Meet Julia Schlueter, VP Human Resources
I usually come in with a plan and I have a schedule on my calendar and half of it never happens and I say that because, again, the field that I’m in is about people. And I can’t predict whether an employee needs something that they didn’t need yesterday so it didn’t get on my calendar.
Going back to what’s an important skill, flexibility. Being flexible, keeping the company’s best interest at heart while blending the employee’s needs. If you want to go into the field of human resources and, let’s say you’re not sure so you start in a two-year program, absolutely have to have communication skills. You need to understand the components of a business. So mandatory personality traits for someone in human resources is to be able to hold information confidential. You have to be able to keep secrets in a positive way. Secrets can sometimes be a scary or sad word I think. But you have to understand that people are coming to you with ultimate trust. I think one of the other really important traits in HR is you have to have compassion for the employee, no matter whether if it’s the CEO or the computer technologist or the file clerk. Everyone is there serving a purpose.
I was in premed planning on being an orthopaedic surgeon because I was in a lot of sports in high school and I was majoring in psychology because I felt that the combination of medicine and psychology would be a perfect fit for me. And in my sophomore year of college I hit the brakes. For me what happened was I didn’t feel that the people I was in the program with were people that I wanted to be professionals with. HR fell in my lap ironically after I had been laid off from being in a technology company. And I was looking for something to do and I worked for a recruiting company. So not a direct path. I wouldn’t recommend a direct path. For me personally and for what I see in individuals that I’m hiring, when you take time off from one educational institution or program to experiment with what you just got, it’ll kind of give you the path to the next one, if there is another one in your future.
So the minimum amount of education to succeed in HR, at least two years as an entry-level. And I say that because I think a lot of people end up in HR because they grew out of another position. If you want to go into human resources, the first thing you have to do is become an employee. You have to become an employee so that you can understand what it feels like to work for other people, to understand what being at work is about, whether it’s your payroll, whether it’s your vacation, how do you call in sick, all of those things makes someone in HR a lot more in touch.
I think the most important piece of advice to give a teenager or anyone of any age who is interested in moving into human resources is, decide whether you are comfortable making an impact on the people that work there. And I mean that because every day I make decisions that impact people’s lives. I may hire somebody, I may give them a fresh start, I may fire somebody, which also gives them a fresh start. I may have to deny somebody benefits or I may have to make some real hard decisions that affect that person’s life. And if you aren’t comfortable and don’t have compassion for people as decent human beings, then it’s going to be very awkward and you won’t be successful. You won’t be happy. And HR is a field where, because you have such a significant impact every day, you have to wake up excited about that.
So a person in human resources needs to be in touch with what their personal core values are and ensure that those core values are in line with the direction and the strategy of the company. And if that’s the case then you’ve got a marriage made in heaven because then HR is truly a strategic partner and not just an administrator.