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Career Change: How to Break into HR


HR is a career that demands integrity, confidentiality (employee information must always be protected), and a really high level of interpersonal and communication skills.

There are many skills you'll need to succeed in HR, but ultimately a career in HR is well suited to someone who genuinely enjoys working with others and has really good problem-solving skills.

If you're keen to break into HR, you must be prepared to develop a thorough understanding of the business your employer is engaged in. Increasingly, for a successful career in HR, you'll also need some level of higher education, for example, Business Management, Finance, Legal or even a Psychology background.

The skills needed to transition into a HR career

Liking people or being a people person is not the only qualification for pursuing a career in Human Resources or making a career change to HR. It helps, but it won't be enough to guarantee success in this ever-evolving specialism.

HR jobs and careers are always evolving and growing in sophistication with the expectations of employers and employees increasing each year too.

Take Cpl's own HR team as an example. They are a multifaceted team with a range of skills from the HR manager to Learning and Development specialists. They each come from different backgrounds and they are all working to make Cpl a great place to work, continuously upskilling and reporting on their work to the wider Group.

In short, a good HR professional must be able to contribute to general HR admin and strengthen employee development, employee retention rates, rewards and overall make the workplace a more positive, motivating place to be. These are all critical to succeed in HR.

Breaking into HR

There is no one size fits all journey to working in Human Resource Management. Some enter a career in HR by luck and by design, and they stay because they enjoy the work, the people and the culture of the organisation they are part of.

Common themes emerge when you read stories about people's transition into HR management. When you come to HR through happenstance, as so many people do, how can you brand yourself effectively to move up to the next rung?

Advice for professionals looking to make a career change to HR

Below are some tips for getting your foot in the door, regardless of where you are on your career journey.

Highlight relevant skills on your CV

A good CV clearly shows your relevant skills. If you don't have any professional HR experience, write a good CV bio that clearly explains your interest in the area and that you're looking to move into the industry.

If you have any hands-on experience include this too - for example, you may have been involved in helping your HR department with CSR initiatives, or you might have recruited people in the past. Payroll and general admin are two additional areas that are valuable to have experience in.

You can highlight the specific things you’ve done related to HR tasks and create a section related to that. If you shine a very bright light on your HR experience and your HR path, it’s easier for people to match that up with what they’re looking for in a formal job description.

Get involved with your HR department

If you are currently working in a company with an HR department, get involved. Usually, HR are happy to have outside help, particularly when company initiatives to build engagement with existing employees.

Think of some ideas and pitch them or reach out and see if they need any help with existing programs. This will help you develop skills and help confirm whether or not a career in HR is really for you.

Get involved in the HR community

If you're serious about pivoting into a career in HR you'll need to study for a certification in an area of HR. Joining an HR professional association and attending relevant industry events will also help you develop your HR knowledge.

At the moment many events are online, making them more accessible to the general public. Get involved and connect with others on LinkedIn afterwards. This will build your professional HR network and keep you in the loop of any new trends and reports, which may be invaluable in an interview.

Generally, to break into HR you'll need an interest in people, along with good business acumen and a strong passion to succeed. The current job market is quite saturated, so it might not be easy but it is possible and passion ultimately shines through.

If you have some experience in HR and are interested in learning more about the sector get in touch - I'd be happy to advise.