Choose the B-School Wisely
For those of you wanting to pursue a career in human resource management or HRM, this article is intended to give some guidance and tips on how to succeed in the field. First, if you want to become an HR professional, choose your institute wisely. This means that when you want to be a HR professional, your choice of the MBA Institute matters a lot. For instance, in the US, there are many top notch B-Schools that offer dedicated courses in HRM. To be accepted in one of them, you need to first narrow down the B-Schools that offer the HR program and then apply accordingly. Some of the B-Schools that are good for pursuing HR programs are also in the top fifty for general MBA courses. Further, when you are applying to these programs, make sure that you buttress your application and the SOP or Statement of Purpose with enough details about your people management skills. Ideally, your SOP should not be too flowery or idealistic in the sense that you should not make sweeping statements about your skills and abilities. On the contrary, stick to the facts and include relevant details about your experience in managing people.
Summer Internships and Placement Strategies
In other parts of the world, B-Schools like INSEAD, Asian Institute of Management in Manila, XLRI in India, the Business School attached to the London School of Economics; Universities in Singapore are good bets for pursuing a dedicated program in HR. Next, once you have entered the MBA program with specialization in HR, try and get a summer internship in a premium organization that has cutting edge HR policies. Often, many MBA students opt for summer internships in well established and well known multinationals so that they can get PPOs or Pre-Placement Offers that obviate the need for fighting it out in the final placement sessions. Of course, if you feel that you are going to get a PPO, then you can opt for summer internship in the established companies. However, if you feel otherwise, then it is best to try out middle tier and startups where the HR staff is in the process of designing HR policies. Getting into these companies would give you the benefit of working directly with HR policy formulation and understanding the nuts and bolts of how HR professionals work.
Stepping into the Real World
The next phase is when you are actually recruited as an HR professional in a company. Once you are in any company that hires you, you need to remember that you are not straightaway given responsibilities but are instead asked to apprentice with the senior staff. Hence, do not be disappointed if you are a bystander in meetings and other sessions where sometimes you have to be a water carrier (both literally and metaphorically). This is because most companies work on the assumption that while the MBA course would have given you theoretical insights, real world experience is best gained by observation and practice. You must use this time to gain, as much exposure as possible and without being a smart Alec must contribute to the organization in whatever way they deem and whichever way you can. What this means is that you must utilize all opportunities to make your presence felt without overstepping your boundaries.
Talking about boundaries, one of the most important skills that HR professionals can have is to respect the boundaries (physical and mental) between people. Indeed, we can say that the differentiating factor that determines success or otherwise of HR professionals is to know the difference between what is personal and what is professional. This would be covered in detail in subsequent articles. It would suffice to state here that this aspect is representative of the skills and abilities that you must learn while playing second fiddle to your boss. Finally, once you are given responsibilities of your own, it is time to put your theoretical knowledge and practical exposure to work. A parting word of advice is that do not be too eager to show off your theoretical knowledge in your interactions as most companies value insights over theory and experience and expertise over textbook knowledge.