First I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog. I like your straight forward answers and sense of humor! My question to you is what should a new graduate like me do to get into the HR world?

A little bit about me: I’ve graduated with my BA in psych in 07 and will receive my MBA in Sept 09. I’ve also gotten a HR Certificate. I’ve worked as a recruiter for about a year at a staffing agency and found that sale was not something I enjoy. I am now working as a HR administrator for a local company. The problem is at this position, I am working under a payroll person who doesn’t know much about anything else but payroll. I want to look for a place where I can really learn from someone who’s experienced and foster my career.

I’ve been applying to numerous positions but have not gotten any luck. Every job I look requires experience! How can I gain experience if no one is giving me the chance? I know that networking is important so that’s why I’ve joined SHRM and my local HR Chapter, but even so, that hasn’t really help. Please help!

First of all, you are doing something right. Not just in writing to me (I used to say that showed superior intellect, but after some of the questions I’ve received, I’ve had to realize that that ain’t true in all situations), but in how you’ve written to me. You started out by complimenting me and describing what I do here. This shows you are a better letter writer than our friend, the Public Relations guy, and he got a job.

Second, you do have experience. Recruiting and fulfilling administrative duties does give you experience. Stop thinking it doesn’t. It, at a minimum, teaches you the language of HR. Use that langauge

Third, every job description every entry level job description says, “5 years of experience or similar.” Bah. They know this job doesn’t take 5 years of experience, so why write it? But they do and I don’t know why. (Yes I do. Because they don’t want to write, “this job requires you to have half a clue.”)

So, what are you doing wrong? Well, for starters you’re applying for jobs in a tight job market. And, unfortunately, this means you are competing against people who DO have five years of experience. Nothing you can do about that, just keep trying.

The other thing, which we can’t fix now, is you have too much eduction in relation to your experience. Some people disagree with me, but I’m generally of the opinion that you should work for several years (5 or so) before getting an MBA. How can you be a master at business when you haven’t even been a beginner at business?

Personalize your resume and cover letter. Don’t discount your own experience. And keep on, keeping on.

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17 thoughts on “No Experience

  1. One thing you can do now is to start reading HR blogs and connecting with other HR folks online. Although your current boss doesn't have a clue, lots of people out there do, and and you can be talking with them every day. Join Twitter and start subscribing to a bunch of HR blogs…you'll get some great insight into the day-to-day issues that senior HR people are talking about. These are the people you won't typically find at your local SHRM chapter meetings.

  2. Having gotten my MBA in my thirties, after 8 years in the industry, I agree that waiting until you have a few years of experience to get one is the best approach in most cases.

    At least in my class, the people still in their 20s would frequently offer opinions that showed their inexperience with the real world. I'm sure many hiring managers (particularly the ones who went through an MBA program) have come to the same conclusion, and may not be very impressed with a resume with too much education in relation to experience, as ERHL puts it.

    People without work experience thinking of starting an MBA should take that into consideration before making a decision.

  3. First, look for opportunities to mix with HR people. Is there some type of HR professional organization in your area? Join. Local business organization? Join.

    Second, look into volunteering. A church, civic organization, charity, or non-profit that can not afford to hire an HR person would benefit from your time. In return, you get real experience.

    Third, be discrete with information on the MBA. Having a better education than the boss is like driving a better car or living in a bigger house…it is done at your own risk

  4. One suggestion for this individual – network, network, network. HR is a people industry, and getting your foot in the door is easier than many other fields if you have contacts inside businesses.

    Apply for those positions that require 5 years – MBA are generally considered equal to 2-3 years experience on their own.

  5. AMEN to your statement about MBAs! How do companies buy that you can hire someone with NO experience, but has an MBA and place them in high level positions because they have those three letters after their name?

  6. Don't under estimate your staffing agency experience. I worked for 5 years as an agency Recruiter/Sales Rep. And then I made the transition to HR. I was amazed at how much HR stuff I was doing at the agency. It was a fairly easy transition.

    This may souncd silly but look into interning one afternoon a week. Even if you work full time. We have an intern that works Monday afternoons with us. She has another full time job but wants to get into HR. She is working on her MHR. She worked it out with her current employer to go in early on Mondays and get off early. She is the second intern we have had. We love to teach others and help them with a career in HR.

