Dear Younger Me…
I got into Human Resources through trial and error. In college, I did 3 internships that eventually led me to my chosen profession. The first internship seemed pretty glitzy. The main reason was because it was in London. I was a small town girl from the South. The furtherest I had traveled up until then was New York City the summer after fourth grade. Living and working in the U.K. felt like a dream. I worked for Coopers & Lybrand, one of the “Big 6” accounting firms at the time. Sadly, the glamour soon faded as the most interesting work I did that semester was make calls and talk to people in other parts of the UK. Otherwise, I was stuck on my computer testing international taxation software. STRIKE ONE.
The following year, I decided I would apply to the Walt Disney World College Program. My best friend from high school, April, had just completed the program and said good things. It would be another adventure – and I would get to learn the secret’s of Disney’s management formula. I was accepted and spent the spring of my junior year greeting guests in the park and driving trams at Hollywood Studios. It was a worthwhile experience and lots of fun, but hospitality was not my thing. STRIKE TWO.
Fast forward to my senior year in college. I was completing a degree in business management but had no idea what I was going to do with it. Then came Birmingham PATH (Partnership Assistance to the Homeless). I interned for an organization that was helping women come off welfare and get back into the workforce. Through this program, I met many of the top HR leaders in Birmingham. I immediately fell in love with HR. Not only did I see myself in these professionals, but I admired them. I saw the value in what they were doing. It resonated with me because they were making a difference. My last semester of college I also happened to take an “Intro to HR” course. I was completely fascinated. My thoughts went from “What’s next??” to “What’s next!!” Finally, a HOME RUN!
For those recent graduates who are trying to figure it out, I have three pieces of advice: get experience; talk to other professionals further down the career path; and get a coach. First, do as many internships as you can. You aren’t going to know what it’s REALLY like until you try it. Maybe you will be lucky and get it right the first time. If not, you will have some insight that will bring you closer to what you are meant to do. Plus you will have ruled out at least one field. Secondly, talk to experienced professionals in your chosen field to get the real scoop. As much as I enjoy the work of HR, there were a few surprises. I don’t know that it would’ve changed my decision, but I would have gone in with my eyes wide-open. Finally, get a coach. I didn’t get one until I was in my late 30s – and wow, what a difference it made! Having a sounding board and someone to help you figure things out is powerful. I distinctly remember feeling completely stuck so many times in those early years. My philosophy back then was I had to “move on to move up.” A coach provides clarity for the future and helps you navigate uncertainty. They help you focus on the long game, including what gives your life meaning and purpose. Who knows how my life would’ve changed if had I invested much earlier on. It also offers a competitive advantage as most people do not invest in a coach until they are further along in their career.
For what it’s worth, I hope sharing my experience has been helpful. Looking back, this is the advice I would give to a younger me.