You want to work in HR by choice? Seriously? Well…if you’re sure…here’s how…

Someone posed this question, and I thought it might benefit others to share on the topic.

I’d like to break into the HR field. I’m pursuing my BA currently. What majors or certifications would you recommend I obtain to find a strong position in the field when I graduate?

I’m sure many employers look for HR certifications, or I can’t imagine why they’d be so popular.

That being said, I have never come across a resume/application for a position where this was a deciding factor.

I’ve yet to see a resume with no relevant experience or education, but has HR certifications – and see the candidate be seriously considered for a  position.

On the flip side, I’ve never seen a great resume with strong relevant education & experience that was not seriously considered because they did NOT have HR certificates…but hey, could be this happens other places.

Majors: a business or liberal arts degree ought to suffice if complimented by internships or junior positions in the field. Depending on what type of HR environment you’d like to work in, you might want to major in something relevant to that, as opposed to an HR degree (which not every university offers). If you decide later on that you’d rather work in a different area (say accounting) a general degree would be more helpful than a specified one.

Very few HR leaders I’ve met knew they wanted to work in HR (like me!). They generally fall into it from other roles or positions. Even within HR there are many types of roles from benefits, employee relations, recruiting (yay), union relations, diversity specialists, generalists (who deal with everything), payroll, timekeeping, leaves…you get the point.

Taking a position or internship while in school is my best advice. Had I not done social work internships, I would be a social worker now. I only needed one more year of school to have my MSW, but upon working in various social work environments I realized it was not the type of challenge I would enjoy long term.

Before you plan your life around a career you have yet to experience, try it out (paid or not). It might help you specify the area you’d like to focus on, or like in my case, save you from wasting time and pigeon-holing yourself in the career realm.

Final note on certifications: Many are expensive, require annual payment, membership renewals, or maintenance to keep the certifications. In the end they’re a business. Many people will write “six sigma black belt certification obtained” as that they no longer maintain it, but once they’ve achieved it and put it on their resume, it satisfies their goal.

*Exception tip: Once you’re working in a field, many employers will pay for you to obtain certifications & allow you to do them on work time. If so I definitely recommend this! It can’t take away from your resume, and will broaden your network and skills without losing time or money. Talk to your employee development person or someone from HR to see if your employer allows for this.

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