"How Did I Get Here?"

[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 02-27-03 AT 05:12PM (CST)[/font][p]This subject line is from a David Byrne (Talking Heads) lyric, but applies equally well to those of us in HR. I am fascinated by "What a long, strange trip it's been" for those of us who work in this profession! Many of us have been through a variety of career paths, and it's not uncommon for HR folks to have received their education in far-flung fields of academia; such as the bio I read today by one of our own: "Started out to go to law school, got a MA in costume design instead (what a switch!)." So,... I thought I'd give folks a chance to share their circuitous stories.

As for me, I received a BA in English/Literature, with a minor in Anthropology in 19**. I then pursued a trade i.e., wood-working, and earned my Journeyman Card as a Furniture Maker/ Millman. However, soon finding myself in supervisory and then management positions in the wood-products industry, I returned to Academia for course work in Human Resources. By doing so, I was subsequently able to direct my journey into HR work. Interestingly, I still don't have an actual degree in the discipline.

Anyone else?


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  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 02-27-03 AT 05:11PM (CST)[/font][p]I'm still trying to figure out how I got here.

    I got my BA in English also, with the intentions of being a teacher. After a long history in the sales industry, the oppurtunity came up and poof! instant HR manager-just add water. This site is a godsend (or nonspecific- diety-send for the p.c. crowd) for a newbie like me.
  • Let's see. Graduated in the late 70's with a degree in Psychology and a minor in English, History and Sociology. No jobs. Went to work for a company as a sales assistant at a below the poverty level salary. Wound up in HR at 22 years old when the CEO yelled at the "Personnel Manager" (This will really date me) and she walked off the job. He told me to go answer the phone in the Personnel Office. Three days later, I went to see him and said, "Apparently she ran an ad in the newspaper and all these people are calling in to see about being interviewed." He told me, "Well interview them and send me the ones you think I'll hire." Thus launched my HR career.

    I took eight years off to go to law school and practice, but missed business and returned to be the head of HR for two large companies. Began consulting six years ago and still love the people end of business. I've spent 23 years of my career in HR in some form or fashion. That makes me about 161 since an HR year is like a dog year!

    Margaret Morford
  • I started working for an attorney when I was a junior in high school and thought I wanted to go to law school. I then started working for a very large law firm and realized that my ethical standards and the ethical standards of the legal professional were somehow in conflict. I got my degree in Business Management and minored in Psychology. I then went to work for a bank for 11 1/2 years in Human Resources. The VP of Human Resources was a great mentor and I probably learned more in direct experience in that job than I could have in any college I could have ever attended.

    I moved to a larger city and decided to switch gears to health care. I have worked for two hospitals and am now in a very large cardiology practice who is considering building their own heart hospital. It's been a real experience, but I still feel like I have been to law school (or need to).

    Anyway...I am still a work in progress.
  • Went to college on a baseball scholorship and had high hopes of making it to the big leagues. NOT!! Injuries shortened my career. Dropped out of school, got married, worked as a dept mgr for a grocery chain. After 11 years went back to school and got my BS in Management of Human Resources. Went to work for a national department store as a Sr. Functional Mgr. with Personnel being one of my AORs. After 10 yrs there went to a temporary staffing service as manager for 3 yrs. and am presently Assistant HR Mgr with a manufacturing facility of approx 250 and an accounts payable dept. with 75 EEs.

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 02-28-03 AT 12:10PM (CST)[/font][p][font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 02-28-03 AT 07:59 AM (CST)[/font]

    Got a Masters in Education and taught for eight years before being assaulted and calling it quits. Took a job with a management consulting firm to learn the business ropes. Went from there into internal consulting in a corporate environment, then project management, then process engineering, then functional management in a smaller business setting, then HR as part of a consulting practice, then straight HR. Currently the VP of HR at an ad agency. Whew!!

