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Career Advisor Chat Transcript: May 2, 2007


HR Career Advisor

Are you a student pursuing a career in HR or interested in HR? Get answers to your questions from SHRM's career advisors.

Moderator: Good Afternoon. Thank you very much for joining us for SHRM's HR Career Advisor Chat. We will begin answering questions shortly. Many of you have already submitted questions so we will begin answering those first.

Moderator: Please refrain from asking specific HR questions. This chat session is striclty for HR career questions.

Moderator: The transcript to this chat will be posted on Thursday, March 6 at

JENSEN BEACH, FL: My past work experience has included time sheet review, new hire paperwork, benefit enrollment. However, I have never actually held an HR job title. How do I get my foot in the door? I have found VERY little on the job search engines that will consider someone with my amount of experience. It seems the minimum is 2-5 years. How can I get that if I can't get hired anywhere?

HR Career Advisor: You are not alone. We get this question frequently, and there is no easy ansswer. First off, you do not necessarily need an HR job title to get your foot in the door. Titles almost never accurately depict your actual job and scope of job responsibilities. Create a functional resume and highlight your actual HR-related experience. As long as you have the minimum years of experience with that HR-related experience, you can -and should- sell it! Finally, just because a job posting has a minimum number of years experience, you should still go ahead and apply if you're close. You never know what may happen!

Orlando/Florida: I am in my final semester and graduating this May. My major is HR Management. My question is that I have been in internship with a firm but it is not related to my HR Management work. I am currently doing my internship in HR IT department. I would like to get in to Recruiting side but don't know where to look and how to start my career. Please give me some advise. Thanks! KJ

HR Career Advisor: Staffing agencies immediately come to mind, with regards to a quick way to get into recruiting. Because their primary focus is recruitment, they will often have very specialized positions, such as a sourcer or a recruiter, both of which are fairly entry level. In a corporate recruiting environment, it may help to locate a coordinator position, where you'll indirectly touch on several HR aspects, including recruiting.

JENSEN BEACH, FL: After graduation, I'd like to move out to the West coast to be near family again. Are HR positions usually offered relocation, especially if someone is entry level?

HR Career Advisor: Some employers offer relocation and some do not. However, we recommend that you specifically ask when you apply or interview for a job whether or not relocation is available to you. If not, and you want to pursue the opportunity, you should check with the IRS as some moving expenses are tax deductible depending on the parameters of the move and the distances involved.

Chandler AZ: Hello, What are the various options for the students pursuing masters in organization psychology development in HR or anywhere else? thanks

HR Career Advisor: The SHRM Foundation publishes a list of HR degree programs online. You might want to consult this directory to determine options that exist. The directory is available online at

Iowa: What kind of questions should I expect on the SHRM Test?

HR Career Advisor: More information on all the HRCI exams including the PHR, SPHR and GPHR can be found at You can download the PHR Handbook at the HRCI website. Also, you can purchase a certification handbook which includes resources for studying and approximately 125 sample questions available through the SHRMStore. Member discounts are available for SHRM members.

Clinton Township: If one were to persue a career in FMLA and worker's compensation, what certifications would benefit them if not already required?

HR Career Advisor: The Human Resource Cerrtification Institute (HRCI) offers both the PHR and SPHR. Both cover these two topics. If you are seeking certification a certification that covers only FMLA or Workers' Compensation, we are not aware of certifications that cover only those two topics.

Decatur, GA: Are there mentorships in place to help recent graduates get established in HR?

HR Career Advisor: SHRM recently launched an online Mentor Program that matches mentees with experienced SHRM members. Find out more information at Local chapters are also a great place to find more experienced HR professionals who can offer guidance and advice. Networking in your area is an easy way to start getting established. Good luck!

Iowa: What is the highest paying job in Human Resource for the state of Iowa?

HR Career Advisor: Unfortunately, we do not have access to compensation statistics during this chat; but what I would recommend is checking with the Chamber of Commerce in Iowa, and they will most likely have this information available for you.

Miami, FL: Is finding a mentor a good starting point for a new bachelor's graduate? If so, how does one go about finding a mentor? Is if OK to ask a complete stranger, who works in the HR field, to be your mentor?

