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Human Resources 101: An Overview

Human Resources 101: An Overview

Get an overview of human resources in "human resources 101."

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson

June 03, 2008

There is more to human resources than recruiting the hottest talent. In fact, this field offers many varied career paths, and the one you choose should depend on your interests. Learn what’s available before you settle on a direction.

HR Generalist

Are you the kind of person who likes to do a little of this and some of that? Then the role of HR generalist might be right for you.

HR generalists wear many different hats. One minute you may be negotiating your company’s employee benefits package, and the next, you’re interviewing a candidate for a director-level position. To help determine if this is the right job for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I enjoy changing gears on a moment’s notice?

Am I open to learning about areas in which I currently have no expertise?

Am I comfortable leaving a project unfinished to handle emergency situations?

Do I consider myself fairly flexible?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you’d probably be very happy in a generalist role. Consider contacting people in this field to learn what skills you need to get started.

Find HR generalist positions.

Compensation Professional

Compensation professionals always seem to be in demand, regardless of what’s happening in the economy, and there always seems to be a shortage of well-qualified people in this area. The job requires strong technical skills as well as good people skills — a rare combination.

Compensation professionals design reward systems that help companies attract, retain and motivate their employees. This work requires number crunching and creativity. Because compensation packages are not one-size-fits-all products, people in this area need to think outside the box and be able to perform a little magic when both candidates and money are scarce. Consider the following questions:

Am I a detail-oriented person?

Do I have an aptitude for numbers?

Am I comfortable seeing other people’s salaries?

Answering “yes” to these questions may mean you are one of the lucky few with a talent for working with people and numbers. This combination could add up to a winning career in an area where talent is sparse.

Find compensation professional positions.

HRIS Professional

Another area of HR without enough talent to meet demand is Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS).

Technology has become a key part of HR as companies look at ways to function more efficiently. HRIS products help them manage one of their most important assets — their personnel.

As HRIS systems have become more sophisticated, the demand for experienced professionals in this area has risen. HRIS professionals are often involved in product selection, systems customization, implementation and ongoing administration. If you are extremely detail-oriented and enjoy working with computers, this might be the job for you. Ask yourself the following:

Are my PC skills strong enough to be successful in this area? Am I comfortable working at a computer most of the day? Am I well organized? Am I detail-oriented enough to handle this position?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then consider this career in HR. The long-term prospects are quite rosy in spite of the economy’s ups and downs.


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