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This Student Found a Dynamic and Exciting Career in Human Resources

When evaluating a school’s human resource management (HRM) program, Pedro Salazar, a 2020 graduate of Central Washington University’s HR program, says it’s important to consider how that school will help you, and the business you will work for, succeed.

Pedro Salazar

2020 Graduate, Central Washington University’s HR program

What motivated you to pursue an education in Human Resource Management?  

Like most people, I wanted a job that was fun, paid well, and allowed me to not be stuck behind a desk all day. This, of course, starts with having a job, which is really saying something in today’s tough environment.

I had heard the human resources (HR) program at Central Washington University had an excellent track record of people receiving multiple job offers even before completing their degrees. While I was already interested in HR, it was after taking Dr. James Avey’s introductory course that I knew the HR program at CWU was right for me. 

What advice would you give to prospective students looking to major in human resource management (HRM)? What should they be looking for in a potential degree program? 

It might depend on undergraduate or graduate HRM programs (CWU has both online), but there are a few obvious things and then my own preferred formula. 

First, the College of Business at the university must earn accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This is a signal to recruiters that students will be well-trained. There are other accrediting groups but AACSB is really the gold standard. 

Small classes are also important. My capstone course right now has 17 students. Online courses and flexibility are also helpful for planning or working while in school. At CWU, for example, the HRM graduate program is 100 percent online and takes nine months to complete. 

My last criterion is a bit more nuanced. Early on, I asked current students in the program if they felt like they were developing as leaders, not just as students. I wanted to prepare to be a leader in my field and not simply an HR technician. Obviously I found my answer.   

What was important to you when choosing a school or degree program? 

In addition to simply liking the school, for me the most important question was return on investment. We have all heard stories of students committing several years and thousands of dollars on a program only to have no return for their work. I was committed to not being one of those statistics. 

Before graduating, I had three good job offers from both public and private organizations. I accepted one, negotiated a salary (with my adviser’s guidance), and start after graduation. This, to me, is a very important piece of the equation, in addition to learning. 

How do you think we can encourage more students to pursue a career in human resource management? 

Two responses come to mind based on data and marketing. First, the data should speak for itself. In my program at CWU, I got mentoring, advice, and real-world HR problem solving opportunities that set me up to go to work in a growing field with an in-demand skill set. Job placement rates, salary, and career satisfaction are all important and measurable facets of a career in HRM. 

Second, as a discipline, we need to have a better symbol than Toby Flenderson from Dunder Mifflin. No one wants to do that job and the good news is that is not the role of an HR professional. HR’s image has been and needs to continue to change. 

I intend to enable organizations to succeed, not babysit or be a rule enforcer. That’s what I was trained for and that is what I intend to do in my new role as an HR consultant in Washington. 

In light of COVID-19, how do you think your education in human resource management from CWU has prepared you to make an impact? 

First off, I chose the right major. I don’t want to imagine graduating into this COVID-19 environment with a degree in a field with very little entry, thinking about a job that will just help pay for rent and car insurance. 

The program gave me a set of tangible skills that have value on the labor market. It taught me to integrate human concepts into business strategy and objectives. 

Many organizational leaders react to business realities while forgetting about human behavior and attributions. Many other poorly trained (in my view) HR people react only to human and societal aspects, making decisions out of fear to only eliminate risk, and therefore miss opportunities. 

CWU’s program taught me to integrate HRM perspectives along with business realities and strategy. This is not a zero sum game. People (employees, customers, suppliers, communities, etc.) are helped by organizations’ structure, market position, and success, while organizations are helped by people who make them successful. 

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