On Your Mark, Get Set, Graduate … to a Fulfilling HR Career

By Christina Folz Jun 23, 2014

ORLANDO, FLA.—Graduation is a bittersweet experience marked by goodbyes, but it also signals exciting new opportunities. The very word “commencement” means “beginning,” said Nancy Woolever, SPHR, at a Student & Faculty Conference general session June 21, 2014. “I like to think of commencement as a start to the next phase of your life,” said the director of academic initiatives at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Woolever and SHRM U.S. field services director Scott Ferrin, SPHR, advised students at the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition here on how to get ready, get set and go on their journey of transformation from college to career. Their talk came at the end of a day that brought together HR students from across the country and around the world.

Get Ready

As students look toward life after graduation, Woolever encouraged them not to lose focus on their grades. Additionally, “you really have to take a lot of care about how you present yourself on social media and how others are presenting you.”

She also stressed the importance of internships. While less than 10 percent of universities with an HR degree program require an internship to graduate, about half of HR students complete at least one, according to SHRM data.

“Every time we conduct this research we find out that students are increasingly taking more internships,” Woolever said.

Across all job types, roughly seven out of 10 internships turn into full-time jobs. “This is why we have focused so much on internships,” she said. She noted that SHRM has a partnership with Internships.com to help students and employers connect for internships at no cost to either party.

Taking the SHRM Assurance of Learning Assessment is another way students can show employers that they have mastered the knowledge being sought in entry-level candidates, she said.

Get Set

The next step is to review available opportunities in the job market, said Ferrin. The U.S. economy is slowly recovering; roughly 217,000 jobs were created in May 2014, he said, and the news is even better for HR professionals.

“HR jobs are expected to grow at more than twice the rate of all other types of jobs,” he said. “We’re excited about where we’re at from an HR jobs perspective.”

He advised students to list SHRM membership on their resumes to demonstrate career commitment to HR, and to build their network through a professional SHRM chapter.


Students should target jobs that fit their skills and apply only for the positions for which they are qualified, Woolever said. They should carefully monitor where they’ve applied and make sure to thank potential employers for their time. She encouraged the audience of eager Millennials to leave their parents out of the process: “Do not take your parents on an interview. Do not have your parents call to follow up to see why you didn’t get the job. Do not have your parents do anything.”


Woolever and Ferrin encouraged students to master all nine competencies that are part of SHRM’s new certification—ethical practice, communication, consultation, critical evaluation, global and cultural effectiveness, relationship management, leadership and navigation, HR expertise, and business acumen.

“Think of yourself as starting on the journey towards total competence as an HR professional,” Woolever said.

Most importantly, students seeking a job should be enthusiastic and engaged.

“Most people go to work to get a paycheck; you need to go to work to have an impact,” Ferrin said. “The success in your career comes from being present.”

Christine Folz is editor of HR Magazine


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