Students Visit SHRM To Learn About World of Work

By Beth Mirza Mar 6, 2008
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During the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Job Shadow Mentoring Day, 10 high school students from Arlington, Va., spent time with professionals around the organization, underwent a resume review, and learned what not to wear to an interview.

Hosted in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the day introduced students to HR and other types of work, including IT, editorial, design and government affairs. The group included students with and without disabilities.

In years past, SHRM and ODEP had hosted Job Shadow events only for students with disabilities. In 2008, both groups wanted to make the event more inclusive.

“It’s a dream of ODEP’s to bring students with disabilities and students without disabilities together,” said Loretta Harrington, special assistant in the ODEP Office of the Assistant Secretary. “We don’t think distinctions should be made.”

“SHRM was very flexible, welcoming and reached out to young people of all abilities. The event was integrated, like the world is today,” said Janet Shea, transitions services coordinator at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., who helps students make the leap from high school to college and the work world.

The day started with breakfast and a welcome from SHRM CEO Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, COO China Miner Gorman and CHRO Steve Miranda, SPHR, GPHR.

“When you enter the world of work,” Meisinger told the group of mostly 12th graders, “you’ll meet someone who’s probably in HR. They’ll ask you about your strengths, skills and interests to see if you fit the job—to see if you’ve come to the right place. … Make sure you ask them about the culture of the workplace. Find out if this is not only a job you want to do, but also a place you want to work.”

Students then spent two hours with their mentors, many of whom had e-mailed or called the students a few days before the event.

Theresa Minton-Eversole, manager of the SHRM Online Staffing Management Focus Area, mentored Mark Destro, a senior at Yorktown High School, also in Arlington, Va.

“Mark and I discussed his interests and how those could match up nicely with a career in journalism,” said Minton-Eversole.”

Destro also visited with several other writers and editors in the Editorial Department, who discussed how they got into journalism and the various publishing opportunities they had pursued. SHRM editors have worked for major daily newspapers, other professional organizations, business journals and popular media.

“I hope Mark learned how diverse the opportunities in the publishing and journalism fields are,” Minton-Eversole said. “I also hope he left SHRM with some understanding of the avenues he can explore to enter the field, as well as move around in it as his career progresses.”

If there was a lesson Washington-Lee senior Bethlehem Gellana learned, it was the value of being in the right place at the right time. Mentored by SHRM Diversity Director Shirley Davis, Ph.D., Gellana went on a short tour of the building to meet people Davis works with each day. They bumped into a co-worker who asked about Gellana’s career ambitions. When she told him she wanted to be a social worker or a psychologist for troubled teens, he steered them to another staffer who had worked in that field before coming to SHRM. Michelle Dolieslager, program manager for SHRM conferences, spoke to Bethlehem about educational requirements and career considerations and gave her some advice on colleges to consider.

“Bethlehem’s eyes lit up,” Davis said.

Zachary Bowman, a senior at Washington-Lee, came to Job Shadowing Day looking for tips on building a career in film and television, but came away with advice that he could apply to any professional endeavor. Talking with Patrick Mirza, online multimedia producer for SHRM, Bowman said he sometimes struggled when trying to direct groups of actors in his movies, which he writes, directs and edits. Mirza told him that working with groups is almost always difficult—the trick is to realize that each individual wants to feel special, and it’s the leader’s job to make each person feel valued.

“It’s most appealing when you are talking to someone who knows and can relate to what you’re talking about,” Bowman said.

Devin Walker, a senior at Yorktown, got to jump right into the world of work. With mentor John Anderson, publications design manager, he snapped photos of each SHRM staffer for a presentation that would be shown to the entire SHRM staff. The job was directly in line with his interests.

“I’ve been meeting with Devin and talking about ‘avocation’ instead of ‘vocation,’ ” said Karen Sherman, transition services coordinator at Yorktown. “He thought he could do it and get paid to do so. This gave him a different perspective, and that he could take pictures along with other job duties.”

Catherine Wukitsch had less defined ideas about her potential career, but she still found lessons she could use.

“I believe that the day’s events will help me in college,” the Washington-Lee senior said. “I still don’t know what I want to be. [But] this gives me something to think about for my future. It’s a start!”

After lunch, the students watched as SHRM staffers role-played interviewing techniques, led by Wanda Barrett, employment manager in SHRM’s HR Department. In the scenario, one job applicant was prepared for her interview to be an intern at SHRM, was professionally dressed and asked questions that showed she had researched the organization, while the other was not dressed appropriately, took cell phone calls during the interview and admitted that his mother had filled out his job application.

The students also had a resume review, conducted by Tammy Finnell, team leader in SHRM’s member relations department, who had made comments on each student’s resume and gave them pointers on how to make them look even better.

“I’m pretty sure the day’s events will help me in college, but when I was listening [to the SHRM staffers], I was thinking more along the lines of these events helping me out in life—in the real world,” Bowman said.

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

Related Article:

SHRM Hosts Job Shadow Mentoring Day Event, Inside SHRM, Feb. 1, 2008

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