Mary Jo Swearingen, SHRM-CP, has been appointed to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Emerging Professionals Advisory Council (EPAC) for a two-year term.
EPAC participants are SHRM members who have held a human resources or related position for three to five years and preferably have experience leading an SHRM student chapter. You have at least a bachelor’s degree related to HR.
Swearingen is an HR Business Partner at LBMC Employment Partners in Brentwood, Tennessee, where her responsibilities include working with clients on various HR policies, procedures, laws, standards and agencies. She also conducts HR assessments of clients’ business practices and processes and responds to employee relations issues.
Swearingen is one of 10 Council members representing the five regions of the SHRM – North Central, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Pacific West. Council participation offers leadership, speaking and travel opportunities, including attendance at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2023.
[SHRM members-only resource: Career Launch: Strategies for Young HR Professionals]
SHRM Online spoke to Swearingen about her HR journey.
HR Experience: Swearingen’s first job out of college was as a Human Resources Specialist for the Nashville office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. In her role, she designed and oversaw learning methods such as online training, coaching and leadership development; served as project manager of two internal employee resource systems; prepared and participated in disciplinary actions against employees; and served as FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator for all 560 employees in the Comptroller’s Office.
Education: Swearingen will receive her master’s degree in strategic leadership from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro in August 2023. In 2020 she received her bachelor’s degree in HR Management from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In addition to her SHRM-CP, she earned a certification in ethical leadership from the NASBA Center for the Public Trust, a non-profit Nashville affiliate of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and a certification from Bloomberg Market Concept, which provides an introduction to the financial markets .
SHRM Involvement: She served as vice president for membership development for the student chapter of SHRM at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Her involvement in the college chapter helped prepare her for her HR career.
Today she is a member of the Middle Tennessee chapter of SHRM and became College Relations Director for the SHRM Tennessee State Council in 2023. Swearingen spoke at SHRM’s Regional Council Business Meeting in February on recruiting and retaining emerging professionals for volunteer leadership roles.
As director of college relations, “my goal for the next two years is to work with every college in Tennessee,” she said.
Why HR? “I remember sitting on my bed [as a high school senior] and go through everyone’s catalogues [college] Majors,” Swearingen said. She was leaning toward an economics degree when she Googled personality types to narrow her major choices.
“[HR is] what came out of it,” she said.
The business courses only resonated with her when the HR courses connected her with her people and business perspectives.
“Joining HR felt like finding the last piece of the puzzle because business processes started to click,” she recalls. “It was the best mix of business acumen… [and] can get in touch with people. I went from an average student with Cs [to being] on the Dean’s List,” she said. “I got into HR and that’s when it started to click.”
Is there an HR area you would like to specialize in? Talent management and labor law compliance.
Her advice: “It’s better to be a business professional who can speak [with] HR expertise rather than being an HR expert who can speak [with] Business acumen” because when you understand the business side, “you will be trusted more”.
Role of EPAC members
The group meets virtually monthly to:
Provide SHRM with feedback or suggestions on potential and existing services and experiences to improve Young Professionals (EPs) within the SHRM community. Assist SHRM in identifying strategies to attract and retain EP members.
Promote recognition of EP programs led by Chapter and State Council members.
Connect with other EP members through social media and various local events and activities.
Encourage and coordinate the establishment and support of local level activities and strategies that help SHRM students transition from school to the labor market.