Written by Kesha Brown
11+ years ago I began my journey in the human resources industry. Prior to being introduced to HR, I was on a path to break into the fashion industry because, at that time in my life, it was all about fashion for me. I am a lover of all things fashion and still am today. In 2006, I pursued a degree in fashion design at The Art Institute of New York City. I attended for a few semesters but had to drop out because I was getting ready to give birth to my daughter who is now 12. After her birth, l returned to class and soon learned that making clothes was not for me, so I dropped out once more. After six months at home with my new daughter, it was time for me to look for work. I reached out to a friend of mine and shared with her that I needed a job. She checked around at her job and said they were currently interviewing for a Criminal History Record Coordinator at Americare, Inc. I had no idea what the position entailed, nor did I have a clue what the world of HR was about, but the position paid well, so I went for the job interview.
Guess what? I was offered the job on April 1, 2007, on my birthday. My journey in HR officially started. I was totally ecstatic to say the least because I am always looking to learn new things and challenge myself. I couldn’t wait to get started. After spending 11+ years, over 4,000 days, being led by five amazing supervisors who happen to be women, meeting and helping more than 3,000 people, shedding countless tears, celebrating monumental moments, changing several positions, and executing all areas of human resources management, I can honestly say that the memories continue to get better and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The one special thing about HR is that you are able to build intimate relationships with people, just like a nurse does with his/her patients. I think that is why I love human resources so much because of the “human” component.
Today, I share with you six keys to deciding if you should start a career in HR:
- You should start if you are a people person.
Working within human resources—no matter what role you execute—is all about working with people. Your job is to support the people that work within a company, from the bottom to the top. While some HR roles involve more heavy people-to-people interaction, such as a recruiter/talent manager, human resources generalist, and/or employee relations specialist, even the back-end roles, such as benefits administrator, manager of training and development, payroll coordinator, HR assistant and/or coordinator, all involve interaction with people at some point within the employment relationship life cycle. As a passionate storyteller, I love interacting with people! Nothing gets me more excited! People are so interesting to me because we all have our own story to tell, and I am fascinated each time I hear a new story. I realized that early on about myself but never thought of pursuing a career in HR because I was never exposed to it as a career option. I was focused on what I love: fashion. The one thing that has changed a lot about me is that I have learned to keep an open mind about the possibilities of life. You should have the same philosophy as you navigate your career. The next big opportunity is probably the chance you are hesitant to take, which is in a new position that you have no experience in or no clue about. What if I didn’t take that job because I didn’t keep an open mind? I am not sure what story I would be telling you today. So, if you love everything about human interaction, I highly recommend pursuing a career in human resources.
- You should start if you love solving problems.
Are you fascinated by the process of solving problems? Analyzing and breaking down information and coming up with solutions? Well, as an HR professional, you have to solve problems. This is a major part of executing an HR role, which takes up to 80% of certain positions such as human resources generalist. You have to solve problems for the staff constantly, like Jennifer who didn’t get her paycheck on Friday, or Karen who was sexually harassed by her boss, or Jason who was fired because he has a bad body odor, or Tanisha who quit suddenly and now you have to find her replacement, or senior leaders who are facing a lawsuit and now need compliance training, or Elizabeth who now wants to acquire health insurance and all the other benefits the company offers. The problems are never-ending in HR, and the bigger the company you work for, the more problems you have to solve. I remember the days when I had employees lined up outside my office door: they couldn’t wait to drop their problems in my lap. You noticed that I said outside my office door, right? Yes, I closed it because I solved so many problems each day that I never had time to actually do my work, so I had to take a drastic action to solve that. No matter the role you execute in human resources, 50% to 80% of your day will be about solving problems. Are you a passionate problem-solver? If so, then working in HR is for you.
- You should start if you are fascinated by doing research.
