A Few Brief Words About How to Get That Job in HR

I try not to cut and paste letters but I received this note from a job seeker who also works in HR. I have her permission.

I am going to graduate in August with my masters in HR. I graduated undergrad in May 2012, which means I got zero experience and that’s fine I wanted to get school out of the way. Now I am applying to different entry-level HR positions and hitting the “no experience/w degree” roadblock. Which sucks. I’m networking with my SHRM chapter, asking my classmates to be on the lookout for me and building a solid online personal brand.

Sometimes I can’t help but feel discouraged. All I need is someone to give me a chance. I certainly ain’t doing this for the money, or even for my mom, she wanted me to be a doctor. And so what should I tell myself before I head into/out the interview? I usually blast on some rap music with explicit language to calm my nerves beforehand.”

Two options you can take

The world is a cold, sad place.

I believe in college, but had you listened to your mom — or me from the SHRM Annual Student Conference in 2010 and 2011 — you wouldn’t have pursued a masters in Human Resources. You would have pursued your MBA. Or you would have spent $25,000 living in Europe. You could have returned home to the same employment challenges you face now.

Darn it!

But you didn’t ask me about that. You asked me how to psych yourself up for an interview.

The real answer is that you are nervous because you are fully aware of the challenges you face in the job search. You know you have no experience. You know you don’t know how to do HR. You know exactly how you are going to fail at the job before you start.

So you have two options.

  1. Continue to worry about your weaknesses.
  2. Know thyself and chill the F out.

I like option number 2.

Stand proud, and be likable

Experience is overrated when it comes to jobs in HR. No two companies manage performance the same way. No two companies recruit the same way. Much of the training for HR happens on the job — even for middle managers.

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So if you got the interview, you are halfway there.

All you have to do is hold your head up high and be likable. Don’t say anything stupid. Smile. Be humble. Embrace your flaws. You were picked out of 500 other resumes for a reason. Don’t be nervous. Be proud. It really is an honor to be nominated.

And if you are lucky enough to find a good HR job, I want you to do is remember how this entire experience feels. Remember being humbled. Remember your nerves. Now imagine the stakes are higher. Imagine being someone who needs to pay a mortgage or feed a family.

How has this experience changed you? What have you learned from your job search? How can you improve the process?

I think that if you can demonstrate empathy towards job seekers during your career, you will make a great HR leader.

You can find more from Laurie Ruettimann at her blog, The Cynical Girlwhere this originally appeared.

Laurie Ruettimann is a former human resources leader turned writer, entrepreneur, and speaker. She is also author of Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career.

CNN has recognized Laurie as one of the top five career advisors in the United States, and her work has been featured on NPR, The New YorkerUSA TodayThe Wall Street Journal, and Vox. Laurie frequently delivers keynote speeches at business and management events around the world and hosts the popular podcast Punk Rock HR. She lives with her husband and cats in Raleigh, N.C.