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How do you transition into HR from a different career?

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Subject: Career question for you

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Michael’s Answer

A few quick ideas in addition to the other great ideas provided . . .

-HR is very experiential; seek experience through any means. Consider even volunteering or 'grown-up interning' as I like to call it. Most non-profit organizations - many of which we already volunteer for or are associated with (e.g. schools, places of worship, community outreach orgs., environmental causes, etc.) - might love some volunteering in their office. For those organizations, that office work often includes HR-related tasks such as hiring, benefits, payroll, etc. Even a relatively small amount of hours each month would allow you to put it on your resume and speak to it during an interview. And . . . you feel good for volunteering!

-Consider seeking a position with an internal Talent Acquisition team (i.e. not a professional/staffing firm). Sometimes HR departments are hesitant to hire internally when you could have access, literally, to your former co-workers (and friend's?!) very confidential information. Talent Acquisition often partners closely with HR but doesn't have access to the most sensitive employee information. A role in Talent Acquisition can help you gain both the experience, as mentioned above, and the exposure, by way of that close partnership with HR.

Best of luck! It's a great career!
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Charlie’s Answer

Excited to hear that you're considering a transition into the HR career field. As an HR Manager with experience recruiting other HR professionals, I know firsthand how competitive the recruiting process can be to get to transition into the HR career field.

I’ve often found it easier for easier for individuals to enter the HR field with their existing employer if they don’t have any prior HR work experience because your organization already knows your work ethic and potential fit. If your current employer has openings in HR, I’d recommend you start there first. If your organization doesn’t have any HR openings, or you prefer to make the transition with a new organization, you'll likely need to start in an entry level HR role and work your way up from there.

HR certifications are a great way to highlight your knowledge and skillset as you start this journey. You’ll have a significant advantage in the recruiting process if you can showcase a formal HR certification on your resume since it will show the recruiter that you already have the tactical knowledge and skills necessary to successfully transition into an HR role. The aPHR (Associate Professional in Human Resources) certification from the HR Certification Institute is specifically designed for professionals who are just beginning their HR career journey and doesn’t require any prior HR experience to take the certification exam.

Another great option would be the SHRM-CP (Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional) certification, which is designed to assess the competency level of HR at the operational level. Keep in mind that HR certifications will require expensive study & prep on your part to pass the exam, which is precisely why obtaining one will make you stand out as a serious candidate against the competition.

I’d also suggest connecting with an existing HR professional to find out more about their role, how they transitioned into the HR career field, and discuss the possibility of setting up a mentorship so you have a personal point of contact that can help answer questions and guide you in the right direction. HR is an exciting career field and I wish you luck on your journey!
Thank you comment icon Charlie is right. This is exactly how I landed in an HR Generalist role over a decade ago. After working client facing in consulting, my employer was expanding and the CFO could no longer support HR on her own. When that role opened up, I jumped on the opportunity and thankfully was selected. I was in that role for 5 yrs and learned loads in HR given how broad it is as a generalist in particular. It was such good experience and it allowed me to get a sense for what I wanted to specialize in HR vs. not. Alina Delgado, PHR
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Kristin’s Answer

Hi there,

You can transition into HR by building experiences that are HR related from your existing career. I believe any career has responsibilities that could be HR related, you just have to connect the dots. Especially with soft skills like communication, problem solving and project management.
For example - if you are doing a data science or analysis role you could explore getting into HR by joining an HRIS team or HR Analytics team as an analyst.

Here are a few other ideas:

- Do some research. Look for different roles that align with your existing skills and experience.
- Be ok with taking an entry level role and taking a step back in your career to gain relevant experiences and just get your foot in the door.
- Speak to your current HR team (if you have one or go on LinkedIn and reach out to an HR person) or your manager and ask them to help you transition.
- Find a mentor. Network with other resources. Attend an industry event/conference.
- Look at HR postings and see what companies have listed for the requirements so you know exactly what your dream HR job entails.
- Speak to people who are currently in the role you want and see how they got their start.
-Get an HR certification from SHRM, HRCI, ATD, CEBS, World at Work or a University program that offers certificate for HRM. Study I/O.
- Find a recruiter or speak with people who work for HR staffing firms.
-Find companies that have HR development programs or internships. Volunteer at a non profit in their HR department.

For example, an employee came to me and wanted to make a career change into HR when I was her HRBP. She asked to volunteer to help me with projects and we would check in on a weekly basis. This partnership gave her stories to share during an interview and she landed an entry level role in HR.

Good luck, I'm happy to help if you want to reach out!

Kristin recommends the following next steps:

Do some research
Network - ask friends/family
Volunteer
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Yhtiyar’s Answer

HR requires solid technical skills and soft skills. You can transition to HR simply by taking some online courses and gaining some certifications, and/or doing some internships paid ir unpaid.
Also, you need to highlight and tailor your with relevant information relatable from your previous experience.
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Jessica’s Answer

Strongly suggest finding opportunities to work with organizational initiatives sponsored by HR, whether mentorship or training opportunities or some other sponsored area. Ask for the opportunity to "audit" a responsibility in the function or do a "tour of duty" in HR. You can also find opportunities outside of your current organization on a part-time or volunteer basis to gain experience and determine if the transition is something you want.

