No experience? 5 steps to help you transition to a career in human resources

After 11 years in customer service and call center management, I decided I wanted a switch and HR was calling my name. I was missing the direct HR experience but had transferable skills and my self-awareness, research and networking helped me secure a job in human resources management in less than six months.

These are the steps I took to achieve my goal of becoming an HR professional (and hopefully they can help you too)

Engage a career coach

If you aren’t sure whether you should change careers or are uncertain about how to get started, working with a career coach may be a great first step for you.

When I first considered a transition to HR, I did a Google search and reached out to a career coach for direction and advice. I received valuable insight about my knowledge gaps and the potential challenges I may face trying to move into HR. My coach then helped me to put together an action plan to ensure I met my goals.

If you are interested in working with a career coach be sure to have an initial conversation with them before becoming a paid client. Most career coaches will offer you a free introductory phone call so you can determine early on if the relationship will be a good fit for your personality and needs.

Take a career assessment

One of the many great tools my career coach introduced me to is CareerLeader. CareerLeader is a self-assessment that helps you identify the career paths and work cultures that will best suit you.

It will help you understand what interests you in business, what motivates you in your work and what top career skills you have.

Should HR be the right career path for you, the tool also lets you know how you compare to other HR professionals. This is a great way to determine whether a move to HR is a good move.

Attend an HR basics class

Once I was sure I wanted to change careers, I knew I wanted to attend an all-encompassing HR training program. While I had a general understanding of HR, I needed more foundational and in-depth knowledge on all HR topics.

While there was a variety of classes and programs to choose from, I attended NEHRA’s 2-Day HR Basics program. NEHRA is a local professional HR organization in New England. If you have the opportunity, I would suggest you also attend an in-person HR foundations class (be it with NEHRA or another organization).

This programming will prepare you for a well-rounded career in HR, help you to grow your network and give you a great development activity to put on your resume.

Join SHRM

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is a resource that came highly recommended by almost every HR professional I spoke to. I became a member and was instantly impressed with all the benefits I could access—everything from free webcasts, local and state laws, a monthly HR Magazine subscription, a members-only HR career board and more.

Thanks to SHRM I stay current on HR news, events, and trends and have a better hold on HR jargon and lingo.

Having all of this up-to-date knowledge was invaluable to me when I was interviewing for HR positions and having to answer questions on HR topics and trends.

Having a SHRM membership is also another great HR-related piece of information I was able to add to my resume. This is the resource you need to help you transition to HR.

Focus on personal branding

Transitioning into a career in HR without the direct experience was going to be a hefty challenge but I knew developing an HR-focused brand would only help my chances.

I gave my resume and LinkedIn profile an overhaul, joined Twitter and Google+ and began engaging with people consistently and frequently using social media. I regularly shared HR-related articles, read and commented on countless HR blogs, started connecting with HR experts, began collecting HR related recommendations and endorsements and even started writing this blog.

My personal branding efforts paid off. Even though I didn’t have direct professional HR experience (in the form of a job title), I was able to showcase my HR interests, knowledge, accomplishments, affiliations and opinions to both existing and new connections.

In addition, I was able to connect the dots for recruiters who otherwise may have disregarded my interest in an HR position because of my lack of direct HR experience.

Transitioning to HR can be challenging but if you commit to investing your time (and yes, maybe even some of our money) into your personal development, I am confident you too can achieve your goals.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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