Despite today’s weaker market sentiment, the human resources (HR) industry has always been acknowledged as one of the more stable markets in Singapore. This is set to continue in 2017, as companies realise the value of aligning HR processes and policies, in particular employee retention, with business goals.

With the role of HR evolving into a more strategic one, more new graduates are now expressing an interest in stepping into the industry. If that’s you, here’s what you need to know about starting a career in HR.

1. There’s no better time to join than now

With an increasing number of businesses making Singapore their Asia Pacific headquarters, the demand for junior HR executives has risen correspondingly as these companies work on building up their support teams.

2. Generalise, then specialise

Many junior HR candidates often ask me whether they should start off as specialists or generalists. While this can be a tricky question to answer, my advice for them is to generalise (say through an HR administration or executive role) and then decide which direction they’d like to take. A generalist role can provide exposure on all fronts, giving you a “sampling” of what you can look forward to, should you choose to specialise in one aspect of HR (compensation and benefits, recruitment, etc).

3. Market knowledge is key

During interviews, junior executives are often asked a slightly different set of questions compared with their senior counterparts as because of the former’s lack of work experience. For example, instead of answering questions of what they have “done”, junior executives will be tested on market knowledge (growth industries, talent gaps), scenarios, personal growth plans and their thoughts on the industry. Hiring managers ask these questions to test knowledge and passion for the industry. They are not just looking for junior support staff per se — they are looking for talent to groom.

4. Be realistic about salaries

Many of my candidates, despite having no experience, assume that they should be receiving salaries within a set range. However, this is not true. Salaries vary with industries, qualifications and skills. As a result, salary benchmarks and comparisons should be based on these factors, rather than how much a friend is being paid.

5. It takes time to grow a career

Many undergraduates think that stepping into a HR role means that they get to immediately advise senior management on organisational challenges or change management strategies. While such tasks certainly fall into the scope of a HR practitioner, it takes time to get there. One cannot just jump into a business partnering role without first understanding the fundamentals of the job.

HR is a career that has to be built step by step. The administrative/co-ordinator tasks that one has to do as a junior executive are crucial — they expose the employee to the entire HR spectrum. Not only do these tasks allow HR executives to interact with the business on behalf of their supervisors, they help executives learn how to manage vendors and employees’ employment matters. These help to set a solid foundation when moving up the career ladder into more strategic positions. 

Ready for your next career move? Check out these current job openings or submit your CV now.

Summary

Giving some thought to starting a career in HR? Here's what you need to know:

  • There's no better time to join than now
  • Generalise, then specialise
  • Market knowledge is key
  • Be realistic about salaries
  • It takes time to grow a career
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