Student Panelists Offer Career Advice, Tips

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek September 10, 2021
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​LAS VEGAS — The importance of HR credentials to a career. Using Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) chapters to build professional networks and study groups. Setting boundaries to establish work/life balance.

These were among the nuggets of career wisdom a panel of emerging HR professionals shared during the concurrent session "What I Wish I Knew: Emerging Professional Insights," held Sept. 9 during the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021.

Vernon Williams, program manager for the SHRM Foundation, moderated the discussion with members of the SHRM Young Professionals Advisory Council (SHRM YPAC), which advocates for future HR professionals. Panel members included:


Crystal Granger

Crystal Granger, SHRM-CP, HR benefits manager for Harsch Investment Properties in the Portland, Ore., area. She has a bachelor's degree in HR management and leadership.


Rebecca Rowe

Rebecca Rowe, SHRM-CP, director of HR at Behrens Manufacturing, headquartered in Winona, Minn. She has a bachelor's degree in HR management/personnel administration and a master's degree in training and HR development.


Kirk Wyman

Kirk Wyman, SHRM-SCP, HR manager at Elementum 3D Inc., headquartered in Erie, Colo. He has a bachelor's degree and master's degree in HR management and psychology.


Claire Petrie

Claire Petrie, SHRM-CP, director of technology talent management at Lighthouse Technology Services, based in Buffalo, N.Y. She has a bachelor's degree in HR and business administration and a master's degree in business. She is president and CEO of Claire Petrie HR & Training.


Amanda Brunson

Amanda Brunson, SHRM-CP, global HR business partner at Sabre, headquartered in Orlando, Fla. She holds an associate degree in psychology, a bachelor's degree in business administration and organizational leadership, and a master's degree in HR management.


The group offered insight into the following:

How to make your resume stand out.

Brunson noted that the resumes she receives tend to look alike and feature the same attributes. She advised students to take electives, such as employment law. "Make sure [you] don't have these gaps in your education so [you] can be really credible in the workplace" and have an expertise to offer employers, she said.

Petrie noted that she makes sure her core values are evident in person and online. "Identify who you are and what your strengths are, and portray that out to the world," she advised. Petrie does this through a robust social media presence. Others, such as Granger, express their values through volunteerism. She has been active with Rose Haven, a nonprofit serving women and children who are homeless and have been abused.

[SHRM student member resource: Career Launch: Resume Templates]

College classes that were beneficial to their careers.

Rowe said an interviewing class helped her as a job candidate and in her work screening job seekers.
A leadership class that explored leadership styles and theory helped Wyman. "In HR, it's important to adapt your communication style to your audience," he said.

A finance class also has been helpful, he added. "Everyone speaks finance, and if you can show any return [on investment]—talk the talk, walk the walk—they're going to come to you [in HR] for more things. They don't know the people side; they just know the numbers side. You can bridge that."

Brunson said she valued a class on how to give presentations to an executive team. She also participated in the state SHRM Conference Student Games—a timed team challenge to tackle an HR case study and present a solution to judges.

That experience taught her, she said, to never overlook the importance of providing the return on investment when presenting a recommended course of action. It was something her team forgot to do, and the judges said it cost them first place in the competition.

Seeking out leadership opportunities.

Rowe advised an attendee asking for tips to advance to a director-level role in manufacturing to insert herself into the business. Ask questions even though the issue at hand may not be directly associated with HR.

"It's all going to trickle down to HR in some way," she pointed out. "Project yourself as a leader," she added, and don't apologize for asking a question.

Rowe also recommended getting involved with the SHRM YPAC. "This council would be a perfect opportunity to grow in leadership," she said. "If you're part of a local chapter, look for board openings; it provides not only the networking but growth opportunities."

Pursuing SHRM credentials.

All of the panel members talked about the professional value of attaining a SHRM credential.

"I went to schools in states I don't currently work in, so my degrees aren't as well-known as in the college town [where I lived]. This is a lot more transferrable," Wyman said of the SHRM-SCP. "People know what to expect from me."

Study groups and the SHRM Learning System were helpful in preparing for the certification exam, panelists said. Granger advocated finding a study group, while Petrie said she preferred the self-study option that using the SHRM Learning System afforded.

"Just figure out what works best for you," Granger advised.

The SHRM Foundation offers grants to SHRM members seeking SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification. Each grant covers the cost of taking the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification exam and acquiring the SHRM Learning System. The application deadline is Oct. 13.

Panelists also urged emerging professionals to set boundaries between work and home and to pace themselves at work.

"There are a lot of emotional things you're dealing with [in HR]," Rowe said, and it's important to give yourself space. Her fiancée knows when she comes home from work that her time in the kitchen preparing dinner is when she decompresses.

He has come to understand, she said, that she likes to be alone during that time and not talk about work.

Rowe advised attendees to know their limits; in her first job, she stretched herself too thin.
Petrie said she did the same thing, noting that her favorite response to questions from employee became "I don't know, but I'll get back to you."

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