Fate Led Scholarship Winner to HR

By Kathy Gurchiek Jun 23, 2015
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​Cindy King, SHRM-SCP

Cindy King, SHRM-CP, wanted to be a nun when she was a Catholic high school student. She wept when her guidance counselor told her that her grades weren’t good enough to get into college and she should become a secretary instead.

Many religious communities encourage the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree prior to entering their institutions. King had wrestled with learning issues that stemmed from contracting bulbar polio at age 4 and, as part of the treatment for the polio, being put into an iron lung.

King resolved to prove the counselor wrong about her ability to succeed in college. She attended community college, then earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in public administration at Suffolk University in Boston. Today, King is director of HR for the Institute for Health and Recovery in Danvers, Mass., and is one of five recipients of a new scholarship the SHRM Foundation awarded in 2015.

The nearly $2,500 scholarship gives HR professionals who might otherwise be unable to attend because of a lack of financial support the opportunity to experience the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition. It comes with full-conference registration, four nights’ housing at a conference hotel and a $500 travel stipend.

King wrote in her scholarship application that her life has been “fraught with obstacles”—polio, her father’s death when she was 9 and a post-polio syndrome diagnosis when she was in her 40s.

But she believes strongly in fate.

“There’s a Greater Being that has a path for you that you don’t know you have, and sometimes you have to stop and listen and take a leap of faith,” she told SHRM Conference Today.

“Somewhere, the strength my mother showed in tough times rubbed off on me and my five siblings,” she noted in her application.

She was employed full time as a social worker when HR beckoned.

“Fate, somehow or other, took my hand ... and led me to this occupation, this profession,” she said. She recalled receiving a phone call on a cold New England day from someone asking her if she would be interested in applying for the HR job at a state school for the mentally ill.

She was being laid off from her social worker job when the assistant superintendent, whom she had never met, called her. The personnel director, who was leaving, had met King once or twice at meetings and had suggested King for the position.

“I had no experience at all in the area. I had no intentions of going into personnel,” which is what it was called at the time, “because I didn’t even know what it was.”

After interviewing, though, King landed the job.

“I was hired into a position that I knew zero about. I made five mistakes every day and the next day made five new ones,” she wrote in her application. “Eventually I learned the theory behind much of what I was doing and I fell in love with the profession.”

Entering the HR profession, she said, “felt as if I’d really found my niche in life.”

She later served as director of HR for the City of Peabody, Mass., and the Crittenton Women’s Union in Boston, and was HR administrator for Parkland Medical Center inDerry, N.H.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.

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