Last night I spoke (as one of three) at Clark (my alma matta) to the English Majors (or the interested ones) about what I do, what my challenges are and how my English major helps me. I think I spoke too fast, and although I covered all those points the woman who went after me said so much more... and I kind of wish I had said a bit more... but anyway its below in case you are interested.
Hello! I’m Adrienne and I graduated with honors in 2003. I’m currently the People Strategies Team Coordinator at Shawmut Design and Construction which is a 600 M national General Contractor located in Boston. People Strategies Team is what we call our Human Resources department, and it is a different name because we act in a much more strategic way than most HR departments.
As a coordinator I support the VP and Director of our department in their day to day activities and on special projects for them and entire team. Day to day I manage their calendars and communications whether via phone or emails. In my support role I also help draft a lot of memos about many of the programs and practices our HR department is involved in. I’m a go to person for anything people may need from the Director and VP and usually anything in general that employees need from our department. Some of the special projects I work on are compensation research and benchmarking, planning and implementation of new computer systems and other non technological systems that are related to HR, like our applicant tracking system the recruiting team uses, and designing and facilitating training programs. It’s a very complex role and each day is very different, I could take all my allotted time describing what I can do on a typical day. But let me tell you a little bit about Shawmut.
Shawmut is extremely high energy and fast paced so new projects and needs are being tossed my way daily. One of my major challenges is keeping everything in order, I have to be detailed and organized. Another challenge I encounter is being asked to work on things I’ve never done before, or am not that familiar with. As someone new to not only the work world, but the HR industry in general this challenge will lessen as I learn and grow in my role and in my chosen industry. Our company is growing a very rapid rate (When I started in January of 2005 there were 450 employees, there almost 650 now) and with that our HR department has to grow and change many of the old procedures. This has given me exposure to change management, systems implementation, and taught me how to look at current policies, procedures and systems and understand where they can grow and change and where they just need to be completely revamped.
So, how did my English major prepare me? You may hear what I do and think- there is no way she needs an English major for that? Let me first tell you how I got to HR from the English major. As I began to explore Clark’s 5th year free program the only program that really spoke to me was the Professional Communication Masters Program. In this program there were 3 different areas of focus- Human Resources, Marketing, and Management communications. Being a Sociology minor I saw HR as a combination of my English and Sociology skills. I would be able to communicate well and understand how the employees of the company I was working at would respond to certain forms of communication.
So, that brings us to today- and my work in HR. I feel that my Masters program was able to prepare me for what HR is all about, what HR professionals can focus on and where different HR departments go with their practices. However, my English major enabled me to be ready for anything, which as I said earlier is a necessity in my ever changing fast paced environment.
I can write up memos/emails communicating important initiatives and communications to the company or select employee groups for my bosses to save them time.
I can take a document they’ve written and look at it with an editors eye, finding typos and helping them better present their points.
I can read and summarize articles, providing them with time saving ways of taking in important industry information. This also exposes me to industry information that will help me learn and grow a bit more quickly in my role.
I think the area I’ve seen my English major prepare me the most for is my work with the Training and Development team. Our training programs consist of Overheads to present, Facilitator Notes to help with the presentation and Participant guide books that give the participants a take away from the class and include exercises to do during the class. In my work with T & D I’ve helped write up overheads which need to present a lot of information in very concise ways, I was able to learn how to best present ideas concisely via my English major curriculum. I’ve also been able to write up the participant guide books which require a certain style of writing, something I adapted to easily, and again it is writing a broad point in a small space requirement. All those one page essay’s that could have taken 10 really helped with that! And, presenting frequently in classes helped allow me to be comfortable in front of a group and facilitate some training programs.
Honestly, even before I was asked to speak about how my English major has helped me, I frequently thought to myself and out loud how thankful I am that I had the chance to hone my writing, reading and communication skills in an English program. They’ll tell you during your time as an English major that you can do anything with your degree, and its true. It will help you in all aspects of business. Just like I could talk all night about what I do everyday, I could also talk about the skills I learned as an English Major that help me do well in my job and decreased my learning curve. In many cases it will give you a step up because you’ve already developed strong ways of communicating that many first year grads lack.