By Andreea Mihai, MPC2017
Cayley Montmarquette (MPC2014) discusses her unplanned career path into Human Resources, and shares detailed career development tips for recent graduates.
What drew you to the field of Human Resources?
The answer to this question goes back to my days as a student. After completing my undergraduate degree, I wasn’t entirely sure what path I wanted to pursue. I knew with absolute certainty that I wanted to write, create, present, collaborate with teams, meet new and exciting people, and learn every day. I was drawn to the MPC program because it would help me develop in each of these areas, without restricting me to one industry or profession.
Initially, I didn’t intend to pursue a career in HR. The opportunity came up quite unexpectedly, actually. But when I truly evaluated what a career in HR would look like, I realized that I would have the opportunity to communicate with different stakeholders and candidates, develop materials to be used across the organization, and learn about different industries and companies. This strongly aligned with what I wanted to experience in my career.
How do good communication practices apply to your work?
Communication, both written and verbal, is foundational for building strong working relationships in any industry. Regardless of what the message is, your ability to communicate in a way that resonates with your audience is critical.
As a consultant, I work with different people in a variety of industries. It is important that I adapt my messages to their needs and understanding. For example, when I am explaining a complex concept, I need to consider how much training the recipient has had, the terminology that they understand, and the tone that they will respond best to.
What advice do you have for recent graduates about how to leverage their education when they may not have much work experience?
This is a challenge that I understand deeply. Only a couple of years ago, I was in that very position. Today, I hire people in that position.
Submitting your resume online is almost always a black hole. Don’t feel defeated or offended if you never hear back about your application.
Instead of sprinkling your resume across all of the positions you see online, I strongly suggest employing this approach: Find three companies that you would love to work for. Consider their values, culture, pipeline, opportunities for growth, commuting distance — seriously, four different bus transfers is not ideal for work-life balance — and focus all of your efforts on those three.
You may be wondering if three companies is enough, but trust me — this will take more time than you think. Here is how you should direct your efforts:
Step 1 – research. Determine the department that you want to work in at each company, and find an ideal role in each department given your level of experience.
Step 2 – find out who is responsible for hiring. We’re lucky to have this information readily available on the web or on social media i.e. LinkedIn.
Step 3 – send the individual a concise but powerful message about what you can bring to the department. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t a position posted online — there could be one in the near future. Remember to be pleasant and non-confrontational, because you will want to develop a relationship with this person. But you still need to showcase your keen interest.
This process will work if you are consistent and write impactful messages — MPC degree in hand! Keep an Excel tracker of who your current and prospective contacts are, and when you last contacted them. This is a very helpful tactic to keep you on track during your career search.
While this is taking place, network, network, network! This process can feel deflating for some, because results don’t typically happen overnight. But as you grow your network, the probability of someone thinking of you for an open position at their workplace will increase.
If you are currently employed, ask your manager for an opportunity to get exposure to other practice areas or departments. It is critical that you gain as much diverse experience as possible in the early part of your career. This is instrumental in helping you figure out what keeps you happy and engaged at work, and demonstrates to prospective employers that you are comfortable wearing many hats, and are eager to succeed.
This is actually how I recently transitioned my career from a traditional HR role to an HR technology position. Specifically, I asked my previous employer to allow me to shadow and support a Workday implementation for a client, and then I leveraged this experience to land myself a job at a competitor.
Any resume tips?
Proofreading is essential. I would rather read a flawless 8-pager than a 1-pager addressed to Ms. Montmarket. Errors give the impression that the candidate doesn’t care.
Get someone else to review your resume. They can help bring your attention to areas of weakness you may have overlooked.
Finally, be strategic about structure to leverage your most impressive and relevant experience. For instance, if you lack work experience, lead with your education, scholarships and awards. Make the connection between your experience and the skills a company is looking for explicit. Companies are always looking to understand as quickly as possible how you will add more value than other candidates in a given role, so make it easy for them.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself as a new graduate starting a job search?
Relax, be patient and have faith that things will work out. I really pushed hard at finding a job once my MRP reached completion, and I was very hard on myself when things didn’t work out. When I was turned down for a job I felt so defeated. I wanted to conquer the world in one day. But had I trusted my efforts a little bit more, I would have seen that each closed door was really one step forward to where I was truly meant to be.
If you could hire any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock – as my mentor.
Why? Often compared to a great white shark, or a bear with the head of an eagle, Jack is a Six Sigma champion who exemplifies unparalleled managerial skills and executive leadership through his routine use of synergy, vertical integration and the wheel of domination!