Company Supports and Rewards Pursuit of SHRM-CP

Now SHRM-certified, former recruiter with diverse background is head of company’s HR department

By Jennifer Just, SHRM-CP April 11, 2019
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​Jennifer Just, SHRM-CP

​Sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what you want to do with your career. You try a variety of professions and nothing quite works out the way you plan. Then you discover HR. 

HR intrigued me because it took all the skills I had developed in social work and education and combined them into one profession. I had already done many things: I was a service coordinator helping Hurricane Katrina evacuees; a family law paralegal; an academic advisor; an elementary school teacher in Thailand; a GED course instructor; and program director for an organization that taught children how to play golf.

It wasn't until a security company in Denver took a chance on me that I became a full-time HR professional. The company hired me as a recruiter, focusing on my positive attitude even though I had limited HR experience and was just getting my feet wet.

With the skills acquired from my previous jobs, I had the confidence to call and interview hundreds of candidates, coach and counsel employees, train new hires to be security officers, educate supervisors on work/life balance, and develop a new onboarding system. Within 18 months my projects and responsibilities increased as I took on benefits, unemployment claims and compliance-related issues. I even updated new policies and procedures to improve the overall function of the HR department.

Because there was still so much to learn and understand, I attended various workshops to gain self-assurance in my new HR role. With the help of the SHRM website, I researched, read and studied to become familiar with HR best practices. After spending countless hours looking up articles, I realized that I could get even more out of SHRM, and so I became a member.

Support for Professional Development

Since Day One, my company has fully supported my professional development because it saw my determination and drive to excel in the HR field. It covered the full cost of my SHRM membership without hesitation, recognizing that membership would benefit the company's growth as well as mine. I now had access to a variety of exclusive tools, including the online forums. Reading questions posed by other HR professionals gave me an opportunity to expand my knowledge, relate to others in my field, stay up-to-date on the latest HR news—and realize I was not alone.

My SHRM access paid off as I quickly turned into an HR "Jen-of-all-trades." I loved learning and researching information about HR policies and practices. I had a passion for HR and knew that this is what I wanted to do with my career, so my next step was to pursue SHRM certification.

In any field, it is important to grow both personally and professionally. And it is important to have support for your growth. My company was already aware of my performance and tenacity, and I kept them apprised of how much smarter I was getting, so they decided to cover the costs surrounding my efforts to earn my SHRM-CP credential. They could see how it would be worth investing time and money: I would learn more and save them even more in the long run. Another factor in the decision was the lower cost due to my SHRM membership. (Word of advice: Always explain how you are saving your company money.)

To make things even more exciting, and to reassure my company that their money would be well spent, I offered to pay for the certification exam myself if I did not pass. They declined my offer, but I wanted to stress to them how important it was for to me that I pass.

After several months of studying—and changing my test date a couple of times because I thought I was never going to know everything—I felt ready to take the exam and settled on a test date. I now had about four months to finish studying. I used a variety of tools, including the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge study guide and website; made flash cards for vocabulary words; took practice exams; attended workshops and seminars; and even read my husband's business books from graduate school.

The day came sooner than I expected. It was time to take the test.

Four hours later, I was mentally drained and just wanted to give my brain a break from everything it had absorbed over the past few months. Much to my surprise, I passed! I was filled with so many emotions that day it felt like a blur.

Shortly afterward my boss called me, eager to find out the results. After I informed him of my success, he was so happy for me that he told me to take the rest of the day off—which he found funny, since it was a Saturday! I returned to the office on Monday and everyone was thrilled for me.

Rewards for Achievement of Goals

After I received my SHRM-CP credential, my company gave me a bonus. That was something I had not anticipated. I had been focused on reaching my goal and increasing my confidence in the HR field and was thankful that the company helped cover the cost of the certification. The bonus made me feel even more valued and appreciated.

It was also brought to my attention that no one before me in the HR department had ever worked to obtain a professional certification in HR. Other employees had more experience than I did, but my pursuit and achievement of SHRM certification reassured my boss that I was serious about my job.

A few months later, the HR director left the company and we were in search of a replacement. My company—impressed with my hard work, dedication, eagerness, knowledge of SHRM competencies, and SHRM-CP credential—promoted me, and now I run our HR department.

Maintaining Professionalism

Being certified is about more than earning a certification; it's about what you choose to do with it once you have it. If you do not apply what you have learned, then you risk losing some of that knowledge and expertise and falling behind. Having my SHRM-CP motivates me to stay current with the latest trends and policies, constantly working to improve the overall goals and functions of my company.

Here is an example of how that translates into real-life action for me. A regulatory change in the Denver area required a major modification to the onboarding and training of our security officers. I was the HR lead for the project. Demonstrating my proficiency in Leadership & Navigation and HR Strategic Planning, I worked with our vendors and other internal and external stakeholders to bring our company into compliance with the new regulations.

I continue to participate in webinars, workshops, conferences and seminars to maintain my SHRM certification. I most recently attended the Mile High SHRM chapter conference, where I had a wonderful experience—and earned professional development credits (PDCs) toward recertification. I increase my knowledge and earn credits using non-SHRM resources as well.

Of course, I still have plenty to learn, as I still consider myself fairly new to HR. Eventually I plan to earn my SHRM-SCP; right now I am gaining more practical experience to pursue it with confidence. I need to catch my breath. In the meantime, I am proud to know that, with my SHRM-CP, people recognize my professionalism and dedication to the HR field.

Jennifer Just, SHRM-CP, is HR manager for Advantage Security Inc., in Aurora, Colo.

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