HR Career Advisor: Absolutely! There are several options for locating a mentor. First, the SHRM Member Directory is available online at You can search the directory using a variety of criteria to find individuals you might be interested in mentoring you. The downside to this is that you need to feel comfortable in reaching out to a stranger who may or may not be willing to mentor you. In my experiences, many HR pros are willing to provide guidance, you just need to ask. Another option is to reach out to your local SHRM professional chapter affiliate. A directory of these is available online at Let them know what you're looking for and they should be able to help. Finally, SHRM has recently launched an e-mentoring program, pairing mentors and mentees in the virtual realm. You can get more details on the program, and sign up for it, online at Good luck!

Chicago,IL: I'm considering taking the exam for the PHR before graduation. Is that a wise move ?

HR Career Advisor: Absolutely! If you are a full-time student, you may take the PHR (or GPHR) as a student. You then have five years in which to obtain the two-years of exempt-level HR experience. Please note that if you pass the exam as a student, you cannot use the designation until you've obtained the two years of experience and have provided the correction documentation to HRCI for conversion. In addition, if you ALREADY have two-years of exempt-level HR experience, you must take the exam as a professional, not a student. For the full explanation of applying for the exam as a student, please see the PHR, SPHR and GPHR Certification Handbook on the HRCI website: Good luck!

Salt Lake City, Utah: I am an undegraduate student (BS Management) looking for HR position. However, besides school I don't have any working experience. What kind of HR positions are appropriate for me right now? What should I show in my resume so a potential employer will be interested enaugh to hire me?

HR Career Advisor: Most entry level positions in HR require 1-2 years professional experience in HR at a minimum. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you seek as many HR internship experiences as possible. There are a couple of resources to find internships. First, visit the SHRM Student Website at to View Available Internships. Second, check with your local professional chapter; you may be able to network into an HR internship. The chapter network is very supportive of HR internships and often have opportunities available that are not advertised elsewhere.

Louisville, KY: I have been in the HR Profession for approximately 7-years. I am looking for an HR job but running into the same problem and that is the fact that I have not received my Bachelors degree yet. What can I do so that employers will want to hire me?

HR Career Advisor: A few options to consider, which may help: 1. Consider sitting for your PHR certification. Since you have seven years of HR experience already, it should be easier for you to sit for and pass the exam. Details on PHR certification can be found at 2. Try using a functional resume to highlight specific HR work experience, rather than job titles and companies worked for. 3. Network with HR professions in the local SHRM professional chapters. They may be able to help you locate an HR position that you were unaware of. The chapter directory is located at

St. Louis,MO: What would be the best way to start networking with in the field?

HR Career Advisor: An easy way to start networking is to get involved with your local chapter. Start attending the meetings and try to volunteer on one of the boards to meet some local HR professionals and get some visibility.

Kingston, NY: I want to pursue a career in Human Resources but I am not sure which is my best option: to go and pursue a master's degree as soon as I graduate or wait and enter the workforce. What do you think is the best option?

HR Career Advisor: It would be optimal, if you could both enroll in school and work as an HR practitioner at the same time. However, if this is not possible, another option would be to go on to complete your Master's degree, while aggressively seeking internships to couple your academic side with a practical application of your experience. Either way will make you attractive to an employer.

Stevensville, Maryland: I have just completed a B.S. in Mgmt Studies with a certificate and minor in HRM. I am trying hard to break into the field of HR however every job has a requirement for 2+ yrs of experience. I have 21 yrs of work experience as an IT professional however no experience in HR. When I pursued an education in HR, I thought this would be sufficient for getting considered for a position in the field. I am pursuing job fairs, networking opportunities, career counseling etc. Persistence is all I have left but my time is running short. I want and need to find a job soon!! Thoughts and suggestions are appreciated

HR Career Advisor: When interviewing with potential employers tailor your resume to focus on previous job experiences that involved any aspects of HR. If you haven't already you might want to check any job listings on Also other resources to try is the HR Technology Focus Area. Here you can find more information on your area of focus and post your questions on the HR Technology Bulletin Board. Your fellow members can offer assistance on where to look for jobs and additional advice.

