Considering a career in HR? Some things to consider...

Sharon O'Connell 22.11.2016

As part of my job, I meet a lot of candidates interested in pursuing a career in HR. Many are at different stages of their professional development, coming from all walks of life and from various industries.

Some people have years of experience across a variety of roles, seeking a transition into HR, some are graduates looking to specialise in HR and others are looking to progress their HR career to the next level. Below I have outlined areas that should be carefully considered before making your next move.

Breaking into HR isn’t an easy feat, but with a bit of research and smart decision-making you can make the breakthrough.


Dublin in particular has an abundance of courses from certificates to diplomas, degrees, post-graduate courses and Masters degrees. What does all of this mean? – This means competition is fierce. Breaking into HR isn’t an easy feat, but with a bit of research and smart decision-making you can make the breakthrough. I always advise candidates before enrolling in a post-graduate course to ask themselves 'will this aid their entry into HR?'.

Recently I read an interesting article, where Mike Morrison, FCIPD of RapidBI, provided excellent advice on qualifications: He is a strong advocate on not to follow the "‘academic’ attitude to qualifications and always seek the same or higher levels”, but rather be proactive and ask yourself 'how can I apply what I’m learning and use it to add value to an existing or prospective organisation?'. In essence, while a CIPD accredited MSc in HRM is impressive on any CV, if you do not have previous HR experience or are currently working in HR you will find it difficult to secure an entry level position. A practical solution to overcome this barrier to entry ties in nicely with the next point...

The value of temping/contracting

For recent graduates eager to propel their career in HR, lack of experience can often be a stumbling block. This is where one should consider the benefits of temping or contract roles. A majority of candidates disregard and discount temping and short-term contract roles for the allure and hope of securing a more permanent position. They fail to recognise the benefits of temping. Temping should be viewed as an extension of your HR qualification. You’ve acquired the theory, so now gain the practical know how and exposure to HR systems, projects, thriving HR departments where you will gain invaluable industry experience.

Temping should be viewed as an extension of your HR qualification.

As mentioned above, competition is fierce. This is one way to set yourself apart from everyone else. Ronnie O’Sullivan didn’t become the best snooker player in the world by taking one shot at a time, he has the ability to see five to six shots ahead. Adopting this mind-set early on in your career will benefit you significantly in the long term. If you are in between roles or recently graduated, now is the time to give yourself the chance to avail of temporary or contract roles. This will provide you with the platform for your future success in the field of HR so do not miss out on an opportunity. Think strategically – and have a vision!


Industry can often be a barrier to entry for HR professionals. FMCG, retail, financial services, technology, pharmaceutical, manufacturing are a few examples of the many different types of industries. While HR is relevant to every industry, this area is often neglected by candidates early on in their HR career. Candidates should start thinking about what industry or sector interests them as this is likely to shape their career path. Sometimes companies will require candidates with experience in industries relevant to their organisation. For example some industries may require HR professionals with strong employee relations experience to operate in heavily unionised environments. This type of experience often requires length of service, so bare this mind when applying for certain roles and pay attention to the job description and person specification.

Staying up-to-date

Smart HR professionals understand the importance of continuous on-the-job learning. Remember, HR is a specialist area on its own, and whilst you will have an abundance of information at your disposal, you will never have all of the underpinning knowledge. Many candidates try to secure all of their education in one block. This is a mistake. The vast majority of established HR professionals occupying Generalist, Business Partner, Manager and Director level roles have all got to where they are through continuously updating and refreshing their knowledge in HR through further education and various different training courses along the way. The best advice I can give is to think strategically, set yourself a goal, formulate a plan and make smart decisions in relation to staying up-to-date with HR developments.

In conclusion, a career in HR is becoming a popular choice for many candidates in recent years. While it is beyond the scope of this passage to discuss every possible scenario or consideration, I hope this has helped inform candidates of certain areas to consider before embarking on this path and make informed decisions.

For those of you interested in having a confidential discussion regarding your next career move in HR, please contact Des Donohoe on 01- 4321555 or email

Sharon O'Connell's picture


HR Generalist - Cork
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