Devoting 13 years to retail management sparked a passion for Jacquelyn Petrusevski. As a General Manager, her passion for attracting, hiring and retaining talent sparked her interest to make a career change. She ultimately turned to USC’s Master’s in Human Resource Management program to solidify her knowledge and experience in the human resources field.
Currently, Petrusevski is a Recruiting Manager at a Chicago-based HR consulting firm. While her official start in the HR field began not long ago, an MSHRM has quickly propelled her career forward – landing a promotion after just five months in her initial role.
Below, Jacquelyn discusses her experience in the program, the barriers she faced while switching careers, and advice for those wanting to make a career change.
Let’s start with your background. How did you decide to pursue a career in HR and earn an MSHRM, specifically at Bovard College?
I actually began my career in the retail industry, starting as a part-time sales associate and working my way up to General Manager. I spent about 13 years in store leadership and as time went on, my passion around the people piece of the business continued to grow. I really enjoyed the process of attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent and knew it was time to make a career pivot so I could lean into this passion more. I researched several different options, and the MSHRM program at USC Bovard College stood out based on the curriculum style, the courses offered, and the ability to be part of the Trojan network.
How has an MSHRM advanced your career?
Earning my MSHRM has completely changed the trajectory of my career and frankly, my entire life. I was able to completely change careers and industries thanks to earning this degree. Just prior to graduation, I landed with a growing HR consulting firm based in Chicago. I joined the team as a Recruiter in the Placements division and had the unique opportunity to work directly with the co-founders of the company to help continue to grow this new division of the business. I was able to leverage my years of experience in retail leadership in conjunction with knowledge gained in the MSHRM program and make an impact quickly. After being with the company for about 5 months, I was promoted to Recruiting Manager and now lead the two largest divisions of the company.
What does a typical day look like as a Recruiting Manager?
A typical day involves a great deal of communication and collaboration. My days are typically spent engaging with clients, candidates, and of course, my team. As Recruiting Manager, I act as the liaison between clients and our Recruiters, helping to ensure a best-in-class experience for our clients as we help them recruit top talent to their organizations. I also act as the first point of contact for our team, ensuring each member of the team feels supported in achieving their professional goals. Ultimately, I do all that I can in my role as a leader to help bring our company vision and values to life in partnership with our company co-founders.
From your perspective, what qualities make for a great recruiter?
I think the most important quality for a great recruiter is the ability to create meaningful connections. Whether with candidates or clients, having the ability to build strong relationships helps immensely when it comes to creating a positive experience for everyone involved in the recruiting process. In addition, being naturally inquisitive is critical, as this curiosity helps to drive productive and impactful conversations with candidates and clients. Having a growth mindset and being a lifelong learner helps tremendously, as industries are always growing and evolving. Finally, having grit and a positive attitude is key. Recruiting can often be a rollercoaster and these qualities are essential to hanging on during what can sometimes be a wild ride!
What do you enjoy most about your role in HR?
I enjoy having the ability to make an impact. Whether with candidates, clients, or my team, I love being in a position to help people and take great pride in ensuring I do all that I can to provide a top-notch experience. Further, being part of a smaller firm/start-up, I love being able to be so closely involved in so many aspects of the business! Being able to wear multiple hats and work so closely with the team and co-founders is really exciting and energizing to me. I love getting to support the business in a multitude of areas and have the chance to be a part of the company’s journey as it continues to grow!
Did you face any barriers while changing careers?
Prior to earning my MSHRM, yes. Despite my years of store leadership experience, which involved recruiting, hiring, training, coaching, and developing employees, I was often passed up for opportunities due to a lack of traditional HR industry experience. But, after earning my MSHRM, the education I received coupled with connections made at USC, helped me overcome these barriers quickly.
Did you find any particular course or professor especially enlightening?
I think the first course of the program, HR Strategy (HRM 500), was incredibly enlightening, especially being brand new to the traditional HR industry. This course set a solid foundation for the rest of the program and also helped frame the role of HR through a more strategic lens, showcasing how HR is a true partner to the business. It also helped me quickly realize that despite being new to the industry, I had plenty of experience that was relevant to the topics we were discussing and the concepts we were learning about. It felt great knowing that I could contribute to class discussions in a meaningful way and that the experience I had as a General Manager was much more relevant than I anticipated. Uncovering this in the first course of the program was incredibly empowering and inspiring!
Following the completion of your MSHRM, you became an Ambassador for the program. What do you enjoy most about this experience?
I have always said that I will tell anyone who will listen about the incredible experience I had throughout my MSHRM program at USC. Being selected to be an Ambassador was a wonderful honor and has allowed me to share my experience and insight around the decision to change careers and all that went along with it. I love being able to guide potential students through my experience at USC and my thoughts, concerns, and questions throughout the entire decision-making process. This was the exact kind of information I researched extensively prior to making the decision to apply to USC and being able to provide my first-hand account and hopefully make the decision-making process easier for prospective MSHRM students is what I enjoy most.
What advice do you have for prospective students looking to change careers and pursue an MSHRM?
My best piece of advice is to recognize all you have already accomplished in your current career and know that you bring so much to the table as you pursue this next chapter! Know that your past experiences and previous career background hold so much value and help to bring a more well-rounded perspective to this career change.
Changing careers can be scary – but I truly believe it is one of the very best investments you can make for yourself. Take the time upfront to research programs that make sense for your lifestyle and what you are looking to accomplish in this next chapter of your career, as this will help tremendously along the way and help to ensure you can maximize your time and the impact you can make, both now and in the future.
Finally, leverage all of the resources you can! USC in particular offers an array of resources for prospective students, current students, and alumni – having access to these resources is huge at every step along the way of this journey and knowing you have such a strong support system at your fingertips is a great feeling as you navigate through this exciting, but sometimes challenging, time.
Learn more about the MS in Human Resource Management program.