, I struggled for a while due to having no experience. It’s a vicious circle, they want someone who has experience in HR, but how can you get experience if they won’t give you the job? It may be worth doing internships, or paying to do your CIPD to show you’re dedicated. Or best of all, get onto a Grad Scheme! As not only does this give you a stepping stone in, but it also gives you an insight into all the areas of HR as mentioned earlier.
Hints & Tips
- Do your CIPD – companies love it, they like the look of it, do it. If you can get your company to pay for it, even better! I have done my Level 5 in Human Resource Management which I forked out for as I was struggling to get into HR and wanted to embellish my CV. Realistically, you should do your Level 7 postgraduate diploma also. Once you have done that, you are fully qualified and ready to take over the HR world. But remember, experience pays off for a lot and a CIPD alone is not good enough.
- Even if you haven’t done your CIPD, become a member of the CIPD. You’ll get free membership to People Management magazine which gives you all the employment law updates you need and also provides a list of HR jobs available. Your company may be willing to pay for this also!
Overall, I would recommend HR as a career choice. It is interesting, you have to use your mind and if you like a degree of responsibility, then this job is for you! My final bit of advice would be work for a big company if you can – they often have their sh*t together. There’s no point practicing HR if the company you’re working for isn’t preaching it e.g. no great policies in place, no training, no talent management system etc… You’ll get a good idea of this from your company’s website!
I hope this has been of some help and good luck in your job hunt!
With thanks to Laura Ford – HR Case Advisor at EDF Energy