This was the title and subject of a small article in the Metro newspaper. (Click here for the online article.) Despite my skepticism, the article offered some realistic, albeit general, advice that I concurred.
"Solid analytic and math skills", "strong sense of ethics and confidentiality", "be a bit of a cheerleader", and "possess a keen business mind to understand how talent affects the business" are noteworthy traits mentioned in the article. But these traits could apply to many management-type positions.
"Being good with people", and "keeping organized records" along with many other general traits could be added to the list. But again, the general traits apply to many work scenarios.
Human Resources is unique and is not suited for everyone. To attract the right caliber person to the profession, traits reflecting more personalization need to be expressed. Because choosing a career is a personal decision, the better this is expressed, the better the chance people make the wisest career move.
Below are my top ideas for personalized traits specific to the HR field. I'm sure there are more and I welcome additional suggestions.
1) Believe friendships develop over time.
The word, "friend" is bandied about so easily these days. People that people don't really know are considered "friends". But a real friend is someone who is reliable and trustworthy which takes time to develop. This is an important trait because your personality has to reflect the need to help people. Helping people doesn't equate to liking people and this is confusing to outsiders, a.k.a. employees. People confuse friendliness with friendship and it takes a resolve from the HR side to walk the thin line between keeping a professional distance and being emotionally supportive.
2) Understand history and sociology.
Having an education background in a liberal arts field that promotes understanding of people is beneficial. Psychology is great but it can be limited to only the individual. When counseling employees, having the understanding of group dynamics and overall behavior motivation can have a greater impact. History encompasses everything and sociology is the connecting force from the individual to the workplace.
3) Be a music listener.
Metaphorically, playing or writing music is for the line of business. HR listens to every note, the signature changes, grasps the ambiance, and occasionally sings along to the tune. HR is not the musical star. HR recognizes and promotes the musical star.
4) Preach to the choir and practice what you preach.
Know your values and vision, and seek out those who understand it. Don't succumb to only finding those who always agree. Make dissent one of your values. And then make sure what comes out of your mouth is supported by your actions. Which leads me to ...
5) Condemn lying.
It's the precursor to stealing and cheating. It's the foundation for destruction within yourself, your relationships, and for the organization. Granted I'm not referring to the little white lies. I'm referring to the lies that are designed to hurt and/or ruin a part of someone's life.
6) Can't be afraid to be stupid.
Most people don't want to be seen as stupid. But we all are. If you act unafraid, you can be the model for showing everyone it's OK to not know everything, to forget something sometimes, and to be simply human.
7) See a Psychologist regularly.
This is probably the most controversial. But it could be the most beneficial. A good psychologist can assist one with changing specific emotional behaviors. He or she can promote internal growth. He or she can assist with teaching context beyond one's visceral responses. Overall the lessons learned in therapy can be retaught to employees in your organization. Don't think of this as therapy. Think of it as continuing education.
8) Be a house fixer
No house is perfect, not even brand new ones. Sometimes roofs leak, appliances break down, and mice move in. But that's the fun of home ownership: fixing what's broken yourself, finding talent who can fix the problem, and maintaining the semblance of home without going broke. This is a big challenge and not for the inherently lazy.
9) Love simplicity
Human beings are complicated and dynamic and HR is in charge of this resource. Put humans into jobs and both factors grow exponentially. Breaking complex problems into smaller parts, communicating directly and frankly, and analyzing the simple details could be the most important trait of all. Employees and organizations need simplicity from HR in order for them to complete their complex work.
Lastly, number 10 is your uniqueness. No one is like you. No one has your life history, your knowledge, your thoughts and feelings. Use all of this to shape yourself into an amazing HR professional. Use all of this to make the decision, "is HR right for you?" Hopefully this gets you closer to that decision.