SHRM Hosts Job Shadow Mentoring Day Event

By Beth Mirza Feb 1, 2008
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When 10 high school students come to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) on Feb. 11, 2008, they’ll “shadow” SHRM employees, learn about communication in the workplace and polish up their resumes. They’ll take away a better idea of the “real world” of work, as well as what their career paths through that world might look like.

SHRM is hosting the Job Shadow Mentoring Day event with support from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). SHRM is also a partner of Job Shadow 2008, an annual event led by Junior Achievement.

SHRM and ODEP signed an alliance on Oct. 26, 2006, to help employers hire workers with disabilities. The organizations also have sponsored Disability Mentoring Day programs, launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities, in October for the past three years. But this year, said members from SHRM and ODEP, they decided to focus on mentoring and include students with and without disabilities.

In years past, “students said they felt singled out for their disability—not for the career they wanted to pursue,” said Carol Dunlap, business development specialist for ODEP.

“This is more inclusive,” said Shirley Davis, Ph.D., SHRM director of diversity. “And this is how we define diversity anyway—all of us working together.”

ODEP recruited the students from local high schools by contacting the transition program counselors, said Rachel Dorman, ODEP policy adviser. Students in the program are getting ready to graduate from high school and are making decisions about whether to go to college or vocational school or start working, she said.

Students were asked for their career interests, and SHRM will match them to mentors in those departments, Davis said. Departments include design and production, diversity, editorial, government affairs, HR, Internet operations, and marketing.

“SHRM is so diverse, with many different departments,” Dunlap said. “Many students coming in would not know that.”

Other companies considering hosting a mentoring day should play to their strengths also, said Dorman.

“At a TV station, let the kids go before the cameras,” she said. “Use what your organization is known for.”

Also, look outside your department for other fields that the students might find interesting. Acknowledging that crafting government policy can be difficult to explain to a 16-year-old, Dorman said she once took a mentee interested in nursing to talk to DOL health experts. The student learned about the many different aspects of the medical field, inside and outside a doctor’s office.

SHRM and ODEP decided to start with a small number of students—10—for this event, Dorman said. “There’s no reason to take on more than you can handle,” she said.

“Even though there is a small number of students, this is still a companywide event,” said Francis Thompson, an interim staffer in SHRM’s HR department. Organizing the event has taken a significant amount of time and staff resources.

Several days before the event, SHRM mentors will receive an hour of training on tips for being a good mentor and topics to discuss, Davis said. Dunlap encourages mentors to be prepared to talk about why they chose their career and the preparation it took to break into the field. She said mentors should consider talking about the circuitous routes they might have taken to get to their jobs, also.

“Sometimes you end up in a different spot than you planned for,” Dunlap said. “Tell [mentees] it’s OK to go to school for history.” If students don’t find a job in that field, they’ll find their way to something different. It’s OK to change your mind, she said.

On Feb. 11, students will have a quick breakfast with their SHRM mentors and be welcomed by SHRM leaders, Davis said. The students will have an orientation session where they’ll hear about what they can expect to learn and do that day. Then they’ll head off for two hours of job shadowing, Davis said. After lunch, during which they’ll discuss communications in the workplace, the students will talk with SHRM staff about interviewing techniques and resume pointers. At the end of the day, students will give SHRM their feedback about the day.

Mutual Benefits

Davis said SHRM sees the event as a good way to help the community learn about SHRM and practice corporate social responsibility.

“This is an easy way to get involved in workforce readiness or development,” Thompson added. “It establishes [a company] in the community and helps [large organizations] connect on the local level.”

The event also is an opportunity to advance the profession and help entrants to the workforce understand more about HR, and perhaps consider HR as a career option.

“These could be potential HR professionals,” Davis said. “We could help them think of areas they may not have thought of before.”

Mentoring days can be good sources of potential candidates in the future, Dunlap said. Mentees might come back to the company during summer vacations from college, or they could re-establish connections after college graduation.

“These opportunities really have an impact on students,” Dunlap said. “In our past events, schools and government agencies have called [us] and said that students have been hired or made a career decision based on the experience. It really does change lives. You are playing a significant role in tomorrow’s workforce.”

Beth Mirza is senior editor for HR News . She can be reached at bmirza@shrm.org.

Related Articles:

SHRM Launches Mentoring Program for Members, Inside SHRM, Nov. 14, 2007

SHRM Mentoring Toolkit, SHRM Online

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