How did you get into HR/ get your first role?

Getting into HR seems to be IMPOSSIBLE!

Just wondering how everyone got started - undergraduate degree or another route?


  • I finished university in the May and signed up to do the Level 3 CIPD course from the September. I signed up to do temping while job hunting to get some money and experience and after a month of general admin temp jobs, I got a 3 month temporary role as an HR Administrator, which was due to end in September when the course started. It ended up lasting 7 months then I went permanent and stayed another 2 years after that. Definitely look at temping or FTC roles if you can!!
  • I fell into HR by fluke. I didn't continue with any type of education once I left school with my GCSE's and only had customer service/administrator roles until I got my current job. I had just moved to the area with my small son 10 years ago and wanted a job - any job - that was part time. There was an HR Administrator job in the local paper, which I applied for and successfully got. I had no HR experience at all. The role was for 8 hours per week and only entailed writing letters and printing out contracts. Fortunately my Manager saw some potential in me and has mentored me ever since. I am now an HR Officer, Level 5 qualified and work 22 hours per week. I hope to start Level 7 within the next 12-24 months with the intention to go full time once my children are more self sufficient. For me, it was the right place at the right time.
  • I studied a completely different subject (History) and then joined a management and technology consultancy as a graduate. My first client project was essentially a HR Change/Internal Comms role on an IT outsourcing deal. I really loved that role and ended up doing quite a lot of HR/L&D/Org Change stuff as a consultant both in-house and with external clients (alongside some IT project management and CSR strategy and other bits and pieces). When it was time for me to leave consulting (the travel was not sustainable for me with some long-term health issues), I decided I wanted to specialise in HR and started a master's degree in order to get some more formal qualifications (CIPD L7) to support my existing work experience. Since then I've worked a few different HR roles, mainly in L&D/Talent.

    It definitely is possible to get into HR as a grad or apprentice (e.g. Civil Service HR Fast Stream or other HR schemes) , but experience and working your way up is also an option.
  • When studying Business Management I was working in Customer Service at weekends - during summer holidays I took agency work in HR offices. There would be days of filing and little to no ER exposure, but I could ask questions and get an understanding of what occurred in HR. Following graduation I think that exposure gained a lot of credibility in getting a HR Administrator position.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    18 Dec, 2018 11:52


    Here are a couple of previous discussion threads well worth some of your time, I think.

    Working in HR? If you could start again, would you?
    Over 33,000 views and 70+ comments. Some great stories.

    How did you get into HR?
    An old thread (2010) but again... with 70+ comments.

  • As with some others, completely by accident. I originally trained to do something far more arty, and when that didn't work out I got a job doing admin, then moved on to a very large retail store as the store secretary, looking after Reception and supporting the Personnel Department. I ended up managing the huge number of temporary staff, then supporting with note taking on disciplinary and grievances - when a job for a Personnel Administrator came up I applied and got it. With the same company I then was lucky enough to get an Area Training role, then HR Manager for a smaller store. Many years, a PG Dip in HRM and several job moves later I'm the HR Manager UK for an international sink and tap manufacturer/ retailer.

    It all came down that initial support role - it got me interested in the department, and the department interested in me!
  • Hi Charlotte,

    I was in your position 18 months ago and was finding it impossible! I was rejected from a lot of roles. To gain experience I did some voluntary work experience with the NHS which was organised through a friend. I worked flexibly on a recruitment project and also sat in on some meetings. This gave me something to write about on my CV and talk about in an interview situation. I would recommend gaining any unpaid experience as it can really help to shape you! Good luck!

  • Hi Charlotte

    I studied Psych and went on to PA roles which held HR responsibilities; recruitment, induction, paperwork, employee relations. I then got my HR Officer role as their first round of recruitment was unsuccessful (!) so unfortunately I do seem to find people get into HR by chance.

    I would advise considering if you have transferable skills that you can emphasise/big up in your applications? E.G worked with confidential information, sought references, collated reports, supported well being initiatives etc.

    I would also advise doing some training, ACAS have some great free online tutorials.

    Good luck!!!
  • A degree isn't an essential criteria for starting out in HR therefore the approach I would recommend exploring (assuming you are at the start of your working life) is firstly gaining transferable experience in an office/admin/secretarial environment (particularly look at local temping agencies). Once you are working in an office type environment then look to move into an entry level HR role - you will find this a lot easier once you are working.

    My own experience is that entry level roles in HR Shared Services Centres often don't have a pre-requisite for specific HR experience therefore I have seen this used as a route into the the profession.
  • Hi Charlotte

    It's interesting, and not uncommon, that you assume a degree is the route in. Some of the many threads on this area seem to assume the same, however the key to our profession is the human element of Human Resources, and working effectively with real people cannot be learnt with textbooks. Unfortunately (fortunately) I don't think there is really a shortcut, whilst there is certainly a place for formal learning, nothing beats real experience, and that tales time to build up.

    Highlight your transferable skills, and be prepared to start at the bottom.

  • While I was in college we were required to complete a 6-month internship, I applied for one within Human Resources and got it. I have stayed on in the company after the internship was finished working casually while I went back to college to finish my course and right after I did the HR Manager approached me asking if I was interested in covering her maternity leave. I took the opportunity and with the experience and exposure I got from doing it I managed to secure another role within HR. I have come across plenty of temp HR/Admin roles and I think if you have not already been exposed to that environment they would be beneficial for you so do look into that and I'm sure your hard work will pay off!
  • I began in the Armed Forces, where commissioned officers are expected to move flexibly between operations and personnel roles from one appointment to another. As I found G1 (personnel) partcularly to my taste, I arranged for an extended appointment in a management role and the MoD paid for me to do a postgraduate qualification in HR.

    And then I left the Army...

    I won't say no one was interested. I had a lot of interviews. But when push came to shove, no one was willing to take a risk on someone with no experience of managing personnel in a civil environment.

    When I finally got a break, it was as a temp HR administrator for a local authority based less on my experience and more on the fact that they were desperate. I can't say the trajectory of my career has been a consistently upward one since then, but I have, at least, been able to stay within HR and move approximately upwards to the point that I'm now - ten years later - back in a management job.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    4 Jan, 2019 11:17

    In reply to Dagmara:

    Thanks for posting, Dagmara... and welcome to the Community.
  • Thanks for all of the replies... it's interesting to hear how everyone got into the profession although honestly it can be disheartening to hear that a lot of people seem to stumble into HR by chance.
    I feel like i'm getting nowhere as i'm currently doing a Masters in HR alongside working full time; I contacted numerous companies asking to volunteer in their HR departments (using Annual Leave) and got no positive response. I have plenty of transferable skills from part of my role at work being a Volunteer Coordinator (recruiting, inducting, placing adverts online, DBS etc.)
    Every interview I have been invited to was always 'it was a great interview but someone had more experience'.
    So it just seems a little impossible really as I couldn't leave a full time job to do temp work.

  • Hi Charlotte,

    I seemed to be quiet lucky when getting in HR.
    I have been working in Recruitment for about 1 1/2 years and decided I wanted to make the move in HR. I self funded my Level 3 CIPD course and started applied for jobs. I made sure my CV enhanced my skills which are HR related (maybe google some tips).

    When I gained my first interview for a HR position, I was determined to get the job. I did so much research on the company, contacted people who was working at the company for advise, asked other people working in HR for tips on interviewing answers. I also made a presentation about what I could bring to the company (this wasn't asked by the managers) but it made me stand out from the others.

    With that being said, I was successful and offered the job.

    If I can help in any way, shape or form please do contact me!

    Try and apply for industries you have previously worked in also.