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Making a Professional Pivot How One Mid-Career Certificate Grad Found a New Calling After a Layoff
Making a Professional Pivot How One Mid-Career Certificate Grad Found a New Calling After a Layoff

In 2011, Nicole Bowers was at home, recovering from the birth of her second child, when she got a call from her company’s main office. It wasn’t the news she was expecting.

“I thought it was a call to congratulate me on the new baby,” said Nicole, who had nearly reached the 15-year mark working at a large investment bank. “Unfortunately, it was to let me know that they had eliminated my position in the Seattle office. I was completely blindsided.”

But instead of panicking, she decided to view her layoff as an opportunity to revitalize her career — and discover what she really felt passionate about.

Discovering What's Next

Nicole quickly realized that it was a little overwhelming to push the reset button at that stage in her career.

“I hadn’t looked for a job in 15 years, so it was a whole new world to me,” she noted. “As I was building a LinkedIn profile, networking and fixing up my resume, I realized finding a new job — and really articulating my strengths and how I could add value to a company — wasn’t as easy as I thought.”

During this process, Nicole became interested in the human resources field. But where to start? That’s when she learned about the Certificate in Human Resources Management.

“I found the UW certificate program while I was going through all of this exploration, and I thought, ‘Perfect.’ It had such a broad sampling of different HR-related subjects that I felt, ‘Great, I can explore here.’”

In Her Own Words

Certificate grad Nicole Bowers talks about how the HR program helped her transition into a new field and find a job she loves.


Forging Connections

In addition to learning about the different aspects of HR, Nicole found that making connections with her classmates and instructors was an extremely valuable aspect of the program.

“The program was great because there were other people who were in career transition, like I was, and really pivoting into a brand-new world,” she explained. “There were also people there who'd been doing the work but didn't have any credentials or were trying to round out their skill sets. So it was a great way for me to network with other people who had an interest or a passion in the human capital side of the business.”

Because of all the growth that's happening here in our backyard, companies are hiring like crazy. That creates a lot of opportunity for people in the human resources field.

Nicole Bowers
Nicole also found value in the guest speakers and other professionals who visited the classroom to share their insider knowledge and tips.

"There were panels of experienced people from local companies that they would bring into the classes, so you had a chance to ask some really relevant questions about what's going on in the marketplace today, which was great,” she said.

Gaining Insight, Getting the Job

During the program, Nicole developed a strong professional connection with instructor Michael Walters.

“I was lucky enough to meet Michael, who was great to learn from and so helpful in my discovery process around what kind of work I could do next,” she said. “He helped me realize how critical HR is as a true business partner to companies, and I was inspired to figure out how I could add meaningful value."

This connection allowed Nicole to gain real-world exposure to HR, helping her decide that the field was a good match.

"Towards the end of the program I still wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go in, given my background wasn't in HR,” she recalled. “I asked Michael if he would be open to letting me job shadow a few people in HR at his company, and he was really gracious and said, ‘Sure, come check it out.’ It was such a great day!”

Shortly after that visit, Nicole interviewed at Brighton Jones, the Seattle wealth management company where she now works as the director of talent acquisition.

“It’s been three years now, and I couldn’t be happier with my career switch,” she said.

A Booming Field

The Seattle area has experienced record job growth in recent years, as companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Tableau and Starbucks have added thousands of employees. This boom makes it a great market for HR professionals.

“Because of all the growth that's happening here in our backyard, companies are hiring like crazy,” Nicole said. “That creates a lot of opportunity for people in the human resources field — companies are looking for people who love people and can find great people.”

Just as notable for Nicole is the fact that she finds great satisfaction in the work she does every day.

"I have always loved the combination of not only helping organizations thrive but figuring out ways to make sure the people within them are thriving as well," she said. "I like bringing people in and helping them find work that they love."

Note: Those lacking managerial or HR experience who are interested in breaking into this field should consider taking the Certificate in Human Resources Essentials.

For more success stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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