As a successful HR pro turned successful consultant, Kimberly Patterson has the wisdom, experience and background to be an expert in her field. Her hands-on and innovative approaches allow her to deliver the best solutions to meet business challenges. She successfully utilizes her knowledge in all things HR to help businesses in whatever capacity they need. Kimberly, founder of Unconventional HR, took some time to talk with us about her career, job searching and some good general career advice.
Why did you make the switch to consulting?
Candidly speaking, I did not wish to work for CEOs who simply "talked the talk" but never acted on it. Chalk it up to having bad experiences in Corporate America. Consulting allows me to work with organizations who truly want to bring about positive change in their companies.
You mention HR folks getting a bad rap. How so, and why isn't it fair?
HR will always be a work in progress. HR folks can get a bad rap because of two critical reasons:
1. Business leaders really don't understand what a competent HR professional can contribute to the business. Instead, they use HR as the "messenger" for when they want to do layoffs, cut benefits or disseminate other bad news to employees.
2. Many of the people in HR sometimes have a black-or-white way of thinking, which ends up making them nothing more than the company's "policy police." Applying a one-way, broad stroke to all human issues at work makes HR a fixture of necessary evil vs. being a true problem-solver by independent thinking.
It's unfair because there are plenty of HR professionals who are analytical, free thinkers who are not a hindrance at work - they are the ones who are able to develop workplace solutions that improve the work lives of business leaders and employees alike. When that happens, workflows move more quickly (hiring, employee relations, etc.) and efficiently, which automatically trickle down to the bottom line.
Do employers really look at prospective employees' social media sites?
This is like asking if employers discriminate against age. If an employer reviews a candidate's social media site on a casual basis and decides not to hire someone based on what they see, no one will know about it. In addition, if they do it on a formal basis, then they will do it for all candidates. I have yet to see a company have that has a regular practice when it comes to using it for reference checking. In fact, since candidates are people and people have a right to a life outside of work, I would urge my clients against it.
I did have one client who encouraged their employees to blog and did want candidates to have a "relevant" social media presence. Basically checking to see if tweets and posts were industry-related. It was not being used as a form of reference-checking on someone's character outside of the workplace.
What is the best and most basic advice you can offer someone seeking a job?
Get away from your computer and meet people. Do something different every week instead of checking job boards and being in front of your computer. Stay relevant and check out free webinars and news in your industry.
Most folks are not capable of being objective with themselves or their resume. Look at your resume this way - as if you were an outsider reading it. Ask yourself why someone would choose you over another person with the same skills and qualifications.
How important is a strong resume?
It's your only marketing tool and the only way to get an interview, so if it's all you have, I'd say it's pretty important.
How much can it benefit someone looking for a job to "know the right people?"
It certainly helps - especially if the people you know are the ones who are looking to hire or know the folks looking to hire. It doesn't change the fact that these "right" people should also be able to speak to the quality of your work as well. Basically, the moon and the stars have to be aligned for all of this to work out perfectly.
When should someone seek career counseling?
I would say that someone should seek career counseling if they're uncertain as to what they want to do with their career. If they've hit a roadblock and cannot decide which direction to take, it might be time for third-party intervention.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Having different work environments all the time - the people, the work and the challenges are never the same - especially the people part. Companies tell me what they need - where their pain is. Being able to create a customized HR plan (or improve their efficiencies) for companies and watching it come to life is the definition of gratification! I don't believe it's possible to reach this level of fulfillment in Corporate America.
Kimberly Patterson is the founder of Unconventional HR and an escapee of Corporate America. An accomplished HR pro turned consultant, she has 25 years of progressive experience in advancing HR strategy in a variety of businesses. In addition to teaching people how to work better to meet business challenges, she embraces technology to deliver HR solutions.