Moderator: For PHR/SPHR/GPHR test dates and locations please visit

Melbourne Florida: Why is it so hard to enter the HR field? Everyone tells you to find an internship, when there are very few internships available. I have done an internship search throughout the US and I have found two in the last 8 months located in Ohio. I am a member of the National, local, and student SHRM and have had little success in networking to obtain an entry level or internship opportunity. You can not get the experience you need if no one is willing to take a chance. Everyone in HR was once new to the field. In order to hopefully make myself stand out, I am preparing to take the PHR Exam in June '08 and I have applied for graduate school to earn a MA in HRM.

HR Career Advisor: Your future preparation plans sound very solid -- take the PHR and plan on a graduate degree. However, in the meantime, to find opportunities in Ohio, I'd recommend connecting with the professional chapter. If you are a member of a SHRM student chapter, check with your advisor to find out which is the sponsoring professional chapter associated with your student chapter. You can also go online at to find other professional chapters in your area. Often internship leads are available through chapter members -- who are very supportive of students entering the field (at least that's been my experience.)

Roxbury, MA: What should a student specialize in first, benefits, recruiting, interviewing etc?

HR Career Advisor: The answer to this question really depends on your personal career goals. I would recommend you keep an open mind as you prepare to enter the HR field, at least for the first few years, as you may need to accept a couple jobs which are not your ideal position. Keep in mind that these will add to your relevant-HR experience that will help you to grow in your career and move up the career ladder. I will also tell you that a lot of entry-level HR positions are in recruiting, but I would not stay in a recruiting position for too long so that you can be sure to get the right mix of HR experience to advance in your career.

Auburn HIlls, MI: An internship is required by my school for graduation. I have been attempting to obtain an internship without much luck. The school provides no support besides 10-15 businesses they have contacts with. I have not received any responses, and I am not sure how often I should be calling or e-mailing the companies I have submitted my resume to check on reciept/status/etc. (or if I should) Do you have any suggestions to improve my chances of receving a response?

HR Career Advisor: There are internships listed on the students page: and click on view available internships. I would also recommend getting in touch with your local chapter as those members might have internships available that are not necessarily advertised. Another resource could be your faculty advisor or professors, as they often have direct relationships that your career center may not. As far following up, I would try calling or emailing 3 days after you submit your resume to ensure that they got it and express your interest again in the opportunity.

Denver, CO: With only a background in retail operations for HR, how beneficial or neccessary is it for me to aquire a PHR certification for crossing over into an HR field from retail management?

HR Career Advisor: Though it is not necessary to acquire a PHR for someone of your background to cross over into an HR management position, it would be beneficial. A PHR helps to demonstrate an understanding of HR principles, and would go a long way into convincing an employer that you are ready or able to interprete HR policies.

Skaneateles Falls: I would like to do a detailed analysis of what my strengths are, what skills that I should further develop, and also to create a career plan for myself. What tools does SHRM have available for my needs?

HR Career Advisor: SHRM has created a tool that will help you evaluate your current role, identify potential next steps, and review resources to help reach your goals. This is a free member benefit and is applicable for various HR positions at all levels, functions and organization size. Please visit

Houston, TX: I desperately want to get into recruiting, but cannot with my responsibilities start out as a recruiting assistant. I am presently a payroll specialist and am pursuing my masters in HRM. What are some suggestions for this desired career move?

HR Career Advisor: I have a couple of suggestions. First, I'd suggest that you check with your masters committee -- often your professors and advisors have connections to organizations that are not publicized widely. Also, check with the career center at your school. Third, and this may be a long shot, but you might try checking the Monster or Career Builder websites. I recall seeing something about "want a career in recruiting" -- regardless, these career websites have massive search engines and if you narrow your search, and post your resume there, you will most likely get some hits. Last, SHRM's annual conference has an exhibit hall, and it's my understanding that we post the exhibitor list on our website (under the exposition area), and you could research companies that specialize in recruiting.

Ashburn, VA: If I am a full time Human resources Technician and 100 percent of my job functions are Human Resources related, am I allowed to take the PHR after two years even though I am a non exempt hourly employee?

HR Career Advisor: You must have two years of exempt-level HR experience to be eligible to sit for the PHR. Your job title must exactly match one of the approved position codes listed in Appendix C of the PHR, SPHR and GPHR Certification Handbook. Job titles that do not appear on the approved position codes list are considered “other” position codes. Candidates whose work experience includes an “other” code must complete the supporting documentation form and submit it with any other supporting documentation that outlines that the candidate's job responsibilities are at an exempt level.

