A First for a SHRM Conference a Career Transition Center Offering an Assist During Tough Times

It’s a first for the annual SHRM conference, but it may not be the last time career management firm Lee Hecht Harrison provides a booth specifically to help people with employment advice.

Quietly isolated from the congested exhibit hall in the entry ballroom of New Orleans’ Morial Convention Center, the Lee Hecht Harrison Career Transition Center offered hourlong workshops as well as half-hour one-on-one career coaching sessions with some of the organization’s top professionals.

“This is our first year doing this at SHRM,” said Robert H. Saam, senior vice president and career-transition practice lead. “With so many job losses in this economy, we set up this center for anyone who wants coaching on their own career. Maybe they lost their job, want to move within the company or completely change industries. We have 15 people here to facilitate face-to-face career coaching.”

Saam said there’s a lot of anxiety over job security among employees, no matter what the industry. One session, “Finding Opportunities in Challenging Times,” has some different perspectives on career transition, he said.

“If you ever thought about job sharing or going part time, now is the time to bring it up to supervisors,” he said. “They’re looking for ways to save money and you’re helping them do that while making a career change you can live with.”

While the SHRM conference seems an unlikely location for counseling unemployed workers, Rod Cox, vice president and director, professional services for Lee Hecht Harrison, was busy coaching people on finding their next job.

“About half of the people I’ve talked with left their company and are looking for their next opportunity,” said Cox, who is based in Portland, Oregon. “They’re taking advantage of their SHRM membership and now have free access to career counseling.”

The conference also provides a key opportunity for finding a new job, added Cox, who had a constant stream of clients Sunday.

“Most jobs are filled through networking,” he said. “This is a great place to meet a lot of people who can help you find a job.”

Saam said his company will assess the value of the career center later this week. But he’s impressed with the response during the first two days.

“This may just be the right time at the right place, considering the economy,” he said. “But there have been a ton of job losses in recent months, and others are seeking opportunities to move on. This is our gift to the SHRM community, our chance to give something back.”