Inside HR Professional Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"HR Jobs Are Easy To Get...
I was surprised that I could get a meaningful job with benefits with only an associates. I was also quite surprised at how many opportunities to be noticed/advanced exist within a corporate structure that many consider to be rigid." (Human Resources Professional; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Arkansas, male
School: Studied Human Resources at University Of Arkansas At Fayetteville in Arkansas; completed Associate degree in 2006

"Detail Oriented Is Key...
What surprised me the most about my profession is the amount of behind the scenes work that is done by human resources. Everything must be documented and the correct steps must be followed in order to follow HIPAA" (Human Resource Generalist; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Health Administration at Central Michigan University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"HR Is Multifaceted...
Despite what most people think, HR is a very important part of any organization. It is more than just conducting interviews and explaining benefits. Taking an internship can help broaden your HR knowledge and expose you to the different aspects of the field. Also, consider shadowing a mentor who has personal experience in an area that interests you." (HR Professional; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied HR at New York University in New York; completed Master degree in 2010

"Some HR Prople Are People Averse...
I was surprised at the fact that so many people in human resources do not know or simply do not like to communicate with other people. You would think that the career choice suggests that the people within it are friendly and outgoing, but not everyone is a "people-person"." (HR For A Power Company; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, female
School: Studied Communication at CSU, Chico in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Business Admin Degree Did Not Provide The Career Versatility That Colleges Had Claimed...
A business administration degree, which I earned, isn't the best way to get into the HR profession. Often recruiters will tell you that a business degree will get you hired in a variety of fields but in reality, while it helped me getting my job, I would have been able to get the job still with a 2 year degree. The main reason I was hired was because who I knew, with my business degree helping but not vital to me getting the work. Working in this field isn't quite as satisfying as one may think. I find the work quite easy and somewhat boring. If you want to break into HR, a degree specifically in HR over business will help. Either way you go, still be prepared (considering the current job market) to end up having to take a low paying position as an HR assistant, if you can manage that." (Human Resources Assistant; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, male
School: Studied Business Administration at Metropolitan State University; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Firing And Hiring Employees...
I was surprised about how difficult it is to fire employees. I never really thought I would be doing that on a daily basis. I was also surprised with the amount of people that don't have a diploma or GED and can't put together a resume." (Recruitment Coordinator And Web Designer; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Art History And Digital Communications at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Working In HR Is Far More Than I Ever Thought It Could Be...
I was most surprised by, well, everything. I ended up working in Human Resources on accident on a temp assignment doing data entry and I had no idea what HR Professionals really did. The sheer variety of tasks that you end up doing. It's not just dealing with problem employees. You have to recruit new employees, process payroll, manage the review process, help with training, and on and on and on. Most people have no idea just how many different opportunities you can have in HR." (HR Professional; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Colorado, male
School: Studied Writing at Metropolitan State University Of Denver in Colorado; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Wide Variety Of People...
What has surprised me the most about my profession is the variety of people that you meet. You can meet people with the utmost professional attitudes to people on the far other end of the spectrum." (Human Resources Manager; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Limited Career Opportunities...
How obvious it ended up being that I didn't really know what to do with an English major, and that my career ended up having nothing to do with my major" (Talent Management Associate; 2014)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, female
School: Studied English at University Of MN, Twin Cities in Minnesota; completed Bachelor degree

"The Human Resources Field Is Female Dominated...
I was most surprised by how female dominated the career field is. Also, it is great how the careers field is vast- you can be in direct Human Resources or you can go into recruiting, benefits consulting, or even career counseling." (Human Resources Generalist; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, female
School: Studied Finance at Temple University in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

"Crazy Schedules Are Fulfilling...
While our dept does so much for the employees at our company, people complain about silly things, are petty, and the fights amongst employees are so childish. I didn't expect adults to have this much pettiness with adults. However, I was also surprised to find how much I enjoy being able to work with every employee in the company on a daily basis. While it is stressful and we have a lot to do all the time, multi tasking and facing new challenges every day is extremely enjoyable and fulfilling." (HR Admin; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Psychology at University Of Central Florida in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Tough Finding A Job In Hard Times...
I was surprised at how few human resource available positions that are available in the Northern Michigan region. When looking for H.R. positions, the few that I see posted want candidates with several years of experience and/or in neighboring communities. With the economic slump, it seems that this field has taken a hard hit because companies/employers do not want to "waste" money on a position they feel is not that important compared to other needed employees. This field may be more suited for an individual that would want to work in an extremely large metropolis city that has several different kinds of industries and employers. Even though I am in a good size city for Northern Lower Michigan, they do not have the open positions and opportunities that I was hoping for after graduating with my Masters. That is something colleges should take into consideration when promoting different areas of study, i.e. the cities and/or areas that have the highest number of open positions for that field." (Human Resources Manager; 2012)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, female
School: Studied Human Resource Management at Davenport University in Michigan; completed Master degree in 2008

