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5 surprising human resource jobs

Careers for human resources

There’s more to human resources (HR) than processing paperwork and reviewing resumés, says Sam Sanders, PhD, a certified senior professional in human resources, and campus college chair for the School of Business at the University of Phoenix Atlanta Campus.

“HR professionals are now heavily involved in strategic business planning that can impact companies’ bottom lines,” Sanders points out, which he says can lead to some unexpected job options. Here are five human resource careers that might surprise you:

Occupational health and safety

“This field ensures all employees are working in a safe environment,” Sanders explains, noting that HR professionals can work for government regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state workers’ compensation departments, or internally at companies to ensure compliance with applicable laws.

Whether it’s to make certain that employees who do heavy lifting wear back braces or that workers get rest breaks, “OSHA can drop in unannounced to do inspections, and the HR department is responsible for being the go-to people,” Sanders says.

He notes that human resource degree programs cover the relevant regulations, including how to do everything from filing accident reports to developing ways to prevent on-the-job accidents.

“If you want to work for OSHA or other enforcement agencies, having the HR degree will [help] make you a viable candidate,” Sanders says, stressing that you’ll have to pass a civil service exam and background check.

Recruiters and headhunters

In a competitive job market, many companies are outsourcing HR departments’ recruiting function to private headhunting firms, notes Sanders, who served as senior vice president of HR for Sony.

“With most recruiters paid a base salary plus commission, this can be a great and lucrative area for … HR people who know how to search for and assess the best job candidates — especially for executive-level job placements,” he explains.

Labor relations

Companies with labor union contracts need HR professionals who understand federal organized labor laws and can be effective negotiators between unions and company management, according to Sanders.

“The HR professional does research and benchmarking to ensure that union contracts are fair to both sides and comparable to what other similar companies are offering their employees,” he points out, stressing the importance of HR certifications to stay current on changes to labor laws. The University offers certificate courses and programs to develop and strengthen HR skills, to help you prepare for certification exams.

Corporate trainer

Many companies hire HR professionals to train personnel on diversity and sexual harassment issues. Some states, like California, have mandatory training requirements, notes Tony Di Gaetano, an online instructor for the University’s MBA program who holds a master’s degree in organizational management and is a former vice president of human resources for UPS.

“HR professionals already understand these topics, which makes them ideal to train others,” Di Gaetano says, noting that corporate trainers also can cover topics like new employee orientation and workplace safety. While large companies have in-house trainers, he explains, these HR pros also can work as independent consultants or at corporate training firms that service smaller employers.


International HR management

With many corporations outsourcing jobs overseas, employers are looking for HR professionals who understand labor laws and cultural nuances in other countries, Sanders says.

“These HR pros need to have a working knowledge of the countries where [their companies] are operating,” whether it’s understanding overseas retirement plans, learning local health and safety standards or knowing where to find the most qualified people, notes Sanders, who handled these responsibilities for Sony.

“You can do so many things with an HR background,” he stresses. “It’s not just the soft skills — it’s understanding all aspects of the business as well as how to motivate employees.”

To learn more about the future of HR, you may enroll in this webinar.