Split Allegiances

As any first-year MLHR student will tell you, the hunt for an internship starts the minute that classes begin. For some of the lucky, the search is over as quickly as it begins, with an amazing offer from an international organization. For others, the search is a bit more time consuming.

Last year I was in the latter half, continuously prowling for that all-important internship for months. I was so delighted to get an offer early last spring with GE’s local Circleville Lamp Plant. We may not be the “sexy” side of GE with aviation or energy, but we do make an essential product: linear fluorescent lamps.

I started working part time for CLP in April, continued as a full-time employee for the summer, and will work for the plant part time this school year. During these past fews months I’ve seen my responsibilities increase, and my knowledge of HR continue to grow with each one.

Now I feel like I’m at that proverbial fork in the road. I have enough work to fill out a 40-hour week during my 20-hour schedule, and school is back in swing full time. Unlike other well-stressed students, I can’t function as both a full-time student and full-time employee (and mom and wife). More and more I want to spend extra time at work…but there’s always a nagging feeling that chapters are not getting read, papers are not getting started.

In some ways, this is a “Cadillac” problem. It’s a balance between two good things: the opportunity to learn in the classroom and the opportunity to learn on the shop floor. And there are always examples of people who not only pack it all in full time, but also find time to run student organizations and be well rounded in more ways than I can even imagine.

Thoreau said he went to the woods so he could “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” What a great image for grad students! As a second-year student,  I understand the urgent need more and more to live deep and learn as much as I can soak in for as long as these next few months may last, whether in the classroom or in the business world.

Back to the Books, Back to the Blog

It’s been about three months since I last sat at the computer, wondering what I should blog about next. And since that time, there have been a few highlights along the way. Here’s a short sampling:

1. I went from a first year MLHR student to a second year. For anyone who has crossed over into the second year, this is a wonderful feeling. You now know most of the elephant has been eaten, and you just need to keep going.

2. I took my first summer class at Ohio State. I had always heard that summer classes are easier, perhaps gentler. I’m not sure if management negotiations is any easier in the summer than in any other quarter, but I do know about BATNAs, walk away points and integrative negotiating. It may not have been an easier class, but the pace seemed relaxed and it was nice to still see some of the classmates over the summer.

3. I spent the summer working as an HR co-op! My one or two loyal blog followers may recall my sometimes painful journey to find an internship. In the end, I was rewarded with one close to home loaded with practical experience. (More to come on this in future blogs.)

4. My family and I enjoyed a little trip to Mammoth Cave, Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee. Anytime you can walk into the earth, hear some down-home live music, sample bourbon at 10 am and tour a historic Civil War plantationhouse/field hospital, it’s a good trip.

Now I’m looking forward to knocking out another year of grad school and sharing my “adventure” with all of you. And for those of you just joining this trip, you’ll probably get to hear a bit about my two children, Samuel and Amelia, my dogs, my frustrations as a nontraditional student, and my home that my classmates teasingly (affectionately?) call Narnia. Along the way I hope to offer some helpful insights into the program. Thanks for reading!




Is It Over Already?

It’s hard to believe it has been about nine months since all of the first year MLHR students were huddled together, nervously making introductions during the awkward two-day orientation. I remember not knowing where anything in Gerlach Hall was located, but also having enough sense to know that soon enough it would be as familiar to me as a second home. Indeed that is what it has become during this past school year.

I met some of my closest school friends during orientation, and they continued to be a major source of happiness and friendship throughout this year. The year came full-circle this week as many of us ventured to the Varsity Club for one last gathering before being scattered to internships across the country to places such as Virginia, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, California and right here in central Ohio. It’s the same patio where we had gathered during orientation to make those sometimes-awkward introductions. But on this night months later, it was clear that we had a bond. Like high school seniors, there were promises to keep in touch, hugs, and sad partings. I can only imagine what next year will bring.

This weekend there will be another chance for good byes and hellos as the Fisher family welcomes new MLHR students, says good bye to graduating students, and bridges the gap between the two with continuity. Rain or shine a picnic with lots of food and fun is planned. That’s one of the things I have enjoyed about this program: the opportunities to connect with each other. I’ve decided to bring my children to the picnic so they might have a chance to meet some of the people who have shared so much of my time this past year. And, I want my classmates to see the family who has been so instrumental in helping me make it halfway through. It’s always better together!

