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Where should I Begin?

I am a student here in a training program. My trade is automotive but I truly want to earn a living (6figs) in human resources. I have a few starter questions below if you guys could help me understand better.

What abilities or skills do I need to reach that pay grade and advance up the ladder?
How is the work-life balance?
When should I look for internships and where?
Why is it that HR always receives a bad rep?

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Marc’s Answer

The number one ability for any successful human resource professional is the ability to understand you work for your people, your people do not work for you. You work for people fairly, equally and with a fresh foundation. You understand that you will be disappointed and you will be exhausted with people at times but that does not affect your ability to treat the next person with the same amount of care as when you first started. In the higher tiers you will be making decisions that affect many people and their families and must be able to balance what's best for the people and what protects the longevity of the company that pays their livelihoods.

Experience is the key factor to salary in most cases, if you want to move to HR you need to start pursuing the education necessary and try to align yourself in a way to get your foot in the door. (It is hard to learn how to swim if you don't get in the water) If you're already working full time you may consider some night courses for a basic HR certificate to get an entry level position. Work on expanding on that education, this will help you develop tangible accomplishments with your entry level position experience that will help move up to the next level. Know your federal laws, local laws and stay versed with your industries HR changes (LinkedIn, Newsletters, Blogs, etc.). Read, Read and Read, there are tons of books regarding HR and Professional development, find your own flavor and what suits your personality.

My most controversial bit of advice, be loyal to yourself, do not be loyal to a company. This is where I see a lot of career trajectories plateau, a sense of complacency and admirable loyalty that often leads nowhere. If there is nowhere to move up or they are not willing to pay what your worth... move on. Comfort is the enemy of progress and you are the only one who can hold yourself back. Make sure you have something before you leave and make sure you leave doing the best damned job you've done there because that's how they're going to remember you and consequently that is a really good way to propel yourself on to the next thing. There is inherent risk but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Work/Life Balance: The timing of achieving your career goals is directly affected by this ratio. A ton of entry level jobs come with inconvenient schedules/work loads as you prove yourself out. By the time you get to a higher position you will be enveloped by aspects of your work but know how and when to turn it off but when your passionate about it, it will become part of your life. I believe there's a point of success where it just blends all together where neither is entirely off and it's not bad, it just is. I think it's more a matter of perspective and priority as your career goals progress. Generally I feel like Human Resources (leadership) is a calling (or at least should be) and people good at it know they sacrifice what they need to for the success of those around them, by no means a bleed you dry scenario but the best ones know it's not a 9 to 5 job.

Bad Reputation: As a consultant one of the things I ironically do (I say that because my bit of advice above) is look at improving retention. The first thing I want to see is the onboarding process, as this is where new people get their first impressions of the company. (Mind you these are places struggling enough to need a consultant) Most of the time I go into an office with a few people and my first thought is "If you are all here, who is running hell?" They complain that they don't see the reason of putting forth the effort into new hires because "they're just going to quit anyway". This is just a loss in passion because they genuinely want to feel like they're doing something but it's hard to do when their work walks out because of things they have no control of, but it is borderline hateful and you can feel it in that room. Lots of managers use HR as scapegoats to blame stuff on and use them to do their dirty work (terminations, write-ups, etc.) so most employ interaction with them is negative. Many times HR people are out of touch with the people they service because they don't understand what they do, what the operations are, or how to apply their skills effectively to operations which makes it frustrating to employees and managers when communicating with them, thus adding to the divide between operations and administration.

It is often a thankless job, where you often have to be the "bad guy", but the best know that they're making an impact. If you can be successful at working for your people, communicating effectively and bridging the gap between admin and operations, you can find yourself in a c-suite position in your career.


Thank you comment icon I am really grateful you took the time to answer this question. Shamiya
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Sierra’s Answer

What abilities or skills do I need to reach that pay grade and advance up the ladder?
I would try to reframe your goals as you find the right fit with an organization and focus on advancing up the ladder a little later. It's not to say that career advancement isn't important, but I think that being a main goal can be a distraction to you. Focus on finding a company with a meaningful mission to you. Try to learn about the team you're applying to or interviewing with and how they work together, how they collaborate, and their shared values. Then once you are in a role, put in the hard work. Learn what's important to your manager, their goals, the company, and its success. Be a team player. Learn about the employees you support and be a supportive, reliable, trustworthy colleague to them. Try to find and work on projects that solve inefficiencies for the company, don't overcomplicate processes for employees/managers, and reduce friction to help employees get their jobs done more smoothly. Lastly, I strongly believe, especially in your early days at an org, "no job is too small" for you. Do not have a "I am above this, I am too senior for this" kind of attitude. The recognition and advancement will generally come.

How is the work-life balance?
Depending on what area of HR you work in, there can be ebbs and flows to "busy times" of the year. I.e. if you concentrate on employee benefits, then the second half of the year is usually busiest as you prepare for renewals of benefits plans, study utilization and renewal costs vs. benefit / engagement with employees, and host open enrollment. Compensation specialists are very busy when hosting compensation reviews, either annually or multiple times per year. Generally work-life balance is good but also keep in mind, when you work closely with people as we do in HR, and their needs are your own, it can be hard to not take things personally and take on their problems in your own stress. But it's also really rewarding to help your colleagues make breakthroughs, fix issues with colleagues or processes, and celebrate milestones or achievements.

