HR can be a challenging profession to get that first break into, part of the reason for this is the lack of a clear and well-defined career path. Take something like law, the steps to becoming a lawyer are well defined, however, this isn’t the case for human resources. Indeed those of you who have read my post The best degree(s) for a career in HR will know that I gained a six-figure income without having an HR degree – I actively avoided them. So here’s what I did, I applied for the unpopular or less ‘sexy’ areas of HR and played to my strengths. For most people, I talk to either in HR or wanting to get in, being employed as an HR Generalist is the goal, it is probably the most competitive area of HR to get into. Other areas such as payroll, data, and policy are less popular – less popular means less competition.
Let's focus on the payroll as that’s how I got my start. Most people tend to think of payroll as time-sheets and calculating leave balances, the truth is the calculations are taken care of by the HRMIS (Human Resource Management Information System), what payroll people do is much more interesting. The key aspect that payroll is involved in which you can leverage right through your HR career is interpreting employment contracts – both at the individual level for executives and the larger organization-wide contracts that cover many employees. People will call and ask about allowances, overtime, maternity leave (indeed for a multinational I was the first port of call for maternity leave queries in my first role), exiting arrangements, important stuff for an HR person to know about. There’s also another aspect of payroll which is important for you to be able to demonstrate, trust, having the trust of your manager is one of the most important aspects of HR. By beginning your career in payroll you’re able to demonstrate from day one that you can be trusted with confidential information, and can be relied upon not to speak of it to anyone else.
So there you have it, by all means, keep applying for those ‘sexy’ Generalist roles, but please do consider areas such as Payroll – you may find like I did that its a great start to your HR Career. Why not take a look now with Indeed and search for Payroll jobs in your area to see what your options might be.