HR Pros Recount Landing First Job in Field

By Kathy Gurchiek Feb 8, 2016
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How did you get your first HR job?

HR practitioners filled the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) Facebook and LinkedIn pages with more than 400 comments on the Feb. 1 article on how to enter the profession. Here are some of their stories:

Elizabeth Doherty Thomas

Elizabeth Doherty Thomas
Years ago and fresh out of college, Elizabeth Doherty Thomas was not the first choice for the job of HR coordinator at what was then the only four-star hotel in Minnesota. But when the top candidate turned down the offer, Thomas was back in the running, along with another candidate who had a lot of administrative experience. “I went with a list of 23 reasons why they should hire me,” Thomas recalled on Facebook and LinkedIn. She can still picture the spiral notebook she brought with her to make her case, citing attributes that made her the best candidate—including her ability to type fast and speak Spanish. The lesson she said she learned: A boss can train you for the job but cannot train you to be a go-getter or to have a positive attitude. Today she is the co-director of The Doherty Relationship Institute, an alliance for marriage and divorce professionals. The institute is located in the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Jon Thurmond

Jon Thurmond
For Jon Thurmond, SHRM-SCP, a recruiter saw his potential as an HR professional 16 years ago when he applied for work at a temporary staffing agency.

“During the interview, the recruiter said ‘You’d be good at this.’” His assignment through the staffing agency led to a full-time job as an HR generalist. Today he is HR manager at Virginia-based Team Fishel, a utility engineering firm.

A Circuitous Route

Nicola Bidgood

Nicola Bidgood
Additional job responsibilities led Nicola “Nicki” Bidgood into an HR career. She was working as a physician’s assistant when she started taking on HR tasks. Four years later, she accepted a job elsewhere as HR manager. Today she is an HR consultant based in the U.K.



Chas Sampson

Chas Sampson
Chas Sampson landed his first HR job after becoming a union steward while serving as a decision officer of veterans’ disability and compensation appeal cases for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The experience, he said on LinkedIn, allowed him to display an ability to handle labor issues and employee relations matters. That led to his current position in the Washington, D.C. area as an employee/labor relations specialist with the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force.

Internships, Mentors

Matthew Swanson

Matthew Swanson

After Matthew Swanson earned his degree in business administration with a concentration in human resource management in 2011, a visit to a campus career fair snagged him a summer internship at a life insurance company. That led to a temporary job there as an HR associate. Within the year he was offered a full-time position as an HR associate. Today he is an HR generalist at K2, a business application software company in the Greater Seattle, Wash., area. “A few tips: Get involved with your local SHRM chapter and look into local networking groups,” he advised on Facebook.

Molly Godfrey

Molly Godfrey
Molly Godfrey credits her former organization, which promotes career coaching, for her first HR job. After earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in management and HR, she told her supervisor that she wanted to move out of her non-HR administrative position and into human resources. “She set me up with an HR mentor in our organization to help me develop strategies to get an entry-level position, because our organization didn’t consider internal applicants for HR positions,” Godfrey wrote on Facebook. “The best advice she gave me was to apply to positions I might not qualify for, because you never know what qualities a hiring manager is looking for and willing to compromise on. After a few months, I was hired for an entry-level position [at another organization] with great benefits that originally required HR experience. I’m so grateful to now be in a position that will help me build a career,” said Godfrey, an employment specialist for a private, nonprofit graduate school in the Greater Los Angeles area. “My mentor’s advice has been the advice I’ve passed on to others.”

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.

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