Taking up a Career as an HR professional

HR professionals in the past were looked at as performing largely administrative work. They would conduct interviews and fill open job positions, disburse salaries, manage leaves, and see that staff member complied with organizational policies, along with all the associated paperwork.

With time, the role has evolved. HR is now seen as a strategic partner to top management, tasked with hiring talented professionals who can help the organization achieve its strategic goals. They contribute ideas to achieve organizational objectives, evolving their practices in line with the dynamics and requirements of modern business.

What are the responsibilities of an HR professional?

In the modern workplace, HR handles the following responsibilities:

• Recruiting candidates who can advance company objectives

• Planning and development: participate in the execution of corporate objectives by aligning the plans for their business units to achieve company goals

• Career development assistance and succession planning

• Leading change initiatives by managing employee satisfaction or unrest

• Employee empowerment and advocacy

HR professionals can be either generalists or specialists. An HR generalist handles several areas and tasks at one go, such as payroll, training, recruitment, or more. Small companies tend to have a couple of generalists handling HR requirements. HR specialists, on the other hand, focus on a single sub-process or function and tend to be found more commonly in larger organizations.

What criteria must be satisfied to become an HR professional?

The first aspect to consider is academics. Most jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in HR, business administration, or related fields, with some preferring a master’s or higher. Certification courses in HR are a relatively new entrant, and though not yet mandatory everywhere, are increasingly finding a place in qualification requirements as preferred if not essential. Depending on the company and the job level, some work experience may be required. Top skills for a professional in this field include:

• Attention to detail

• Decision-making skills

• Interpersonal skills

• Ability to handle conflict

• Comfort with HR software, CRM, ERP, and MS Office

The salaries are quite good. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, the median salary for all HR specialists was USD 60,880 per year.

How does one become an HR professional?

There is no one roadmap to a career in HR. However, the following would be the basic steps to take:

• Earn a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education level specified for most jobs in the HR field. Such programs provide a grounding in organizational theory, business law, and other disciplines relevant to the HR field. These are offered by a number of colleges and universities across the world and are available in diverse formats including on-campus study and online modes. Along with the studies, some on-the-job experience in the form of internships or part-time work is very useful.

• Gain work experience

This is crucial for an HR professional wishing to go beyond entry-level positions to higher managerial levels with significantly greater responsibilities. The work experience is useful in many ways:

o Adding to the portfolio or resume

o Developing additional skills and know-how, such as communication and organizational skills

o Real-life, on-the-job application of academic, theoretical concepts

• Complete a master’s degree

BLS research suggests that when employers look to fill in senior managerial positions in HR, they tend to choose applicants with a master’s degree in HR. Such qualifications help the HR professional to specialize in particular topics of their interest, which could include career development, labor relations, or other.

• Take a certification course in HR

In addition to regular full-time degree courses, aspiring professionals or those looking to grow into senior roles benefit immensely from picking one of the best HR certifications. Some great options are offered by respected institutions such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Talent Management Institute (TMI), and the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI).