My next move

 I graduated from university nearly two years ago and have been trying to get into HR ever since. The closest I have got is my current role, where I work as a recruitment co-ordinator for a recruitment agency. Can you offer any advice as to where to look for experience directly in HR – either paid or unpaid? I do have the transferable skills but companies seem reluctant to take me on, even at an administrator level.

HR has witnessed unprecedented growth and recognition resulting in a wide variety of progressive jobs. However, this recognition has fuelled demand from employers and a strong supply of prospective HR candidates. Competition is fierce and HR is now a more popular career choice for graduates.

As time goes on, and without any direct HR experience, you will find this competition getting stronger. So it is crucial to understand why you want to get into HR and dedicate yourself to this pursuit. You must also understand why your previous applications were unsuccessful. If you don’t have an HR-related degree or a recognised postgraduate qualification such as Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, then it might be a qualification issue. Without two or three years’ experience, employers will consider a qualification important, as it means you will be competent from day one. In addition to the academic benefits of studying, you will also build a strong network of HR contacts.

Working in a recruitment consultancy is not an uncommon route into HR and it can provide a useful insight into an important HR discipline. I would, however, need to understand more about what you do to see whether it would be relevant for you – and how difficult it would be – to move into HR.

Personnel managers used to start their career as administrators or secretaries, but as HR has taken on an increasingly strategic dimension, this is now a thing of the past. If your role is entirely administrative, it might be worth trying to get directly involved with the recruitment cycle, and a conversation within your own firm might open doors without the need to look for unpaid experience.

You have two options: either you can work in-house as an HR officer or work for an HR consultancy. Either way, you should register with a recruitment consultancy specialising in HR, as well as contacting employers directly. Also consider working on temporary assignments. Most large companies need to cover holidays and such like, and this could be the first step onto your HR career ladder.

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