How to Pursue a Career Change in HR

Want a Different Position in HR? Follow These Steps to Get Ahead.

You can network your way to a career change in HR.
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People employed in Human Resources who want to know how to make a career change in HR frequently ask for advice about making the change. They are stymied by their current employer, their knowledge about what to do, and the job market. These are thoughts about what people who want to make a career change in the HR field can do.

For example, a reader asked this question:

"I have been pigeonholed as the disabilities guy by my employer. I want to move into a broader HR role and I don't know exactly how to do that. Do you think that getting my PHR or SPHR certification would make me more employable as an HR Generalist or another job? So far, I have always worked with disabilities and worker's compensation."

5 Practical Steps to Make a Career Change in HR

Whether you are trying to seize on new opportunities from company changes, or you reach out to senior management and career networks, these are some of the most common ways to change career paths in HR.

1. Talk With Current Employer to Make a Career Change in HR

When you are thought of and labeled as the disabilities guy, it is tough to break out of that expected role, as is any Human Resources role including compensation manager or recruiter. It requires a leap in thinking from your employer to allow you to expand your horizons.

But your best, first chance to pursue a career change in HR, is always to start with your current employer. Assuming you are successfully employed, your employer already appreciates you and your work. Here are additional recommendations about what you can do now to pursue a career change in HR.

Sit down with your current boss and tell him or her that you need the opportunity to expand your horizons into a broader role in HR. Tell your employer that you have more to offer than is tapped in your current role. Just as you would if you asked your employer for a pay raise, make sure that you emphasize what your employer will gain by helping you to expand your role.

This desire to change your role will fail if you make the request all about you. After all, if you change roles, the employer will have to replace you and train your replacement. Plus, they will have to train you and wait while you become effective in your new role.

Once you have emphasized what is in the career change for your employer, state that you'd like to develop a career plan to accomplish a transition. Depending on your boss’s willingness to work with you on a career change in HR, your education and other paths to a more diversified career may become clearer.

2. Make a Career Change in HR With a New Employer

If the boss is not open to working with you on a transition, earning the PHR is fine in your situation since your goal is to diversify your HR knowledge and experience, and it may be a good goal. Certifications may add to your value in certain circumstances such as in larger companies, large urban areas, and in certain markets.

A lot depends on the size of your city, the size of your company, the competition in your job market, and so forth, so you are not guaranteed that it will contribute to career growth for you.

Second, read everything on this TheBalanceCareers website that is written about career transition and change. The articles provide actionable advice and clear direction about how to progress to a new career. Each article might help you think about possibilities for yourself. You'll want to start with these articles:

3. Talk With Locals About a Career Change in HR

Third, you need to talk with people in your area who are working in HR. They will know what the norm is where you live and work. How much of the competition for the jobs you want have earned certifications? What other kinds of education or experience might be helpful and allow you to get your foot in the door in other companies in a different HR role?

HR people in your area will answer these questions most effectively. Conducting these informational interviews will also bring your skills and availability to the attention of people who might hire you. At least, you have communicated that you are interested and available.

4. Use Networking Opportunities Online and Off

Finally, networking online and at events will bring you into contact with employers and other HR career professionals. If you want a career change in HR, these are your potential employers, your peers, and your confidants. See if your current employer will pay to help you belong to professional associations and attend networking events.

If not, invest in yourself to expand your network. Most locations nationally have access to reasonably local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Association for Training and Development (ATD) events to attend. At these events, you can meet people, ask questions, and make your availability known.

5. Meet With Other Business Groups and Professional Associations

If not, consider participating in other business groups in your community like the Chamber of Commerce, region-boosting groups, and Rotary.

If you live near a larger urban area, there may also be meetings of these professional associations. LinkedIn and other online social media sites will also help you to network your way to a career change in HR.

The Bottom Line

You can make a career change in HR, but don’t spend years pursuing activities that don’t support your change. If you follow these recommendations, you will identify the right activities to pursue to eventually reach your goal of a career change in HR.