It's with great pleasure that I present Charity Rowell as this week's HR Interview.
State your name. rank, and serial number (aka who you are and what you do).
Charity Rowell. I am a full-time college student at DeVry University Online. I am less than one year away from earning my Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus in human resources management. I am also a part-time blogger on my website, HR is Only Human.
What made you decide to go back to school and study Human Resources Management?
When I was younger, I discovered that I was good in the customer service field. I thought that I had finally found my niche in the job market, and spent around 10 years bouncing from one call center to another trying to find the “perfect” employer to work for. It wasn’t until after I found my ideal employer that I realized that I was dissatisfied with the work that I was doing. I decided to leave my ideal employer before I was fired, and the HR manager who conducted my exit interview suggested that I consider a career in Human Resources.
I performed some research about what HR professionals do and the education I needed to enter the profession. I discovered that many of the skills and abilities I used in customer service could be transferred to HR; however, I was scared because of the cost and commitment necessary to attend college, and I procrastinated for a year and a half. During that time, I worked for a small factory and hated every moment I was employed there. I was constantly angry and stressed out about how I was being treated at work, and the pain began to interfere with my ability to do housework and enjoy some of my hobbies. I woke up one day and realized that if something didn’t change, I would be stressed out, angry, and in pain for most of my life because I would be stuck working in call centers and factories until I retired or died. The fear of hating what I was doing until I retired or died compared to the fear of failing in college was enough to make me decide to go back to school and study Human Resources.
What has been the biggest surprise thus far about your HR studies?
The biggest surprise for me was the fact that HR as a profession is moving away from the “secretary with an entitlement complex” persona, and focusing on becoming a strategic partner within a company. It really is a huge change from the early 1990’s when I first entered the workforce, and I am amazed by the sheer amount of knowledge that a Human Resources professional needs to have.
We have to be effective communicators, we have to understand psychology and sociology in order to understand what motivates different people and why. We also have to be familiar with employment law, business law, labor relations, and ethics in order to protect the companies we are working for and its employees. We have to be experts in IT (Information Technology) because we need to know what data we need to maintain, what data we need to retrieve and when to retrieve it, and then transform that data into something that is meaningful and informative. Then, to top it off, we need to understand finance so that we can understand the decisions that are being made and make meaningful recommendations that will benefit the company.
When we spoke, you talked about the lack of hands-on work you’ve been able to do surrounding HR technology. Can you elaborate on this?
I’ve noticed that many companies state in their job descriptions that applicants need some experience with HR software like PeopleSoft. I took a HR Information Technology (HRIT) course a few semesters ago, and I was really disappointed when I discovered that the class focused more on theory than practice. I’ve never worked in a Human Resources department before, so my experience with HR software is nonexistent, and it would have been nice if the university had offered students the opportunity to gain some practical experience with at least one of the HR software programs out there. Personally I think that if colleges and universities are going to offer HR manager programs, they need to offer students some hands-on experience with at least one type of HR software since the job market requires HR applicants to have that experience.
You’re active in social media. What made you decide to get involved in this medium?
There are several factors that motivated me to become active in social media. First, social media gives me the ability to interact with people. Second, our society is changing rapidly. As a result, the laws and ethics that govern our society are changing, and social media is an effective means of staying up-to-date on current events. Finally, I realized that much of the knowledge I’ve gained from attending school online is more theoretical than practical since I’m not working in a Human Resources department. Social media gives me the opportunity to share my ideas with others, and receive feedback from experienced professionals about why my ideas may or may not work.
Talk about your evolution as a blogger. What’s been the most rewarding/frustrating aspect of it?
The most frustrating aspect of blogging for me is trying to figure out how I want to express myself. Do I want to come across as very professional, or do I want to be easy to relate to? It’s tough because on one hand I want to make a good impression on potential employers who read my blog, and demonstrate what I’ve learned and show that I can be professional. On the other hand, I have spent the majority of my career in entry-level positions; it is part of who I am, and what makes me unique. It’s frustrating because I know that I can do both in my blog, but I don’t think that I’ve found that balance.
The most rewarding aspect of blogging is when someone responds to what I’ve written. While I enjoy comments from people telling me that I have answered a question, helped them in some way, or that they can relate to what I’ve said, I also find it rewarding when someone acknowledges my blog on social media by sharing a link to a post that I’ve written, or by requesting an interview with me on his blog.
What are some of the ways in which you keep up with current business or Human Resources related news and information?
Social media really helps me out in this area because it helps me discover more HR and business professionals who write about current events. I keep an eye on global, national, and local news websites to see what new laws are being considered, what laws have been passed, and take a look at employment trends. I am constantly doing research for college coursework, and I find reports with statistics about employee relations. I also enlist help from my partner, Mike, who lets me know whenever he stumbles across something interesting that could affect how businesses operate or overall employee satisfaction.
You’ll be graduating this year. What’s the next challenge for you, professionally speaking?
The next challenge I see is finding a job. The job market has changed drastically since the recession, and I want to find an employer who is ready and willing to consider breaking away from traditional training and development programs, or wanting to brainstorm ideas for a contemporary benefits and compensation packages. I really want to positively impact how employees feel about the work that they do and their employers and I want to help employees who are like me and are struggling to figure out what they want to do for a living. Also, Mike and I are considering moving to New Mexico or Arizona once I graduate because the job market in this area is really stagnant, and because I miss many of the cultural aspects of the Southwest.