Wheaton IL: Will Human Resources responsibilities began to include Organizational Development as a support role to HR or exist as a new field?

HR Career Advisor: It all depends on the individual company. At the present time many companies are including Organizational Development as part of the HR responsiblities.

Kalamazoo, MI: What is the best way to market yourself when most HR employers are looking for 3-5 years of experience and you are just recently out of college?

HR Career Advisor: Even though you are just out of college, if you haven't done an HR internship, consider doing one now! Many internships are paid these days, so it helps to make it a more palatable option. Internships provide relevant experience and can be counted towards the minimum years of experience requested. You should also prepare a functional resume to highlight HR skills you've attained from your current/previous work experience. Also, the job search experts say that 70-80% of jobs are found through personal contacts and networking. Reach out to your personal contacts and let them know you're seeking an HR job. Sometimes a great character reference can open doors faster than years of experience.

Tampa, Florida: I was told at a job interview that if I wanted to have a career in HR that I needed to fully immerse myself into HR and all that it is about. How can I learn the ins and outs of Human Resources? Secondly, I currently work in HR for a major retail company. I have been told the HR role for companies in the 'real world' work different. If so, how is the role different? And how can I best prepare myself despite the industry?

HR Career Advisor: Your first step to becoming immersed in the world of HR was becoming a SHRM Member. One of the greatest resources to learning more abou HR is From there you can read bulletin boards, keep updated on breaking HR news, pending legislations, and network with fellow members. Additional information is available through our Focus Areas, online articles, White Papers, etc. Spend some time on the website and take full advantage of all the benefits that come only with your SHRM membership.

Napa CA: Is going to temp agencies the best way to gain experience in human resources? what agencies would you recommend.

HR Career Advisor: Going through an employment agency is one way of gaining experience in one aspect of HR, but it is not complete, as no entry level experience will be complete.

Miami, FL: When asking someone to be your mentor, should you also offer some sort of compensation?

HR Career Advisor: No, you really should not offer compensation. Most individuals will do this without payment or expectations because they feel a responsibility to the HR profession and want to ensure that those entering the profession are well equipped to do their jobs. If a potential mentor asks for compensation, then they aren't a mentor, but a paid career coach and in that case you should make sure they have those credentials or are licensed.

Florence, KY : What speciality areas within HR are in high demand or will be in high demand soon?

HR Career Advisor: You might want to go to the "Workplace Trends and Forecasting" section of the SHRM website for up and coming areas in HR. In addition, we suggest reviewing the jobs listed on the HRJobs website to see which positions are prevalent.

Moderator: Visit to search for HR jobs around the country and overseas.

Phoenix, AZ : What qualities and personalities do you think an HR professional have?

HR Career Advisor: This depends on the specific HR function of that professional (i.e. - recruiting, comp & benefits, HRIS, training & development, etc.). Also refer to the website below:

Florence, KY : I am currently working in an HR internship that will last me until a graduate (2 years). I want to get books on the PHR exam now. Will it benefit me at start studying now and use what I learn towards my internship? Should I just get the books or should I enroll in the 3 day seminars?

HR Career Advisor: There are many venues to study for the PHR exam. Many students start studying in their senior year. The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) has a certification guide book available through the bookstore. Many colleges teach the Learning System (see and click on the College and University network link) and SHRM's Professional Development department offers the 3-day seminar. It's really up to you with regard to your learning style and preferences.

Carrollton, Mississippi: Although I am currently working toward my BS in Management with an Accounting emphasis, my future (hopefully) job will be as Superintendent of Education when I have earned my Master's. I have worked in HR many years and believe I work well with people. My situation would be disciplining in a constructive and non-threatening manner in order to get the point across without offending or hurting feelings. I am by no means an aggressive person, but I am afraid I would be expecting subordinates to put entire effort into their positions. I am a good motivator, but there are always going to be those who just do not have what it takes. Any ideas on how I will train myself for this very vital aspect of any HR position?