When should I look for internships and where?
Internships are generally for current students or immediately post-grad. Otherwise I'd target entry level positions, such as ones with "associate", "assistant", "coordinator" in the title. Sometimes "generalist" is the place to start too.

Why is it that HR always receives a bad rep?
It can be hard to be the rule enforcers. Very hard. Ultimately you have to remind yourself that you play a role between the company and the employees, sometimes you skew more heavily toward supporting and advocating for employee needs, sometimes for company needs. Hopefully they align or are at least not at odds with each other most of the time. But if the rule has sound logic, the policy is well reasoned and thought out, it's likely there to protect the company from risk or liability, protect employees from worst-case-scenarios, etc.

The other reason I think HR can have a bad rap is when HR team members aren't going about their work, such as investigations or process changes, transparently and honestly. Sometimes you just can't talk about your work or your investigation. But say so. Don't ever lie. It's better to say I unfortunately am not at liberty to say, or out of the interest of privacy to our colleagues, I can't share more details, than to ever lie about your intention or why you're inquiring.
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Bipasha’s Answer

Hello Shamiya,

Good to see that you are thinking ahead and have asked such a great question. This, in itself, is a very great quality to have in order to be successful in any field you go. To become a successful HR leader, there are many qualities one should have which normally we do not think about. One should have personal qualities that can be natural but can also be developed through trainings.

Human Resources is an umbrella which entails analytics, communication and conflict management, recruitment, interviewing, selection, and hiring processes, compensation and benefit, training and development, benefits, and many more. A successful HR leader should have or develop the following skills:

Organizational Skills
Interpersonal Skills
Speaking Skills
Leadership Skills
Decision-Making Skills

Most importantly, should be empathetic, as thats a key human resources skill.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Be patient and learn as much as you can.

Bipasha recommends the following next steps:

Master of Arts in Human Resources Management program or MBA with HR concentration.
Thank you comment icon Hello Again, Thank you so much for answering my questions and giving me an amazing insight on how to move forward. I look forward to keeping you updated on my progress. Happy Holidays ! Shamiya
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Priscilla’s Answer

I believe an HR leader that makes a difference in the organization knows about what is important to the business, and take actions as facilitator for the employees to work well. That may take you to different departments, skills, and interactions. For example, if you're working with the sales department in a firm, you need to understand (by talking to people), how to make sales people life's easier. It may be something as simple as making sure the training resources are available, feedback from managers is done appropriately, compensation and career path are correct. People will respect you if you take the extra work to know the business and its needs.

Work-life balance - it will really depend on the company, and sometimes, your manager. That is true for any role.

HR staff sometimes is challenged when the employees don't perceive what HR bring to the table. In my opinion, sometimes is a matter of miscommunication, or when HR staff and process are away and somehow disconnected to the needs of the team.
Thank you comment icon Thanks, can't wait to put this advice into action! Shamiya
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Kim’s Answer

Shamiya,

As an employee who had frequent interaction with HR, here's my take on it.

First, there are many different divisions within HR - Recruiting, Salary and Compensation, Compliance, etc.

The "bad rap" part of it, again, from an employee perspective, comes when HR personnel allow themselves to be "used" on witch-hunts to get rid of good employees who have filed grievances or even EEOC complaints, and who point out areas in the company in need of improvement. These same HR people also protect employees who need to be terminated - employees who are known for their racial and sexual harassment. HR tells us they are there to work for "us," but they in fact work for "them" (management). They will even say, privately, "hey, I know you're getting a bad rap, but, there was nothing I could do." They might start off believing they are there to ensure fairness, but, that quickly changes.

So, if you want to be in HR, but not be mired in the muck, I'd recommend specializing in an area such as Salary classification and compensation.

This is of course a very biased opinion, but, I hope it helps to answer that one point. Please let me know if you have any questions. (No, I was never fired. But, went through some mess, in a government (city) job.)

Kim
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Shamiya
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Drew’s Answer

Hi Shamiya,

Great question and good to see you're thinking ahead. My best advice would be to find ways to get experience, be patient, and be open to exploring different areas within Human Resources.

One of the ways you can find experiences is reaching out to local businesses and services or even the trade school you're at and asking them if there are exploratory opportunities within Human Resources. From there, comes the part about being patient. Given you're exploring a new field for the first time, there will likely be moments of frustration, discouragement or uncertainty but you have to be patient and give yourself time to learn more. Ask for feedback and have that patience. Once you feel you are more comfortable in one part of Human Resources, start doing some research via Youtube or Google and look into other areas. Read about them and see which interests you. Repeat the same step of finding opportunities where you can get that experience/exposure and be patient while you learn. Overtime, you'll start to see that your are either becoming very Knowledgeable and skilled in Human Resources or you'll realize that although you're learning more, this field really isn't for you. If you decide you like Human Resources and want to learn more, pick one of the areas in Human Resources and go deeper. After getting better and more skilled, the salary will follow. Try not to focus solely on the money initially although I recognize this is super important. As long as you can become savy in whatever you choose to do, companies should be willing to pay you the salary you desire.
Thank you comment icon I appreciate your support, Drew Shamiya
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