One of the most professionally rewarding experiences for me is the opportunity to mentor students on career choices. I love wide-eyed, the world is an oyster, enthusiasm. I received a tweet last night from a UCBerkeley Psych and Linguistic double major student contemplating a career in HR - specifically recruiting - I decided to come here to help her with her choices by invoking the power of all of us to answer her question.

"Hi Karla, how'd you get started in HR? and most HR asst jobs ask for experience but I don't have any. how I can get some to begin my career?"

I came to corporate HR and recruiting through the back door. By that I mean I worked in operations management at a company for many years and often found myself in HR making recommendations on approaches to employee relations, diversity initiatives, training, recruiting, retention strategies, etc. One day there was an opening for a Recruiter and I jumped on it because I wanted to make an impact on the organization not just my division.

My suggestions to get some experience are to do a non-paid admin. internship for an HR department, ask your local Chamber of Commerce if there is a HR task force you could join to work on projects with professionals, and contact your local SHRM chapter to see if they have a mentor program.

I invite others from the Recruiting Blogs community to answer this question as well. We have such diverse experience and expertise through which we can help others learn from our careers.

Views: 106

Comment by Jeff Lipschultz on May 2, 2009 at 11:59am
With psych degree, I would like Organizational Developement would be a good avenue to work towards HR roles. A good person to talk to about this is @jtodonnell.
Comment by Heather Gardner on May 2, 2009 at 12:33pm
If you put your mind to a specific career goal, such as HR, I like the idea of "networking" into your next position. Attend any and all HR related events such as SHRM luncheons, breakfasts, etc. By buiilding a solid network of professionals one might just find the gate keeper who opens the door for an opportunity. Apply to the HR admin roles or other such roles within an organization that will allow you to move up as a long term goal. From my own experience making several complete career changes, the only thing that can ultimately stop you is YOU. Keep in mind that effective networking isn't asking for jobs, etc, it's about building long term professional relationships, there isn't anything instant about that - see my blog post on BAD networking (

Good luck to offering the student advice ;-)
Comment by Craig Fisher on May 3, 2009 at 11:42am
Asha, sorry I am late chiming in on this. I was tied up yesterday. You have some great answers here so far. You need to focus on something and go for it. The scatter shooting approach doesn't work very well.

If you do decide you want to work in HR, I might suggest finding a non-profit organization to volunteer for in their HR area. Often they are hit with budget restraints but still have more work than they can handle. They will be glad to let you help out. And they are usually fine with part-time work.

At the same time, look at all the job postings in your area for HR jobs and see what their requirements are. Start working to be knowledgeable in the areas they seek experience. Research what the certifications require and read up on the info and issues. There are plenty of HR books available. The more you know when you network with a potential employer, the greater your chances of being asked to join their team.

You might want to start a blog and chronicle your job search there. Call it Asha's HR Journey or something like that. Write about everything you are learning about on the subject. Write something at least every couple of days. They more research you do for your articles the more knowledge you will gain. Ask people in HR organizations if you can interview them for articles. You can begin to position yourself in that field before you ever get a job.

Good luck. Feel free to call/write me if you want to discuss. 214-394-0909, . Cheers, Craig Fisher (twitter/fishdogs)
Comment by Jack Young on May 3, 2009 at 12:31pm
Asha -

Obviously in the vast minority here, but I'd encourage you to consider the "external recruiter" route. obviously, we are all prejudiced by our experience/successes, but my side of the desk, and phone can provide enormous personal and professional opportunity.

In our down economy you couldn't find a better time to join a large national recruiting firm, in any entry level position available. if you could find an opening with any of the major firms such as Heidrick & Struggles, Spencer Stuart or Korn Ferry International, you'd be on your way to a wonderful career that could candidly lead to either internal or external recruiting/HR opportunities.

My fellow recruiters on this blog are all offering very sound advice, I'm just trying to present an alternative entry path.

Perhaps not quite as hoity as the BIG Three - Mangement Recruiters has been the launching point for many a succcessful HR/ recruitnig career

I can be reached at the following contact points - all the best

Jack Young, President
Jack Young Personnel Services, Inc.
Plainview, NY 11803
516 933-1234
c 516-817-7068
follow me on:
Comment by Jacob Share on May 3, 2009 at 2:55pm
Most of the HR people I have worked directly with in the past fell into HR the way Karla describes up top and if they have any formal training, it's because they went back and got it later. Like in so many fields, it seems that the newer generation prefers doing it the other way around. Personally, either way is fine as long as you have the nose for results and how to get them consistently. But get your feet wet asap, whether by volunteering, interning or apprenticing (if you can find it).


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