HR careers: How to get a job in HR

If you’re trying to find out how to get a job in HR, you’ve come to the right place. It might surprise you, but I’ve only been in HR for about a year and a half at this point. I kicked off my HR career back in April 2009, and I’m amazed to see how much things have changed since then. I now have a great network of people and a little better understanding of this whole “HR thing,” but I didn’t have that when I started. I also didn’t have great tools like the Entry Level HR Jobs Guide.

How to get a job in HR

I graduated from college in May of 2008 with a brand-spanking new degree in human resources management. But I was stuck. See, my employer paid for my last semester of college, so I had to stick with them for a year of (indentured servitude) work to fulfill my obligation to the company. My supervisor knew that I was itching to move into HR, so she reached out to our own HR person in-house to see if I could do anything at all to start preparing myself. The HR person’s response? Nope.

how to get a job in hr

Take the time to learn how to get a job in HR before you make the leap

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So I had to grind out 12 months of work as I waited for the career to end all HR careers to start. :-) In November 2008, I started to get nervous. See, I could start looking for jobs in January, but I was afraid I had lost much of what I’d learned thus far in college. So, like any normal human being, I signed up for the PHR exam. I was slated to take the exam in late January, so I started studying right away.

My exam day came, and I passed with flying colors. I was so excited and just knew that a job would be right around the corner. And then I sat and waited for the next two months, applying for jobs but getting no serious interviews. It was disheartening.

Then in March I applied for this HR assistant job with a local nonprofit organization. To really help me get an edge over the competition, I looked up the HR staff that were in my local SHRM chapter’s email directory and sent them my resume directly. Then, nothing…

A few weeks passed, and I was feeling rough. I’d put a lot into the application process with the only job I was really qualified for, and it was a bust. Then I received a phone call from the VP of HR to come in for an interview. Score!

I was back in the game.

I bet I spent three hours preparing for that interview, and I think I really did well. I was able to turn her every need into an opportunity I could fulfill, and my enthusiasm was a big factor in the process as well. A few days went by and I had to come in for a second interview with another HR staff member, but it was mostly the same questions, so I knocked it out of the park as well.

Finally, a month after my first phone call with the VP of HR, I got the news. After all the prep, I really did learn how to get a job in human resources! It was an amazing feeling to know that I was finally jumping into the field that I had always wanted to be in.

What about you? What have you learned about how to get a job in human resources? What was your job search like when you looked for your first “professional” career? 

How to get a job in HR video

Other posts in the HR Careers series:

10 thoughts on “HR careers: How to get a job in HR

  1. Clark

    Thanks for sharing your story, wish you luck in your career! I just finished reading an HR book called From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor by Andria Corso. This book is a desk reference for HR leaders and any business leader with an HR team and it is full of tips, checklists, forms and templates for HR professionals to utilize in their organizations. A must read for any HR manager or business professional like you. Once again, you sound like you’re off to a great career path.

  2. Rachael

    I didn’t quite have the same issue but I certainly understand your pain. I went back to university to do my degree (I had seen how people were treated in the real world and I was determined to change it). So I came out with my HR degree at the age of 30 with international administration experience (7.5 years in Japan) and HR academic qualifications.

    There started the roundabout – I too qualified for HR admin positions (or so most thought) and I didn’t have the practical experience for an HR officer position. It took me nearly 12 months. Like you was very disheartened by also like you didn’t give in. That was 12 years ago and I run a region now. Good on you! :)

  3. Ben Post author

    @Charlie LOL. Like I keep telling people, when I’m following in your footsteps, there’s no limit to what I can accomplish!
    @GL Appreciate your compliment, amigo. That one’s going on the wall. ;-)
    @Clark Thanks, Clark!
    @Rachael Wow! What a journey. Congratulations on your accomplishments and I hope you don’t forget the importance of keeping up the fight. :-)

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  8. Kris

    You don’t know how lucky you are. I have a B.A. in Business Admin, with 6 years corporate job expirence, almost 3 years out of school and I can’t find anything in my field and wound up working as an assistant manager at a clothing store where my boss is 3 years younger and doesn’t have a degree.

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