Is it Luck?

I have never been a lucky person. Scratch off's are wasted on me, my silent auction ticket number always goes uncalled and I have been hit 4 times by other cars while driving. BUT, my road to HR was ... lucky.

When I started college, I was going to be a Pharmacist. I failed Biology my first semester. Scratched that off the list.

I moved on to Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Social Sciences. I'm pretty sure that they made that up. Before I had a chance to even figure out what it meant ... I switched to English. Writing was always something I enjoyed and I had a way with words. I won my little brother 3 scholarships writing his college essays/applications for him. (In retrospect, I should have demanded some loyalties for that) Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do with an English degree and I wasn't looking to be a Lawyer or a Teacher. So what was I going to do?

On a whim, I spoke to the Mom of one of my sister's friends. She worked in Human Resources, traveled the world and truly enjoyed what she did. After talking to Barb, I was hooked. HR was the way to go. I enrolled in the School of Management at UB and was ready to go.

The next Spring, I emailed her asking if there were any internship opportunities available at her office. Without hesitation, or looking at my resume (which was non-existant at the time) she offered me a paid internship. Barb didn't want me to mess around with paper pushing either. Her attitude was that I needed to learn something of value. Before I knew it I was creating Merit Increase spreadsheets, learning paygrades; min/target/max, helping implement a new HRIS system and facilitating open enrollment. (A month earlier to that, I told a Professor I didn't think I would need Excel skills ... silly me.)

I worked 3 jobs that summer. Interning 30 hours a week, Day Camp for 2 days, waitressing 5 nights and going to summer class twice a week. I was exhausted and terrified. Was real life going to be this hard?

The true experiences and value I took from that internship led me to get involved with the college chapter of SHRM. I was the Chapter Liaison in 2007-2008 school year and President until this past December when I graduated. This opened up many doors to me. I developed a Mentorship Program for our members and local HR Professionals and became involved in BNHRA, the Buffalo chapter of SHRM.

I was lucky enough to be hired full time after graduating into one of the the companies I interned with. It is a wonderful company, looking to strengthen and develop me. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

If there is one thing I wish college students understood, it is that while college is fun, it is also the time to set up your future. Don't wait until after graduating to think "Hmm maybe I should do something now". Be proactive about your future! People want to help, want to share and watch you grow.

Maybe luck has a little to do with it, but so does hard work and taking a chance. Reach out to professionals in your field ... someone will grab hold.


Why Waitresses (and Waiters!) Can Make a Good Hire

If you've ever seen the movie Waiting, you may be skeptical of what a waitress or waiter can bring to the table. Having spent 3 grueling years serving, there are a few key attributes I know they might have.

Customer Service. Quick on their feet, comfortable with all types of personalities (oh, they have seen EVERYTHING), ability to communicate effectively. The soft skills on a resume easily translate from restaurant experience.

Multi-Tasking. This is a big one. Try taking care of 6 tables: 1 in need of drinks, the other needs to order and one is upset that their steak was undercooked. All the while, the ice bin in the back needs to be filled, table 64's food is up and the pop (yes POP) machine ran out of coke. Their minds are working constantly and furiously for hours at a time. Make one mistake and it could end up costing them a tip. You betcha that they know how to prioritize and deliver.

Patience. Sometimes it takes Grandma a little longer to decide what she'd like to eat. Sometimes there are 5 little kids screaming at them. They wait, they smile, they serve. Period.

They can SELL! Ever order the dinner special or the "Gingerbread Holiday Martini" ? They get rewarded for that. Often times, schedules are dictated by a server's PPA-Per Person Average. If you do not have a high PPA you won't be scheduled the "money making shifts" because after all, it's really about the restaurant profit.

Grunt Work: It's called "side-work" and it STINKS. But it's part of the job. They accept it, get it done and understand that there is no way around it.

This of course, is your ideal server with experience in a high volume restaurant. When recruiting for entry level positions, they might be 1 in 10, 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000. But definitely worth a second glance.

*PS: A life lesson for everyone-always be nice to your server. Trust me on this.


Meet "The Challenge Child"

When I was young, my parents affectionately referred to me as "The Challenge Child". This is a title that I worked hard for, and you bet that I earned every letter of it.

Up to age 4, I was outgoing, enthusiastic and CUTE. I could get away with anything because of my smile and charm. Or, so I'm told. It was the years following that really presented the challenge. In 1st grade, I cut my deskmates bangs. I told her that to get rid of them, you don't grow them out, you cut them. I left a trail of hair from the bathroom to my desk. It wasn't hard for the teacher to find the culprit.

My kindergarten report card said "Kelly needs to understand that the world does not revolve around her."

At 6, I convinced my sister that our blanket was a magic carpet. I opened the 2nd story window, knocked out the screen and was ready to push her out. Dad caught on just in time.

My first detention was in 3rd grade. I took ticky tack and put it in my teacher's hair. It got tangled and stuck, and he had to have the school nurse get it out with peanut butter. They sent a note home, but I stuffed it under the bus seat.

Between the ages of 8-13 the majority of family dinners ended with me eating at the bottom of the basement stairs alone. My parents have pages and pages of "I will not talk back" written on them. There are permanent marker drawings on the walls of our house. I constantly instigated drama in school, whined and threw tantrums.

I ran away at least once a month. This started when I was 5. I grabbed all the hangers I could fit into my little 5 year old hands and told my Mom I was going to wait for a bus. Now, we lived in the country. It was rare for a car to drive by, let alone a bus. My neighbor convinced me to go home, but I would only return under 1 condition. I was no longer "Kelly" from then on I was known as "Jennifer". Everything was new, I met a new Dad, raved about how beautiful my new bedroom was and adored the big backyard. I kept this up for 2 weeks.

I changed my name to Ming in 2nd grade.

Looking back, I laugh. I think "Wow, I was one fun little kid!" There is always humor in the past, but not when it's the present. Recently, me and my sister were talking about how we were raised and how we came to be so different. She graduated valedictorian, never in trouble, is 21 and never had a drink. She informed me that as a child, she did the exact opposite of everything I did. So I guess, in a way I am responsible for her success?

High school years hit me hard. My Mom was diagnosed with cancer and I fell into the "bad" crowd. I was constantly sneaking out, stealing the family car without a license, and in suspension. I was arrested and almost put on PINS. I have a permanent cigarette burn to remind me of the true pain I felt during this time. All the while, my Mom struggling through chemo. We didn't find out until later, but my Dad was falling in love with another woman at the same time as well.

I am made of tough stuff. This comes from my Mother. I may have to learn everything from my own mistakes, but it has made me the person I am today and fueled me to become the best that I possibly can. My experiences have forced me to look at the world for what it really is, figure out what I need to do and get it done. I am finally graduated, with a great job and some great people behind me.

This past Friday, I lent a friend $500, because she couldn't make her rent. Today I found out she is going to CA on vacation in a few weeks. Uh Oh ... here comes another one of those "hard lessons" ... stay tuned.