"I was surprised to find out that being in the field of Human Resources with my background required not only education know how but also being very detailed oriented and consistent is essential. It is important when communicating to my coworkers or superiors to be very clear and detailed oriented. It is also very important to be consistent in your statistical data or reports or else it can lead to someone's data being messed up." (Tests Measurement Specialist; 2012)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Industrial Psychology at Pace University in New York; completed Master degree in 2005

"I'm surprised that being an HR specialist required a thorough knowledge of marketing the company. I was surprised that the majority of people in HR change careers once or twice during the first 10 years" (HR Generalist; 2012)

Career: 20 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, female
School: Studied Human Resources at Rutgers in New Jersey; completed Bachelor degree in 1981

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Employment Coordinator: "The best part about my career is the autonomy I have to create and implement programming in my own way. I have minimal supervision and am allowed the freedom to do things my way. Some negatives about a career in this or any non profit profession is that the pay can leave something to be desired. However, the fringe benefits are often great. I have ample vacation time, full health and dental benefits, as well as retirement plans and paid holidays. Another downside is that sometimes working with troubled youth can be very frustrating." (2011)

Sr. Human Resources Representative: "Best and worst part of the job are the people! You have to be able to deal with all types of people. As an HR person, you are looked upon for guidance, it can be nerve racking making sure you do not violate any law when making an employment decision. What I like about being in HR is that you are involved in all aspects for the company. You deal with financial information but then could be planning a very fun event for the employees." (2011)

HR Assistant/Licensing Designee: "The best part of the job is being able to provide great service and protection to our people and knowing those people respect us for all that we do. The ongoing training is also a good part of this job as we are always learning new ways to deal with different situations and how we can spread security awareness to those that have no security background. The worst part of the job is that it can be dangerous in certain situations. Criminals don't have respect for authority." (2011)

Human Resources Manager: "HR is often seen as the "moms" of the organization, people who just push paper around. A lot of people do not understand HR and what the absolute true value of it is. It can be a challenge to get people to accept and implement your ideas and suggestions. On a positive note, when you have been able to help someone really excel at their job and they are happy, it is very rewarding." (2011)

Human Resources Manager: "The best part of this career (like any office job I suppose) is that you don't have to work holidays and most of the time you don't have to work weekends either. It is very easy to have a good work/life balance in this field. Something not so good about this job that you never know what you're going to get! A day that you may think is going to run smoothly might get turned upside down by one person not being dependable. One speaker not showing up for a meeting, one worker walking out of an important position, or one storm coming and preventing the next shift's workers from showing can all ruin a day." (2011)

Human Resource Manager/Recruiter: "The best part of my job is interacting with great talent and seeing the success of the candidates that you hire. I love to speak with candidates and make them feel comfortable during our selection and interview process. It allows the candidate to fully express their talent to the team. I also like seeing them succeed and grow within our organization. There are people that I hired my first year that are still successful and happy 5 years later. The worst job is telling people no. I have to deliver a lot of bad news along with the good news everyday. I also support 30 different hiring managers and I like to make all them feel like they are a priority and that can be very tiring!" (2011)

General Manager Of A Staffing Service: "Best part of the job is knowing that I am helping someone find work when they really need it. It is a very rewarding job. It is busy and fast paced-always something to do! I also like the people who work with me. Worst part of the job is being disappointed when people do not work out in the jobs we put them in or fail to report to work. Or when a company really needs someone to fill a job and we cannot find the right person." (2011)

Human Resources Director: "The best part of my career is being able to be an influential part of the growth of the company. My department is key to the success of much of the operation. The worst part of my career is being aware of all of the rules and regulations that need to be followed. Unfortunately, many of my peers in upper management are not aware of them and choose not to care about them. Knowing what is right and trying to follow and implement it can be very difficult and frustrating." (2011)

Human Resources Assistant: "The best part of my job is helping my co-workers reach their goals and to watch them grow in their careers. I get to tell people when they've earned a new position,a promotion or pay increase. The worst part of my job is delivering bad news. When an employee is not performing or is not a good fit with our company, I must be involved in terminating that employee." (2011)

