Although work experience is always important when applying for a job, your personal qualities, flexible approach and academic qualifications will also play a part in impressing future employers.

If you want to build practical skills that are relevant to HR, it may be possible to find an unpaid placement or shadow someone who’s already working in the profession. And, if you’ve gained voluntary experience such as managing a budget, training and coaching, or used organisation and teamwork skills – perhaps in a club or society – it’s something to add to your CV.

If you’re a student, why not consider a holiday job? You can approach local companies to see if you can do a short-term work experience. Ideally it will be in an HR department, but any office or administrative role will be useful experience. You can observe how the organisation relates to its employees and possibly ask for a discussion with someone in the HR department during your time there. Employers place a lot of value on people who have work experience – it can make you stand out from other applicants when searching for jobs.

In many cases, your first step will be working as an assistant alongside an HR or learning and development manager. Look out for job titles that include words such as ‘Assistant’, ‘Officer’, ‘Co-ordinator’, ‘Executive’, or ‘Administrator’. It’s good to register for email alerts on job boards and look on the company websites of local businesses.

Business Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships offer you the chance to get real work experience and a wage while studying a recognised qualification. Anyone over 16 and not at school or college full-time can apply for an Apprenticeship. They take between one and four years to complete. At the end of your Apprenticeship you can go into full-time employment, although some decide to go on to university.

Sign up to a graduate training scheme

If you’re studying, you may decide to apply for a graduate training scheme when you leave university. You can either join a general graduate scheme, where you get experience in lots of different departments along with HR. Or you can join a programme that’s focused specifically on HR. They may also support you to gain a CIPD-approved postgraduate-level qualification.

Specialise in HR at university

The other alternative is to pick a specialist course at university. You could apply for a human resources management degree or have a combined degree such as business management and human resources.

Study for an HR qualification

The CIPD is the recognised professional body which offers approved HR and learning and development qualifications. Anyone over the age of 18 can study for a CIPD qualification. Dependent on your experience and qualifications, you can apply for one of 3 qualification levels: Foundation, Intermediate or Advanced.

CIPD qualifications are internationally recognised and highly valued by employers. They are relevant and practical – designed to apply your learning back at work immediately.

Plus, most CIPD qualifications are a route to becoming a CIPD professional member and, in the future, to becoming a Chartered Member. This means you’ll be recognised as having met the rigorous criteria and professional standards for best practice, and will be able to use the designatory letters after your name.