Decades ago, human resources was primarily seen as a "paper pusher" role. HR professionals signed off on hiring and firing; they kept employee records and personnel files; they fielded the occasional employee or manager complaint. Today, HR departments are much more dynamic, playing an essential role in a business's long-term talent development strategy.
Despite all the different hats HR can wear, this department's primary task is helping an organization's most valuable asset: its people. Before you start your career in human resources, you'll want to thoroughly understand the core requirements of the industry and what functions you'll be expected to perform.
If you're a newcomer to the world of HR, follow the advice of these 12 Forbes Human Resources Council members.
1. Fully Understand The 'Human' Side Of Human Resources
Compliance and policies aside, HR professionals must focus on the human aspect of HR, the part that requires them to read souls, balance a cast of personalities, speak different emotional and professional languages, and strategically place people where they can be the most effective. Don't forget the importance of resourcefulness. Get creative with people problems unique to your company.
- Angela Nguyen, Ad Exchange Group
2. Think About Your Legacy
The best HR leaders solve business goals and are driven by an intrinsic desire to leave a legacy of positively impacting lives. You'll be able to best serve your business partners by knowing the business just as well as they do, and leading your conversations with both data and passion for people. You can leave a legacy through empathy and truly caring about the people you serve.
- Philip Dana, Bridgepoint Education
3. Be Inquisitive, Strategic And Credible
HR will offer you tremendous opportunities to make a difference in the success of your organization and lives of its people. Build your worth and credibility not just as a service oriented professional, but as a strategic thinker and partner to the firm's leadership. Be inquisitive, think globally, ask questions and know your industry. You will surely have a very rewarding career.
- Ekta Vyas, Ph.D, Stanford Children's Health
4. Trust And Respect Are Key
Every interaction matters. You're either building trust and respect, or tearing it down. If you're able to build trust and respect with everyone (leadership, management and employees), you'll be viewed as a helpful partner and truly able to make a difference in the organization and lives of others.
- Courtney Mudd, Influence & Co.
5. Understand The Realities Of HR
HR is oftentimes very transactional and administrative. HR generally does not have employees visiting their office daily. If employees are in the HR office, they are not doing their job. HR's role is to make certain the right policies, procedures, training and benefits are in place to help employees remain productive, engaged and motivated.
- Tana Session, TanaMSession.com
6. Know That You'll Need To Serve As An Unbiased Business Partner
Strategic HR professionals are trusted advisers who can influence and drive change. Start by learning what to share with whom and when. Your ability to be consistent, fair and approachable will build meaningful relationships. That will strengthen your proficiency in driving company initiatives and delivering results that are needed within the business.
- Thoai Ha, Lynx Innovation
7. Take Advantage Of Every Opportunity You Have To Develop Your Career
Find a mentor and coach who is a human resources leader. Join a professional organization like HRCI or SHRM to learn best practices and increase your network. Develop a good relationship with the business leaders and employees that you support to understand the company operations and employee issues. Add value to the business: Be a business partner, an employee champion and a change agent.
- Ochuko Dasimaka, Career HeightsConsulting, Inc.
8. Stay Humble
In the beginning of my career, I was excited and eager. We are all excited at the start to run and do our own thing. The best lessons are learned by walking. We do that by listening to our leaders and becoming our own best self. A new HR professional needs to be humble.
- John Mauck, WLR AutomotiveGroup
9. Take Your Time
Take your time, make mistakes, be accountable and remember you are human. When I first started my career I thought I was a superhero and I could solve the world's problems. I quickly found had a lot to learn: HR is not black and white, I didn't have all the answers and I would make mistakes along the way. All of this helped me grow and develop in my career today.
- LeRae Jacob, Creative Door
10. Be Mindful Of Who You Are Being And Becoming
First, choose a career path where your passion and strengths can be a value add to the organization. Second, choose an organization that aligns with your values. At the core,HR is about marketing an organizational brand so you must have aligned values. Finally, as you go about the business of doing to achieve, be mindful of who you are being and becoming.
- Bridgette Wilder, Media Fusion
11. Find Your Avenue
Not all HR positions are created equal. While HR at one company might entail a range of HR duties, another company will have an HR team where duties are split up. Research the different areas of HR — employee relations, benefits, payroll, etc. — and see which interest you most. Get clarification on all job responsibilities and always define your boundaries as HR.
- Tiffany Servatius, Scott's Marketplace
12. Make Sure You're Here For The Right Reasons
The primary reason for pursuing a career inHR is because you love helping people. While there are a number of roles that fall under the HR umbrella, their common denominator is the desire to work with and help others. Since this will be a prerequisite for every HR job, if it doesn’t provide you with some sense of satisfaction, it’s probably best to choose another field.
- John Feldmann, Insperity
Originally written for Forbes