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By Russ Holbrook, SHRM Senior Certified Professional, Rutgers University

That’s all you’ve heard from the company you interviewed with over four weeks ago.

Then you get an email from them.  With trepidation, you open it.

Your face flushes red hot.

Jilted again!  They’re going to go with a candidate who has more experience in HR than you do.

You could wallpaper your office with rejection emails. And, the old one-two means you’re really cemented to your job.

I think you’ll agree with me when I say that breaking into Human Resource Management is no easy task.

But the good news is that many of us have.  So, what’s the solution?

Let me walk you through 5 strategies to crack the code and get into HR.

1.   Capitalize on Your Current Job

While testing the water, be known as an exemplary employee at work. In addition:

Be proactive with your career development

Partner with your manager to gain on-the-job professional development focused on the functions of human resource management. Make sure you speak up about your career aspirations with your manager.  Here are ideas for on-the-job professional development that are low or no cost to your employer.


  • A special “stretch” project that exposes you to the fundamentals of human resource management.
  • A fix-it or build-it project.
  • Rotating your job with another employee.
  • Opportunities to shadow an HR practitioner to gain greater awareness of the importance of human resources management.
  • Team projects where you take the lead. Prospects to cross-train to learn more about the duties of human resources manager.
  • Chances to serve as a member of an HR task force or committee.

Take Initiative:

  • Attend job fairs to represent your department.
  • Assist with onboarding and/or mentoring new employees.
  • Facilitate lunch and learn sessions.
  • Find projects to strengthen your business acumen.
  • Volunteer to provide on-the-job training for new hires.

2.   Find Stepping Stones

Manage your expectations and be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up.  Sometimes, you must start over, go backwards or move laterally to get where you want to be with your career. Consider:

  • Moonlighting to get some HR experience after hours.
  • Attending job fairs – hiring managers attend job fairs to accelerate hiring and  source candidates.  This is your chance to meet HR and the hiring manager in person and sell yourself.
  • Contacting a temp agency and work as temporary person in HR.
  • Taking on an entry-level role that offers potential for advancement and training.
  • Start off in an administrative role with a company and gradually take on more responsibilities within HR.
  • Using freelance jobs to build your experience.
  • Seeking staffing/contract recruiting work.
  • Working for several years in an operational role and then transfer to the HR department.

3.   Volunteer

  • Get non-paid experience with a non-for-profit such as Tap Root.
  • Be an intern.

4.   Be a Lifelong Learner

  • Further your education whether it be a professional certificate or an associate, bachelor or master’s degree.
  • Utilize tuition reimbursement programs at work.
  • Seek a degree in HR or a related subject such as business or industrial/organizational psychology.
  • Gain a Human Resource Management certificate.
  • Participate in employer sponsored training and development programs.

5.   Foster Work Relationships

  • Remember the adage: network or not work.  Start with your current contacts.
  • Explore opportunities with HR service providers, including your healthcare broker.
  • Look at professional profiles of people who are in the HR industry.
  • Request an informational interview with an HR professional.
  • Find an advocate “on the inside” of your organization.
  • Talk to anyone who works in the field strategic human resource management.

Now that you know there are ways to get started with your career in Human Resource Management, you’re ready to get out there and make it happen.

Have questions? Want more information about Rutgers Human Resources training programs? Contact Rutgers Executive Education.