Working alongside people and processes makes a career in human resources rewarding and challenging.
A career in human resources involves serving as a referee, supervisor, coordinator, and teacher. Human resources professionals interview and hire new employees, oversee benefits programs, administer payroll and facilitate communication between management and staff.
To find out if a career in human resources is right for you, keep reading.
Advice from a human resources professional
Tina Hawk’s career in HR spans over 25 years. She currently oversees people and talent teams for Inflection, the parent company of GoodHire, a background check provider for small and medium-sized businesses.
Tina previously led global HR operations for Conduit Global, an international business process outsourcer. She has also held several leadership positions at TriNet.
Tina Hawk holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Missouri State University and, in her spare time, is an avid traveler, foodie, and wine enthusiast who enjoys spending time with her family.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
ZDNet: What type of person succeeds and thrives in an HR career?
Tina Hawk: I’ve worked with so many amazing HR professionals in my career, and each brings their own unique attributes. I would say they all share a passion for people and the ability to navigate complex situations with a high degree of confidentiality.
ZDNet: What kind of person might not be the best fit?
TH: HR professionals wear many hats and must be able to thrive in fast-paced, ever-changing environments with flexibility. Often the correct answer begins with “It depends”. If someone needs a rigid structure or absolute certainty to solve complex problems, HR may not be the best solution.
ZDNet: What are the most rewarding aspects of your career?
TH: The ability to motivate and activate colleagues towards a common goal and mission.
ZDNet: What are the most difficult aspects of your career?
TH: Keeping abreast of the ever-changing regulatory environment, especially when working in global companies.
ZDNet: What is a typical day for an HR professional? What tasks do you usually work on?
TH: HR is all about communication, so many formal and informal meetings, emails and phone calls. It’s all part of creating that connectivity that permeates all facets of HR, whether it’s receiving feedback, setting goals, planning for growth, evaluating policies or practices, and more.
ZDNet: Who do you communicate with?
TH: Literally everyone in the organization. Each role is critical to our success, so it’s important to stay connected with colleagues across all areas of the organization.
ZDNet: What kind of hours do you keep?
TH: I straddle several time zones. My typical day is 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and most nights I come back online after 9 p.m. to clear my emails or plan for the next day.
ZDNet: Since becoming an HR professional, has there been anything about the role that you didn’t anticipate or anticipate?
TH: There are so many dimensions in HR. There’s no way to anticipate everything a role might require, and roles tend to form around people over time. It’s actually one of the many things I love most about HR.
A day in the life of a human resources professional
No two days in the life of a human resources professional are alike. HR tasks vary depending on the size of the business or organization.
In a small business, human resources workers may manage:
- Hiring and dismissal
- Benefits and Compensation
- employee training
- Employee Relations
- Conflict resolution
- Maintenance of personnel files
In larger companies and organizations, an HR professional may specialize in one area – recruitment, benefits, or retirement programs, for example.
Human resources professionals work with staff and employees at all levels within a business or organization. They may meet with managers and executives to coordinate organizational needs while talking with entry-level workers about grievances and issues.
Their duties require patience, flexibility and communication skills.
Lifestyle of a Human Resources Professional
As an individual who provides information to executives and entry-level staff, human resource professionals typically work in an office setting. Remote work may also be an option.
Since HR careers include many tasks and responsibilities, the pace and expectations of an HR job can be fast-paced and exciting. Adaptability helps HR professionals thrive when they need to quickly switch from one task to another.
With technology and the ever-changing workforce, HR professionals participate in continuing education programs to learn new skills and modify existing practices.
Salary expectations as a human resources professional
The salary you can expect as a human resources professional varies by location, education, and experience.
A major in human resources with a bachelor’s degree has the knowledge and skills necessary for entry-level jobs in human resources.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for human resources specialists was $63,490 in May 2020.
HR managers earned nearly double with median annual salary from $121,220 in May 2020. The experience combined with a college degree or certificate and continuing education can lead to better paying jobs in human resources.
What does it take to become a human resources professional?
Low-level human resources jobs may not require a degree, but most employers prefer candidates who have experience or education.
Human resource professionals need to know the ins and outs of budgeting software, benefits and compensation programs and policies, and regulatory requirements.
A certificate in human resources gives you the basic knowledge and skills for a position in human resources. In contrast, a bachelor’s degree in human resources provides a comprehensive understanding of the many facets of HR.
A graduate degree in human resources builds prior knowledge and skills.
After earning a degree, you can complete it with training in specific areas. A graduate certificate in human resources, for example, may emphasize leadership, conflict and negotiation, or talent management.
If you’ve worked as an office or corporate manager before, the transition into human resources can be relatively easy. Transferring to human resources from another industry may require courses or training in organizational development, digital human resources and talent acquisition.
What skills do I need as an HR professional?
Soft skills, also known as interpersonal skills, help human resource workers communicate and build relationships with their colleagues.
Technical skills include the use of computer technology, employee evaluation and data analysis. Human resources jobs may also require management, presentation and marketing skills.
Below are some additional essential skills for human resource careers.
- Use of human resources information software
- Onboarding practices and procedures
- Interview Techniques
- Negotiation techniques
- Distribution of benefits and compensation
- Active listening
- Management of time
- Problem solving
The diversity within human resources, the opportunities for growth in the field, and the ever-changing employment landscape can make a career in HR intriguing. Understand the role of an HR professional in deciding whether a job in HR meets your interests and career goals.
If you want to take the next step, explore the training options linked above.