Transitioning into Human Resources: Strategies for Boosting Career Success


Are you transitioning fields? Seeking new strategies to maximize your career? Maria is a MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology alumna who navigated her career from case management to human resources (HR). She recently landed a position at a marketing firm as a HR Specialist with an emphasis on industrial/organizational psychology and business development. In her new role, she performs HR functions and applies the knowledge from her Walden program to develop surveys, analyze data, and design training to promote employee engagement.

What strategies made a difference in her career transition?

Gaining Hands-on Experience
Maria took it upon herself to bridge the gap into Human Resources by networking with a friend whose company was looking for extra help in their HR department. Maria took a proactive approach by explaining her goals, what she wanted to learn, and how she planned to contribute as an intern. She carved out her own internship opportunity to gain skills in areas of HR related to industrial/organizational psychology. This experience increased her marketability for future opportunities.

Building Career Research Skills
Maria made an extensive effort to hone her career-related skills. She scheduled several career advising appointments during her Walden program where she gained insights into researching career options, employers, and jobs. Maria utilized the Walden University Career Services Center website to uncover opportunities aligned with her career goals. From her research, she was able to pinpoint the types of positions and areas of employment that would maximize her knowledge, interests, and skills.

Getting the Inside Scoop
When Maria applied for the HR Specialist position, she tailored her resume toward specific skills the marketing firm was seeking. This effort helped her land an interview with the HR Director. To prepare for the interview, she researched the firm’s website and located news articles that mentioned the firm. One article mentioned a new marketing campaign, which helped Maria ask in-depth questions about the impact of this campaign during her interview. The article also listed the name of their vice president whom she researched online. Knowledge of the organization and key stakeholders helped Maria identify and share examples of how she fit into their culture and could contribute to their goals.

Rebranding on Social Media
As an avid LinkedIn user, Maria updated her LinkedIn profile to emphasize her HR skills and academic program and joined LinkedIn groups related to HR and industrial/organizational psychology. The director at the marketing firm visited her profile and was impressed by her online presence. Her image supported her overall brand as a skilled, driven, and well-connected professional.

As Maria pursues a bright future in HR and industrial/organizational psychology, her advice for Walden students is to create a career strategy by researching position requirements, employers, and key stakeholders within organizations. She says, “Career Services helped me identify skills from my prior career. My boss valued the skills I brought.”

Would you like to gain strategies on how to build your experience, strengthen your network, and rebrand yourself for your future field? Visit Career Services Center’s Get Started page and start working on your career goals!

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

And So My Doctoral Journey Begins…

It has been 15 years since I last took a graduate class – and I cannot think of a better way to kick off 2016 than pursuing my DBA online with Walden! I’m very excited about this new venture. I’m aiming to wear a new hat as Dr. Lisa Cook by December 2019.

The connections I make on this journey will be keys to bridging the gap between where I am now and where I’ll be in 2019 – just as much as the knowledge, research and writing skills I’ll acquire. I’m going to take advantage of every possible networking and experiential opportunity available and I’ll be journaling my way through to tell a new career story. I hope that my view “from the other side of the classroom” helps our career advising team support our students more empathetically and more effectively.

Happy New Year! I hope your year is full of promise, new connections and opportunities!

Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services, Walden University

Walking Our Talk through Presenting to Local Career Development Colleagues

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Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services, and Denise Pranke, Career Services Advisor, presented Maximizing Career Success Through Strategic Volunteering at a Career Planning and Adult Development (CPAD) meeting in Minneapolis, MN.  As we often advise our students to make professional presentations, we would like you to know we follow our own advice.

Dina and Denise- 2 CPAD Blog story 11-30-2015

We shared the following key points:

Keeping these key points in mind, consider how you can incorporate strategic volunteering into your career management strategy to:

  • Gain marketable skills and experience relevant to your field
  • Build networking connections
  • Strengthen your professional image (or brand)

What skills and experience can you build through volunteering?  Refer to the HandsOn Network Professional Skills matrix for ideas at:

Are you seeking local, national, international or virtual volunteer opportunities?  Find the right fit for you by using the following Career Services Center resources:

Search for opportunities on the Career Services Center’s  Volunteer Opportunities page.

View the archived webinar:  Strategic Volunteering for Career Success.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services, and Denise Pranke, Career Services Advisor

Stepping Up to Make a Difference for Veterans and Their Spouses

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Warren, a Walden Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology student, has strong family ties to the military; his son is in the US Army, one grandfather served in the US Army, the other grandfather in the US Marines, and his uncle and cousins served in the US Air Force. To honor their service and the service of all veterans, Warren, and his wife Jennifer, also a Walden student, wanted “to give back, to do something to make sure that every veteran has an opportunity for gainful employment.”

