The Village

by Matthew Stollak on Friday, August 21, 2009

As an educator and advisor to a SHRM student chapter, I am always looking for excellent resources that will help my students prepare for the workplace and their career. With that in mind, "Rock the PHR HR Certification Handbook" is a welcome addition to that pool of resources.

Compiled by Ben Eubanks ( with able assistance from April Dowling (, "Rock the PHR" outlines a 10-week guide to taking the PHR exam, starting with tips to get you started, going through each of the areas the PHR exam covers, and closing with game day suggestions.

There are several things I liked about the handbook:

  1. It comes from the voice of experience. Ben highlights the trials and tribulations of prepping for the exam, pointing out the pitfalls you want to watch out for, as well as an appropriate pace to help you succeed.
  2. It incorporates social media. The handbook includes links to a lot of helpful, up-to-date, free resources that go beyond an Intro to HR textbook.
  3. Author accessibility. In addition to the handbook, Ben is more than willing to be contacted to address any concerns you might have regarding the PHR exam. Try that with one of those high-falutin' textbook authors!
  4. The price (at least until September 1). For $10, not only do you get the handbook, and the author accessibility, but in the coming weeks, additional material will be included to further augment your preparation for the exam.
In sum, the "Rock the PHR" handbook is a worthy purchase for someone looking to take the PHR exam.

We All Stand

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, August 3, 2009

It was with equal parts laughter, derision, and shock that I read of a recent college graduate who is suing her former school for $70,000 when she found that she was unable to find suitable employment:

Thompson, a graduate of Monroe College, is suing her school for the $70,000 she spent on tuition because she hasn't found solid employment since receiving her bachelor's degree in April, according to a published report.

The business-oriented school in the Bronx didn't do enough to help her find a job, Thompson alleges, so she wants a refund. The college says it does plenty for grads.

Instead of blaming the economy, her own lack of experience, poor job interviewing skills, she puts the blame on the college. Was she seeking the degree, but not the education? Perhaps the potential employers did not want to hire people who do not take responsibility for themselves and are not inclined toward action, not whining? What role does parenting play in preparing children for potential failure?

As a professor, I often hear horror stories from colleagues about receiving calls from parents regarding grades, registration for classes, career advisement, etc. We call them "helicopters" as they are always hovering over their children. Fortunately, I have not received such a call, but it reminds me of a classic "Everybody Loves Raymond" episode called "The Lucky Suit" where Robert goes into a job interview with the FBI, only to be torpedoed by the well-meaning efforts of his mom:

Lucky Suit - Clip 1

Lucky Suit - Clip 2

Any experiences of your own with "helicopter" parents?

Age of Consent

by Matthew Stollak

On Wednesday and Thursday, I will be attending the WI SHRM State Leadership Conference at the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids, WI. I will be responsible for conducting a breakout session involving two SHRM core leadership areas - Workforce Readiness and College Relations. In mid-July, the Conference Board, in conjunction with SHRM, ASTD, and Corporate Voices for Working Families, released a research report entitled, "The Ill-Prepared U.S. Workforce: Exploring the Challenges of Employer-Provided Workforce Readiness Training." (SHRM membership required to access).

In a survey of 217 employers,

Employers report hiring substantial number of new entrants who are poorly prepared, requiring additional company investment to improve workforce readiness skills. And while many employers provide workforce readiness or remedial training to bring their new entrants up to speed, many report less than strong results.
In an effort to see the readiness of college students to enter the workplace, I surveyed 45 attendees of the conference (6 students, 39 HR professionals). Students were asked to rate how strong they possess a number of competencies (problem solving skills, written communication skills, computer proficiency, etc.) on a scale of "1 - very weak" to "5 - very strong." HR professionals were similarly asked to what extent college graduates entering the job market possess those same competencies, with a similar scale.

Students perceived themselves as being "strong" or "very strong" on virtually all the competencies/applied skills, with the highest percentage (50%) claiming they are very strong on "discipline/work ethic." Students felt they were weakest in the areas of "negotiation skills" (50% felt they were "weak" or "neither weak nor strong"), and "ability to handle conflict/criticism" (33% indicated they were "weak" or "neither weak nor strong").

In contrast, HR professionals indicated that students were weakest in "discipline/work ethic" (44%). However, they concurred with students with regard to "negotiation skills" (only 14% thought students were "strong" or "very strong") and "ability to handle conflict/criticism" (only 11.6% thought students were "strong" or "very strong").

Obviously, there is a sample size issue given the low number of students participating in the survey, but it should prove interesting to see the discussion on how we can improve the relationship between students and HR professionals as students prepare for their senior year, and beyond.