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Successfully Starting a New HR Position

Two business people shaking hands in an office.

​Angie Herrera, SHRM-CP, has worked in HR for more than eight years and has been with United Airlines since 2017. Six months ago, she transitioned into her current position as Senior HR Business Partner Representative.

In her new role, she supports the company's inflight department in creating strategic goals, partnering with talent acquisition and employee relations, and supporting the team with organizational development and performance management.

"When I started this new position, I remember feeling nervous, and that comes from wanting to be the best partner," she said. "I created a plan to ensure I learned the collective bargaining agreement, policies, procedures and business acumen."

Here's how Herrera created a plan for success in her new position:

  • Met with the former HR partner to hear their perspective on the position, its challenges and opportunities.
  • Reviewed her job description and highlighted the key responsibilities bosses expected her to execute and deliver.
  • Took a deep dive into learning policies for unionized groups. She spent hours reading articles about union contracts, union meetings or issues that could impact the organization.

Creating a plan was only part of the equation. Next, Herrera focused on building relationships with leaders across the six bases she would interact with to understand their roles and responsibilities. Before popping a meeting on someone's calendar, she e-mailed an introduction to explain her new role and desire to become a partner in supporting their work.

She asked those individuals questions like:

  • What should I know about … ?
  • What should I learn more about to best partner with you?
  • Do you have a few minutes to explain the acronyms used in that last meeting so I can understand the why behind them?
  • What is working well and what is not?

"I always take my notepad with me to make sure I don't leave anything out and let others know that I'm still observing," she said. "If they go out of their way to explain something or offer a recommendation for a different process, I send a thank-you e-mail for their extra time and copy their leader."

Starting a new role isn't easy. Herrera remembers being critical of herself for not having enough experience. She changed the narrative in her mind to feel positive about the theoretical knowledge she had and about being surrounded by strong HR professionals who she admired and who could help her grow in her career.

Throughout her HR career, Herrera relied on these strategies for getting settled into a new role and credits her success to using each of these at different points. For others starting a new role she recommends:

  • Joining SHRM: Become a member of SHRM, read its articles, attend webinars and stay informed on HR trends.
  • Being a good listener. People tend to want to take control of a conversation, but listening and observing are key to growing and building business acumen. There is a proper time to speak up and a proper time to be an active listener.
  • Developing relationships. Find a mentor and be specific on the areas you want to develop, as the mentor can leverage their network and connect you with leaders who have navigated similar challenges.
  • Raising your hand to take on new stretch assignments, even if you doubt yourself. Have a plan and use your resources.
  • Being curious. Ask questions, and never stop learning.
  • Working to your full potential. Remember that people are watching you and interviewing you regardless of the project you're working on. Even if it's not the best project, it is tied to a bigger one, and how you embrace the work is noticed. 

"My biggest advice is not to compare your journey with others as you bring in a unique perspective," Herrera said. "Be confident and ask questions as you bring in a fresh perspective and you're a member of the team. Become comfortable feeling uncomfortable, as that means you are growing."


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