Looking for a career change into HR - can it be done?

Hi - I am a qualified accountant and keen to change my career path.  To this, I am studying for an intermediate diploma.  I have a bit of HR experience from my previous roles (recruiting, delivering training, mentoring, developing relationships, etc) but I'd like some advice on how to get this across in an updated CV and whether there is going to be any other option apart from starting at an entry level role, as I appreciate that I lack depth of practical HR experience currently.

Also, if anyone can recommend any networks to join in the Oxfordshire area, that would be great.

Many thanks


  • Sam

    | 588 Posts


    6 Jan, 2016 17:00

    Hi Laura

    I don't know if you'd have to come in at entry level but maybe a role such as HR Officer in a small firm with either just an HR manager you can learn from, or even a stand alone situation would be suitable. I say stand alone because my first Officer level role was that, and it was a newly created position, meaning I got thrown in the deep end but found this was the best way for me to learn very quickly and develop a skill set that worked for the role and business. I had worked as an HR administrator but probably had less experience than you have in areas you've correctly identified as transferrable.

    I think you're more likely to get into a smaller firm at a level that offers you variety and development on the job but without too great an expectation from the MD or directors - they might have limited knowledge or awareness of what the HR function really does and feel your transferrable skills make you suitable, then its about growing within the role. If you try and get a job at a larger firm with an HR department, your lack of experience is more likely to be an issue and your role would be more defined - you'll have a narrower remit but the expectations will be for you to really know your stuff with regards to said remit.

    That said I know of people who have transferred from roles such as finance manager to HR manager but again that will be because of transferrable skills and a proven ability to quickly close any gaps required to operate successfully.

    Other things you can do to boost your CV would be to try and attend any employment law seminars being offered locally (recruitment agencies and solicitor firms tend to run them) read all your company policies and procedures and if anything isn't making sense, ask your HR colleagues to explain, and maybe ask them about shadowing if you felt comfortable doing so, see if you can spend a bit of time with them here and there.
  • Mark

    | 138 Posts

    Chartered Member

    6 Jan, 2016 21:39

    Hi Laura,

    Just to add to what Sam has said, i'd keep your options open. Yes some firms might recruit you at a role more senior than 'entry level' and others may not, but I would focus on the role, regardless of entry level or not, that will allow you the opportunity to learn the skills you don't have and hone the ones you do.

    However, from my point of view, whatever you do, promote that finance background. Personally I have seen a shift in recent years where having a strong financial understanding would give you a fantastic advantage when you combine that with some 'front line' generalist HR experience. More and more firms are looking for HR professionals to have these sorts of skills on top of what they have traditionally expected from a HR staff.

  • I'd say definitely doable.

    I have been working in hotels all (although not that long) of my professional life since leaving university. Started in the restaurant, moved to Front Office and then to Reservations, when after 2.5 years there I realised that it's not the path for me.
    It helped that the new boss of the department was a nightmare - I quit cold turkey without any new prospects because not having the qualification nor experience I could not find so much as a HR job interview for 4 months.
    I got a month of unpaid work experience in an HR department via my hotel connections and later got an offer of a job that was 50/50 HR assistant and PA. It gave me some groundwork and a small salary to start with. After half a year there I found my current fully HR job. Although still an entry level job, I am sure in about a year's time I will be able to look into a slightly higher position.

    We all have to start somewhere. And since you already have some experience you may be able to get a post that's not a complete entry.

    Good luck!
  • Hi Laura

    In regards to your CV I would suggest producing a Functional CV that focusses on your transferable HR skills and achievements. If you are a CIPD member please do check out career tools on the Career Hub.
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