Your HR Career

Each year, SHRM has an annual student conference. A friend and fellow blogger sent me a call for presentations to submit an idea to present at the 2010 conference in June. Well, one thing came up, and then another, and even though I drafted out a proposal, I did not follow through. If I did follow through, here's what I propose I'd say.

HR is a profession in the midst of change. Once a very transactional and administrative role, HR professionals can now play influential and transformational roles, impacting and delivering on business objectives.

If you watch and listen carefully, you will see and hear the struggle between the old and new; between compliance and innovation, and between complacency and progress. Progress and innovation are winning out as the HR profession changes to provide the services and expertise organizations need to succeed.

If initiating, leading and fostering inevitable change is what you are interested in, you've come to the right place.

Fitting In 

HR professionals come into the profession in different ways, for different reasons and with different experiences. If you are making the decision to enter HR and start with the degree to support it, you are one giant step ahead of me (unless you can make a connection between a BS in Biology and HR) and many others like me. Some of us did other things before HR and we fell down the rabbit hole.

Human resource roles come in all shapes and sizes. HR is in the private, public, profit, and not for profit sectors. HR is in the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the school system and the government. HR staffs your grocery stores, recruits health care providers for your medical centers and develops the skills needed to ensure businesses meet goals. HR roles range from a very traditional, transactional function to a strategic, transformational function and everything in between. 

Human resource professionals work locally, nationally or internationally. They lead departments, teams or run their very own department of one. They work full-time, part-time or own their own. They travel frequently, sporadically, or stay close to home. They insource, outsource, contract, or consult.

Take a look at your skills, experiences, aspirations. Now take a look at the organizations and the roles? Something peak your interest? Got it? Great. Now that you know where you fit in, for lack of a better term, it's time for you to stand out.

Standing Out

HR is not rocket science. Sure, the legal stuff can appear to be complex but it is not. Nothing in HR is beyond comprehension. I can teach a new HR professional how to review a resume, how to write a discipline charge, and how to make an employment offer. What I can't teach a new professional (or an old one) is how to think creatively, to look beyond the question being asked to identify the real issue at hand and that HR often means putting two plus two together and getting five. Nothing in HR is black and white and nothing is a straight line movement from point a to point b. There are detours and the detours trip up the unprepared all the time.

Learn the ins and outs of the technical side of HR but don't stop there. Don't be run-of-the-mill. If you are not already doing so, pressure, push and prod your instructors to stay current on HR issues of the day; supplement your course work outside the classroom with real-time readings and ideas from HR professionals and business leaders and above all, be responsible for your own learning. Seek mentors out, ask questions, and don't be afraid of jumping into discussions. Don't minimize your contributions because "you are new to the field, or just a student." Don't do it. Just don't.

Your mission: stand out from the crowd so I can find you among the masses.

Taking The First Step

My trip to wonderland started when I was interviewing for a non-HR role and the team asked me if I had ever considered Human Resources. I had not. "Boring," I said. "Not so," they countered and I took them up on their offer to spend time observing an HR department in action at one if their manufacturing plants. Sure, there was some processing of personnel actions and benefits work being done, but there was much more. It was more dynamic than I had ever anticipated. I took the first step and haven’t looked back since.

HR is not what it used to be and it is changing every day. Your trip to wonderland is starting now. It's your career, own it.

Welcome to the profession. 

Photo credit iStockphoto