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Navigating the HR Job Search

A man is talking on the phone while working on a laptop at home.

​Despite post-pandemic recession concerns, HR opportunities are abundant. So much so that narrowing your focus might be the biggest challenge to finding a job.

"It can be tempting to apply to every single opportunity that piques our interest," said Kinyata Gray, SHRM-CP. "If a position does not meet your long-term career goals and aspirations, then we could waste our time and set ourselves up for unnecessary disappointments" by pursuing it.

She offered an example. If you strive to become a vice president or chief human resources officer of a large health care organization, applying for lateral positions in manufacturing or retail will not bring you closer to the outcome.

"Not every opportunity is for you, and that is OK. Do not rush the job search, and do not settle for a position that does not match your overall career aspirations just to get out of your current predicament," she said.

Gray has worked as an HR professional for 10 years and recently landed a new position. Less than a month into new role as the human resources director at Northwest Health Systems, she shares her advice for successfully navigating the HR job search.

Be Prepared for Rejection

Gray remembers applying and phone interviewing for a position she really wanted. On paper, it seemed like the ideal opportunity. She was devastated when she received the call that she was not selected.

"Rejection is, in fact, redirection. Things happen for a reason. I did not let one "no" deter me in my job search," she said. "I pressed on, and a few months later, I was offered my current position."

The same is true when you're ghosted by an organization. There's nothing worse than getting your hopes up only to never hear back or receive any follow-up, post-application or post-interview. Refocus on your goals and keep searching.

Stay Current

Ahead of Gray's job search, she updated her knowledge on the latest local and national HR news. She suggests reading SHRM's HR Magazine and listening to HR podcasts and encourages job seekers to attend local HR chapter meetings and state and national conferences, if possible.

"I was fortunate enough to attend SHRM22 [SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022] in NOLA this year and my state Employment Law and Legislative conference," she said. "I made sure to review my conference notes before interviews."

Lean into Your Network

Before Gray's onsite interview for her current position, she reached out for advice from a fellow HR professional. The woman worked for the organization where Gray was interviewing. The two had met previously through their local SHRM chapter events.

"She was able to share nuggets of wisdom and give me insight into the company so that I could make a better-informed decision if I were offered the position," she said.

Ask for What You Want, and Don't Shy Away From It

In Gray's previous role, she felt underpaid and undervalued and knew her salary and position didn't match her talents. Her new position was a 53% pay increase. In addition, bonus incentives brought it to a nearly 70% increase.

"Make sure that your salary expectations align with the position's market value. Research and then research some more," she said. "When an offer is presented, if it's not what you want and/or what your research tells you it should be, don't be afraid to counteroffer. Have a number in mind. You may just get it."

Invest in Yourself

Gray stumbled across career coach Nikisha Hicks on LinkedIn and instantly felt drawn to her. Hicks specializes in helping women of color in the HR space. Gray religiously followed Hicks' page and became an avid listener of her podcast. She took advantage of a free mini-coaching session and then paid for a session.

"I even talked to her before I decided to accept my current role. I walked away with so many pointers and lessons that I needed to walk confidently into my next opportunity," she said.

Have Courage

The job search can be daunting, even downright terrifying. Focus on why you are not currently satisfied, engaged or feeling stuck. That way, when an opportunity presents itself, you don't talk yourself out of applying, interviewing and accepting the job.

"Change can be good and just what you need to become the very best version of yourself. I relocated clear across the state of Arkansas, sold the house that I custom built, and said goodbye to friends and family," she said. "It was the hardest decision that I've ever had to make. I knew I could have regrets either way, but not going just because I was fearful was a regret I did not want to have."


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