For as long as I could recall, I have been obsessed with conducting research. I would say 40% of my day to this day is conducting research. I love the thrill of finding out new information. As a life-long learner, this is my high. Why would I ever think my love for research would be beneficial to an HR role? It is something I learned later. All roles in HR are binded by employment laws that protect employees. An HR professional has to be knowledgeable in set laws and regulatory and compliance procedures. How can an employer know that the hiring procedures they have in place are lawful, like, for example, their interview questions and/or if they are required to offer benefits to their staff. You have to constantly conduct research on sites such as www.dol.gov, www.eeoc.gov, www.shrm.org, and other regulatory sites to ensure that your policies and procedures are aligned with set regulations or else your employer can face lawsuits and serious penalties and fines. Your job as an HR professional is to protect your employer, and you can’t do that without conducting due diligence research. So, if researching gets you excited, then HR is for you.
- You should start if you love paperwork.
I am obsessed with paper and paperwork, I guess that’s why my apartment is loaded with papers from 20 years ago that I just can’t get rid of. It is so exciting for me to write on paper, file paper, review paper; the entire paper relationship is just one big thrill for me. Do you find yourself holding onto paper or finding excuses to keep paper around constantly? If your answer is yes, then you will definitely enjoy a role in HR. While most companies are now adapting HRIS software and moving away from paper management/filing systems, the majority still use paper applications and all paper-related employment documentation. Record-keeping is a major function in HR, which involves a lot of paper-handling. Audits are also a major function of HR, which requires analyzing personnel files, and payroll records, which also involves paper-handling. So, if you don’t mind dealing with paperwork on a daily basis, I highly recommend that you consider pursing a career in HR.
- You should start if you thrive in high-pressured environments.
In my career, working in human resources has brought me very high levels of day-to-day stress due to the following: employee turnover: delivering termination messages: managing an excessive workload: eliminating benefits to save costs and dealing with the brunt of such decisions: supporting management decisions that don’t always seem right: dealing with regulatory audits: handling lawsuits: planning and executing reductions in workforce, handling complaints: hiring staff: and dealing with supervisor and staff disagreements: and so much more. Everyday is different in HR, and on top of managing your duties you have to manage projects from your boss while juggling several dozen crises all at once. I can honestly say that every HR position is not the same; some differ because the companies themselves differ. I come from the non-profit space where I always had to wear many hats because we were always under-staffed, so every day was stressful. But I managed my job duties well because my personality allows me to thrive in very stressful environments. Do some self-reflecting and assess how well you handle stress. I would also recommend having a conversation with people close to you and get their feedback on how you perform under stress. If you excel in high-pressured environments, then you will do well in an HR role.
- You should start if you are always the go-to person for advice or if you enjoy counseling others.
I am a certified therapist, and I didn’t obtain my degree from school. I have paid my dues working in human resources! I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would spend my days counseling and comforting grown adults, including guiding co-workers and senior leaders on how to make decisions and handle their problems and providing words of encouragement to them. Just like you and I, everyone has problems. Some are work-related, and some are private and not everyone knows how to handle such situations, so they may seek help from “the human resources department” or, better yet, YOU! It’s unbelievable how many people I have invested hours and hours of counseling into. That was how I spent many of my days. It was a revolving door of counseling for various situations. I have counseled thousands of people in my career, and I can honestly say I did enjoy being the comfort that people found in me. So, if you are moved by helping people make sound decisions while comforting them during their struggles, then human resources would make a good home for you.
I hope these six points have helped you analyze whether or not human resources is for you. Despite the highs and lows, it is a very rewarding field to work in. You will help and support and change the lives of many, affecting generations to come. I wish you luck on making your career choice, and also invite you to contact me at anytime should you need help with making this decision.
Additionally, if you are curious to learn more about how to get started in human resources, I would highly recommend that you check out my live webinar “How to Start a Career in Human Resources.” You can purchase the live webinar recording for $20.00, which includes follow-up access with me via phone or email. Here is the link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-to-start-a-career-in-human-resources-access-to-live-webinar-recording-tickets-57951315946
You can check out testimonials about this webinar presentation on my Instagram page @brownresumes, so you can see the feedback from my participants who have commented that the information presented was valuable. Until next time,