Human Resources Manager: "It is challenging to understand the different cultures of people in different countries (such as Germany or China), but you have to learn in order to get your point across. The best part for me as being able to work on different projects that have a link to what the company needs. I'm not doing the same thing every day." (2011)

Human Resources Representative: "The best part of my job is that everyday in is always different. You never know what you are going to be faced with each day. It is always challenging, never boring and ever-changing. I love interacting with and helping people. The worst part of my job is when we are faced with laying people off and I have to be involved in informing them and counseling them." (2011)

Vice President Talent Acquisition: "The best part of my job is the constant motion things are in. There is never a dull moment, always lots of things to do, and quite truthfully always something we can do more on or better. We are always striving to outperform we did yesterday for ourselves, clients, shareholders and the communities we operate in. If there was a not so fun part of the job it would be the administrative components that comes with managing a team and department. Some of the less strategic tasks that you know is needed but not as fun like completing budget reviews, personnel reviews, the paperwork for changes like offices, locations, paperwork, etc..." (2011)

Human Resources Manager: "The most rewarding part of my job is that I am the face of my company. I am one of the few people throughout the organization who has contact with all our employees. I am the face all new internal people meet with on their first day so I get a good understanding of who they are and a better understanding of what they think our company is about. I then need to steer them in the right direction if their overall impression of the company is wrong." (2011)

Business Compensation Manager: "The best part is being able to make sure employees are fairly compensated for the work they do. It is nice to have a part in rewarding an employee for the job they do. The worst part is addressing concerns of unhappy employees regarding their pay. Someone may feel they deserve a higher salary or bonus or incentive plan and it may not always be possible. At difficult times, our company has had to make difficult decisions regarding compensation programs that impacts employees and that is a difficult message to deliver." (2011)

Human Resources Specialist: "The best part of my job is how flexible it is. I work full-time, but I can work from home or go to the office. All of my work is done on the computer. The worst part of my job is that I feel at times like a help desk worker since I get questions not just about contractors, but about other company databases. On the whole, though, it's a great job and my manager gives me a lot of independence." (2010)

HR Coordinator: "I love the people whom I work with and I love the university that I work at. I wish there was more room for growth, but unfortunately people have to leave in order for an opportunity to arise for someone wanting to get promoted. I also don't like the hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m." (2010)

Human Resources Manager: "One of the best parts of my job is hiring the best candidate for our open positions, making the candidate pleased they have a new job and filling a manager's vacancy. I also really like the benefits administration and helping our employees to understand what they are covered for. The worst parts of the job are taking corrective action or warning employees who aren't performing well and, of course, having to fire people. Another part that is not as enjoyable for me personally is the payroll area, as I am not trained in accounting and find its ins and outs difficult to fathom sometimes." (2010)

Career Background

HR Professional

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Breaking Into The Human Resources Field...
If you want to break into the Human Resources field, the easiest path is to start in administration. The skills needed for a good administrative assistant translate well into the HR field." (Human Resources Generalist; 2014)

"If You Aren't Flexible, You Can't Work In HR...
Be flexible! While there are specific tasks that everyone sees as being the responsibility of an HR professional, you would be surprised at what you mind end up doing. The key to working in HR is to keep a level head and meet whatever challenges come up, especially if it's "not your job." Business leaders want an HR department they can rely on, not one that "does things the way they always have been done." You constantly end up doing things you'd never even considered before they happen." (HR Professional; 2014)

"Interpersonal Skills...
If you want to be successful as a recruitment coordinator, you should develop really good people skills and writing skills. You will be responsible for pleasing both clients and employees. You need to look at the bigger picture and not always feel bad when you can't find everyone work." (Recruitment Coordinator And Web Designer; 2014)

"Define Your Path...
Really understand what it is you hope to achieve as an English major, and gain an awareness of what the opportunities are in that field." (Talent Management Associate; 2014)

"Transferable Skills Are Important...
Having a different academic or professional background should not deter career changers who are trying to transition into the HR profession. Transferable skills from another job or internship can help gain an entry-level position. For those who are serious about HR should consider a post-secondary degree in the field, this will open up more opportunities with higher salaries." (HR Professional; 2014)

"Have People Skills...
If you want to become an HR professional, try to meet as many people as you can, as people skills are key in this profession." (Human Resources Manager; 2014)

"Build Relationships...
It is absolutely necessary that you build relationships via your personal life or internships in order to get your first human resources job. Once you are in one, remember to be cautious and never speak to someone when you're angry, and you should be fine." (Human Resources Professional; 2013)

