How to Get a Job in HR

5 01 2012

I received an inquiry on LinkedIn and was happy with my response and thought it worthy of paraphrasing and posting here.

Dear Eric:

I was recently searching Portland for HR professionals and I came across your name. I am thinking of changing careers and getting my PHR certification (sic). I was really impressed by how much you have already accomplished in your field. I was wondering what advice you might be able to offer on getting started in the field of human resources in today’s economy.

Portland can be a really tough job market for everybody, including recent new graduates, but there are a lot of opportunities. They recently raised the requirements to get the Professional in Human Resources certificate from the HR Certification Institute and I think you either need college HR course work or 2-5 years’ experience. Getting a few years work experience is really the best method of qualifying and passing. If you end up taking the test I’ve got some good pointers, but I would not rush into it.

As far as building knowledge outside of direct experience, go sign up on the email lists for all the Portland and Vancouver employment law firms and HR consultants (e.g. Stoel Rives, Xenium etc). Then you get great legal updates and offers to go to great events (which mean networking!).

You should also join the Portland HR Management Association and Society for Human Resource Management. Membership gets you really good networking, access to interest groups and events. They have great groups including an active search group for job seekers you can attend. The mentor program is really amazing too if you can get in.

I would also be introspective and think about what areas of HR you want to develop towards. ie are you interested in training and development? benefits? A little bit of everything like a generalist? Knowing where you want to be will help plan and gain the requisite experience.

A good back door to get into many HR positions is to find an entry level job within the company you want to be employed and work towards getting promoted into the HR department. Proving yourself in another job is a good opportunity to make you a strong internal candidate to an HR position.

The other advice is to start looking for some temporary HR clerical or entry jobs. The employment department job seeker services are decent too.

If you just want to beef up your Resume/CV try this book. The author writes for lawyers but his perceptions and style guides will completely revamp your resume and documents (and yes I realize I have not made these type of style/format improvements to my blog…).

Also connect with HR and professional service recruiters. They will know what companies are looking for. I don’t know as much on the topic as all my hires are technical and creative hires.

Also check out the work of Joshua Waldman, who writes about social media for job seekers. He does some fantastic and far sighted work.  I’d check out his materials and maybe connect with him.

Good luck and remember that often when it comes to the job search, networking really is your best bet. One final piece of advice for your specific case would be too come up with some really good language/copy for cover letters that explains why you want to switch to the HR career.

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