Jessica recommends the following next steps:

Explore on Access Your Potential’s site potential career opportunities like internships and paid consulting externships for nonprofits. Sign up to have access to these free programs and more by searching "Access Your Potential - PwC"
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Daphne’s Answer

In a way, all roads or disciplines can lead to opportunities in HR. Every other area of the business is a client of HR. It is of great benefit to a company to rotate in employees from other business units and departments. Most skills are transferrable and the insight and perspective they bring is invaluable. There are not many skillsets that I can think of that are not transferable to a role in HR e.g., finance, engineering, legal, project management, supervisory, field expertise and more.
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Sarah’s Answer

There are countless exciting and fulfilling ways to embark on a career in Human Resources, so don't be afraid to take the first step! Just like my personal path through training, you can discover a unique and rewarding journey. I became an expert in my department and when the company expressed a need to hire a training and development manager to onboard new employees and provide additional coaching and training support for the rest of the team, I jumped at the opportunity.

HR Departments are incredibly versatile, offering various roles that cater to your passions and strengths, such as:

- Talent Acquisition/Recruiting: This fantastic career is perfect for those who thrive in working with others, problem-solving, and team collaboration. If you have a background in Sales, you could truly excel in this role!
- Operations: If you possess keen attention to detail and can easily juggle multiple tasks, you'll love working in this area. Key responsibilities may include managing payroll, benefits, leave of absences, and immigration.
- Learning & Development: Are you passionate about public speaking and empowering others to succeed? Look no further! Many professionals with experience in public or private education find great fulfillment in this role.
- HR Business Partner: If you're a natural-born leader who can expertly guide others through business or management decisions, this position could be perfect for you.

Remember, the possibilities are endless in Human Resources, and you have the potential to make a real difference in the lives of others. Embrace your unique skills and interests, and embark on an exciting and rewarding HR journey!
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Kristi’s Answer

This is truly the most effective method to achieve success. Beginning an HR career straight out of school can be challenging, as numerous process-driven HR tasks at the administrative or entry level are now outsourced or offshored. First, explore opportunities within your current company, if you're employed, and seek out a recruiting role. This will assist you in entering the department and gaining valuable knowledge in the field. Additionally, preparing for and taking the PHR exam will provide you with a solid understanding of the profession's core principles, which is crucial for your growth.
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Layne’s Answer

Great question! One of the fascinating and energizing things about HR is that it requires you to learn about other parts of the business. As a result, HR professionals sometimes have the broadest knowledge of other functions than any other department. Take advantage of that knowledge to identify other careers that may be suited to your skills and interests. Then, look at what transferrable skills you have to that business. Meet with hiring managers in other departments to learn more about what they look for, and ask them what jobs could be done with transferrable skills. If needed, look at supplementing your experience with online or other coursework in the new field.

Layne recommends the following next steps:

Identify other careers that may be suited to your skills and interests
Look at what transferrable skills you have to that business
Meet with hiring managers in other departments to learn more about what they look for
Ask managers in other departments what jobs could be done with transferrable skills
Look at supplementing your experience with online or other coursework in the new field
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Melissa’s Answer

Hello, this is a great question and personally relevant to my career path! My undergraduate degree is in finance and and I began my career with a large investment bank. I worked in Corporate Finance for about 4 years before pursuing an opportunity in Compensation (within the Human Resources function). Even though I had no prior experience or knowledge of the Compensation function, many of my skills were transferrable-- data analytics, attention to detail, fundamental understanding of Corporate finance and general business acumen. Fast-forward 12 years later and I still work in Compensation, which I believe will be my lifelong career. It's the right balance of people-facing work with analytics work. No matter where you start, focus on building the right skills in your role versus the tactical aspects of the job.
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Josephine’s Answer

Try reaching out to various HR professionals (or your internal HR team) and shadowing for a week to really get a flavor of their day to day. As well, there are so many different functions within the HR umbrella - try conducting some informational interview to get a better understanding of potentially where you want your entry point to be. From there, you can determine what external trainings (whether that be schooling or certifications) that might be well suited for pivoting into an HR career or an entry level HR role that you can apply for to gain hands on experience.
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Shirley’s Answer

Hi there! I started my career in Accounting and took on a few roles within Finance before landing in the Human Resources space - I love it!

Continue to look for opportunities to do something different within your current career. Even if they are not directly related to HR, you can raise interest and ask for shadow opportunities of the HR professionals. Also look for opportunities to assist with recruiting, serve as a mentor to another individual, have a difficult conversation, lead/facilitate training content, project management, etc. Think of ways in which you can demonstrate your leadership capabilities to hone in on your communication and critical thinking skills too!

Remember not to discount your current role and experience - there are likely lots of parallels that you can draw between where you are and where you want to be in HR. Think about things such as your existing relationships, ability to complete work timely while managing competing priorities, instances where you have had to convince someone of your approach/opinion, times when you had to think critically to come up with a solution, etc. It is important to have a network that is supportive of this potential change so be sure you can articulate the why and what HR offers your career that your current role might not.

Good luck!
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