I transitioned to HR mid-career and it was a great option for me. It’s allowed me to work on a variety of tasks that let me use my creativity, work with new technology and spearhead initiatives that support company strategy.
Why choose HR as a career? According to the BLS, in 2018, the median pay for HR managers is $113,300 per year. With a growing economy where new companies are being founded and others are expanding, job growth for HR managers is projected at 7% for 2018 – 2028.
As an HR professional you will gain skills that translate across industries. You can choose to pursue a generalist path or you can specialize in a functional area like compensation and benefits, employee relations or HR technology. In an entry-level role, you’re looking at a median salary of $41,620, but some senior level managers are earning more than $200,000 per year. At that level, you might find yourself working with senior executives to set the company’s direction during the strategic planning sessions.
How To Start A Career in HR
HR professionals are a very diverse group when it comes to education, experience and skill set. So you can use that to your advantage when you’re trying to launch your career. No two career paths are alike and there are a few different ways that you can get started:
- Get a degree in Human Resources or a related field
- Gain work experience in another role and transition to HR
- Follow the Human Resources Specialist track in the military
Getting An HR Job After Graduation
While having a degree isn’t a requirement to entering the field, you’ll find it listed under qualifications for most positions. If you have a degree, it can help you stand out, but it isn’t necessarily a slam dunk for landing your first HR role. When you’re in school, you should look for internships or summer jobs in HR. Otherwise, you can look for work experience that will help you develop transferable skills that will serve you well in a junior level HR position. If you’re able to demonstrate your problem solving ability, display excellent customer service skills and you’re well organized when it comes to administrative tasks, then you have what it takes to be successful in an entry-level HR role.
Transition Into an HR Role Mid-Career
It’s definitely possible to transition to HR from another field. In fact, that’s what I did. I graduated from college with a degree in English (and no, I didn’t want to become a teacher). I spent my early career working in marketing product and project management. It wasn’t until I launched my own business that I became involved in human resources. I was responsible for recruiting, terminations, investigations and managing up to 25 hospitality workers all while overseeing the operations of the business. Once I decided to sell my business, I had to figure out my next move.
I did a skills assessment and looked for roles that aligned with what I was good at and what I enjoyed doing. I ended up taking a more junior role at a growing mid-sized company where I was responsible for a mix of accounting and HR functions. As I dove into the role, I realized how much more there was to HR than what I had been exposed to previously. In this position, I was able to grow my knowledge base and career while building out the HR department. If you find yourself in the same boat and you want to make a transition to HR mid career. My suggestions are:
- Don’t be afraid to take a step back to move forwards
- Perform senior level work even if it’s a junior level job
- Focus on continuous learning and self improvement so you can grow in your job
- Seek out certification to establish your credibility
If you’re looking to transition to civilian HR after a career in the military the process is similar and there are a number of programs that can help.
Military HR to Civilian HR
There are many things that serving in the military can teach you that will make you an asset to any civilian organization. Exceptional leadership skills, attention to detail and working well as part of a team are just a few of the things that come to mind. Because of this, employers are eager to hire veterans who display these skills. You’ll want to prepare yourself for the transition to civilian employment by familiarizing yourself with the differences between military and civilian HR. This can be done either through obtaining additional education or sitting for an HR certification.
The Onward to Opportunity Program helps eligible service members, veterans and military spouses develop skills that they can use to transition into civilian careers. In fact, they offer training and preparation for the Human Resources Certification Institute’s PHR and SPHR exams. But the programs benefits don’t end there. It also pairs participants with a Veteran Transition Specialist and Career Coordinator from Hire Heroes USA who will help provide career services and match participants with partner companies for interviews.
Should you become an HR Generalist or Specialist?
When considering a career in HR, you should acquaint yourself with the different options that you have for career paths. Starting out, you may want to pursue a generalist track that will give you exposure to all of the HR functional areas including:
- Performance Management
- Total Rewards
- Employee Relations
- Learning & Development
A generalist needs to be comfortable working on varied tasks and quickly switching between them as they may find themselves juggling competing priorities.This role is ideal for someone who enjoys a great deal of variety because the one thing that’s certain is that no two days are the same.
If you have aspirations to gain comprehensive knowledge in one focal area, you can find a role that will let you specialize. There are positions that let you focus on talent acquisition, employee relations or even training. Additionally, as the workforce becomes more diverse, organizations are increasingly looking for HR professionals who specialize in diversity & inclusion to ensure that they’re creating a welcoming environment with opportunities for all employees to grow and develop. Or, if you’re interested in technology, there’s a path for you too. Aside from HRIS systems, companies are also looking to AI to streamline processes to give HR pros more time to focus on their strategic efforts.
No matter which track you choose, you have the opportunity to grow in a job that’s in demand.
Human Resources Salary
A career in human resources can give you high levels of job satisfaction while also providing financial rewards. A typical first job in HR is either an analyst or coordinator role which provides administrative support to mid and senior level managers. According to the BLS, the median salary for an entry-level HR assistant position is $39,480. With a few years of experience you can transition into an HR generalist role which has a median salary of $60,880. However, if you’re looking to make six figures in HR, you can either enter into management or pursue a high paying specialty like Compensation & Benefits, Employee Assistance or Training & Development, all of which have salaries that top the $100K mark. To position yourself for one of these top paying jobs:
- Sharpen your leadership and managerial skills
- Earn your certification or acquire an advanced degree
- Establish yourself as a subject matter expert in your specialization of choice
What are the main functions of HR? The main functions of Human Resources are Leadership and Strategy, Talent Planning and Acquisition, Training and Development, Employee Relations and Compensation and Benefits. HR professionals can work as generalists with knowledge of all functional areas or as specialists who focus on one or two.
What is the recruiting function of HR? Recruiting or talent acquisition is the process of attracting candidates to an organization so it has the right talent on hand at the right time to meet its strategic goals. Recruiters will post jobs, review candidates and refer those who meet the position’s qualifications to hiring managers for interviews.