Student to Certified: A Successful Journey

From SHRM student chapter member to SHRM credential-holder and practicing HR generalist

By Leon Prieto, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP April 25, 2019

​Among the many students I have encountered in my role as advisor to a student SHRM chapter, a few in particular seemed destined to succeed as HR professionals. These students had some traits in common: They were hardworking, kept active on campus, and pursued jobs and internships while they were in college, which helped them grow in the profession. Ervin Santana, SHRM-CP, a former student of mine at Clayton State University in metro Atlanta, followed that blueprint and has become a successful HR professional.

Originally from Miami, Santana has been living in Georgia for a little over 10 years. He now works as an HR generalist for a French multinational firm, where his responsibilities include onboarding, talent acquisition and people strategy. He has plenty of advice to share with university students on the threshold of professional life.

"Maximize your opportunities while in school, such as career fairs, resume writing, mock interviews, conferences and networking events," Santana said. "Any extra training and exposure that you can get will contribute to your success as you step out into your career field. Take advantage of internship opportunities; complete at least one internship before you graduate."

Santana is adamant about the importance of internships: "Now more than ever, employers are looking for real-world experience from candidates. Sometimes that internship can be the deciding factor leading to your selection for a position over someone else. [Internships] can also lead to full-time employment with the same organization after graduation. That's how I got my first HR job right out of college."

In preparing to earn his SHRM-CP credential, Santana took a SHRM review course through his local SHRM chapter. "It was a great learning experience and integral to my passing the exam," he said. Santana also turned his pre-exam time into a networking opportunity. He sought out guidance from HR professionals who passed the exam and advises other certification candidates to do the same. "Most people are open to sharing their experiences," he explained. "They are more than happy to give you valuable insight into what they did to achieve their goals of becoming certified." (As Santana himself is doing, I might add!)

Now that he is a practicing HR professional, Santana readily acknowledges the effects of his SHRM-CP on his burgeoning career: "The benefits of SHRM certification have been tremendous. I am seen as a valued HR professional, with practical knowledge and skills that are globally applicable and universally recognized. I'm gaining more insight into the multiple facets of HR and thinking more strategically."

He felt the positive impact of that knowledge and those skills right away—especially in the international focus of the SHRM study materials. "[That focus] allowed me to broaden my thinking and see things on a much larger scale. I have already had opportunities for my role to expand because of my sharper HR acumen." Santana has truly become a trusted business partner and continues to add value to his organization.

It is always a pleasure to see the development of my former students into successful HR professionals who are passionate about what they do—including giving advice to my current students. Santana is someone I know will continue to grow in the profession, and I fully expect him to achieve even greater success. 

"I believe that SHRM certification has allowed me to go to the next level in my career," he told me.

Leon Prieto, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is Heritage Bank university professor and associate professor of management in the College of Business at Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga., and advisor to the Clayton State chapter of SHRM. He is also associate editor, Journal of Management History, and co-author, African American Management History: Insights on Gaining a Cooperative Advantage (Emerald Publishing, 2019).


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