Recently I ran across an old article on “essential” HR skills. It was an interesting read, and I wanted to break it down and show how it’s true (and, in some ways, maybe not so much). Today we’ll tackle the first half of them. Here’s the original list:

  1. Organization
  2. Multitasking
  3. Dealing with Gray
  4. Negotiation
  5. Communication
  6. Discrete and Ethical
  7. Dual Focus
  8. Conflict Management and Problem Solving
  9. Change Management

Source: HR.BLR

Now I’d like to break these down individually and give some perspective on which ones are critical for the role of the HR professional. I’m framing this through the lens of a generalist, because that’s what I (and most of us, if I had to guess) do on a daily basis.


This is one of my weakest areas, but it’s also truly important to being great in this role. You’re balancing 50 priorities in different focus areas, and that doesn’t come easily. How do you know what is more important between a pending lawsuit that needs a response, 401k nondiscrimination testing, and handling a discrimination investigation? Whew. Be organized or be gone.


This one is on every list you’ll ever see for a “critical skill.” However, I think it’s less about multitasking and more about being able to shift focus quickly. Multitasking sounds like you’re trying to do 5 things at once. And in the end, that will just leave you with 5 things done in a so-so manner. Shifting focus at a moment’s notice to be able to handle a fast-moving priority IS an important skill. Multitasking can drop your IQ further than smoking marijuana, in case you were curious.

Dealing with Gray

Everything is not black and white, even in the world of policy creation and enforcement. You won’t think of everything, and that requires some level of discernment and backbone to make your job possible. If you are only interested in creating policies, adding amendments, and closing loopholes instead of using your brain, then this probably isn’t the profession for you. We have to work in the muddy areas frequently in this field, and it’s just part of the job description.


From handling compensation discussions to recruiting great candidates to working out your budget for the year, negotiation is something you need to work on if you plan to be successful in the HR field. In fact, I’d say the better you are at negotiating, the higher up the ladder of the profession you will go. The best and brightest HR pros I’ve run into over the years were not only unafraid of negotiating with vendors and management, they actually enjoyed the challenge! So put your negotiator hat on, because you have some work ahead of you…

Part 2: communication, discrete and ethical, dual focus, conflict management and problem solving, and change management

That’s all for today. We’ll cover the last half later this week!

This HR Carnival is focused on those getting into HR. The HR Carnival is a great opportunity to harness the brains of multiple people for a common purpose. This one is no different. For this edition, I asked each person to contribute an article that touches on some of the key skills, insights, and abilities for the new HR pro.

I realize that many of us are beyond those initial shaky steps in the profession, but I also think we need to do what we can to reach back and help the next generation of HR professionals however we can. With that in mind, let’s jump into the day’s content.

Six of HR’s best blogs sound off

  1. The team from changeboard blog  threw out the top 10 career tips from HRDs around the world. Let’s tap into the brilliance offered here, shall we?
  2. Melissa at HR reMix brings us the best advice for a new HR pro. (Hint: it’s never really about HR!)
  3. Shauna the incorrigible HR Minion tells us you can never be too much of anything. Absolutely love this and couldn’t agree more.
  4. Mark at Inflexion Advisors offers up the power of 7 simple questions.
  5. Naomi Bloom shares with us the model of a modern HR leader. Do you fit the mold?
  6. Amit from Young HR Manager asks the eternal question: can HR have friends at work? Wow. This one really hit me hard. I have plenty of friends at work of varying degrees, but I always have the vague thought in the back of my mind that I might have to be the one to end that on the company’s behalf one day.

As for myself, I’d love to kick in the Ultimate Guide to Entry Level HR Jobs. Lots of good info there and hopefully it continues to help the next generation entering the HR/recruiting workforce by answering questions, providing helpful guidance, and eliminating the ambiguity surrounding the profession.

What about you? Any additional words of wisdom to share?

