Below is the transcript of an interview that I did with Elizabeth De La Torre, a Human Resources student at Roosevelt University. In the interview, Elizabeth and I discuss the traits that a student looking to go into Human Resources management should have, what their expectations should be, and how Human Resources professionals can leverage their skills to become leaders in their organizations.
EDLT: How did you get to your current position? What was your career path?
DBJ: I got my current position after being an HR Representative at United Way of Metro Chicago for 2 years. I majored in Organizational Psychology as an undergrad as well as a grad student, so a career in HR is on my career path.
EDLT: What skills or knowledges did you find most helpful when getting started in the HR/HRD field. What academic courses did you find most useful in preparing you for a career in HR/HRD?
DBJ: As a professional in HR in the 21st century, it’s important to have good analytical skills and be able to effectively use programs, such as Excel and SPSS, to provide leaders with meaningful HR metrics. It is also helpful to have good customer service skills. HR is a people industry, so you have to be able to talk to different people across an organization. Think of the times that you have received bad customer service. Did it make you want to go back to that company or recommend it to a friend?
The courses that I found most helpful were Statistics, Organizational Psychology, Consumer Psychology, and Marketing.
EDLT: What are some obstacles that I should be prepared to face when getting started in HR/HRD? How might I overcome these obstacles?
- Being the point person for every HR related law, policy, or procedure in the organization. You become the expert on these subjects when you work in HR.
- Being patient with employees, many of whom will be older than you, who will look to you to explain their benefits, paychecks, tuition reimbursement, and other employee relations issues.
- Be prepared to find creative solutions to problems, due to a lack of funding. The more you can do with less, the better prepared you will be for a career in HR.
- To overcome all of these obstacles, learn as much about employment law as you can. Also, set your vision high, but set your expectations low. In corporate America, you will quickly learn the difference between being an optimist and a realist.
- Typically, I come in about an hour before my scheduled start time, to catch up on emails and voicemails.
- I typically have 2-3 projects that I’m working on outside of my day-to-day job duties.
- I answer phone calls and emails throughout the day, from employees who need assistance with a system that HR manages or who have questions about HR related functions.
- I make it a point to take lunch every day. This provides the fuel that I need to maintain peak performance all day.
- I also use my lunch period to read the newspaper, magazine, and journal articles pertaining to HR related functions.
- I try to speak to each member of the HR team at least once a day, because we rarely have time to speak when it gets busy.
DBJ: I’m inspired by the employees that I work for and with. Many of the employees live in Humboldt Park, where my hospital is located. Many of the employees also receive their healthcare services here. This is truly THEIR hospital, and I want to do as much as I possibly can to make sure that THEIR hospital is the best in the nation.
I’m also motivated by the work that needs to be done. It is challenging work and, in my opinion, that’s the only work worth doing. If I can find a way to make my work in HR more efficient, maybe it will save the hospital money that can then be used to increase pay for our employees.
EDLT: What are some of the things that you dread or dislike about your work?
DBJ: I dislike the bureaucracy in the organization. It seems like you have to go through several layers of management just to get a poster approved. I understand that every organization needs leadership, but I would also like the autonomy to produce work on my own, especially work that doesn’t cost anything to create, but could potentially yield more revenue for the organization.
I also dislike employees that just show up for a pay check. I understand that nearly 70% of all U.S. workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. However, there are many more Americans who don’t have a job. Get out of the way and let the people who want to work, and who appreciate working, work.
EDLT: What are some of the typical entry positions in HR/HRD in your organization?
- HR Specialist
- Administrative Assistant
- Complete Masters of Arts degree in Organizational Psychology
- Gain more advanced understanding of HR metrics
- Obtain PHR certification
- Enhance skills in Training & Development
- Gain managerial experience
- Obtain Ph.D or Psy.D in Organizational Psychology
- Become VP of Human Resources or Chief HR Officer
- Become a consultant and thought leader in the areas of organizational development and leadership
- Retire with enough money to live on, with enough left over to pass on to my descendants.
- Do what you love to do. Don’t study something just to get a job. Do what you love, and the money will follow your passion.
- Build your social network.
- Use tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to connect with like-minded people, even if they’re not in your chosen profession.
- Also, use social networks to build your brand. Become a thought leader in the area(s) that you’re most passionate about.
- Don’t forget about in-person networking! Go to committee meetings and social events, both related to your profession and related to your interests, if the two differ.
- Cater your resume to accentuate what you’ve done, not what you hope to do. Use specific details and metrics to paint a picture of your previous contributions.
- If you have limited work experience, accentuate your volunteer experience.
DBJ: My definition of HR is providing the best service, to all employees and applicants, in a respectful and courteous manner, in support of the mission and vision of the organization.
EDLT: If there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share? Something important you feel all future HR/HRD students should be aware of?
- Make sure that you have a passion for people before entering a career in HR. If you don’t like people, you should choose a different career.
- Wear as many hats as you can in HR. Learn recruitment, employee relations, compensation, and counseling.
- But specialize. Once you’ve worn all of the various HR hats, find a specific area that you’re passionate in, and become an expert. Experts get paid, not generalists. For example, I’m passionate about HR metrics and technology, so I am positioning myself as an expert statistician and HRIS administrator.
- Look for crossover opportunities. Many of the skills that you learn as a HR professional are transferable to other jobs. Don’t box yourself into HR. Instead, use the expertise that you learn in HR to make paths to other areas of the organization.