How to break into first HR role?

Hi Everyone

Hope you are all well.

I have recently enrolled on a CIPD level 3 in human resource practice with ICS learn. I decided to study this course after leaving my scientific career last month. I graduated with a Bsc(Hon) Pharmaceutical & cosmetic science degree 5 years ago and worked in pharma labs . I have been thinking of a career change for a while and finally made the first step forward with studying this course.

Now I am looking to find some experience within the HR industry, I have applied for a few roles within the West Midlands but haven't had any response, I have also emailed some companies for voluntary work but again nothing. I've registered with specialist HR recruitment agencies, but they require you to have at least 6 months experience within an admin role. I believe I have brilliant transferable skills as my previous roles involved me being in the office environment (admin duties, report writing, problem solving etc..) as well as practical work. I have come from a strict working background and  think I can push myself and do really well. I did however take a two year gap from the science industry which involved a lot of admin work and customer service. Can anyone give any advice on how to secure my first role? Any further tips?


  • HI Sonam
    Welcome. It can be hard getting that first job in HR and it really is just a matter of perseverance and making sure your CV is tailored to each job you apply for . This is a question that is asked regularly on here so if you do a search you should find some other threads with advice on them
  • Hi!
    It can be really difficult. From my own experience, many years ago, I found half of the vacancies I approached didn't want me because I'd "be bored" starting at a junior level, and the other half didn't want me because I had no experience! I was quite happy to start from scratch despite several years in the workplace, and was content with a drop in salary and lots of filing and admin but it was a little soul destroying.
    Ultimately I managed to wangle an interview with a large hospitality chain and the HR Manager took pity on me and gave me the opportunity to join them on a FTC. That led to a permanent job offer and although I didn't take it, it gave me the experience I needed to be able to progress to my next role.
    I think all you can do is keep applying and keep your sense of humour about it all - one day you'll get there!
  • In reply to Meg:

    Thank you for your advice.
  • In reply to Tracey:

    Thank you, I have looked at my CV and have made a few adjustments. I will keep on going.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    10 Jul, 2018 11:26

    Welcome to the Community, Sonam.
  • Hello,

    It can be hard getting that first role in HR. Looking back I was quite fortunate to secure one of the few HR placements locally as part of my bachelors degree, which then gave me 1 years experience. Have you looked for any internships as I think for temporary roles they may be more willing to employ someone with less experience or even voluntary work? If you contact charities they may be able to offer some voluntary work within their HR department - I did this for a while alongside my MSc.

    Good luck with your job search!

  • Hi Sonam,
    I am in the same boat as you, lots of transferable skills and have a strong business management background. I've decided to progress with the company I'm already working for and also networking where possible with people in the HR world. I would recommend attending as many networking events as possible as this may open some doors.

    Good luck

  • Hi Sonam,
    I am currently in the same position as yourself.
    I approached my Human Resource department and explained to them that i had funded and completed by CHRP Level 3 and wanted to move into a HR role.
    After 6 months of pursuing them i was enrolled onto our organisation first HR mentor programme and this has provided me with access to a world of knowledge (other than what you can access yourself e.g using the CIPD website, reading etc)
    Also within my current role i am always proactively looking at what i can do or get access to to keep my knowledge up to date and provide evidence to show that i am transferring the desired skills of a HR professional e.g. reading company policies and providing support/guidance to fellow colleagues/management or analysing data such as retention etc.
    Organisations are currently offering apprenticeships due to the changes so keep an eye open for these!
    Good Luck.
  • In reply to Steve Bridger:

    Thank you Steve.
  • In reply to Sonam:

    Hi Sonam,
    I agree with Amy. Try charities. Even if you support their HR Department on a part time basis, e.g. 1 day per week, it will make a massive difference to your CV. This is what I did, as my Uni did not offer a placement as part of the course: I sacrificed £100 per week from my full time job and reduced my hours to get HR experience in a charity. It was worth it as I then got my first full time HR job with the same charity, which then led to the next, better paid job. You might have to sacrifice a little in the beginning but it will pay off. Good luck :)
  • Hi Sonam, where are you based? I work for St John Ambulance and I know we have a number of voluntary HR vacancies across England which may be suitable. I was just going to post regarding my open vacancies in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland when I came across your post :)
  • Hi Sonam,

    I have to say that it feels good to know that there is someone else in the same boat as me!

    I have also just completed a Level 3 CIPD qualification and since then I have been applying for HR Admin roles in the West Midlands area too with no luck!

    I also feel that I have transferable skills too and I just need to be given the opportunity it just seems so difficult!

    I am going to re-do my CV so that is more HR focused/friendly as my background is mainly retail and hospitality.

    I am going to look for HR Admin roles within all different industries such as Schools, Councils, Universities, NHS etc.

    Everything has HR so hopefully someone will take a chance on us.

    Good Luck

    Sara :)
  • Hi Sonam, I too am in the west mids area and completing my Level 3 next month. I got in to HR firstly by starting in a recruitment agency to build my experience in recruitment and selection. I then found a medium sized company where they hired me to do a bit of everything, PA, HR, Admin, Customer Services.. basically running the office and naturally built my HR profile where I am now transitioning in to purely HR and from there will work up to become the HR Manager in the next 12 months.

    So my advice would be to get in to recruitment/ internal recruitment and work up from there.
  • Hi Sonam,
    I am currently in the same position as you, i am coming to the end of my Level 3 and just starting to apply for roles.
    Having worked in the NHS for 8 years as a therapy assistant , before that a personal trainer and sports therapist for rugby and sports clubs, it is safe to say my HR experience is non existent up until starting this course.

    i submitted my CV to a CV writing company and then gave me free feedback on how my CV looked and found i was massively underselling myself in terms of my transferable skills from 10 years in employment. Ive also applied fro some jobs and talked to recruitment agencies but to no avail yet, i guess it is just a waiting game.
    My nest port of call is to see if my trust will allow me to do any work shadowing in the HR department, as I have wednesdays off. I didn't look at this as an option before as i was using my day off to complete my studies but now i am coming to the end i feel this may be a starting point to at least get some 'experience' in HR to my CV.

    Good luck!
  • In reply to Claire:

    I did the same thing and then followed it up with a temporary HR role which led into HRBP and HR Manager roles.