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From Restaurant Management to The Corporate World

By Stephen Colleton

January 18, 2022

Grainger Hall at sunrise

I am Stephen Colleton, a 1st-year SHR student here at the Wisconsin School of Business. As a strategic human resources student who has made a substantial career change in pursuing this degree, I wanted to share my personal journey.

Stephen Colleton
Stephen Colleton

A short six months ago, I was a general manager of a fast-casual restaurant, having been in food service management for the last seven years and part of the industry for ten. I had played around with the idea of pursuing a degree in business almost immediately after I graduated from my undergraduate degree; I became familiar with a lot of the various principles of business through my employment where I was exposed to things ranging from operations to sales to human resources functions.  

Over time in my career though, I found myself consistently more interested in the human resources functions I provided as a manager than in the other elements of my job. I think the most powerful thing I learned through this process, though, was that you do not have to have a traditional background in human resources to apply. In fact, academically, I had no background at all in the function; I studied philosophy here at UW-Madison as an undergraduate.  

I distinctly remember the first time I really inquired about the degree. I scheduled a one-on-one meeting with a member of the admissions team, a pleasant experience where I was able to ask every question imaginable about the admissions process with someone who had taken the time to understand me before my appointment time. My main question: how do I make myself competitive for this program? Imagine my surprise when I sent my resume and unofficial transcript and, within a few minutes of my meeting, I discovered that I already had everything I needed. All I had to do was apply! The meeting was thorough and provided me with all the answers I needed to begin my application process.  

I think it is also worth mentioning that the transition process had been filled with support. Career Services partners with you immediately to provide personalized guidance to the next step of your career. A small, close cohort of other students, made possible by the small class size here at Wisconsin School of Business, means you really get to know the other members of your graduating class. The other SHR students have been an amazing support network; many of them are in the process of changing careers, too.

If you’re passionate about human resources and you’ve never had anything specific to human resources in your academic past, just know it is not as insurmountable an obstacle as it may seem.