They know all your secrets. Your social security number. Your salary. How many times a day you check Instagram when you’re supposed to be “working.”
No, I’m not talking about some evil robots from the future, but living, breathing humans who walk among us. You’ve probably seen one in the hallway. Exchanged a smile. Maybe even eaten lunch with one.
So who are these mysterious all-knowing beings? The friendly folks in your Human Resources department, also known as HR.
We caught up with Heather Clark, Director of Human Resources at The Huntzinger Management Group, Inc. to learn about what it’s like to wield this awesome power—and use it on a daily basis.
Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
As an undergraduate I attended Marywood University in Scranton, PA studying Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After graduation in May of 2009 I attended Misericordia University in Dallas, PA graduating in December of 2010 with a Master’s of Science in Organizational Management and a concentration in Human Resources.
What is your current company name and job title? If you’ve changed titles since you started at your company, what was your job title when you started?
Currently serving as Director of Human Resources with The Huntzinger Management Group, Inc. headquarters in Plains, PA, I started as an intern during my junior year at Marywood University and was offered the position of Human Resource Administrator upon graduation. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to Human Resource Manager. I have been in the role of Director for about two and half years.
What’s a typical day on the job like for you?
It may come as a surprise, but, there is no typical day! Every day is different and every day means a new challenge in my world. Whatever “checklist” I thought I was going to accomplish, rest assured will need to be changed by the end of each work day.
What is important is knowing how to prioritize. The employee who can’t login to your online HRIS system because they forgot their password six times can wait when you have an upset client because of employee misconduct.
Payroll goes wrong? Take that right to the top of your list. There is nothing that will upset your employees more than an inconsistent and incorrect paycheck.
Working in a multi-state, multi-company environment means you can never depend on one set of laws or one guaranteed answer. There is no black and white. As an HR professional, it is your job to create the black and white out of a gray situation—make situations clear that aren’t and make your employees feel at home, even in a sometimes unideal environment.
So you ask… what is a typical day on the job? Hundreds of emails and other virtual communications, that can’t wait, and guarantee that you will be faced with the balance between what needs to be done and what needs to be done faster!
What are your favorite aspects of your job? What are the things you would change if you could?
When I can satisfy my superiors and my employees, it is a job well done. Nothing is more gratifying. Whether it’s solving a health insurance issue for them, rolling out a new benefit, or simply helping them get through the day.
If I could change anything, I would allow myself more time to work on the strategic aspects of my job. I focus countless hours on day-to-day activities, but there never seems to be as many hours as I would like to strategize and focus on the future.
What did you study in college? How does your major relate to your current position?
My college career absolutely relates to my work. I/O Psychology focuses on training its graduates to learn human behavior in the work environment and how it relates to the psychological theories, inherently preparing its students to focus on improved employee satisfaction, safety, performance, and overall well-being. My OM and HR Master’s Degree also goes hand-in-hand with what I do each day. It allows me to make more educated decisions and advise our Executives of best practices.
What advice would you give to college students who are interested in working in HR?
Take advice from those around you. Study hard and learn employment law!
If you can go for your Master’s Degree or obtain your Professional Human Resources Certification, I would highly recommend it. Don’t wait—there is no better time than now. Not only does it show your proficiency and dedication, but it is an outstanding learning experience.
What are the most important skills or qualities it takes to succeed in HR?
Patience, resilience, aptitude. These are three of the most important qualities of a strong HR professional.
A patient person, willing to work hard, long hours through tasks that are tedious and not always fun to endure.
Resilient to failure and hard times.
In the HR profession, much like other service professions, you will continuously see the “bad”—the things that need to be “fixed.” The ability to stand above this and work through the difficulties with the knowledge you have learned it a key to success.
Aptitude. The strongest asset a person can have is the knowledge of experiences, law, and ethics. The knowledge of a mere fact has the ability to do things you never thought possible and push you further than you’ve ever dreamed.
Homework time! Heather shares some of the challenging aspects of her job, including the fact that HR people have to constantly address problems and things that aren’t working smoothly. Do you think you would thrive in an environment like that? Reach out to your network and find HR professionals who are willing to conduct an informational interview with you. Be sure to find out how they address the biggest challenges at work. If you’re not sure about how to conduct an informational interview, be sure to check out our posts on that topic.