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January 2016

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Article Series: Breaking into HR

Article 1 of 3 by Raymond Lee Bolton         

Being a new member to the Society for Human Resource Management yields a lot of learning opportunities. Joining the student chapter at my college, then joining at the local and national SHRM levels are the first steps at cracking open the book of knowledge and experience one can gain from this society. So with a membership accomplished through a student meeting and a few clicks of a mouse, I looked forward to learning about SHRM. My next step was to ask the question, “How do you break into HR?” This curiosity was piqued by an upcoming panel that our student chapter was soon hosting, How to Break into HR: Everything that you Need to Know to Find that First Job. This was going to be the perfect opportunity to learn about the HR profession from HR professionals. The following along with two additional articles are summaries of what I took away from the answers and comments provided by the three panelists during the HR Panel hosted by NWFSC Student SHRM.  As the HR Panel neared, the student SHRM members, including myself, prepared our questions for the Panel. Each Panel member had their own past experiences and education, so each take away and impression was different and similar at the same time, therefore the articles will be separated by each Panel member.  


Panel Member Take Away 1 – How to Break into HR

            The question every student wanted to know was, “Why did you get into HR?” The first answer we heard to this was both scary and amazing, simultaneously. We heard that HR was interesting because it utilized playing both attorney and therapist at the same time. This is correct in being interesting and we were later assured that it wasn’t as daunting as both of those skill sets sound. This led us to the next questions, “What is HR?” I learned that HR is mainly two parts, a Personnel piece and a Transactional piece. The personnel side includes items such as disciplinary issues and recruiting. This seems to be the more attractive side of HR. the additional piece is transactional that includes the day-to-day activities in the organization. Benefits, policy reviews, and time keeping all necessary and the large portion of HR time but also the more basic side to HR.

 Career coaching was a big hit for our first Panel member, who emphasized the goal to support their personnel in making informed decisions about their career development. Coaching was a great lead to the next question asked. “How often is conflict resolution an issue?” I took away that conflict resolution is an issue all of the time but training is the largest resolution. Mentoring, mediation, coaching of employees, as well as the organization’s management also led to good conflict resolution. Morale, performance, and profitability were brought up in discussion and our Panel member assured us that HR was indeed your best host for theses three employee functions. Working alongside the employees and working on the employee relationship built rapport and tied morale, performance, and profitability together.

We were also provided insight into the Private vs. Public Sector which was a question asked in form of “what are the opportunity differences in these two sectors?” The government and contractor positions in our area are by far riskier due to the changes in the contractor style work. Also, the public sector had a more centralized HR department where as the Private Sector was decentralized. This panel member also had experience working with union representatives. We took away that employees get a vital piece of protection from unions. HR can help with the Union and Organization getting to be on the same side, along with helping during negotiations when employees feel they have to give a little to get a little.  

The next question was, “what soft skills are students not getting in class?” Apparently, communication skills and social media skills are the answer. HR deals heavily with listening and then communicating back to the coworker. That along with, properly or legally utilizing social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and company websites are skills that HR interested students are not getting through classroom learning.

Now to end this article with the most repeated question mentioned. “What is your advice for people looking for HR jobs in the near future?” The key takeaway was for new graduates to work with staffing agencies to gain experience. Good things can come from temporary jobs. The Panel member mentioned joining the local SHRM and passing out your resume along with seeking internships. Every bit of information provided from this panel members questions and comments improved my education on HR. They provided me with knowledge and left me interested in learning more about the Society for Human Resource Management.




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