Women is...: What It's Like

What It's Like

If you're a "people person" who excels at one-on-one communication, human resource manager could be a highly rewarding career. "You counsel people professionally and personally, and can really make a difference," says Carlyn Gaul (right), 24, the human resource manager for Cone Communications, Inc., in Boston.

On the flip side, says Gaul, "bad news is never fun to deliver." Be prepared to offer an older colleague advice on how to improve her management skills, or to calm someone who is upset over a bad performance review.

Get ready to put in long hours handling personnel decisions -- everything from hiring and compensation to benefits, regulation and legal compliance, safety and health issues, and training programs. Human resource managers spend about half their days in strategy meetings, answering employee questions and interviewing prospective workers. The rest of their time is often filled with paperwork and phone calls to various insurance providers. Human resource managers are constantly juggling projects.

A larger firm would most likely have you specialize in just one area, such as benefits or recruiting. At a smaller firm, you'd get to be a jack-of-all-trades at a younger age. Lisa Sorensen, 27, the human resource manager for CSG Openline in Seattle, recommends starting at a small firm: "You get a great overview of the profession, and then you can decide if you want to specialize in one area." She graduated with a liberal arts degree and moved into human resources after serving as administrative assistant to the company's president.