We all have dreams of careers as kids. Going through high school, the biggest question posed at me was: “What will you be studying at university?” My dreams for a career started with wanting to be a Doctor or a Lawyer. Yes, far-fetched, bold and typical, I know. However, in those days, not so long ago, the world for myself was limited and the ambitions were not only my own. After careful consideration, my mind would wonder as to why I wanted those professions and I would think of alternatives. I couldn’t see myself in those roles and I hadn’t hit the mark of what I would want to spend my lifetime doing. The options that came up were always people focused and related to problem-solving. I put these requirements together and after much defiance, made a stand to study Human Resource Management. I also decided to make my life harder and add Psychology into the mix. Little did I know at that stage, that deciding a course for Uni was only a trivial portion of the puzzle.
My biggest regret during my first two years of uni was not taking the time to develop myself. During my third year, I realised that attending lectures, getting good grades, holding a casual job and joining societies was only going to get me so far. I had to do more. A question always held me back though: “Being only halfway through my degree, what could I possibly have to offer?” Despite this, I decided to take on internships and mentorships. In hindsight this gave me an advantage with an “in” into the industry. I had a clear idea as to what I would do after I graduated. I would join an internal HR team at an entry-level and climb that career ladder. That did not go to plan, and I couldn’t be happier that it didn’t.
Getting into an HR Consultancy firm has been more than just a massive learning curve for me. It has opened my eyes to industries, thought-processes and more importantly, has allowed me to be a people-focused problem solver. Being a consultant who is 6 months into a role that I only came across due to pure luck, I would like to give four humble tips that would contribute towards developing yourself to a rewarding career in HR (or anything else, for the matter). So, here’s my two cents:
- Keep your mind open and your options broad
I am a planner and an over-thinker, so having a solid timeline in my head has always helped me and given me comfort. However, it is important to have flexibility. The roles you could take on within HR are broad and many. Don’t make it a point to jump on the band-wagon. Keep a couple of options up your sleeve. I never dreamt of getting into consulting, but having experienced it, I won’t be turning back.
- Read, Develop, Grow
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and the lecture notes. Keep some time to read and develop yourself. Sign up for a daily news update, read the papers, browse on the bus; whatever works for you. It is important to keep close to industry before you get into it, and more so once you’re in it. Make it a habit and you will find your mind growing.
- Network, Network, and Network
Networking was initially very intimidating as a student. Once you find the courage you will soon fall into the swing of things. Sign up for events, get on Meetup and get talking with some like-minded people or industry professionals. “What can I possibly talk about?”, you might ask. Here’s where that reading comes in handy. Even if you’ve missed out on the news, people still love to hear a story. Your story. Being at university, it allowed me to grow my professionalism and get a sneak peek into the corporate world. It’s something I still get around to.
- Rely on yourself to get ahead
You get spoon fed at school and then at uni and it’s easy to stick to it. It was an eye-opener for me to make active choices to rely on myself and go beyond it. I took on a personal initiative to get mentored and do two internships while I was at uni. It benefited me more than I could have imagined. You need to rely on yourself and make it a habit to make the change and develop yourself. Back and challenge yourself. At the end of the day you might even be pleasantly surprised of your capabilities.
So there you are, my tips for you, as a graduate in HR. I am lucky enough to have started my career with a company and a group of amazing people who are more than a pleasure to work with.
Most of us probably have an interesting story about our study choices, or lack thereof. What is more interesting though is the path our career takes thereafter.
These tips aren’t just for uni. It’s a continuous cycle. No matter the career, industry or workplace that you are in, take the time to grow. If you want to grow your career, let us know. If you need support in developing the amazing people around you, reach out.
I’m curious to know. What has your path been so far? What advice would you give to your younger self and the soon to be graduated out there?
Chaanya Fernando – Consultant