Things You Might Not Learn In College

Well, at least about HR.

College is all about the years you have fun and learn just enough to land a job. The problem is, just enough, isn’t the best information. There a lot of Young Professionals in every profession who have to learn as they go, about way too many basic functions of our field. For the amount of student debt we collect, we should definitely be learning a lot more.

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I’ve had a few people reach out and ask me my opinion of going back to school for HR versus getting a certification or getting experience in the field. A few years ago, I would have told everyone to go the school route, but now that I’m currently going through an HR Master’s Degree program and getting real-life work experience in HR, my position has changed.

All colleges and universities are not the same, different programs, different classes, but here are a few things I wish I would have been taught about HR in college.

Drafting Policies – SHRM has a lot of great resources to help you draft almost any piece of material your company might need. Policies are the handbook lifeline, sometimes we have too many, sometimes a situation arises, and we realize we don’t have enough. A policy doesn’t have to be more than one page, depending on the information your company is trying to relay. Like anything else in a written document form, make sure to get it looked over multiple times for wording, punctuation, and legalities.

Crafting a Job Description – When informing employees about their job, how detailed do we need to be? Do we need to list out every single job function they will be responsible for? A job description isn’t just for your employee, it’s also the document that you can refer back to when a team member pulls the “I didn’t know that was my job” line. It is also helpful in unemployment claims, showing they signed the document with the job functions they are responsible for can help the company win a claim.

Creating Ads – I’m not saying we needed an entire course on how to create an ad, but as HR we perform this function a lot, and it’s important that we know how to structure ads. When you’re trying to hire new employees, you have to know what will grab their attention. Check out my blog post Creating and Posting Your Job Ads from earlier this year on a little more information.

The Art of Conversations – In the first month on my HR position, I was in my boss office while she was having a meeting with a team member, and I remember thinking I had no real experience talking to someone that was coming to me to fix their problems. As an assistant manager, I had my fair share of serious conversations with my team members, but it’s completely different when you’re in the HR chair and someone might be having a harassment problem or health problem. How do you have this conversation with a person? I had no idea because out of all the papers I had written, we had never actually done things like role-playing situations in my class. Some of the most important advice I can offer to people to listen and if you can’t successfully answer a question, let the team member know you’re going to do some research and get back to them. Don’t give them false information or hope when you have no idea. Thankfully my boss allowed me to experience situations with her before letting me loose on the team *inserts evil laugh*

Federal Documents – There certain forms you know about because you’ve had to fill out a job application, an I9 form, tax papers, a background check or MVR,  but that doesn’t mean you know how to explain the form to others. It also doesn’t mean that you know how long your company is legally required to keep these materials. Find out about your state required forms, does your company hire minors? These things can be considered the “basic” HR information, but are expected to be learned from on the job experience.

College isn’t the answer to everything, sometimes you need to go out and learn on your own and that’s okay. I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared to enter any field because you should always be learning something, and not just the new thing coming out. If you’re entering the field of HR, I hope you continue to reach out, I love talking about all things HR. I don’t have all the answers by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe I know of the right person you should reach out to.

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Is there something in HR you wish you would have learned while in school? Or something you think was best learned while on the job?

Until Next Time …


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