HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

HR Career Advice

1000 HR experts have contributed their most valuable advice for those just getting started in HR. We pulled out the 100 best. Read on to learn how to find your place in the HR world, become successful, and enjoy every moment (or at least, most of them).


A career in human resources brings with it both excitement and challenges. On one hand, there are countless new things to learn, paths to take, and opportunities to interact with people in a meaningful way. On the other hand, HR is full of gray areas, conflicts, and constantly-changing laws and policies. In this article, we’ve selected the top 100 words of advice and encouragement out from the comments of 1000 HR professionals. They talk about how you can prepare for an HR career, what you should know as you navigate the workplace, why it’s important to be passionate and resilient, and much more.

Develop Skills, Gain Knowledge

Whether or not you have formal education in HR, this is a field that requires constant development. The world of work changes quickly, and it’s up to HR to stay on top of those changes. The good news? Others are happy to help you figure things out. Here are some of their tips.

1. Look for Opportunities to Learn

“Be curious and take ownership of your development. Only part of our learning is our day-to-day tasks and things that are part of the job. The rest comes from learning, reading, asking questions, and pushing outside of your comfort zone to gain new knowledge and experiences.” — Gwyn Purdue“Everyone’s path into the HR world can be different—you don’t have to go to a university and earn a degree in HR to work in that capacity. As long as you are willing to put in the individual work to learn and grow every single day, you can make your way to the top and help make a difference.” — Summer Ferguson“Join SHRM and subscribe for news updates. Subscribe to your local employment law firms. The law firms will often have free or inexpensive webinars, conferences, and emails updating you on employment law in your area. It is hard to keep track of everything, so subscribe to places that do it for you.” — Barbara Wallis“Become a vessel of knowledge! Learn from those around you and take on projects. There are so many areas of HR, and getting exposed to each of them will guide you as you progress in your career.” — Cynthia Ott“Be a sponge! Soak up as much as you can. The experience in this profession is the most valuable. Don't be afraid to ask "why" and do your own research! Lean into your empathy while keeping your HR brain up-to-date with employment laws, regulations and what is trending in your industry employment market.” — Justine Farr“Learn as much as you can. Not only from formal education and books, but from leadership and co-workers, newsletters, groups and networks.” — Elise DeWitt“Never stop learning. In human resources, our subject matter expertise comes from judgements, and that requires experience and intuition, as well as not being afraid to ask others for guidance when necessary.” — Mary Evans

2. Build Your Network

“Network!” — Michelle Graham“Align yourself with peers and mentors committed to sharing their knowledge with you, and take the opportunity to learn the basics in compliance for the area(s) which you will support and lead.” — Lori Forshey“As you enter your career in HR, network with others early and often. Through networking, you can connect with others in various industries to learn from them, seek a mentor to help you continuously grow and develop, and keep a pulse on what is going on not only in your industry but in the profession of HR.” — Angie Redmon“Ask those questions! HR professionals understand the importance of mentoring and are almost always willing to share information. Ask your network what they are up to, struggles and successes. For someone new, this helps give insight and exposure, and as you build your experience it turns into more of a brainstorming session.” — Samantha Kiper“Be persistent and always ready to skill up. Connect with a great mentor that can help you grow, provide feedback and be a sounding board.” — Lashonda Tillis“Find a mentor and build meaningful relationships. Mentoring is a wonderful give-and-take experience. You can learn new skills, strengthen existing skills, and obtain new knowledge while helping your mentor evolve their leadership capabilities.” — Richard Gettys“Join networks! Online and in-person HR communities where you can turn to for advice, resources, and moral support.” — Amanda Osburn

3. Get Experience and Education

“There are so many niches in HR, so you should search until you find your passion! Get really good at asking questions to those you look up to, and apply the principles that you love to your career. Do everything you can to get the experience, education and certifications early to propel yourself to the level of HR you desire to be at.” — Austin Morgan“Always be willing to put yourself out there. Apply for that job, volunteer for that special project, build a big network. All in all, just be hungry for growth and opportunity, and you will succeed.” — McKay Taylor“Obtaining a certification is the perfect way for aspiring HR professionals to distinguish themselves as experts in the field. All it takes is time, preparation and great resources to help you prepare for the exam.” — DeeDee Hendricks“HR has so many aspects, from labor relations, to recruiting, risk management, and personnel development. I would encourage individuals just starting out to explore career options, shadow an HR professional, gain experience through an internship, or conduct an informational interview.” — Kristina Cox“Join a community of professionals like yourself and gain as much knowledge as you can. HR is not something you can do alone.” — Wuloma Orike

Discover Your Own Path

The term “human resources” encompasses a multitude of different duties, tasks, and specialty areas. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, just remember that you have time to figure out which direction you want to go. Keep reading to see what seasoned HR leaders recommend.

