Fix My Job Search: I Want an HR Job. What Do I Do?

By Friday, September 13, 2013 0 Permalink 23

A reader writes:

I appreciate you answering my questions. I have been reading your newsletters and I now know that I have not been prepared for the workforce at all. I did get a job recently per some of the advice on your page. I love the job environment, my boss, co-workers, etc., but I HATE the work I do. The work involves my biggest weakness which is calculations. I only took the job because I had been unemployed too long and I was tired of valeting.

Quick background, my ‘almost degree’ is in Journalism (recently found out I was a few credits short of my B.A.). However, while in school at USD, Journalism took a dive. I decided to try HR mainly because I wanted to be a Recruiter. I figured I need to start with HR Assistant or Recruiting Coordinator. I did a few jobs in HR as a coordinator and in compliance but I feel like it is not enough. The reality is that I want to be an entrepreneur, however I need to eat until the side hustle turns full time. I know you did a post on switching careers but I am not sure that I am switching careers.

My questions…

1. How should I break into an entry level position in HR?
2. Is it mandatory to get the PHR certification?
3. After reading your post “There is more to compensation than money“, I thought maybe I should look into working for a small company. I feel like I have a better chance at getting a job at a larger company though. Is my rationale off on this?
4. Should I put on my resume that I have a degree and explain in the interview my ‘real’ situation?
5. I know this sounds crazy, but I don’t like applying for jobs where I don’t know someone who can pull my resume and push it to the top. I feel like my resume goes into a black hole of resumes never to be found if I don’t know anyone at the company. Is this crazy?

Again I appreciate your time and any feedback you can give.

Best Regards,
Tasha in San Diego

You said calculations and my heart and head started pounding. Excel gives me palpitations and complex math makes me think life as a fruit fly wouldn’t be so bad. The thing is, if you go into more of a standard HR Generalist role, even at entry level, you won’t be able to escape calculations or Excel. It’s one of the fundamental skills required of HR folks today. This is part of the reason I went back into recruiting full-time. A couple things about recruiting:

First, you don’t have to come from an HR background to get a recruiting job. Second, staffing agencies will often hire entry-level recruiters who have no HR or previous recruiting experience. They’ll hire someone that has solid relationship management or customer service skills, is comfortable makin’ a high number of calls daily, can learn quickly, and demonstrates they have the resilience to not get burnt out after a few months. If you really wanna get into recruiting, you could start with the agency side to get some experience under your belt. That would make it a lot easier to jump to the corporate side later on. The drawback to agency jobs is that they usually have a commission component. So if you don’t place people, well…yeah. Now let me answer your questions.

Breaking into any field right now is tough, but if you’ve done previous work as an HR Coordinator, you’re a step ahead of a lot of people even if that experience was only a few months. In terms of skill set, HR is highly administrative, transactional, and customer service-oriented. If you have professional experience that falls under these categories, you need to showcase that on your résumé. You can look at just about any generalist or coordinator job description and you’ll see what I mean. Internships are an option as well as Office/HR Assistant type roles.

PHR certification is a nice to have. Many job descriptions will say it’s desired. And the more desired qualifications you have, the better positioned you are to be called for an interview. There is an experience requirement though. Two years I believe. If you don’t have that, you will need to get more experience before you’re qualified to take the exam. An agency recruiting job will help with that. As would an HR Assistant gig.

I’m a fan of small companies. They’re usually more flexible and pressed for talent compared to large companies where everybody knows their name. Cheers. My last three jobs have been with smaller companies. I got into each missing some skills, but they were willing to take a chance. So don’t rule them out!

List your education and put the years. Then you can explain in an interview what had happened was.

I feel you on not applying where you don’t have contacts. Everybody hates the résumé black hole. Shit is filled with despair and children tears. So while your chances may not be as high without a referral, you should still apply for positions you’re qualified for. Two of my last three jobs were places I had no previous contacts. I just optimized the hell out of my résumé for each job and wrote an exquisite cover letter.

You’re asking the right questions and hopefully these answers move you further along. Good luck and keep me posted!


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