“Don’t let rejection be an obstacle, but turn it around and use it as motivation to do better.”
–Xavier Smith, Human Resources Coordinator, Owens Corning
Members and friends, meet NAAAHR Atlanta Chapter member Xavier Smith –the millennial, the young HR professional, the HR Coordinator, the aspiring leader, the future Director or Vice President of Human Resources of your company. These are some of the words that describe this ambitious and highly capable young man.
Xavier initially began school contemplating a career in the sciences. After taking a few personality inventories, some talks with others in the work world, and coming to the realization that he “can’t do blood or gross anatomy” he decided on Human Resources. Once Xavier made that decision, he took a plunge into the field head first. Not knowing much about the field, he was introduced to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) by a member of the organization and became a student member of SHRM. Xavier recalls, “At this point I didn’t fully understand what Human Resources actually was, but that didn’t stop me from starting a student chapter of SHRM at my school, Clayton State. I initially started the chapter as more of a way to create networking opportunities for students and exposing them to careers that they might be interested in after graduation. We didn’t really focus on showing people opportunities in Human Resources in particular. We wanted to make the organization attractive to all fields by equipping our students with professional development and networking tools in general.”
Xavier’s first real job in the field of Human Resources was an internship that he had with the Georgia Aquarium while he was a student. He was responsible for hiring employees and one of the people whom he hired is still employed with the aquarium after almost 3 years. Shortly after graduating with his B.S. in Psychology & Human Services from Clayton State University, Xavier accepted a position with Owens Corning, where he currently works as a Human Resources Coordinator touching everything from Talent Acquisition, to Compliance, Benefits, Inclusion, Health & Wellness programs, and all this with both a union and non-union workforce at the same site. He defines himself as the person “responsible for getting things through and out of the door.”
Xavier was introduced to NAAAHR after learning about the NAAAHR Excellence in Human Resources Scholarship. Xavier not only applied upon learning of the scholarship but also became a proud recipient of the scholarship in 2014. When I asked Xavier how his involvement with NAAAHR has helped him in his career he said…
“As a budding HR professional, it has helped with my professional development. In the beginning I felt like a deer caught in the headlights because I was not an HR major when I first connected with NAAAHR. The chapter meetings gave me a better picture of the field and now I see the meetings as a development tool. I reinforce what I learn in the meetings by getting to practice it at work. I’m able to take the information back to my organization and talk with people about it. The information I get has also sparked my curiosity and my desire to learn more and develop even more.
I have been able to connect with HR professionals in different roles from different organizations who I may not have otherwise had access to. This year’s NAAAHR National Conference allowed me to hear from thought-leaders in the field and connect with other HR Professionals who have given me food for thought. I remember a question posed by Starbucks’ Chief Partner Resources Officer, Scott Pitasky that really resonated with me. ‘If you could change one thing about HR what would it be?’ Then there was the Young Professionals breakout session with a panel led by Atlanta Chapter leadership; Ardie Harrison and Leon Staples. The information from that session gave me some great ideas for more things that our chapter can do to encourage greater participation amongst our young professional and student members.”
It was inspiring to hear Xavier’s excitement about the field, and about what he has learned and still has yet to learn. He also shared another detail that I found hard to believe, “When I was 3 until about 10 years old I was in speech therapy because of a speech impediment. People are shocked when I tell them that. I could have let that hold me back, but instead I took the opportunity to do more public speaking. I would make the announcements when I was in grade school and I was in the Model United Nations in Middle and High School. I’ve learned that through adversity you can push through and no matter what disability you may have been born with, that does not make you any less than anyone else. It makes you unique. In this world everyone is trying to be like everyone else. I find my story as an individual more empowering than being a part of a group.”
Have you met Xavier in person yet? If not, come on out and say hello to him and meet other professionals in Human Resources and other industries at our last chapter meeting of 2016 where we will be announcing the recipients of this year’s Excellence in Human Resources Scholarship on Wednesday, November 9th! Click here for more information about our November Chapter Meeting or here to see our full calendar of events.