Most of the HR professionals in which I have networked with, do not come from a Human Resources Management or Business Management degree. In fact, most in which I have personally spoken with have come from an English or Sociology degree, and landed their various roles in Human Resources from there. When asked, “what can I do with a sociology degree?” there are many responses, and upon signing up sophomore year to declare sociology my major, I hadn’t known most of these various career paths.
One of the best ways to start out in a new industry, especially as a student on the precipice of graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree, is to obtain an internship in the position, industry or company of interest. Graduates can get jobs in almost any industry, from human services to business and law. I applied to be a Human Resources Assistant at the Edinburg Center early on in my senior year using the career finding website Indeed.com. For my internship at the Edinburg Center, I was the Human Resources Assistant Intern who reported to the Human Resources Director and Lead Recruiter on a daily basis.
Human Resources has various sections or “pieces of a pie” where there are multiple categories in which you could be working in, on different days and times each week, which keeps the flow of the day going and there is always a different task to be working on. At the Edinburg Center, my tasks started as more administrative recruiting, where I focused on our applicant tracking system and job boards for various tasks, such as refreshing job postings and printing candidate applications if they are qualified for the position in which they applied.
I expected a high degree of training, since I had no experience before taking on this internship. I met with the Lead Recruiter or Human Resources Director daily to make sure I was updated on all tasks that needed to be completed that week. I went from the early stages of the recruiting process, to doing reference checks and shadowing candidate interviews. I was involved in independent projects, as well as group collaborations within the Human Resources department. I expected to be working in a fast-paced environment on some days, since the tasks assigned are always rotating to what is most pertinent to complete that day.
We would choose candidates by their location and experience, though we do focus mainly on the requirements and qualifications for the job and move on from there, if the candidate still seems like a good fit for the role. We would use the phone interview and in-person interviews to determine if the soft skills the candidate possessed would be an accurate fit for the job. The best way I heard my managers at the Edinburg Describe this process was “would you want them to be taking care of your grandmother?” Which helped me put into perspective the various soft skills needed to truly be able to take care of another individual, especially one with vulnerable or violent tendencies.
Being in the field, I learned of various surprisingly diverse aspects of the Human Resources departments duties. We had to use profiling skills to determine if the candidate would likely stay long-term, through their commute, soft skills, and qualifications. Some applicants come in who happen to be overqualified and the lower salary we offer would eventually just lead them to another job search. In order to lower turn-boer rates, we worked on external factors such as those previously mentioned, as well as internal factors. The internal factors that are most common at the Edinburg Center would be the House Managers ability to keep the employees engaged and enjoying their work, with the ability to open up when needed. Other internal factors could be making sure our pay rate stays competitive ot the current market.
I enjoyed various parts of being in a smaller scale non-profit environment. With as many job openings as they can have to fill in a single semester, I learned that we would not just reject people who may not be qualified for one position, but rather sit down and discuss if there were any other openings in which they would be good for. In those cases, I would send them both a rejection letter for the position in which they applied, and then follow with an email detailing a position we believe they would be a good fit for.
The Edinburg Center, being a non-profit, mainly gets funding through Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, and when they are in the midst of acquiring a new contract, our jobs as interns gets even more crucial. I was responsible for gathering resumes through sourcing passive candidates. There would be a company wide restructure at the start of the summer, and a lot of the positions in which we work to fill daily would need to have their requirements altered. This can be a highly confidential process, as some positions that are filled now may not be included in the future contract, and many employees under the contract would possibly have to reapply for their positions in order to stay with the organization.
Human Resources takes on a lot of “people studying” throughout the phases of hiring and employee relations work. In order to truly create a healthy, safe and engaging work environment, there had be to be a certain level of understanding of the diversity of the human race and the cultural differences that can play a part in how people work and their work environment’s influence on them. We don’t supervise directly, but we have to work in the employee relations side of any work conflict, which can be very confidential, due to harassment or discrimination claims, and more. Having a sociological imagination gives me an advantage in the workplace, we can better see what shapes an individual and we can avoid alienating employees or hurting company loyalty.
In gaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, I have been a part of programs that require you to develop communication skills proper for the workplace and to be able to process, analyze and explain data for groups of people. I believe this academic training will set me up well for a job in human resources, where I would be required to process resumes and application materials, as well as manage people’s personal information and help employees solve problems related to work. Though you don’t find the title “Sociologist” in many positions today, there is an underlying need for this knowledge in almost every field. Using the tools gained in my undergraduate education will help further my career.