Yesterday I joined the “transitioning to an HR career” #nextchat on Twitter. It’s basically a discussion held on Twitter where people talk about a specific topic, and yesterday i was all about how to prepare for and break into a career in HR.

transitioning to an HR career.There was plenty of great discussion among the dozens of participants, but sometimes you just can’t fit all of your thoughts into the 140-character limit of Twitter. Below I’ve dropped in the questions and how I would have responded with a little more space. I love talking about this stuff and think it’s very valuable for the entry level (or soon-to-be-entry-level) HR pros.

Key question to kick it off: Why do I want a career in HR?

This question was thrown out early in the discussion and wasn’t even one of the prepared questions. However, I think it’s the key to the rest of the discussion about transitioning to an HR career. So many people think “Hey, I like people. Maybe I’ll do that HR thing.”

And it’s a tragedy. Continue reading

I’ve had a wild ride this weekend. A few weeks ago my sister-in-law passed me the Hunger Games series. I’m a big fiction and science fiction nut, but other things (see below) have kept me busy ever since she passed them over. I started the first book on Saturday and just finished it last night. I was trying to avoid being caught up in the public hype, but I truly enjoyed the book. About to start the second book, and I’m wondering if it can live up to the high standards set by the first…

The real news

On a more important note, after several months of research, development, testing, shooting videos, and working with my superstar beta tester group, the Entry Level HR course is finally open to the public.

The video below will answer most of your questions (click through if you’re an email subscriber), and for those it does not, you can check out this page for more info.

I’m taking a breather today, so this will be a historically short post. Check back tomorrow for more HR/talent management goodness!

I’m pretty sure that passion isn’t one of the HR job qualifications that people look for, otherwise we wouldn’t have need for the other posts in this series. If you missed them, we talked about:

HR job qualificationsSo what are HR job qualifications and how can you get them?

I think there are three big “must haves” to set someone up for success, whether in HR or not.

The three key HR job qualifications

  • Developing solid work habits around your strengths
  • Establishing credibility through solid, dependable performance
  • Taking control of your own personal and professional development

Think about the best leaders, managers, and employees you’ve ever met. Chances are they fulfilled at least one, if not all three, of these items. Again, they aren’t solely HR job qualifications, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

Let’s look at each and how they can feed into your career success.

Developing work habits

Thousands of articles are created every single day focusing on topics like leadership and how to lead others. Yet so many of us are lacking the critical skills and knowledge to lead ourselves. Taking the time to learn your own strengths and weaknesses and how to leverage them into career success should be the very first step in a long, but very rewarding, journey.

Learn what you do well and make it your goal to do as much of that as possible.

Establishing credibility

Once you have a foundation of skills that you can use, it’s time to “get credible.” I personally measure credibility in a few ways, but the key one for me is how often people come to me for advice or information on a topic. Everyone can be a credible expert in their topic given enough time, but most of us need a measure of credibility today, not in weeks/months/years.

I believe it’s possible to develop credibility rapidly and with relatively little effort if you harness the strengths you have and find high-value opportunities to apply them regularly.

Professional development

You can stop learning when you’re dead. Until then, every day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and do new things. If you’re fighting for a new job or a promotion, and you have very similar qualifications to the other candidate, then a strong slate of professional development activities can help to set you apart from the crowd.

Every day is a learning opportunity, and if you don’t seek out ways to continuously improve yourself, you’ll be left behind.

So, what do you think of these HR job qualifications? Would these characteristics make someone more appealing for an HR role? As someone who works with a lot of young (and new) HR pros, I think so.

Digging deeper

HR job qualificationsI have developed a video course to help entry level HR pros find and get their first job and then knock it out of the park. If you are an entry level HR pro or someone looking to get their first HR job, I highly encourage you to check it out!

The course is made up of over an hour of video content, several bonus eBooks, and weekly articles and assignments to help the training “stick” for the long term. These skills will carry you through your entire career; you just need to take the time to learn them!

The only people who seem to know about getting entry level HR positions are those who already have an entry level HR job.

It’s a crappy system, and it needs to change.

As I said yesterday, we have to stop setting people up to fail. We need to help the next generation understand what it will take to break into HR and getting entry level HR positions. College isn’t preparing them. For the most part, parents aren’t preparing them.

