With help from Minnesota’s Dislocated Worker Program and the U’s Human Resource Generalist Certificate, Laurie Church returned to her HR career after more than a decade away

For 15 years, Laurie Church enjoyed a successful career in human resources, working for a national nonprofit as well as a big financial firm—until she was downsized in 2009 during the economic crisis. She was further knocked off track with a health issue that required a flexible work schedule, so she got a teaching license and found rewarding work as a substitute middle school teacher. 

During the pandemic, like so many of us, Church began reflecting on what she wanted from her work life, and she realized she missed her previous career in HR. “I really like helping people. If I can help make their day easier, that’s a satisfying job,” she says.

Because she had been working as a part-time teacher and not full-time, Church discovered she was eligible for Minnesota’s Dislocated Worker Program (DWP), which offers free employment counseling and can provide funds for training and job search-related expenses such as cellular service, gas, and car repairs. After discussing her plan to reignite her HR career, her DWP counselor encouraged her to pursue the University of Minnesota’s Human Resource Generalist Certificate

Here, Church shares her experience going through both programs.

Blonde, wavy-haired, light-skinned woman leans against a tree, the first in a row of many trees lining a shady street

Was it easy to go through the state’s Dislocated Worker Program?

Yes! I went through the CareerForce office in Dakota County. I was assigned a counselor to work one-on-one with. After I explained that I wanted to get recertified with the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management, the entity that governs rules for HR professionals), he suggested I get the U’s Human Resource Generalist Certificate, which would help me prepare for the SHRM course and exam. At first I questioned that. After all, I was in HR for 15 years and I have a master’s degree in business leadership. Why should I have to go back to school? But after giving it some thought, I realized, since it had been over 10 years, I could use a refresher. 

Classes were about to start and I worried that it would take a while to get all the paperwork through in time. But it was such a simple process—I was very impressed! I think my counselor got it all going for me in about two weeks and I was able to start the program.

What did you like about the U’s Human Resource Generalist Certificate program?

It was just really nice. Everyone was so welcoming and the instructors were top-notch. Most of them work in their specialty, so the content they’re teaching us is very current and applicable. And they let us use them as contacts in our job searches. More than one instructor told us to call anytime with questions or advice. They were really open to helping and I felt very supported and encouraged.

The best part was, because you went through it with all the same people, you got to know each other really well and you developed contacts that way. We have kept in touch even after the program was over. You know, HR people in general just help each other. Whether it’s finding jobs or networking, we all kind of help each other. It’s kind of a unique area that way. 

Did you learn anything new in the U’s HR Certificate program?

I sure did. So much has changed in employment law. Especially with the pandemic, there’s so much to know around that. What happens if they don’t want to come back to work in the office, or get the virus and miss work? Also, the Affordable Care Act didn’t exist during my previous time in HR. A lot has changed, but much felt familiar and I could contribute my experience with others in the class.

How was it taking the courses online via Zoom?

The University did a great job offering the classes via Zoom. The instructors are great and have tailored their course content to fit the online platform. It really worked for me. I really liked that I could attend from home and not have to go anywhere.

A light-skinned woman sits cross-legged on a lawn with trees in the background

Did going through the Dislocated Worker Program help you with your job search? 

Absolutely! I can’t say enough about the CareerForce staff. They were my cheerleaders with getting me through job search. I took several of the classes—resume writing, networking, using LinkedIn, interviewing—and some classes on understanding your type (Myers-Briggs, DiSC, etc.). My career counselor helped keep me on track with regular check-ins and suggestions on what was working or not. That was invaluable. They know what’s going on in the market with employers and what gets noticed on a resume. 

The contacts I have made are necessary in an ever-changing world. It’s great to be able to reach out to your experts to get information that can help you work through job search.  It’s not only the to-dos, but job searching is emotional and you need to keep your mental health in check. I always told myself, “You are not alone.”

Have you found a job in HR?

I have. I got hired by Life Link III, which provides air medical transport. I’ve been here five weeks and it’s going great. I do recruiting—hiring pilots and operators who work in the communications center, taking calls from front-line workers like sheriffs, things like that. It’s exciting to know that I am helping people save lives with the work I do. The HR team is top-notch, it’s like a family here. 

Are you using what you learned in the U’s Human Resource Generalist Certificate? 

Absolutely! It got me up to speed on the skills I hadn’t used in many years. It provided a base for the HR processes I use now, like understanding health care laws and compensation rules, and crafting better job descriptions. I also notice a lot more compassion for employees and the focus on leading with empathy and understanding.

To learn more, visit the Dislocated Worker Program and the Human Resource Generalist websites.