How Can I Break into the Human Resources Field with Only a Bachelor’s Degree and No Experience?

How Can I Break into the Human Resources Field with Only a Bachelor’s Degree and No Experience? was originally published on The Campus Career Coach.

Renee from Harrison College asks:

“How can I get my foot in the door in Human Resources with my Bachelors’s and no experience in this area? ”

Thanks for your question, Renee.  Getting your career starting in any field can be a difficult task, especially if you don’t possess any industry experience.  I’m sure you’ve put in lots of work during the last year to move your career interests forward.  However, there is always more to do to reach your goal.  If the path you’ve been following has not yielded the desired results, then blaze a new trail and try a new path (or incorporate different job search methods).

Having coached over 5,000 clients during the last ten years, I can confidently tell you that most individuals want to quickly land a great job.  However, most aren’t willing to build a solid self-marketing (job search) plan and fuel it with massive action until the objective is accomplished (and the job offer is secured).

Also, I don’t want to minimize some of your struggles, but this is a problem you can successfully solve.  As long as you are willing to put in consistent action, then I believe you can accomplish your goal.

Detailed below are some specific suggestions you can implement in your plan to land a job in human resources and get your career started.

How Many Jobs Do You Need?

You only need one job, right?  Just one full-time job…that is all you need.  During your job search, you’ll experience both the emotional ups and downs.  Learn to appreciate both and continue to stay focused on the goal of obtaining one job offer.  Fuel your search with consistent effort each day.  If you don’t give up on the goal, you’ll get there.

Treat Your Job Search Like a Full-Time Job

One common mistake recent graduates make in their search relates to the amount of time and effort they invest into their job search efforts.  Most invest very little time into the search and assume that the successful outcome will come easily, even in spite of the competitive nature of the job market.  Here is statistic that might catch your attention: 28.5% of Canadian adults have a bachelor’s degree as of 2016.

These statistics aren’t meant to scare, but rather to motivate you to fuel your search with a great deal of effort.  Treat the search like a full-time job.  Invest 40+ hours a week into your campaign to land the right job.  Most of the recent college graduates I meet with recognize that they haven’t been working as hard as they need to in order land the job if they are being completely honest with themselves.  I’ve found that many get better results in the search simply by investing more time.

Network, Network, Network!

People hire people, not computers.  We need the help of others to succeed both on the job and in life.  Networking is, was, and will always produce the best results.  Embrace saying hello to others, while reconnecting with people you already know.  One of the first things you should do is let all of your friends, family members, and connections know exactly what you are looking for and that you’d be grateful for any assistance that they can offer to you.  While many may not be able to help with a job lead, these individuals can offer tips, leads, introductions, referrals, and more that can be a stepping stone to landing the job.

Make sure to grow your circle of influence and network by attending community events. Utilize LinkedIn to grow your virtual network, find posted jobs, connect with recruiters, further your value proposition through skills endorsements and recommendations, and join industry related groups.

Volunteer to Gain Experience and Exposure

Your question indicated that you have limited field experience.  One great way to acquire experience is to volunteer your time.  While the preferred way to gain experience is to be paid of course.  However, don’t underestimate the power of volunteering as a way to gain experience.  Additionally, get involved in your community with causes and organizations you believe in too.  These volunteer initiatives will help you to grow your network, build your reputation as a leader, gain experience, strengthen your resume, and much more.  Get out there!

Join Professional Associations in Human Resources

Another way to build your network, reputation, and circle of influence is to join a professional association in your industry.  There are several human resources professional associations including CPHR, SHRM, NHRA, AHRD, HPRA, and others.  This is a great way to connect with leaders in your industry and learn of employment opportunities.  Most professional organizations post their available positions through the association’s website or possibly through word of mouth at meetings.  Don’t just become a member and do nothing either.  Get involved and volunteer for a board or steering committee.  This will provide you with the opportunity to showcase your skills and ability to produce results.

Your Job Search is a Sales and Marketing Campaign

Think of your job search as your own personal sales and marketing campaign.  You are the product so you need to know all of the features, values, and benefits you can offer to a prospective employer.  Personally, I don’t like the term, “job search”, as it sounds like you are lifting up rocks to “find” something.  Mentally reposition the search while thinking of it as a campaign.  You are connecting with people, especially prospective employers and decision makers to highlight your value proposition (what you can do for them), detailing how you can solve their problems.  Also, you will sell to the buyer – in this case, the hiring manager.  This is the person who has the power to hire you.  Focus your efforts primarily on the hiring manager.

Use Various Job Search Methods

Most job seekers mistakenly assume employers post all jobs online through various job boards and company sites.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data shows that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Jobs won’t always be posted online.  So, I suggest that you reverse this thinking by targeting employers.  Don’t wait for employers to post available jobs.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers in your area that may have opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Get to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for jobs to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Target marketing and employee incentive referral programs as described above can be very powerful.  Consider adding other job search methods including:

  • Recruiters – While recruiters work for and are paid by their company (direct recruiter) or client (3rd party recruiter), these individuals need qualified candidates to fill direct jobs or put in front of client companies. Develop a rapport with recruiters, especially those who specialize in your industry
  • Job Leads Via Job Boards Using Double-Hit – After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview. Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.
  • Staffing Agencies – Staffing agencies may have opportunity that is not posted online so research to find an agency specializing in your field who work with local companies in your area.

Expand Geographical Search Area

Consider diversifying your job search by expanding your search area.  Obviously, a broader search area will likely mean more opportunity.  For example, if you were considering job opportunities within a 30-minute drive from your home, then expand this to a 60-minute drive.  It may not be the desired location, but do what you have to do to land the job.  You would probably agree that it would be better for you to be working even if you have to drive 30 minutes more to get to the work site

Putting It All Together

Hopefully, this post enlightens you to a myriad of new strategies that you can incorporate in your campaign.  Find any way possible to get in with an employer, so consider volunteer work, part-time, and other non-traditional ways to partner with an employer.  Include lots of networking both on and offline to grow your circle of influence.

Make no mistake that job searching is not easy.  Include all of these suggestions into your plan and take daily action until you reach the goal.  It will take time, but don’t give up and you’ll be starting your human resources career soon.  You’ve got this, Renee!

Good luck and best wishes!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon

The Human Resource Management certificate at UCalgary Continuing Education can help you break into the field of Human Resources. This 300 hour certificate program gives you theoretical and practical insight into the field of human resources as well as current, employer-valued perspectives. For more information visit