1. Explore Many Different Areas of HR

“Don't be hyperfocused on one area of HR until you've been in a generalist role or have been able to try several different areas in the field. There are so many different paths of HR you can choose, which is the best part about it!” — Alexis Kessler“As you begin your career, remain open to different assignments and learning opportunities. Through these experiences, you will gain lots of valuable experience and will be able to hone in on the facets of HR that interest you most.” — Kisha Hill“Say yes to new opportunities to work across HR! Try it all. HR is so multi-faceted, and there are so many things you can learn. Spend time in each of the HR functions and see what lights your fire.” — Karlee Tauaese“HR is a wide pool with room for lots of different skills and interests, so don't be afraid to jump in. What other field lets you plan a party, give a training, file some paperwork, analyze some data, coach a manager, explain insurance plans, analyze salary ranges, and maintain multiple software, all in one day?” — Hayden Kroff“Start with general HR, and as you experience more and more you will see what areas you like the most/least. If you start too specific, you may miss out on an area that could be a true passion!” — Amelia Decker“I suggest you learn as much as you can about all facets of HR. If you can, take opportunities to work in various departments throughout your career to learn the ins and outs. It will only lead to growth and endless opportunities in the world of human resources.” — Danielle Kalauu

2. Pursue What You’re Passionate About

“Find your function! HR is full of many different functions, such as recruitment, benefits, payroll, etc. Ask yourself if you want a focused and specialized area or if you are open to a broad role that covers many different facets.” — Meghan Colburn“Find your purpose! It will change from time to time, but find your center and what you are passionate about and go after it. Ask yourself, what am I passionate about? What in HR excites me? Where are my HR strengths? What are my values? Those questions will help you determine your HR purpose.” — Brandon Buttars“Learn all of the different aspects of human resources and become well-rounded. Then, you want to pick your niche and what piece of human resources you love and have passion for and specialize in that area.” — Lynda Booth“HR can seem daunting, but find what you are passionate about in it! You're not there just to solve people's problems, but to protect them and create the best experiences possible.” — Katie Bahr“Go into an area that you can be passionate about. We know it's a job, that's why they pay us to be there, but find a way to enjoy it at the same time.” — Myron Carter

3. Get Comfortable With Discomfort

“Practice getting comfortable with being uncomfortable! HR is often called upon to make hard decisions and deliver hard news. How you do these things will set you apart in the HR world.” — Bob Coursey“Never lose your sense of curiosity, and step out of your comfort zone even if it's scary. When you can do both of these, the world opens up, opportunities open up, and discovery of knowledge, experiences, and people are endless.” — Lotus Buckner“Get comfortable with the gray. I had a hard time understanding that there is a ton of ‘gray’ in the world of HR when I first started, and embracing this will help you adapt!” — Amy Jones“Be eager and excited to go into the unknown. HR is a field where every day brings something new that is not on your ‘to do’ list. It is important to continually learn, be open, agile, have substantial stamina, and persevere day over day.” — David Pearson“Don’t be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone. In HR, you are constantly working on various kinds of projects (sometimes not directly related to HR), so it is important to show your willingness to work on any kind of project you are given.” — Tanner Pierce

Dive Into the Workforce

There’s not one right way to do HR—but there are strategies that can help you be more successful. Below you’ll find some of the most common recommendations.

