HR Pro Offers Job Search Tips, Career Advice

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek June 15, 2022
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HR Pro Offers Job Search Tips, Career Advice

​Students and emerging HR professionals picked up valuable career tips at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 during the virtual concurrent session "Jumpstart Your Career: Advice for Students and Early Career HR Professionals" on June 15.

Claire Stroh Petrie, SHRM-CP, who comes from a family of HR professionals and has worked in HR since 2012, shared insights ranging from job search advice and interviewing tips to how to successfully navigate an HR career.

Petrie is the director of technology talent management for Buffalo, N.Y.-based Lighthouse Technology Services, a technology staffing and recruiting partner for that area's technology community. 

She also is president of Claire Petrie HR & Training in Buffalo; serves as college relations and emerging professionals director for her local SHRM chapter, the Buffalo Niagara HR Association; and is a member of SHRM's Emerging Professionals Advisory Council (EPAC).

Petrie offered the following advice during her presentation:

Navigating the HR Job Search

  • Plan and prepare before submitting your job application. Do your research, ensure your resume is updated, and consider how you will answer questions about salary expectations, your experience—or lack thereof—and career goals.

  • Access the local SHRM chapter job board or search the chapter's membership directory; follow up on LinkedIn or via e-mail. Petrie noted she's been successful using a company's "people tab" on LinkedIn to find contact information. Use this approach, she suggested, to express your interest in a position you've applied for and ask if you can provide more information about your skills and background.
  • Conduct informational interviews and make networking calls. This can help you discern which areas of HR interest you and help others get to know you.

  • Attend events. Your local SHRM chapter's meetings can be a good place to meet other HR professionals in the area.

  • Focus on learning and networking. This is especially helpful for emerging professionals who are asked during interviews how they would handle an HR-related issue for which they lack hands-on experience. Respond by talking about a LinkedIn learning course or a relevant SHRM event you attended, for example. Be conversational, asking follow-up questions such as, "Is this what you would do as well?" and "Am I on the right track?"

Differentiating Yourself on the HR Job Market

  • Be involved and helpful. Show on your resume how you give back to your community.

  • Join SHRM and your local SHRM chapter. National SHRM membership for students is only $49 annually, Petrie pointed out. Also, check if your local SHRM chapter has student membership rates. "It's a great resume builder and again you can make good connections through just being more involved than other [job] candidates in the HR field," she said.

  • Be active on social media. Many companies use LinkedIn to find candidates for jobs, pointed out Petrie, who also is active on Twitter. Whatever platforms you use, consider how you communicate and behave online and ask yourself if the messages you share are a good reflection of who you are.
  • Stay current and continually learn. Attend webinars and conferences, listen to podcasts, and earn SHRM certification.

  • Showcase the impact and results of your work on your resume, not just the tasks—even as an intern. Be specific. For example, instead of simply noting your work involved training new employees, indicate the number of new employees you trained per month, which led to coverage during the company's busy season or reduced customer wait times. This approach "differentiated me from other candidates," Petrie said.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the business, not just HR. Know about other areas such as accounting or IT and demonstrate a general understanding of how HR can support those areas and their people.

  • Build relationships. Following through on commitments and being trustworthy contributes toward your credibility and helps build workplace relationships.

Successfully Starting a New HR Position

  • Take time to learn the business. When starting a new HR role, Petrie spends at least the first few weeks—or longer, depending on the role—setting up meetings with different people in the areas she will be supporting.
  • Spend a lot of time with your HR team. This includes gaining an understanding of other HR areas or business sites if your employer has multiple locations and becoming familiar with the company's various offerings, such as compensation and benefits or training systems.
  • Don't let the to-do list bog you down. "There will be a million little things in all these notes that you take in your first couple weeks. Take the time to prioritize those and don't get so focused on checking off the list [that] you forget to … focus on relationships and learning the business," Petrie said.
  • Get the lay of the land with current tools, systems and vendors. There are many vendors you might use in HR—for recruiting platforms, applicant tracking systems, assessments, payroll, L&D, benefits providers and the like.
  • Get organized and track successes. "It's really important to always keep track of everything you're doing and all your successes," Petrie said, including completed projects and to-do items. This allows you to quickly show the value you're adding to the organization.
  • Listen and don't assume anything. Ask a lot of questions.   

  • Remember that people are the most important aspect of your organization. "As you're walking the hall or attending a virtual event … say hello. Introduce yourself and say hi to every new person you meet or is on the meeting invite. Really take the initiative to reach out to them and introduce yourself," Petrie said.
  • Get involved. Does your company have a charitable or community involvement group, a young professionals networking group or other employee resource groups? Is there a mentoring program you can join? If your organization sponsors events—whether it's a poster contest or loading trucks with supplies for hurricane victims—volunteer to help with the planning or judging even if you don't participate in the event itself, Petrie advised.
  • Pay attention to who is on company meeting invitations. Consider following up by asking for a 15-minute one-on-one chat—in person or virtual—to get to know each other and to learn more about the other person's role. "That goes out a long way for in the future when you need to roll out an initiative or someone needs to come to HR with something they really need to discuss; you've started off that relationship on a really good, positive note," Petrie said.
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