How To Break Through the Wall to Get In HR

A successful human resources career for most is not fast-tracked straight up the corporate ladder. In many cases, the HR career¬†path shifts in many directions (up, down, lateral, in, out and so forth).¬†Unfortunately, some¬†HR pros and hiring authorities simply do not understand this, as they only seek to hire the “perfect” candidate, the one that looks “perfect” on paper. You know the one that has¬†the “perfect” background.

They offer the job to the¬†candidate that took all the right steps. You know the one that made all the right choices in life and knows all the right things to say and do, for example, in the interview to get the job. ¬†At least that’s the way it seemed when I first started looking for my first HR gig. I faced enormous obstacles on my¬†journey to transition¬†into the HR field.

There will be obstacles in life.

While HR professionals, supervisors, and managers are taught to look for red flags, sometimes we¬†inadvertently weed out some of the better¬†applicants in the hiring process. Right now, too many people are underemployed. Some are still unemployed and trying hard to stay on a meaningful¬†career path, like Human Resources. In some situations, they’re homeless sleeping on the street under a bridge, on someone else’s¬†couch, or actually inside¬†of a motor vehicle.¬†Believe it or not, I actually read an article on¬†Business Insider a few week ago about a¬†Google employee that lives in a truck on the periphery the company’s parking lot.

Although Brandon is a well paid software engineer, he has been one of the many working homeless (a truck is not a home) for over eight months. Brandon asserts that “the truck lifestyle provides much more than financial freedom.” He chose to make sacrifices that some¬†folk probably would consider preposterous. How many people do you know that would live inside a 16-foot 2006 Ford¬†truck just to work at Google? Eat and shower at Google¬†because the truck does not have a kitchen or bathroom?¬†Nevertheless,¬†he’s ironed out a plan that he shared in the¬†article as well as on his blog, Thoughts from Inside the Box. He is¬†paying off student loan debt and trying to save 90% of his income instead of spending¬†it on an apartment. You got to do what you gotta do, to get where you want to be regardless of what the naysayers, critics, and haters think. This holds true regardless of field, profession, college major, industry,¬†etcetera.

‚ÄúPut your foot upon the neck of the fear of criticism by reaching a decision not to worry about what other people think, do, or say.‚ÄĚ – Napoleon Hill

Many struggle on the road to success. And meeting financial obligations is a major obstacle not only for the average job seekers, but also actors seeking their next role or to make it in Hollywood. In an interview with The Real‘s Loni Love, actor¬†Omari Hardwick from STARZ hit drama¬†Power shares his story about¬†how Denzel Washington¬†saved him from homelessness.¬†After working¬†odd jobs, doing a stint as a firefighter and shooting a defunct series with Spike Lee, Omari¬†was¬†jobless, homeless basically showering in a YMCA, and living in his car.

Despite the¬†obstacles he faced trying to make it in Hollywood, the struggling actor continued to work towards his dream. He didn’t give up. Having the right connections (people¬†and professional¬†network) made all the difference. Hardwick mentioned that¬†at one point he¬†was a¬†substitute teacher and basketball coach at Denzel’s son (John David Washington)¬†high school. Although he was a struggling actor, he did what he had to do (odd jobs) to get where he wanted to go (Hollywood actor). At one point, Hardwick¬†was about to loose his car and Pauletta, Denzel’s wife,¬†reached out to him and paid for his car so it would’t be¬†repossessed. He promptly repaid them as soon as he got back on his feet.

‚ÄúFailure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.‚Ä̬†‚Äď Napoleon Hill


While we don’t know everything¬†about their road to success, as HR professionals we can certainly learn from both¬†of them. ¬†They broke through a wall (a barrier or obstruction) to get where they are today. Like Brandon, I had to do the unthinkable: make sacrifices in¬†my lifestyle and living arrangements, for example, just to land my first HR gig.¬†It was definitely a humbling experience. Like Hardwick, I had to learn to¬†except help from my close friends, family, acquaintances, and sometimes complete strangers despite¬†how I thought it made me look. At least, that’s my concise¬†candy-coated version of the¬†story.

We learn to do what we can, until we can do better. You see, when I chose to change career paths, I didn’t realize¬†all the challenges that I would face just to break into the field. Although I had¬†a master of business in administration with a concentration in human resources management degree as well as a¬†bachelor¬†in¬†organizational management plus¬†a¬†computer information systems technical certificate coupled with several years of transferable experience, transitioning¬†to HR was hard as heck to do. Ultimately, I had to decide what I was willing to risk.

Dare to Dream…

I strategically¬†stepped up my game. I stepped outside of my comfort zone. I¬†did the “unthinkable”, ¬†too many things that I thought I could never do. ¬†Moreover, I did not realize how much I would have to sacrifice not only to get my first HR gig, but also to keep it.¬†While there were several helpful HR folk, some weren’t. Some intentionally tried to make it difficult. Why? I simply do not understand.¬†It seemed like some¬†were too territorial: not playing nice in the HR sandbox.¬†Considering everything I invested, I had¬†no other choice but to make it happen. I had to break¬†through¬†the wall to get into HR.

Break Through the Wall to Get into HR

To this end, after being overlooked for many positions throughout my career, that I knew I could do, it felt good to finally earned my shot. In the past, I also worked a string of odd jobs, had a few side hustles (my own small business), volunteered for several nonprofits, and studied like crazy while finishing my degrees. Nonetheless, my first HR opportunity gave me a chance to put my knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to good use, not only in human resources, but also in my community and do meaningful work.

The world of HR is very complex. Some gatekeepers will not allow¬†just anyone to enter¬†the game. Therefore, do what you gotta do to get where you want to be in HR.¬†Break through the wall! Network, join professional organizations, follow professional blogs and magazines, get certified, step outside your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to reach out to more than just “likeminded” HR professionals (people in your field). ¬†Ask people how they got the start. You should ask this question even in the interview. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from the successful.¬†I¬†learned from many of them that you have to not only earn it, but work hard to keep it. Therefore, always Be prepared. Stay on top of your game.¬†Be¬†encouraged. And never give up!

Until next time…

Keep it¬†ūüíĮ



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