Signs the End Is Near…

The world was supposed to have ended this week. Clearly that didn’t happened, or someone has failed to tell me I’m in an alternate universe still pounding out grad-life blogs. Shouldn’t I be doing something more productive than that, like finding potable water?

But I digress. It is also getting to the end of the school year. In fact, today is the last school day for my kids. One will be enjoying movies and fun day while the other gets to go to a Clipper’s game. I wish the last week of each quarter were like this. So, without looking at the academic calendar, how do you know the end is near?

1. You have gone through all five stages of grief with your project team(s). It starts with denial: “Oh my god, we’ll never finish this project.” Moves on to anger: “You have got to be kidding me! When will we get this done?” Throw in a few words for your professor here. And then there is bargaining, usually with your team members. “OK, if you can just knock out sections 2-18, I’ll do #1.” “That’s not gonna work for you?” This quickly makes its way into bouts of depression. That stage typically hits me around week five or six. “I don’t want to do this. Wahahahaha.” And finally, by now, we’ve all moved onto acceptance. The project must go on! And we celebrate the fact that we will not be spending random weekend hours with each other any time in the near future. Win!

2. The jorts are out! This is really only an end-of-spring-quarter sign, but it’s finally time to bust out the jean shorts, tank tops, flip flops and whatever your favorite type of summer gear might be. I’m usually one of the last ones to rush the summer wardrobe, which is why it is a late-spring quarter sign for me. For others, it just means we’ve made it past the -10 weather of January. Your choice.

3. I’m fantasizing about summer. I saw a rack of books at the store this weekend. I immediately started to hang my head, tell myself that pleasure reading is not possible, repeat, repeat. But wait!!! Yes, there will be time to read this summer, and I’m not talking about reading Porter’s Five Forces or compensation theory. Heck I might even check out a bodice ripper just for pure pleasure.

4. It’s getting harder and harder to study. I like to think of this spring as a blessing. Sure daily rain totals have been measured in inches and the sun is an allusive creature, but gray skies are much better for studying than perfect 80-degree, sunny days. I expect sunshine and lots of it, low on humidity, to make an appearance starting in two weeks. Otherwise, this jungly weather will quickly lose its appeal.

5. Apathy starts to set in. I hate to admit it, but somewhere near the end of the year, there’s a real feeling of “I’m just ready to move onto the summer internship, already.” After spending so much time hunting these internships down, we’re ready to get going. I have started mine already, but I’m excited to really pour myself into a 40-hour workweek. Others are ready to relocate for the summer and find out what this HR world is all about.

6. And finally, the end is near because the Fisher Formal has come and gone. It was a great night at the lovely Columbus Athenaeum. We danced. We laughed. We enjoyed the food and drink. I could go on, but like Vegas, what happens at formal, stays at formal.

Nontraditional Student? Here’s What I Wish I Knew

So you think you want to go to grad school, huh? And, you’ve been out of school for more than a few years, a decade or more perhaps? Well, welcome to the club!

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree I was pretty sure I would never go to graduate school. After all, I had a majorly lucrative journalism degree. What?! Those aren’t so lucrative? Hmm. Eventually, after years as a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer/editor followed by a job that is beyond description on a family-friendly blog, I decided to crumple up my first career like a poorly written letter and toss it into the round file. It was time to finally face grad school.

So, here are some things I’ve learned as a nontraditional student who is not fresh out of undergrad.

1. You Will Make Friends! This is very important. Your classmates are nearly as vital to the learning experience as your professors. I was a little anxious to sit in a classroom with lots of fantastic 20-somethings. In the end, though, I don’t think it matters. I enjoy them, and they tolerate me. You’ll also find a steady supply of 30, 40 and better-age somethings. It’s a nice mix that way.

2. You’ll Remember Undergrad Again! As an Ohio State alum, it’s nice to be back on campus. Each night I’m in class just down the road from my old dorm room. I can’t help but be flooded by memories of the first time around. Of course, I’m also reminded of all the things we didn’t enjoy in undergrad, like laptops, cell phones, Facebook and iPods. How did we survive?

