How do you become a great HR Pro?

From The Project mailbag:


I’m a recent HR graduate and I want to be great in HR.  How do I become a great HR pro like you? Is there certain things I can do, read, etc.?



I get asked this kind of question a lot.  I want to be a great HR pro. What do I need to do?

Ugh! That’s a hard question. There’s a lot of things you can do. There’s a lot of things you have no control over. 

S0, what do you need to do?

Just start doing great HR work! Stop waiting around for someone to allow you to do great HR work. If you want to be great, you have to show people you can be great. 

Derek Jeter didn’t wait around for someone to let him show them he was a great ShortStop. He just went out and played Shortstop. He made mistakes. He corrected those mistakes. He just kept doing it. 

You need to go ‘play’ HR. You’ll be bad at some of it. You might actually find you’re pretty damn good at some of it.  The more you play, the better you’ll get. It’s probably unrealistic you’ll be great right off the bat, but who knows, you might.  

You’re going to find that most HR pros don’t become great because they wait for someone else to tell them what to do.  You won’t become great waiting to be told what to do. You need to find out what to do on your own. How do you do that?

Educate yourself. Network with other HR pros. Find out what others are doing, and what’s working and what’s not working. Start testing things in your organization in small ways. If it works, test it in a bigger way.

Ask the people in your organization that are in charge of driving or generating revenue what they would do if they ran HR. Try some of those things. Ask them what roadblocks they have in the organization. Then work to break those down.

Walk away from other HR peers who seem to hate HR.  Great HR pros love HR. They love being involved and making a difference. They are not happy with keeping things the same.

How do you become a great HR Pro?  You just have to go and do it. If you do enough stuff, you’ll find some things that are really good. Do more of those. Do less of the stuff that sucks. Being great is really easy. More good stuff, less sucky stuff! But, you have to do stuff.

2 thoughts on “How do you become a great HR Pro?

  1. This is a great article, Tim. Thanks for addressing this question.

    Too often do early HR practitioners seek information from big box HR how-tos or norms and then just blindly apply whatever a text book said has worked in the past.

    I’ve had success in learning the basics, reading case law, case studies and then partnering directly with those managers on the front lines to understand their processes and unique problems.

    It also helps to build your network with those pushing the envelope in this field. #HROS case studies are a great to see how businesses are solving problems in unique ways. Not all solutions will directly apply, that is why it is paramount to first understand your org and then work to apply things you’ve learned along the way that is tailored to your organization. Float ideas with management, always seek feedback from all levels, be transparent and gain buy-in before implementing change.

  2. Very few ‘HR Pros’ moved from being an HR Graduate to an HR position. You need to ‘collect’ HR skills and experiences as you go – whether working as a barista, truck driver or in an office. Stop seeking titles and focus on the skills you are developing/observing and then ‘sell’ your skills. The ‘best’ HR Pros have a variety of life/skill experiences… very few, if any, can draw a straight line from University to HR Pro.

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