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Education vs Experience: what’s the best start for HR?

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HC Online | 28 Aug 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
Why are young HR graduates struggling to find work in the industry? Are they unprepared, or are HR recruiters still valuing experience over education?
  • Michael Boehm | 28 Aug 2013, 03:52 PM Agree 0
    There are not many things that can be recited out of a text book without the listener rolling their eyes in dismay at the presumption with which the utterance is made. Aspects of HR may be one of those and therefore a likely reason for the difficulty in being placed.
  • Joyce Crane | 28 Aug 2013, 04:23 PM Agree 0
    I started looking for work when I still had 2 semesters' worth to complete on my Master's degree in HRM. I was fortunate to eventually land a generalist HR role which began as part-time and then became a full-time role after a few months.

    One thing that became very obvious to me very quickly is that experience is paramount. Even if your course teaches the practical side, there are simply some things that you cannot learn or understand until you have dealt with them yourself in the workplace, particularly when it comes to the employee relations side of things. It's difficult to teach how an employee relations issue will unfold in a workplace at large; it needs to be experienced to fully grasp it.

    A degree can certainly help you, but it isn't everything. I'd only consider a new HR grad with no HR experience if it was an entry-level role, especially if they did not have previous relevant experience in whatever industry the company was in.
  • Kim | 28 Aug 2013, 05:11 PM Agree 0
    I'm looking for someone who I think can do the job well, including how they might fit into the team and wider organisation. I don't care whether that comes from formal qualifications, experience, or aptitude.
  • HC | 29 Aug 2013, 10:12 AM Agree 0
    I was knocked back from a grad role because my degree (Psyc) wasn't relevant for HR, despite having two years experience in HR while finishing my degree. I then jumped into a quite a low Payroll position, then into recruitment and now into a generalist position. Two years after being knocked back I managed to get into a higher postion than I would have otherwise been in.

    On the way I worked with some grads, and they knew nothing about how to interact with people, negotiation, handling issues to reach a mutual outcome, etc. It was painfull to say the least.

    What struck me though was the way the organisation valued their grads so much, but while they were constantly told how valuable they were, they didn't yet have the skills to contribute to the organisation. So you had this disconnect between what they were told and what they did. The result was many of them leaving the organisation.

    A finaly note, while it is easy to blame the HR Grads, I experienced (and saw the grads experience) a lot of push back against new ideas. Like all innovation, it needs to be channelled to the right areas and good, clear bounties put in place. Otherwise it becomes a motivation killer. Giving someone ownership of a task is good, but authorship is better. Define that scope and Gen Ys will become an asset. Leave them to find the issues themselves and you will get them overstepping their role and causing a backlash.
  • JR | 29 Aug 2013, 03:52 PM Agree 0
    Doesn't matter if you get a grad or someone with HR experience. If they can't understand how HR links to the business strategy - and I don't mean reciting concepts out of a text book, rather being able to assist and develop HR strategies to align with the overall business strategy. If they can't understand this, forget it. You'll only get yourself a HR employee with compliance experience.
  • Marg | 29 Aug 2013, 04:10 PM Agree 0
    After 7 years of HR experience at an Administrator level, I recently had to change careers because I couldn't find work. My contract finished and I was applying for a whole range of roles from Administrator to Consultant level and couldn't even get an interview!

    I was told my experience wasn't enough and I needed a degree, of which, I was 18 months into studying. I have now deferred and work in Admin with some HR aspects, but I know I'll never be able to get my foot back into the HR career door. Very disappointing.
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