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Susan Hancox, vice president
of Human Resources
issue of Children’s News takes a special look at lifetime learning
and professional growth. Here, Susan Hancox, vice
president of Human Resources, takes time to answer our questions
about employees’ career development—and her own.
Why did you go into Human Resources?
When I was a child, I always knew my father loved his job, and I
just assumed that was the way it was supposed to be. After college
I was actually shocked to discover that, for many people, going
to work is pure drudgery. I think what drove me into HR was really
believing that it doesn’t have to be that way—that going to work
can and should be fulfilling. The field of human resources appeals
to me because you’re working to make the best possible work environment,
not only for the sake of employees, but for management to fulfill
the organization’s mission as well.
How did you begin your career in HR?
I started college as a pre-med student, but it only took me one
semester to realize that it wasn’t for me. In my senior year, a
career counselor helped me figure out what I enjoyed. She recognized
that I really liked health care, and also that I was nosy—I always
wanted to know what was going on. She suggested that I try to find
a job in personnel at a hospital. I went through the yellow pages
and called every hospital until I got to “L” and landed a job at
Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford where I became a personnel
clerk. I did reception work and entered data onto personnel cards.
And I was trying to teach myself to type.
That’s a long road from being a vice president at Children’s.
How did you work toward greater professional goals?
In the very beginning, I just wanted to understand what personnel
work was all about and how hospitals ran—I didn’t understand why
there were so many people in offices at a hospital. But I was lucky
to work in a small department where I shared an office with two
other people, including the recruiter. She encouraged me to overhear
the interviews she conducted, and she taught me a lot about what
was going on in the organization. Interviewing was a lot more interesting
to me than posting onto five-by-eight cards, so I worked long hours
and tried to show how interested I was. The more I learned, the
more I wanted more to do.
After a year I moved to a similar job at Emerson Hospital in Concord.
I wanted to prove that I could add value, so rather than just logging
in information, I started talking with the applicants and briefing
the hiring directors on what I’d learned. Eventually the head of nursing
asked me to refer only the candidates that I thought would be good
for a job, so essentially I created an interviewing position for myself.
I came in to Emerson as an entry-level employee, and after seven years,
left as a the chief personnel officer.
|"Sharing what’s available is not just about
working toward more money or a more prestigious title—it’s about
having a broa der, fuller work life."
From an HR perspective, how important is it to provide
staff and employees with ways to do what you did and grow within
It is very important for people to feel energized, because people
who come into work feeling charged and motivated perform better.
Growth may be inside the individual and not necessarily come through
a series of different jobs. The most dangerous thing to do is to
get too comfortable with a job, with routines or with life, in general.
It can be easy to get in a rut. We are so much better off if we
work on staying limber. And that means pushing ourselves to try
something new regularly, or simply breaking a routine. It keeps
us fresh and less afraid when change is imposed on us.
Are there specific things that directors and managers here
at Children’s can do to foster that feeling among their staffs?
There is so much more going on here than most people ever realize.
One of the things we can all do is help share the thrill about what
is here. Some of the information is huge—patient stories, research
breakthroughs, success with legislation that will benefit thousands
of children. Other pieces of information may feel more mundane,
but can enhance the individual’s life, like tuition assistance or
specific courses or discounts that are offered. Special events like
the hospital’s annual Martin Luther King celebration—if you’ve never
been to it, try it! Managers and directors should talk to their
departments about all the aspects of the organization: brag about
our experts that appear in the news, discuss some of the research
that is going on here. Perhaps find a researcher who is willing
to come speak at a staff meeting; someone’s career might take an
invigorating lateral step. Sharing what is available is not just
about working toward more money or a more prestigious title—it’s
about having a broader, fuller work life.
If a Children’s employee were to tell you that he or she
used to love coming to work but isn’t feeling fulfilled anymore,
what advice would you give that person?
I would tell them that I truly believe in dreaming. Find some quiet
time and imagine, if your day at work tomorrow could be any way
you wanted, what would you be doing? Is it a tweak of the job you
have or something completely different? Then, figure out the gap
between your current job and your dream job. Maybe you want more
physical activity in your day, or more interaction with kids, or
something more closely related to your interests. Whatever it is
you want, it’s probably here somewhere. And once you’ve figured
that out, that’s when you need to start talking to people and thinking
about how you can make your dream into a reality, one step at a