Beth Harris: Transitioning into a Human Resource Career

Human resources could be one of the most sought after careers by professionals and new graduates.  According to the Province of BC Labor Market Indicator statistics, the Human Resource field has excellent levels for projected unemployment rates (lowest 20%) and above-average levels of employment size and job openings (60-80%). As HR professionals, we know that the Human Resources profession demands many skills and abilities, combined with ongoing development of knowledge. Many new HR professionals come from universities and colleges, but many will also transition into the profession with tenured work experience from various backgrounds.

One such example is Beth Harris, a BC HRMA member who decided to change careers from social work to human resources two years ago.

Where were you five years ago and where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I have been working in the field of social work for the past eight years, primarily working with families involved with The Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD), child protection.  I worked with both community and government agencies in minimizing risk for children and families.  I started at Camosun College two years ago in the Advanced Diploma Human Resource Management program. This summer I completed a work term with Agropur (Island Farms), working with recruitment, HRIS, new employee orientation and wellness programs. I graduate from Camosun College in December 2011 and I am anxiously waiting for my National Knowledge Exam (NKE) results.

I am focused on working towards a management level position in human resources within the next five years. I would like to work in generalist roles at first, but I am also very interested in specializing in areas of labour relations and leadership.

Why did you choose the field of Human Resources?
Choosing human resources appeared to be a natural career change. The professional skills that I developed in my 10 year social work career are very similar to those required in HR. I wanted to apply my skills and abilities in a different forum; I craved professional challenge and to have the opportunity to advance in my career. I believe HR is the up-and-coming area in business and I am eager to be a part of it.

How do you see your former career in Social Work helping you in your HR career?
The tacit knowledge that I developed over the last 10 years is invaluable. Working with highly-confidential information, high ethical standards, interpersonal skills, communications and conflict resolution skills will easily be transferred into my HR practice. The combination of the knowledge from my diploma program and my former career gives me a solid base for succeeding in the human resource field.

Please tell me about your experience in the Camosun College Advanced Diploma program.
The advanced diploma covers all of the Required Professional Competencies (RPCs) that are involved in the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation examinations. Classes are interactively taught using current trends and HR practices. The instructors are all exceptional and are currently connected to the HR business world through BC HRMA or working directly in the HR field.

I have had a wonderful experience that included learning the required knowledge of the program as well as networking tools with HR professionals. I developed professional relationships that I know will continue well into my HR career.

What do you see as the main challenge of transitioning into the human resource field?
I think the economic climate has had a great impact on the competitive climate of the business field, making it much harder to have a smooth transition. Because I am transitioning as a professional, I will need to work harder to show my transferrable skills and convince my prospective employers of the competitive advantage I will add to their business. Networking and participating in BC HRMA events helps to connect with HR professionals and I believe this will help in my transition.

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