I recently realized how much I love working in HR since I was recently working in manufacturing as an HR assistant but was very hands on in the way that I did the same as the HR manager did before she moved to safety. After that I did some temp work and missed all my HR duties.

I completed my first week as an HR assistant at a great financial services company with 4 people in HR. I am the only one without my PHR and I fear I will have trouble moving up in this field without it but I feel like I’m stuck in a “catch 22” since I can’t get my PHR without being in an exempt position but without my PHR I don’t know if I will ever get an opportunity for a higher position. I currently have my associates with a concentration in HR but what do you think I can do to insure my HR career goes in the right direction?

I have 9 years of HR experience, 8.5 of which were as an exempt employee. I earned my PHR certification in June of 2007. I’m living proof that you don’t need the PHR to get the exempt job.

First off, slow down. You’ve been in your HR assistant job for one week. (Well, one week when you wrote this, it’s been a month, so now 5 weeks.) No one expects you to be promoted within that time frame. You also don’t know enough to know if you can get promoted. So, take a deep breath, and relax.

Now, how to get ahead. You have an associates degree with an emphasis in HR. Fantastic. Go back to school and finish your bachelors degree. Please. Many companies won’t put you into an exempt position without one. Go at night, go on the weekends, go online, but get the degree.

When you’ve finished that (probably 3-4 years, since you’ll be working full time), and you have all this lovely HR assistant experience, you’ll be ready to jump into an exempt role.

You may be able to find a job that will put you in an exempt role before you have the degree, but they will be more likely to take you if you are demonstrating that you are working towards it.

Don’t turn down opportunities to learn at your current job. I love that there are only 4 people in HR. This means that you will be exposed to the broad spectrum of HR duties and responsibilities. Yeah! I love broad knowledge. You can specialize later.

Those boring power point slides that people need formatted? Volunteer to do that. Not because you love pointing and clicking, but because you may not be invited to the actual meeting, but if you read through the materials beforehand you’ll gain the knowledge anyway.

Don’t worry too much about jumping to an exempt role immediately. An HR assistant is a great place to start, especially with a 2 year degree. Work towards the 4 and gain all the knowledge you can and you’ll go places. Don’t worry.

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6 thoughts on “Getting Ahead

  1. In my opinion the 2 years exempt requirement for the PHR is a bunch of silliness.

    Here is what I did (as HRCI required): finished my degree in business w/ an HR focus and took the PHR w/i one year of graduating (in their “recent grad” category). I passed it and then as soon as I hit the 2 year mark of being an exempt employee I wrote a letter detailing my completed qualifications and had my boss sign it and send it in. After that I could stop writing “Passed PHR exam on x date, currently completing exempt status requirement” and instead write “HR Wench, PHR”.

    Isn’t that a nice story? 🙂

  2. Going on 12 years in HR, all professional services companies. Exempt for about 10+ of those. No PHR! I’ve debated back and forth whether I should consider it, but when I look at the list of knowledge you get with the certification program, I’ve done just about every single thing on the list, so there isn’t much incentive unless I really want to pay for the exam and have those 3 letters attached to my name. I’m not knocking the cert.; it’s a great place to start, but it’s certainly not required.

  3. wow all this exempt non-exempt, associates degree and bachelors degree talk is so different from the Indian reality.


  4. I have been in HR for one year. I have a B.S degree (2000). The job is a lot of fun. I am categorized as non-exempt. I do benefits, terms (COBRA), pre-hiring, employee counseling, LOA’s, orientations, event planning, candidate hire processing, license validations, all compliances, bills, etc…
    I have one person below me (that I do not “manage” and one person above me who manages the department.

    I am non-exempt so how do I ever get to take the PHR?

    What is it’s value? It doesn’t seem to effect the level of pay/responsibility at my current job. The only point of having a PHR would be if I wanted to leave and do HR somewhere else.

  5. "A lot of parents don't understand why their kids haven't accomplished the traditional markers of adulthood that they did — buying a home, starting a family, living without debt," Draut says. "I don't think there's an awareness of how much the economic context has changed."

  6. I became certified in HR in 2007 and worked there up until April of this year.I’m current seeking employment but most of them would like me to have a degree.I cant afford to go back to school however I have the years of experience that is needed to complete the job.Can anyone suggest other options rather then going back to school like classes I can take online that can give me a better chance at getting a Human Resources career.

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