Thinking about Human Resources?
I ended up in human resources. I didn’t start here. Early in my career, I thought about a lot of fields. Social Work. Law. Owning a small business. I started in staffing and was eventually hired by a client. Thus the transition to human resources. Best move of my life. Despite the fact that it can be a field that people love to hate, I love my work. Every day.
Should you decide to pursue this field as a profession, there are a number of things that you need to consider. You will need education. You will need experience. You will need a stomach.
I speak often with students who express interest in human resources because, well, they “love working with people.” It isn’t always that simple. We see people on their best days and their worst days. We handle tough issues. Harassment, pornography, stalking, addiction, medical issues, death, disabilities, and family issues – all things that affect employees. And their work. There is nothing easy about sitting with family walking through leave options when burying a child. Or talking to a colleague as he makes end of life decisions like when to bring in hospice. Or helping a colleague with an escort to her car each evening because of a stalker.
These conversations aren’t easy. It happens and you have to be good at it.
Be prepared for mind numbingness. Like working with federal, state, and local agencies who provide us labyrinths of complex, often contradictory, mostly asinine rules, regulations, and guidance. I am frequently locked between the department of homeland security and the social security agency, not able to make either happy, miserable because THEY won’t work things out between them. Despite the face that they are supposed to WORK FOR ME. This irony is not lost on me.
We don’t get to speak about a lot of what we do. Medical issues, mental health, leaves of absence – problems, issues, help that requires a high degree of trust and confidentiality. We often will take criticism about the way we handle situations. We don’t respond. Try to remember that you have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. You have no idea how hard we may be working on an issue. Just because you don’t see anything doesn’t mean things aren’t happening.
Education is essential. I earned my master’s degree in business as well as a senior professional in human resources certification. Continuing education, depending on your field and interest is critical. My best training has been in the form of interviewing, mediating, and investigating. I work and deal with people and problems; this work requires significant problem solving skills, the ability to understand, coach, and counsel people, a knowledge of systems, and most importantly, a sense of humor.
A firm grasp of technology. You have to get it. You gotta love it. Embrace it at every turn. Everything I do is electronic. Everything from applicant tracking, to personnel files, to online benefit employment, to compensation data – all of it. While there is still paper in my office, it goes to a bin to be scanned. The technology is also key to understand business systems and workflow. It’s how work gets done.
Most of the people in HR I know work incredibly hard and care deeply about the work, their employer, and employees. I can’t imagine doing anything else.