Insights On How To Start A Career In Human Resources
November 3, 2011 Leave a comment
During my time with the student organization AIESEC, I had the chance to get to know Florian Demmler, now former member of the national board of AIESEC in Germany. We came to exchange experiences once more during the last few weeks, and – sharing my passion for HR – he did not hesitate to answer some of my questions concerning the future role of Human Resources with special focus on young people choosing to pursue a career in this field.
Florian Demmler is HR Advisor at Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, working on various projects such as the HR Graduate Program in Germany and Postbank integration. Being both a recent HR Graduate with Deutsche Bank himself and a former board member of an international student organization enables Florian to share his insights on how to start a career in Human Resources from both a student and company perspective.
Going forward, what do you think the main challenges will be for the Human Resources population, in particular, the junior population? Will there be a need to redefine our role as HR?
I feel that there are a number of challenges ahead. Just as an example, the diversity and demographic developments of our population and their subsequent consequences are the most pressing.
I think that the main challenge for young professionals is to contribute actively to shape the role of HR. Young professionals will need to be the ambassadors for a ‘new HR’; one that is much more proactive, constructive and value adding versus our historic administrative role. It is necessary to constantly challenge HR’s perception and develop it further. HR’s self-perception changed tremendously over the past years and considering that, the education at university has changed to reflect this. Young professionals are now, more so than ever, able to add valuable contributions to discussions and are also in a good position to influence and foster a cultural change within the HR community, with regards to our perception and role in the business.
And how will these changes impact the way we work?
In my opinion, there will be an increase in pace, the range of project work, and changes in the required skills. As a result of these changes, the working environment will, I believe, change dramatically. Work will be much more project related, which will require us to learn new concepts even quicker than before. The importance of professional networks will increase further and the ability to react in real time and respond to our constantly changing environment will be crucial. Employees will also need to adapt to these environmental / market changes, and this will provide a great opportunity for HR to drive and facilitate the shifts in the way we work and support our businesses appropriately.
What kind of skills and experience should students and young talent possess when they are planning to pursue a career in HR?
A number of skills are required to enable a successful career within HR, especially due to the need to be perceived by the business as competent and strategic partners. As such, knowledge and application of pure ‘HR’ topics is not enough. In my opinion, HR requires individuals to understand both our businesses, and the market in which we operate, in order to provide value to the businesses that we support. We need to be able to speak the business’ lingo in order to highlight and hone in the value of our products and services in a manner they understand.
In general, the key here is to ensure that applicants have some form of practical experience, ideally via internships. In addition, it is also important to be engaged in student associations and extra-curricular activities – these will provide students with the essential social and organizational skills that will be required of them as HR professionals. Indeed, from personal experience I can vouch for this as I learned more hands-on skills during my time at AIESEC than I did at university!
In light of these recommendations I do appreciate that finding the right balance is tough, and it is critical that individuals ascertain early on where their interests lie, so that they can target their efforts accordingly.
Which steps do you recommend when it comes to choosing an entry-level position?
The reason why I chose to apply for the HR Graduate Training Program at Deutsche Bank is that it provides the full picture of HR. In general, a Graduate Training Program enables you to get a very good overview of HR in the respective company, provides a thorough learning experience, a strong professional network and equips graduates with the necessary tools and knowledge to build a successful career within HR.
On their careers page, Deutsche Bank point out the uniqueness and quality of their HR Graduate Scheme. What is so special about this Program?
The uniqueness and high quality of Deutsche Bank’s HR Graduate Training Program is evidenced by the global network that graduates are integrated into from the very beginning. The program offers an intense training schedule in relevant HR topics and skills through the rotational structure of the program.
Personally however, what made it special for me were the colleagues who put a lot of effort, attention and time in my development and personal growth once I was a graduate and even beyond that role.
As a graduate at Deutsche Bank, you rotate through all areas within HR, with each rotation lasting around 2 months. This provides a deep insight into the tasks, priorities and challenges of each area and enables the graduate to gauge which area they are best suited to in order to request their final placement. The work itself is very diverse – it can be administrative, operative, conceptual, as well as strategic, and of course, challenging!
One of my personal highlights was the global HR graduate project regarding Deutsche Bank’s internal social media tools and how to increase the usage within HR to foster collaboration. The project was a great learning experience regarding global collaboration and project management and also helped to build our networks within the company as a result of access to very senior management.
All in all, what would be your best career advice?
In my opinion, there are three essential components of a successful career: passion, an open mindset and curiosity. Passion helps you to put a lot of energy into the tasks you are undertaking and allows you to enjoy your work and inspire others. An open mindset helps you to spot and to take advantage of opportunities, and curiosity is essential for both personal and professional growth.
Florian, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions!
Should you be keen on learning more about the HR Graduate Program offered at Deutsche Bank, check out their careers page. Moreover, take your time to compare the different offers on the market to choose and apply for the one program that suits your needs and interests best.