    I have begun a job search to relocate closer to the east coast, Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia or Florida, to be nearer to family and friends. x:D

  • I had a pretty long and winding road getting here. I have a BA in secondary education. I only lasted one year teaching English to 7th and 8th graders. My next career was 9 years in social services where I worked in child protection handling abuse/neglect cases in Colorado and then Wyoming. I moved to California and needed employment so landed a job with the Employment Development Department handling unemployment claims. Because of that experience, I was hired by current company 19 years ago to handle their UI account. After 2 years, I was promoted into HR as an ER specialist.

  • Franfields

    Hope you've checked the SHRM website. Last time I checked (and I check it everyday) there were 13 openings listed in NC. Several in the Charlotte area. I've been in NC for 30 years and love it.
  • The older one is, the longer the road. My degrees are in business and public administration. Started in Personnel (the old days) in a machine shop, then the public sector (City and County of Denver) for a few years, then back into the private sector for a defunct transportation company, then consulting for 13 years and I went to work for a client, my current employer, 3 1/2 years ago. While consulting I developed a practice as an expert witness in employment practices, which I still do - in fact, San Francisco, I will be testifying in a trial in SFO in the next couple of weeks. I also teach HR in two university extension programs.
  • I started out as a vocal performance major with a secondary in piano. I then came home after realizing it wasn't for me and got a job in accounting while going to school to earn a degree in History for teaching. I was referred to the position of Admin. Asst. to the President of my CU by a friend, and then from there became a trainer/HR. And here I am..I am not as mature as many of you, being a lowly 25 yrs. old, so I am aware I have a lot to learn, but I love what I do and I love this forum...on another weird note, in addition to being in a career I never thought I would do, I also wound up marrying a minister, so when he finishes seminary, who knows where I'll be in 10 years!!:0)
  • Just have confidence that were ever you end up in 10 years it will be God's will. Even those of us that have been in this business for many years still have a lot to learn.

  • Great advice Dutch2..and very true..
  • I moved out here from California 3.6 years ago (My software helped me with that #). Having spent the previous 13 years in the restaurant industry I could'nt cope with it anymore so I went down to the co-operative grocery market down the street and got an interim job as a cashier. 6 months down the line they posted for a recruiting assistant which I was encouraged to apply for. I went through the interview process along with others. Oddly enough I got the job by telling the HR Mgr that my last job had been as lead bartender in a neighborhood bar and that the job included alot of confidentiality ie. not spilling the neighbors secrets to eachother (also I was cheap).
    At that time there was another assistant so it was a three person department.
    Then they laid off the other assistant. Then (while I was out with pneumonia) they laid off my boss!So it's just me now, no education, very little experience just trying to find my place in the HR world. I think I have less hair now.
  • I think you've the makings for a great novel here!! What a strange road into HR for you!! I especially like your "confidentiality" experience.
  • I suppose I got a start in Human Resources before the term existed and without even knowing I was getting a start in it. Had a double undergraduate major; art and social science. I know, I know, what the hell can you do with either? sorta like a biology degree or, as one of our friends posted, costume design. Then got a master's degree in Education in Employment Counseling and Vocational Guidance; I suppose, parenthetically, because no one had ever given me either (successfully).

    It might not surprise you to know I was accepted into the Peace Corps and had an assignment on paper to go to San Salvadore even though I would never have found it on a map. Luckily found a hometown job, with my first job out of college putting me organizationally over 9 people. I had never supervised myself, much less anyone else. I suddenly found myself in a Department of Labor office in the MS Delta in charge of (1) orientation and assessment to the world of work for hundreds of disadvantaged agricultural displacees, (2) recruitment and stand-up training for DOL training programs, and (3) management and oversight of a variety of offices and programs. I didn't realize at the time, or care, that all of these were part and parcel of the HR arena, in a broader sense.

