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What is the graduate experience like in human resources?

Team Prosple

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Human resources (HR) is all about people. After all, without people, most organisations wouldn’t survive, let alone thrive.

HR seeks to unlock the full potential of an organisation’s people and translate this into financial performance and market value. What this really means is creating a workplace where people are engaged, passionate and valued.

HR’s responsibilities are twofold – they must look after the needs of an organisation and its people. HR provides an employee with career advice and guidance and at times, may be required to help resolve a dispute or conflict. At the same time, HR helps an organisation cultivate a desirable workplace culture by making sure the right people are in the right job and advising on specific workplace issues such as enterprise agreements or remuneration. HR can also extend to broader issues such as workplace health and safety. During restructures, HR is involved by helping people understand what’s happening and its potential impact.

What is the graduate experience like in human resources?

Most larger corporations such as the Big Four banks offer structured graduate programs, where you experience a mix of rotations within the HR function.

It’s important to note that there is no standardised organisational ‘breakdown’ of HR. Some organisations allocate an HR team to a business unit to meet specific needs, whereas others organise HR by type of responsibility, such as learning and development or recruitment. Regardless, you will find most HR work is hands-on and you will interact with people on a regular basis.

On rotation, you will experience a diverse range of HR projects. For example, you may help at a higher level by designing and executing an overall HR strategy. This may include surveying employees for workplace satisfaction and applying feedback or designing an onboarding program for new employees.

As a graduate, you may help to organise and eventually facilitate workshops to upskill management or educate employees, for example, about anti-bullying measures. You may also be involved in screening candidates as part of the recruitment process, hosting assessment centres or developing websites and social media strategies.

What are your career prospects in human resources?

Once you complete your graduate rotation, you can choose to specialise within a specific area. As indicated previously, the way HR is structured differs according to the organisation, so this may mean anything from recruitment to HR analytics to health, safety and wellbeing.

If the organisation is large, you may find that specialisations are more ‘niche’. For example, you may be part of the learning and development team, which means your focus is primarily on designing and delivering relevant training materials. In smaller organisations, particularly at startups, HR professionals may wear ‘many hats’ and perform a variety of tasks.

The decision to specialise is a personal preference and you may find you enjoy some HR aspects more than others. In your decision, you should consider what type and size of organisation you would like to work for in the long-term.

An alternative to in-house is to become an HR consultant, for example, by joining a recruitment agency or specialist consultancy. Recruitment agencies typically prefer experienced professionals so it is best to get a couple years’ experience first.

Most of the Big Four accounting firms offer ‘people and culture’ services and recruit from a graduate-level, so this may be worth exploring if you are interested in professional services compared to in-house.

Choose this if you have:

  • A love of people and building relationships.
  • Excellent communication and negotiation skills.
  • Ability to identify creative solutions and drive change.

For more insight into graduate careers in human resources, visit our HR advice page here.