After witnessing the challenge veterans have in translating their military skills and experience to the civilian workforce, they decided they could use their extensive recruiting and human resources background to make a difference. They agreed to reinvest profits from their human resources consulting business to create “SymbianceHR Free Services for US Military Veterans” where veterans and their spouses can sign up for a free 45-minute in-depth telephone coaching session. The session focuses on strengthening interviewing skills and providing information about the recruiting and hiring process. Warren said, “Even though there are initiatives to hire veterans and their spouses, businesses want to hire the best-qualified candidate; we help veterans and their spouses make the case for why they are the best-qualified candidates for the job.”

Warren shared some insights into the interview process. He said, “A great deal of the interview depends on how well an applicant can articulate their experience in a concise and informative manner.  We explore the experience of the applicant and coach them on effective methods of expressing their experience while responding to inquiries posed by the interviewer.”  He went on to explain, “Applicants must learn to control as much of the interview as possible, understand the purpose of the interview, and key strategies before, during and after the interview with special attention to closing the interview.” “We want the veteran to get the offer, not just the interview.”

Warren and his wife, Jennifer, are looking for additional volunteers. If you are a Certified Human Resource Professional and would like to volunteer with SymbianceHR to offer free interview preparation consultations for veterans and their spouses, please contact Warren at:

The Career Services Center thanks Warren for sharing the story about how he and his wife are using their skills and commitment to make a positive change for veterans and their spouses!

We also send a special thank you to all of the veterans, active duty, reservists, and National Guard members for their service!

For more information on job search strategies for veterans, explore the Walden Career Services Resources for Veterans and view our archived webinar, Job Search Strategies for Veterans. 

Written by Career Services Advisor, Denise Pranke

Landing an International Volunteer Position with the United Nations

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Lekwalo is a PhD in Public Policy and Administration ̶ Health Policy student with an extensive background in public health, nursing, and midwifery.  For several years, she has been living in the U.S. and traveling to her native country of Botswana to serve families, women, and children as an HIV/AIDs educator, researcher, lecturer, health prevention officer, nurse, and midwife.  Lekwalo is pursuing her Walden degree to expand her global impact and influence lasting change in developing countries.  Her dream came true when she landed a 12-month International Volunteer assignment with the United Nations.  In her challenging new role, she will deliver HIV/AIDS education, training, and consultation to over 1,000 peacekeeping troops from different countries who have sent troops to the Republic of South Sudan.  She will also train civilians who are working for the United Nations.  Her responsibilities will include providing pre-in service training; training peer educators, change agents, and HIV/AIDS counselors; and producing Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials.

How did Lekwalo land this highly selective position?

Building a Global Brand

After several years of applying to global health organizations with no results, Lekwalo was losing hope in her search.  During a PhD academic residency, she connected with Career Services through individual advising.  A career advisor provided feedback on how she could enhance her resume to emphasize her global brand and extensive experience, and coached her on proactive job search strategies.  Lekwalo strengthened her resume and submitted a profile to the United Nations website.

Shining Through the Interview

Within two months of submitting her application, Lekwalo was selected to interview for two positions, including her current position in South Sudan.  What made a difference in her interview?  Lekwalo applied strategies she gained through career advising to research challenges in South Sudan.  She asked educated questions that showcased her vast knowledge of HIV/AIDS prevention.  She also shared her achievements and offered potential solutions.  What was the result?  From thousands of applicants, Lekwalo was one of only two chosen for an assignment!

Looking Toward the Future:

When Lekwalo interviewed for this story, she was preparing to take a plane the next day to start her journey.  She overcame many personal challenges in recent years, but they did not deter her from leaving her footprint in the lives of others.  With support from PPA faculty and lecturers, academic advisors, and Career Services, she received the encouragement to follow her dreams.  Her ultimate goal is to combine her knowledge of HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and childbirth to train native and international caregivers in HIV/AIDS prevention and reduce mortality rates.

Lekwalo states, “I want to bring [my accomplishments in South Sudan] back to Walden University and say, ‘This is what I did!’” Someday she sees herself working at the United Nations in Washington D.C. or New York because she believes in her abilities and her endless potential to make a difference.  Lekwalo would like to give special thanks to Greg Murphy, Dr. George R. (Dick) Larkin, Dr. Anne Fetter, Dr. Linda Day, Dr. Raj Singh and many more who contributed to her success; and Career Services staff for their continuous support and motivation through her academic program and career.

