Deb and I met in the early 90's during her NSP days (see below). We have a mutual friend, Kari, who happened to be my roommate at the time. Deb does a great job of showing how a career path can ebb and flow. Too often people think "If I just do this it will lead to that". I, myself, know too well that this isn't true. And sometimes that's good because we learn so much from going on these journeys. Read on for Deb's story.
1. What do you do?
I’m an HR Contractor. What that means is that I am employed by a contracting company called Experis (formerly Manpower, formerly Comsys) and they contract my services to a company called Accenture. To Experis my title is “Professional Consultant” and within Accenture my title is “Talent Fulfillment Specialist” or TFS. Basically what I do is to staff the people that are assigned to my “Resource Pool” (that’s about 260+) in roles within the company.
2. Why did you choose to do this? Have you always wanted to do this? Did you fall into this career or actively take steps to get here? Did you choose it or did it choose you?
When I got out of college in ’91, we were in a recession. Jobs were few and far between. For several years I was a temp at NSP (Northern States Power) and living with my parents. I realized that I needed to move to the Twin Cities (I was living with them in Lindstrom and commuting to White Bear Lake and Newport) if I wanted to get a permanent position. I was assigned to a temp position at Andersen Consulting in 1995. I became permanent in 1996. There followed several years of doing admin positions within the company including Human Resources. I transferred to Houston, TX. Within HR I saw people being hired at higher salaries than me into Consulting positions where they were billing clients and bringing in revenue. I realized if I wanted to make a decent salary I’d need to make a change. So I pushed, and prodded and eventually got hired into “the practice.” They trained me in programming (which is not my forte) and I started working on client engagements. I was promoted to Consultant and then laid off in 2002 during the big Technology crash. I then took a position doing data management for PricewaterhouseCoopers. I knew nothing about Accounting and was not qualified for that position. But I was so frightened of being unemployed that I held on by my fingernails for over three years. What I really wanted was to work from home (I hated getting up, getting dressed up, commuting, etc just to sit on my butt in a high-rise for hours on end) and that lack of interest was starting to show. They fired me. I deserved it. Then I heard a rumor that Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) was looking for HR contractors and that the roles could be virtual. I kept pushing and eventually got hired to my first contracting gig in November 2006. I’ve worked virtually since that time. As long as I have a high-speed internet connection, I can do my job from anywhere in the world (and have at times!)
3. What did you need to do to get here? Did you go to school? If so, was your degree related to what you are doing? Did you do something like an internship or work your way up for years? Did you take advantage of things like Informational Interviewing with those in the field?
My degree is a BA in English Literature. It’s in no way related to what I do. My first big leap from an Admin position into a Professional position was simply a matter of working their established system. They hadn’t really had anyone make that leap – I was a bit of a maverick. But I had a college degree and I proved to them (by building a Lotus Notes database to track United Way contributions within the company) that I could do the job of a billable Consultant. When I told them I wanted to interview for position as a beginning Analyst, they couldn’t find any reason not to let me go through the process. The next leap from working in an office to being a virtual consultant was a combination of things. I had done a lot of coursework at Landmark Education, a company that specializes in self-development and self-actualization. Through that coursework, I was able to articulate my desires for work that I found interesting and in which I could thrive. I realized that I’d been the most satisfied (and successful) when working in Human Resources and I also knew I wanted to work from home. From that point it was a matter of inquiring – contacting my previous employer, participating in Accenture Alumni websites, contacting previous co-workers. Being fired from PwC at the time I was turned out to be a huge blessing. I now work a job from home making more money than I ever have before when working in an office.
4. What would you do if you weren't doing what you are? Would you do this out of necessity, because you happen to have the skill sets, or because it is your dream job?
I’m in a bit of a dilemma. While I love the company that I work for and I do enjoy my work, I still don’t see myself as being totally “at home” in a corporate atmosphere. I’d love to be able to support myself financially as a singer/host/performer. Currently I perform hour-long shows in a virtual world called SecondLife. While I make some money doing this, it’s nowhere near enough to support my lifestyle. And I do really like my lifestyle! J I’ve been looking at pursuing another degree but I can’t decide if I want it to be an MA in Human Resources or potentially a Music/Fine Arts degree. It’s actually a pretty good problem to have as problems go, and I’m taking my time with it. While I can see myself pursuing an HR career and being pretty good at it, that’s not my passion. I love performing, I love making music and the creating in the moment that musicians do. I don’t play any instruments, however, and I don’t know if I’d be any good at writing music. I also toyed with doing voiceover work – most of the what I’ve discovered, though, is that it’s difficult to break into. I’m still in the inquiry!
Performing on SecondLife while in Belgium.
5. If you could create a job description of what you are doing what would it be?
Human Resources specialist seeking staffing solutions for skilled individuals. Virtual job with little-to-no travel working with great people and flexible work hours.
6. Tell me a little about previous jobs you've had and if you have a degree/schooling in something that isn't related to what you are doing now how did you make that jump?
I think I wrote too much about this in the earlier questions! But here’s a synopsis:
Gas service designer for new residential homes – NSP – 3 years – temp
(moved to the Cities – temp work using admin skills from NSP got me)
Executive Assistant - Andersen Consulting – 1 ½ years – temp to perm
(wanted to move to Texas – interviewed for and got HR Admin position )
HR Generalist – Andersen Consulting – 1 year – perm
(saw the salaries kids were making – wanted that money so interviewed)
Analyst/Consultant – Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) – 3 years – perm
(“workforce reduction” layoff in 2002 – data experience got me)
Senior Associate – PwC – 3 ½ years – perm
(Fired – rightfully so since I didn’t like my job and wasn’t qualified)
Professional Consultant – Comsys (Accenture) – 6 years and counting - contract
**That was my biggest leap. And it was several things that combined – getting fired – seeking position in HR at Accenture (cause that’s where I felt I thrived the most) and then pushing to get a contract.
Kari and Deb. I sure miss those late nights sitting around the dining room table talking and laughing with these ladies.
7. If someone was interested in getting into your profession what words of advice would you give them?
Getting a basic 4 year degree is the quickest way to get hired at Accenture specifically. And honestly, it’s what’s needed for most entry level positions with any large companies these days. If you don’t have a degree but you have solid business experience in a firm, that works too. I’d say to start inquiring into what positions are available. Many people are afraid to ask questions or inquire, thinking they’ll put their current position in jeopardy. Making a move requires a mindset of being willing to take risks. Looking at the worst possible outcome and being able to accept that potential. And also knowing that everything will work out – somehow, some way. That’s the mindset that’s brought me this far. That and a willingness to have conversations with people. It’s amazing how much your life can alter simply through a conversation. And have an intended outcome. Keep identifying what you want (most people focus on what they don’t want) and keep seeking that in the world. It WILL show up.
Thank you Deb for sharing your story! I learned a lot and was inspired by your journey.
There was once a time in my life that I was doing some career soul searching. I had a number of people suggest that I should look into HR. I dismissed it because I didn't have a degree in it and wasn't looking to get another degree. Deb's story just shows that sometimes you don't have to have a degree in a particular area to be able to get your foot in the door and then some. Deb still worked hard, took classes, had a goal, and found opportunities that would match. It's not always easy getting where you want to go, but sometimes we build it up to be so big that we don't even try.
Want to know more about this series? Click here. Want to participate? Email me: e.j.davis (at) comcast (dot) net.