Who will take up the call and join me?

Today I’m going to teach the newbies in the audience about entry level HR positions. Everything I know is based on my own experience over the past few years, both my own and helping others with getting entry level HR positions. In the short video below I share some basic ideas that have helped me immensely any time I had to look for a job change within my HR career. The three keys?

  • Networking
  • Professional Development
  • “Doing HR” wherever you are

Video: Entry Level HR Positions

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

Digging deeper

getting entry level HR positionsI have developed a video course to help entry level HR pros find and get their first entry level HR positions and then knock them out of the park. If you are an entry level HR pro or someone looking to get their first HR job, I highly encourage you to check it out!

The course is made up of over an hour of video content, several bonus eBooks, and weekly articles and assignments to help the training “stick” for the long term. These skills will carry you through your entire career; you just need to take the time to learn them!

It’s easy to learn how to get a job in HR, but it isn’t necessarily easy to do it!

Tomorrow night I’m going to talk with some local HR students about what “real” HR is like outside of the classroom and the textbook. We’re going to discuss what the actual workload is like for an entry level HR professional. Even though it is routine for me, it’s like a secret formula to these students.

And it has to stop. 

It’s been going on forever

I went to college purposely to get my degree in HR. I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and I worked my tail off to learn everything I could. And yet, when I got into my first HR job, I found out that 80% of what I needed to know about HR had never even been explained.

One of my earliest blog posts in my career (I’m not linking here because the writing style back then embarrasses me a bit) was on this topic, and I’m amazed that in the years since I graduated, not a single thing has changed for many students.

I receive emails on a weekly basis from a variety of people, and all of them are reading from the same script. “I got my degree and now I’m trying to get into HR, but all the entry level jobs require HR experience. How am I supposed to get in?”

You know it’s true. I know it’s true. And yet, here we sit. Some of you already have your job and have forgotten about those who walk the same path you once did. They still need you (and me) to offer advice and inspiration.

Let’s set them up for success, not failure.

What we can do about it

This year one of my personal goals at work is to evaluate and test an intern program. I recently learned of another local company with a wildly successful HR internship program, and I wanted to get some pointers from them but their HR person just left. If you’ve done this before and have ideas to share, please feel free to email me.

The interns coming out of the program rave about the experience, and this thing was set up as an unpaid internship, so you know the experience had to be powerful and valuable to receive that kind of feedback.

Look for opportunities to do exactly what I’m doing tomorrow. Contact your local university or community college and see if you can stop by and talk with a class or some students after school about what we do and why it is a great career.

HR-we need some PR

Look at the stereotypical “bring your dad to work” elementary school program. You have the “cool” ones–firefighters, police officers, etc. Then you have the “blah” ones in suits. If you can’t explain what you do to a third grade child maybe you need to stop and figure out what the heck it is you do! By the way, I’ve had to talk with my wife’s third grade class dozens of times, and I’ve tweaked my response to “I help recruit great people to come and do work that they love. We make games that teach helicopter pilots how to fly.” That’s pretty darn cool for the kids to hear, and it opens the door for me to explain at a high level what I get to do on a daily basis.

I know we’re talking about college students, not elementary school kids, but the idea is the same.

I once heard an HR “professional” tell a group of college students that “HR was a terrible career choice” and that they should “start over and pick accounting, finance, or anything but HR.” Yeah, that guy needs to quit his job, go home, and shut up. This is an amazing profession; I just think we need better marketing/PR.

This week/month/year, look for opportunities to influence the next generation. Even if 99% of the kids you talk to end up going into another profession (and statistically, that’s probably a good estimate), they still have a positive connection with HR lodged in their brains. It can’t hurt, right?

Digging deeper

Entry level HR CourseI have developed a video course to help entry level HR pros find and get their first job and then knock it out of the park. If you are an entry level HR pro or someone looking to get their first HR job, I highly encourage you to check it out!

The course is made up of over an hour of video content, several bonus eBooks, and weekly articles and assignments to help the training “stick” for the long term. These skills will carry you through your entire career; you just need to take the time to learn them!