There are many general skills that will benefit you in any sector that you choose to work in, but we have highlighted some that are especially important to a career in Human Resources.
- being Thick-skinned
- Problem solving
- being “good with people”
- Planning and cohesion
- Inter-personal skills
- Time management
- Active listening
You get to speak to new people on a daily basis, and creating and maintaining those relationships is so enjoyable. The sector is very fast paced, so it's a mixture of hard work as well as lots of fun and laughs, and every day is different.
Lily Francis, Senior Resourcer for ReThink Recruitment
The Human Resources industry is extremely varied and fast paced, so there are many different areas in which to focus your career.
Below is some information about the specialisms that are available within HR. You can click on each one to learn more about them.
Recruitment is the foundation of the Human Resources sector, as it involves the initial hiring of talent to companies.
It is the main work in recruitment agencies, but roles also exist to attract and hire the best individuals to a specific company the recruiter works for.
The role is often very varied, as it can involve working from an office, attending and organising recruitment events, and liasing with companies and prospective employees to ensure that the right people are being recruited.
Work in recruitment is very rewarding, as you can see people you hand picked for a role do well in the industry, and follow them through their career and other roles in the future.
Human Resources roles can also include working in the Training & Development of exisiting talent within a company. These roles are designed to ensure that those working for the company are boosted from new starters through their career paths in the company in order to fulfill senior positions in the future.
The work involves liasing with employees in order to understand their skills and where they might require additional training or help, organising their development, and implementing the changes in order to benefit the individual as well as the company itself.
Being able to see employees gain in confidence, learn new skills, and progress within the company is often cited as being hugely rewarding for those working in Training & Development.
Companies may employ individuals to work in recruitment who have a specialism in Employment Law. This is hugely important to the role that HR plays within the company, as they must ensure they are up to date and meeting employment regulations at all times.
This role can involve re-writing company policy when law changes so that the company is still in compliance, as well as dealing with any legal issues that current employees have with the company.
These roles will most likely require specialist legal training and a relevant degree.
Those working in Compensation & Benefits are responsible for managing the salaries and bonuses that employees receive from a company.
This is most important in terms of ensuring that employees are not lost to competitors due to pay being unequal between the companies, so making sure that pay is competitive and true to current market value is essential.
Employee Relations deals with problems that arise between a company and its employees. The role is there to faciltate meetings and try to work through and solve issues with the employee, and so those working in this area will need to have strong inter-personal skills and a good sense of perspective.
This is central to the benefit of the business, as the more motivated and comfortable employees are the more they can deliver for the company they work for. Therefore, those working in Employee Relations provide a vital service of ensuring that talent is not lost due to employee/employer issues.
Training & qualifications
There are a variety of opportunities for gaining additional qualifications and training that will aid you in seeking employment in Human Resources.
Open the drop down menus below to find out more about some of the options.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) are a professional body for HR and people development. They focus on ensuring that HR professionals can fulfill their potential and champion better work and working lives.
They do this through expertise and research, as well as running many professional courses in HR related skills.
Their courses are internationally recognised, and are designed to develop relevant and essential knowledge and skills. They increase your earning potential and career prospects, as well as offering a route into the support that memership of the CIPD affords.
Courses are split into Advanced, Intermediate and Foundation level. Advanced level is a post-graduate level qualification, and Intermediate is an undergraduate level qualification, while Foundation is at the level of school leavers.
There are a huge varity of qualifications available and many ways open to study them, so it is worth taking a look at the CIPD website where there is information on courses available here.
The Civil Service Fast Stream offers a specialist Human Resources pathway for graduates. The HR pathway is 3 years long, and is available UK-wide.
It is an accelerated development programme designed to give graduates the skills they need to be the future leaders of the Civil Service. It also includes CIPD accreditation on their Post Graduate Diploma in HR Management.
The application process for all Civil Service Fast Streams is hugely competitive and quite long, but you shouldn't let this put you off if you feel you have the skills necessary. It involves a set of online tests, a video interview, an assessment centre in which your core competencies are tested, and a final interview. For more information, please see the Fast Stream FAQ.
Your choice of modules during your degree is an excellent opportunity to build specific skills and knowledge that will aid you in your career path.
