I "fell" into the Human Resources field, meaning that I didn't make a conscious career decision (at first) to become a HR practitioner. I was a Manager at a retail store, where I discovered through observation that if you hired the right people, sales went up! So I decided to add recruitment to my management responsibilities. This led to other HR subject areas, such as training and development, employee relations, and performance management. Eventually I was performing HR activities full-time and the rest is history.
With the aforementioned students, they are at such an advantage over me at that age! Here are a few reasons why:
- They are actively choosing a Human Resources career. Having clarity around their career path means less distraction. Also, knowing what they want means that students can focus energy and resources appropriately on which facet of HR they wish to excel at, whether it's recruitment, learning and development, or another aspect of the field.
- They're looking to maximize their higher education experience. Many of those that I speak with are engaged in HR specific activities on campus. Some are members of SHRM Student chapters, others work closely with their professors and/or Career Advisors on gaining critical internship experience. Still others are reaching out to local business groups, joining in on networking and similar events. Overall, they recognize that theory must be married to real world practices. Which leads to my next point...
- They're bridging the gap between school and work. As I mentioned, many students I speak with are engaged with the Human Resources profession both on campus and off. Their outreach to me represents how cognizant students are of the need to have mentors in both arenas. Many are also utilizing social media to highlight their emerging professional reputation. The students I'm in contact with have active LinkedIn profiles, highlighting their academic and non-academic achievements. This serves as a great signal to potential employers of their ongoing value proposition.
Speaking of "value proposition," this is an area that I try to emphasize to students. Having a degree, maximizing their educational experience, and bridging the gap between school and work will only get you so far. If a person can't clearly state how they can help an organization achieve its goals then they will struggle in the job market.
"I'm a hard worker."
"I'm well spoken."
"I have a degree."
I've heard people (student and non-student alike) tell me these things, as if that clearly separates them from numerous other candidates looking for HR jobs. In many organizations, the statements above are considered "table stakes," meaning they're the baseline qualifications needed in order for a person to get to the interview stage. They're not enough to make a recruiter take notice of you, let alone hire you.
"During my time in school, I led fundraising efforts that netted a XX% increase in Alumni donations."
"During my junior and senior years, I successfully completed internships by which I supported the hiring efforts of a multinational financial firm."
"I became President of my university's SHRM Student chapter. During my tenure I increased the number of speaking events by XX%, leading to membership growth of YY%"
See the difference between the two sets of statements? The first highlights general attributes (and not in a way that denotes uniqueness or enthusiasm). The second is specific and highlights accomplishments, which are difficult to replicate. It signals to recruiters and hiring managers that you used your time to maximize your chances for success.
Your value proposition is what signals to employers how you plan on making their lives easier. If you can't articulate that, then finding the role you seek will be a lot more difficult. In addition to what you've accomplished during your educational career, make sure that your attitude, appearance, and work ethic reflect the best of who you are as an emerging Human Resources professional. This will help you land a HR job, and serve you well throughout your career.
Good luck and continued success!
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