Dear Matt: My dream job is to work in human resources, but it's very hard to get into that field without experience. My background is in administrative work and accounts payable, so I feel like I'm stuck/limited to those types of jobs. How can people like me make a career transition?
Matt says: Instead of concentrating on what skills and experience you don't have, start thinking in terms of the competencies you do bring to the table -- competencies that are transferable to the position you are seeking, says Carole Arndt, President of Twin Cities-based The Human Resource EDGE, Inc. (humanresourceedge.com).
As employers become more aware of the high cost of making wrong hiring decisions, it can make it even more difficult for candidates who want to make a career change, says Arndt. As it relates to HR -- or any field for that matter -- taking certification, adult education or college classes is a good start. Then network like crazy.
"Do your homework -- find out where people in that profession get together for networking or continued learning," said Arndt. "Join or attend professional organizations where you can meet people in the profession. Find out what positions exist within your field of interest where your current skills might be applicable. There are certainly positions within HR where someone with good administrative and accounting skills could find a good job match."
Twin Cities human resources consultant Arlene Vernon (arlenevernon.com) recently spoke to HR directors who said they are receiving over 110 applications for each HR opening. With so many HR professionals out of work, you're now competing with experienced applicants even for entry level positions.
"There's lots of work to do here regarding this career change," said Vernon. "It seems easy to say 'I want to be in HR', but the depth of hands-on and legal knowledge prerequisite to even an entry level position takes months and years to acquire and develop. Most HR departments want to hire someone with that base of knowledge and experience."
One option would be to volunteer at a non-profit organization in their HR department. Apply to larger companies for an HR administrative assistant position. You will be competing with college grads or entry-level professionals, but your administrative experience may outshine theirs since you already understand the business world. Be sure to highlight this in your cover letter, which should spell out why you're changing careers and why your core work ethics, standards and skills are right for HR.