To be honest, I didn’t do lots of extensive research into the field of human resources before transitioning into that “world” from a career as a labor and employment lawyer.  All I knew is that I wanted to stop litigating and begin focusing on proactive and collaborative problem-solving. Friends told me, “you’re a people person – try human resources,” and I said, “Sure, that sounds good!” Though I love the field of human resources, I’m not sure I’d recommend my method for choosing a career. So – for those of you who like to think a bit more strategically about planning your future, here is some basic information about a career in human resources.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Human Resource Management (HRM) “describe(s) a set of tasks aimed at effectively managing an organization’s employees, commonly known as its human resources or human capital.” You’re not only managing employees while working in Human Resources (HR), but also serving as a critical bridge between an organization’s management and employees. You may be overseeing recruitment, responding to issues raised by employees, or serving as an advisor to management (or all three – and more!).   

Please also know that a career in HR is by no means limited to the duties above. Whether you’re planning on working as an HR generalist or specialist, here are a few different employment options to get your career started.


Human Resources Generalist:

If you decide to work as an HR generalist, you will aid an organization in a variety of ways. You may be handling staffing, training employees, developing employee policies, and ensuring that the workplace is complying with laws and regulations.  If you like being involved in a broad (i.e., generalized) range of human resource functions, an HR generalist position might be right for you.

Human Resources Specialist:

Many large organizations offer specialized HR positions (either in addition to or as an alternative to “generalist” positions). According to SHRM, this is because “Larger organizations require specialists with technical knowledge and skills in specific areas of human resource management.”(That makes sense!). Working as a specialist is a great way to develop a specific skill set. Below are just a few HR specialist options:

  • Employee and Labor Relations – Specialists in this area work to manage employment policies and procedures in both unionized and non-unionized environments.   You may be investigating and responding to union grievances, looking into employee complaints, and helping to interpret and enforce the provisions of labor contracts.
  • Recruiting or Staffing – This title basically explains itself. You will be involved in developing strategies for recruiting, interviewing and hiring employees that are a good fit for the job and the organization you work for,
  • Compensation and Benefits – Specializing in compensation and benefits involves responsibilities such as analyzing your organization’s payment structure. You may also research whether your organization’s compensation and benefits are consistent with those of other organizations in the same industry, as well as internally equitable.   
  • Employee Onboarding and Development – Working in HR development gives you the opportunity to become involved in various aspects of employee training. You will help new employees get off to a great start and assist current employees in developing new skills.

I hope this brief summary gives you an idea of the breadth and depth of HR. Regardless of the career path you choose in this field, it’s crucial to have great interpersonal skills and a passion to work with employees to resolve work-related concerns. The great thing about HR is that there are so many options and, I can promise you, there’s never a dull moment!