How You Broke into HR

How You Broke into HR

It seems like the number one question asked on the HR Careers message board is, "How can I break into HR?"

These Monster users followed their dreams. So for all of you who have hit the wall in your job search and are ready to give up, these stories are for you.

Richard's Path to Recruiting

I began a career in educational sales that lasted about five years. During those five years, I won numerous awards.

I went to an employment agency just to see what was out there. I was hired by the agency as a recruiter and found it to be rewarding financially and personally. I was able to use my selling skills and at the same time learn about the many ways companies are run. This gave me the staffing and recruiting knowledge for a future HR position.

I had my own small employment agency for a while, and I did some contract work for a Fortune 100 company. A year later, the company created a recruiter's position for me and my career in corporate human resources began.

I was 50 years old when I was hired by this Fortune 100 company. So don't give up the dream if you're a little seasoned.

Richard's story shows there is more than one way into HR. You are never too old to make a change.

Shauna: From Receptionist to Director

Approximately 14 years ago, I was a receptionist at a manufacturing company. The controller discharged the HR professional, pulled me off the front desk and asked me to go to it. I had no human resources background whatsoever.

Everything was in disarray. [My] first priority was to get payroll completed. I spent the next 90 days getting everything in order.

After everything was straightened out, the controller hired someone to do the HR job I'd been doing. He said I had done a good job, but he wanted someone with experience. He put me back on the switchboard.

After tasting the HR field, I knew I liked the work and was good at it. Once I was back on the switchboard, I looked for another job, this time an HR position.

Despite my limited experience, I was offered an HR opportunity with another organization. As opposed to HR generalist work, the position was specifically concentrated in benefits.

I have continued to build on my human resources experience and have worked in various industries, enhancing my knowledge base. Currently, I'm director of human resources and education and development at a growing company. I've been able to achieve this at 34 years of age.

Most people in Shauna's position would have stomped off the job if they had been told they had to go back to the switchboard. Shauna didn't let a step back deter her from pursuing a job she enjoyed.

Donald's Two-Step

I had just graduated from college with a BS in political science. I discovered how hard it was to find a job in HR, so I began temping as an administrative assistant in HR departments. I finally saw a job ad that read, "Looking to learn HR from the ground up?" I applied and got the job.

The position was for a front desk receptionist/HR assistant. I sat at the front desk for eight months. During that time, I went to every class and seminar imaginable. In November 1998, I completed the Society for Human Resource Management's generalist class and was promoted. In December 2000, I passed the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) exam.

I now have experience with staffing and recruitment, compensation, benefits, payroll, employee relations, development and performance management. I am still learning more each day.

This fall, I'll return to school part-time to begin my MBA. I eventually want to break into consulting. My advice for anyone wanting to get into HR is to look at the big picture and be willing to take a step back to get where you eventually want to be.

Donald didn't get where he is today by luck. He took the initiative, and now he's well on his way to having a successful career in HR.

Learn more about human resources careers.