    Then it was the management and supervision of a variety of regional DOL offices at the local levels. Soon I was into recruiting industry prospects for communities, designing and staffing recruitment programs for those businesses, conducting training programs, functioning as union liaison, and interracting daily with DOL, EEOC, OFCCP, Migrant Seasonal Farmworker offices, Immigration, Older Worker Act and much later was present for the birthing of ADA, sexual harassment and the brand new I-9 process. Working for 'thu Government' I was lucky enough to experience the rollouts of each of these programs as they developed, as well as MDTA (Manpower Development and Training Act), Veteran's Training and Placement programs, Job Corps, populating nursing training programs and industrial start up programs, CETA, JTPA and Workforce Investment as they were slapped on the rump by Congress.

    Without even knowing it, and certainly without planning it, I had worked inside most every government acronym and had become immensely involved in and familiar with labor recruitment programs, occupational and vocational testing, job placement, unemployment insurance, workers' comp testimony, stand up training, policy design and implementation, personnel policy development, performance review design and a myriad of government regulations from the enforcement side of the table. I had managed to build well-oiled partnerships with the private sector while learning the ins and outs of the public sector (from the DOL angle). Was so fortunate to have built that resume without intending to that I 'retired' from that work and got a real job in private industry as HR Manager for a 2600 ee nationwide refrigerated trucking company with 20 satellite terminals and over 600 non-driver jobs to fret over.

    5 years later, took a very challenging assignment as HR Director at a children's residential treatment facility which dealt largely with psychiatric and behavior issues with a lot of society's throw-away kids. Such employees, and because I couldn't handle it emotionally I wasn't one for long, are truly God's selected people working with God's selected children. Three years ago this week took my current job as HR Director at this manufacturing company.

    Without telling my age here, but certainly way younger than Margaret or Pork, just kidding x:-), I have experienced and grown from so many wonderful work experiences that I didn't pursue or plan and have managed to participate in all of the failed and working government programs that gave me the strength and knowledge to transition smoothly, right along into what I finally recognized was Human Resources all that time.

    I realize this was way too long, like most of my posts, but I also realize not many of you read this far. Don D.
  • Trained as a paralegal in the AF, pursued pre-law in college and intended to go to law school. Went to work part time for a large firm here in town (which changed my mind about law school) before graduation. Was asked to throw my hat in the ring for a position as secretarial supervisor (58 legal secretaries -- all women) and, for some unknown reason, actually got the job. Took some basic classes the firm told me I needed in recruitment/selection, HR overview, etc. and really enjoyed them. One of the firm's clients lost their "personnel coordinator" and recruited me away to be their "Director of Personnel" (read "chief whipping boy"). Originally I was told I'd be responsible for only home office ee's and mostly just recruitment and selection. Within a week, they also dumped Affirmative Action Plans, benefits administration, an upcoming OFCCP audit, and a gazillion other things onto my plate. How I lasted four years there is anybody's guess. Anyway, that was my intro to HR and I've been doing it ever since. After last week, I have no idea why I CONTINUE to do it, but... there y'go!
  • Well I escaped NY by joining the military.........got out went to school got a BS in Safety! Did the Safety thing, and in most plants was in the HR department. 1 great mentor, 2 bad examples, 1 okay HR Director later I had filled in, learned a lot and gotten a Masters in Safety and had the big corporate safety job! Downsized. x:-( Responded to an add for Field Resources & Safety Director..... new position, company had gotten big enough that they knew they had to do something.........I clicked, it has been a good fit, I have a lot to still learn on the technical side.
    My $0.02 worth.
    DJ The Balloonman
  • What a wonderful idea! It's a pleasure reading about all of these people who have become almost like family! --And I read all of Don's post! Didn't realize the Peace Corps was that old! (kidding... I was a flower child in the 60's so I remember that far back)

    I got my degree in secondary ed and taught Spanish for a year before joining my military husband traveling around the USA. I worked in retail stores and factories and after his discharge we contracted jobs like insulating houses and doing small remodeling jobs. We did one for a bank president and I was offered a teller job. That led to teller trainer and the succession up the ladder to head of HR. I've been in this position 15 years and learn new things every day. It's so important to like going to work every day (well, most days).

