How does one begin a human resources career in Atlanta?

Sonjia wrote to HR Roundtable:

“I’ve been trying to get a position within Human Resources for some time now.I have three years working in Human Resources as a temp (in payroll and doing administrative tasks like setting up interviews,admin. testing, entering new applicant info.), and my other experience includes roughly seven years of admin. work and customer service. I graduate in Feb. 09 with my Bachelor’s degree, my major being Human Resources Management.I’m just wondering how in the world can I “get my foot in the door” because every where I look the employer wants more experience than I have. I really would love to work in the areas of training and development or recruiting. I appreciate any advice you can give me.”

Here’s the advice that HR Roundtable blog panelist Dionna Keels provided:

Hi Sonja,

You are facing what many, who are interested in pursuing a career in Human Resources, encounter before they have had a chance to gain extensive experience. Finding an entry way into HR can become a daunting task, particularly in the present state of the job market, however there are certainly ways that you can improve your chances of landing a Human Resources position.

1. Networking – In a tight job market networking is priceless. Here in Atlanta, joining the local SHRM chapter and attending events is a great way to meet local Human Resources professionals and to begin building your local network. SHRM also has bi-monthly career connection meetings, where SHRM Atlanta members are advised on how to improve their success in finding employment. SHRM Atlanta also has a career center on their website, which list local HR opportunities. For more information visit SHRM Atlanta. Linkedin is also an excellent networking tool.

2. Leverage your past experience – You mentioned that you have past payroll and administrative experience. Use this experience to your advantage. Many students graduate from undergraduate and graduate HRM programs with no HR experience and are shocked by the difficulty they encounter when they begin looking for an HR related position. Based on your past experience, an HR assistant/coordinator or Recruiting coordinator position would probably be a good starting point. HR Assistants typically support an HR Manager and gain valuable experience in a number of areas. Recruiting coordinators typically support a group of recruiters and though they provide mostly administrative support, this is usually an entry way into recruiting. Though neither of these role may be exactly what you expected after graduation, they are both vital roles and if you do well, you will be in a great position to move into another role when one becomes available in the organization.

3. If you are interested in recruiting, consider starting in an agency. Though many agencies look for experienced recruiters, there are some that hire recent graduates and career changers into entry-level recruiting roles. These recruiting agencies typically have a structured training program and serve as a great way to learn the ins and outs of recruiting. Many HR professionals, including myself, started their careers with recruiting agencies.

4. Utilize resources provided by your school. Career services, professors and classmates.

5. Join Ruthielist. Ruthielist is a yahoo group with over 7,000 Recruiting/HR professionals who are primarily located in Atlanta. Jobs are posted and you are also able to post your resume. You can learn more about Ruthielist by visiting the yahoo group.

6. Your Resume – Make sure your resume stands out. You may consider hiring a resume writer who specializes in HR resumes. Remember your resume is all a prospective employer has (initially) to decide whether or not they should invite you in for an interview or not. You can find a list of certified resume writers at Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches’ Web site.
Hope these suggestions help and best of luck in your search!

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