My Corporate Life

I’m excited to continue the “My Corporate Life” series on the blog. My goal is to bring in some other corporate perspectives and career paths, so that we can all learn from some other corporate areas and environments. If you would like to be featured in the “My Corporate Life” series, please contact me for the details. I’ll be featuring the guest posts as time permits in my regular posting schedule, and I would love to hear from you!


This post was written by Nicole Martin, an HR professional by day, and a fashion blogger by night! You can see her creative outfits and a glimpse into her life at the office by visiting her blog Employed Panache.
What’s your title and industry?

My title is Senior Human Resources Specialist, and I work in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry.  In my company, the HR managers and specialists are dedicated to one of the other functions (marketing, sales, finance, etc.)  I have supported a number of functions over the years, but I am currently supporting my company’s sales function.  I am also HR business partner for our summer internship program and sales rotational program, which is great because I get to see new talent coming into the company and growing!


Describe the top 3-5 skills that are most necessary in your position

HR is a career where “soft skills” are key.  It helps to understand databases and basic programs like Excel and Powerpoint, but it’s not a necessity.  That said, here are what I consider the most necessary skills for my position:

1. Time management & organization skills:  In HR, we have a number of requests and projects happening all at the same time.  We try to stay one step ahead, but since our work focuses on the people,  “putting out fires” – sometimes multiple a day – is to be expected.  Part of our time management and organization skills will then also include being able to prioritize what must be done first, and what can wait.

2. Communication skills:  When constantly dealing with people, your communication skills need to be spot on.  This can include anything from e-mail, to presentations, to function-wide announcements.  Where this can get difficult is when you have to deliver bad news or when you need to influence someone to see your side of things.  I’ve got the basics down pat, but I still double and triple check major e-mails and presentations, and sometimes ask others to review them as well.

3. Teamwork & collaboration skills:  Again, going back to the people 🙂  It is nearly impossible for me to make a decision by myself… not that I couldn’t come to one on my own, but it is vital to ensure that my key stakeholders (sales directors, HR colleagues, other business leaders, etc.) are comfortable with the decision made.  The best way to get their buy-in is to show that others are in support of the work being done.  And as they say, two heads (or 3 or 4) are better than one – I find the best ideas come from group brainstorming sessions.

4. Being able to see the whole picture:  I’m not sure how else to describe this “skill”, but in HR, I am often balancing what is best for the company with what’s best for the employees.  For example, while everyone would love a pay raise, it just may not make sense for the budget.  Also, when dealing with conflict, there are multiple sides of the story.  Diving in and getting all the details helps me get to the best resolution.


What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

The most challenging aspect of my job is adapting my style to fit the teams that I support.  As I mentioned, I support the sales function, and I am quickly learning that the typical personality of a sales person is very different from other functions.  I am, by nature, a laid back person with a quiet presence.  While my direct colleagues/managers know that they can count on me, as I transitioned to supporting sales, I learned that laid back and quiet will not prove (to this team) that I am a competent HR business partner.  Let’s just say I’ve done more self-reflection in the past 6 months than I have in a long time 🙂  As a result, I’ve loosened up a bit and made it a point to get to know my employees on a personal level so that I could quickly make a connection.  Not that I didn’t do this in the past, it just wasn’t a priority.  I am still working on being more forward and aggressive in the right situations, and I know that soon this will all be second nature to me.  Overall, I guess I’m lucky that it’s taken me this long to work with a team where my natural style wouldn’t attribute to my success… but working in HR, this could be the case from day 1!


What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing people grow from a summer intern through to our sales rotational program, and then getting promoted out of that program into a permanent role.  Interns and recent grads are also so grateful for the opportunities given to them, so these groups usually thank me more than others (sometimes with a handwritten note!)  I know, a bit cheesy, but it’s the little things, right? 🙂  Also, seeing anyone progress in their career who I have personally coached is also rewarding!


What does career advancement look like for your type of position and skill set?

In HR, you have a couple options… you can move up to being an HR manager and then director, where you support a specific function and have a team of HR specialists and/or managers under you.  Or, you can branch into the specialized side of HR, such as compensation, benefits, recruiting, etc.  The difference between the 2 paths is that the specialized teams will often roll out initiatives to the HR managers and directors, and do not have much interaction with those in the business.  This is may or may not hold true for smaller companies (my experience has only been with larger ones).  It is good to get experience on both ends while early in your career, as this will help you determine where you want to focus your career while also building skills and knowledge.  Personally, my career started in compensation, then moved towards recruiting, and then I finally landed a specialist role.  As far as education goes, a lot of HR professionals get their SPHR certification (Senior Professional in Human Resources).  However, if you wish to progress to a manager role or above, having an MBA or masters degree in Human Resources is desirable.


What’s the best aspect of your company culture?

The best aspect of my company’s culture is the people!  My company tends to hire people who are friendly and down to earth.  At my company, you never feel like you’re competing against your peers because someone is always willing to help you out or point you in the right direction.  More often, you are competing with yourself to do better and better.


Thanks, Nicole, for sharing your corporate life!

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