1. Learn All You Can About the Company You Work For

“Being able to immerse yourself in different parts of the business is key. You need to know how your business operates in order to best support its people and functions. Be curious, ask questions and dive in!” — Phoebe Aalona“The best advice I was ever given was to learn the business you work for—who are your customers and competitors, what drives profit and performance, etc.—then apply your HR expertise to add value.” — Kathleen Walsh“Understand the business, purpose of the organization, people and culture thoroughly. Always be tough to handle pressure, criticism and self doubt smoothly.” — Urooj Ahmed“Emotional, relational, and business intelligence are more important now than ever before in today’s workforce and business environment. You have to understand people and the unique struggles they have. You must understand relationships and identify how to create them with the right people to get things done. You need to understand the business you support and how HR is adding value to it, and if it’s not … it’s your job to figure it out! Focus on these things, and the sky's the limit in the HR field.” — Wesley Calton“Your ability to have an impact will be positively correlated with your knowledge about both the company and the people who work there.” — Gil Cohen“For anyone starting in HR, I think the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about what is truly needed at your organization and how that relates to your role. This helps you know where to focus your efforts. You will also learn where you can challenge yourself or stretch into something you haven't done before.” — David Bard“Understand the goals of the leadership team, and align the mission of HR with the vision of the organization.” — Jessica Holsapple

2. Build Relationships and Collaborate

"Learning how to build relationships with your business partners and colleagues is key.” — Shalanda Holmes“Position yourself to learn as much as possible, and ask questions of others already in the HR job function. It’s a layered and evolving industry where we all benefit from collaboration.” — Nicole Vierthaler“Build relationships with everyone, not just the leadership team. Find ways to relate, as this will allow you to be seen as a real person by the employees.” — Alison Liley“Be approachable to everyone—not just management. You are the best resource to employees and the company when you build those relationships and genuinely care about making a difference. You can do that best when employees trust you to guide and navigate them through different positive and challenging career experiences.” — Jennifer Morris

3. Communicate How You Add Value

“Be results-oriented. Companies want to hire those who can get them results and achieve quantifiable goals. Market yourself as such and you will increase your value proposition.” — Chase Cragun“Find the main 1-3 problems your leaders and organization face, and then show them how HR strategies can solve them.” — Joe Nabrotzky“Forget about making a huge salary now; focus on building yourself as a brand. Your name should be the first to come up whenever managers and employees are looking for help.” — Immaculada Bela Slater“We all had to start somewhere! Be thoughtful about what you have to offer an organization, and be sure to communicate that effectively.” — April Leviere“Our priority is to serve people and add value to the organization by helping them achieve their goals.” — Blessing Ujawe

4. Approach HR From a Strategic Standpoint

“When you are an HR Professional you need to have knowledge and be strategic to make an impact in an organization; this requires focus and a long-term commitment. A simple suggestion to achieve this is to have a mindset of a startup owner. Be determined, passionate, a goal-setter, a hard worker and a hustler!” — Gus Gian“Focus your efforts on building relationships across the organization, identifying business problems, and creating innovative people-based solutions to those problems to add value. The bar is low since so many people have had bad experiences with HR, so you have a great opportunity to blow people away if you engage with them on strategy!” — Tyler Orr“HR is more than just the caretaker—we are the backbone of the system. Approach it with both the human and strategic mindset and you will excel in your role.” — Chinwe Egbuta

5. Pay Attention to the Data

“Make data-driven decisions and evaluate if your data aligns with your business goals frequently.” — Tatiyana Cure“Be careful of the 'one size fits all' approach to processes. HR professionals need to be agile in their application of methodology and ensure that what we're installing (be it a process, system, policy, etc.) aligns with the business and is further supported by data and metrics.” — Thomas Morselli“Data, metrics and analytics will be the key to sustaining business investment in HR practices!” — Jessica Humphrey

Grow as a Leader

Like many aspects of work (and life), human resources isn’t just about what you do—it’s about who you are. Developing strong leadership skills is an integral part of being good at HR. Here are a few things to consider.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up

“Speak up early. As a woman in HR, I learned to speak up. I didn't wait for an executive to ask my opinion. When I saw an opportunity to improve the business through a solid people-practice, I chimed in.” — Kendra Anthony“Always ask questions! Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know but can find out. And always think before speaking. A pause before you blurt out whatever first crosses your mind.” — Colleen Carmichael“Be brave! In order to become a good business partner, regardless of what level you're starting out at, you need to be brave enough to give your opinion and notify your team on things that need improvement or need to be addressed. Risk being wrong for the opportunity to learn and grow.” — Bethany Goldson“Don't be afraid to challenge how things are done around you. Just because someone says something should be done a certain way does not mean that that is right for you or the team. You should look to find ways to improve the world around you even if you feel like others might ‘know more.’” — Dylan Jensen“Be a disruptor. Challenge paradigms and conventional wisdom. Be a catalyst to ensure that HR has a strategic seat at the leadership table and ensure that all corporate strategy is aligned with HR and workforce planning strategy.” — Vic Clesceri