"Well Rounded In Healthcare...
If you want to be successful in the healthcare human resources world I would make sure that you are also well rounded in all aspects of healthcare. HIPAA and medical terminology is a huge plus you can be familiar with what the employee's are doing." (Human Resource Generalist; 2013)

"Be Ready For Stress...
Make sure you can handle your emotions in the midst of pressure and people." (HR Admin; 2013)

"Jobs That You Will Be Qualified For With A BS In Business Administration...
If you want to get a business administration bachelor's degree, in my experience most jobs you will be qualified for are sales positions or, if lucky, a finance job. Accounting/bookkeeping jobs and HR positions, which many colleges claim you will be qualified for after earning a 4 year business degree, are often looking for people with accounting certifications for the prior and HR degrees for the latter. I would recommend that anyone considering this degree plan on pursuing an MBA or, at the least, get a minor in finance, accounting, or HR. The Bachelors in Business Administration is a somewhat flexible degree but on it's own, especially in this job market, will mostly only open doors in sales (this is coming from someone who searched the job market for well over a year after graduating and landed a job as a low paid HR assistant mostly because I knew someone who worked there)." (Human Resources Assistant; 2013)

"Some People Will Be Difficult...
Be open to communication! Know that you will deal with difficult people but in the end the satisfaction is worth it!" (HR For A Power Company; 2013)

"Attend An Accredited School...
Be sure to understand yourself and what kind of financial sacrifices you are willing to make for a career. Sometimes it seems like a great thing to help people, but it is frustrating and offers very little pay. Avoid schools that are non-accredited or are for-profit institutions. I have often thrown away resumes from online colleges or the ones that are always on TV and the radio. Take advantage of internships and volunteer opportunities to enhance your resume, but also to learn what you like." (Employment Coordinator; 2011)

"Can You Keep A Secret...
You must be able to keep information confidential. This is an essential function of your job. Start at an entry level position and work your way up in the HR field. That way you build a solid foundation that will carry you through. Learn how to process payroll, it will be helpful in the HR field. Study employment law and understand it. Be familiar with the employment web sites, MCAD, EEOC, DOL. Get a bachelor's degree in business or management." (Sr. Human Resources Representative; 2011)

"Communicate Effectively...
Communication is key. Take as many courses involving writing, public speaking, and effective communication. The more articulate you are, the more respect you will gain. If there are security awareness courses, take advantage of those as well. Even if you don't work in the security field as an HR Assistant, you will still have a diverse community of people that you have to deal with and knowing how to protect yourself is always important and even better if you can protect your company, too." (HR Assistant/Licensing Designee; 2011)

"Consider Getting Your Feet Wet With A Lower Level Job...
If you think HR is what you want to get into, then you should take as many classes as you can. If you are able to get an internship or even start to work in an HR department as an admin, you will get exposed to the daily HR tasks." (Human Resources Manager; 2011)

"Don't Take Things Personally...
1- Do not schedule anything too far in advance because plans will always fall through. 2- Eating at your desk is sometimes the easiest. Make sure to have spare lunches in the work fridge. 3- Employees' hostility about things outside of your control will sometimes be directed at you. Learn good communication techniques and don't take everything personal. Learn to laugh at the end of the day and don't take your work home with you (i.e. aggravation, annoyance, guilty feelings)" (Human Resources Manager; 2011)

"Good Business Background Helps...
I excel at my job because along with the soft skills of customer service I also have a good business/operating background. I track a lot of data and hire candidates that will be the next managers for large groups of people. It is important to have basic business knowledge, legal/compliance knowledge, and tracking skills through a database system. I have learned that access to opportunity comes through other opportunities so it is important to get exposure to decision makers and hiring teams through internships and networking. You need to build a base of experience and cannot start at the top so look for opportunities where you can build the skill set you need - even if it isn't the most glamorous job!" (Human Resource Manager/Recruiter; 2011)

"Know Your Clients' Businesses...
Always follow your first instinct - it is usually right! Learn as much as you can about the companies you work with and what they do. I know a lot more about machinery, forklifts and plastic products than I ever thought I would. Challenge yourself every day. Don't let the job get you. We all will have bad days and at times feel burnt out. It is always up to YOU to create your own destiny in any job you have" (General Manager Of A Staffing Service; 2011)

"Let People Make Mistakes Sometimes...
I have found the best way to gain support is by allowing others to initially get their way. For example, if you do not feel a person should be hired, express your opinion and if the other party disagrees, allow the applicant to be hired. When they don't work out, the other manager will learn to trust your judgement. If you disagree in the future, the manager will be more likely to side with your opinion. Don't waste your time trying to know everything. You will never be in the loop on everything. If it is important enough it will wind up on your desk. Cross train others. This will allow you to focus on other tasks and not get bogged down with the day to day." (Human Resources Director; 2011)

