Transitioning to a Career in HR Management

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What do lawyers, ministers, and psychologists have in common? People in those professions have all made the transition to Human Resources management and the field is full of professionals who took wildly divergent paths to get there. Here are some common ways in which people transition into Human Resource management. Perhaps one suits you?

Lateral Moves

  • Start in an administrative role with a company and gradually take on more Human Resource management work overtime. This is often easy to do as many admins handle work responsibilities such as payroll, employee benefits, and the role gradually morphs into employee relations.
  • Decide to work in Human Resource Management and network with HR professionals in community organizations and the Society for Human Resource Management until an opportunity appears. Knowing HR professionals gives you a head start when a fellow professional seeks a new employee. You are a known quantity, not an unknown application or resume.
  • While working in another role in the company, express the desire to move to Human Resource management and apply when an opening becomes available. You can also assume components of the HR role as they become available or the current HR staff members are overloaded.
  • Work in a component of Human Resource management, like training or recruiting
  • Try the field of Human Resource management and take some classes or earn a PHR.
  • Major in sociology or psychology as most social science studies will help you transition to a role in HR. Business, Accounting, and Human Resources are all exceptional routes.
  • Intern. You don't need to be working on an HR degree to qualify. Interns are drawn from many fields including engineering as HR is a profession that is best learned on-the-job. 
  • Start in sales. Sales roles are the equivalent of recruiting; if you can pick up the phone, call a prospective employee, and make an effective pitch, you can become a recruiter for an HR team.

Improve Your Chances

  • Review your prior employment, education, and experiences. Tailor your resume and cover letters to highlight the components that qualify you for a career in Human Resource management. Don't expect your prospective employer to connect the dots. Draw the connections to earn yourself an interview where you can further elaborate on your skills and interests for the HR job opening.
  • Network with people who post HR jobs and influence decisions about who is hired for a position in Human Resource management. In addition to social media networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and try the many Human Resources communities that exist at locations such as job boards, SHRM, WorldatWork,, and Workforce magazine.
  • Make your workplace aware that you are interested in an HR role and ask how you can prepare to apply for an opening. A good leader can tell you specifically what to do to become prepared for the role. He or she can also gradually pass components of HR work to you for assistance. (Do check with your manager first to make sure that the manager agrees to help you make the transition.) a
  • Consider a position with a small business as they're likely to hire candidates who can shoulder a variety of jobs. You might be able to sell your experience in IT, accounting or bookkeeping, for instance, and take on those tasks in addition to HR.
  • Take an inventory of your "soft skills" that can easily be transferred to Human Resource management including interpersonal and communication skills, dealing with confidential information and conflict resolution skills. Build your resume to highlight these skills so that you easily appear qualified in a 30-second resume review.
  • Work with a temp agency to gain some experience in recruitment, then apply for an HR or corporate recruiter job that comes through the temp agency.

Transitioning into a career in HR management is more easily accomplished than a transition into a field that requires serious technical competence or skills. Fields such as engineering, IT, legal professions, and health care professions all require specific technical skills that, except for the most basic, beginning positions, are not easily taught on the job. The skills required for a career in HR are more easily learned while working in the field. With decent guidance, a sponsor, a mentor, or good coaching, you can transition to a career in HR.