2. Remember to Listen First

“Be open to all opinions, and listen more than you speak.” — Jennifer Holiday“Don't underestimate the power of a listening ear. The relationships you make with employees will be incredibly valuable throughout your HR career, and listening can be one of the greatest assets in your toolbelt.” — Raelynn Randall“Employees that feel listened to and supported are more engaged and more productive. Sometimes, as an HR professional, the most helpful thing you can do is just to listen actively to employees, and then demonstrate that you've listened by taking action.” — Rosanna Campbell“Listen and learn. Listen to those in your field, listen to co-workers, listen to your inner self. Learn to listen with a closed mouth and open mind. Be fair and consistent with all of your decisions.” — Janet Cleland“Every person in your business has a voice and something to say. It is important to create a work environment that makes your employees not only feel comfortable and safe, but also heard.” — Nicole Bergen

3. Embrace Change

“Embrace change (and a little bit of chaos).” — Robin Schooling“Prepare for the unexpected. HR is an ever-changing, ever-evolving career. Always be willing to learn and go with the flow, and never forget where you come from.” — Devin McGrew“HR is an ever-changing and adapting industry. You will continuously run into scenarios and obstacles where you will need advice and expertise from those who have lived experience. Being able to link up with other professionals in the HR community is remarkably powerful.” — Trevor Osterhaus“Learn to find comfort with evolving, changing perspectives while you are able to maneuver changing viewpoints.” — Jim Hankins“HR is a wonderful world full of opportunities and complex scenarios. There are so many different areas that you can focus on and ways to gain experience! Don't limit yourself or feel like you need to fit into a box of ‘what HR is.’ It is ever-changing and can be a powerful role for individuals and organizations.” — Colleen Frislid“Learning to pivot is important. The process and outcome will probably not go quite the way you planned.” — Jeri Rosenberg

4. Be Transparent and Sincere

“Be transparent if you don't have an immediate answer. People respect and value someone that can say, ‘I don't know! Let me get back to you on that.’” — Sarah Hurt“Be your authentic self! Sincerity and transparency (when possible) are two of the most valuable aspects of HR.” — Benjamin Zander“One of the best things you can do to make an impact in HR is remaining visible and available to those you support. Work to build positive relationships with your managers and employees, and strive for transparency. In HR, we can’t always be as straightforward as we’d like, but being transparent when you can goes far in building trust.” — Preston Sharpston

5. Maintain Your Integrity and Values

“Get ready! This roller coaster will take you up, down, and all around. Just always put integrity first and never be afraid to stand up for the people you support and what you know is right.” — Katherine McCord“The most important thing a young professional can do is to identify your own personal values. Understand them, be consistent with them and live them every day. Find an organization that has company values that line up with what is important to you. This will help you to be happy and productive in your professional life.” — Mark Melby“Your values and personal sense of integrity will be tested. Make a commitment to yourself first, and your job/company second. Developing your values is a process, so listen to what your gut is telling you as you navigate your HR career, and use those moments to crystallize what you believe.” — Chris Rollins

6. Stay Flexible

“Be open to anything and all that you might be presented with. Human resources is not always writing policies or running detailed reports to analyze. At times it is scanning files and data entry. When you are faced with tasks that feel as though you are not ‘HR,’ remember everything is ‘HR.’ You are still serving your internal customers, and that is what we as HR professionals are in the business of doing.” — Nicole Little“Be open to everything! The best HR professionals are the ones that can add value to all the major areas of expertise within HR. Everything is connected; don't limit yourself to only gaining knowledge in one specific area.” — Brandon Poindexter“Be open to every opportunity along the journey, even if it doesn't look like the typical path. Many times those undefined roles lead to you being able to create future opportunities for yourself, as well as allow you to add to your skills and experiences tool chest in a very practical way.” — Halima McWilliams

Remember What Matters Most

None of the advice so far has said anything about HR being easy, and there’s a good reason for that. But although HR can be a difficult path, it’s also a rewarding one. One key theme in the HR Mavericks’ advice is that it’s important to stay focused on the impact you have, take care of yourself, and never give up.