3. Your Memory Will Be Worse! Sure, you’ll be put back on the path to memory lane, but trying to remember statistical formulas, validity/reliability rules, the history of the industrial labor movement and the steps for creating a structured interview can get a bit murky. It’s not just the middle that gets softer with age, it’s the brain too. Studying today takes a bit longer. But there is one valuable lesson I learned the hard way thanks to an exasperating stats midterm problem…don’t just give up if you don’t remember right away. Take a moment, breathe deep, and hope that the answer comes to you before time runs out.

4. Your Patience Will Be Better! After sitting in an office chair for 8 hours a day for countless days, sitting in an office chair for three hours a night seems a bit more tolerable. I’ve also found that I’m more willing to work through problems I would have tossed aside before.

5. Your Spouse, Children, Friends, Dog, Cat, Pet Rock and Mother Will Miss You! Even when you’re not at school, you are still in school. There is always something to do. This means the ones you love will see less of you. They’ll be supportive. They’ll also find ways to make you feel guilty, even if they don’t mean to intentionally. Even my German shepherd works the guilt card, running to be with me whenever I’m home, always trying to burst in the door to sit by my feet. It’s pitiful, but I miss him too. I miss everyone. So plan your get togethers, picnics, parties and coffee klatches before school starts. Afterward, it’s a crap shoot.

6. Just Relax! Relaxation is probably the hardest thing to do during grad school, but try to curb your anxiety. There is a certain point in every quarter when you might start to wonder how you will get it all done and whether you will even get it done with a passing grade. I do this little panic act every quarter around week six. But it gets done. It always does. So relax. Remember how much fun school used to be, like when we were kids in the ’80s…or whatever your decade of choice might be. After all, we’re never too old to be students again.

I'm on the left at my friend Amy's house, back in first grade.

Beautiful Ohio

I’m reading my compensation book outside on a Thursday evening, mower buzzing away in the background while my dog pants at my feet. A hummingbird, attracted by my pink shirt, thought she’d come in for a quick drink, shot back, and decided to feast on the blooming columbines instead. Ah, spring in Ohio.

Central Ohio’s had a bad rap this spring. Too much rain. Too much wind. Too much rain. Repeat. The area is also known to be a bit temperamental in her climactic preferences. One day flirting with summer, the next day snuggled down with winter. She’s a bit flighty that way.

As a lifelong central Ohio resident, I think I’ve just become immune to most of it. I can only imagine what a sunny transplant from San Diego must have felt this past spring wondering if the sun would ever shine or the gray skies would ever clear. But that’s just life here. And if you are considering Ohio State, it’s something to keep in mind. Yes, we do have shorts weather and long-coat weather. But there are some days when the sky is a perfect blue, the wind doesn’t purr and the humidity keeps itself in check that are just as beautiful as anything you’d feel anywhere in the world. That’s the Ohio I love.

So what should a student do when faced with a few fleeting days of gorgeous Ohio weather? Go take a hike! The Hocking Hills in southeast Ohio are post-card scenic. About an hour’s drive southeast of Columbus, the state park is a wonderland of hiking trails, rivers, and the famous Old Man’s Cave. There are places to zip line, canoe, picnic, camp or just lounge under a hemlock canopy.

Closer to home, Franklin County Metro Parks are well-maintained, free natural wonderlands in the center of urban sprawl. One of my favorite parks, Slate Run, features a 19th century farm with cattle, chickens, lambs, hogs and various other creatures. I have a particular affection for this park because part of my father’s family once lived in that very farmhouse. As a child, my father grew up in a different house, which has since been demolished, that was near the present-day park entrance. The rented home, featuring modern amenities, such as an out house, offered cold comfort in the winter time. As my dad likes to say, it was so cold in the house that the medicine he kept in his bedroom for his rabbits froze one night. How could I ever whine about central heating?

