As I sat at my desk processing new hire paperwork, I was wondering if I was dreaming. Did I really hear a cat on the second floor of the suburban building my office was located in? Thinking I must be hearing things I continued to work on my paperwork. What I should have known is in the world of Human Resources, there is no typical day and that day was no exception.
Eight years earlier, on a hot and muggy day in Bowling Green, Ohio, I was sitting on the floor with a college catalog. I was struggling to figure out what career I would pursue after I graduated with my undergraduate degree. There were so many options available and it was easier for me to create a list of what I did NOT want to do, then create a list of careers I would enjoy. As my roommates were teasing me for being uncharacteristically indecisive, I found an advertisement for a Human Resources internship program at Six Flags. The brochure listed the internship’s job duties and for the first time I was excited about a specific career. I eagerly filled out an application and rushed to the local post office to mail my application. The bad news is I was not selected for that internship and the good news, no great news, is I had finally found a career path!
After graduation I moved home and worked as a temp in the HR department for a large hospital system. They had 50 young, eager, new college grads sitting in desks with blinders (the adult equivalent of standing 2 folders on your elementary school desk so you couldn’t see your neighbor’s work!) We spent half of our days photocopying employee files and the other half data entering those same files into the new Human Resource Information System (HRIS). If we performed particularly well on those tedious tasks we were promoted and would conduct reference checks and type new hire letters on a relatively new program called Microsoft Word. I learned many things at my first HR job including how to handle the press when a famous baseball player’s girlfriend worked in the same office and that I was allergic to the toner used in copy machines – it made my eyes swell shut!
I’ve had many other adventures in my HR career. Thankfully most of them have been fun and interesting. Human Resources is an exciting field that requires a diverse set of skills. To be successful you will need soft-skills like the ability to work on a team with a diverse group of people and the ability to work in a fast paced environment while applying knowledge to new situations.
Since HR professionals work in most career fields it is essential to learn about your specific employer’s business and understand your role in their processes. While working for an insurance company I completed basic insurance courses so I could understand the business model I was supporting. This helped to make me an effective interviewer because I could identify candidates that had the skill-sets we needed for our open positions.
One year I was responsible for recruiting over 300 new employees to staff a new location. I interviewed local candidates to fill entry-level positions while working with a national search team that enticed a highly regarded medical professional to move from the sunny land of California to cold and snowy Cleveland. The team worked with this professional to secure a job for her spouse and help ease her fears of moving 2 elementary age children across country to a city they were unfamiliar with while leaving friends and family behind. I held days-old babies as the beaming new parents filled out paperwork to add their bundle of joy to their insurance plans. One of my favorites was celebrating the professional accomplishments of my coworkers– any excuse for a break and a yummy homemade snack!
You are probably wondering what happened with the meowing I heard…
A few minutes later someone stopped in my office and asked if Mary had told me she was keeping kittens in the mail room. I am sure the perplexed look on my face quickly told my coworker her answer. I wandered over to the mailroom and found a cardboard box and lifted the lid to find 6 adorable kittens. When Mary came back, she explained Sarah was taking these kittens home that afternoon to be adopted by several different families. Since Mary and Sarah lived an hour apart they decided Mary would bring the kittens to work, keep them quiet in the mail room during the day and Sarah would take them home after work. There was not a specific policy in the employee handbook to guide me on what to do. After taking a few minutes to gather my thoughts (and play with the kittens) I spoke with Mary and Sarah. I explained I understood they had the best intentions and unfortunately it would not be appropriate to keep the kittens in the box all day in a mail room. Instead, I gave Sarah the afternoon off so she could take the kittens to their new homes. Mary and Sarah were both apologetic and Sarah worked through her lunches the rest of the week to make up the time she missed. At the end of the day, the kittens had a new home, Mary and Sarah felt they were treated fairly and they continued to be exemplary employees for our company.
As for me – I went back to my office to process more paperwork ready to handle whatever new adventure would come my way!
Completing Bryant & Stratton College’s Human Resource Specialist program is one step along the life-long learning journey in the exciting field of Human Resources.
About the Author:
Tracy Sedor is in her 10th year as an Instructor for Bryant & Stratton College. She started on campus and has been online for 7 years. Ms. Sedor earned her Master’s degree in Labor Relations and Human Resources from Cleveland State University. Her extensive background in Human Resources as a practitioner and in management helps her to connect with students interested in the HR field by challenging them with real-life scenarios.