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Amy R., HR Management Support Consultant

Amy R., HR Management Support Consultant

A Day in the Life of Amy R., Management support consultant, human resource operations, for a diversified electronics company; outside Denver, Colorado, U.S.

MBA Human Resource Management

What I Do

I work in a department known as Management Support within the Americas Human Resources (HR) Operations Group, as a consultant to the managers.

My role is to coach managers on performance issues with regard to their employees, lead internal misconduct investigations, investigate discrimination complaints, and resolve other related issues involving conduct between management and employees.

Although my focus is primarily on the conduct of managers, both managers and their employees are my clients, in a sense. If someone is reported to have done something they shouldn’t have, I’m going to be the person dealing with finding out what happened and creating the best resolution from the company’s viewpoint.

What I Enjoy Most

I deal with people who are, by definition, unique characters, so there’s always a new twist. It’s fascinating to see the variety of things that can happen, in terms of misbehavior in a professional setting.

I guess it boils down to the fact that people are people and they sometimes misbehave, whether or not they are at work. I also enjoy coaching managers on how to handle their poor performers.

What I Enjoy Least

People are stressed—or even hostile—by the time I’m involved in their situation. Giving constructive feedback can be hard to do, because people are often unwilling to listen, especially when they are feeling guilty or defensive. Managers occasionally don’t agree with corporate policy, yet I am there to present recommendations in a convincing way that upholds this policy.

Why I Chose This Career

I don’t regret my first job in advertising, because one of the projects I was fortunate to work on was to start an internship program for my agency and run the intern program at the Ad Club of New York City. To my surprise, I found that I loved the recruiting, counseling, and career development pieces of that project. From then on, my interests have remained in the field of HR, world wide.

Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career

You need a high level of emotional intelligence. Part of that is to be adept at doing what I call a “quick read” on a person and on a situation. Somewhere in between what two parties say about an incident is usually the truth.  Part of it is to be able to remain calm when others are hostile; you must try to create a neutral or objective setting to piece together an investigation or find resolution.

Abilities to influence and persuade are the primary tools you use in a misconduct or coaching situation. Often the manager must be persuaded to take corrective action when he thinks nonaction (avoidance) is easier. Sometimes that corrective action is termination of employment.

If you don’t deal well with conflict, this is not the job for you. You are dealing with high stress. People’s ethics, reputations, and livelihoods are on the line.

Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path

The best way to be good at this job is to know the values, rules, and corporate policies of your company. Reading company material is just the first step. You must learn from your manager, colleagues, senior managers, and the legal department.

You need to believe your company’s values are aligned with your own in order to feel comfortable upholding them. No employment decision can be made alone. You must feel comfortable collaborating with others to arrive at the best recommendation for a manager.

What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)

After an enjoyable college internship at a New York ad agency, my first full-time job was as an account executive for an advertising firm.

From there, I took a job as an HR assistant at a brand firm with 65 employees. The firm focused on brand and package design, which was a connection to my first job in advertising.

My last role before business school was as the director of HR for the Sterling Group, a brand strategy and design firm with 50 employees. I had the fantastic opportunity to start the human resources department at Sterling Group. I had a total of four years of experience—three in HR—before going to business school.

As an MBA intern, I worked at Aramark Education Resources, in the HR department. My primary project was to analyze employee turnover at the Children’s World childcare centers and to present recommendations for reversing high turnover.

Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)

In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…

A generalist program where you get a wide exposure to all facets of business, because you will be providing HR support across functions in most companies. One thing that attracted me to Cornell was the flexibility to combine solid business courses (finance, accounting, etc.) with courses in the industrial labor relations school.

You could even pursue a dual degree, but I didn’t want to be that specialized. I did take five or six courses between the two schools that were specific to HR, organizational development, and labor relations.

I wanted a school that was small enough to foster good relationships among students and faculty. I wanted faculty who were approachable, and I really paid attention to this dynamic during my campus visits.

I took accounting in college and took refresher courses in both accounting and calculus prior to applying to business school. I feel that I presented a balanced application with both “hard” and “soft” skills.

In the long run, I wanted to be at a place that valued HR within the broad context of a generalist MBA degree. While my current position uses less of the hard skills I learned in business school, the teamwork, organizational development, and personal reflection skills taught by the Johnson School are invaluable to me today.