Located in the appropriately named city of Portland, Maine, Unum not only provides over 160 years of employee benefits leadership services to its clients, but also creates an extremely supportive work environment for its employees. I had the pleasure of experiencing Unum’s distinct corporate culture firsthand this August through my externship with Carol Ryan Ertz, AVP Leadership Development in Corporate Human Resources. Carol created a packed schedule for me, which provided an opportunity for me to meet with anyone in Human Resources from the Vice President of HR Global Operations to summer interns and everywhere in between. With every employee I met, Unum’s values of integrity, commitment, and accountability were reaffirmed. I realized that when I am looking for companies to work for, it is crucial to research the organization’s values and how they are applied in the workplace.
Going into the week, I hardly knew anything about Human Resources. I knew it was a department committed to fostering personal relationships and a department that attracts extraverted personalities, but not much beyond that. Nearly every employee in HR that I met with held a role that interested me in some way. The beauty of the department, and Unum in general, is that the culture allows for easy movement amongst positions. Another comforting realization I had was that if you are passionate about a position, your previous background becomes less important. A company will be willing to give you a chance if you prove yourself as enthusiastic, self-driven, and motivated. From that point on, they will partner with you to find a good fit for you within the organization.
Day by day, I felt myself improving greatly on skills vital to a corporate environment. On my first day, a meeting I had with one Vice President in HR was blocked off for 45 minutes but I ran out of questions after 15minutes. Although I tried not to let it show, I was extremely embarrassed. I felt like I wasn’t cut out for Human Resources because at the time, it seemed like I clearly did not have the communications skills necessary to succeed in the department. However, by the end of the week, I could hold a professional, intelligent conversation with a VP and think of questions on the spot. I gained much more in 4 days than I ever could have imagined: knowledge of human resources, an understanding of Unum’s corporate culture, and an improvement of my communication skills. Carol could not have been a more wonderful host and I will cherish my experience with her. My externship has allowed me to envision myself in a corporate environment and left me excited for my postgrad future.