I received an email recently through my LinkedIn profile. One of my connections, a woman currently working in the Real Estate field, was unsurprisingly looking to make a career change and wanted to know how to break into Human Resouces, having never worked in the field. Below is my advice to her. This advice would apply to anybody looking to get into the HR field from other industries.
"Being in real estate you are, no doubt, used to dealing with people and connecting with them. The same success traits that are necessary in real estate, i.e. networking, understanding people's needs and selling your services, are all traits that will serve you well in the land of HR. As far as breaking into the profession, my advice would be to network, network, network. Make real contacts in the field, do research on HR policies and practices and find a ground floor opportunity that will allow you to get your feet wet. Understand that, as with any career transition, you will have to start slow and most likely at the bottom, but if you are willing to pay your dues and show your worth, then it should all be fruitful in the end.
I am not sure why you are looking to make the switch and to what area of HR you are more inclined to focus on but your first step should be to answer those questions. Think of why it is that you are attracted to the field of Human Resources and what it is that you feel you can bring to the field. This was, you will gain a better understanding of what area of HR you will want to pursue. The easiest way to break into HR is to become a recruiter. Most have little to no knowledge starting out and can quickly learn the ropes of the profession. (Side note: I am not saying that recruiters are inexperienced here. What I am saying is that there are many entry-level recruiter positions that do not require experience. As a matter of fact, this is how I entered into HR myself.) Join professional organizations in your area and the national association, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). Then submerse yourself in all of the information that you can find to better acclimate yourself to the field.
True HR professionals have also received training or have furthered their education in the field of HR. SHRM offers many certificates in HR, as do many local colleges and universities. You can also obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree in the field of Human Resources Management or Human Resources Development. Gaining your degree can not only further your personal experience in the field but will also show prospective employers that you are serious about your career transition.
Whatever you decide, I wish you much luck and please feel free to reach out to me should you have any other questions."
The above advice can ideally work with any career transition. The key is to research the field that you are looking to transition into, network with those in the field to determine what education, training, or experience is necessary, and then obtain said education, training, or experience. Remember that you will most likely need to start at the bottom and work your way up but, as I mentioned, if you are willing to put in the effort, and the time, a career transition just may be on your horizon.