Transiting to HR – Leveraging Transferable Skills

“Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass.” Paul. J. Meyer

Every now and then, I wonder which factor was the strongest enabler in ensuring I transitioned quite successfully into Human Resources having graduated with a Degree in Microbiology and practiced Clinical Embryology for a while. I have however come to the realization that no factor was stronger than the other and the reasons for success were not too far-fetched. First off, there was a very strong desire for this change. There is a quote from Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist) that goes thus “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”. However, beyond the desire or the need to transit, you will have to initiate an action plan, work towards your objective, be prepared and most importantly leverage on your current role, position and skills to enable you transit successfully into a career in Human Resources. 

Perhaps you are in a Sales, Marketing, Customer Service or an Administrative role and you believe that you have skills that would be of use in the Human Resources Department of your Organisation. 

Though, there are many professionals who have transitioned successfully from various un-related professions into Human Resources and have gone on to make a big success of their career, some however, transition a little easier, by virtue of exposure to HR related activities in their current roles. For example, someone in Sales can transition very successfully into recruiting.  A Technician who is in charge of technical trainings for an organisation can transition into a Learning and Development role, a Legal Associate working in an organisation could become Head of Employee Relations. Individuals in Administrative roles also find it quite easy to transition to HR. In some organisations, Administrative employees handle work responsibilities such as payroll, employee benefits, and the role can eventually transition into Employee Relations as the Company expands.

Making a transition into Human Resource is easier than transitioning into functions like IT, Legal, and healthcare which require specific skills which cannot be easily taught on the job. The skills for HR, however could be learned whilst working in another field. With a good plan of action, guidance from a sponsor, mentor or coach, a career transition into Human Resources is achievable.

Some of the actions you can take to positively channel your interest in the right direction include but are not limited to the following:

Volunteering- You can volunteer as the Human Resources Representative of your Unit when there are special initiatives going on in HR. Quite often within the year, the HR team will have various projects it is working on which will involve gathering input from the other part of the Organisation. Volunteering as your Departments Rep on HR projects is a sure way of getting noticed by HR.

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Get involved in the HR Community/Network- There are people already doing what you are trying to achieve. Find out who these people are, join a local chapter of a HR Professional Association and attend relevant industry events. Knowing HR professionals gives you good leverage and mileage in your aspirations. Network with people who post HR jobs and influence decisions about hiring in HR for various organisations. There are many of such people on Social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter

Get a Mentor or a Coach- A mentor is a more experienced professional who will act as an advisor, counselor, or a guide in your career aspirations. A mentor may share information about his or her own career path, help you explore yours, assist you in setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources to push you forward. A coach on the other hand will help you focus on future possibilities and tap into your unseen potential.

Take a Course in Human Resources or Get Certified- By studying for a certification in an area of Human Resources, you will strongly demonstrates your interest and prove your competence in that area of HR. This makes it easier for recruiters to consider your application.


Before applying for jobs in HR, consider which skills you currently have. In order to understand if your skills can be transferred to Human Resources, a review of your education, trainings and work experience thus far is recommended. Structure your experiences in a way that highlights relevant skills that can qualify you for a career in Human Resources. Take an inventory of your “soft skills” that can easily be transferred to Human Resources including interpersonal skills, dealing with confidential information, communication skills, conflict resolution skills, analytical skills, negotiation skills etc. Build your resume to showcase these skills so that you easily appear qualified when your resume is being reviewed. 

Examples of Transferable Skills

There are a number of transferable skills an individual can improve and leverage upon to facilitate a move to HR. Each individual’s list of transferable skill will be different, but there are generic skills recruiters will look for in HR. You will probably currently have a number of the transferrable skills listed here. They include but are not limited to the following- Communication, Critical Thinking, Leadership and Management, Planning And Research, Multi-tasking ( Time Management), Teamwork and Interpersonal skills, Self-Management Skills, Technological Literacy creativity, Customer Service, etc.

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1. Communication Skills

This is the ability to impart information to others through speaking, writing or in another medium. Key communication skills include speaking effectively and writing concisely. Listening carefully and providing feedback, Expressing ideas and feelings constructively. Negotiating and persuading other. Developing rapport with others

Communication is a key skill in Human Resources and strong communicators are valued for their ability to work well with others even those with differing opinions and move projects forward.

2. Critical Thinking Skills

Critically thinking, analytical or problem- solving skills is the ability to analyze a concept or define a challenge objectively and logically, considering the facts and different perspectives to reach a sound, logical conclusion. It also involves evaluating and implementing best solutions to a challenge from all available options, asking critical questions, looking through the factors affecting each possible solution and deciding what solution to proceed with and which to set aside.

This is an extremely important skill to have in HR. Working in HR involves making important decisions concerning your employees. These decisions can affect the employee’s career and the business as a whole. Decisions such as hiring, negotiating pay raises, dealing with employee misconduct require an ability to make critical and measured decisions.

3. Leadership and Management Skills

Effective leadership and management are about directing and motivating others to achieve individual, team and company goals. Key related skills include; managing groups and delegating responsibilities, planning and coordinating tasks, solving problems and managing conflict, making and implementing decisions, motivating, coaching and training others.

Leadership is the most complex of all the transferable skills. It is a combination and outgrowth of all the transferable skills plus professional values. Leaders aren’t born, they are self-made and leadership skills takes a lot of hard work to hone. Leadership skills can be transferred to any profession not just Human Resources.

4. Planning and Research Skills

Planning and research skills enable you to articulate needs and formulate a strategy to accomplish specific objectives. Transferable subskills in planning and research which can be leveraged in Human Resources can include, Identifying needs and required resources, setting goals and identifying courses of action, gathering relevant information and evaluating results, forecasting, predicting and monitoring situations, analyzing, interpreting and disseminating information

5. Multitasking ( Time Management and Organisation) Skills

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This is a very key skill necessary for every HR professional and is built on sound time management and organizational skills. Multitasking is based on three things: being organized; establishing priorities and managing your time in a Plan, Do and Review cycle. Then, at the end of every day, review what you’ve accomplished. This keeps you informed about what you have achieved and lets you know that you have invested your time in the most important activities today so that you can be super charged up for the next day.

6. Teamwork And Interpersonal Skills 

These skills are about the contribution you make to groups and the way you relate to and interact with others to achieve a common goal. Teamwork involves the ability to work with others towards a common goal. Effective teamwork requires several other qualities such as empathy, active listening and strong communication. Key transferable subskills to HR in this regard include, sharing credit and accepting responsibility, contributing to and encouraging the ideas of others, developing rapport and respecting other opinions, negotiation and influencing others, modifying communication to suit the situation at hand for success and so on. These skills are necessary in HR as you will be dealing with not just the internal HR team but various other teams within the organization that you are supporting.

7. Self- Management Skills

Self-management is about how you direct your own activities toward the achievement of objectives. With multiple demands on the Human Resources Department, your ability to show how well you are able to manage yourself will be key to any recruiter.  Transferable subskills in self-management include- managing time and organizing priorities, setting goals, meeting deadlines and solving problems, working well under pressure , accepting responsibility, ability to get along well with others, self-evaluation, adaptability and decision making.

8. Technology literacy

The ability to quickly adapt to and navigate new technology, technological literacy is a key critical transferable skill.  A lot of HR processes are driven by technology and this trend continues to evolve. Technology constantly changes the nature of our jobs and the ways in which they are executed. As a result, to remain employable, you will need to stay current with a lot of the technological advancements in your current role. With HR analytics and big data management driving major decision making in organisations now, strong technology skills will enhance your stability and help you leverage your professional growth in HR and beyond.

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