My next move: graduate’s lack of experience

I graduated from university a couple of years ago with a BA in HR Management, gaining a 2:1. I’m really frustrated that I have to enter HR as an office junior. I want the chance to show that I have a can-do attitude, am very enthusiastic and will give 110%. I have some experience in administration, training and recruitment, but I cannot get a ‘proper’ HR job because of my lack of experience. I have been to numerous graduate fairs, and I am still networking, but I am having little success.

Unfortunately, your expectations are unrealistic. HR is a challenging and demanding career, and you will be expected to deal with sensitive employee issues that have the potential to impact hugely on people’s working lives and wellbeing. On a daily basis, your personal judgement and common sense will be called into question, and your empathy with a wide range of employees will be tested repeatedly. University study alone cannot prepare you for this.

The nature of entry-level HR roles, as an administrator or an assistant, are designed to lead you into your chosen profession in a safe environment. As an HR officer, you will gain exposure to the day-to-day issues you will handle, learning from more experienced colleagues who can offer coaching and technical guidance. Often, this is the time you will complete your CIPD studies, so that you can bring together the academic and practical aspects of the HR discipline.

The additional ‘soft skills’ you refer to – your enthusiasm, willingness to do anything and commitment – are very important, but you are asking potential employers to believe that you possess these attributes. You need to demonstrate them in the work environment, day after day, when you are under pressure and even when you are a little bored. If you are able to do this, there is no reason why you cannot progress to more challenging and interesting roles quickly.

Remember that it is easier to be promoted to a ‘proper’ HR role from an administrative role in which you have excelled, than it is to be offered the more senior role with your current level of experience.

Your degree course has given you an academic understanding of aspects of modern HR management. That has value. If you are serious about developing your HR career long term, you now need to consider which industry sectors interest you, and what type of company would appeal to you.

Lynne Hardman,
Managing director,
Hays Human Resources

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