What’s your job?
I am a Senior Consultant in the Human Capital practice at Deloitte. I work on project teams that collaborate with organizations to create talent strategies, navigate change, and position themselves for the future. The work always looks different, because the challenges and clients are different. Most of the work I have done so far pertains to building immersive workshops that help senior leaders co-create a strategy or action plan to address complex organizational issues. I am still learning the role and the countless methods and tools that Deloitte has within its repository to guide clients through their challenges.
How did you get your job?
Networking! I was introduced to a former Deloitte employee while I was living in London. After we became acquainted with one another, he asked if I’d like to have conversation with a Deloitte partner in Canada. Several months and many conversations later, I was offered a job!
Are there any skills or experiences that you wish you had starting out in the HR industry?
There aren’t any specific skills I wish I had, but I was lucky to have nearly 10 years of work experience before starting a career in HR (I started working before I was 14 years old). I have worked at a hockey arena, an equipment repair shop, a fine dining restaurant, several gas stations, and a financial institution. I even worked at a cemetery! I don’t advertise those early jobs on LinkedIn, but those experiences helped me understand a range of employment practices and organizational cultures. I discovered my zest for HR by connecting with a wide range of people and learning about their passions. I can tell you from personal experience that gravediggers can be as passionate as anyone else about their work!
What are your thoughts on getting further education in the HR industry?
In my opinion you don’t necessarily need an advanced degree to get a job in HR. Many people working in the industry don’t have a Master’s or a Bachelor’s degree specific to human resources. In some cases having a Master’s can actually make it more difficult to find work; smaller employers may assume that they can’t afford your desired salary, or they might perceive you as ‘overqualified’ for entry level roles. That being said, there are definite advantages to having a robust understanding of the connection between people and organizations. As a practitioner, you must be able to back up the advice you’re giving with expertise. You need to know the implications or consequences of decisions on people and the organization. Specialized certificates can be useful to develop that expertise in particular topics or skills that are in high demand. For some jobs, an advanced degree is a formal requirement so not having one can hold back your career.
If you do decide to pursue further education, think about what you want to get out of it. What career path do you want to follow? How will the degree help you get there? What added benefit can you bring to a workplace with that degree?
I deliberately waited 5 years after completing my Bachelor’s degree to decide if I wanted to pursue further education. After gaining experience in an HR role, I decided to study abroad at the London School of Economics. I knew what I wanted out of the program and that motivation made the countless hours of studying sincerely enjoyable. Knowing what you want to get out of a program is super important because some schools will be good at training HR practitioners, and others will be good at training HR researchers – most aren’t good at both. If you are spending time and money on education, you want it to be the best use of your investment.
Speaking of your Master’s degree, what made you want to go to the London School of Economics (LSE)? More broadly, why did you decide to study overseas in the UK instead of in Canada?
I didn’t decide to apply to LSE until the last year of my 5-year plan. At that point, I knew I wanted to study organizational behaviour. After looking at all the options, LSE offered the best opportunity to learn from well-regarded academics and build an international network of alumni. LSE also offered a more independent learning experience compared to Canadian and American universities. As for studying abroad, I wanted to have an immersive learning experience. When you’re away from home every moment is an opportunity to learn something new.
What’s your biggest challenge at work right now?
My biggest challenge is the learning curve. Consulting requires learning the tools and methods I mentioned earlier and learning about the client’s organization, industry, and challenges. As an HR practitioner, it can take years to understand an organization deeply. With consulting, your client can change with each project and you must fast-track that understanding.
Another big shift for me is around how I think about time. As a consultant, any time I spend on client work is billable, so I’m very mindful of how I use my time so that it is producing value. No matter where you work time is valuable – as a practitioner ‘value’ and ‘cost’ were just accounted for differently.
I’d like to mention that even though I’ve had a lot to learn since starting at Deloitte, my project managers have been pretty exceptional at encouraging work-life balance. Consulting in general is a demanding profession and a 9-5 schedule isn’t the norm. You need to learn how to work smart and recharge whenever possible.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get into HR, either as a practitioner or as a consultant?
1. I highly recommend getting involved with the CPHR if you aren’t already. CPHR holds a big annual conference, but they also organize smaller events throughout the year like roundtable discussions and Lunch & Learns. These events are a great way to meet and gain insight from all types of professionals like recruiters, consultants, and coaches.
2. Find a mentor or coach. There are lots of people and organizations willing to invest in you as a professional if you’re willing to put in the work. Try to find someone you really admire and attach yourself to them. Ideally, look for someone who can mentor you (give you advice and support), and someone who can coach you (someone who asks questions that push you to think differently). There’s a difference between the two and they offer different benefits to your career development.
3. Pay attention to the people you admire and really study them as professionals. Consider the kinds of challenges those individuals take on, how they develop themselves professionally, and how they give back to their profession. Reverse engineer the career you want. If you can work backward from the job you want to the steps you need to take to get there, you’ll have a better understanding of what kinds of skills and experiences you should be looking for to advance your career. Once you’ve figured out the steps you need to take, become a role model yourself! Be the best person that you aspire to be by becoming that person for someone else.
4. Set timelines and milestones for yourself. Between the time I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree and started my Master’s program, I set out a 5-year plan for myself to get the specific work and professional experiences I needed to get the career I wanted. I still actively plan out my career now. Ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish in the next 3 months? The next year? The next 3 years? What milestones can you make to show your progress? It doesn’t have to be complicated – even just writing down a few bullet points and revisiting them quarterly can help.
5. Create opportunities to push the boundaries in your work, your learning, and other aspects of your life. Craft your current job by finding ways to do more to get the experiences you want. What committees can you get into? What projects can you get involved in? Which meetings can you attend? Who can you network with? Can you organize events at your workplace? The important thing is that you try new things and explore, even if it’s not exactly what you think you want. You won’t know what you want until you try it!
Want to learn more about Gina? Check her out on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gsandulo/