Personnel Today has put together a reader panel of HR managers. Relatively recent graduates themselves, we asked our HR Managers' Advisory Board why they went into HR, how tricky they felt it would be to find entry-level jobs at the moment, and what their top tips were for today's HR graduates.
Kerry Bigwood, HR officer at building products supplier Epwin Group
"The crucial thing I'd say to anyone looking to enter a career in HR is to understand why you are interested in HR and what it is that you want to be able to add to a business. Too many graduates have an idealistic approach, expecting business to conform to the needs of HR, and the reality is often a surprise. HR is a valuable asset to a business (whether public or private sector) but it is only an asset if the aims and objectives of HR can be clearly seen to support those of the organisation it serves.
"Yes, good HR management can make a difference, but only by understanding the business objectives and aligning themselves with them and putting in place strategies to assist the business meet its goals will HR add value, and then be taken seriously and given parity with other functions within a business. If graduates subscribe to the 'Tampax and tissues' school of thought, they are in for a rude awakening; going into HR because they 'like people' is possibly the single worst reason I can think of."
Lucie Walmsley, HR assistant at logistics company GBA Group
"I joined HR when it was seen more as a 'personnel function', although the attraction was always the employee relations angle of the field. This gave me the right inroads to a generalist role.
"How easy or difficult it is to get an entry-level HR job depends on the area which attracts you. I think specialised areas still require a generalist background. So I would advise anyone going into HR in this climate to focus on gaining experience in a generalist role, and then exploring the specialist areas they wished to expand into. When applying for jobs, it is imperative that you understand the organisation and are able to relate it back to something. Even theoretical work would prove advantageous.
"My top tip is that success is all about understanding the culture of the organisation. What goes in one place doesn't always produce the same results in another. Master the culture and you're half way to getting your voice heard."