“How can I transition from being a specialist to being an HR generalist?”

As a recruiter in the human resources field, I’m frequently asked this question. One of the great aspects of HR is that it contains so many different and interesting components, from employee relations to total rewards to talent acquisition. It’s not uncommon for people coming into the field through a specialized area like recruiting to want to learn more about the other parts of this discipline.

How to Transition to HR After Being a Recruiter

In order to successfully transition to an HR generalist role, you’ll need to strengthen your work experience and broaden your skill set to make yourself more marketable. I always recommend three steps to candidates looking to go through this process:

Taking the initiative

Anytime someone is looking to move into a new field, my first recommendation is that they ask for “stretch assignments” or side projects. For example, you can start by asking to help out with payroll or performance reviews. These assignments serve two purposes. First, they will help you network with your HR team which could lead to a permanent position. Second, they can help pad out your resume for your next role.

Bigger is better

Larger organizations can make for an easier transition since these companies are better set up to allow for flexible assignments and internal mobility. Large teams with multiple layers of management are better equipped to take on less experienced members and train them up with the help of more senior team members. If you’re currently working at a company with a one-man HR team or at a specialized recruiting agency, you may need to look for a new role at a larger company. Accepting a role as a talent recruitment specialist is an intermediary step that will ultimately help you transition to a more generalist role at that company.

When you’re vetting a prospective employer, consider their track record for internal mobility and employee career growth. You can find this out by networking with HR professionals in your area and by scanning through reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com. You can also ask about opportunities for internal advancement or lateral shifts during the interview. While you don’t want to tell the hiring manager outright that you want to transition to a new role immediately, you can mention that you’re interested in expanding your skill set or taking on new challenges.

Get certified and network

Obtaining an HR certification signals to prospective employers that you’re serious about broadening your skill set. Organizations like the Human Resources Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management offer accreditation programs that carry a lot of weight in the industry. Obtaining one of these certifications will help you to master the core competencies of HR generalist work and open up new networking opportunities with other HR professionals – two keys to landing your next role. Joining these groups can also allow you to network with other HR professionals in the market and learn about new opportunities with companies that offer the growth opportunities that will allow you to make your career transition.

HR is one of the most varied and rewarding careers out there, and the transition from a specialist to HR generalist is not as difficult as it may seem. With the right preparation, there’s no reason you can’t successfully make the move.


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