HR Career Advisor: You can reach out to your fellow SHRM members who are are training positions through the bulletin boards. Also, SHRM offers resources through the Staffing Management Focus Area and SHRM's Staffing Management Conference & Exposition. I would suggest also taking some classes leadership development. As always information can be found at

Washington DC: If I get a masters degree in Human Resource Management, is it still necessary or recommended that I get my PHR certificate?

HR Career Advisor: We are seeing a higher prevalence of job listings in which a SPHR or PHR certification is "preferred" or "required" so it certainly can't hurt to have both.

Baltimore, MD: I attend an online school for HR MGMT pursuing an A.A.S. My question is upon graduation, will I have a harder time finding employment opportunities because I didn't pursue a BA?

HR Career Advisor: My opinion is you will have a more difficult time, unless you have HR experience under your belt. If at all possible, consider going for your Bachelors degree and PHR certification.

Moderator: Looking for networking opportunities? Join your local student SHRM chapter or professional chapter by visiting

Tustin, CA: I have B.S. degree in Accounting, 5 years experience in Accounting and just graduated with an MAB degree in HR. It's so hard to find a job in HR and I wanted to get advice on "breaking" into an HR career. Thank you, Marie

HR Career Advisor: Hello, Marie! Many MBA/HR students work with their faculty committee members, teachers or career centers to find HR internships. SHRM definitely recognizes that breaking into the field requires the appropriate kind of preparation because it is becoming increasingly difficult. As an MBA student, you could also connect with professional in your area by networking with local professional chapter members. To find the professional chapters in your geographic area, visit SHRM online at

Milwaukee, WI: How much HR experience should I have before I take the HRCI exams? Is it appropriate for a student to take them?

HR Career Advisor: You must have two-years of exempt-level HR experience to sit for the SPHR, PHR or GPHR exams. If you are a full-time student, you may take the PHR or GPHR without the two-year requirement but you will not be able to use the designation until you've accumulated the two years of experience. For information about taking the exam as a student, please go to the PHR, SPHR and GPHR Certification Handbook at

Orlando, Florida: I have been employed in the legal field for 12+ years and now have chosen to leave that field and move into the field of HR. Unfortunately, I have no experience in HR. I will be graduating in a few months with a degree in Organizational Communication and intend to begin work on obtaining a MHR. What advice would you give me as I move forward and change careers? What do I need to do to find a good job during this initial transition period?

HR Career Advisor: The main piece of advice I would offer is to keep an open mind with regard to your salary expectations. It is a harsh reality, but, when changing careers (especially when those careers are unrelated) your salary will decrease, initially. You should take a look at what your financial needs are, and determine if your passion for HR overrides the financial needs, and then make a decision. In the short term, you may wish to continue working in the legal field while obtaining your MHR degree. However, you should start immediately looking for entry-level HR jobs so you can begin building your HR experience. (Keeping in mind that your salary would be lower, intially.)

St. Louis, MO : What are some of the best networking opportunities out there?

HR Career Advisor: SHRM offers many avenues for networking. Networking opportunities are available at HR Talk, SHRM bulletin boards, local chapter meetings and by attending the SHRM Annual Conference. The SHRM Student Union is held during the Annual Conference. Also you can ask your student advisor for advice on meeting local HR professionals through your student chapter meetings.

Los Angeles, CA: I'm a doctroal student in OD who has handled HR functions as a manager in operations, sales and marketing, therefore not under the HR function. Suggestions for positioning/presenting my managerial skills: interviewing, selection, evaluation, performance appraisals, department training, etc., when many jobs request 3+ years HR Generalist experience as related to OD. Thanks!

HR Career Advisor: Highlight the aspects of HR that a Generalist position would usually demand and that you've touched on in your career. This includes staffing, employee relations, compensation and benefits, etc.

Miami, FL: What is the difference between "Organizational Development" and "Organizational Psychology" in terms of a career? What's the main focus of each?

HR Career Advisor: There are many differences between OD and Organizational Psychology, along with various career options. I don't know that SHRM has a proper definition of each, but my suggestion would be to look at your local university's descriptions of each and see what topics are covered.

Georgia: I am currently a student persuing my BBA. I have been working in HR for 7 years. I am interested in taking the PHR exam. What do I need to do to prepare for the exam and should I wait until I finish my BBA? Should I take the HR program at Kennesaw State University?

