How I Fell Into HR


Here’s a question from a reader.

I saw on your 9/11 post that you were 26 when you were the HR manager at Kemper, and I was just wondering about your journey and how you got there at such a young age. I’m 24 and I’ve been trying to get into the industry (I’ve worked in retail since I was 15) for over a year. I know I can just look at your experience column on LinkedIn but I’d like to hear more about it, if you’re willing to share.

My career in HR is an accident. I was a kid. I had no money. It was 1995 and there was an unfilled HR internship at a local candy factory. I could type and work the fax machine. No joke. I got the job for the summer; however, I worked there a few months longer while going to school because the money was good. I earned $8.00/hr and paid the bills.

The next summer? I found a similar staffing job. I made $10/hr and felt like a rock star.

Then I graduated from college with $45,000 in student loans and no discernible skills. I found a job as a staffing chick — I filled contract, temporary and permanent jobs. Shortly after that, I found another recruiting job. My boss taught me how to be a Human Resources generalist. My mix of recruiting knowledge, employment law and moxie made me brave and reckless.

“Fire me,” I always begged. “I hate this fucking job.”

Those fools! I could not get fired!

I had a few more HR jobs. It’s all very boring. Then we moved to North Carolina. That’s when I really ramped up my weird career as a speaker and a writer. I also started working in social media marketing.

Anyway, here is the point:

  • There is no single pathway into HR. If you want a job in HR, learn how to recruit at a staffing agency. My friend Timmy will teach you.
  • Then get your PHR or SPHR — or take an entry-level class on employee relations.
  • And remember that HR is staffed with women over the age of 45 who believe in paying your dues. Be prepared to earn $15/hr as a Human Resources Assistant and look for opportunities to get promoted pretty quickly.

If I can do it, you can do it.

In fact, you can do it better.

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