  7. Hey,

    I story so similar to mine. I worked for around 2 years with a recruitment agency before finally gettinga break in HR and currently heading HR, TQM & CSR initiatives for my company. I would say it was kind of blessing in disguise for me. I was struggling to get into HR but what I did passionatively was trying again and again. I agree with my dear lady that the market is not that right however you should keep on trying and buddy the most important thing u shd possess to be in HR (forget 5yrs exp blah…blah) u shd carry the right mind set and attitude. I am an Engg and MBA in HR but then also it took me more than 2 years to get into the EVIL Side 🙂
    Keep trying
    Young HR Manager

  8. In many instances the HR Certification will substitute for experience as will the MBA. I would apply for jobs expected those two things to add up to three years of experience, with the year at a staffing firm, you actually have four years.

    HR Director down South

  9. I just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who commented, especially Suzanne to my question. What I take out of this the most is the perspective on MBA degree. That's really interesting! All my life, I was told otherwise. Also, I know networking is important so I'm going to try even harder with that, especially with my membership in TCHRA. Overall, thanks everyone and have a good weekend!

  10. I too have been reading all of the blogs with great interest and believe, like Matt, that continued networking is key.
    Then, I would also add that it's important that we take a good hard look at ourselves in terms of our own SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats- with emphasis on the W and T.
    The idea is to Accentuate the Positive and also to ILLUMINATE the Negative- or the limiting steps. It's classic performance gap analysis- and it's still very useful in situations such as these. You might find out, for example, that when it comes to Networking, that you're not very competent. Ok, fine. We cant fix everything we face but we cant fix a thing unless we FACE it. So that's step one. Step two is Follow it and determine the origin of the limiting step, what contributes to it, what resources are available- you know the drill. Then step three is FIX it- which is to say, reduce the limitations and impediments and get to work on closing the gaps.
    We all care enough to help others do this, it's even more noble to do it for ourselves.
    The process is in my new book, Illuminate: Harnessing the Positive Power of Negative Thinking (Wiley%Sons 8/09) and I'm always happy to answer questions on the application. Good luck and hope you find your next opportunity to add value asap.

  11. I have a similar problem, but the only thing the difference is I am looking for a job in HR in the UAE. i have studied Diploma in Management, so i have a background knowledge in HR. Companies are not hiring me because I have no experience in HR and i have never worked in HR in my previous work experience either. To get experience i need to get into the HR company or department inorder to get expereince. So, i am stuck thinking what to do next.

  12. I have a bachelor's degree in business administration with a major in Human Resource Management. I have close to 7 years of experience in India out of which 2 years has been as an HR Consultant. I attained my PHR certification once I came to the US. I have been looking for a job actively for quite some time, but have not been successful. I am not getting any calls, even for entry-level HR roles. Is there something else I can do that can up my chances in getting a job?

  13. Hi! I really enjoy your blog & it has given me some great insight on HR and what it entails.
    My experience is nothing further than graduating with my BA in Communication. I work as a Billing Specialist now, and have had numerous jobs and internships in the past, but nothing in the field of HR. To be honest, I am a little uneducated when it comes to this field, but I DO know that it is an avenue I want to persue.
    Is there anything you can tell me about starting from scratch and how to get certified? Pretty much the basics 🙂
    I would appreciate it so much!
    Thanks so much!

  14. Hi, I will like to apply for HR administrator vacancy at my workplace problem is that I don have an experience, I only have theory of 18 months. Can you please assist me I don’t knw what to say or put on my application letter.

  15. hi i have got hrm certificate my problem is i,m try different place to get experience but did,not found respond and i try to knock even NGO that people always tell me say we can made call but none so now i think a lot of thing on my mind maybe my age or my college its not registed that my college IQ Academy what can i do now please give me advice respond me thank you

  16. It’s very hard to get a job in the U.S.A

    I’m from France and I have a Masters degree in HR plus 10 years of experience. But I have never worked here. Could someone help me? Actually I can also work everyday as volunteer.
    Thank you for your help.

    P.S: I got my green card.

  17. I graduated last year an MBA programme at Varna University of Management, Bulgaria. Thanks to the double degree they provide us (British and Bulgarian) I easily managed to find a job abroad.

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