Campus itself is an oasis of natural beauty. Anyone who has ever studied by Mirror Lake on a clear morning with few students around could understand why this natural spring attracted university founders to this very site. And, of course, there is the Oval. This is Columbus’ Central Park. I’m not sure if the main attraction from my undergrad days–Jed the preacher–still makes the rounds, but the Frisbee players, sunbathers, book readers and dog lovers still chillax on sunny afternoons.

There are only a few weeks left of spring quarter, but there’s still time to get out and enjoy the weather while it lasts. Soon enough tropical humidity and Midwest heat will drive us back into indoor comfort.

The Training Wheels Are About to Come Off

In my last blog, I mentioned that the stars had aligned, my prayers were answered and my misadventure of an internship search was over. Yes, someone hired me. Yay!

Two weeks ago I began my co-op as a human resources intern for GE at their lamp plant in Circleville. For most of my classmates, Circleville equals one thing–if it means anything at all–Pumpkin Show. But for me, this is a return to the county where I grew up and the place where most of my family and in-laws still live. Even so, I’ve never worked in a factory before, so the experience is definitely interesting and new.

Thankfully, I’ve received some wonderful training from a graduating MLHR student who was the first to go through an HR co-op in Circleville. In many ways it feels as if she is handing over her baby to me, and the reputation of Fisher MLHR students. I can only hope I don’t let them all down. As she said good bye to the staff last week at a going-away/welcome-aboard reception, it was clear that they respected her work and friendship. I will feel blessed to receive such a warm send off when it’s time for me to flee the co-op nest.

In the meantime, though, I’m still finding my way. This week is my first week without my fellow Fisher friend by my side. In essence, it’s time to rip off the band-aid and dive into the deep end of HR. I’ve heard there may be tears and maybe some rough language. It’s a factory after all and sometimes the going gets rough. I just hope most of the tears won’t be coming from me. As I’ve already been told: There’s no crying in factory work. As for any rough language, well, I’ll just save that for the next staffing quiz.

Random Ramblings (or a quick recap of spring 2011 thus far)

OK, this week I’m shaking it up in the style of some of my favorite co-bloggers, ahem Wes, G and Eric, and I’m going to go with some list-style ramblings. So, here’s what’s been on my mind…

1. Week Five. This is the halfway point of the quarter, with five weeks left to go before the sweet freedom of summertime. Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to refreshing with a summer free of tests, academic readings and Gerlach Hall. But, before we go there are still tests to take, projects to work on and reading, reading, reading.

2. Rain! It’s all anyone talks about anymore. Or, maybe it’s all we see. Every day it rains here, seriously. This is the monsoon season. If you’ve read one or two of my blogs you know I have a few acres. One of the great things about our little hobby farm is its pretty surrounding, rimmed by a winding creek. Well, the 6+ inches of rain this month have transformed this shallow sip of water into a rolling brown river. It’s extra earthy these days thanks to the tons of bank and trees that have fallen into the creek behind my barn. Each day I see the ravine reach closer to my barn and I shudder. And yet, the rain comes. It’s getting epic, folks.

3. Internships. If you’ve got one you are relieved, geeked, and ready to get started. If you don’t have one yet, you are nervous, anxious, and starting to worry. Having interviewed at several companies, I understand the frustration of the internship hunt. I’m thankful that I landed a good internship earlier in the month and started this week. Although I’m still in training, I can honestly say I like what I do. Ya Hoo! I think that means I’ve made the right choice. After the first day on my last job, I went home and cried and begged my husband not to make me go back. It was pitiful. With this job, I’m excited to go to work and learn new things every day. It’s the first week of my new career.

4. Guilt. All the students who are also parents know a lot about guilt. You don’t have dinner with your kids at night because you are enjoying a diet Coke and an Econ lecture. You can’t take them to an afternoon matinee on the weekend because you have yet another staffing quiz to study for, and I mean study. These aren’t just quizzes; these are memory challenges. And let’s face it, once you reach an age over 25, instant recall starts to become a losing game. Anyhow, what was I writing about? Ah, yes, kids and guilt. This week my 8-year-old daughter upped the ante on the guilt game by flinging herself on the hood of my car and begging me not to leave for class. Precious, right? NO! It just makes you feel like a terrible mother. I know I’m not the only parent in the class and to my fellow ‘rents I send a deep hug of support.

