Our Mentoring Goals: Growth, Knowledge, SHRM Certification

A conversation between coach and candidate

By Darcey McAllister, SHRM-SCP, and Mark Silvester, SHRM-CP August 8, 2019
Our Mentoring Goals: Growth, Knowledge, SHRM Certification

It's a story most HR professionals know well: An organization employs someone new to the profession, then hires a consultant to help the employee grow in the role—growth that includes the pursuit of HR certification. Mark Silvester is the candidate. He works as the sole HR professional for a small tech startup that helps people find campgrounds. Darcey McAllister, SHRM-SCP, is the coach. She is the principal consultant for her company, which specializes in HR services for startups. Below, the partners in this mentoring relationship provide a personal perspective on their joint experience.

Mark Silvester: I'm an early-career HR department of one. I had informational interviews with a number of Portland-based professionals to ask my many questions. I wanted to know not only how I could gain more knowledge of HR and about executing HR functions, but also how I could feel more confident with that knowledge. The most common answer I got was to study for an HR certification.

Darcey McAllister: Mark is passionate about HR. He sees the profession as the safeguard to fairness. He sees his job as making sure people are looked after. He prioritizes inclusivity. But he needed some educational grounding to back up that passion.

Silvester: After delving deeper into which HR credential offered the most with regard to my current situation, I chose SHRM certification. I felt that its emphasis on case study and competency-based questions and scenarios would mean that the knowledge I gained would be more applicable to what I do. I'd be applying what I'd be learning—therefore quenching my thirst to feel competent in the HR profession.

Applying Knowledge as It Is Learned

Silvester: I took my SHRM-CP exam in July—and passed! It was incredibly useful to go through each study module and view the information through the lens of my current role. A portion of the materials reiterate what I have been doing at work already. I also enjoyed learning about topics that didn't apply to my organization, such as labor relations.

McAllister: I saw a lot of growth as Mark was studying for his SHRM-CP exam. During our biweekly meetings, we'd be discussing a topic, and he'd say, "Well, my study materials suggest ... " Or he'd have such questions as, "What does this look like in real life?" So I could see him figuring out how to apply the information he was learning. He probably learned the most from the labor relations module—he's never worked in a unionized environment, but his questions on that topic were very in-depth.

Silvester: In studying for SHRM certification as an HR department of one, my primary focus was to act as a sponge for information—to take notice as the connections to my job happened. Another motivation for my studies was to see how other HR departments and organizations operate. Even if I'm not applying everything I learned right now, I've become aware of how larger organizations deal with topics and issues related to the HR function.

Most Useful, Eye-Opening Information

McAllister: Strategy is one of Mark's strengths—how to apply HR practices to overall business strategy. He's at a startup that is still working to become cash-positive, so getting into the green is at the top of Mark's list of strategic goals. He is making sure that his company hires staff who are engaged and work hard and efficiently. It's one way he is ensuring that HR supports the overall strategy.

Silvester: I've been very interested in the generalist-versus-specialist path in HR. I went through the SHRM certification study materials with that in mind. I'm excited by the possibility that a specific avenue of HR could be my calling. I'm still weighing those options and enjoying the exposure I get in a generalist role.

McAllister:  Mark is truly energized by global HR and the complexities of dealing with different labor laws and cultural norms.

Silvester: The most eye-opening and stimulating SHRM Learning System® for SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP module I completed was "HR in the Global Context." I would love to steer my career toward this area. Even in other modules, there's an emphasis on being aware and adapting to cross-cultural communication and interpretation. That's fascinating.

Darcey McAllister, SHRM-SCP, is the founder of and principal consultant for HRT Northwest, Newberg, Ore., and a member of SHRM's HR Disciplines Special Expertise Panel. Mark Silvester, SHRM-CP, is the HR department of one for The Dyrt in Portland, Ore.

For more information on SHRM Certification, and to register for the exam, please visit our website.

Already SHRM-certified? Be sure to maintain your credential by recertifying. Learn more about recertification activities here.




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