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How did your website get started?
Originally, it started with creating this website as an (dare I say, “electric” — I love puns) avenue for virtual networking and a home for my electronic communications portfolio. I launched this website after a nine-month transition period (I liken it to being pregnant), which resulted in the expected elimination of my HR Communications position from The Hershey Company on March 28, 2014. I needed to find a job. Preferably, a career with an organization (large or small) that valued ethics, had a soul (not a branded-cliche posing as culture), and where going to work inspired fun and excitement about what the next day would bring.
After seven months of riding the gut-wrenching, soul-sucking roller coaster that is the current state of recruiting, the economy, and the labor market, I decided to branch out into freelancing and consulting in November 2014. Although I started a new full-time HR position in April 2015, I will consider taking on small/exciting/interesting freelancing jobs with the understanding that my only availability is in the evening and weekends.
How did you get started in human resources?
When I worked at University EMS (1996-2000), I was on the supervisory team (we were called the “Sups”). I helped the paramedic Sups keep track of 80-plus FTEs, in addition to the 2.5 FTEs that reported to me.
Twelve of those FTEs were non-bargained employees when I started, but through no effort or desire of their own to become such, were forced to join the Teamsters. I was part of the conversion team and with the union conversion came a need for a thorough understanding of the Teamster contract and its rules and regulations — there wasn’t room for creative interpretation with the Teamster “Bible.” This was also the first time I was responsible for hiring, coaching, performance reviews, and carrying out disciplinary actions, including terminations.
I advised the Sups on required personnel administration actions while we waited for a formal HR response, and I answered questions about employee benefits — I became the in-house expert on HR and benefits. Spending so much time in the personnel administration and benefits world appealed to my people-focused nature.
My next position landed me at The Hershey Company in 2002 as the executive assistant to the vice president of compensation and benefits. I was now working in HR and getting an intensive behind-the-scenes education on comp and benefits — the kind of stuff you don’t learn in college. One of the side benefits of that position was I got to meet and know the senior executive team. I was in shock the first time I realized Rick Lenny (then-CEO) knew my name when he said “Hi, Jennifer,” to me as we passed each other in the cafeteria. I asked Kathy, my VP, if I should be worried, and she assured me it was a good thing — Rick had heard about my great work. That made me feel a little less embarrassed after I almost ran into Rick while riding a platform truck like a skateboard through the main lobby of Hershey’s corporate headquarters after regular business hours.
To clarify, I was returning the platform truck to where it belonged, and from a time-management perspective, riding it was quicker than pushing it.
In 2005, I moved to the Philly suburbs where I began working for Citizens Bank/Citizens Financial Group in human resources. While working in Plymouth Meeting, PA, our team was responsible for leadership and professional development, and then we were assigned to retail training. After a year, I transferred within Citizens and came back home to Harrisburg, PA, and began working in employee relations, recruiting, sourcing, and discovered my interest in succession planning.
With several rounds of HR downsizing underway, I accepted an offer to return to Hershey in 2007 as the executive assistant to the chief marketing office. That stint lasted six months before another reorg., which landed me back in HR in comp and benefits in 2008, but this time as a communications specialist responsible for promoting comp and benefit’s “employee value proposition” (jargon that I don’t like). Another two years, and another reorg. later, I gained all of HR communications and an “HR Analyst” title which didn’t explain what I did, but where I stood on the Hershey HR hierarchy. This position afforded me the rare HR opportunity to be exposed to and become knowledgeable in almost all aspects of HR.