  • --And I read all of Don's

    I've finally figured it out! Don is actually an undercover paid consultant for HR Hero and he gets paid by the word! x;-)

  • OK, my turn. Straight out of high school got a job with the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. I was placed in the "Personnel" Department doing background checks, testing, interviewing for entry level positions, benefit administration, etc. I started going nights to Pace University majoring in Accounting. As I got close to my degree, the bank transferred me into the Accounting arena. I was sent out to do bank examining with a senior bank examiner. Hated every minute. Dull. Boringggggg. Found a job in NJ as a Industrial Relations Assistant. Got involved with contract interpretation, grievances, Union negotiations and arbitrations. Company was bought out by a corporation in Buffalo, NY and the Personnel Department went to the corporate headquarters.

    Went to a direct mail marketing firm as HR Administrator, then HR Manager and ended as Director of HR. Spent 17 years growing the firm from 60 to 800 employees and loved every minute of it. Went through 3 unioning campaigns and lost the 4th one. Company got caught up in the recession and downsized to less than 100 people. I gave my job to my assistant and moved to AZ.

    Now HR Manager for a manufacturing firm with a broad scope of responsibilities i.e. HR, safety, training, security, hazard communication. Report to 3 VPs with a dotted line to the Pres.

    That's it folks. Looking back, I can think of only one thing, God works in mysterious ways.
  • One of my first jobs was as the application receptionist at Honeywell, computer division - never thought I'd be back. Moved into the marketing arena, had babies and left. After about 15 years went back to Honeywell in marketing, and their computer division was bought out by a French owned firm. When they laid me off in 1991, they had to retrain me. Had finished two years of college right out of highschool, so reeled of 79 credit hours in 18 months to get the degree - in Journalism/PR! My three boys were real tired of pasta by then, so got a job in Indian gaming in HR - that was just to start. Left that department after six months and moved to Marketing and Promotions. Got asked to return to HR in Feb of '96 - and have been there every since as the Employee Relations Manager. About six months ago, the casino HR has taken on all the other "for profit" enterprises the Tribe has, for a total of about 900 employees.
  • Verry interesting! Graduated from high school knowing that I'd be an electrical engineer. Two year associate degree in electronics (we studied tubes, not transistors : ), went to work to put myself through a four year engineering program, working full time, going to school full time to maintain my 2-S deferment. Dropped out after a year and got drafted the next month. Two years in the army as an MP, with a stint overseas, came back and started school again, but this time in business (had worked with a group of engineers while going to school, and decided that's not what I wanted to be). Degree in business with a specialization in Industrial Relations. Two and a half years as a civilian police officer, then began my career in Personnel by being hired to replace the retiring Personnel Director for a company that employed about 250. A month after I was hired by the VP of manufacturing, the President hired a Director of Labor Relations. Whoops, where was my place?? Actually stayed in Personnel as we grew the company to 800, then left and got my own shop, that is, I was the Director. Got fired from that job three times in one year, but left of my own accord, went to work for a couple of years loading trucks on a loading dock (good money, great benefits), then back into HR in manufacturing at a union shop which had just gone through a strike and hired replacement employees - now there's a learning experience! Most recently, I've been the HR Director in local goverment for 21 years. I've belonged to three unions, negotiated contracts from both sides of the table, but found my home here, really enjoy my job. Can't believe they actually pay me to do this!
  • Hey! That's me you're talking about with the masters degree in costume design. And it taught me to be tactful--you have to be when you're measuring someone so big around the waist you're not sure the 60" tape measure will do it!
    Anyway--got a BA in history and a minor in theatre, with the intent of then getting a law degree. After 1-1/2 years in law school I realized that wasn't what I wanted to do. So I ended up getting a masters in costume design. Worked in real estate title insurance along the way. Relocated twice with my husband in the process, and when we landed here almost 20 years ago I answered an ad for a secretary/receptionist for a major arts organization. Figured with my background it would be a natural.
    I gradually ended up with HR responsibilities because I would see things that were not being attended to and take them on, and would take the time to ask questions/do research to see if we were making a right decision. I've been with the same organization for nearly 20 years and have had one boss I put on a pedestal for his fair dealings with employees, one who was psycho, one with a strong background in HR who was my mentor and gave me the title for the job I was doing, and several others who fall in there somewhere. Thankfully I felt I had the respect of all of them--even the psycho on some days.
    Most days I love my job but some days I hate it. Every day, though, I look forward to seeing what is new and interesting on the HR forum, and what words of wisdom await me.
  • My dad worked for years in the electronics industry with a large employer. With all his bad days, I decided not to follow in his steps. At the time he retired, he was a coordinator in the education department. So, in college I studied music with my degreee in music theory. I also play trombone. So, after graduating I got a teaching job in a small Christian Day school, thinking my music degree qualified me to teach. Wrong. I lasted 2 years.

