3 Steps to Break in to HR
If simply sending out applications isn't working, refocus your HR job search with this three-step process.
Like many people trying to get into HR, Andrea Battle spent months applying for listed positions without success. Battle had decided to make the move from university administration to HR, so she initially focused on rewriting her resume to target her newly chosen field. However, she had little success when she applied for HR vacancies. "I knew I could convey my abilities in a cover letter, but many of the online systems didn't even allow for that," she explains.
Battle's frustration is by no means unusual, according to Billie Ruth Sucher, a career transition consultant. She says that creativity and discipline are essential to moving into HR from another field, and explains the three-step strategy she teaches her clients:
Define Your Goal: "Broad, generic goals are really hard to attain," Sucher explains. "People get so frustrated and overwhelmed that they give up." Instead, focus your search on specific positions, she says. To help you define your target, Sucher recommends asking yourself: "What path will get me to my goal in the fastest, easiest, best, least painful, least fearful, most doable, most effective way at this time, knowing what I know to be true about me, my life and my circumstances?"
Given her international experience, Battle decided to target positions with relocation companies or within international HR departments, because these companies could immediately benefit from her experience in facilitating international moves.
Keep Your Options Open: Although clear goals are important, Sucher advises seekers to also remain flexible and consider entering their chosen profession differently. For example, you may have to take a step down in both status and salary. Accepting these facts up front means you're less likely to be disappointed, says Sucher, who points out, "If plan A doesn't work out, you won't be discouraged, because you can pursue plan B, C and D."
Build a Team: Asking for help takes courage, but Sucher says job seekers can't afford to go it alone. "Tap into people you know, and identify people you want to get to know," she advises.
This team-building approach transformed Battle's job search. Once she realized that applying for open positions wasn't working, Battle began to ask friends and family members for support and advice. Within a few weeks, she secured informational interviews with the owner of an HR placement agency and executives at an international relocation company. Perhaps more importantly, she also met a senior-level HR professional who became her mentor. In addition to providing advice and support, this executive has introduced Battle to other corporate HR professionals and has even invited her to help organize an upcoming high-profile HR conference. Having seen firsthand how important networking is, Battle quickly expanded her efforts and is now attending local Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) meetings. She has also begun a 10-week Professional in Human Resources/Senior Professional in Human Resources (PHR/SPHR) certification prep course to help grow her network.
The shift in Battle's job search has not yet landed her the HR position she seeks, but it has brought more success in a few weeks than she experienced in several frustrating months sending job applications. She acknowledges that making a career change in a down market is a challenge but is not discouraged. "I am so excited, and I now feel it is only a matter of time before I land my dream job," she says.
Sucher's final advice for would-be HR professionals is simple: "Show dogged determination and a relentless spirit. If you define your goals, remain flexible and build a team, you will succeed."
Learn more about human resources careers.