1. Stay Excited About Your Career

“Always be confident in your ability to add value to the organization! Your fresh perspective and unique experiences can help you develop innovative ideas that the company needs. Determine what you are excited about in HR and work to develop new strengths and skills.” — Tommy Simon“Approach every day head on! It’s okay to feel like you are wearing multiple hats daily, or even hourly; that’s what we in HR do best! You will find yourself feeling like a therapist and a CEO all in a single day's work. It’s okay to feel a bit like you’re drinking from a fire hydrant when you first get started, but I promise, you’ll find your bearings and nothing will be more rewarding.” — Shalie Reich“Don't give up! HR, recruiting, and talent acquisition is not for the faint of heart. Always have a growth mindset and be open to learning, changing, and being better! And never forget the ‘human’ in human resources. We are dealing with living, breathing human beings, and we are their advocates!” — Alina Howell

2. Don’t Expect to Be Perfect

“Ask for feedback, and be open to mistakes. Mistakes can lead to excellent learning opportunities, which can help you hone your skills and grow as a professional.” — Riley Warren“Ask questions when you have them! No questions are wrong or stupid. Do not be afraid to ask for help.” — Kaylen Ali“Be prepared for the many times when you will feel unprepared or won't have the answers. This will be an ongoing challenge but will push you to find resources, often outside of your organization or current network. You will be challenged to be resourceful in ways you may not have been before.” — Alan Calderon

3. Take Care of Yourself, Too

“It's easy to get wrapped up in the work. No matter how busy your workdays are, your well-being needs to take priority.” — Marissa Szabo“Ask for help. It's okay to feel alone or burnt out in HR. Remember to take care of yourself. There's days where everything's on fire and we're too busy to listen to the advice we give employees and managers. Just know that it's okay to feel that way, and breathe. Remember that you are not your job.” — Charlotte Sandved“Make self-care a priority. The last couple years have been tough on everyone. As an HR professional, you will encounter hurting people. The burden is a heavy one. Make sure you prioritize your well-being and set a healthy balance between work and personal time.” — Michael Towers“While in HR you will be focused on the people, and that includes yourself. Take the time to practice self-care and seek for self-improvement in a wide range of skill sets.” — Benjamin Heaton“HR is hard and is very encompassing. It's challenging to balance your time and efforts, especially when you want to give your employees the best experience possible. But balance is key; don't stretch yourself too thin or it becomes difficult to manage all the moving pieces of HR.” — Kaitlyn McGowan

4. Remember the Impact You’re Making

“HR is a position with so much opportunity to do good. The best good you can do is to get to know the people around you and help them show up as their best self. This begins with your example.” — Ben Eden“I know that life is meant to be enjoyed, and the best way to experience that is through meaningful relationships with other people. So while processing paperwork, ensuring compliance, and performing other tedious tasks make up a lot of HR duties, don't forget that your biggest priority is investing in people and making sure others know you care about them.” — Geoff Kerns“Don't lose sight of the human element of our industry. We have the unique opportunity to impact human lives as we help hire, develop and grow them in their positions. We impact lives.” — Jeff Clark“Helping other people is the most rewarding aspect of HR. Once you fully understand where your focus is, every HR-oriented item becomes a pleasure to complete.” — Joe Walters“Any time you're at a crossroads, think about the people who will be impacted by a decision you're making. Focus on having conversations with people instead of about them, and include them in decisions that will impact their work lives.” — Sarah Park“Believe people come to you because they truly need the help, not just for the sake of complaining. Everyone has a battle of some sort, and work is only part of the equation. People remember how they feel after an interaction, and that is what they take with them into the workplace.” — Laurel Burke“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. Stay adaptable, be courageous, and always keep an open mind.” — Justin Bates

Want to Read More?

This article just contains the top 100 pieces of advice. If you'd like to check out the full list of 1,000 submissions, you can do that here.

Share Your Own HR Career Advice

Do you have advice for aspiring HR professionals? Join the HR Mavericks community to share it with the world! As a community member, your reach has the potential to extend beyond just advice—you can write HR Encyclopedia articles, join panel discussions, be featured on our weekly podcast, and contribute in other ways. If you’re just getting started in HR, you’ll be able to find answers to your questions and connect with others in the industry. Get started here!


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Agile HR
Employee Experience
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HR Education
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Human Capital Management (HCM)
Human Resource Management (HRM)
Human Resources (Intro to HR)
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