Dear HR Graduate – What I Wish I’d Been Clued In On

“School’s out for summer.  School’s out forever.”  Alice Cooper’s lyrics hit home this month as a fresh crop of new grads enter the world and gasp, “Now what?!!”

I have a cousin who just graduated from LSU and is headed to graduate school in the fall.  He’s staying in Baton Rouge for the summer and some of the relatives are wondering why he’s not coming home.

Seriously?  No school, graduate school lined up, apartment by LSU already rented for the summer…..who WOULDN’T be hanging there vs. with his peeps?

While my smart cousin has a plan of attack, many new grads are walking off the stage clueless.  Looking back, I was one of them even though I too had an MBA program lined up.  Therefore, I feel compelled to dole out some advice I wish I had been given just a few years ago (ha…right):

#1. Build your brand.  I honestly had no idea how important building a professional and personal brand was 20+ years ago.  Hence I didn’t even look at graduate schools outside of Houston nor did I think about the type of companies I should start my HR career with.  I had a great convo with a HR candidate who is about my age and he’d worked for PepsiCo, Disney, Aramark – companies known for developing great HR talent.  While I worked for great companies as well, some didn’t do much in terms of helping me build my professional brand.  In terms of personal brand, while it wasn’t as important when I was graduating, it absolutely is now.  Social has opened up a whole new avenue for grads and it’s never too early to start developing how you want to be perceived in social media land – or correcting what you’ve already done!

#2. Get the passport stamped EARLY. If you want to be a player in HR, you have to get yourself out of the U.S. and have some feet-on-the ground international experience.  Do it early – before serious relationships, marriage, kids, a mortgage give you pause. OR find the partner who can also get a gig overseas so you can do it together.  I was 33 when I moved to Hong Kong for a short-term assignment and while it was fabulous, I was married and it SUCKED at the same time.  Look for opportunities and raise your hand as soon as you can to gain the international HR stamp.

#3.  Network outside of HR.  I wish I would have had a non-HR mentor early in my career.  While I cherish my HR pals who guided my career, having someone who has experienced great and not-so-great HR pros as a customer would have given me a good perspective on the profession as I was starting out.  Find the sales, ops and finance leaders you admire and go buy them a drink once a month.

The other key in all of this advice stuff is not being afraid to take risks.  I took some risks in my HR career and while some didn’t pan out, I grew as a person and HR pro because of every one of them.

Love to hear some of your sage advice for new grads and “seasoned” HR pros like……some of my friends!

FOT Background Check

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the President of hrQ, where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent or HR Consultants to drive business results.  Prior to joining hrQ, Kathy booked more than 15 years of human resources leadership experience working for such companies as Morgan Stanley and First Data Corporation.  A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent issues can be addressed via the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen  (David Lee/Sammy and sadly, Gary Cherone).


  1. Vidal F. says:

    Great Advices – If I may, I would include “Be Bold and Fearless”, extremely bold and unconventional. This is the time to try new things, make plenty of mistakes and learn as much as you can from them, while there’s still forgiveness as a rookie. I have been in HR for 16 years and now at age 33, I had three relevant employers, two out of the Fortune 150 global companies, have been around the world and lived in seven countries so far. When I look back there are no regrets, but learning opportunities that made me who I’m today. And Life goes on …

    • Kathy Rapp
      Kathy Rapp says:

      Thanks Vidal and agree with your additional thoughts! I was once told if I didn’t make mistakes I wasn’t taking enough risks – so I actually think there is forgiveness even later in your career as long as the risk was worth it!

  2. Actually when someone doesn’t understand then its up to other viewers that they will help, so here it occurs.

    My page Teaching kids

Comments are now closed for this article.

Contact Us | Hire FOT to Speak | About FOT