Michelle Gibbons is emphatic about her passion towards her career and her life. A lifelong learner and a dedicated facilitator, Michelle does her best to emphasize the importance of knowledge and education in people’s success and growth.
The Pathway to HR
At the start of her career, Michelle did not yet know where the road would take her. “My first profession in the workforce was payroll,” she shares. During her work in payroll, she realized she developed a greater interest in HR. “When I first started, the Human Resources field was not yet as developed as it is now; but through different networking opportunities I was able to get an HR position in a firm. I worked for the same company for a little over 20 years.”
As the role of Human Resources expanded in Canada, so did Michelle’s position. “I transitioned through many different positions [in my organization], from administrative roles to management, to a director position, and eventually to a vice-president role. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot from it.”
Despite her years of practical knowledge, Michelle decided that she didn’t want to stop her professional development. She went back to school part-time to finish her Bachelor of Commerce degree, and then decided to pursue a Masters in Learning and Technology. “I did things a little backwards, by first getting experience in the work force, and then pursuing the educational component. But that does not mean I was not striving for learning and growth – on the contrary, I learned something new every day.”
“I knew I had a passion for training and development, and I wanted to get more education to be a successful trainer and coach. Since I am a strong supporter of lifelong learning, going back to school was actually exciting.”
On top of getting her Master’s degree, Michelle also pursued and completed her Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation, and is currently finishing her Executive Coaching designation.
Michelle’s current work experience focuses strongly on teaching, coaching and mentoring. Michelle is a Senior Manager specialized in coaching and leadership development, and she is also an online instructor for Ashton’s Diploma in Human Resources Management program.
The transition into teaching was almost a given for Michelle. “I remember I started doing various internal facilitation training sessions for different programs, and I really enjoyed that. I seem to have connected well with the people, and got positive feedback about the sessions. This was when I thought that teaching and training could be an area of specialization for me. I really enjoyed my role as a generalist, that’s why I went into coaching later in my career.”
Michelle’s vast experience in an HR generalist role, her current participation in different HR groups, as well as her work with many HR generalists make her a great resource for the students who are getting started in the HR field. “I have had a vast range of experiences in HR, from coaching to employee relations, to compensation, to health and safety – there is really not an aspect in HR that I haven’t worked on,” she shares with a smile.
“My desire and my goal is to be able to share the experiences and expertise that I’ve accumulated with the next generation of HR leaders.”
Advice to Other HR Professionals
To students planning on entering the HR field, Michelle has several valuable tips related to behavior and attitude.
The first piece of advice is to take on different roles that are relevant to the HR field. “Many employers are looking for relevant HR experiences in the candidate’s resume. Look at your experiences and see: what applicable roles have you already taken on? As employees, we all have relevant HR skills: problem-solving, communication skills, etc. Learn how to emphasize them.”
Another opportunity to build your HR experience is to take on volunteer work. “Don’t be afraid to volunteer for nonprofit organizations or to take on student leader positions – those can be valuable experiences for your future HR career.”
Michelle also recommends staying active in the HR community. “It is even easier for students to get involved in local HR organizations: they often have student rates for joining, and they provide great opportunities for networking and exposure to different roles in HR.”
At the end of the day, what Michelle emphasizes the most to her students is the importance of staying focused on learning and development.
“I love to see people learn, grow and develop themselves. After all, both their professional and personal lives depend on it.”