"Major In HR...
1. When looking into a career in human resources, I recommend majoring in the discipline in college. Take courses in all functions of human resources if possible. 2. Find an internship in the human resources field. Whether it is in just recruiting or in just payroll, any experience is better than no experience. 3. Always practice effective communication. These days people rely on electronic methods to communicate (i.e. texting, emailing, instant messaging). It is so important to be able to not only construct a professional, grammatically correct email but to also be able to have a face to face conversation." (Human Resources Assistant; 2011)

"Write And Get Feedback On It...
Practice your writing skills often. Write, write, write, and ask people to give you feedback on how you could improve writing your point. Read, read, read...there is always something new to learn. Learn about yourself...what makes you feel good about yourself?" (Human Resources Manager; 2011)

"PHR Certification Opens Doors...
Get a bachelor's degree in human resource management. You can work in HR without it, but it's much easier to have it and you will go farther. Other people in HR have a BS in psychology, and that works, too. Also, earn a Professional Human Resources (PHR) certification ASAP. It gives you more opportunities and earning power. When staring out, try to get a position as a generalist in an HR dept. You will get much broader experience. You don't want to be pigeon-holed early on (examples: recruiter, or benefits specialist). Being exposed to all areas of HR will help you decide what you really like and excel at." (Human Resources Representative; 2011)

"Under-Recognized But Still Rewarding...
If you want a career in Human Resources, you must make sure you are prepared for everything that comes with it, including not always being the most recognized department or person. A good manager can make this feel better, but HR is not sales or marketing and not viewed as positive. However, it can be incredibly rewarding to see people and help people succeed. The good thing about HR is that you can use lots of skills for different needs. For example, you could work in Employment/Recruiting, Comp/Benefits, Employee/Labor Relations, Training/Development, or Strategy. Having a great understanding of businesses and how the work and what they need to do survive is key, so learning and asking lots of questions are critical. After that it is using your skills the right way for the area you work. The cool thing about HR is being able to jump between the specialties, if you want, and have the skill set to be successful. Strong accounting/finance skills are important, communication skills in writing and speaking are a must." (Vice President Talent Acquisition; 2011)

"You'll Need To Learn A Lot On The Job...
If you are thinking you may want to work in the HR field, I highly recommend taking a bunch of psychology classes. There is a lot of getting into people's heads. Next, do not expect to come into this field as a manager or director. HR is an on the job learning experience. Things are constantly changing and the only thing you learn is constant is change. You need to be a strong communicator to work in this field. Many of your contacts with the outside world is done either via email or phone calls. If you are not a strong writer or conversationalist, you will find this field to be a tough one to break into." (Human Resources Manager; 2011)

"Your First Job Is A Stepping Stone...
Get your degree, but then don't be afraid to start in a lower than ideal position to gain experience needed to obtain higher positions. Keep options open. Your first job is just that, you may land in a place much different than where you started. Networking will get you places faster than experience alone. If you are interested in Human Resources, know that Human Resources is very broad. There are Human Resources managers or generalists that do a little of everything, but then there are specialists that work in just one function of Human Resources, such as Staffing, Compensation, Benefits, Talent Management, Employee Relations, Training & Development, etc." (Business Compensation Manager; 2011)

"Be Willing To Relocate...
When starting your job search, be as flexible as you can with location. Companies love young job searchers who can work anywhere in the world. They like the fact that you can work overseas and get international experience as well. Take advantage of courses that the company offers as well so that you can keep pursuing your career. Also, be sure and be confident when going in for an interview that you know what you want in a job and let them know it." (Human Resources Specialist; 2010)

"Not Fun And Games...
Try to secure an internship in the field to get experience and to make sure that it's a field you want to work in. You can also search the internet on the field for classes, certifications and field trends. Take college courses in Human Resources so that you'll know as much as possible about what the field involves. Some people think that Human Resources is a career field that's fun and games, and it is not." (HR Coordinator; 2010)

"Sociology, Psychology And HR Courses...
If you are interested in pursuing a career in Human Resources, I would advise you to take specific Human Resources courses in college. These will help you screen job candidates and provide you with interviewing and hiring techniques. Also Sociology and Psychology courses can be worthwhile and should help you understand how people react to situations. Math and accounting courses can come in handy too if you end up pursuing a career at a smaller company where auditing and budgetary responsibilities are part of HR's duties." (Human Resources Manager; 2010)