HR Career Advisor: I'd recommend checking with the Kennesaw State HR faculty regarding the program at Kennesaw State as I am not familiar with that program. Many BBA students take the PHR to strengthen their portfolio when applying for entry level professional jobs in HR. You might also want to check the HRCI web site at for information about students who take the exam, when you can use the designation once you earn it, etc.

Moderator: Todays HR Career Advisor chat will be ending in 10 min. I hope the chat was beneficial to all. The transcript to this chat will be posted on Thursday, March 6 at

Honolulu, HI: I am currently completing my HRM degree and am applying to law school, most likely to study employment/labor law. I do not want to practice law per se, what I'd like to do is HR management that makes use of my training. Is there a way for me to start at the management level, or will I have to begin at an entry level job even with my additional education? What sort of steps should I take over the next few years in order to begin a career in management upon completion of my law degree?

HR Career Advisor: This depends on whether or not you have HR experience that would make you qualified to start at the management level. My guess is that since you asked the question, you don't. In the HR field, you will need a combination of experience and education in order to climb the career ladder. I'd recommend you also take a look at the HR Career Guide at to determine what skills and experience are needed to get that management job. Good luck!

Milwaukee, WI: I have been an Executive Assistant for 15 years and am finally completing my BA-HRM. How do I prospect when I have only strong administrative skills and no formal HR skills? Is entry level HR my only option?

HR Career Advisor: Though entry level is not your only option, it is one of your better choices, with regards to entering the HR field. However, you also have internships available to you. Internships that you participate in while you're in school can provide you with, not only practical experience, but the ability to network with other HR professionals.

Moderator: Which degree is right for you? View to find out.

San Antonio, TX: How important would it be to obtain an HR Management degree versus a Business Degree. I have 5 years of exp. in HR thus far. Is is really going to benefit me to get a degree?

HR Career Advisor: That is a personal decision that you will want to make before you decide what career you want to persue. If you choose to persue a career in HR you should definitely study HR within a business context by going for your BBA, BS in Management with concentrations in HR or a BS in HR at a business school.

Skaneateles Falls: I am currently enrolled in a PHR/SPHR Certification Prep Course and am anticipating taking the PHR Certification Exam before the completion of 2008. I have ordered the PHR/SPHR/GPHR Certification Guide Book from the SHRM Book Store. Does SHRM offer any additional tools or resources to assist in my preparation and develop my knowledge of Human Resources?

HR Career Advisor: In the HRCI book, there is an extensive list of resources, as HRCI does not endorse a single way of preparing. SHRM's Learning System is a very popular study curriculum. You can get information on the Learning System at Also, check on that same web site and click on the link to colleges and universities which accesses the 200+ list of colleges that teach the cert prep courses.

Florence, KY: I seen that there is a SHRM chapter in my area. I'm not sure if there is a student chapter. I believe something in the professional chapter said that there isn't a student chapter. What should I do about joining a chapter?

HR Career Advisor: To look up student chapters in your area, please visit If there is no student chapter in your area, reach out to the local professional chapter and see if they can offer you a student membership with their group. Most professional chapters will allow students to get involve with their chapters in some capacity, but you will need to contact the individual chapter(s) and ask what their policy may be.

Miami, FL: I understand that to take the PHR as a professional, you need 2 years of exempt level experience. How does one find out if one was at the exempt level? And does one actually have to be employed at the time you apply for the PHR?

HR Career Advisor: To answer your second question first, you do not need to be employed to take the PHR. The only requirement is that you have at least two years of exempt-level HR experience to be eligible to take the exam as a professional. In the United States, “exempt” is defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its amendments. All managers and supervisors have some HR responsibilities as part of their jobs but it is generally not the dominant work function on a daily basis and therefore would not make them eligible to take the exam. To learn more about exempt versus nonexempt work experience, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website at

College Station Texas : Can you describe how we can get information on the SHRM Global and US Conferences as far as what companies will be attending so we can start networking in advance of the meetings? (If wer are unable to attend due to school commitments. Thanks!

HR Career Advisor: You can take a look at the exhibitor lists for SHRM conferences online. Visit the conferences section of the SHRM website at Good luck!

Moderator: Thank you for attending the todays chat. The chat will now be concluding. Remember, the transcript to this chat will be posted on Thursday, March 6 at

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