    So, I took an entry level job with an contract electronics manufacturer that did work for the company my dad worked for thinking well, I will follow in his footsteps afterall. I worked my way up in manufacturing throughout the 80's, then got my first taste of HR working as a Training Manager in the early 90's. Wow, I was becoming my dad. Then our company decided they didn't like HR and training was a waste of time. So I knocked around in manufacturing and quality for a while. Five years ago we were bought out and one requirement was there had to be a local HR manager. That had been my goal for a few years, so I was given the opportunity. I'm still here... and I still play trombone, write music and direct a church choir.
  • I'm really impressed with all of your replies. Me, I'm still after 2 years trying to figure out how I got here and when I can get out. I was hired as an accounting/hr clerk and somehow I haven't seen much accounting. HR just took over, it didn't at this plant prior to me being hired. Seeing that I didn't attend law school, I've had to learn a lot. It's interesting and challenging, but I'd prefer accounting any day. I'm not complaining, just venting. I'm just happy to have a job right now.
  • sfc77: Other than a few lawyers who post to this Forum, I'll bet there aren't 5 of us who have had any law courses, and I'm certainly not one of them. Experience is a much better teacher, but the lawyers do the best they can x:-). Welcome to HR. It's not nearly as boring as accounting, so don't be planning an escape. In fact, you'll not ever find it boring at all. HR is the only job I know of where you can find the freedom to escape your office or cubicle at any time of the day and pretty much get involved or paticpate in any area of the company you choose. What a fun job to have. You can make what you want of it. You largely control your own destiny when you join an HR department. I would never want to chew on a pencil and click five fingers rapidly all day long.
  • Ditto everything Don just stated!!
    This occupation IS what we make it. The same can't be said for many others -- I'll bet one of Don's deep-fried turkeys on that!! x:9
  • I guess I'm the odd man out.....I actually graduated with a degree in HR & have been here ever since!
  • I'm with you Yahoo. Graduated with a BS in Business Administration concentrating in Personnel Management (there goes that old term, again). Started career in operations for a national car rental agency. Left there 22 years ago to start first job in HR. Have moved my way up at manufacturing plants for 10 years, the became corporate employee relations manager for current company with responsibility for 9 manufacturing plants throughout North America. It's been a great ride!
  • I graduated 2 years ago with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Business. I was praying my entire senior year of college that I would fall into HR like most of you did. When looking for a job though, after graduation, I had one major problem... I had NO EXPERIENCE!!! Every HR entry level position was looking for at least one year experience in a support area or office enviornment. Well, I had supported myself through college doing retail, not much help to me now! So I luckily got a job as a receptionist and very luckily (is that proper grammar?) fell into HR at the same company a year later!!!! I Couldn't be happier!

  • Congratulations seem in order.
    Welcome to this distinguishing profession.
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