Seeking to become a social change agent?  Expand your possibilities by watching Social Change Series webinars.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Preparation and a LinkedIn Connection Led to a Successful Job Search

Marianna, a Master of Public Health alumna, is convinced that both connections and preparation make the difference in a job search.

Building Connections

During her search for her practicum, she connected with the local Director of Emergency Management through LinkedIn. After communicating online, they met offline at a local coffee shop to further discuss her education and career goals. With his guidance and mentorship, she obtained a practicum at the Department of State Health Services.

After completing her master’s degree, Marianna started to apply for jobs in her field.  She “went over the job description with a fine tooth comb.”  She highlighted all of the qualifications and then matched them with her skills. Daily, she checked the job postings at her state’s Department of Health Services (her target organization and where she completed her practicum), but her applications didn’t result in an interview. While reflecting on what she could do differently, she realized that she needed to reach out to the connections she built through her practicum.

She reconnected with the Director of Emergency Management and with the Department of State Health Services internship coordinator whom she met during her practicum.  They both stepped in to help. She applied for a position as a Training Specialist III for the Cancer Registry Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch of the Department of State Health Services. This time, she got an interview!


Preparation was crucial during the interview. The interview involved a written test of 20 questions about the Cancer Registry, including questions about training methodology for adult learners. Following the written test, she was asked to verbally answer the same questions.  Next, they gave her the Cancer Registry manual and one hour to create a PowerPoint presentation and a flyer on the steps to record medical information and how to use the medical records software.  Marianna remained focused. She put her extensive preparation and her Walden education to work.  She reminded herself that she had created so many presentations during her master’s program that she could do this. She impressed the interview panel with her presentation and flyer.  A month and a half later she received the offer and accepted. She has an exciting job in her field!

Marianna shared the following advice:

  • Preparation is key, thoroughly research the organization
  • Google any unknown terms in the job description
  • Make sure that you meet the majority of the qualifications
  • Prepare to give examples of how you meet the required qualifications
  • Last, but not least, forge online and offline relationships in your field

We thank Marianna for sharing her story!

For more information on job search strategies, view the Career Services Job Search Support series in the Job Search/Career Management archived webinars.

Written by Career Advisor, Denise Pranke

External Reviewers Commend Career Services Center as Ranking “in the Top 1% of Career Services Operations of its Size and Type”

In support of our mission of social change, the Career Services team volunteered at a non-profit bakery employing urban youth.

In support of our mission of social change, the Career Services team volunteered at a non-profit bakery employing urban youth.

Have you ever wondered what kind of impact our Career Services Center has on Walden students and alumni?

In 2014, our staff of five had more than 112,000 touchpoints, including website visitors, social media community members, OptimalResume account holders, webinar attendees, and one-on-one advising appointments. How did we achieve that?

For the past three years, we’ve been studying our mission, vision, processes and metrics under a new process called a co-curricular review. The goal of a co-curricular review is continuous improvement. We wrote a 75-page in-depth self-study including 50 pages of detailed metrics. In August, we met with two external reviewers who visited us in Minneapolis to discuss our report and interview our Career Services Center team, students, alumni, faculty and staff to evaluate what is going well and ways we might improve our services and resources. It was a very exciting opportunity for our Career Services team to gain an infusion of new insight and ideas.

Through detailed analysis of various university metrics regarding students’ career goals and usage of our services, we have implemented various improvements the past three years of our co-curricular review. We have reached more students and alumni through strengthening our website, launching new social media channels, developing our Google-search type Quick Answers, and developing more topical Skills Cafes.

Our improvement efforts have resulted in our expanding our reach with students and alumni from 102,495 touchpoints in 2013 to 112,117 touchpoints in 2014. This is an increase of 9%.

Following their visit to Minneapolis, our reviewers collaborated to write a report of strategic recommendations for our continuous improvement. Looking at our progress in reaching more students and alumni the past three years, our external reviews wrote in their report:

“We commend the Senior Director and the whole Career Services team for the excellent work that they are already doing and for their continued interest in and commitment to further improving their services to Walden’s students. The reviewers were very impressed with Walden University’s Career Services operation and in our opinion, thinks it ranks in the top 1% of career services operations of its size and type.”

Having started our Career Services Center back in January 2007, I’ve watched our Center develop and grow to our staff of five. Our team is very dedicated to supporting Walden students and alumni in meeting their career goals. It was invaluable for us to gain the fresh insights of external experts in the career development field and we appreciate the university’s support of this process. We look forward to implementing new strategies to support our students and alumni in meeting their career goals!

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services