I have a confession to make. When I sat down to write this article, I didn’t really know what HR was. I mean, I knew HR was responsible for hiring and firing, for doing administrative tasks and the overall management of the workforce at an organisation. But I didn’t know just how integral HR is to the overall culture of a workplace, and the wellbeing of its staff. So if you, like me, don’t know much about HR and what a HR grad scheme would entail, sit down, sit tight, and get ready for some serious HR-ducation.
HR is about people
HR always seemed quite a dry term to me. I imagined people sat a desk, filing paperwork and doing general admin. But the clue is in the name really, as people who work in HR work with people, providing them with direction, training and advice. If you’re going to work in HR you need to know what makes employees tick, and what drives them to be passionate about the industry they’re in.
HR is the glue that holds the workforce together, guiding them towards better communication and collaboration, so being a sociable ‘people’s person’ is an imperative quality. You need to be approachable and friendly, so employees feel comfortable to seek advice when they need it.
Emotional intelligence beats spreadsheets
No amount of data collection, analysis and spreadsheet building can replace emotional intelligence. To be successful in your career you need to be able to read people, make decisions based on emotions and respond to situations appropriately. Employees need to be emotionally grounded in order to deal with the stresses and time pressures of the job. Those in HR can place people in the roles they need to thrive the best. They can also guide employees towards a better emotional intelligence through training.
And adds value
Nowadays, senior management are more concerned about the culture and atmosphere of their organisation than ever before. Staff wellness and mindfulness are finally being taken seriously. They don’t want a HR department full of robots; they want a meaningful team who can add some real value to the workplace. This means HR grad schemes are recruiting switched on and approachable graduates who can help shape a positive organisation culture.
But what is it?
Emotional intelligence (EI) basically just means being switched on to other people’s emotions, and reacting to them appropriately. It means you can use the emotions of yourself and those around you to make effective decisions and to achieve your goals. A good level of EI is associated with better mental health, job performance and leadership, as people with high EI tend to be better at building strong relationships.
And do I have it?
Some people instinctively have a strong emotional intelligence. They understand people well, are good at developing connections and identifying different emotions. They will thrive in a HR graduate scheme. But if you worry that this isn’t you, EI can still be acquired and developed. If you can learn to stay calm in stressful situations, to express difficult emotions, deal with setbacks and proactively encourage those around you, you’re well on your way to developing a strong emotional intelligence.
How do I show I’ve got it?
Proving to an employer that you have good emotional intelligence isn’t always easy. It’s an abstract, hard to define concept. You just need to think about ways you can demonstrate a good grasp of emotions; whether that’s keeping calm under pressure or introducing a change at work that had a positive impact on your colleague’s lives. In an interview, it’s even more important to portray your emotional intelligence. Focus on relationships you’ve built, and show a good awareness of both your strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve got it, it should come naturally, so don’t try and force it.
Where you can work
HR spans across a variety of sectors. From finance and banking, health and manufacturing, all sorts of organisations will have a HR department. You just need to think carefully about what sector you want to get into. Rolls Royce has a Human Resources Graduate Development programme, the NHS has a HR branch of its graduate scheme and Barclays recruit HR candidates as part of its global business functions scheme. Just remember that HR in the national health service will likely by vastly different to HR at a bank such as Barclays, but both will require strong skills in emotional intelligence. Keep your eyes peeled on the Debut app for graduate job opportunities in HR.
While HR might not be the first thing that springs to mind when looking for graduate schemes, it’s a great opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to people’s work lives. Despite the rise of technology and automation, a good understanding of people and their emotions is more important than ever. So get in touch with your emotional side, and use it when applying for those HR grad schemes – it’ll pay off.
Follow Jessica on Twitter @JessicaMurray89.