The role of the human resources professional is one that can be varied and interesting.  It is also one that has seen a great deal of change in recent years, meaning that HR experts are much more strategic than in past times.  They are needed for areas such as talent management, staff engagement as well as typical recruitment and staff management roles. But how do you start on the path to an HR career?

Getting the right training

There are various different routes into a role as an HR professional.  For some, it will involve going straight from school to college to university and completing one of the various degree level courses such as HR management, personnel practice, a business degree or a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) course.

But these aren’t the only ways to start in the career.  You can get a gap year role or placement in a company in the lower ranks of the HR department to gain experience.  And you could take a specialist course such as the Souters Human Resources Courses that supplement your experience to help you be prepared for the role.  You may even take on some extra duties from your current role in the HR department to help make the transition.

Changing careers

Another common entry into the HR career is through working as a PA or secretary.  Around one-third of HR professionals start out in this kind of roles and gain crucial experience that serves them well when they make the change.  It also shows there is enough overlap between the job areas that employers are happy to consider people for the change.

You may find you need to take a salary drop at first when you change as your experience isn’t exact for the HR role.  But with the right training added to your experience, it may not be required.

What skills do you need?

As with any role, there are key skills that employers look for that can signal to them that you are the right candidate.  Top quality communication and interpersonal skills are very high on the list for desired skills for HR candidates. Being able to deal with people at all levels of the company is important as well as being flexible and adaptable.  

You need excellent organisational skills and the ability to manage a changing workload and a job that varies frequently.  Some commercial acumen may be attractive for some private sector employers while attending conferences, seminars and courses in the sector can help show your knowledge and enthusiasm.

HR career steps

Once you have your foot in the door of an HR career, there are lots of options for career advancement.  You may want to specialise in areas such as resourcing, recruitment or learning and development. You may want to look at working for larger companies, multi-nationals or the public sector.  And eventually, you may end up as the HR director or manager, a role that could see you sitting around the boardroom table.