An HR professional can choose to follow a number of different career paths. The direction you take will depend to an extent on the size of the organisation that you work for. Larger companies tend to have more employees and therefore have an HR department with different sections to cater for them. It’s really up to you to decide which specialism is for you and which area you are most interested in working in.
Opting to work for a smaller company will probably mean that your remit will be more general. This could offer you a greater variety of work, which might suit your personality type if you enjoy variety within your role. As an HR specialist in a larger organisation, you could work in specific areas like staff training or recruitment. Both specialist and generalist career paths have their merits when it comes to what’s on your CV; it’s just a case of what suits you best.
How to get into HR
In general, HR is a graduate profession. It is still possible to make it without a degree but you’ll need to demonstrate experience in a relevant business administration environment. Recruitment agencies are a great place to get grounding in HR practices and from here it’s sometimes possible to move across to HR.
Your starting point will probably be as an HR Administrator. This role will allow you to gain a clear insight into what the HR department does and where it fits into the organisation as a whole.
The next step on the ladder is usually into an HR Assistant position. Your day-to-day responsibilities will increase and you will become more involved in the training and recruitment of staff. It’s at this stage in your career that you’ll really start to get a feel for what’s going to best suit you in the longer term. For example, if you think that corporate responsibility is the way for you to go, try to get involved in any community work the company does to provide you with the experience you’ll need for more specialist positions in the future.
Once you’ve decided on an area that really interests you, make a decision to specialise in that area and work to develop your skills in line with those demanded by that particular field. Whether your preference is to focus on payroll, health and safety, recruitment or employee relations, look around for suitable training courses you could attend either in-house or externally. The more specialist knowledge you have, the more you have to offer an organisation and the more chance you’ll have of successfully developing your career in that field.
Traditionally, the next step on the corporate HR ladder is to an HR Officer role. If you take this particular career path, you’ll be expected to study for professional accreditation by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development). From here you could move up to become an HR Advisor, then an HR Manager and finally an HR Director.
Clearly, industry experience and professional qualifications will help you to develop your career but your personal skills and abilities are just as important. You’ll need strong organisational and planning skills, together with excellent interpersonal and communication skills. The ability to be persuasive and simultaneously diplomatic is also crucial in all HR roles.
HR is a wonderfully diverse and challenging area to work in and it offers you the scope to maximise your potential in a way that other careers do not. How you choose to develop your career is up to you, but there’s sure to be an area you’ll find yourself drawn to and with passion and dedication, the sky’s your limit!