Your Career Q&A: Starting Your HR Career

By Martin Yate Jun 13, 2016
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How do you launch yourself into HR? Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

Hi, Martin. Your columns have been very helpful. I earned a dual college degree in HR management and marketing, and have been working for two years at an accounting firm. I’m wondering how can I start a career in HR? I joined the local SHRM chapter and attended my first meeting about HR law. I apply for HR jobs, but I’ve only received rejection letters. Would it be appropriate to contact people who have rejected me to ask for their advice on starting a career in HR?

Anonymous

Of course you can ask employers why they rejected you, remembering that for legal purposes, everyone has to be very careful about what reasons they give for rejecting a candidate. I think the rationale may have to do with the way you are pursuing a particular job, how you position yourself for that job in your resume and perhaps the way you may have handled yourself in any interviews.

Without seeing your resume, the odds are that it is a pretty honest recitation of all the things you feel are important and are proud of, because this is how most resumes are written.

For some reason when people write their resumes, they forget about who they are writing for: their potential employer, not themselves. Instead of determining what the employer wants and customizing your resume to that employer’s needs, you start off with what you want and what you think is important—neither of which help you in the least.

My advice is simple: Identify the job in HR that you can make the strongest argument for on paper and in person, and the one in which you have the greatest odds of success. Then create a resume that speaks to your abilities as they specifically relate to the employer’s stated needs. This will turn your resume into an entirely different and far more productive document, and will give you a different way of looking at yourself and what you have to offer.

You are making a strategic career shift, rather than a simple job change. As such, I would focus the search on companies within the accounting and financial professions because understanding how companies in a target profession speak and act brings a valid plus to your candidacy.

The job you land will probably be a step sideways or even slightly backwards in order to realign your professional life with your professional goals. This scares most people, but may be a necessary step before you can start climbing the ladder again.

It’s critical to understand how your target employers prioritize the needs of the job you are after and to identify how, when and where you have developed and applied these skills. Make a special effort to tie the benefits of your accounting background to any and all of these requirements. Do this and you can turn job interviews into job offers and successfully complete this strategic career move.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We’ll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

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