Many of the modules on offer in the College of Social Sciences and International Studies will give you valuable team work, writing and critical problem solving skills, but there is not a specific set of modules that are particularly relevant to Human Resources. It is best to focus on studying what you enjoy and find interesting in order to get more out of the modules.
You may also like to consider taking SSI2001 - Learning from Work Experience in the Social Sciences, as this can give you the opportunity to develop additional experience and skills through a practical work placement.
Internships are extremely relevant to the Human Resources sector, and afford you an opportunity to get ahead in a competitive job market. Many find that undertaking an internship while studying or during holidays gives them invaluable skills for their CV, and also gets a foot in the door with companies that may then consider hiring as a result of their perfomance during an internship.
There are paid and un-paid opportunities within the HR sector, and your choice of company to intern for should be based on what area of HR you find most interesting, as well as ideally with a company that you are interested in or share an ethos with.
Having an understanding of the practicalities of an HR role is hugely beneficial when it comes to applying for graduate level jobs.
A postgraduate qualification is not necessary for many roles within Human Resources, but it can provide specialist knowledge and skills that will be beneficial during a job search.
Qualifications in Human Resource Management are common, and many companies send their HR employees on such courses in order to develop them during the role, but this may also be something you consider doing before you begin your career.
You could apply for a human resources management degree or have a combined degree such as business management and human resources.
If you're interested in studying a Masters course, the business school here at the university runs an MSc/PgDip in Human Resource Management which you can study full time for 1 year. It is held on the Streatham Campus and starts in September of each year. For more information see the university website.
There are also acredited qualifications available through the CIPD, and the Advanced level of their courses is designed to be at the level of a postgraduate qualification. You can find more information about their study options in their website here.
Extra-curricular activities are hugely important to any job search, and can really make you stand out in comparison to other graduates.
There are many opportunities to gain extra experience during your time at university, but below are some examples of things you could consider.
We have split this into Student's Guild opportunities and Volunteering, and have highlighted some of the options that are most relevant to HR. This is by no means an exaustive list, so if you have something specific in mind you can do your own research on the Guild website or online.
Joining societies and getting involved with the Students' Guild activities is a fantastic opportunity to gain experience for your CV and show your dedication to your chosen field or career path.
Below is a list of some Societies or student groups that you might consider joining in order to give your skill set a boost and make yourself stand out from the crowd.
- Raise and Give (RAG) – fundraising, volunteering.
- Politics Society – interest in politics and world affairs, the society aims to increase knowledge, interest and participation in politics – guest speakers, careers, networking events, socials, The Witness politics journal.
- Debating Society - tackles current issues, raises awareness, debating skills workshops.
- Bright Futures Society – student-led society focused on helping to maximise your employability skills through year-round collaboration with industry.
You can develop skills in any of the societies, so take a look at the full lists of societies and choose some that are relevant to your interests. Committee positions in any society will show valuable skills such as team work, organisation and inter-personal skils.
Volunteering is another opportunity to show your dedication to communities and personal development, as well as gain valuable skills and experience.
There are many projects run by the Exeter Student Volunteering (ESV) part of the Guild, and there are also many other opportunities around campus, so you will certainly be able to find something you’re interested in that will also benefit you.
- Worldwide volunteering – database of volunteering opportunities from across the globe.
- Exeter Council for Voluntary Services – resources about local volunteering opportunities.
- Exeter Nightline – communication skills, volunteering to keep people safe and be aware of social issues.
- University Welcome Team – moves students into their halls, answers questions, provides information and makes sure students are safe.
- Sports – resilience, endurance, confidence in self.
- Amnesty International Society – events, campaigns, working with and for other people.
- Be the Change Society – make a difference and bring about change both in the local area and internationally – 5 ongoing projects – social issues.
- Student Ambassador Scheme – huge range of skills, job.
- ESV – have a huge variety of different volunteering opportunities.
Lily Francis, Recruitment Agency
Watch our interview with Lily Francis, a graduate in Sociology who now works as a Senior Resourcer with ReThink Recruitment.
We ask her about:
- Her career path so far;
- What Recruitment is and what she enjoys about it;
- A description of some of her daily tasks;
- How the skills from her degree equipped her for a Recruitment role;
- What tips she would give to students hoping to work in Recruitment in the future.
My Career Zone
Below, you can find feeds of the current jobs, events and mentors available through The Career Zone that are relevant to the Human Resources sector.
Click on any of the links to be taken to the specific page.