A Letter to the #shrmstudent Conference Attendees


Dear SHRM Student Conference Attendees,

I can’t wait to meet you on Saturday. This is my fourth invitation to speak at the conference. It is a fun event, but this is also the fourth time I am asking myself, “How the hell is being a HR student a thing?”

Really. Sallie Mae has you by the short-hairs. And I am sorry about that. Please know that I am on your side. HR is a solid career that pays the bills. Can you make a difference in HR? Sure. But you can make a difference everywhere in life by being kind, compassionate and empathetic.

So this year, I really hope you learn a valuable lesson at the conference. It’s simple.

Time is running out.

If you are a traditional HR student, you are in your early 20s. If you are a graduate student, you are in your mid 20s — or older. If you have dreams of any kind, now is your chance to follow them.

Get the hell away from Human Resources.

Your 20s are the decade for building a solid infrastructure. This is where you lock down some important relationships. This is when figure out your identity and set the stage for accomplishing big goals in your 30s and beyond. Human Resources does nothing more than lock you into a middle-class lifestyle of reliable and dependable employment. And maybe not even that.

The closing speaker at the student conference will talk about passion and purpose. Listen to him. He loves Human Resources and feels you can make a difference in the industry. I like his message but I disagree about your career choice. I have actually done the work you want to do — administrator, recruiter, generalist, business partner, manager, leader — and I know that HR isn’t a stepping-stone to greatness. For most of us, it is an administrative bridge to a mortgage, a car payment and a risk-adverse life.

I know that the ability to buy a home in the suburbs and make a car payment is a positive evolution in your life. But if you are under the age of 30 and you want to accomplish anything great or noteworthy in your life, get the hell away from Human Resources before it becomes too late.

Go be a musician. Go be an artist. Write. Sing. Dance. Start a career in roller derby.

You can always come back to HR if you fail. The barrier to re-entry is very low.

But Mr. Estis, the closing speaker, is right. You should pursue your dreams relentlessly. You can change the world. And the way you change the world is to dream bigger, identify your passion and get as far away from Human Resources as possible.

I know you are not listening to me. You should. Once you cross the Rubicon of Human Resources, it’s too late.

Laurie Ruettimann, SPHR

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