5. Groups! How many group projects does it take to graduate? About 5,000. I’ve spent the last two Friday nights whooping it up with my groups discussing compensation and job descriptions. I find myself fortunate to be in two well-balanced, hard-working groups again this quarter. But I have to admit, sometimes I’d rather just go to the dance alone. Everyone in grad school is busy beyond busy so coordinating schedules becomes it’s own nightmare. Just finding the time to meet with your group should be worth at least 10 bonus points in my book. But, this explains why Friday nights are no longer family dinner night out (see point 4 above) and they are group date night.

6. Hair! No, I’m not referring to the musical. I’ve noticed some of my classmates are getting their business-savvy haircuts and they are looking ready to conquer corporate. I’m trying to reign in the frizz that’s caused by countless days of rain. But on a positive note, I’m so happy to say that my mom has hair again! As some readers may know, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer right before I started the program. She has gone through radiation and chemo and is now emerging on the other side. She has occasional chemo treatments through September, but they no longer leave her bald and haunted looking. Easter was the first time I saw her without a wig in front of many people, and it was wonderful. Here’s to good hair days ahead, for everyone. 🙂

HR Summit Success

On April 15th, the Graduate Human Resources Association hosted the First Annual HR Summit: “Fast Forward: The Trends That Will Change the Way You Do Business.” While there have been many GHRA events I wish I could have attended, this summit was one not to miss.

The summit, held at the Fawcett Center, featured local HR professionals including Brian Worth, SVP of HR at Cardinal Health, Candice Barnhardt, VP, Chief Diversity Officer at Nationwide Insurance, and Patti Cotter, VP of HR at Nationwide Insurance. Steve Russell, CPO and SVP of McDonalds also kept the audience’s attention with an interesting discussion of diversity in the workplace.

To aid with our mingling and networking, each participant was assigned to a table. I was able to talk with second-year MLHR students that I had never met, an MBA student and a local HR professional. We were also provided a surprisingly tasty buffet lunch, which was a nice change-up from our usual pizza fair at special events.

As the speakers presented their topics and we worked together on a mini group project, I was struck by the overlap of the presented information with our classroom materials. Not only have we been learning about key HR topics, but professionals in the “real world” were validating this information. This was amazing to feel the classroom converging with professional HR.

Although many MLHR students attended the first summit, I can only imagine that it will grow in interest with each year. As one of my classmates put it: I’m trying to get my money’s worth while I’m here. Combining the classroom experience with learning from professionals is one of the reasons that makes Fisher a great place to be. Those free meals don’t hurt either!

Class Action

Before I started the MLHR program, I wanted to know what the classes would be like. What would my classmates be like? Could I do it?

I’m now into the third quarter and I feel like we’re really starting to get into the heart of HR this quarter with classes in compensation and staffing. Finally! Not that I didn’t appreciate HR foundations, stats or research methods, but they just seemed like icing on the cake instead of the meat of the program. Then again, maybe that’s just my complete fear of stats talking. For anyone who may be considering the MLHR program who has a fear of stats, rest assured it’s not the nightmare that you might expect. Yes, it’s challenging, but not so hard that it immediately kills your dreams of being an HR manager.

Now onto this quarter. Along with staffing and compensation, I’m also enrolled in an economics seminar. I enjoyed economics as an undergrad, but this is a completely different approach to the guns and butter debate (You buy more guns, you buy less butter). In this session, our professor assigns a lot of reading from various disciplines, which we discuss and expound upon in reflection papers. This makes me think of an academic utopia: ideas freely exchanged, minds broadened, lessons learned.

Compensation will see us tackling a group project that is known to be time-intensive and thought provoking. This will be the first time I’ve had a chance to consider the implications of compensation and what goes into the fine points of dollar deals. And finally, staffing will lead us through an effective interview process as well as another group project about staffing a position. This will be applicable not only as future HR directors, but also as future job seekers who want to understand why some candidates are hired and others are not.

All in all it’s shaping up to be an interesting final lap to summer break. As much as I’m looking forward to spring sunshine, the overcast days make it easier to focus on the work at hand. Otherwise, I just might forget about all the reading and project work and just focus on getting a tan.