Sallie Mitchell is midway through gaining her qualification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), but after complications with her course and the continual knock-backs when trying to finding a job in HR, she wonders whether it is worth the time, effort and money.
"I just don't know where to go now. I have registered with six agencies but they are very general or just come up with PA jobs with an HR element," complains the former PA/office administrator.
For anyone trying to get into HR from the outside - whether at secretarial or line manager level - Mitchell's dilemma will be familiar enough. She has fallen in love with HR, but has never officially worked in an HR capacity.
"Despite HR forming a large part of my job role for the past seven years, I have no experience of working in an actual HR department," she explains.
"My previous employer, despite being a large multinational organisation, had no central HR department - the HR director worked alone, supported by regional administrators - but I administered and dealt with a wide range of HR procedures and issues," she adds.
And even if you do manage to gain a foothold in the profession, it is all too easy to reach a plateau at HR administrator level or struggle to make the transition to HR manager or higher.
Part of the problem is that HR has for a number of years now been at a crossroads - no longer just a transactional function, but not yet totally strategic either.
For employers looking to hire HR talent, this has created a dilemma. Do you go for someone with the commercial acumen and attitude that comes from, say, a background in operations, or do you play it safe and get someone with a completely solid background in HR and employment law? And, as a candidate, how do you convince them to go for the former?
"Coming in from outside can be a really good grounding, but often the best way to cross over is through an internal transfer," says Matthew Kearney, director of recruitment consultancy Jam HR Solutions.
The route into HR for many is to start at the bottom.
A graduate who comes into the profession at around the £18,000 to £20,000 mark can normally progress within 18 months to a £20,000 to £26,000 or even £30,000 HR adviser position, says Maureen Sullivan, director for Scotland and the North at Hays Human Resources.
However, she says: "It is very easy to get stu