Scott Ferrin, Southwest Central Regional Field Services Director
On October 22, 2011, the Colorado SHRM State Council hosted their semi-annual University Relations event at Colorado State University’s Denver Learning Center. Seventeen students, representing 5 different Universities and 4 SHRM student chapters, from around the state of Colorado participated in the workshop. The Student Professional Preparation Workshop focused on giving students the tools that they need to be to be successful in today’s current business environment. How can the students differentiate themselves from their peers when it comes to interviewing and finding that perfect internship or first job after graduation?
The day started out with brief overviews of SHRM and the benefits of becoming a member from Scott Ferrin, SPHR and Laurie McIntosh, SPHR of the national organization. It was also mentioned how important and smart step it is to become a professional member after graduation. They also highlighted the usability and depth of the SHRM website as well as the new partnership with www.Internships.com. In continuing with the theme of SHRM membership and what doors it can open, Ronda Gallup, SPHR, spoke about the Colorado State Council as well as the local professional chapters around the state. Hopefully we’ll generate some interest for new additions to the State Council. After all, networking opportunities are one of the best ways to meet new people and get your foot in the door.
The workshop continued with two guest speakers and two interactive sessions. Carlene Goldthwaite, SPHR and Sam Lloyd, MBA, were our featured speakers this year. The speakers focused on different skills from preparing yourself for interviews to active listening once you’ve landed the dream job or internship. The interactive portions of the day included resume critiques and elevator speeches. Each session lasted about an hour, and there were lots of productive discussions. One student even commented that she had gotten more out of the one SHRM event than in an entire semester of one of her classes. These sessions were successful because of the wonderful HR Professionals that volunteered their time for the day.
About 10 volunteers from around the state graciously gave up part of their Saturday to interact with the students and offer up advice and knowledge on how to be successful. It ended up working out so that each professional worked with 2-3 students in each session, and we made sure that the students worked with as many different professionals as possible. The volunteers were from a myriad of different functional backgrounds and industries as well. The Colorado State Council and local professional SHRM chapters were instrumental in helping us to solicit for volunteers. In the end, the event was a success and the free flow of information between students and HR Professionals was a hit!
Many SHRM state councils are looking for ways to work with the student chapters in their states. In visiting with Robin Scott, she shared many insights into their reasons and the setup of this event. The following questions and answers will help you to develop a plan for engaging students in your state.
Why are you doing a student conference, How many conferences have you done, and What is next?
Colorado SHRM University Relations likes doing student conferences as a way to engage the students with HR Professionals from around the state. It is a fantastic networking opportunity to meet professionals in your potential industry as well as meet other chapters. The HR Professionals also love interacting with the students and sharing their knowledge and insights. In the past, University Relations has always done some sort of leadership conference/workshop in the fall and a mock HR games day in the spring. Since the HR games have been replaced with the Regional Case Competition, University Relations has focused more on having two leadership /professional preparation workshops per academic year, and then providing some monetary support for teams attending the Regional Student Conferences. We also try to rotate the location around the state in order to reach potential new members and keep various student chapters engaged by helping to host the event. Our next state student event will be held in February 2012 followed by the Regional Student Conference in Lakewood, CO in March 2012.
What was the most challenging part of setting up the program, and what recommendations would you give to others?
The most challenging part would probably be the soliciting of volunteers and making sure that all of the chapters around the state have the pertinent information about the event. Some recommendations that we have would probably be to split up the duties. The approach that we took involved one co-Director handling everything that dealt with the student chapters from registration to gathering ideas for what the students wanted to see. The other co-Director was in charge of soliciting professional volunteers to both speak at the event as well as critique resumes and elevator pitches. These events run more smoothly when the work is able to be divided; otherwise it just becomes too overwhelming trying to organize both volunteers and students from around the entire state. Once you have established a solid base of volunteers who are willing to help out with the events, the events tend to become more and more successful.
How did you involve the state council and the local chapters?
We involved the state council and local chapters by sending out email blasts requesting volunteers. Liisa and I already had an idea of how we wanted the event to work with regards to two speakers and then volunteers for the interactive sessions. We sent out an email to the entire board of directors and requested that the local chapter presidents send the information out to their members. We also talked about the event at the quarterly council meeting. Another resource that is proving to be really important is the College Relations liaisons on the individual local chapters. They have been instrumental in coordinating with the chapters and providing financial support for the semi-annual events. The State Council also provided the students with backpacks and other goodies that were leftover from the State Conference. We really couldn’t do these events without their support.